I am still married to Duro Ladipo...

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I am still married to Duro Ladipo – Abiodun Duro Ladipo

Chief (Mrs) Abiodun Duro-Ladipo was the apple of her husband’s eyes. She is also an actress and singer. outstanding roles in his popular plays earned her the names: Oya and Moremi. But in 1978 her husband, legendary thespian, Duro Ladipo, died and with him her fame. She spoke with YEMISI ADENIRAN on her widowhood experience, Moremi Ajasoro her new and other matters. Excerpts:

What attracted you to your husband?
He was very kind and loving. At the time we met, he was a teacher in the primary school but of course, he had started displaying his dramatic inclination.

But he had other wives. How come you were still attached to him?
Like I said, he was a loving husband who would not want anything to hurt me. In those days, marrying a man with a wife or wives was never a problem. It was a common practice as long as you were comfortable with the man you married. I was the most preferred of all his wives and he never hid it, may be because I am not from his culture. I am the only one from Ekiti State. He was always pleading that I be specially treated because he crossed many rivers to have me.

That automatically qualified you as his favourite wife?
Yes, without mincing words. We were always together at home and at work staging one play or the other. I was also inclined towards acting, so, that made the two of us. The other wives did not enjoy it but there was nothing they could do. We shared the same room while other wives had theirs separately.

How did he spend time with his other wives?
He managed us very well but I was with him permanently. If he had to go and stay with them, he went briefly and came back. Those times, I looked elsewhere; I mean I took it in good faith since he would always come to me.

As a son of a catechist, how did Duro Ladipo become a traditionalist?
Without any deep probing, it was all a mystery. It is true that he was born a Christian but went the traditional way. I think this was directed by fate. He was destined to be like that. He was an active member of the choir in his father’s church, he introduced the bata drum into the church and the Reverend was infuriated. He was annoyed, wondering how the son of a priest would be found in such an ungodly atmosphere, acting plays like a pagan and even bold enough to stylishly attempt introducing it into the church. He was later suspended from the church. His father was also not happy with him for his choice but he was convinced about his choice and had to even abandon his teaching profession to face it squarely. When fame came his way later, they were all happy for him.

Did he die of natural causes or as a result of the supernatural power involved in his role as the legendary Sango?
Duro was an abiku [child with a kindred spirit] but I did not know this. He had died many times before his final death. That was why many wouldn’t attribute his death to natural causes. He was what the Yorubas will call abiku agba. This is because unlike the previous times, he had grown older, had wives and children before dying. As a matter of fact no one thought he was going to die any more.

But some still connect his death with the epic role he played as Sango, god of thunder?
That also may be true because his death definitely was mysterious just as his role as Sango.

Was it natural for him to spit fire while acting just like the legendary Sango?
I cannot answer that question because I was not privy to all the details. But I know he could do it many times, I mean anytime there was a need for it.

Is it right to liken him with the real Sango?
Yes. He had a striking resemblance with the real Sango and acted exactly like him

Did he have any premonition of his death?
Yes he did. Before his final death in the hospital, even before his admission into the hospital, he would not allow me to sleep in his room. His eyes, by then, were extra-red such that I could not look at him. He instructed me not to come to his room, I knew then there was more to his sickness, but I could not conclude that he was about to die. When he was admitted into the hospital and he was not improving, he kept encouraging me and telling me some things he would want me to do. How I should take care of his home, job and dreams. A day before his death, I looked at him and I could not help crying, the nurse on duty started scolding him for his conduct that was making me to cry but, he wouldn’t stop. He said: ‘Let her cry now because she would cry for many more years’. Of course, I cried and wouldn’t be consoled. He died the following day. My eldest child was just in the secondary school then and I was just in my 30s. All other wives left but I could not and here I am today to the glory of God.

Did you miss that much?
Yes, I did. I still do but time is the healer of wounds. It’s been so lonely but God has been good. He was with me just for 11 years and I was left with the upbringing of our children. My children are big now and successful, I have wonderful grandchildren and you know I have every cause to thank God.

How were you able to cope without a man considering your age at the time of his death?
God has been my help and my children are my consolation. God helped me on that because there was a time I was sick and the doctor said I had to go and get acquainted with a man for total cure. It was hard for me, I never planned to marry another husband, so, I cried to God over it and He cured me in His own way.

Did men not come with love proposals?
Of course they did, but who will step into his shoes? No one is bold enough to do that. There were attempts, there were trials, but none was able to bend or change my mind. I am not just an ordinary person, I am a wife of a legend so, I cannot just be treated anyhow.

So how would you describe your widowhood experience?
Widowhood is never palatable especially for a woman whose husband died at an unripe age. She is opened to insults, assaults and lots of lack particularly if she is not gainfully employed. While she moves about looking for help for her children, seeking survival, she will be embarrassed. If care is not taken, she may fall along the line and her honour tampered with. Your standard of living as a widow drops immediately your husband dies; the society stops to reckon with you, in fact, you are just left to be on your own. It is devastating. But if one is determined and focused, she will survive it. It is not a reason to misbehave especially when children are involved. I have survived mine and I give all the glory to God. My prayer is that others will.

Why are you not doing much of acting as your husband would have wanted?

It is not as easy as it may sound. It has been topmost on my mind and agenda but there is the issue of finance. There are no sponsors and this is not just what I can wake up to do just anyhow. Besides, we have the problem of reproducing all the old movies. In those days, there was nothing like film making, it was just stage plays, so, we could not record anything. There was nothing to fall back on unless we act it all over. That takes us to another hitch, which is that of cast. Who would act the Sango role in Oba Koso like the Oba Koso himself? So many things constitute the hindrance, but I know something will happen soon.

What is your best achievement in recent time?
It remains my ability to produce the Moremi Ajasoro movie. We were not able to do this when h e w a s alive and mind you, there was nothing like that then. I had also tried for many years to do it before now but God made it a special package for me as I marked my 70th birthday.

You are always in indigenous hair styles. Does it have anything to do with your late husband?
Yes. These are the styles he loved and as long as I am still married to him, I should be married to his preferences.

Do you have any regrets?
I have no regrets because I believe God has all the answers to all the whys. He makes all things beautiful at His time. He has been good to me. I just clocked 70 and when I looked and think back now, I know there are unending reasons to thank God. The only thing that worries me is the fact that my husband is yet to be immortalised despite his contributions to the Nigerian theatre industry. It is quite painful that his legacies are left wasting away. But again, what can we do than to pray for the best?

What advice do you have for artistes?
They should keep up the good work and rely on God for inspiration. If they don’t, they will be recycling one another’s work. They should not also be rushing to produce movies otherwise, it will lack depth and this will affect their financial reward. They should appreciate one another and teach our children about the rudiments of our culture for a better society.

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