By Benjamin Njoku, Rotimi Agbana & Juliet Ebirim
…He wasn’t wealthy, but rich—Son
The Nigerian entertainment industry, Sunday, lost another veteran entertainer, Yoruba comedian and actor, Moses Olaiya, popularly known as Baba Sala.
Baba Sala reportedly died in his sleep after taking his supper in Ilesa, Osun State. He was aged 82.
Confirming the death of the veteran actor, the deceased’s media assistant, Mr. Isaac Haastrup said: “Baba has died. He died Sunday night. His remains have been taken to the morgue. He died of old age-related sickness.”
Baba Sala’s remains, according to him, had since been deposited at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex Annex, Wesley Guild Hospital, Ilesa.
His son speaks
One of his sons, Emmanuel Adejumo, a.k.a Boisala, in an interview with journalists revealed that the father died around 6p.m. on Sunday.
The son, who thanked God for giving the deceased the grace to die in his sleep, described his father as a God-fearing man, who has lived a fulfilled life.
His words: “Though he was not wealthy, he was rich in the knowledge of God and he had a wealth of experience. He would tell us that his father did not encourage him to be a comedian; that he didn’t have anybody to advise him when he was growing up.
“He was a prayerful man. He was a Godly person; he never missed morning and evening prayers. If there was anything he was expecting or any trip he wanted to undertake, he would instruct all of us to pray and fast for nothing bad to happen.”
On how his father died, Emmanuel stated that his body was discovered by his youngest wife, Funmilayo.
According to him, “Baba died last night (Sunday). He died at 82. I was not there, but his wife called the eldest son of the family immediately it happened and that one called me.
“His body has been taken to the mortuary. We will need to hold a meeting before we can fix date for his burial. Some of the children are just hearing about it this morning(yesterday).
“I will miss so many things about my dad. He was a very lively person. He was always advising us, including those who are not his biological children.”
Among Nigerians that mourned Baba Sala’s passing are Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, and the Speaker of Osun House of Assembly, Mr. Najeem Salaam.
Also yesterday, veteran actor, Jide Kosoko, stated that hospitable and accommodating traits were some of the virtues the he would continue to admire late Baba Sala for.
He words: “Baba Sala accommodated both the young and the old, male and female like the late Hubert Ogunde, and a host of his contemporaries, during his life.”
According to him, the late veteran successfully groomed many artistes in the entertainment industry.
Segun Akiremi, popularly known as Kanran, described Baba Sala as a motivator, humble and a faithful servant of God. He said the history of African comedy would not be complete without mentioning Baba Sala as the pioneer of the comedy industry.
Mike Anyanwu, Director, Legal Adviser, National Troupe of Nigeria and filmmaker, Dolapo Ajayi, also express sadness over Baba Sala’s death.
A Yoruba from Ijesha, Baba Sala who was born in 1936, died on Sunday in Ilesa, Osun.
With the creation of the first television station in Nigeria, the Western Nigeria Television, WNTV, Baba Sala’s career became a household treat.
He established the Alawada series on WNTV and later NTA Ibadan, aired every Wednesday between 7p.m. and 7:30p.m.
Some of his television and film productions, where he featured as the lead male character, include Orun Mooru (1982), Aare Agbaye (1983), Mosebolatan, Tokunbo(1985). He also produced Obee Gbona(1989), Agba Man(1989) and Ana Gomina(1996).
In 2015, Baba Sala turned 79, and after his birthday celebration, he was admitted at the University College Hospital in Ibadan, as his health deteriorated. The news sparked off rumours that he had passed on, but few months after, he was discharged with the hospital bills paid by UCH.
In 2017, there were rumours of his death but this was dispelled by one of his sons, who addressed newsmen over the health of his dad.
In November 2017, Baba Sala made a public outcry for financial support to enable him procure proper medical treatment for acute stroke.
At a briefing held on his biography which was due for presentation on December 4, Baba Sala, who spoke with difficulty, noted: “I need help. Nigerians should help me. I am not dead yet, they should not let me die suffering.”
The one-time bride of the country’s entertainment industry looked frail and breathed with difficulty at the event.
Baba Sala’s investments, according to his first son, Reverend Dele Adejumo, had all been wrecked by circumstances and poor management.
Among his investments listed by Adejumo are the Awada Spot, Ibadan, Alawada Standard Hotel, Ilesha; Alawada Records, Ibadan, and Ibukun Alawada Photo magazine.
Adejumo said: “He has investments, but they have all been wrecked by mismanagement. He also had a three-storey building in Mushin, Lagos, which he had to sell to offset debt incurred when his work, Orun Mooru, was pirated.
“We still have some of his recorded works, but machines to transform them to an acceptable format are not easily available.”
A biographical book, The Triumph of Destiny, co-authored by Babatunde Akinola, Collins Oyedokun, and Kunle Ajani, chronicles the pride of place Baba Sala acquired for himself in the Nigerian theatre industry as the first-class comedian and consummate entertainer.
It captures the antecedents and essence of the creative energies of a comical trailblazer.
Baba Sala, regarded as the father of modern Nigerian comedy, alongside other dramatists like Hubert Ogunde, Kola Ogunmola, Oyin Adejobi and Duro Ladipo, popularised theatre and television acting in Nigeria.
He was a prolific filmmaker. Significantly, Baba Sala started his career in show business as a highlife musician, fronting a 1964 group known as the Federal Rhythm Dandies, where he tutored and guided the juju music maestro, King Sunny Ade, who was his lead guitarist.