The Life And Times Of Baba Sala | Independent Newspapers Nigeria

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    <p class="p2"><strong><span class="s2">LAGOS – </span></strong><span class="s3">D</span><span class="s3">eath is a selective thief, picking off prime fruits like a sniper taking shots. This time however, it is the Nigeria’s king of comedy who has been taken out, Moses Olaiya Adejumo, popularly known as Baba Sala. He is the pacesetter for many veterans in Nigeria’s entertainment industry today.</span></p>

Born on May 18, 1936, Baba Sala, who is regarded as the king of modern Nigerian comedy hailed from Ijesha in Osun State.

He worked as a part-time teacher and in the late evenings, he would transform into a highlife musician. By 1964 he was the head of a group known as Federal Rhythm Dandies, which was the toast of Nigerian elites.

In 1969, Moses Olaiya had become a full-time professional theatre comedian after he disbanded his Moses Olaiya Concert Party. He founded the Moses Olaiya International Alawada Theatre Limited shortly after and together they travelled extensively round Nigerian towns and cities.

Drama was in his blood. He was a drummer, and he trained Sunny Ade in guitar even though, according to him, KSA’s ambition was to play drums.

On the instruction of the then Premier of the Western Region, Obafemi Awolowo, the comedian got a one-year contract of drama sketches at the Western Nigeria Television, WNTV. He berthed with Alawada Series on WNTV and later on NTA Ibadan every Wednesday between 7:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. In a short time, his fame knew no bounds.

The legendary actor wrote all episodes of his drama series and also took on lead character regularly, and at a time starred late magician, Professor Peller in a film.

He once revealed that he had 18 wives and 50 children.

Alongside a number of other late entertainers like Hubert Ogunde, Kola Ogunmola and Duro Ladipo, Baba Sala popularised theatre and television acting in Nigeria.

In his lifetime, Baba Sala was a prolific filmmaker who could not be boxed with the term musician or actor, he was a thespian who knew his art, practised it diligently and dedicated his life to it.

His film works include Orun Mooru (1982), Aare Agbaye (1983), Mosebolatan (1985), Obee Gbona (1989), Diamond (1990 Home video), Agba Man (1992, Home Video), Return Match (1993, Home Video), Ana Gomina (1996, home video), Tokunbo (1985, TV)

His era of reign dates back to the time before what we know as stand up comedy. Even before the Baba Suwes and Ali Babas of this world, Olaiya was already plying the trade of humour. His humour was fresh, locally sourced, relatable and prima facie hilarious.

Also known by a stage name, Sanni Lamidi, his stage performances were in Yoruba language, but was still enjoyed by all wh came in contact with it.

May have been quoted saying, “One look at the man, you will immediately burst into laughter.”

But for Moses Adejumo, life was not all laughs. He suffered some hard knocks that eventually took its toll on him.

In November 2017, the octogenarian announced the intended release of his biography titled ‘The Triumph of Destiny’, co-authored by Babatunde Akinola, Collins Oyedokun and Kunle Ajayi.

In the book, he shared many parts of his life’s story that many did not know, and it was not a pretty tale.

At 80, Baba Sala had traversed the tough terrains of life and survived the greatest of the most turbulent winds. At a press briefing, even with his failing health, bad eyesight and hearing, the late actor shared parts of his life’s story. He had been having issues with his health since 1978 when a close person to him stole the master tape of his film, ‘Orun Mooru’ and pirated it. “I and my two wives had psychological traumas during this period to the extent that it was so tough for many years. We nearly went mad as we ran everywhere in search of the missing master tape of the film.”

He explained that they fasted and prayed for many days to locate the whereabouts of the film then until they discovered it was actually stolen. The thespian shared that he shed bitter tears, and that was the mere beginning of his travails. His life’s work had been stolen had bastardised and the situation was irredeemable, seeing as he invested all he had in the film.

The stealing of the film, he said put him into a state of confusion and caused a lot of setbacks for him.

Steal a man’s money and he would fight tooth and nail to get it back, but steal his soul and would forget how to fight, and a man’s soul is the result of his life, the work of his hands.

It seemed like Nigeria lost more as Baba Sala was never the same. Having built a career for so many years, the epic setback was just too great to recover from.

Baba Sala shared while alive that he had never experienced such a disappointment in my life. He said he was shocked to the marrow and did not know how he survived paralysis. “I was cheated and left shattered.”

Asides the time investment, among other things, the comedian had borrow over N1.5 million from a bank to ensure the success of the film, which at the time was quite a lot of money.

He became indebted and sold most of his properties to settle the debt.

While many may wonder why people did not rise to the occasion to help him out, Baba Sala had shared that the debt was so enormous that not many people could even attempt to help.

But that was not the end of Baba Sala as we know it. As a strong man and one of the greatest Nigerian thespians to have ever walked the face of the earth, he picked up what was left of his career and forged ahead. While not the same as before, he churned out more hit films.

Even though he lost most of his investments and properties to the debt incurred from the ‘Orun Mooru’ saga, he managed to maintain his life and survive.

He later dedicated his life to God, and commissioned a biography of his life even after he suffered a stroke. With the resilience he displayed in life, death still held the final joker and dealt the world a fatal blow on October 7 when the all round entertainer went to his maker.

His life and times however remain a testimony, great history and most importantly, a rich source of lessons for up and coming thespians, filmmakers alike.

Among other things, Baba Sala’s life teaches that the fight against piracy must be kept up as it is a scourge that is as real as life itself.

Almost every film that is produced this day is pirated and artistes still survive. Baba Sala was one of the first in Nigeria to be hard-hit by pirates and he won’t be the last.

Having trained a great many legends that we revere today like Baba Mero, Ade Love, Hubert Ogunde, King Sunny Ade, it is only fitting that his life remains a lesson. The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living to teach and remind us of all that they lived for.

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