A few months ago, in June to be precise, when I met him on his hospital bed in a top flight hospital in Karu, I saw a man with unusual passion for his country. Despite his frail body which had been buffeted relentlessly by the ravaging claws of stroke, his voice was perfectly strong and chiselled like granite beams. The twinkle in his eyes was hypnotising as he spoke initially in Yoruba after apparently grasping the tribal roots of this reporter from brief introductions done by his media aide, Prince Ahmed (Mic Master).
His flawless Yoruba greeting was an immediate pointer to a man who had eluded the stuffy confines of ethnic and religious bias. Due to his frail health, we could only talk for about 30 minutes. And would I have believed it then if anyone had told me that those brief moments with him would perhaps be the last major media interview he would grant before departing for far away India, his last destination before the great beyond?
He had wonderful dreams for the industry. "I would like to see a virile movie industry with good directors, with artistes with adequate training. It is one thing to have a liking for the job. It is another thing to be rooted through training. I will like to see an industry where people would earn good money," he told me.
But most of all, he had a burning aspiration that even months on a sick bed had not eradicatedt. And that was to work on a movie scripted in Hausa. Reminiscing on films he had starred in, he noted, "The movie I remember now was an Igbo film where the people were saying that I could not speak Igbo, because they were rehearsing in colloquial Igbo. So when I could not speak the language during rehearsal I spoke in English. The producer went ahead and wrote the script in Igbo. The other people went out of their character, because I was playing a character they had never seen before. It was called 'Journey to Hell' and was one of the first films in Igbo to be shot. The producers wrote the dialogue for me in Igbo and I did it well. I enjoyed it. I have acted in Yoruba. I haven't done a Hausa film yet, but am looking forward to that someday."
His dreams alas has been crushed by the cruel hands of death.
I recall several times during the interview when he would snap 'No comments' But he nevertheless did this politely with a short apology offered at the end of the interview on his tense reactions. One other nagging regret I have, however, perhaps is the fact that I never fulfilled my promise of visiting him once more this time unofficially and I will never be able to offer my apologies for the oversight.