In a recent interview with The Nation, popular Yoruba actress Omotunde Ogundimu disclosed that she has been battling a debilitating ailment that has since removed the shine from her acting career. In this interview with DUPE AYINLA-OLASUNKANMI, she ventilates her pains and hope, among other issues.
You seldom appear in movies these days. So, what really is responsible for this?
I have been ill.
So, how do you feel now?
I am still very weak. I was at the clinic and the doctor revealed that, even if I have the money readily available, I can’t undergo the surgery now because I have lost so much blood. So, I was given some drugs to help boost the blood back to the level it should be.
Which hospital is that?
It is called Beachland Specialist Hospital in Arepo, Ibafo, Ogun State.
What is the nature of the ailment?
My period comes like 10 to15 days; then, it will stop and come again. I menstruate twice in a month. I noticed it last year before my husband passed away. Anytime we had intercourse, I would always bleed. I took it for something else, so I didn’t really pay attention to it. But when he became sick and we couldn’t have intercourse any more, it (the bleeding) stopped. Then, I didn’t have time to study it at that period too.
But what I noticed is that my menstrual circle changed, so I would menstruate twice in a month with very heavy flow. So, at that time, I just felt it was one of the signs of menopause because I am way above 40. But last year, I had to go to the hospital to complain and the doctor said I had fibroid, even before the tests and scan were conducted. When the scan was done, it was discovered that the fibroid was fully grown in my womb.
You said during the period your husband was sick, you were not having intercourse. But were you having the heavy flow at that time?
Then, it was normal. But the only time it became abnormal was when we had intercourse, so I thought I was approaching my period.
What do you think is exactly wrong with you? Don’t you think it might be a spiritual problem?
No; I don’t think so. You can only say something is spiritual when you don’t get a solution to your problem. But in my own case, I have been able to find out what the problem is and the remedy. Every woman has fibroid, but it is only when it is overgrown that it becomes a problem that needs to be attended to. When it started, I had people who shared their own experiences with me and I was directed to the hospital.
So, how have you been coping, financially?
Well, I am presently in Ibafo, Ogun State, which is close to my home town. When my husband passed away, my family asked me to come back home, so as not to be left alone in Lagos, where I don’t have anybody. So, I came home and rented an apartment. But my children are in one of the boarding schools in Lagos. I didn’t want to change their school.
Whenever they are on vacation, they come here and we spend time together. Sending them to one of the best schools in Lagos is part of my huge financial commitments. But I am glad that I can do that for them because I want them to have the kind of education that I didn’t have.
With your state of health, you definitely need some help. Is anyone living with you?
Some of my siblings do come over to help. But most of them are married and I cannot force them to come and stay with me. So, whenever they volunteer to come, I am always glad to have them around. If not that it went online, nobody knew I was sick. I am a very quite person.
Why did you have to make the ailment hidden for this long without going public with it?
I am just a private person and I just felt I could raise the money and go for the surgery before anybody could know that I was sick.
I don’t go to functions anymore because of the state of my body now-I am so lean. Nobody will see me without asking what is wrong with me. Even the last time I was on location, many of my colleagues felt I was dieting and they complained that it was too serious.
As a crossover actress and one who is popular in both the Yoruba and English sectors of Nollywood, one would expect that you would have a lot of people coming around you.
As I said, the news just got online some days ago and I have been receiving calls from every one of them, promising to do something in any way they can. Most of them didn’t know I was sick and the news going online has drawn their attention to my plight. I also got a call from the AGN president, Ibinabo Fiberesima, asking me to send my details and home address; she promised that they will visit me.
How much do you need to undergo the surgery?
Are you sure the N500, 000 you are requesting for is just for the operation?
I pray the money will be enough. The actual money for the surgery is N350, 000. But I just feel I’ll need some money for my upkeep till I am able to stand on my feet and get back to work. That is the reason I summed up the whole money to N500, 000.
But do you think you need as much as that to undergo a fibroid operation?
Yes, that is true. But it is a private hospital and for someone like me to come out and say I need N350, 000, people will say I should be able to afford such an amount of money because I am an actress. But people do not know what I have been doing all the while. I have single-handedly been training my three kids and I have been struggling to ensure they go to the higher institution, which I did not attend.
Also, the treatment and drugs that I have been taking have cost me a lot of money. Right now, I don’t have any other business I am doing apart from my acting career. I was hoping I would be able to save some money and set up a business. But all that is on hold now.
Does that mean your in-laws were not in support of the union?
The circumstances that surrounded my husband’s death are best known to them. He was married to five wives and he died at the age of 41. After his death, they sold one of his property in Abeokuta and shared the money among us his wives and gave a whole building to my children. After that, no calls to even ask about the welfare of their children.
What is your position among the wives?
I am the second wife.
Didn’t you know he was married?
I never intended to go into the marriage. But sometimes in life, some things take place that you do not plan. You know when you are in love with a man, you believe everything he tells you. When we were courting, he only told me he had someone that bore him a child. When I was pregnant with my first child, he took me home to meet his father, who asked me if he had told me about my senior (the first wife); so, that was when I knew.
I didn’t understand what he was saying until he told me that the man I wanted to get married to already had a wife and a child living with him. I left and told him I was going for abortion. But he went to my mum in Ibafo to inform her about my decision and she came down with him to Iyana Ipaja that same day to plead with me. He knew I am the only child of my mother and that she was already looking forward to having grandchildren. That was how I found myself in a polygamous home. And then, I was working as a clearing and forward agency at NAHCO, Ikeja, Lagos. I had my own apartment, so he was always at my place. But he was a lovely man and a good man. He took care of me. But you know, when there are so many women involved, it is a different story.
Is it that you do not have friends in the industry because you said none has paid you a visit?
(Laughs) That was before! You know, it is said that no matter the multitude, there will always be a disagreement. But at the moment, I am not fighting anybody. So, I have been receiving calls and prayers from most of them, promising to come and pay me a visit. Most of them didn’t know I was sick. As I said, I am a very private person.
We have had cases of stars seeking help from the public. So, is it that you people do not save for the rainy days?
I understand what you are saying. But in my own case, I have been managing on my own all the while without asking anybody for assistance. But the truth of the matter is that the money we are paid here is nothing to write home about. It is all about helping your colleague, when he or she wants to shoot a movie. So, it is whatever the person has that you will collect. All the stories they tell about some people collecting N600, 000 for a roles are lies.
But most of you live flamboyantly; so, where do they get the money from?
I don’t know o! I only know about myself, my sister. Yes, some of them earn well and are into other businesses. As I said earlier, if I get back on my feet and start working, I will get something else doing aside my acting career. Some make money from the movies they produce, especially if the movies sell well.
Having been in the industry for over a decade now, what can you say about your experience as a producer?
I have done three movies: Temidun, Origun Meta and Abiamo Toto. I would have produced another one, but I don’t want to produce any movie that will be below the name and standard that I have been able to build for myself over the years. But my first three were hits in the market. That was when movies still had values. What we have now are marketers who always complain about low sales.
And I can proudly say I was able to make good use of the proceeds from those movies. I opened a wholesale wine shop, but that is history now because that was where I was collecting money when my husband fell sick. And you know how business is, once you don’t add more to it, it will collapse.
I learnt Tope Alabi brought you into the movie industry. Why have you not sought her assistance?
We were in the dance group, Sunny Wonders Performing Group, before she left. We were into dramas and stage plays. But after a while, we met again and I stayed with her at her parents’ home, which was not far from my uncle’s house where I was living then. But when we met, she started telling me about finding my way into the Yoruba movie industry, instead of wasting my time with the group that promised to take us abroad to perform. That was how she introduced me to Alade Aromire Group. But I don’t have her contact and that is the reason I have not been able to reach her for assistance.
I am someone who does not like to bother people. Sometimes, when you expect help from a particular person, you might end up being disappointed. And at the end of the day, you will feel bad. That is the reason I don’t like telling people about what is happening to me. I am a fighter, if not for the fact that Mr. Idris Bello of Shybellmedia got in touch with me and asked what was wrong. I told him I was sick and he came visiting the next day.
When he saw me, he told me not to keep mute on the issue. He said I should let people know about my state of health, stressing that those who would come to my aid will do and those who will talk will talk. I told him they would say, ‘Is she not an actress? Why wouldn’t she be able to afford such an amount? And he told me that I have my life to live.