For RMD @ 60, A Dance For Real Men

by Olamilekan Okeowo

Friends, families, acquaintances and colleagues gathered online on the third of July 2021 to celebrate one of Nigeria entertainment industry’s finest, Richard Mofe Damijo, popularly known as RMD. It was an outpour of encomium and commendation for the man revered in the industry as a fashion icon, a great interpreter of roles and a pacesetter. OLAMILEKAN OKEOWO who was present at the virtual event writes.

It was a potpourri of entertainment practitioners, academicians, seasoned journalists, administrators and the general public who thronged online recently to felicitate with RMD on his 60th birthday.

Veteran Actress, Joke Silva; founder and Managing Director of Terra Kulture, Bolanle Austen Peters, former Commissioner of Information and Culture in Lagos State, Steve Ayorinde, Prof. Mabel Itohanosa Evwierhoma, Nigerian academic and Professor of Theatre Arts at the University of Abuja; Prof. Onookome Okome; Prof. Obi Nwakanma, Niyi Coker; Dr. Kole-Ade Odutola; Prof Duro Oni and Prof. Segun Ojewuyi among others led a star-studded list of prominent Nigerians to pay tribute to one of the finest actors in Nigeria.

The virtual event tagged: ‘Real Men Dance – The Significance of Richard Mofe-Damijo was convened by veteran journalist, Benjamin Ohwovoriole Professor of English, Valencia College, Florida, USA, and was hosted by Nduka Otiono, an Assistant Professor at the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.

Veteran Actress, Joke Silva kick-started the deluge of encomium by describing RMD as someone who has been able to achieve a lot in the industry by the dint of hard work. She wished him a happy birthday with a sound mind.

For Bolanle Austen Peters, fondly called BAP, she described RMD as someone with a lot of guts and class.

She described him as one who occupies a unique position due to his sheer class, elegance and grace who has been able to bridge the age-gap between himself and younger male actors thereby becoming a role model to many young male actors in the industry.

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She went on to say that whenever there is a need to cast older actors in movies, RMD comes in at the top of the list.

She ended her address by thanking the organizers of the event for putting such a fine event together.

Other friends and acquaintances like Prof Nwakanma, Niyi Coker; Kole-Ade Odutola; and Segun Ojewuyi also paid glowing tribute to RMD.

Participants at the event also had nothing but glowing tributes to pay to RMD.

Perhaps, one such touching tribute came from a 13-year-old participant, Jomiloju Oyeniran who described RMD as a role model.

“I’m 13 years old, and I love acting and I’ve greatly benefited from you sir. I hope If you ever start an acting academy it will be a privilege to be mentored by you sir. Once again Happy Birthday sir” she wrote.

Prof. Duro Oni also described RMD as an iconic actor and easily the most visible actor in the English medium.

“Happy birthday to RMD @ 60 … Easily the most visible Actor in the English medium .. You are indeed an iconic actor and a friend and aburo from the days of my late friend Rufus Orisayomi at University of Benin, Uniben and UK Ritual Theatre Arts … Here’s wishing you the very best of your special day in continuous good health and more prosperity. Best wishes and regards to the family” he wrote.

For Tosin Leye-Odeyemi, she reminisced about how she grew up watching RMD on her TV screen.

“Happiest of birthdays RMD, I grew up watching you do magic on screen, starting with Ripples. I was always eager to switch on the TV and enjoy the drama. Thank you for blessing our hearts and eyes. As you hit another milestone in life’s journey, may the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the warm rays of sun fall upon your home and may the hand of a friend always be near. May green be the grass you walk on, may blue be the skies above you and may pure be the joys that surround you. Happy 60th birthday in advance RMD” she also wrote.

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In her keynote lecture, Professor Evwierhoma described RMD as a multi-talented artist that has exhibited much proficiency and artistry in numerous ways, noting that the Delta-born entertainer has held on to his artistic creativity, without letting monetary gains force a shift in his work as seen in the Nigerian entertainment sector in contemporary time.

“Today, many performers are tagged millionaires and that shifts them from the initial focus many of them had at the beginning to entertain, to create fun, to educate. These days money is placed atop many of the primary reasons for which many of them set out. And so to now push the creative muse further, I would like to inform us that money does not, it didn’t and still does not constitute the only reason for artistic creativity,” she said.

Richard Mofe-Damijo, according to Evwierhoma, is a hybrid artist, whose work traverses acting, journalism, public relations, politics and law with a distinctive intersection.

In her words: “As an hybrid artist, you refer to RMD as an actor, journalist, PR practitioner, politician, humorist, name it, but I want to look at the intersection between theatre and justice or law and theatre, because in that one individual (RMD), we experienced that hybridity. In Nigeria and of course recently I turned in a dissertation. On the first page, I had this to say that in recent years that many practitioners of arts and even artists themselves like dramatists, musicians, comedians and comediennes as well as people in other areas of the performative arts have ventured into learning the law to become a lawyer.

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“To many within the house of arts, such artist performers, artist Scholar, critic artist, scholar performers and other diverse combinations who venture into different areas of the media have been called different names for venturing into law. In our fold, we have Reuben Abati, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Taiwo Adepetu, Tunji Bamishigbin, Kanayo O Kanayo and of course others in no order who trend as theatre artist from different universities in Nigeria and later went on to study law.” Prof Evwierhoma added.

Participants at the event also set an agenda for the thespian to release a biography and documentation of RMD’s acting style and an academy.

RMD was born on 6th July 1961 in Aladja, a coastal community in Udu, a kingdom of the Urhobo tribe in Warri, Delta State.

He grew up in Warri, an oil hub in South-South Nigeria, where he attended both primary and secondary school.

On completing his basic education, he went on to study Theater Arts at the University of Benin (UNIBEN). RMD obtained a Bachelor in Arts degree from Uniben in 1983.

He also studied law at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), completing the programme in 2004.

RMD also had stints as a journalist with Classique Magazine, Metro to mention a few.

The actor is happily married to Jumobi Adegbesan since 2000 and blessed with children. He is also an entrepreneur and founder of RMD Productions Limited, White Water Limited and RMD Foundation.

Richard Mofe-Damijo has acted in more than 100 Nollywood films and he is still active to date.

Some of the numerous awards he has bagged include Best Actor in a Leading Role, Africa Movie Academy Awards, 2005; Special Recognition Award, Best of Nollywood Awards, 2012; Lifetime Achievement Award, Africa Movie Academy Awards, 2016; Overall Best Actor in a Leading Role, in the movie Cross Road, Africa Movie Academy Awards, 2018.

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