You simply can’t help but like him, even if you were meeting him only for the first time. It’s not his youthful, dashing look that immediately endears him to people (he’s fifty but doesn’t look it) it’s his disarming smile and humility. People who have met Captain Mathew Ekeinde, one of Nigeria’s most senior and respected pilots, and husband to Africa’s biggest movie sensation, Omotola Jalade Ekeinde, are often surprised to find he’s a man who has no airs around him, despite his accomplishments as one of Nigeria’s most popular and successful pilot. He has been married to Omotola for 22 years and the marriage is blessed with four wonderful kids. How has it been, to be married to a big celebrity like Omotola? What are the challenges and issues that he has had to contend with? How did they meet 24 years ago? These and several other important questions were some of the things City People Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL, got this very private gentleman to respond to when this writer was a guest of the Ekeindes at their magnificent Oniru estate home in Victoria Island. These are excerpts of the interview.
Let’s start by congratulating you on that spectacular birthday celebration you put together for your wife, how did you feel with the way everything turned out, seeing your wife being celebrated that way?
It was an honour. It was a very humbling experience to find the caliber of the Esama of Benin and his chiefs, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Tony Elumelu, and a lot of people from the music and movie industry, as well as captains of industries, turning up to come celebrate my wife. Yeah, I was quite impressed and happy, it just shows me that truly, a lot of people do love her and that’s why they all came out.
Everyone saw on the night how happy you were for your wife. How much pressure was it for you supporting her during the preparations leading to the 5-day celebration of her birthday?
Three weeks to the day, she had been planning the whole event with her team. All through that time, her activities in the house was zero, so I got to do all the shopping, I got to do the cooking, the cleaning, and a whole lot of things that she would’ve done. But I had to help her out to enable concentrate fully on her preparations. Her routine then was to wake up in the morning, take her bath, then her team comes about 9 o’clock and they stay in the office. Sometimes, they would go out to the various event venues and may not return until about eleven in the night. So, I was just there the whole three weeks ensuring I give her whatever support she needed, both financial and moral support.
Tell us, how has it been for you being married to a super star of your wife’s status?
You know, I believe our getting married is God’s doing. I say this because I think it really takes one who is understanding to be able to get married to someone like Omotola. For me, yes, sometimes, the pressure gets to me, especially when she’s in demand by a lot of people for different reasons. Personally, for me, it’s not a big deal, I just see it as part of life and I advice her the best way I can. And thankfully, she’s a very focused person who’s always determined to achieve whatever she wants to achieve without getting distracted by people, either by money or whatever, and money has never been the issue. So, people of wealth and status offering her money for one reason or the other has never made her lose her focus in life. Yes, definitely, the pressures are there, pressures of fans, pressures of the fact that we can’t really go out and do what we want to do like regular families. Anytime we step out of our gates, it’s all eyes on us. And that’s why we really cannot go out in public that much. For instance, we can’t go watch the movies like everyone else. To go watch a movie, we have to call the owners or the managers of the movie house. We usually go to Silver bird because we’re used to Guy Bruce, so we’ll call and they’ll arrange a back door for us and put security for there for us. So, sometimes it’s stressful, but I’ve gotten used to it, on the 23rd of this month (March) we’re going to mark our 22nd wedding anniversary and I’ll be turning 50 years old that same day.
Do you guys plan to celebrate that? It’s definitely worth celebrating..
You know, after the Omotola4point0 celebrations, I think we’ve done enough celebration for the next 10 years because I know what it really took out of us. It was physically draining and financially as well. Thank God for all her sponsors who came to support her brand. For me, I’m not one that wants to be out there in the public, mine is going to be very quiet. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet, I’ll probably be on duty that day. But most likely I’ll ask to take the day off, just sit down with her, we might travel out, I don’t know yet. Really, I’ve not made any plans.
Can you recall for us the very first time you set your eyes on your wife?
Yes, the very first time was in church. I have this sister who’s 51 years old, just a year older than me, she lives in Europe now, her name’s Theresa. Over the years, I’ve been telling her, look, organize your friends, I want to marry. Go and find me one of your friends that I can get married to. So, she had met Omotola in a church in Iyana- Ipaja called Solid Rock headed by Pastor Tessy. My sister was attending the church at the time. It was a small but nice, youthful church. My sister now came home one day and said, yes, you have been disturbing me all this while to get you a wife, I just found somebody. Come to the church next service (it was a mid-week service) and I’ll introduce her to you. So, on my way from work that Wednesday, I drove down to the church, went inside and sat at the back. I signaled to my sister to let her know I was in the church. So, after service, she now introduced me to Omotola. I looked at her and I was like, hey, cute, fine, small girl! But when I found out then that she was just sixteen years old, I was surprised. She looked a lot older than her age. I was like, ‘Kai! This one is a misfire!’ I was like almost twenty six then. So, I said, okay, we’ll just be friends. And that was how we were friends for like two years and by the time she turned eighteen, I just saw her differently because all the while, I just saw her as a cute, fine young girl that was a friend of the family. That was it, there was nothing more than that. It was at her 18th birthday that things took a different turn. She had told me to get her a birthday gift, it was like a week to her birthday then and I wasn’t in the country, I was based in the United States then, and was only coming down to Nigeria once in a while. A week after her birthday, I returned to Nigeria and got her a gift and left her a message to come to the house. I remember that day very clearly. The house where I was staying had a sliding glass door and you had to move the glass door to come in. And when she slid the door and came in, it was like the scales just fell off my eyes. I now saw her differently from the way I used to see her. This time, I saw her as a wife material. So, immediately she walked in, I said happy birthday, sorry I’m just giving you your gift one week after, but I also want to tell you, I want to marry you! She just hissed and said, ‘abeegi! That’s what you guys say.’ Of course, within those two years that I knew her, I also knew her mum and the family. So, when she left, on my own, I went to see the mum and told her that I was going to marry Omotola. She was like, okay, fine, but why don’t you let her finish her university. Then, she just got admission to the University of Ife. I was like, well, to wait four years won’t be easy for me because it’s very risky. It’s either guys would give her a hard time in that Ife or put her under pressure and she’ll probably give in. No, I wasn’t willing to risk that. She’s still a virgin now and I want to marry her a virgin, so that’s it. I told her I couldn’t wait for four years and she said, fine, you have to go and see the family. I went to see them and told them my intentions and the rest is history.
You wife practically became a star right in your hands, under your watch. How has it been for you, seeing someone you known since her youth, transforming into the accomplished woman she is today?
I’ve always believed, and I think it’s my background as well, my parents have always encouraged us to be who we want to be. They will do their best humanly possible to support us and I grew up with that upbringing. So, when I got married to her and I knew she wanted to act, for me, it wasn’t a problem. As long as you conduct yourself properly and respectfully, I’ll give you all the support. And that was exactly what I did. I gave her all the support she needed, I was there for her and I advised her accordingly. Whenever she wanted to go from one level to the other, I was always there giving her all the support. I think that was what encouraged her to go all the way.
Was she already acting when you met her?
No, she just started. Her first movie, I think, was Venom of Justice, and I was there with her on location. Most of her early movies, I joined her on set. Those days I had a lot of free time on my hands because we weren’t flying as much as we do these days. I would go on set with her, I would sit with her. And when we had the baby, I would help her carry the baby, so, yeah, it was fun back then, it was really fun.
How also did you get to deal with picking up the papers and reading negative stuffs about your wife, especially in those early stages of her career?
Look, she’s my wife and I know my wife. She doesn’t live a double life, she’s very open. She’s also very straight forward. There’s nothing that she’s doing that she doesn’t tell me. When I see stories like that, I just ignore them. I mean, they were very few and far between, she’s really done well and has been able to have a scandal free career. When people try to come up with stories just to rock the marriage, they misfire because they don’t know that we’re a lot stronger than that. I remember one story that was published one time, I can’t remember the name of the magazine. It said Omotola’s husband has a baby by a white woman, and I’m thinking, where did all these come from? So, when you see such stories it just becomes obvious that these guys just sit down and ask, how do we sell our papers this week, and they come up with stories that they believe will make people buy their publication. Really, it wasn’t an issue for us.
How about when she’s playing romantic scenes and stuffs like that, how do you cope with watching your beautiful wife wrapped up in the arms of another man?
Honestly, I’ve never had any problems with it. The thing is, before she takes up a romantic role, of course she gets the script first and we discuss it. She tells me, this is what they want me to do. They want this guy to hug me or kiss me on the lips, is that okay with you? And I’ll say, yes, that’s not a problem, as long as it doesn’t go any further than that, like him trying to remove your dress or rubbing his hands all over your boobs or your bum and all that. There were some movies that directors wanted her to do stuffs like that and she just tells them, no, it’s not going to happen. In fact, I was on set with her one particular occasion and there was this popular actor who was supposed to carry her in a romantic scene to the bed, hug her, give her a peck, and I was there. The guy was feeling very nervous and the director just said to me, ah, Captain, please, can you please just excuse us this one scene (laughs) He saw that the guy was uncomfortable because of my presence and me, I was just laughing. So, for me, it’s not a big deal at all.
It definitely couldn’t have been all smooth sailing. What other challenges would you say comes with marrying a woman of your wife’s status?
The most challenging thing, that makes us argue a lot, is her schedule. Sometimes, especially back then when she was shooting back to back, it was crazy. And then, when she’s had a busy schedule back to back, she falls sick. It’s standard. She gets Malaria and when my wife is down with Malaria, it’s not fun to be around her. She’s always in pain and all that. So, anytime I see her schedule, like the very hectic three weeks she used to prepare for her birthday, I could see the stress on her face and one day I had to tell all her team to leave the house because they were hoping to stay till like twelve mid-night and were supposed to somewhere very early the following day. I told them don’t come back to this house until eleven tomorrow morning because she needs to sleep. I could see she was already sneezing and coughing. I knew those were her malaria signs. And for those days when she was acting back to back, it was tough, and don’t forget the kids were still young then. It was quite stressful then because I would have to go to the office and see how I would manipulate my schedules and swap my flight with another pilot so I can be home with the kids while she’s away. And there were times she would be away for two weeks. I had to make sure the flights that I do are not international flights that would make me sleep outside, they would be local flights where I could go and return. There were times when I could not juggle my flights and the kids had to stay all alone in the house all through the night, But we’ve been able to deal with it. I thank God and give Him the glory.
A lot of people see Omosexy in movies, read about her in the papers and have different perceptions of her. You are the closest person to her, what kind of person is she? What are the things we don’t know about her that only you, and perhaps few members of the family know about?
(Breaks out laughing) Well, she’s stubbornly driven. She’s somebody that, when she wants something, she’s hell bent on getting it. There’s nothing wrong with that, if you want to achieve something and you’re driven to do it, but sometimes, she can be so stubbornly driven about it that she doesn’t want to listen to anyone else. Even when she’s hurting those around her, she won’t know. Like when she and her team would come here to make preparations for her birthday, they would be here all day and Omotola would not remember they haven’t eaten. Because she can cope, she thinks everyone else is like her. I would be the one to ask them, have you guys eaten? And they’ll all answer, no, Captain, we’re very hungry. And I will cook for all them. That’s why I said she’s so driven she forgets that not everybody can cope with her energy level. But apart from, I can’t complain about her. I’m really proud of her and the fact that she’s a go-getter, which is not what you find in some women. They are just comfortable with status quo. Omotola always wants to stand out. I think it runs in the family, we’re early achievers. In my family, we like to achieve things early in life and do things that are totally different from everybody else.
To wrap this up, what kind of wife and mother would you say Omotola has been?
Well, she’s been a wonderful mother to the kids, that I know for sure. As a wife, well of course, I gave her the name Omosexy, you should know why I gave her that name (bursts into laughter) She’s sexy, she’s beautiful, she’s a turn-on. She’s a woman any man would want to have as his wife any day.