In April, news broke that popular Yoruba actor, Olarenwaju James, popularly known as Baba Ijesha, has been arrested by police in Lagos over alleged sexual molestation of a minor. The news came as surprise to some while others were unperturbed. They say man’s ability to perpetrate evil is infinite and should not be underestimated, to them anything is possible.
Expectedly, conspiracy theorists went to town, some seized the moment to display their untamed anger and resentment, it’s the perfect time to get back to an alleged paedophile, while the temperate ones called for calm and restrain.
Before the amoral and distasteful act of baba Ijesha came to public knowledge, not much was known of princess, the guardian of the girl whom the thespian abused. She was an obscure comedienne, striving to make headway in the saturated entertainment industry. The hoopla occasioned by the allegation of child molestation she levelled against Baba Ijesha tossed her into limelight as she became subject of public discourse.
Subsequently, Baba Ijesha was arraigned before Lagos court and later granted bail. However, the allegation has engendered deep division in the Yoruba side of the Nigerian movie industry as some actors, producers, and other key stakeholders in the industry rally around Baba Ijesha while others pitch their tents with princess, insisting that Baba Ijesha must be prosecuted for his offence.
Among those who have been ferociously vocal in her support for Princess and utter excoriation of Baba Ijesha for the alleged sexual molestation of princess’ girl is, Iyabo Ojo. She has, on many occasions, especially in the early days of public disclosure of Baba Ijesha’s misdemeanor, threatened to deal with Baba Ijesha personally. She averred that she would stop at nothing to make sure Baba Ijesha languish behind the bars. In one of the videos she posted on her social media page, she vowed to sell her house if that’s what it will take to offset the cost of prosecuting Baba Ijesha.
Conversely, Baba Ijesha has not been left in the lurch also as many thespians have raised concerns over the allegations against the actor, with many saying it’s a vendetta to get back at him for missteps of the past. There are unverified reports that Baba Ijesha and princess were once lovers and that Baba Ijesha’s breakthrough in Nollywood would not have happened without the active support of princess.
It’s said that Baba Ijesha was set up after he spurned princess and the duo fell out. The video on social media showing baba Ijesha and princess’ girl in a compromising situation was part of the plot to nail him, baba
Yomi Fabiyi, a producer and director, has been unrelenting in his support for Baba Ijesha, maintaining that the allegation against his friend was spurious and baseless, hence called for fair and impartial prosecution.
Similarly, Veteran Yoruba actor, Nollywood actor Deji Aderemi, better known as Olofa Ina, justified baba Ijesha alleged sexual misconduct and child molestation.
Aderemi downplayed the severity of baba Ijesha’s rape crime, saying sex among thespians, especially those of Yoruba extraction ‘is not a big deal’.
Olofa Ina made the startling revelation while attempting to defend his colleague Baba Ijesha who is facing prosecution for allegedly defiling a minor.
He added that intimacy and sexual intercourse among actors helped forge serious bond and strengthen alliance, adding that no actress can claim she attained stardom without amorous encounter with male bigwigs in the industry.
The veteran actor maintained that the alleged crime of Baba ijesha should be treated with levity, noting that the idea of using sex as a bargaining chip is a common practice in the Nollywood industry.
“They said a boy (Baba Ijesha) slept with someone, sleeping with someone is not a big deal to us. We as actors, things like that join us together with women” he said “No actress that has prospered today will say they never slept with her in the association, So why is this a problem?”
His comments drew the ire of stakeholders in the industry who lampooned him for such outrageous and degrading comment. Olofa Ina’s colleagues and the public alike castigated him for portraying thespians as loose cannons and immoral group.
Theatre practitioners association, TAMPAN, distanced itself from the opinion of Olofa Ina, saying sexual immorality was not the standard of their association.
He later apologized for his comments, noting that he was not in any way rationalizing Baba Ijesha’s reprehensible deeds.
On Princess took to her Instagram page to express profound gratitude to her colleague in Nollywood, Iyabo Ojo, for her unflinching support during her sex scandal ordeal with Baba Ijesha.
Princess launched a tirade at her traducers and that of Iyabo Ojo. Princess, in the vitriolic post, cursed those attacking Ojo for publicly supporting her. Woe will betide them up to their fourth generation, she said.
The whole saga took a grotesque turn last week after Yomi Fabiyi, Baba Ijesha’s staunch ally, who’s been unapologetic about his intemperate support for the beleaguered thespian, released a film titled, Oko Iyabo, loosely translated as Iyabo’s wife.
The movie is a parting swipe at Iyabo Ojo For his role in the whole scandal. Expectedly, the movie was greeted with castigation by the public as it was seen by many as a puerile attempt to downplay the severity of the allegations against Baba Ijesha. It’s been described as appalling, ludicrous and classless by some.
Reacting to the movie, Iyabo Ojo whose personality the plot of the movie was woven around called for calm and warn the public to be mindful of their contribution, lest they risk jumping into a raging inferno unwittingly.
Iyabo Ojo said:
“Civility demands all parties, both those directly involved and other interested parties hesitate from being too emotional or biased about the plague of child molestation ravaging our society.
“It is no longer news that Yomi Fabiyi just released a movie, titled, “Oko Iyabo” that portrayed a young girl with the mischievous career goal to be a prostitute.
”It is was tragic to see a movie teaching children that it is right to have a relationship with an adult.”
She added that the movie is a gross violation of the fundamental human right to dignity and that it is against the child rights law of Lagos State. She averred that the movie does not only reek of impropriety but also flagrant disregard for a court injunction which ordered parties involved in the litigation and members of the public to desist from engaging in activities capable of undermining “the powers of the court or unduly influence the proceedings in court”.
In the ensuing fracas, The Theatre Arts and Motion Pictures Practitioners Association (TAMPAN) announced the suspension Yomi Fabiyi Over the movie. TAMPAN said it suspended Yomi Fabiyi indefinitely for gross professional misconducts & unethical practices.
The movie industry leaders said it is an offence to use real name(s), stories, and factual events of person(s) without their consent not to talk of a plot that is denigrating to that person.
“That the story, plot, theme, title, dialogue, names and general content of the film ‘Oko Iyabo’ is a factual presentation that may give rise to prejudice since the matter is already In court.
“His misconducts and unethical practices have impacted negatively on the image and reputation of our association. His Co-Director Mr. Dele Matti having shown remorse and admitted his guilt is hereby suspended for 3month”, a statement released by the association on Friday read.
As time and other topical issues continue to detract from the momentum that the allegation gathered in its early days, the division it has created among actors has become ingrained.
Will this broken fences be mended after the outcome of baba Ijesha prosecution or the bad blood will linger and former ally who became contemptuous foes in the wake of the scandal will continue to do so?
Only time will tell.
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Afolabi Hakim is a journalist, content creator and writer. He is always on the look out for ways to broaden his knowledge spectrum and Impact people's lives positively.