Elder Ayo Ogunde is one of the children of late Theatre icon, Chief Hubert Ogunde. He is the 3rd child. He is a Geologist. He was 72 last month. He is the Baba Oba of Ososa town where his family hails from.
Last week, Elder Ayo Ogunde spoke to City People Magazine about his father and what the Ogunde family in Ososa has done to preserve his legacy. Late Hubert Ogunde lived an accomplished life.
Last April marked the 30th Anniversary of his death. The late Ogunde died April 4th, 1990 and was born on July 10th, 1916. There was no major celebration held to mark 30 years of his death last April except for newspaper write-ups. Covid-19 pandemic forbade any gatherings. But previously, a lot had been done. The family launched the complete musical works for the 20th and opened the museum at Ososa for the 25th.
Like all Ogunde’s children, this handsome man has a split image of his dad. He walks like him and talks like him. In many ways than one, Elder Ayo Ogunde looks like his late dad. He shares Papa’s birthday with him.
For those who don’t know much about Ogunde, let’s tell you a bit about him.
Last week, City People met Elder Ayo Ogunde at Ososa during Oba (Dr.) Alatishe’s 10th-year coronation and he spoke about his late dad. He told us how the Ogunde family members decided about 5 years ago to turn their father’s house at Ososa to a Living Museum. The place contains the Bedford Truck and staff bus the Ogunde Travelling Theatre used in his lifetime. It has preserved the personal effects of the late Hubert Ogunde. It also has a life-size statue of the late icon.
We asked him to explain to us what the family has done to preserve the legacy of their late dad, and he revealed a lot of initiatives. One of it is the Museum meant to preserve a lot of Ogunde’s personal effects. “We have done a lot”, he explains. “The family decided 5 years ago to turn this his house where he lived till he died, into a Museum. I used to tell people how I felt a few years back when I met an Italian who said the Blackman had no history”.
“I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard that. He said to me, I don’t want to be offensive but show me your history. All over the world, there are historic monuments that have been built and are still up and standing.”
“If you go all over the world you will see structures that have been built over 100 years ago. I immediately cast my mind to what he said and how in Nigeria many of our monuments have been destroyed. Carter Bridge is no more. Soldier Idumota has been destroyed, old Glover Hall. I now explained to him that we have an oral history.”
“We have our history, in oral formed, passed on from generation to generation”.
“When I retired in 2009, I decided that I will keep Baba’s history intact by doing so many things along with other family members. We decided on the Museum of Ogunde in his home town. It took almost 5 years to gather all his personal effects and assemble it here in his Museum. We have so many things in there. We have 92 tracks of 13 CDs, which was launched in 2010 by Otunba Gbenga Daniel. This house was where he lived till he died. It was built in 1982. He died in 1990.”
“After his death, we began to ask ourselves the question of what do we do with this estate? That was the 1st question. We then decided to turn the estate into a Museum, a Living Museum. We wanted to leave everything as he left it, his bedroom, bed, chairs, nothing has changed. Even his toilet has been left intact. We uplifted the Museum with his costumes, musical instrument, things he used for his plays.”
“He had a 35mm camera to make his own films. We have the actual reels. We kept everything. We have kept his history. If you don’t know much about late Hubert Ogunde and you wish to know, go to his Museum or you can go to Ogundemuseum.org. You will see his list of plays and records.”
“The only thing we have not touched are the films. You know it is a large family. The big question is what do we do with his films? Do we sell it off outright? Do we give it to DSTV? The issue is still pending. What do we do with the films? Kunle Afolayan spoke to us about it. We have been talking. He has some ideas. We have all of Papa’s films, actual films, reel films, celluloid, not videos. He left behind a real legacy. Some people need to learn more about Ogunde. I wonder, how many Nigerians have produced reel films since 1990, with reel cameras. That is one thing about Baba, he made sure he used the best. He used a 35mm high reflex camera, that was way back in 1980.”
“He invested in the business. I don’t know who has a good camera now in the industry. He used sound equipment.”
“I am sure if Papa sees what is going on right now in the Theatre/Movie industry, he will be turning in his grave. I don’t know what is happening right now. Everything has been going the other way, nobody wants to work again with someone else. We all want to do our thing. We are not ready to pull resources together again”.
“What Papa Hubert Ogunde said then is what is happening right now. In those days, Papa said if care is not taken, the traders will take over. And they will begin to dictate the tune”. What does Papa mean by that? “Is it not happening now? I hear right now, it is the movie producers who now dictate who they want in their movie, who should play what role!
This museum was opened in 2015.
That is 5 years ago. The good news is that we are on our own with no government involvement. The Ogun State Government has listed us officially as one of Ogun Tourist sites”.
“It is sad that governments in Nigeria don’t support initiatives like this. The Awolowo family runs the Awolowo Museum in Ikenne by themselves. They maintain the mausoleum”.
What made Papa Ogunde remark that the traders will soon take over? “He didn’t like the way practitioners were going about Theatre business. Many of them were not committed to it. He warned them then that the way you are going, the Traders will take over the industry. They will become your sponsor, and take decisions. They often say he who pays The Piper dictates the tune. Are the traders not the ones dictating the tune now? They will always put their foot down on who they want to play which role whether those people are competent or not. That is the situation now”.
“You can go out there and ask the older actors like Oga Bello, Baba Jimoh Aliu, Lere Paimo, Baba Wande & Co. whether Baba Ogunde did warn them or not.
How come you know so much about the Movie industry? Did he force you to develop an interest in? “No. I was born into it. All Papa’s children grew up around Theatre practitioners. His wives also. We all grew up to like the drums, dancing and singing with them”.
How come he allowed you go to school to study Geology? “He didn’t stop his children from going to school. But you were involved in the Theatre business because everybody is involved in it. I studied Geology and worked with the Nigerian AGIP Oil Company. I retired as an Executive Director, after 35 years. Despite my job, I assisted my father throughout. I used to assist him to write and type scripts and letters. I helped him in buying equipment abroad and getting movie directors he could use. I was always involved in looking for Laboratories abroad for him. All Baba’s works were directed by 9 crew members that usually fly in from London. Tunde Kelani assisted with some. Baba composed songs but I got involved in the film aspect more than his plays. I couldn’t do more than that because I was in school, so I could not go round with the group to be part of the plays. They used to move around a lot in those days when they produced Aiye, Jaiyesinmi, and Ayanmo, moving from one location to the other.”
What sort of a man was the late Ogunde, we asked? “Like most great artistes, Ogunde was an uncommon person.”
“He was unusual in his ways. People like him don’t see things, the way we normal people see things. As far as my late father was concerned the most important thing to him in life was Theatre.”
“Every other thing was secondary. To buttress my point, let me cite an example of what happened to one of his wives on set one day at Glover Hall. One of her children was sick and she came with him to the show.”
“She left him backstage to go on stage to act her role with my father. Along the line, the son died. They called my dad to see what was going on, he went to see the dead child, his child. He felt bad. But you couldn’t believe it. He told the mother of the dead child to go back on stage to complete her scene, which had to do with her smiling. She smiled ooo, despite the fact that she just lost a child. She had to smile on stage.”
“So, that is the kind of man that my dad was. The child died but the show had to go on. So you can see that such people are very special people. I wouldn’t want to say they are not normal people because that would be negative. But they are different kind of people. What we count as important they don’t count. He saw his commitment to the Theatre as a mission. He believed the Theatre was a mission for him. He wouldn’t do any other thing”.
Was he a Christian, Muslim or Traditionist? “He was everything. He believed in all the religion. His father was a Pastor & Teacher. His paternal mother was an Ifa priest. He lived with him till age 10, before his father came to take him to school. The father took him into Christianity. So because of his orientation, he never saw the differences between the 2. He had so many Bishops as friends. He will tell you Ifa & Christianity are not fundamentally different. He was not a religious bigot. He had Ifa priests as friends. His policy “is worship your God, let me worship mine. But don’t tell me what to believe”.
“My late father was very deep. He was full of wisdom. Everything he said I found to be true. Everything he spoke about came to pass. He was deep. In those good old days, I used to argue with him when he was alive”.
What was late Ogunde’s Philosophy of life? “He used to say he agreed with Christians whenever they say love thy neighbour as thyself but he also believes that you reap what you sow. So, when you are told to love your neighbour start with loving yourself first, you will reap what you will sow. As you sow, you will reap.”
“He used to say any religion that does not change you is not a good religion”. How did he take the news of his father passing on? “It was devastating. It hit us badly because we were not expecting it. He had been sick for a while. Personally, I never expected it or thought he could die.”
“He was 74. His mum lived long. His mum died at 104 so. It was more than a shock. For whatever reason, I never thought he could die.”
“I was thinking he would live longer than that. His Uncle lived long.”
“He was the only child of his mum. First, I received the news with a lot of disbelieve. It was like: are you sure? Did you see him? We kept asking our family members in London. It took some time for us to accept.”
“So, all we have been doing is to prove to many people globally that we have a history. I still remember what the Italian man told me about the black man having No History.
“We want to leave History behind for the next generation.”
“It is sad that all our legends die and they are forgotten here in Nigeria. Meanwhile, their legacies are preserved abroad. In South Africa, Nelson Mandela has been immortalised. There is a Nelson Mandela Mausoleum kept by the government.”