Theatre legend, comedian par excellence, and one of the leading lights in the Yoruba language film genre, Moses Olaiya Adejumo, aka Baba Sala, died on Sunday at his home in Ilesha, Osun State, aged 81. Until his death, he was the minister in charge of the Sacred Cherubim and Seraphim Church, Idasa Model Parish and council district headquarters.
A quintessential thespian, prolific filmmaker and comedian par excellence, described as the grandfather of comedy in Nigeria, for his pioneering efforts in the comedy genre, Baba Sala was one of the pioneers of Yoruba language films in Nigeria. He is regarded as the father of modern Nigerian comedy, and he, alongside other dramatists such as Hubert Ogunde, Kola Ogunmola, Oyin Adejobi and Duro Ladipo, popularized theatre and television acting in Nigeria. He laid the foundation for comedy that has taken Nigeria’s creative industry by storm. Born on May 17, 1937, Baba Sala started out as a civil servant and a sanitary inspector.
He also worked as a part-time teacher. Significantly, Baba Sala started his career in show business as a Highlife musician. And by 1964 he was the head of a group known as Federal Rhythm Dandies, where he tutored and mentored his lead guitarist, Sunday Ishola Adeniyi Adegeye, who later become known as King Sunny Ade. The Federal Rhythm Dandies band was the toast of Nigerian elites.
By 1969, Baba Sala 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. Whether on stage or on screen, he was unique with his comedy, which gradually and steadily became very popular. But beyond the stage and screen, he was a great father, a mentor and devout Christian.
As his son, Emmanuel, who is also an actor and popularly known as Boi Sala, puts it, “My father was a very nice person. Anything that has to do with God, he doesn’t joke with it. He loves God, worships Him, and he made sure that all of us follow the same direction. Apart from being a wonderful artiste, he was also a wonderful father. As he was funny on stage, so he was also funny at home.
He picked the comic side of every situation. He did not take life a do or die thing. He was 81 years old on May 17, this year 2018.” It was therefore not surprising the torrents of tributes that have continued to pour in for the late film and theatre legend. The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, expressed profound sadness, saying the death of Baba Sala has robbed the nation of an incomparable Thespian and a colossus of his time. In a statement signed by his Special Assistant, and issued in Abuja on Monday, the Minister described Baba Sala as a trail blazer, as he – along with his contemporaries – laid the foundation for the theatre and comedy that have now taken Nigeria’s creative industry by storm. He said, “Baba Sala’s sacrifices, contribution and commitment played a great role in launching an industry that is now a huge employer of labour and a significant contributor to the nation’s economy.
Through it all, he lived a life of honesty and service that qualified him as a great role model,” Mohammed said. He condoled with the family of the late Baba sala, and prayed that God will grant repose to his soul and also grant his family the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss. Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, expressed sadness over the death of as Baba Sala. He urged the Federal Government to immortalise the late theatre icon by naming a befitting national monument after him as a mark of honour and encouragement to both present and future artistes in the country.
Saraki, in a statement Tuesday in Abuja by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu, described the late Baba Sala as a prolific artiste who contributed immensely to the development of the nation’s movie industry in particular and arts and culture in general, during his lifetime.
“Baba Sala was a legend who through dint of hard work, tenacity and creative inventiveness, pioneered comedy and made theatre and television sitcoms and skits a culture embraced by the masses. “His regular dose of hilarity and wisecracks enlivened households across the country in unquantifiable ways. He was pivotal to making comedy a major art form in Nigeria, and we are seeing his impact in the comic superstars we have today,” the Senate President said. He noted that Baba Sala brought laughter into people’s lives.
“He was a true hero who embodied the quintessential Nigerian spirit of growing from obscurity to stardom. He lived an impactful life and helped to discover and groom talents – some of whom are today leading lights in the Nigerian music and film industries. “I join millions of fans to mourn the passage of this comic genius whose movies served as a forerunner to Nollywood. He was a prolific artist and left his footprints on the sands of time. He shall be missed.” He commiserated with the immediate family of the deceased, the Nigerian movie industry, the government and people of Osun State and all lovers of comedy across the country over the loss of such a huge talent.
The Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, commiserated with the Adejumo Abogunloko family of Ijoka Ilesa, on the death of Pa Moses Olaiya aka Baba Sala. Aregbesola, in a statement issued in Osogbo on Tuesday by his media aide, Mr Sola Fasure, described Baba Sala as a theatre veteran, a comedian par excellence and a humour merchant of no mean feat.
He said: “I received the news of the death of Pa Moses Olaiya aka Baba Sala, with a deep and irreplaceable sense of loss. He has been in our prayers since he battled with ailments arising from old age for some time now. His death is significant in that he has gone to rest with his Lord permanently. “Nevertheless, his exit signified an end to his own brand of comedy, which no one can rival or beat. His death has therefore left a yawning gap in the theatre arena in the country. Pa Moses Olaiya Adejumo was undoubtedly a theatre veteran, a comedian par excellence and a humour merchant of no mean feat. He was a multi-talented artiste whose works straddled music, theatre and comedy.
He had a travelling theatre troupe, performing in concerts, got his works recorded on vinyl and LP albums, cassettes, cartridge, celluloid, CD, video CD and DVD. He was also an entrepreneur, with significant investments in entertainment, hotels and recreation. “He would forever be remembered for his creativity, dramatic simplicity, far-reaching and ribcracking humour.” Also, former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, described the late Baba Sala, as a rare-breed comedian who was imbued with the ability of cheering up even the most melancholic.
Oyinlola, who stated this in a condolence message, added that the death, on Sunday night, of Baba Sala marked the end of a golden era in the movie industry, and urged the younger generation of artistes to honour the memories of Adejumo and other great actors that had died before him by carrying the torch and consolidating their accomplishments. “Late Baba Sala is a hard-working humour merchant whose achievements and contributions to Nigeria’s entertainment industry should inspire contemporary filmmakers. “The talent of the deceased, especially in the prime of his career, spoke volumes as he lifted the souls of movie enthusiasts through his rib-cracking jokes,” he said.
The National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP), also paid glowing tributes to the late Baba Sala, describing him as the last of his generation of pioneers of Nigerian theatre. NANTAP president, Isreal Eboh, in a statement, said the late Baba Sala has left an indelible mark and an impressive legacy of courage, dedication, hardwork, discipline and commitment to the theatre vocation.
He extended the heartfelt condolences of the members of NANTAP to the Moses Adejumo family on the death of the legendary and iconoclastic comic artiste Prophet Moses Olaiya Adejumo who is popularly known as Baba Sala. Eboh described the passing of Baba Sala as the “end of an era” since, according to him, “he was the last of his generation of pioneers of Nigerian theatre”. He added that NANTAP joined the family and other ad- mirers in mourning the elder artiste who had a distinguished career as a thespian.
“He brought joy to millions and exemplified the spirit of adventure synonymous with most Nigerians. He created many classics that will ensure his memory lives with us forever,” Eboh said. Among the first entertainers to react to the death of the theatre legend were Gbenga Adeyinka the 1st and music icon, King Sunny Ade. King Sunny Ade took to Instagram on Monday, where he posted a photo of the late comedy icon along with a moving tribute. “RIP Baba Sala you are truly a Legend & Thespian we are all going to miss, I felt so sad when I heard the demise of the great comedian,” he wrote. Gbenga Adeyinka the 1st also posted a photo of the late Baba Sala on his Instagram account on Monday, revealing via the caption that Baba Sala was his mentor.
“Adieu, my mentor,” he wrote. Veteran actor and filmmaker, Adebayo Salami, popularly known as Oga Bello, also paid tribute to Baba Sala as he posted pictures of the late veteran on his Instagram, writing: “The news of your demise came to me as a shock. No matter how old good people grow, we still don’t want them to die. Yet, death is an integral part of the existence cycle. Pa Moses Olaiya, you were a pathfinder, a creator of fun, a leader and an eclectic thespian. We shall miss you greatly. On behalf of my family and I, it’s our prayer that God bless your soul.”
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