Long before Nollywood was established, Enebeli Elebuwa had become a household name, especially after he acted the role of Andrew in a short TV campaign against brain drain in the late 1980s. His signature lingo was "Andrew, I'm checking out", spoken with a certain phonetic flourish, with a canvass bag he threw on his shoulder with a sweeping swagger.
And after battling for over two years with a series of afflictions, Elebuwa finally checked out of planet earth Wednesday, from the Indian boarding gate. The 66-year old veteran actor died at the Asian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS), New Delhi, India after he lost the battle to overcome stroke.
Before his demise, his latter years had been characterised by pain and unpleasant experiences. About four years ago, he was said to have been attacked by an irate motorist somewhere in Aguda, Surulere, Lagos, an incident that left him seriously injured and with a serious eye problem. He never fully recovered from the trauma of that attack, as he soon began experiencing varied health challenges. Subsequently, the gallant actor was hit with stroke in 2011, which got him bedridden.
He was initially admitted at St. Nicholas Hospital, Lagos, before he was later moved to Topaz Hospital, Surulere, but his condition hardly got better. Eventually, when the situation began to get out of hand, his doctor advised him to seek better treatment abroad. But there was no money. His colleague in Nollywood, Stella Damasus was said to have offered to fund his treatment in an Abuja hospital. But still, his condition improved very little.
It was at this point that the Delta State Government intervened and sponsored his treatment in an Indian hospital. Elebuwa was a Kwale man from Obiaruku town, Delta State.
But as it seems, death was determined to seize the veteran actor, whose career spanned over four decades. Sadly, he was said to have actually spoken from India some days back, claiming that his health was improving and that he would be back on his feet soon.
At the birth of Nollywood, Elebuwa became a leading figure in the industry as he played several roles ranging from royalty to minor roles. He had starred in sitcoms like Village Headmaster, playing the role of a Policeman. He also acted in "Mirror in the Sun" .
Heavily built, and with a kingly gait, Elebuwa indeed had a flowery career, as his place in the entertainment industry was defined. That perhaps explains why the Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, particularly lamented the death of Elebuwa.
In commiserating with the Elebuwa family and the entertainment industry the governor, in a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Sunny Ogefere, said that he was shocked that the concerted efforts made by well meaning Nigerians to save his life did not yield the desired result.
"I am particularly touched because as a renowned Deltan and talented Nollywood actor, Enebeli still had a lot to offer to Delta, to Nigeria and the entertainment world", he stated.
"I recall that the thespian came to limelight in the 80s when he played the character, Andrew in the Federal Government campaign to get Nigerians to believe in Nigeria. And since then, he remained dominant in the entertainment industry", he added.
Uduaghan said that Enebeli was full of life until he had to battle with some illness unsuccessfully.
Former Actors' Guild President, Segun Arinze, described the veteran actor as one of the shining stars of the industry and will be greatly missed by the Nollywood community.
He further described him as a friend, brother and a veteran that always stood up for others.
His colleagues, including the AGN President, Ibinabo Fiberesima, are expected to meet his family any moment from now to arrange to fly his body back to Nigeria.
Reacting to his death, National Secretary of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, AGN, Abubakar Yakub said "It is a big loss. He was a national hero and we will try our best to give him a befitting burial. I pray that God will give his family the fortitude to bear the loss." .
His first film which was on celluloid, 'Dinner with the Devil' produced by Sanya Dosumu, was in 1974.
He joined the movie industry fully in 1994. Formerly a producer/director in Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), he left behind a wife and four children.