It’s been a harvest of deaths in the Yoruba section of the Nigerian movie industry midway into the year, and these tragic developments have created a haunting panic among industry stakeholders. Nothing really captures the mood of the sub-sector right now more than the groaning of veteran actor, Yinka Quadri, upon hearing of the death of popular actress, Moji Olaiya, whose death occurred two days ago. A 42-year-old mother of two, Olaiya died of heart attack in a hospital in Canada.
She had been delivered of a baby girl in March, almost 18 years after she gave birth to her first child, Adunoluwa. Quadri’s poser: “What is really happening, why are our loved ones going too soon?” is a rhetorical question all right but one heavily pregnant with meaning. The year began on a sad note as the Yoruba movie industry recorded its first death of 2017 as veteran actress, Toyin Majekodunmi popularly known as Iya Kike in Yoruba movie circles, died on January 2.
The cause of the death of the actress married to a fellow actor, Solomon Majekodunmi aka ‘Baba Kekere’, was never officially announced but news of her death was shared by actress and movie producer, Bimbo Success. Late Mrs. Majekodunmi featured in numerous Yoruba movies and often starred alongside her husband and popular actors including Yinka Quadri, Jide Kosoko and many others.
Prior to launching her movie career, she worked with the Lagos State Ministry of Information for many years just as her husband also worked in the international banking division at First Bank Plc. Just some two weeks ago, on May 7 in particular, another sad chapter was opened about the industry.
Like a thunderbolt, it announced the death of ace actor, Samuel Adesanya a.k.a. Pastor Ajidara. At 62, Adesanya reportedly died of kidney failure and his wife, Atinuke Adesanya, who confirmed the death, said the actor died at Mercy Hospital, Onikolobo area of Abeokuta, Ogun State where he was receiving dialysis treatment.
Two days before his death, Adesanya’s family had called for financial support of N12million from the public following his doctor’s recommendation that he would need a kidney transplant to survive. Ironically, Adesanya was said to have been owed about N4 million by the Ogun State government as a retiree of the Ogun State Judiciary.
He retired from the service on July 2, 2015 but was yet to get his retirement benefits until he died. The wife of Adesanya, who until his death was the governor of Ogun State Chapter of Theatre Art and Movie Producers Association of Nigeria (TAMPAN), said her husband’s illness started shortly after an auto crash in 2012.
The world woke up to a rude shock on Saturday, April 22 when news broke and the headlines screamed that consummate actor, Olumide Bakare had died. Owing to the number of persons answering the same name, people probed if it was the man with the showbiz moniker, Chief Koko. Alas, their greatest fear was confirmed as it became clear that the 65-year-old veteran actor had finally succumbed to death by heart and lung disease.
We remember that he earned his alias as Chief Koko, a troublesome landlord in the rested popular TV Series, Koko Close back in the ‘80s and as well a stint in the sitcom, Oluwa Lanbe Lodge later on in the ‘90s. Late Bakare had traversed the world of acting with stellar outings in Yoruba/Nollywood films and several soap operas which include Papa Ajasco, Ise Onise, Aye Olorogun, Iboji, Maami and Last Flight to Abuja, just to mention a few.
He had suffered from the ailment since 2013 and was flown abroad for a surgery deemed successful but which later relapsed this year. He’d once solicited funds from the public to foot a N30,000 daily medical bill before he was moved to the University College Hospital in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Saturday Telegraph gathered that he had a successful surgery to correct a respiratory disease and even told well-wishers he was fine two hours before he passed on. As the industry mourned the deceased, many also recalled the lifestyle shortcomings he admitted in an interview with Encomium Magazine in 2013 which reads in part: “I have not completely stopped but I have slowed down. I don’t know how to tell lies. I still smoke and drink. I still find time to sleep with women. But the truth is that I am not doing all these things as before.
And the fact still remains that I am not properly married.” Asked if he was taking any precautions to curtail his habits, the actor had said: “Let me tell you one thing about life. God doesn’t care about habit but your heart. How clean is your heart to God and people around you? How do you sail across the ocean of your life and all that? All these are what God cares about. It is not about whether you smoke or drink.
Even those who don’t smoke and drink, worse things happen to them. I am a very straight forward person I have been in all these habits for about 45 years and I want to tell you, no shaking.” On April 5, the death of fast-rising Yoruba actress, Modupe Oyekunle was announced to the public.
The actress reportedly passed on at a clinic during childbirth after apparently suffering complications that couldn’t be resolved. Widely popular for her lead role as Sandra in the blockbuster, Ibi Giga produced by Segun Ogungbe, the actress was said to have dominated the movie scene with her Igi Aloye caucus in Abeokuta.
The actress, who was also fondly referred to as ‘oyinbo’ because of her complexion, was a wife and mother of three children. One of those who rained tributes on Moji Olaiya was her colleague, Femi Branch, who recalled: “We were mere colleagues until the day we had a certain discussion in Sagamu with Aunty `Fali Werepe` and you rose in my defense.
I have recounted this tale to more people than I can recall and in every instance, the mention of your sincere intervention was the highlight of my tale. That day, I knew the good hearted Moji Olaiya and for as long as I have the gift of memory, Mojisola Olaiya will remain embedded in my heart.
Sleep well `MJ’. May God erect a canopy of protection over your children and the family you left behind. Lord, please stay this hand of death moving over our industry and please open our eyes to know that life belongs to you and only you can give it in abundance.”
She’s known for her roles in Nollywood movies across Yoruba and English genres, such as Sade Blade (2005), Nkan adun (2008) and Omo iya meta leyi (2009), Moji Olaiya began her acting career with Wale Adenuga’s production, Super Story, and featured in ‘No Pains No Gains’ among others. She also starred in the Agunbaniro. In 2016 she released a film, Iya Oko Mi, starring Foluke Daramola and Funsho Adeolu, which was scheduled to premiere in Lagos in July.