What does it mean to be a man? Surely, it’s not one thing. It’s a series of little moments that add up. Man Like is a weekly Zikoko series documenting these moments to see how it adds up. It’s a series for men by men, talking about men’s issues. We try to understand what it means to “be a man” from the perspective of the subject of the week.
This week’s Man Like is Temitayo “Ikoyi” Ogundare, a lawyer and actor. He talks about his devastation when he failed his bar exams, living up to his father’s expectations and finding his feet again after an unfortunate business decision.
Lawyer and actor. How did that combination happen?
I’ve always had a passion for the stage. While studying law at Obafemi Awolowo University, a group of friends and I created a troupe called Pigment Theatre. We used to go around the South West enacting stage plays. I also used to star in skits. You’ll find me in skits with Agba and MC Lively. During my NYSC year, I got my little big break when I was invited to join the crew of a social commentary talk show on Red TV. That was when I started getting a bit of attention. I didn’t grow up thinking I was going to be a lawyer because I come from a family of actors, such as Taiwo Obileye. I grew up watching him do his thing alongside his colleagues and I was very attracted to the lifestyle. Getting to meet movie stars in real life made me want to become an actor.
Nice. What was growing up like?
I came from a small family of my parents and a young brother and grew up in the city of Ibadan. I had quite a strict upbringing. I went to a Catholic school and my father was quite the stern man, but I was still mischievous. My childhood was simple. We were a small family who didn’t go out a lot because my dad is obsessed with security. He didn’t let us mingle with neighbours and he never used to take nonsense. My mom has always been my guy. She’s one of my best friends.
I imagine you must have had quite a number of conflicts with your dad.
It was complicated. I admire my dad a lot; he’s a smart and diligent man. However, our personalities are very alike and we tend to clash often. I didn’t like the fact that he wanted me to mature much quicker than my age just because I was the firstborn. I wanted to be like every other kid but he had a lot of expectations for me and when I struggled under the weight, we’d have problems. He had big dreams for me I struggled to live up to. I’m glad he was hard on me because I can now appreciate that he was training me for a world that’s cold and tough. Many of the things I learned unwillingly are now useful for me in my journey.
I wrote the bar exams for the first time in 2017 and failed. That was the first time I ever heard that my dad cried. I was already going through so much emotional and mental torture from the feeling of failure but hearing that my dad cried just tore through me. I knew I had disappointed him. The fact that my failure broke his heart broke my own heart. I felt like I couldn’t face him.
Aww. What’s the most awkward moment you’ve ever had with your dad?
In my final year of university, I was home during a break. The night before I was due to return to school, he found a box of condoms under my bed.
A whole box? Sir…
LMAO. I had been involved with an NGO in school that gave out free condoms to students to help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. There was some leftover, which I took with me when I went home for the break.
Sure. Let’s go with that story.
LMAO. Anyway, the next day, he decides to drop me off in school, which was in the next state. In the middle of the trip, he parks on the shoulder of the expressway. He turns, looks at me dramatically and says, “I know you’re an adult now, but that doesn’t mean you should go about having sex with everybody.” I was shocked. I asked him what he meant and he told me about his discovery in my room. It was then I explained to him about my activities with the NGO. I’m not sure he believed me.
I’m not sure I believe you either.
Who do you consider your role models?
I don’t believe in having just one role model because no one’s perfect. The ideal thing, which I practice, is to pick positive traits in different people who you admire. I’ve had a number of older people who I’ve learned from. One of them is my dad. He taught me how to be a gentleman. He’s also not a man of many words but he carries such a gravitas that you have to take him seriously. Another person is my boss, Femi Wright. He’s a brilliant man and someone I look up to. I also admire Richard Mofe-Damijo. He’s the image of the man I want to be like. He’s aged like fine wine, hasn’t he? You’ll find women falling over themselves for him.
Speaking of, what’s your relationship with women like?
I think women are amazing people. I have more female friends than male friends because I find it easier to relate with women and they feel comfortable around me.
Have you had your heart broken before?
As a legend once said, “Gbo gbo wa la ma je breakfast.” We will all eat breakfast. As long as you interact with women, you will have a heartbreak story. I’ve eaten breakfast, back to back. The most memorable, however, was this girl I dated. It was all nice and rosy until she told me she couldn’t continue the relationship. We were at a mall when she told me this and, right there and then, in front of hundreds of strangers, I knelt to beg her not to leave me because, honestly, I was crazy about her. It was heart-wrenching because I had no idea why I was being broken up with. It’s still one of the most embarrassing memories I have ever had, but it’s all water under the bridge.
How do you combine showbiz with practising law?
It’s not been easy but I’ve been able to make it work. When I failed the bar exam the first time, I decided to undergo my Youth Service. I still wanted to practice law but I was also interested in trying out as an actor. Since I had hit an obstacle in my law career, I wanted to strain myself to my limits to see what I could make of my other talents. That year, Red TV reached out to me that they’d like me to join a reality talk show called Red Hot Topics.
After I re-wrote and passed the bar exam, I got a job at a law firm. I was giving both my job at the law firm and my reality TV show my all and doing the best I could. I worked at the law firm for a year. I didn’t think my gig with Red TV would be a problem, after all, I wasn’t doing it on company time. I was wrong. Immediately they found out I was on a reality TV show, the partners summoned me before I disciplinary panel and I had to give a presentation on why I should keep my job despite being on a talk show. By the time the show aired on YouTube, I was fired.
It was quite challenging. I considered ditching law to focus on entertainment full time, but having written the bar exam twice, I wasn’t willing to come this far to give it all up and lock my certificates in the wardrobe. I applied to law firms and companies trying to get other jobs, but they weren’t forthcoming. Having to navigate life as a man during that period required me to do some growing up. I was a young man, trying to hustle in Lagos, away from home in Ibadan. Bills were piling up and I wasn’t getting a lot of income. I eventually got my current job at a professional services firm.
Did you have a support system?
I was able to survive that period thanks to my brother and my friends. They came through for me so many times and I’ll never forget what they did for me. It’s why I place a lot of importance on friendships. I don’t take them for granted. My parents also helped me out from time to time.
Tell me about the time you’ve been the most afraid in your life.
LMAO, it was actually very recent. You think one challenge is the greatest until you face another one. This challenge was the one that made me realise that all my previous challenges were child’s play.
Sometime last year, I had a business idea to buy some products from the US and re-sell them here in Nigeria as a way to diversify my income stream. After solidifying my plans and making sure they were water-tight, I took a loan to start the business. Unfortunately, I did business with the wrong person. After sending the money, my business partner ghosted me. Soon after, the creditor came knocking, asking me to repay the loan. Together with the interest, it was a huge sum.
The moment I realised I had been scammed, I wanted to take my life because I had no idea how I could repay a loan running into millions. I was depressed for weeks and couldn’t tell anyone what was wrong because I was too embarrassed about the whole thing. I eventually told them and, again, my friends and my brother came through for me and rallied round to repay the loan. Tobi, Chris, Yemi, Tope and others will forever be in my heart. I’ll never forget what they did for me. I’m not over it but I learned a lot from the experience. We move.
Damn. When was the last time you cried?
I’m an emotional guy so I cry when I need to. My favourite artist is Drake so I know how to cry, LMAO. I don’t think crying makes you less of a man. Being a man means being good to people and to yourself. A man never has to prove that he’s a man. It comes from within.
What does a relaxing weekend look like for you?
After a long week, I wake up late on Saturdays. There’ll probably be an owambe somewhere, seeing as all my friends are getting married. I don’t know where they are seeing the money. If there’s no wedding, I like to go to the beach to unwind by the seaside, my feet in the sand, the wind in my hair. In the evening, I’ll play soccer. On Sundays, I go to church, because it’s always nice to start the week with God. In the afternoon, I’ll watch the Premiership and prepare for a new work week. That’s pretty much it.
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