A member of the LR Team came in one day and told us she had come across one man who was presently making waves on the global scene. She stated that he is some one whose story she thought, would impact on many. The team looked up this man and decided to partner with him in our “borderless inspiration” space. Jude Idada…………….how does one describe simultaneous versatility and raw intelligence at its peak? Perhaps just replace it with a phrase: “Jude Idada”.
TO LIVE FULLY IS TO RUN BACK TO YOUR TRUE SELF
By: JUDE IDADA
To dream it is to live it. This is the mantra that has guided my foray into the unpredictable corridors of life. My late father labelled me the most precocious of his eight children even though I first spoke when I was two years old. When I say spoke, I mean, utter my first word, I didn’t blab the usual ‘Dada’ or ‘Mama’ most children do, making my parents worry and take me to countless doctors, speech therapists and the likes, with each one saying I wasn’t born dumb or a mute. Then on my second birthday as my aunt tried to help me cut my cake, I reached out to her and said my first sentence; “Give me the knife.”
When I first spoke, I didn’t utter a word, instead I made a sentence. And it was grammatically correct. This upon reflection was a signal that I was born to be a word merchant, a word enchanter, and a consummate artist. But the road to your destiny is never wide and straight, most times it is narrow and meanders, hence my journey to doing what I was born to do was the quintessential rigmarole.
In Nigeria, where I was born and bred, there is a dysfunctional way of thinking, which postulates that brilliant minds are meant to chart a course in the sciences while the arts are primarily for dullards or at best average minds. Hence in secondary school since I had good grades in both arts and sciences, the school had placed me in the purest of sciences. This was doubly sad being that at the age of 9, I had written my first novel; 6 full eighty leaves exercise books of handwritten sweat. I gave it to the Guardian and Counselling teacher, who put it in her drawer, promising to contact me when she was done reading it. I never heard from her, not one word even to this very moment. There was no guidance and no counselling, just a staff being paid for doing nothing. But then, it was left to me to keep the fire burning and the faith in my God given talent alive, this I did by releasing a short story thrice a term, hand written in forty leaves exercise books, which were hits in the girls hostels.
Upon graduation and having made good grades, in order to make my parents proud, I had sat for the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board exams. I put Medicine as my first choice at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. As the days passed and I embraced the freedom of graduation, which involved mingling with other students from all works of life, reading fiction and non fiction books, watching films and plays, I became more emboldened to listen to an inner voice that continually called me back to the Arts. So I approached my father and begged to change my course from Medicine to anything in the Arts that involved writing, directing etc. My father blew his top.
He blamed the crowd I was hanging with. He blamed me being too idle for my own good, while my mother blamed village troubles. I did not back down and after what felt like an eternity, they agreed to a compromise, I will not go to the Arts, but to the closest course in Social Sciences that would accept my matriculating course of English, Biology, Physics and Chemistry. This course was Agricultural Economics and the University that was willing to accept me was University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. I accepted and resumed there. I spent my nights and weekends writing volumes of stories with my friends Fabian Lojede and Chima Okenimkpe and grudgingly went through the days attending the most boring of lectures. This was the life I lived for two years in Abeokuta; a life of day dreading and night dreaming, by the latter, I mean dreaming whilst awake. Imagining myself as a writer and filmmaker and not an economist with a specialisation in Agriculture.
A watershed moment came when upon the resumption of my third year, which was the farm practical year, I decided to take matters into my hands and go after my destiny no matter how high the odds of living it, were stacked. I couldn’t understand why I would go through a year doing the last thing I wanted to do? I asked myself this question repeatedly, as I stared at the tract of land I had to till, the bags of corn I had to plant, and the starving cattle I had to feed. Having no answers that could satisfy me, I approached my father once again and told him in the most calm way possible, that I didn’t want to study Agricultural Economics anymore but wanted to study Film, and not only study it, but study it abroad. As expected the roof caught fire and the walls of fury came crashing down.
My father called me a quitter and blamed my decision to leave the school on my fear of hard work. He wanted me to finish the three years left in the course and then go ahead to study film.. He insisted that I do my first degree in Nigeria before I ventured out for my second degree abroad, because of his fear that studying abroad was tough, and chances of dropping out were higher. He couldn’t fathom a child of his not having a first degree. I turned a deaf ear to his attempts to reason with me, because for me at the time, it was all or nothing. It was a now or never battle. I believed that God gave me talents for a reason and it was a slap to God if I let it die, because I was looking for comfort or because I was trying to satisfy my parents. So I stayed at home for nine months and each day he would come to me and say, “It is your life you are frittering away, not mine.”
When the tenth month came, my father approached me and said that if I agreed to school in Nigeria, he will allow me study a first degree in Film. I argued that there was nowhere to study film as a university degree unless the National Film Institute which gave out diplomas. He replied, a degree or nothing. So we settled for Theatre Arts at the University of Ibadan. I started an undergraduate degree in a course that was course that was closest to the course I wanted to study, graduated with the highest grades in my class and was selected by Arthur Andersen, the management consulting firm to attend their new graduate recruitment program.
Amongst the several people in line, I was given an offer of appointment. From a Theatre Artiste to working in a management consulting firm in its Tax and Human Capital Unit. I mulled it, because I had been posted to the National Theatre for my service year, but was instead serving as staff number one at a new bank in Nigeria; Guardian Express bank. They had come to the Lagos NYSC camp and amongst the thousands that sat for the exams in the first batch. I was the only one officially recruited. Hence I was known as staff number one. It was an honour, because I became a part and parcel of the recruitment drive, giving job offers to people from executive assistants to Senior Vice Presidents and since I wore a well tailored suit, no one was the wiser that I was a youth corper instead of the senior executive they all thought I was. Imagine their shock when the day the bank officially opened, I was introduced by the President of the bank who I worked close with as a permanent employee but currently doing my youth service. There was the exclamation; ‘You can’t be a youth corper, come on you are so matured and knowledgeable, so professional’ and when they heard my first degree was in Theatre Arts, they quipped, ‘No wonder, you were so believable, you are an actor!”
I left Guardian Express Bank for Arthur Andersen, then known as Andersen Worldwide against the wishes of the President, who felt I had the chance of a skyrocketing career at the bank. I left because I was a restless spirit and also one who believed in obeying my gut feelings, but mostly because I was an artiste at heart, and working in the bank was just one step towards gaining a wider world view which I believed would burnish my art, hence working with a multinational consulting firm would even do more to broaden that world view and give depth to my art, since art in itself was a reflection of life. I believe to make great art, one has to live a multifaceted and deeply rich life, since you can only give what you have and tell what you know.
My father had passed away in my final year in school, and I constantly wondered what he would have thought; the boy who fought to study the arts was now ensconced in the corporate world, the irony! Yet life had more in store for me. I emigrated to Toronto, Canada with the hopes of transferring to the Toronto offices of Andersen Worldwide, but the Enron debacle brought the dissolution of Andersen a couple of days after I landed in the new country. It was a disaster for me. But I am not one to sit down and lick my paws mourning what was lost. So I immediately proceeded to do postgraduate studies in Human Resources Management since I already had experience in the field and needed the actual certificate in order to enter the Canadian workforce. It was tough. I qualified as a Certified Human Resources Professional on the first sitting and began working in various industries; banking, Healthcare, Telecommunications and Entertainment, rising to the position of Director, Human Resources and just when I had settled into the comfortable and predictable world of the nine to fiver, I got the itch once again.
The Arts called out to me. One day I sat down in my office and had an epiphany. I realised I wasn’t truly happy. Deep down I knew I was living a farce. My computer was filled with novelettes, plays, poems, screenplays, things I was writing whilst at work. I was a closeted artiste wearing a camouflage, a masquerade dancing in fear. So against my mother’s wishes, who thought that once again village troubles were to blame, I resigned my job, sold my properties and alongside a friend; Lucky Ejim, I dove back into the world of entertainment.
We made our first film; The Tenant and it went on to achieve critical and popular acclaim, winning several awards across the world. I wrote a play; Oduduwa – King of the Edos, which was staged in Nigeria to critical success and went ahead to win the ANA Prize for Drama and was the first runner up for the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature. I have won an AMAA for Best screenplay amongst several other awards and written five plays, three novels, a collection of poetry and several screenplays for various production companies. I have directed other films and plays around the world and delivered lectures at universities, facilitated workshops and championed causes. All these I have done, because of having the courage to do that which I believe I was created to do.
I might have lost all when I followed my heart and threw everything into one basket, but then, I would never have given myself the opportunity to succeed if I hadn’t tried. I believe that one must not live a life of fear or hide in the shadow of comfort, embracing mediocrity because sowing your God given talents in the field of life is a risk too much to take. Life should be lived. Although the battles are manifold and losses can accumulate, you can never lose the war, if you embrace who you truly are.
True to type, as the “Egalitarian” he is often described as, Jude Idada has kept his achievements modest. This illustrious son of Benin City, Edo Land is a diversely talented lecturer, author, songwriter, novelist, poet, and playwright. He is also a screenwriter, actor, producer and film director. He continues to influence cultural integration across continents via his art and multi-media presence. He won the Best Screenplay Award at the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) in 2010 with his screenplay for the movie The Tenant. In 2014, and adaptation of his play, Oduduwa: King of the Edos, was runner-up at Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas, NLNG, Annual Prize for Literature. This same book had previously been adjudged the Association of Nigerian Authors’ (ANA) award for Best Drama.
Jude has been guest lecturer at the Caroll University in Wisconsin, USA, York University in Toronto, Canada and the Mofilm/Unilever Sunlight Foundation Film Project in Lagos, Nigeria. There is no stopping this man living his life to the fullest while making a worldwide positive impact.
In the course of doing this feature article, here at the LR Team, we began asking each other: are you living fully? Are you living some one else’s dream for you? These were thought provoking questions that often generated spells of silence. Do you sometimes feel you are off the track of life? It really does not matter. Look in the mirror today and decide that what ever or who ever you see in there is going to ensure they live true! Does that mean starting all over? Does it mean going down the unconventional or unexpected path? We encourage you to drop us a line as leave you to meditate on the words of Jude Idada (2016) “the road to your destiny is never wide and straight, most times it is narrow and meanders”.