In the pre-digital age, our forebears entertained themselves via itinerant drama groups and group dance troupes. But these entertainment veterans kept the flame of their passion alive and helped birth what is today known as the Nigerian entertainment industry. JOAN OMIONAWELE brings the history of how these oldies started their journey into the world of entertainment and how they have metamorphosed through the years.
BORN 7 March 1947, Pete Edochie had been acting dramas and plays till he came into prominence when he played the lead role of Okonkwo in an adaptation of Chinua Achebe’s all-time best selling novel, Things Fall Apart.
A strict father who maintains he has been married for 45 years and has the oldest standing marriage in Nollywood, Edochie has six sons and lives in his hometown, Enugu. He is a renowned Catholic and a seasoned broadcaster who got into radio broadcasting in 1967 as a Junior Programmes Assistant after which he was elevated to the level of a Director. He was Director of Programmes, but doubling sometimes as Deputy Managing Director and occasionally acting as Managing Director. He quit ABS because the government decided to politise the affairs of their FM station, thereby resulting in the entire management being asked to move out, including him. He was to be the immediate successor to the managing director but had to leave and enrol into the movie industry. Prior to that, he had featured in Things Fall Apart and had won an international award, which had the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) flying into Nigeria to interview him for his role in Things Fall Apart.
On August 16, 2009, Pete Edochie was kidnapped. The veteran Nollywood actor was kidnapped at Nkpor on his way to an event in Anambra State, and released on August 17, 2009.
In March 2014, Pete Edochie was given a Merit Award for Excellence by the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards and was also presented with a car gift for his impact in the Nigerian entertainment industry.
OLUDOTUN Baiyewu Jacobs was born in 1942 to parents from Abeokuta, Ogun State. He attended the Holy Trinity School in Kano, Nigeria. He has starred in several British television series and international films and has over 100 movies to his name. In 2007, he won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
He trained at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, England. He then starred in various British television shows and series in the 1970s, including The Goodies, Till Death Us Do Part, Barlow at Large, The Venturers, Angels (1990), The Tomorrow People, The Professionals.
Jacobs is married to Nollywood actress Joke Silva with children and, according to the ace actor, marrying someone in the same profession has been helpful. “Both of us are able to understand the intricacies of this business as regards our relationship with (each other), said Olu in a recent interview.
On his first day at work, he said “I would not forget the day I got my first job. It was a Christmas Day and I got my first job in television. I was delighted and I had to work on a Christmas Day. I did not care and I told myself that another Christmas would come.”
VICTOR Uwaifo is a Nigerian musician, writer, sculptor, and musical instrument inventor, born in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria in 1941. He is famous for his Joromi music. He records under the name Sir Victor Uwaifo.
His best-known songs, Guitar Boy and Mammy Water were a huge hit in 1966. Mammy Water was inspired by an encounter (which he has long maintained actually occurred) with a ‘Mammy Water ’ (mermaid) while lounging on Bar Beach in Lagos. He also served as Commissioner for Arts and Culture in Edo State under the government of Lucky Igbinedion.Appointed as Justice of the Peace (JP) Public Notary and Lay Magistrate, Sir Victor Uwaifo was honoured by four Nigerian presidents. Uwaifo is currently a lecturer at the University of Benin.
Uwaifo obtained his secondary school education at the Western Boys’ High School Benin and St Gregory’s College, Lagos, in the years 1957–1961.
He studied Graphics at the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos and graduated in 1961–1963.
AWARD-WINNING filmmaker, Tunde Kelani, has been a film maker for over three decades, when, according to him, “there was electricity 24 hours, water and good roads.” He has produced award-winning movies like Thunderbolt, Saworoide, Maami and is presently working on Dazzling Mirage, a movie on sickle cell.
He is a product of 50 years of successful television broadcasting in Africa. The journey started when he was employed by the former Western Nigerian Television (WNTV) in 1970. He started from Ibadan and made it in the field because he was mentored and tutored by the best African broadcast managers.
Looking back at his years in film production, Kelani, in an interview told Saturday Tribune: “When I look back, somewhere along the line, something went wrong and we lost those entire infrastructure and so, it looks like our development stopped.”
As Fela put it, Nigeria is on reverse right now, as it is hardly possible to make any headway in a country that doesn’t have electricity. You cannot make things without electricity, so those are the main challenges.”
ONYEKA Onwenu (born January 1, 1952) is a foremost Nigerian performer with a string of successful, award-winning music albums and movies. In 2006, she won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a supporting role. Dubbed the ‘Elegant Stallion’ by the Nigerian press, this multi-talented artiste is a singer, songwriter, actress, social critic and politician. She is a former chairperson of the Imo State Council for Arts and Culture and is currently the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of the National Centre for Women Development.
Onwenu has a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Communication form the Wellesley College of Massachusetts, United States of America, and a Masters Degree in Media Studies from The New School for Social Research in New York.
Ms Onwenu began her music career in 1981 while still working with the Nigeria Television Authority. She has written some of the most memorable songs in Nigeria’s music history: For the Love of You, In the Morning Light, Endless Life, One Love, Dancing in the Sun, Onyeka, Greatest Love, Let them say, Wait for me, Choices, My Everything God and The Legend.
Onwenu continues to write and sing about issues as health (HIV/AIDS), peace and mutual coexistence, respect for women’s rights and the plight of children. Her latest effort titled Inspiration for Change focuses on the need for an attitudinal turnaround in Nigeria.
She has also schooled people in the business of music as she was appointed a judge alongside Rapper MI Abaga and Reggie on the West African Programme, Glo Xfactor.
EBENEZER Obey was born on April 3rd 1942 in Nigeria. He began his professional career in the mid-1950s after moving to Lagos under the late Fatai Rolling-Dollar’s band. He formed a band called The International Brothers in 1964, playing highlife–jùjú fusion. The band later metamorphosed into Inter-Reformers in the early 1970s, with a long list of juju album hits on the West African Decca musical label.
Obey began experimenting with Yoruba percussion style and expanding on the band by adding more drum kits, guitars and talking drums.
Obey’s musical strengths lie in weaving intricate Yoruba axioms into dance-floor compositions. As is characteristic of Nigerian Yoruba social-circle music, the Inter-Reformers Band excelled in praise-singing for rich Nigerian socialites and business tycoons. Obey married Juliana Olaide Olufade in 1963. His wife, known as Lady Evangelist Juliana Obey-Fabiyi, died at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital on 23 August 2011, aged 67.
They have several children and grandchildren.
Obey now and envangelist, however, is also renowned for Christian spiritual themes in his music and has since the early 1990s retired into Nigerian gospel music ministry.
King Sunny Ade
KING Sunny Adé was born Sunday Adeniyi in September 22, 1946. He is a popular performer of jùjú music and a pioneer of modern world music.
He has been classed as one of the most influential musicians of all time. Sunny Adé was born to a Nigerian royal family in Ondo. His father was a church organist, while his mother was a trader. He left grammar school in Ondo under the pretense of going to the University of Lagos. There, in Lagos, his mercurial musical career started.
Sunny Adé’s musical sound has evolved from the early days. His career began with Moses Olaiya’s Federal Rhythm Dandies, a highlife band. He left to form a new band, The Green Spots, in 1967.
Over the years, for various reasons ranging from changes in his music to business concerns, Sunny Adé’s band changed its name several times, first to African Beats and then to Golden Mercury.
Now a man of God, Sunny Ade claimed in a recent interview: “You can’t just call yourself a man of God. There must be a very strong covenant between you and God before you can claim that you are a man of God. I don’t see myself like that, but if people call me a man of God, it means I have to be very careful because I have not heard from God. All I know is that I am a son of God, not yet a man of God.”
IDOWU Philips (a.k.a Mama Rainbow) has been acting movies for three decades but got widowed at a young age. But she did not allow the death of her husband discourage her from continuing with a profession they were practicing together.
Almost 30 years after her husband’s untimely death, Iya Rainbow recently said in an interview that she had never slept with any other man and did not contemplate getting married to another man.
Though a trained nurse, she has featured in over 150 movies over the years and has since become a reference point as a woman who stands by her man even in death and ensures that the dream they had together does not die.
Iya Rainbow, who is also busy with church activities as a founder of a Cherubim and Seraphim Church, has been able to train her children and get a befitting accommodation, which she said were all results of God’s grace and consistency in hardwork and prayer.
VERSATILE actor, Jide Kosoko, is one man who has continued to evolve with trends in the movie industry. The cross-over actor who marked his 60th birthday in style recently is, without doubt, a successful movie maker of repute and style. With a career that spans more than 30 years, it is safe to submit that Prince, as he’s fondly called, still has a lot of strength to carry him for another decade.
The former president of the Association of Nigeria Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTP) has produced more than 30 Yoruba movies and featured in countless others. At a recent gathering, Kosoko was quoted to have said “I am nearing that time in my career when I need to be more careful with what I do and say; but that does not limit my roles in movies. Even though I can’t continue to honour every call that invites me to a location. As a matter of fact, I still have enough strength that will last me for another several decades.”
He has two daughters – Sola and Bidemi Kosoko, who are already popular faces in the Yoruba movies.
JOKE Silva, born 29 September 1961, is a Nigerian actress, mother and wife of actor Olu Jacobs. She has received several awards and nominations for her work as an actress, including the awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the 2nd Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2006, and Best Actress in a Supporting Role at the 4th Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2008.
Silva was born in Lagos, Nigeria, into a family of four children. She attended Holy Child College in Lagos, after which she studied English at the University of Lagos. She then relocated to England and studied Drama at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
The mother of two has a passion for youths and is highly fashionable with a special love for African prints.
With over 50 movies to her credit, Silva was also one of the judges on the MTN Project Fame edition for 2013.
PATIENCE Ozokwor, popularly known as Mama G, hails from the eastern region of Nigeria. She caught the bug for acting during her school years when she played the role of Hamlet in Shakespeare’s classic drama, Hamlet in an all-girls school. Hamlet was received so well that Patience started travelling with the show.
Married at 19, Patience continued to seek education and took teaching courses at a Women’s Training College. After receiving her teaching degree, she taught for four years. Seeking something more in life, Ozokwor left teaching to go into broadcasting where she was a radio announcer and newscaster. She worked at the station until it closed down.
Patience is known for her extremely wicked mother-in-law roles in movies, a role which she interprets perfectly and was recently given a centenary award by President Goodluck Jonathan for her acting prowess.
Kareem Adepoju (BABA WANDE)
IN the 60s and 80s, Kareem Adepoju came into the entertainment scene while his colleagues pursued other passions. He became a thoroughbred-script writer, lead actor, and group manager with Oyin Adejobi Travelling Theatre where he honed his acting skill for 25 years.
Since 1963, his robust credits scrolled down a few celluloid films – Aiye, Aropin T’enia, Ayanmo (produced by the late theatre doyen, Hubert Ogunde); ditto for Awada Kerikeri films Omo Orukan, Eri Okan and Moses Olaiya’s Alawada Organisation’s Mosebolatan…
The actor, who also celebrated 50 years on stage in November 2013, could not but thank God for his career, children and experiences as an actor.
Lanre Hassan (MAMA AWERO)
LANRE Hassan, also known as Mama Awero, can be described as a cross-over actress having acted both in the English and Yoruba movies of Nollywood.
In June 2013, the actress rolled out drums to celebrate her 50 years on stage. While recounting her pain in a recent interview, the talented screen mother disclosed how she lost two children in four years which almost ruined her acting career.
Remembering how she landed her first stint in acting, she said, “It was when we acted the play, Efunsetan Aniwura, in 1974, when the Oluyole Club did their anniversary. Diran Ajijedidun was the director of the play while Diran Babarinde was Efunsetan. It was in the play that I acted Awero. We started with stage play and we were going from one place to the other.
Later, we started to experiment with celluloid and after that, everybody started doing home videos.
Adebayo Salami (OGA BELLO)
ADEBAYO Salami (a.k.a. Oga Bello) started acting in 1964 with the group, Youngsters Concert Party, a dance drama group.
His first major acting was in the Festival of Arts organised by the Lagos State Arts Council in 1970. He told Saturday Tribune: “I took a major role in the play that got our drama group to the first position.”
Salami, who got the stage name in 1970 when his drama group was to handle a show for the Nigerian Television Authority in a 20-minute comedy show called Comedy Train, said. “I was given the name Uncle Bello, because the producer Ilorin. Kwara State.”