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Monday, 11 February 2019

HOW PUNCH CHAIRMAN, CHIEF OLU ABODERIN CHANGED THE LIFE OF A MODEL IN ENGLAND - CHIEF DR. MRS JACKIE KASSIM TELLS IT ALL


Chief (Dr.) Jackie Adunni Kassim has seen it all in the world of fashion and modelling. As a young model, she was a major news in London and New York, where she worked and studied modelling and fashion. That was in the 70s when youths were more interested in studying law or medicine. But Jackie who grew up in England had already made up her mind what she wanted, and the kind of lifestyle she needed to live. A chance meeting in England with Chief Olu Aboderin who was already a newspaper publisher in Lagos, sealed her future in the direction she wanted. So Jackie was not only a model in England and New York, she returned to Nigeria to grace the cover of such popular Nigerian magazines like Spear. She was also the page 3 girl in newspapers. She was also a dancer who worked and acted on production sets of the likes of Jimi Odumosu

The Jagunmolu Iyalode of Igbore Kingdom is also the chairperson of Emerald Security International Limited. She is also the chairperson of connect events and suites limited, a company that is into events and hotel management, the Chairperson of Missak Agency Enterprises which is into farming and Agricultural produce, and she has also established a Non Governmental Organization called Missak Education and Rural Development foundation for widows.

Chief (Dr.) Jackie Adunni Kassim is the Jagunmolu Iyalode of Igbore Kingdom, Ogun State and daughter of Alhaji (Chief) M Ola Kassim, the Balogun of Igboore land, Abeokuta Ogun State, and the candidate of United Democratic Party (UNDP) for the Ogun state gubernatorial election 2019. She spoke to Paul Ukpabio


How did you come about the name Jackie?
That was my name when I was in England. My nanny gave to me Jacklyn. I was not born in England but my parents went there when I was a child. My father was there to study. My mom was always coming in briefly and returning to Nigeria. 

Tell us about your early memories 
I have wonderful memories of my early days. I didn't grow up in Lagos. I grew up in England and I returned in early 70s just after the Biafra war. I came back in a ship. Actually it  was the last trip for that ship MV Oreal because they packed up that route afterwards.

What was life like for you living in England with foster parents?
It was wonderful. I got myself occupied with a lot of interesting things, my school and my foster parents both husband and wife, were pleasant people. I was not the only one living with them. There were other children as well. I really have a good memory of a good life while there with them in England.

When you returned to Nigeria, did you feel you were missing anything not being in England?
I was not happy at first when I returned. That was because I was missing my friends who were in England. I had a friend that we came back together in the same ship. But on getting to Nigeria, we separated. She went to Ibadan, while I stayed with my mom in Lagos. After a year in Nigeria, I decided to get used to it because at that point I knew I had no choice, my mom seized my passport because whenever my foster mom called from England, I would tell her "mom I'm missing you" and my mom would scold me that she is mother. That was really getting my mom angry so she used to correct me that she is my real mom not the white lady in England.

So that must have meant that you started school here in Lagos
Yes, I attended Ifako Grammar School, then Late Chief Majekodunmi was our Principal then. After that I returned to England and from there to America. 

You returned to England, didn't you make friends here?
I made new friends here, but it was not the same. I adapted to the people here. I adapted easily. But I left all the same.

When you got to England what did you do?
I went to England just to see my friends and then left for USA. 

So what happened in the US?
I was there, went to school, did courses in fashion and modelling but that was also when I met Chief Olu Aboderin who told me that he has a newspaper in Nigeria. He convinced me to come to work with him in Nigeria. So when I returned to Nigeria again, I worked with him. He set up some companies. He also set up Skylak Dancers. I was one of the dancers. And I recall that Evron came down from England to join and Tracey Ajose was there too. After that, I left for America to do modelling and acting which I did at the Barbizon Modeling School in New York for a couple of years. I was working there in New York too. But at some point, i decided to return home with the talent. That was when we had our Fashion Trend in 76 which was organised by Punch newspapers just before Festac 77. We also had another outfit called 'Rental Colour'. That company was the first that brought colour television to Nigeria. That time we were located at UTC, and If you wanted colour television, you came to book and the company sent someone to your house to instal it just like what is happening with decoders today. There was a fee to be paid every month then.

At what point did you leave Punch?
I was there till Chief Olu Aboderin died. We were going to set up a modelling school but he later became sick and was at the Princess Grace hospital in England. So I passed through the hospital in England, on my way to America. He saw me and said 'Jackie ijogbon' that's how he calls me. He asked when I got to England. I told him I had just arrived that I was on the way to the United States. He told me to go with his driver and pack his load. I was ready to return with him that day back to Nigeria. But he told me that I should go on to America, while he return to Nigeria to settle down and rest more. He told me I could come to Nigeria after he must have settled down and rested well. I was compelled to wait for weeks. I recall that Ayo Ositelu came around on his way to the Olympics and asked about the Chairman's health. He urged me that we should return to Nigeria because at that time like I said earlier, we were about setting up a Modelling and Fashion School. We had already got a place at Allen Avenue for the school. He told me to go and tell the owners of the place that we were ready to take the place. So I left, not knowing that he was going to die. Instead of me going back to the United State, i returned home to Nigeria. 

How did you find out about his death?
Then we used to go to night clubs. I was actually sleeping when one of my friends called me to find out if I would be coming out to club that night. So I drowsily replied that I will call back. I think she opened the pages of punch newspapers and saw there the news about the death of Chief Olu Aboderin. So then thought perhaps that was the reason I was moody and sleeping. So she called back to tell me 'peel' which means sorry. So I replied sorry for what? She was alarmed. That was when she told me about the news of Chief Olu Aboderin's death in the newspaper. I woke up suddenly looked for a trouser and quickly dressed up. I rushed to Punch office where the death was confirmed. I refused to believe. I went and sent telex to Nigeria and the reply came back saying 'Olu Aboderin passed on yesterday.

How close were you to him?
We were very close. He was an uncle that I never had, He put me into a lot of things. He just wanted me to be doing things. And I was doing many different things, projects here and there.

So from the time you met him in England, things changed for you?
Yes, and I found out that he was into charity, giving to many causes which he was not making noise  about. It was from him that I learnt how to give. He told me to keep whatever philanthropy i was doing to myself.

But your dad was a socialite too?
Yes he was, but it was actually his brother that King Sunny Ade sang about in one of his music. My father was though a socialite but conservative. He was an entrepreneur. He was the one that set up Sona Breweries. When we returned from England, there were three companies that wanted to employ him.NNPC was one of them, then Inlak Group and another company. My father came back home one day and said that NNPC said that they will have to fire 3 persons before they could employ him because of the salary that they wanted to pay him. So my father told them not to bother because he had other alternatives. So that was how he went to Inlaks. Then the company used to import Becks beer. My father suggested to them that instead of importing that they should be producing the beer here. So the company told him to look for a place. That was when daddy came to Otta and acquired the land. That was how Sona Breweries came up.

Did you work at Sona Breweries?
No I never worked for them but I was a contractor for them after my father left, I beca,e a contractor for employment. I was employing staff for companies.

Was that when your philanthropy nature came to life?
Yes, it had always been there. My ideology is that no one wants to be an area boy or area girl. It is circumstances that push people to that point. If those people have opportunity top do something, they probably might do better. If you look at some of them they are very intelligent, forget about the marijuana that they smoke or is it weed that its called. Sometimes on the road they see me and wave to me in the car. I ask the driver to park so I can gist with them. Sometimes they tell me that their wives just delivered a baby, i give them money and i say when you get home let me talk to your wife and confirm that the money was delivered. They will laugh. Some get home and call though. That is me. I have passion for me. And instead of me giving you food, I would rather teach them how to fish.

At the time you were out of secondary school, people then wanted to be doctors or lawyers, why did you choose modelling and fashion?
I had always loved fashion. I started it in the United State and returned to Nigeria to continue. I was part of a lot of campaigns. For instance, I was the one that did the 'Bazooka Joe' that trended so much then. I also did 'Oga Driver' for Cadbury and other works like that. I was also acting here in Nigeria. I was in Jimi Odumosu's 'Haunted.' I played the lead role there. I was with Ola Balogun when we did 'Bisi Daughter of The River,' what happened was that, when i do things, when the ovation is loud, i sneak out of it.


Which came first, the fashion and modelling or the acting?
I started with the fashion and modelling when I studied both in America. I studied acting in the same school too.
Didn't you feel lonely when you were schooling in the states?
No I didn't. I had lots of friends. 

At what point did you back out of acting in Nigeria?
I like to do things for a while and when I discover another passion I move on. I do not like to be stuck in one place. I am so happy today because these days when we were doing fashion and acting, people were referring to those in it as prostitutes and school drop-outs! Now when I watch Nollywood i shake my head and say 'gawd, Nigeria has come a long way in acting, modelling and fashion. I remember when I came back from England in the early 70s and I was wearing trouser, when I walk around people will stare at me and say such things as 'E wa wo obirin ti o wo sokoto. A wo sokoto ma lepon.' I didn't used to know what they meant. You know i used to wear my Jeans. I am a trouser person. So today when i see ladies, even old women wearing leggings and walking on the road, i nod and say to myself, yes they have arrived finally.     

Of late you seem to be avoiding the social circuit
No, I'm still find time for parties its just that I avoid the press. The NGO also ensures that I am out there doing one thing or another. 

When did you start collating these awards?
As you can see, it is all over the place. When I got this one from Ghana, (points) they wanted me to come there. So they decided to bring it to me here in Lagos. There is also that one that i got from Washington in the United States of America. They came here, they were with me for a week. I didn't know they were studying me. When they returned to America, they wrote me that I have been nominated for an award. So i told them that I will send somebody to represent me. They said no. They insisted that I come over to the United State to receive it personally. So i had to go. It was fun for people to realise what you are doing and to appreciate it. 

You are also involved with two orphanages, what has been your interest in this?
Actually, i don't own the orphanages, i assist in taking care of them. I call those children mine. I also know the people who started the orphanages. I knew a lot of the children when they were babies and some of them have grown up and are doing well on their own now. Some are presently in the university.

We also heard that you have a programme whereby every month you supply food to these homes, what do you gain from that?
Even if I am not in the country, i always call to remind my workers not to starve the orphanages. It is a standing order in my office.

How long have you been doing this?
Since over twenty years ago, thats apart from scholarships to public schools. There was a day I was driving down the road and I saw a girl holding her uniform together with safety pins. I went to that school to see the principal, who told me that yes it is a public school and most could not afford uniforms. I told him to give me about two hundred names that we can sew uniforms for. And that is what we did that is my NGO in conjunction with Red Cross which I am also a member of. We got them school shoes, socks and bags, basic things that they need for school. I think it is good when you try to assist people. I am committed only to public schools and there is joy in it. One day a girl saw me and said mommy you cant remember me, 'I work for your company. Thank you very much I am enjoying myself." That gave me great joy.  

If you are called to act or perform will you still do it?
(Shakes her head gently in deep thought) I don't know. Perhaps if it is a good story line. I may consider it. 


How have you been able to keep your style and fashion going over the years, and whats your style for today?
My style for today as you can see, I am wrapped up in feathers. Papa looked at me and said Iyalode, you and this your feather dress and I replied him, Yes Papa, I am an angel in feathers! 

What has been your experience with the youths?
A lot of them come, when they have made enough money to buy Okada, they leave. And there are others that waited and learnt on the job and they rose through the rank. Though a lot of them are not committed these days. I wish they can have more committed. Some of them work, save and make money and go to higher institutions. 

What's your family like?
I have my children. That's my sons picture (points to the wall) He was in the US army just discharged. He is still nabbed in America. However, I will still like to adopt more children. I want to take care of more children. That is why I feel bad when I see people say they do not have children. That's because there are plenty of children out there that needs care. Its unfortunate that we harbour the sentiment that people will say the child is not my blood.

Do you miss Chief Olu Aboderin?
Yes, I still do. I still call him my Chairman. 

Do you still relate with the family?
I still relate with one of his brothers Tunde Aboderin, who is also a member of our church. I was out of town when Wale died. He was another good guy, a philanthropist. I am happy because they have kept the family name going. That is because when Chief Olu Aboderin died, people thought the name and business will go down. But friends and family gathered together and said that Punch must not die. And the newspaper never stopped. When they moved to the new site, i was overjoyed and I know that my Chairman Olu Aboderin is the happiest man in heaven.

Is it because you have been philanthropic over the last 20 years that you were dragged into politics or4 you felt that you should go into politics? 
I didn't want to go into politics. It is politics that sought me out. When they came to me and said that they wanted me to come into politics i felt they were joking. I had just returned from a holiday abroad. So to scare them off, I told them that they have to give me presidency. But instead of being put off, the party agreed. I was shocked. Before I knew it, I was told that INEC was coming to swear in the exco. One day I was sleeping and a friend called that INEC is around. I quickly dressed up and got to the venue and behold I saw my posters , that was when i knew how serious the matter was. So i called the INEC official aside and told him that I was just joking, that I am not contesting with anybody. Later we got in touch with the National Chairman of the party. We chose a date  to meet, and I was properly briefed with manifesto and all what I needed t5o know. I got my party card and that was how I was told that they would love me top run for the governorship of Ogun State. And that was how it took shape.  

What is your experience so far?
The first 3 or 4 weeks we were doing it as fun. But I started reading books and reading about politics. We started travelling around Ogun state, people started joining me, taking me all over. And i saw that we have a problem in the state. But deep down I am a conservative person. I was also urged on by a Principal from a school where i had helped with borehole and renovation of classrooms. She told me that all the good things that I have been doing reflects what oselu (people in government) should be doing. I am however learning very fast and i don't understand why some people believe that I am a threat to them. I think politic is about going out there to try your popularity. You do not need to pay people money to do it.

What do you think about vote buying?
I think that Nigerians are getting more and more enlightened and are presently campaigning against vote buying. 

The people contesting against you are more advanced in politics and can throw money around, are you going to win?
I am not in contention with anybody. I am playing my politics in my own way and I am enjoying myself. It is not a do or die matter.

Your advice to women
I think that is one of the reason that I suddenly got interested in politics and that reason is because I am the only woman in the race in Ogun state. I hope that in the next general elections that we will have more women coming out for the political race. Women should come out and contest.

What are your challenges as a woman in politics?
(Laughs) One of my major challenges is that I don't have the money to throw the way they are throwing money away right now. My deputy and I do not have as much experience as the people in contention with us for the gubernatorial election but we know what our state wants. We know where the shoe pinches. When 32 nations go for world cup only one nation returns home with the trophy. We should learn how got play politics with dignity. If you lose go to the winner and congratulate him or her. 

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