Accomplished actress, Madam Idowu Philips (Mama Rainbow), did not allow the death of her husband to discourage her from continuing with a profession they were practicing together.
Almost 30 years down the line after her husbandâ€™s untimely death, Iya Rainbow had never slept with any other man and did not contemplate getting married to another man.
She has since become a reference point as a woman, who stands by her man even in death and ensured that the dream they had together did not die. Iya Rainbow, who is also busy with church activities as a founder of a Cherubim and Seraphim Church, has been able to train her children and get a befitting accommodation, which she said were all results of Godâ€™s grace and consistency in hardwork and prayer.
In this interview, she bared her mind on several personal issues and those affecting the theatre industry in Nigeria.
We want you to tell us why you decided to stick to acting despite the inherent challenges?
If you want to look at the challenges, you would not stay in the profession, it is all about joy of the heart. In theatre, we suffer a lot. In those days, it used to be stage plays, when we would rehearse for three months non-stop, you would go to rehearsal with â€˜gariâ€™ and groundnut and your boss could collect it from you. Then it was all about passion and we enjoyed it. Why I remained in the job is because after the death of my late husband, Ayanfemi Oroniyi Phillips on January 22, 1984, we did not see anybody, no family, no friend. I thought of what to do and I went to the late Chief Hubert Ogunde in Ososa, Ijebu, Ogun State, who advised me to stop working as a nurse and face our group, Osumare Theater Group, Osumare means Rainbow, which was where I got my name. Those of us in the group were many such as Kokonsari, Yemi Aderemi, Kanran, Amos, who is now in the University of Lagos, we were many then, we had Tajudeen Gbadamosi, who also has a group now. We all felt we should still be together as a group to keep the name moving and we continued. But, no matter what, people would have freedom, so they all started going one by one, but as the wife of the founder of the group, I had to stay because I loved my husband, he was a nice man (may God bless his gentle soul), we have children together, so I had to protect the name; Osumare (Rainbow). It was tough initially, we passed through poverty, I remember one day, I was coming from location and I had just N50 (fifty naira) on me, I branched at Ebute Ero in Lagos and bought food ingredients for me and the children and we managed it. God also blessed me with children, who are contented, even when they were going to school, we would just put paper under their bags to support their food ingredients and people would think they came with much items. I stood by my children and the name of my husband.
Would you say you are satisfied with what you have achieved so far or shall we say are you fulfilled as an actress?
Of course, one could be frustrated at times when you are not able to provide school fees or provide food or other things for the family, I even thought of going back to nursing. But there are times, when you are happy that you are doing this job such as when we did; â€˜Asiri Nla,â€™ produced by Jide Kosoko, â€˜Madanwoâ€™ by Segun Rasco, people hailed me everywhere I went. I am happy for the position I am occupying now, I never thought I could be a landlady, if you are talking of money for works, I donâ€™t normally charge, I take whatever they give me and pray for the producers. But, God gave me a house, the first one, I turned it to a church and He gave me a duplex, where I am now living, He sent helpers to me and now I am enjoying Him, but I still pray for more, that He should help my children.
Can you tell us some of the challenges and experiences of the job?
We have had many experiences, I remember in those days, when my husband was still alive, I would drop my salary for the production of posters for stage plays and to rent halls. After the show, my husband would tell me not to bother about my money so that we could pay the people who were working with us. I would insist that he should refund my money, but he would cajole me and I had no choice but to listen. He would tell me the money was not even enough. He would still come to me to borrow money for some other plays and he would not pay, but I am benefiting from that today. My husband once told me that he would travel far and that he would stay long, he would tell me to take care of the house, but I didnâ€™t know he was talking about death. Whenever the battle is much, I would say â€˜Femi, why did you leave me now, this problem is too much?â€™ but, after some days, it would be over. Then, there was no money in this job, all what we lived for was popularity, people swam around us, but now there is money in the job such that after working we could give our children N150,000 or N80,000. But, for me, I donâ€™t charge much and God has been blessing me. When my husband died, I thought the world was going to end, and people were counseling me to take heart, God really helped me because man cannot do it.
So, why didnâ€™t you marry another man to console you after the death of your husband or at least look for a lover, but we read in your interviews that you didnâ€™t re-marry, why did you do that or did you have any covenant with your husband?
We did not have any covenant that we would not marry after anyoneâ€™s death, but if a man comes to see you, you would want to entertain him, and after that he would say â€˜I will see you tomorrow.â€™ Now, if one had cheapened herself, is that what he would say? So, I didnâ€™t allow any man, who has enough responsibilities to bother me. One day, one of my bosses, who was interested in me, came to my house and when he came, he saw many children eating, though not all of them were my children, some were for my group members. So, when he came in, he asked if they were all my children and I told him â€˜yes,â€™ he was surprised to hear that, that was the last time he came to my house. If I had allow him, that was what he would say. I then went to marry a man that can never forsake you or leave you, he would give you all you want, he would give you joy and satisfy you, his name is Jesus, and he stands by me always.
But, donâ€™t you have any sexual feelings?
It is when you are happy that you will think of such, when you look at your children and think of what to do, no man would help you, he would just use you, I donâ€™t even remember that at ll.
Did you experience sexual harassment in your days?
Yes, and I suffered for it, but when I kept praying, God intervened and I call all of them â€˜my husbandâ€™ and some of them are wondering why I am doing that, people like the late I Show Pepper, Ade Love and even the current ones, I call them â€˜my husband,â€™ such as Yinka Quadri, Taiwo Hassan and others, it is God. Sexual harassment is everywhere, but some girls are even ready for it before you ask them.
How can we compare you time to the present age in the area of morals and sex?
Sex is nothing to them again, it is now like eating or playing games, they donâ€™t take it the way we took it then. If you say you donâ€™t want or you want to stop it, it is not possible; they believe that you have to go close to someone before you can climb up.
How many plays have you acted in and which ones have you produced?
For home videos, I have produced about 500, and stage plays, they are numerous, even films, I worked with Ade Love, Ogunde, Moses Olaiya (Baba Sala) and others, we thank God that we are dynamic today, but I can never expose my body at this age, but we are ready to move with trends.
Is any of your children acting and have you been able to train them properly?
All my children know about the job, their father carried them along too. Like when we traveled to Cotonou, Lome, Kumasi, Abidjan and other places, we went together. I have a son, Femi Philips, he is in London, he produced our films such as â€˜Odunbaku,â€™ â€˜Alamu Seniyan,â€™ â€˜Elepo Robi,â€™ â€˜Tanfe Ani,â€™ â€˜Mewa Nsele,â€™ â€˜Kosarugbo Ni London,â€™ and others. Another one, Rotimi was in â€˜Elepo Robi,â€™ â€˜Kosarugbo Ni London,â€™ then my daughter, Bisi was in â€˜Erukeru,â€™ â€˜Tanfe Ani,â€™ â€˜Elepo Robi,â€™ where Segun Arinze also actted.
Are you happy with the level Nollywood is at the moment?
I am happy and I am not happy. Marketers used to be our major problem, now the marketers too are suffering, we used to be the only one complaining then, if you worked for them, they would not pay you early; they would be paying you in bits. Now, pirates have spoilt the work for marketers too, so I am happy and not happy. These days, the scripts rarely favour people like us except few as they donâ€™t write roles for elderly husband and wife anymore. It is so terrible.
How rich is Mama Rainbow, do you have a jeep?
Well, we thank God, we are not too rich. The young ones oppress us with jeeps, but I still pray for them. In those days, there was no money there, in those days; we used to feature in many films. Now, money is there, so if anyone is reigning, donâ€™t be jealous of him or her, it is their time. Some of our men, since there are no roles for old men, they are sick, they cannot go out again or act, some are old and they can still act if they are invited into movies. I am working on an NGO, I want Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to be at the launching because he loves theatre, I also want Governor Raji Fashola of Lagos to be there, we have written to corporate organizations for support so that old artistes can come for eye test, blood and urine test so that our people can see how they can help. We also wrote some rich people to come to the aid of old artistes because all of us would grow old if God permits.
In those days, we see artistes as being fetish even these days, but it is as if you are religious as a devoted Christian, are some of your plays not against your faith?
Of course, they contradict them but if you reject it, they would not give you work. Actually we donâ€™t get invited to plays much these days, but when they invite us, we have to go so that people would know that we are still alive. Like the one we just recorded, I acted as a prophetess, but my client acted the role of someone, who comes to me to help him transfer other peopleâ€™s destiny to him. I will tell my church members that it is just a film and acting and that I cannot do such to them.
I think make-believe/stereotype is another problem?
Yes, armed robbers attacked Kanran some time ago, and he was not having up to N5,000 on him, they beat him mercilessly. If area boys approach us for money and we give them N1,000, they would insult us and compare us to others. They hear our names, but they should not compare us to some young actresses and actors.
We noticed that you were close to people like the late Gbenga Adeboye and Alhaji Alade Aromire, how close were you to them before they died?
It is as if they just died yesterday, Gbenga Adeboye loved me so much. My son, Femi, who is in London, just told me one day that we should go and see Gbenga Adeboye because he learnt that he talks about me so much, I was reluctant initially, but I had to go after much persuasion. But, before we got there, he was drinking and he looked at the tumbler and said that â€˜one old woman is coming to see me, when she comes, let her in because she is a good person, she is wearing white garment and holding a Bible.â€™ Meanwhile, I didnâ€™t go there with white garment, we got there and he greeted us cheerfully, he told us to sit down and entertained us with food. Later, a prophet came, he was known as Prophet Atupa, and he prayed and raised four fingers. It was after Gbengaâ€™s death that we knew that the four fingers indicated that I was plain, that if I was a witch, he would have raised three fingers. The first car I bought, apart from the one my husband bought for me, was through Gbenga Adeboye. One day, I fell from a commercial bus in front of his office in Ojodu Berger and his boys wanted to beat the driver, I told them to leave him alone, that they should help me pray that God would come to my aid so that I could have my own car. When they got home, they told him and he sent for me the next day. He asked if it was true and I said well, I didnâ€™t know it would happen. He then asked if I had a film that we could launch, I said I had a film, â€˜Alamu Seniyan.â€™ He organized it and paid people, who organized the hall at Mainland Hotel after the whole thing, I said they should give him his shares; he said no, that I should take everything and buy a new car. One of my sons in Ilorin, Bisi, helped my buy Mazda 626 from the money, red in colour. If he was at LTV 8, he would call his boy, Festus to give me the whole money, which could be N10,000 then.
Also, Alade Aromire, people said I should sign an agreement with Alade to work with him then, they didnâ€™t know that he met me in poverty, yes I mean it. I was in the premises of LTV 8 then, a week to a New Year celebration, there was nothing for me and my children to spend, I leaned on a car and I didnâ€™t know I was crying. When he came, he said â€˜Maami, canâ€™t you see you are crying.â€™ I said â€˜I am not crying,â€™ he said no, â€˜you are crying.â€™ He took me to the back of LTV 8 and asked for what happened, I told him, â€˜it is a week to New Year day, we donâ€™t have money for chicken, and I used to kill a ram.â€™ He asked if that was all and asked if I could advertise honey, I said â€˜yes,â€™ he took me to his office; Yotomi Studio close to ;LTV 8 and told them to give me a bottle of honey to advertise. I did just that and recorded the advert, after that, I asked after him, they said he had gone, but that he dropped N25,000 for me, I was so surprised, it was like N25Million to me then. We bought food ingredients, ram, soft drinks and all that and celebrated the New Year in a big way and it was so wonderful, so I cannot forget him. He later called me that he wanted to be selling lands and houses and asked if I could help advertise them I said I was ready. How can I call a lawyer for such a person, he promised to give me N150,000, he gave me N70,000 cash and kept N80,000 in the bank for me. People were telling me that I should have invited a lawyer and charged N3million, I couldnâ€™t do that. After his death, I am left with Miracle, Aderemi, his friend, we are still together with his children and Gbemi Oluyori, the accountant, Dayo, Hadji, we are still together. As we are advertising the land, they are buying it and we did not short change anybody, no fraud, some would say they bought it because of Mama Rainbow; where are those who collected N3M or N10M for such a job today. So, I cannot forget those two men as you have said, they are my helpers, but when death comes, no one can stop it.
We notice the way you act in your works, you donâ€™t tolerate nonsense, is that your true picture?
That is my character, my daughters-in-law know me, they can take anything from my house, but you must take care of your children and husband, a woman must be careful and take care of her home. Whatever condition her husband is, she must stay with him, no condition is permanent. If you are praying and fasting, God will help your husband. I try to influence my daughters-in-law to be good wives and they always come back to thank me. Even, other women that are close to my children, I tell them to appreciate their husbands, and respect them, so my character reflects in my works.
We know you are from Odogbolu, did you stay at home and how did you meet your husband?
I didnâ€™t stay in Ijebu, but I go there regularly, my father is from Oke Olu, while my mother was from Eyin Edi, she was from Adefowope family, while my father was Ifemade. My father was Baba Aladura in Lagos and we were living in Lagos. There was a space beside our house, where carpenters had a shop, which my husbandâ€™s group, Osumare used to come for rehearsals and I was their patroness, from there, I became his wife. My mother used to tell me that they told her visions that I was going to be popular and go to countries, where my parents had never been and promote their names, but they never knew it was going to be through theatre. When I was a nurse, patients used to come to my house for treatments, I registered old men then, who were being given food and provisions by the government, and they would come to my house to greet me. If they come, they would bring gifts, but I would not collect the gifts, if I was not around, they would drop the gifts with my mother, but I would tell her not to collect any gift from them again that I only helped them, she would say she rejected it but that they insisted she must collect it. I am always ready to help people, even before I joined theatre. I would resume work at 7am and attend to people before others would come, when I was on maternity leave, they had an end of year party and one Dr. Soboyejo was proud to commend me that I was hard working because I would go to work till 12 noon, while on maternity leave then. Some patients would insist that I should treat them. There was a time I helped a lady, I didnâ€™t know she was our relative; I accommodated her in my fatherâ€™s church and got her married. It was on the day of naming that her people saw my mother and they were surprised that I helped her without knowing her.
Can you tell us some of your childhood pranks?
I was very troublesome I used to fight a lot, while fighting for other, they would tear my uniform. If I get home and I tell my mother that my clothes got torn while defending others, she would ask me why I did that. I used to go to peopleâ€™s house that we should continue our fight from where we stopped the previous day. My mother would tell me one doesnâ€™t fight till the following day, no man dared come near me, but now I donâ€™t even argue with people. One of my children resembles me with that and when I tried to scold her, my mother would express surprise, telling me the child resembles me. But I thank God for my life now, I beg my children not to spoil my name, now people call me from London that Femi and Rotimi are so nice. I warn my driver not to go on one way and that I cannot go against the law.
Is this the only thing you do?
I had been a nurse before now. We cannot go into business since we donâ€™t have capital for business.
Do you have cause to reject work?
Atimes, we donâ€™t know the title like â€˜Aje Meta,â€™ and â€˜Apadi,â€™ produced by Funke Akindele, I didnâ€™t know what they involved until they were released. Funke would just cajole me to do it and tell me the title later. But she has been so nice to me; Funke is so nice, even when it was tough, she would ask me to come even for a scene. I pray she would have settled home very soon and start having children. I pray for her every time.
What advice do you have for upcoming artistes and what can the government do to help the industry?
The first thing is to help us stop piracy because you spend like N1.2M on a job and the marketer buys it for N6000,000. If they help us on piracy, it would be better, if you borrow money to record a film, the creditor would be on your neck. No one is even ready to give out money for films these days, may be your family members can help you and he too will want his money back. Our young artistes should desist from scattering homes, especially those of the people that give us houses as locations. Even if you befriend them, donâ€™t spoil their homes or make them regret given us houses, donâ€™t let them abandon their wives because of you.