Toyin Aimakhu – A born-again actress
In the interview below from The Tribune, Toyin Aimakhu talks about her Christian beginnings, how she veered off The Way, her restoration and how her Christian life now affects her outlook. She also spoke about what the late Prophet T O Obadare told her at the beginning of her acting career. Join us in praying the God grants her the grace for an enduring and impactful testimony.
Toyin Aimakhu Johnson is an actress that has been soaring since she joined the movie industry over a decade ago. The talented lady, who hails from Auchi, Edo State, in this interview, speaks with Doyin Adeoye about her career, marriage, the movie industry, among other issues. Excerpts:
How would you describe yourself as a person?
I am first and foremost, a wife. I see myself as a role model, daughter, mother to-be and a born again Christian.
Born again? That sounds strange?
Yes, I have fully given my life to Christ, because I realised that without Him, one is nothing. I was born and brought up as a born again Christian, but the thing is when you get into school, you’ll meet a lot of people and they influence you. But, I have been into the world and I’m back. So I can tell right from wrong now.
What influenced your decision to go back to Christ?
I would say my husband and my pastor. My husband is a practising Christian and they both influenced my life positively.
How did acting begin for you?
I never wanted to be an actress, I wanted to be a physiotherapist, but fortunately for me, my uncle is a movie marketer. I remember about 13 years ago, Aunty Bukky Wright was in Ibadan to shoot a movie, so I was called to assist at the location. But when one of the actresses didn’t show up and it was affecting the production, I was asked to try the role. People commended me a lot and that was how it all started.
I remember aunty Bukky gave me N5, 000 after the shoot and that was a lot to me, because I’m not from a rich home. I just thank God for where I am today. The passion grew with that, and thank God, I have succeeded at what I do.
13 years in the industry, how has it been?
It has been beautiful I must say. Although initially, it was challenging. When you are just starting something, it is usually rough. If it is not, then you are most likely not on the right path. But the grace of God and the positive people around me kept me going.
Coming from a religious background, how did you convince your parents about your choice of career?
Initially, it wasn’t easy, because I’m from a typical CAC family. But, there was a time my mother had a dream, where she saw me in a crowd and people were trying to touch me. So, being a member of the CAC, all she did was to enroll me in Bible school and I actually graduated from there.
But when I started acting, she didn’t like it. She took me to the late Prophet Obadare (May his soul rest in perfect peace) and Baba told her that acting was my calling. She was shocked and she again took me to Prophet P. F. Owa and he said the same thing. After that, my mother then sat me down and talked to me about maintaining a good image in the industry.
She told me that whatever I did while acting, I must have it in mind that my body remains the temple of God. But you know, when you are not with your parents and you are somewhere else, you just forget whatever you’ve been told. It just takes the grace of God. You make mistakes, but the good thing is getting back on track, then you can look back and tell people you used to do some things and not anymore.
How was growing up for you?
I grew up in Ibadan; around Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), in a village called Adebayo. I used to believe then that we were rich, because to me, we had the best of life. We would go to the farm early in the morning; we didn’t get sick. I can make gari from cassava and everything was just fun for us. It is now that I look back and realise that we were actually poor back then, but it was a normal life to us.
I remember we would walk for about 45 minutes to the stream; sometimes about four to five times in a day. We would drink directly from the stream and we didn’t get sick. I grew up in a village and I loved it there. There were lots of people in the community and we were happy together. I could play football, I could enter a well. I could do a lot of things; I was like a tomboy. So, my childhood was fun.
Coming from that background, what were your childhood dreams?
The only thing I noticed then was that a lot of people in the community always had broken legs. So, I always told my mother that one day I hoped to be in a position to put their bones back together. It was much later that I discovered that what I wanted to be was a physiotherapist. That was my dream; to grow up someday and come back to my village and help others.
How was the Bible School’s experience for you?
I loved it. I was young and happy to be there, and in fact, some of the teachings there are still what guides me today. I don’t wear earrings, except sometimes when I am on set and before you know it, I would have removed it. I wasn’t brought up with it.
I also hardly wear trousers, I started wearing it much later in life, because it wasn’t how I was brought up.
How was the past year for you?
2014, for me, was fulfilling, just like every other year has been for me. I would never have believed back in 2001 or 2002 that I would be where I am today. But today, I am not where I was; I am even beyond where I thought I would ever be. So over the years, it has been a great journey.
How has life treated you as a married woman?
It has been rough and sweet at the same time. We amend, we push, we pray and do everything to make it work, because we don’t know anything about marriage, we only dream. It is an experience that is continuous, an institution from which you will never graduate; and we pray never to graduate from it.
Some critics didn’t believe that your marriage could even last this long…
That’s their own wahala. I don’t care. But all the same, I like the attitude. I’ve heard that before, even from people that we thought were close to us. But the truth is, a lot of people don’t know the kind of upbringing we had.
They know neither my background nor my husband’s, so they judge based on speculations. But I love it. It even serves as a push to remind us that it must last. It is obvious that some people are waiting for my marriage to crash and that alone is enough incentive for me to make it work. My home is built on the solid rock, I am not of the world.
There are also speculations that your husband is younger than you are…
My husband is three years older than I am. I don’t owe anyone that explanation though. It is no one’s business. In fact, let them say I am 20 years older than him. It is their problem.
Your husband has been able to change a lot about you. For instance, stopping you from using a blackberry phone, among other things. Many thought you couldn’t be that submissive…
That is why he is my husband. And those that say things about me are those that don’t know me. He is my small god; I have to listen to him because I want to have a happy home. All my older siblings are happily married; everybody in my family is happily married. My eldest sibling is like 50 years old and is still happily married, so mine can’t be a different story.
My parents are still happily married; my father is 74 years old, my mother is 72, so who will I turn to with a broken home? I am submissive to him, because he is my husband. So if he is doing his responsibility, then I have to do mine too as a wife. A lot of people don’t know what a hubby and wife relationship means and that is why we have a lot of broken homes.
I am off BBM because he doesn’t like it and I am fine with it. Moreover, that is the only thing many people know, there are lot of things I had to give up because he doesn’t like it.
You were recently elected as the vice president of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), how does it feel being in that position?
I am happy because I’m young, but I got to realise it’s not about that. It has been a wonderful experience and we are working towards helping the movie industry move higher and be bigger.
Many people have their reservations towards your dress sense in movies, how would you react to that?
It’s a free world and everybody is entitled to their opinion. Yes, I have dressed provocatively before, although I didn’t take it to the extreme; just a little bit of cleavage and the legs. But I’ve found out that sometimes you do some things and feel that it is right because there is no one to tell you that it is not the right thing. So, when you see people who tell you that something is the right thing, then you have to try to do it. I got to find out that covering up is beautiful and my provocative dressing is in the past now.
Your movie, ‘Alakada’, was well received, what inspired it?
I met a lady, a popular friend of mine and the character I played in the movie is exactly how she does. So, I just decided to put something together around that. And thank God, it was good.
I attended Oba Akenzua Nursery and Primary School, Benin, before I proceeded to Queens’ Staff School and then to Saint Anne’s School, Molete, Ibadan. I was also at the University of Ibadan (UI) for a diploma course, but I failed. After that, I did my preliminary studies at Ire Polytechnic, also my ND and HND in Philosophy at the same school.
What’s next for Toyin Aimakhu?
I’m starting ‘Alakada’ sitcom very soon and it will be aired on Africa magic. People should keep their fingers crossed for that.
People believe there is a huge gap between the Yoruba movie industry and their English counterparts….
There is no huge gap. They don’t produce what we produce. The movies the Yoruba industry produces, the English arm of the industry can not. Almost everybody in the Yoruba movie industry produce good movies. It is not about investments. We know those that produce good movies in the English industry, and we are working towards that too.
All successful people in this world don’t leave their language. Bill Gates is the richest man in the world, his products are English, that’s the language he speaks. Messi, Ronaldo, all these people will speak to you in their language. If you go to china, you see them all speaking their Chinese language, do you think they don’t understand English? The Yoruba word for country is Orile ede, and ‘ede’ in Yoruba means language. So removing ‘ede’ (language) from ‘orile ede’ (country) leaves nothing. That means without a language, a country is incomplete. They bring Indian movies to Nigeria and we watch, even with all the songs in them. You dare not do songs in Yoruba or English movies in Nigeria. We need to start embracing our own. And we are really working towards it.
So what do you recommend to having a better industry?
We are trying, and working on some things. In fact, the industry has changed a lot in the last four years, kudos to Ibinabo Fiberesima, she has done a lot. Now actors and actresses are going into politics, everybody now have access to a lot of high places. She has done a lot. Now you’d get a discount if you want to travel. The issue is that a lot of AGN members don’t even know their rights and benefits of being members because they don’t come to meetings. We need people to come to meetings. We are even actually working on having a Nollywood estate right now. We want the government to give us land and develop it for us.
Any role restriction?
Yes. I have lost a lot of roles to that. I even recently lost a chance to feature in an English movie. They ask you if you can do some things or not and I said no.
What can make you turn down a script?
I used to belong to myself, but now I belong to someone and I have to dance to that person’s tunes. As a Christian, we have the 10 commandments and the husband is the ‘small god’ in the home. The Bible says if you listen and obey God’s commandments, He would do everything for you, so that’s the way it is. I’m gone past some roles.
How do manage male advances now?
I don’t even give them the chance to make advances. It is not possible anymore. There are some things I have faced in my life. People say married people do things, and I say I won’t even go near the temptation. It takes the grace of God, because anybody can be tempted.