17 February 2013

Nigeria: The Need to Honour Heroes While Alive

Moses Olaiya Adejumo popularly called 'Babasala' is an artiste, musician. He is regarded as one of the country's frontline comedians. SAMUEL ABULUDE caught up with him recently and in this report, he examines the need for the country to honour heroes in all spheres while they are still alive.

The name Babasala, a household name has being in the consciousness of Nigerians since the 60s when he started as a comedian, actor and musician along with other dramatists like Hubert Ogunde, Kola Ogunmola, Oyin Adejobi and Duro Ladipo who have all passed on. Babasala popularized theatre and television acting in Nigeria.

A living legend in his own right, Babasala whose real name is Moses Olaiya Adejumo was born 76 years ago in Ilesa, Osun State and is still doing his best to promote the Nigerian culture through theatre. LEADERSHIP Sunday met him in November 2012 at the LTV ground with some of his family members as they came for the screening of one of his evergreen movies, 'Mosebolatan' during the Ileya festival.

One thing very reamarkable about this sage was that he was personally there to promote his own movie which he produced twenty-six years ago. It was also learnt that he had before then been to the National Theatre in Iganmu area of Lagos for the same screening that day.

He was brought from National Theatre in a saloon car that obviously did not befit his status considering his contribution to the Nigerian theatre industry as a proud cultural ambassador.

Having to climb the stairs to get to the upper cinema hall where his movie was screened among numerous others at the venue, the old man was held at his left side as he could barely walk on his own even with a walking stick.

His love for the arts may have forced him out of his abode in Ilesha to travel to Lagos and show his numerous fans that it had not ended with him as it were even as he was speculated to be bed-ridden and feared dead some years ago.

This prolific filmmaker who started his career in show business as a highlife musician in 1964, through a band known as the 'Federal Rhythm Dandies' appeared to have advanced in years with his face revealing the arduous task and sacrifice he has made to become who he is today. In spite of his age, he can still read with his eyes without the aid of a reading glass. He says, "I am okay, I'm healthy. We thank God.

There is nothing wrong with me. It was my children that planned the screening of the film for the holiday season. We are viewing the film at LTV 8 as well as at the National Theatre. I have to be there to support them since they deemed it fit to screen it again. They did well. Mosebolatan is a special film. It's been 26 years since it was produced. Since the film is still useful and is still available for viewership, we decided to screen it during the festive holidays. It is still our current film".

On which of his films he considered his best, he said, "You mean my best film so far? We have produced 'Ooru Mooru', the film was pirated and we lost a lot as a result of that. 'Mosebolatan' was produced after that. We have done so many other films after that like 'Money Power'. 'Money Power' is with Dr Ola Balogun. I have done so many films that are memorable to me.

When asked to comment on the concept of 'Mosebolatan', he suddenly regained his comical self saying, Won se bi ola titan which means they thought my wealth has finished. If you watch 'Mosebolatan', you'll agree with me that it is a great film. A lot is involved in that film".

Sieving through the conversation with Babasala, many will agree that the septuagenarian, though in his twilight, still has much to offer the industry especially in the advisory capacity. Having seen it all and experienced different moment in his career especially when his movie, 'Oorun Mooru' was produced in London but pirated and sold in Lagos, it caused him untold hardship and bankruptcy which many believed, he may not have recovered from.

His son, Tunde Adejumo, pastor of one of the churches in Lagos noted that his works are still being preserved in a laboratory in London. The original copies of the film are being kept there for security and posterity purpose as there is no guarantee it can be preserved in Nigeria.

In a telephone conversation with the Pastor son of Pa Olaiya, the soft spoken clergy said that Babasala who is now a minister of the gospel like him at C&S Church in Idasa, Ilesha was in good health but deserved more from those who benefited from his works as a civil servant in Lagos State and as a movie icon.

He noted that the theatre icon was very energetic and full of life in his hey days even though he is not as active as he used to be owing to old age, he said it is attributable to lack of the ability to do a regular exercise. He urged the government to create recreational parks for the aged as it will help in increasing their longevity as they pass on gracefully.

"Baba is presently in Ilesha as a man of God. Ebenezer Obey was at his church last December. It is good that we celebrate him while he is alive because it won't really make sense that after his demise, the government will now be doing this and that on his behalf.

"For example, the Lagos State government can assist in that regard because he was once a civil servant having worked with the Sanitation unit popularly called 'Wolewole' at the Public Works Department PWD. Babasala was proud of working as a 'wolewole' at the local councils and he still has fond memories about it. In fact, it is written in his biography. So, it will be a laudable effort to go back in time and honour those who have one way or the other served then.

And apart from what they have contributed today, let the entertainment industry as a whole do same because Baba contributed a lot to every form of entertainment in this country. Is it stage drama, plays on television and radio, music or just pure comedy? Babasala ought to be remembered as someone who brought laughter to people. I believe that he is someone that we need to celebrate more while he is alive.

We can see the so called stand up comedians; they are making their money now. Anchoring a program for one hour bring a lot of money into their accounts. That is the trend and nobody can be blamed but Babasala was one of the pioneer comedians and he sacrificed a lot to bring this form of entertainment to limelight. I believe the government as well as corporate bodies should rally round and celebrate these icons", Tunde Adejumo said.

Speaking further, he debunked claims that Babasala has received grants or monthly financial help from any quarters. "No, although we have heard a couple of times that individuals, corporate bodies, people and organizations want to give us something. Many of them said, okay, we will like to give you so and so amount but we have not been given anything.

As a matter of fact, I will say that is part of the reason you see him here today, at least, for him to come out so that people will see him here today and say, hee!, that is Babasala. I can say, we have not been given any care from anybody at all. I think the government should look into creating recreation for old people to get them together for them to bond with their own mates and play together; this will improve their health, refresh their body systems and increase their longevity instead of sitting in one place and doing nothing ", he noted.

As Babasala clocks 76 years in 2013, it is instructive to honour a movie icon and cultural ambassador who is reputed to have discovered the artistic prowess of Juju maestro, King Sunny Adé his lead guitar player in his 'Federal Rhythm Dandies' band.

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