Taiwo Obileye has straddled a number of vocations; researching, teaching, broadcasting up to what he’s mostly known for today, acting. After retiring from public service, acting became more of his pastime than other inclinations. His is a bloodline of thespians as some of his siblings also act.
Interestingly, the startling semblance between him and his elder brother, Yomi, still stirs some identity confusion among many people. On life after retirement, acting, family, leisure among sundry issues, he speaks with LANRE ODUKOYA.
You’ve paid your dues long enough and you could just easily bow out but you’re still here, what’s the motivation?
Well, I’ll say more than anything else it’s the love of the arts, the love of acting that kept me here because basically, I didn’t train in the arts or theatre or anything like that.
I had a flair for the art when I was in school but I had love for sciences which led me to do the sciences in my higher secondary school. That was also because I wanted to be a doctor so I had to do science subjects.
However, I wasn’t good enough in them so I didn’t make the proper qualification to study medicine in the university. So, I did something else- Agriculture, Biochemistry and Nutrition at the Uni- versity of Ibadan and finished in 1970.
During those years, I was taking part in quite a few dramatic presentations at UI. But before UI in my senior s e conda ry school, I did two major productions which we toured a bit with then.
The opportunity was there in UI to act and it was just the next logical step to take. A lot of people didn’t know what department I was in UI, they thought I was in theatre arts, English or one of those departments in Faculty of Arts.
By December 1972, there was a call for audition at Western Nigerian Broadcasting Service (WNBS) for news readers. So, I went with quite a few other people and I was one of the four who were selected to be news readers.
But it was news summary that we started reading, I didn’t graduate into reading the main news then. But I also went into continuity announcing from there. So, I was an announcer with running shifts because the regular announcer had gone to Lagos to do a course.
I did that from 1972 to 1973, I had to come to Lagos for the national sports festival, that was the first of its kind in 1973 and I came to play basketball for Western State.
By the time I came back since I didn’t have a regular job with WNBS, the position had been taken over by somebody else and I had to go back to teaching which I was also doing part-time.
While you had occasions to act in UI, did you cross paths with Prof. Wole Soyinka?
No, I didn’t do any productions with him on stage but we did a movie, Kongi’s Harvest, it was a big production, big movies so I was in that. He also acted the role of Kongi but I was with him all along particularly because he had a company where my brother and my good friends were, so i interacted with him , until Kongi’s Harvest, the movie.
So what was your relationship like? Did you have that chemistry? Did he challenge you and was he inspiring?
I didn’t have to act along with him, he was there in the tarred road of Kongi, we were Aweri counselors in the play. I was one of those counselors, so it wasn’t really like a one on one with him, but of course it was uplifting to be able to act alongside him even though it was a bit far away.
Hostages and Palace are some of the classic productions you’d been part of…
No, let’s quickly go into correction because that is the same mistake a lot of people make. You see Hostages, I didn’t act in it. It was my brother who acted in ‘Palace’ and ‘Hostages’ Who is your brother? Yomi Obileye
Wow, you sound alike and the resemblance is striking…
You are not alone
How come you almost have almost a bloodline of actors?
Well, I don’t know how come, it just happened. Yomi and I had set of twins in our family, girl twins this time. One of them Kehinde, also did some acting. She is now a medical doctor. That has been for a long time ago.
Coming from a home of a headmistress mother and a chief magistrate father, it looks like you were raised by disciplinarians, how did you have time to do the arts at a time when medicine, engineering, law and maybe accountancy were forced on children?
It wasn’t about them wanting us to be anything, we chose what we wanted to be, but I wanted to be a doctor. Of course they accepted it and it didn’t turn out to be so. My brother, Yomi, chose to be an actor and he went to the university to read Theatre Arts.
How many brothers do you have?
We have an older brother. Yomi is my elder brother, he has another older brother who went into the hospitality business, hotel management and stuffs like that; he had also at a time been a musician playing the saxophone.
All of these must have its stimulant, there must be something somewhere, is it that your dad loved music or the arts?
Well apparently they must have because my father used to sing in the choir in church but I don’t know if that was what rubbed off on us. That’s just what it is.
How do you manage it when people confuse you with your brother?
Oh, it’s happened several times, people say, ‘I remember you in Palace,’ ‘if they say it from far off, I just wave at them and acknowledge. But if they are close enough I can say, ‘that was my brother not me’. So, if they are close enough I explain to them that I have a brother, an older brother.
Have you’ve done any Yoruba movie?
No, I’ve not, but of course, if they invite me, I will.
But of course you are full blooded Yoruba…
I speak Yoruba, I’m Yoruba all through. I will speak Yoruba when I need to. I did Yoruba in school, in secondary school and got an A.
You tend to socialise more than your brother…
That’s Just because he is based in Ibadan now, he was in Lagos. He is now based in Ibadan and has been for quite a few years now I’ve been based in Lagos
Is there a unifying legacy handed out to all of you by your parents?
Well, we grew up in a Christian family and given the type of parents that we had, well, strict, not over bearing but loving so they brought us up in the ethics of telling the truth, being polite, charitable, being caring where you can to people.
There is a strong bond of friendship among all us in the family. So that is the most sterling quality I think because we are all close. We try truthful, honest, discipline, bearing integrity
You were a regular patron at the rested Nite Shift Coliseum, do you miss the good old moments?
I miss that because there is no place else I can go to listen to music, be among my peers, just soaking atmosphere of a night club, sometimes I dance, sometimes I didn’t need to dance. But you knew you were with your friends and colleagues.
From time to time we could also have that at social clubs but those ones are social clubs where you play some sports and you could have some friends there, the difference is that this was a night scene and I don’t have any night scene I could go to.
Though I know there are some around Ikeja, Lagos, none of them is for my age.
Did the social part of you surface when you were young or was it just out of boredom?
No, it wasn’t boredom, well, I wasn’t that much of an outgoing person.
If you have a second chance what would you do differently in life?
I should have left the country at a time when my children were out of the country, I would have been with them (in England) at least at that time when they were still young.