Art and Culture

Outpouring of Love for Olu Jacobs at 80

todayJuly 9, 2022

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Ferdinand Ekechukwu

There had been quite a number of posts celebrating his birthday following a poster shared on his Instagram page a week earlier. “A Toast to Olu Jacobs 80th Birthday Celebration”, boldly reads the message. His wife and amazon of the silver screen, Joke Silva, had hinted at his 80th birthday celebration on her Instagram page when she shared a throwback picture of her husband. She captioned the photo “Who has the foggiest idea who this handsome young man is? #80th birthday loading…”

This prompted a brief exchange between this reporter and Joke Silva. “Good morning… His date of birth is 11/7/42”, she affirmed. Olu Jacobs will clock 80 on Monday 11th of July, 2022. Adding to our exchange that she feels “Grateful and thankful to celebrate his 80th. Just plain touched and moved by the outpouring of love for him from people from all over and from all walks of life. Good is good”. 

Oludotun Baiyewu Jacobs, simply well-known as Olu Jabobs, is one of Nigeria’s finest gifts. The world has been his stage for many years and he played without fear.  A seasoned actor who has starred in numerous Nigerian and British drama series and movies, Olu Jacobs has performed with uncommon grace while gracing our screens. But age is here and has slowed the veteran.

However, neither age nor frailty can diminish his status in Nigeria’s film and theater industry. By any conceivable parameters, Olu Jacobs is a successful professional who has paid his dues in the industry and is thus mostly respected by all. With over five decades of his life in bringing joy and entertainment to many homes in Nigeria and beyond.

The deluge of love since the news of his forthcoming 80th birthday made the rounds has been overwhelming.  Olu Jacobs is one of those who made good use of their skills to pursue a worthy career, benefiting society and country. Jacobs’ acting talent showed up early. His career had a highly focused and fruitful trajectory: he made his mark in innovation and mentoring, both in theatre arts and in Nigeria’s movie industry.

In secondary school, he joined debating and drama societies, trying out on stage and building his craft. This interest was later confirmed after he discovered Chief Hubert Ogunde, the Nigerian actor, playwright, theatre manager and musician who founded the first contemporary professional theatrical company in Nigeria. Jacobs attended one of Ogunde’s annual concert parties in Kano and became convinced of his path.

Like the best of his contemporaries – at a time when Nigerian universities could not offer many options – he pursued his higher education abroad. In 1964, Jacobs travelled to Britain to study. He took up a spot at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, studying acting. Jacob also worked with various repertoire theatres in Britain and Ireland and starred in several British television series and international movies.

He returned home in 1980, just like many other Nigerians looking to develop their home societies, to enrich the federation and encourage young talents to find local success. Cinema wasn’t just work for Jacobs, it was life itself. In 1989 he married Joke Silva, another veteran actor and a graduate of the University of Lagos and the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

They have both enjoyed being together as a couple many years down the line despite their stardom and individual roles. That togetherness has taken them far as best friends and life partners for over 35 years. A multi-award winning actor and producer, scriptwriter, broadcaster, businessman and entrepreneur, Olu Jacobs has been hailed by many as one of the greatest and most widely respected African actors of his generation.

He has also received awards both within and outside the country for his professional achievements. He is also a national honour recipient. He was conferred with the National Honour of the Member of the Federal Republic, MFR, by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011.  Recently, he was also conferred with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Africa International Film Festival, AFRIFF, as did African Movie Academy Awards, AMAA, in 2016.

He was honoured with the Industry Merit Award for outstanding achievements in acting at the 2013 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards. His legion of viewers and well-wishers from around the globe wish this father-figure, actor and cultural icon many more years.

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