By Benjamin Njoku
Mr. Olu Jacobs and his wife, Joke, are top artistes. Inside their home, it is not all the time a bed of roses. They share their happy and challenging times in this piece.
How I met my husband
I met him at the National Theatre while we were rehearsing for Jero’s Metamorphosis by Professor Wole Soyinka in 1981. I was to play Sister Rubeka and he was playing the role of Prophet Jero and, at the same time co-directing the play. That was where we met.
What happened when I met him
People had been talking about him before I arrived the country because he was based in the UK at that time. Everybody was talking about him, especially Miss Ene, the then Artistic Director of the National Theatre and Dr. Ashiwaju. They had met in England and I guess he would have been the Chiwetel Ejiofor of that time. Just as what Chiwetel is to this present generation, so he was then.
He was one of the top African actors in England at that time, whether on stage or on screen. He was the talk of the town. So, I was looking forward to meeting him; when I finally saw him, he was quite a handsome man. Our first meeting, if I could remember vividly, I went to call Miss Ene to come and watch our rehearsal. They were in a production meeting, and, when I entered the office, the first thing he uttered was, “This is the woman I am going to marry.”
When I left the office, I said to myself, `How can anybody say it just like that?’ He always insisted that I eyed him every now and then. We started out as very good friends. Four years later we got married. We met in 1981 and married in 1985.
Courtship before marriage
We started courting before he proposed to me. But the proposal came after four years of our courtship. He proposed to me in Tunisia while he was on a movie set called, ‘The Pirate’, directed by Roman Polansky. I was in a drama school in London. So, I visited him briefly in Tunisia to spend some time with him, and later flew back to England. We have been married for 28 years now.
He had a lovely sense of humour. He was also very passionate about his work. Additionally, he had a very broad shoulder and a very lean body like that of our last child. Basically, the attraction was his sense of fun and style. He really had, and still has a sense of style. You can never find Olu dressed shabbily, it’s not him. I remember the early years of our marriage, after 1993, things got rough with us, after pumping all our money into an investment.
We used to work ourselves to the bone. And it used to upset us that we couldn’t dress the way we liked to. But there were responsibilities to take care of. That was an attraction as well; his sense of style, honesty and high integrity.
What kept marriage going
Friendship. We are each other’s very close friend. It’s not as if we don’t have close friends outside our marriage, but I think we are both each other’s number one close friend. The other thing is mutual respect, the fact that we both share the same passion about the area of entertainment that we are in. Of course, the various challenges that we’ve faced over the years , we’ve learnt how to surmount them together. At different times when it is necessary, we have both learnt to forgive each other. I guess the sum total of what I’m saying is that God’s grace has been present in our marriage.
People always refer to your marriage as a successful celebrity marriage. What is the secret of being able to hold on to your marriage for 28 years and you remain inseparable?
God’s grace has kept us in the sense that even when the challenges come, we’ve been very lucky with the kind of friends that we have had who have been very supportive. They too have their share in making sure that this marriage succeeds. I have some very good friends and family, definitely good family on both sides.
Key factor for successful marriage
There has been the contribution of family and friends. We don’t have that many friends really, but the ones we have are like family, they are very close to us. They’ve been with us from day one. Our families too have been very supportive, especially, when the children were younger and we had to work. It was easy to take the children to family members while we went about what it was necessary for us to do , knowing fully well that the children were in good hands.
Also we had very challenging times,; I’ll never forget a time, I don’t even know what it was that caused the quarrel, it was a long time ago, and I got so upset. I just packed all my things, took the children with me in the car and drove off and went to my mum. That same day, I came back, my mother drove me back. (laughs). They are both so close, my husband and my mum.
A lot of times when people see the two of them together, they think she is his mother. Unfortunately, by the time we got married, his mum had passed away, so his late sister was like my mother-in-law. And she was just an absolute gem, she used to call me ‘Olori’ which means ‘Queen’. She had this wonderful way of making me feel extra-special. My sister-in-law never allowed anyone to oppress me. Our families are always so positive, so encouraging….. One good thing about both families is that whenever there is a need, everybody rises. That’s how we are.
Causes of break-up of marriages
I wouldn’t dare say that I can talk about that, I can’t; because I know that what I have is God’s grace. It would be arrogant to say this is what caused the break up of this person’s marriage. I’m not walking in their shoes. All I can say is that there are things that happen that can break up marriages, but if you can pray for strength to weather those storms and usually when these storms are happening, it’s because there is something good, there is a contention. Marriage is an institution created by God .
As a Christian, I look at it from the Christian perspective. It is a symbol of God’s union with his Church. Marriage is always on the attack; if you remember, even in the Garden of Eden when Eve was found on her own, she was attacked and, when she succumbed, it was easy for Adam to fall. If you can ask for the grace to weather the storm, there’s always something beautiful at the end.
If you’re being physically or mentally abused in a marriage, to be honest, for me, I’d go for separation. Then, we go for counselling and see if the union can continue. With a lot of prayers, it usually does come together. But for me to say this is why marriages break up, I can’t.
Intimacy in marriage
I don’t think it’s possible for you to have marriage without intimacy, because if there’s no intimacy, why bother with marriage? Most people think intimacy means just sex, there’s more to it than that. There’s a meeting of minds, there’s that bonding. Sometime ago, I used to tell him (my husband) that ‘one of the reasons why I find that I can’t leave you is that the next morning, I’m likely to call to find out how you are’.
There is just this closeness. I really don’t think marriage is possible without intimacy. I think it is very important that there is trust in marriage. Trust can be broken, but it can be healed. Some people believe in polygamy, I don’t. I don’t believe in sharing. It has to do with what works for you as a couple.
Display of public affection
I don’t think I’d do what I see happens in the West where you see people kissing on the streets. But, yes I can hold my husband, hug him if the situation calls for it.
Combining my duty as a mother, wife and an actress
One, I have had very good role models. I think that’s a key and my first role model was my mum. She was married to the same person all her life, until my father died. That’s over 40 something years of marriage they had. The people who were also my care givers because my mum travelled a lot, like Chief Mrs Olaoye, Mrs Oyin Oladapo, Mrs Laoye and my mother’s sister, Mrs Busola Olumide – all these people juggled being wives, being mothers, being professionals.
One of the things I learnt is to make time for the family, you career cannot supersede the family. The family always comes first in everything I’m doing. There is what is called prioritising, what needs attention at a particular point. Is it work, family or your husband. They rarely do need attention at the same time, thank God, so you give attention to whatever needs attention at whatever point in time.
There’s one thing I learnt from my mum which is to always have very good back up; your house helps and family members, especially when the children are very young and you are a working class lady. I also learnt that changing house helps is not the best thing to do. When someone becomes your house help, she automatically becomes part of your family. Their problems become yours as well.
You operate as one family, that’s the way I’ve been brought up. And because of that, you are able to function well as a family. My house help has been with us for over 14 years now. I used to have challenges with my drivers, I kept changing them. I had to go to God in prayer asking for a a good driver and the present one has been with us for over five years.
What is it you don’t like about your husband
Of course, we get mad at each other ten times a day.( Laughs). Earlier in our marriage, when we used to snap at each other, it led to sulking on both sides for hours.But now, there is nothing like that any more. We can get mad at each other and the next two minutes we are laughing and talking to each other. If we quarrel and it lasts for a couple of hours, it’s because we want to drive a point home.
There is a beautiful way an actress put it. She said, and I quote, “Within the marriage, there are lots of weddings and divorces, but what is important is that the weddings should be more than the divorces and then you have a successful marriage.”
I saw someone who stunned me – Olu Jacobs
Before I met my wife
I was a bachelor. I was living on my own for so many years. I went to England as a bachelor and when I met my wife I was still a bachelor. Yes, I had some girl friends but not more than one at a time before I met my wife. Unfortunately, they lacked the qualities I wanted in a woman at that time. It was quite easy for me when I met my wife to do away with any other casual friend that I had then.
I closed all chapters with them just to make sure that there was no misunderstanding between my wife and myself. I wanted to give the relationship I had with her a chance to grow so that interferences would be eliminated.
Love at first sight
Yes, it was the case of love at first sight. Our story runs like a novel. We were doing a production meeting for Jero’s Metamorphosis at National Theatre, Iganmu. I was playing Brother Jero and, at the same time, co-directing the play. Suddenly, the door opened and the lady came in, I looked at her and said, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the woman I am going to marry’. She just looked at me up and down and left.
Four years later, we got married. That was how sure I was when I saw her and I have never been that kind of sure in my life. I’m not an extrovert when it comes to that. I keep my relationship quiet. But that was how I saw it at the moment when I saw her.
I saw a woman, somebody who stunned me. There was no explanation, I looked at her and she was just the kind of woman I wanted. I saw her and she was just it and I said, ‘This is the lady I ‘m going to marry.’ After that time, I didn’t see any other girl friend apart from her. And since we got married, it has been same.
The journey 28 years after
We thank God for everything. Like any other journey in life, whether by road, sea or air, you must go through turbulent times as well as smooth times. That is part of life, and that is why it is important that when you decide to marry, you must begin to think of how you are going to take care of that person. How is that person going to care of you? What kind of person do you want? All these questions you must sincerely and honestly ask yourself.
When you begin to think for two, when you are working you are working, for two in your mind. Whatever you are doing from then on, you are doing it for two. That’s what God wants. He wants unity, He wants the husband and wife to be united. When you are thinking, you are only thinking of your partner who happens to be your best friend. Both of you have to share your plans.
If you are doing something and your wife doesn’t know and if your wife is doing something and you don’t know, it means the relationship hasn’t started yet. If you are keeping money away to spend on other babes, God doesn’t support that, it is the devil that is diving in to divide the relationship and that’s what we must always avoid.
Is there anything you don’t like about your wife?
She used to keep things in mind, I never realised this on time. When you think everything has been forgotten, all of a sudden she reminds you of it. At first, I used to be very upset, and then I realised that I used to be like that. Memory is good, but at the same time, we must make sure that we use it for good. Instead of looking for something bad that she has done, use that same time to look for something good that she has done, then you’ll find that she has not done anything bad, when you compare both. But we exaggerate what we consider bad.
The challenges are challenges and they must come in life. It is very easy to talk about the bad things but the good things are the ones that inspire. The bad things should be remembered in order to warn you to change for the better. Use them for change. My wife is very generous, very kind and caring. If you’re having a problem, she’ll listen and take it up as her own. If you need something and she has it, she’ll give it to you.
I’m very happy with her and she’s my best friend. When you have a friend at home, you want to go home. Wherever you are, you want to finish whatever you are doing and go home. The home is attractive to you and that’s the kind of person she is. Sometimes, when we are working separately, we try to always be on phone with each other two to three times a day. If it is possible on our way to branch and say ‘hi’, have a cup of tea together which we do sometimes and spend the night. Then the next day, she’s off to her station and I’m off to mine. We keep in touch.
Have you starred in the same movie with your wife? What was the experience like?
Yes, we work very well together. We don’t have problems at all. When we met, we were working together. There were no unnecessary complications. Work is work and play is play. We left our homes so that we can work.
If you are to advise young couples, what would you tell them?
First of all, young people must try as much as possible to avoid too many so-called good friends who always have advice for you. Try and be careful with them. You may listen to them, but weigh whatever they give you. Not all your so-called good friends wish you well. Quite a lot of them want to take over your position. Pray for contentment.
Pray to meet, have and keep your friend. You need the wisdom to see and recognise a friend. Always think for two ( you and your wife). You and your wife first, others can come in later. Even your parents will tell you, “This is your wife, take care of her”.