By Mac Ovbiagele
1. At 89, with only a few months shy of a landmark birthday celebration in the works, Mister Ted Mukoro has gone the way of all flesh. May the Good Lord rest his soul and graciously resume production of his likes, even if in limited editions.
2. Let’s look at a few milestones, in the illustrious journey of this heavyweight all-rounder, to fame and prominence.
Many students of Urhobo College Effurun are often eager to recount their experience with this brilliant teacher, who as one Mr Oghenejode put it, made that dreaded subject Latin, look like whacking soft dodo. This same gentleman was English and French Master at United College of Commerce, Warri.
I have it on the good authority of ex-Chevron Godfrey Etikerentse, who was his co-parishioner in St Agnes Church Ikeja, that Ted chanted all his prayers in Latin, in his sonorous baritone voice. As it happened, Ted was to renounce his priestly vows midstream, not because he succumbed to the compelling tunes of Roy Chicago’s “750 by 20” or Victor Olaiya’s “ Omo Pupa” or the alluring cocktail of city offerings.
He often told anyone who cared to listen he received a divine call to serve God on what he saw as a broader, more versatile platform than the pulpit, Broadcasting.
So he answered his Macedonian call at WNTV-WNBS, as producer/presentation officer. It is fair here to let some of his old colleagues- renown broadcaster Bruce Ovbiagele, Chief Olu Falomo, Ibidun Allison, then Folakan, Nelson Ipaye, Adebayo Faleti, Victor Adeniyi, Kehinde Adeosun, Brian Cowan, Tom Bigger, Anike Agbaje-Williams, Julie Coker, his Australian boss, Gary Blackledge, Elder Steve Rhodes, Elsie Thomas Olusola, then Thomas-Nkune, and co -comment from beyond or physically on his exploits and achievements on that duty post.
3. There was no way the late Chief Segun Olusola, brain behind the popular TV series “Village Headmaster” that registered consistently high audience ratings for years, would have found a more perfect fit for the role of Headmaster in that rustic school in Oja village.
Ted was the big burly frame, attired in his ill-fitting shirt, colonial khaki shorts, a badly knotted tie, if indeed tie that was, that seemed contemptuous of laundry attention; a stentorian voice that boomed even when a whisper would have sufficed; a long cane, largely ceremonial, that accentuated his authority.
Ted Mukoro charmed viewers in the millions, but quit the role at some point to concentrate on advertising matters, leaving the producers with more than a routine duty to find replacements of comparable elan and ability.
4. We hear Ted Mukoro scripted many of those juicy episodes, which repeated to audiences with something near pristine freshness, on each and every occasion. Again, it makes sense to leave confirmation of that accolade to some of his co-travellers at the time: the cunning manipulative Oloja himself, Dejumo Lewis; the five-star queen of gossip, Amebo Ibidun Allison, nee Folakan; now royal highness, Alaiyeluwa Oba Sanya Dosunmu and Chief Tunde Oloyede, that talented creative gem who joined the saints triumphant, recently.
A true appraisal of his drama career would be incomplete without his roles in Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka’s “Trials of Brother Jero;” “The Vendor” produced by Adegboyega Arulogun, “ Heart Of Gold” directed by Andy Amenechi, “Money Miss Road” by Solomon Ayagere; “Son Of A Goat” by John Pepper Clark; weekly drama series for BBC African Service, where he shares performance history with Ralph Opara, Olu Jacobs, Eddie Ugboma, Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, Alton Kumalo, to mention just a few.
5. Advertising was apparently always in his field of vision. That is why he responded to the pressure of his friend, the late Otunba Banjo Solaru, so clearly one of the brightest, past or present in the industry, to join Lintas which was the biggest advertising firm in the country at the time, controlling an obscene percentage of total billings.
He moved rapidly through the ranks and in time, presided over a glorious stretch as Creative Director of Lintas, churning out winners in campaign after campaign, for both radio and television, in a glorious run that seemed forever.
A glutton for creative challenges
Ted Mukoro was a glutton for creative challenges. I had the privilege to serve with him on the board and rush to confirm we all looked up to him to point directions and generate the momentum necessary to surge upstairs, for increased profit and sustained reputation.
6. Many of the older generation would have unprompted recall of such brilliant campaigns as the “Wekeh Wekeh campaign” for Vono beds and mattresses; “Master lick bottom pot” for a tomato/pepper purée branded Tomapep; “Shine Shine Bobo” that rejuvenated Star beer, when image of the nation’s favourite lager needed a hefty kick in the backside; or his evergreen pitch for Guinness Stout, with a tingling suggestive promise of excitement – “Black thing good O”, rendered in dramatic Efik/Ibibio accent, as “Black thing gu ro.”
The Kawasaki commercial
Or the Kawasaki commercial, which caused quite a stir in the sub-sector and generated a record-setting income stream for the distributor of the brand. The sales pitch was itself voiced-over a correct macho guy riding a Kawasaki motorcycle with his beautiful damsel, who soon dismounts to tease in utmost mischief – “My man’s Kawasaki na wah!”
Ted Mukoro nuanced the message so delicately to produce a commercial which did not attract the sanction of regulatory bodies nor offend consumer watchdogs, who may have accused the agency of foisting new names or appellations, on familiar body parts.
7. Our inimitable Ted was so witty and humorous, he often had his listeners in stitches, without trying. The one and only time I recall he failed to tickle or amuse was a verbal duel with one of our expatriate managers in Lintas at the time, who shall be called Bob.
Venturesome, somewhat Nigerianised in more ways than plenty, Bob queried why we always swallowed pounded yam as soon as it landed in the mouth, instead of chewing it to prolong the enjoyment, since our taste buds are in the mouth, not the throat.
“Bob, you will not understand my explanation,” Ted warned. Bob assured he’ll make sense of any and every reasonable explanation; his track record suggested it was no boast.
Bob had in his pocket a PPE Oxford, plus certification in some unrelated field like Quantum Physics or so, if my memory serves me right and believe me, was a pounded yam loyalist. His Ishan cook told incredible stories of how he took down mounds of the stuff with relish and ease.
When the jocular trivia he threw at Bob did not work, Ted straightened up and switched to what he called WAFA ogboju, stressing… “Abeg lef me; pounded yam na for swallow, that’s all.”
Some of the more sublime and yummy portions of this story shall be told to a smaller inner circle, in gospel truth, on another occasion.
8. Ted spoke many Nigerian languages with amazing eloquence. He preached through his humble disposition and lifestyle, that nothing in the whole wide world mattered, except the worship of God and service to man. I’ve not met anybody more charming, more easy-going, all of my life.
If you were to grant me the indulgence of a tiny piece of hyperbole, I testify that Ted Mukoro was absolutely sinless.
Our “shine shine bobo” goes home, having shone like a thousand stars across virtually all disciplines of the creative arts, from writing, singing, poetry reading, voice-overs, to acting and more.
May the express and radiant image of the invisible God, continue to guide and protect our Stan Mukoro, Angela Ajetunmobi, their siblings, spouses and children, the extended family, friends and colleagues, who will miss him a long time to come.
Uncle Ted, migwo.
Mac Ovbiagele, frpa.Former Client Service Director, Lintas & MD Macsell Advertising.