Many Nigerian Men Run From Their Responsibilities – Ronke Ojo

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Ronke Ojo

Ronke Ojo

She got the name ‘Oshodi Oke’ for a lead role in a movie entitled ‘Oshodi Oke’ and ever since the name has stuck like glu, almost obscuring her real name, Ronke Ojo.  Ronke has been acting for over a decade now. In fact, she is one of the most popular Yoruba actresses in the industry, even taking on comedy roles that can favourably compete with the best. Speaking with Ajibade Alabi in an exclusive interview in her posh apartment in Lagos, the talented thespian denies that she is divorced from her husband of three years, but does admit that the marriage is a bit rocky. Excerpts:

As an experienced married woman, how would you define love?
You see, when you are in love and you are not happy, that is dangerous; some people might be in love but not happy in their marriage or relationship. But just because of love, they keep going back, and truly believing that it might work. The worst thing is to love someone who doesn’t love you back, that is painful.

But if you are in love with someone and you are happy, even though you do not have money and both of you are living in a hut and eat well every day, that’s okay. Happiness brings with it so many things; if you are happy and not necessarily rich, everybody will see that you are okay.

You will look good, everything will work well. But if you are not happy and you have everything in the whole world, all will not be well. Even if you adorn your body with gold, you will look haggard, the money will not show on you and people will know that something is wrong. So, wherever you are, you must always find a way to be happy. Happiness is unquantifiable; it is not what you can buy with money.

In a real life situation, have you found happiness in your own love life?
That is a big one, that is really a big question (Long pause). I try as much as I can to be happy. But I am not really happy in my love life. At times, I sit down and chat with my siblings and they say, “Ronke, if you are not happy in love, then who else could be happy in love? You are a very simple person; you are jovial, yet, you are not happy.” I try to be happy with myself and with my God, but if I am not happy in love, so be it, because you cannot have everything.

The only thing that everybody has to have, which is a common factor, is death. Not everyone can be rich; not all women can have husbands, not all men will have wives, and not all are blessed with children. So, you cannot have it all.

And, even if you have everything in the whole world and enjoying your life, death will end it all. I told myself, the only thing that can give me happiness is to put smiles on people’s faces in my own little way. That way, I’m happy and contended; if love comes, I’ll embrace it, if it doesn’t, so be it.

Is it that you have not been given back what you give to people or do you feel you are a misunderstood person?
Well, some people misunderstand me, but I do not want to say I am a misunderstood person. I want to be Ibironke Ojo when I am not on set, but when l am on set I can be many things, because duty calls. There are some circumstances beyond one’s control, like family problems and the likes.

When it comes to my choice of men, I could be very choosy. It is not because I want a rich guy, but these days some guys will think they are doing a woman a favour by marrying her. In fact, some guys say women are not submissive, whereas all they want to do is to enslave them. I can’t take that.

A few minutes before you came in, I was sharing something with your mum and she said something about a woman’s total commitment to marriage, whatever the circumstance and that has kept her with your dad. But I am worried about the spate of divorces and separations we are having not only in Nollywood, but everywhere. What do you think is responsible? Are women not ready to be submissive to their husbands?
Yes, a woman makes the home but at the same time it takes two to tango.
Whether we like it or not, we have imbibed a lot of the Western culture – the way we dress and do some things have really changed. When I was young, my Dad paid my school fees, did so many things like all real men. Those days, men were proud to be men; they hardly allow women to pay their children’s tuition and other fees but everything has changed now.

In most marriages, women do virtually everything even when the man is financially stable. The issue is these men don’t need to have billions for them to be responsible; all they need to do is carryout their normal duties, I mean, just contribute your quota, even when your wife is rich, drop some money and let her add to it.

Don’t let the woman shoulder all the responsibilities as it is being done in most homes now. As if that is not enough, some men are uncaring. They will go out and come back late in the night and do all sort of things, yet they still want their women to be submissive. Isn’t that frustrating?

Recently, a woman and I were chatting in the plane, and when we were about to land, she sighed and said: “Haa, I ’m going back to that house of horror!” I asked her why she said that and she said ever since she established a school; her husband had been giving her problems.

No man wants to marry a liability, the woman has to do petty trade and the same blood runs in our veins. Unfortunately, the woman is always at the receiving end but marriage doesn’t mean enslavement or favour. It is unfortunate most men think of sex after making money and that puts the woman under undue pressure.

Are you the jealous type?
Would I say yes or no? I have since registered it in my brain that it is normal for an African man to have extra marital affairs. I see it as food for them; I do not let it bother me. Though I will let him know if he’s going too far. When it comes to women affairs, I decide on some issues and there are things I cannot tolerate.

If you want me to sit down in an uncomfortable place, you must give me good reasons for asking me to sit there but at times, if that will make you happy, I will sit. But extra marital affairs don’t bother me because I believe it is your life and money that you are throwing away.

But some people adopt the ‘if you do it, I will do it’ attitude. Do you believe in that?
No, that is wrong. It is not alright to engage in extra marital affairs to spite a cheating husband. Some guys who do it make it up to their wives. I do not support extra marital affairs on the woman’s part, but I believe it’s normal for men.

What if your husband comes back and says, ‘I want to have you back’?
We are not divorced. We are just separated. We still talk. My husband still loves me.

We saw the other side of you during the fuel subsidy removal nationwide protest. What inspired that?
When you are not happy, you are not happy. At times when I see myself as a Nigerian, I feel sick even though I love my country very much. As I told you earlier, I cannot live abroad. But at times you will feel saddened when you see we are still in the same mess, it’s still the same old story. It is frustrating and annoying. We do not have good leaders.

They travel abroad and see how it is being done there. If I happen to be the next governor I will also do my own thing because there is corruption everywhere. Nigeria has a very high level of corruption. During the ‘Occupy Nigeria’ rally, I had sleepless nights. Ever since the President assumed office, the electricity situation hasn’t changed.

Other past Presidents who removed subsidy on fuel did it gradually but he did his at once; no meaningful provision whatsoever. As beautiful as America is, as good as their economy is, they still give subsidy on food. So what are you giving us back? It is really frustrating.

I joined them out of frustration, when I went there the second time; I made it clear that I didn’t come for entertainment,  the platform wasn’t meant for entertainment but to express our feelings and particularly to tell the world how we have been hurt and that we are not fools. They think we are fools, I was not inspired by anything but nationalism, love for my country.

You are fast assuming the profile of a comedian in movies; is that the way to go now?
That is just me. My parents are very lively. We play, chat, and gossip.
I am just being myself. Though at first I did not know I could make people laugh. It was Saidi Balogun who helped me to discover that part of me.

He said to me, ‘Ronke, did you know you can make one laugh?’ We sat down and wrote a comedy film and pronto, people liked it. To sit people down for two hours and make them laugh is not an easy feat.

Would you call yourself a romantic person?
Yes, I am a very romantic person. That is why there is a bit of romance in most of my movies.