By OGBONNA AMADI Entertainment EdItor & BENJAMIN NJOKU
LAGOS — The dwindling ranks of the original cast of the iconic sit-com of the 80s, New Masquerade, shrank further, yesterday, when James Iroha a.k.a Giringori Akabogu succumbed to the vice grip of ill-health and poverty.
His son confirmed his death, yesterday, bringing to three the original members of the cast that have died recently.
Iroha was the creator of the now rested television drama, The New Masquerade, which ruled the screen in the early 80s, on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Network.
He died yesterday at the age of 70. The New Masquerade started as a radio programme in then East Central State Broadcasting Corporation radio, Enugu which, at its prime, was the “King of Primetime” on the NTA Network. It ran as a 15-minute radio programme, known as The Masquerade.
The audio format was adapted for an audiovisual recording and was adopted by the NTA Network service in the early 70s. For almost two decades, the half-hour slapstick programme captivated a national audience.
His son, Uche Iroha, confirmed the death of his father to Vanguard on phone yesterday.
According to him, the legendary comedian died in the early hours of yesterday in an hospital in Onitsha, Anambra State, where he was being treated for glaucoma.
Uche said Giringori developed high blood pressure and other undisclosed ailments in the course of treating the eye problem. He spent four days in the hospital before giving up the ghost.
Uche said: “His death was totally unexpected. On the day he was admitted into the hospital, he was his usual humourous self. He never gave any indication that he won’t come back home. So, it was a rude shock to us, when we arrived in the morning to be told by the doctor that our dad had passed on.”
Giringori‘s death another big blow —AGN
Meanwhile, the outgoing President of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, AGN, Mr Segun Arinze, has described the death of Giringori as another big blow to the industry, adding: “Giringori was a fine actor with a high sense of professionalism. He will surely be missed.”
Zebrudaya expresses shock
Also contacted on phone, a former colleague and one of the main characters of New Masquerade, Chief Zebrudaya Okoroigwe Nwogbo alias 4:30 (Chika Okpala), expressed shock although he claimed that he had not been informed.
“I’m not aware of his death. About two people have called me already on phone to confirm his death. But I’m not aware. Though I have called his GSM line severally, it was switched off. I leave everything to God, I don’t know what to say at this moment until I confirm from the son,” Zebrudaya said.
Before his death, Giringori cried out for rehabilitation, saying he was broke.
A retired Director of Programmes at the Abia State Broadcasting Service, Giringori recently retired from active public life at an elaborate traditional ceremony known as “Igboto Mma” in home town of Amokwe Item, Abia State, in December 2011.
Giringori gave 40 years of his life to acting. But at 70, he died a pauper. Recently, he was compelled to make a desperate appeal to Nigerians in a national daily: “I am almost begging for food…I need money to pay my rent, buy my medicine. Now there is nothing between poverty and me. I am just nose-to-nose with poverty.”
He was afflicted in both eyes by the deadly glaucoma and cataract, for which he had undergone several operations both at home and abroad with no success. His family and friends rallied round him to look for a permanent solution to his predicament.
The 1966 graduate of University of Ibadan battled with illness for over a decade. At one point, he was stranded for 16 days in India where he went for medical treatment.
Other members of the New Masquerade cast who have since passed on were Christy Essien-Igbokwe (Apena) and Claude Ake (Jegede Sokoya).