Article

Omotola is angry!

Omotola has been a celebrity for 15 years now and a lot of us think we know her – her marriage, her kids, and her career. However, for what might be the first time, she speaks passionately about the things that define her. She speaks frankly to Chude Jideonwo about her anger, her frustrations, her relentless battle for respect, those accusations of arrogance, the truth about her marriage, what she thinks of the people who panned her debut album, and why she pulled down the gates of the National Assembly early this year.
“I don’t forget things,” she says as she shares with me a how-come-no-one-ever-thought-of-this-before idea for a magazine. “You would never know what is in my mind. And I plan far ahead. Every single thing I do is already planned. Sometimes I see or hear things and people think I have forgotten, but I am processing and eventually I will react.”
Omotola, Empowered
It is obviously the same formula Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde has applied to everything she has done, from the carefully crafted Omosexy – I’m a hot mum of four! – brand to her career.
Even her non-governmental organisation, the Omotola Youth Empowerment Project (OYEP).
Which is where it got a bit tricky.
Everything was fine when all she did was entertain Nigerians with her fine talent. But the snickers hit the roof when she announced she would be launching a foundation for young people, kicking it off with a thousand-strong march in Lagos in 2005.
“You see, sometimes I am not interested in making noise or just doing something because I want to impress,” she says, acknowledging the nay-sayers. “I am sure many of the people who were cynical at the time will now bite their words. I think that over the years we have proven that we can do it.”
In any case, she says, she didn’t really want to set up an NGO – what she wanted flowed from a bigger idea. She didn’t want her name registered with it: but the only way she was going to get ‘Youth Empowerment Project’ registered, officials at the corporate affairs commission said, was if her name was attached to it. The organisation now has more than 10,000 registered members, with its largest crop of members in Abuja, Ibadan, Port Harcourt and Enugu.
“When I set up, it wasn’t supposed to be an NGO, it was suppose to be a movement,” she says. “The reason why I call it a movement is because I am first an activist before I am a humanitarian. I am moved by things that are wrong, I am moved by justice, the feeling that people shouldn’t be cheated, and it starts first with me; I am very passionate about people not taking me for granted. So I think when you can first and foremost in your own life see and fight for it, then believe it, it is easy for you to pass it on to other people. Personally, I see that happening a lot in my own life; I teach people around me to stand up for themselves.
This distinction is very important for Omotola: she is not interested in ‘charity’, even though she gives to charitable causes, instead, she believes it is more useful to build a generation of young Nigerians who can “stand up for themselves.”
“Nigeria is a very great nation,” she says. “We have everything available for us to be a great nation, yet its people are the most depressed, repressed and confused people, and I am saying ‘what is the problem?’ People are just tired of complaining, so don’t complain, why not come out and fight and change things? That is where this whole idea started from.”
It’s our country, dammit!
She turned to the youth. “We thought the best way to revolutionise things was to start with the youth; who are my audience and my immediate fans, people that I converse with from day to day, and most of them complain to me,” she reveals. “If I show you my phone now you’ll be shocked, I have a lot of people calling me, sending me text messages, that ‘I have this problem, that problem, this happened to me, that happened to me’; people who are raped, and who cannot come out; because there is nobody fighting for these people. There are no reforms, there are so many so-called departments that are supposed to be taking care of these things, but people are not working; and these people are still depressed and repressed, and they come out and the only persons they can find are people like us. I can’t handle everybody’s problems, but I can show you a way how you can empower yourself, you can say ‘no, I am a human being and I have one life to live and I refuse to live it miserably.’ ”
She insists that class or status is irrelevant. “Don’t think I am privileged because I am an actor or I because I am a public person,” she says. “I fought for what I am today. I could be an actor and may not be respected; I fought and chose to be respected. At the end of the day you can do the same, you don’t have to be a star; you don’t have to be a celebrity or a millionaire. You have rights and the minute you stand for it, people will start to respect you.”
It is, obviously, the reason she also joined the EnoughisEnough movement; a group of young Nigerians asking for change and her NGO is a coalition member. Many Nigerians across the globe, on Internet chat rooms and comment boxes, were surprised to see Omotola in the front lines of a fearless push against security operatives at the National Assembly in Abuja.
Omotola joined hundreds of young people – including her colleague Stella Damasus and other celebrities – in a protest to the National Assembly on 16 March to demand the appearance of the president (at the time), solution to electricity and fuel problems, and an end to the crisis in Jos. Alongside other young people drawn from across the country, she joined in the sit-in on the bare grounds of the National Assembly, the push against a human wall of security operatives who resisted the protesters’ intrusion, and angrily denounced a tone-deaf government.
“This is our National Assembly,” she shouted into the mega-phone, anger seeping through every pore, staring down the army in front of her. “You cannot stop us from going to talk to our elected representatives. We are responsible young people and we left our husbands, our children, our jobs, our families in Lagos to come here and talk to our legislators who are supposed to work for us. Open this gate and let us in!”
(Full story in Y! September 2010)

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Comments (7)

  1. Ilove Omotola… God this woman is strong, a rare gem.

  2. New year count down is about to begin here’s sending my choicest blessing of cheers and joys galore and wishing you a wonderful year 2011 New year promises fresh start and fill every heart with hopes and aspirations.Here’s sending my wishes of love and laughter this day and forever Amen PRINCE S O OMOREGBE

  3. People are just tired of complaining, so don’t complain, why not come out and fight and change things? Word!

  4. Pingback: Party with shade’ omotola & Geneveive in Los Angeles

  5. This is splendid! where can i get this mag o?????

  6. it plus 4 every youth, and a way of directions to every newcomers, i must congratulate omo t 4 her words of encouragement and to Y'naija for a job weldone.

  7. Thanks for this great blog, even though it took quite a long time to complete reading. (English is not my native language) May I ask where you get your sources from? Thank you! Joaquin

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