Baba Sala is gone

•Moses Adejumo, committed comedian is no more

He was a committed comedian. He defined his brand by creating and playing a character that not only appeared in a comical costume but also spoke and acted comically.

He said in an interview: “I just thought of specialising, of doing something unique, that’s how I struck on comedy. You know, it makes people to laugh. So, we developed the character, Baba Sala. He had to be a retired PWD worker, fed and clothed by his wife, while he does the home chores – just to make things funny.” He was better known by his stage name, which was a reflection of its appeal.

Moses Olaiya Adejumo died on October 7, aged 82. He enjoyed a massive following in his heyday, particularly in southwest Nigeria where his Yoruba comedies were magnetic. Born in Ilesa in present-day Osun State, Adejumo attended Obokun High School, Ilesa. After he left the school in 1959, he got a job as a health officer at the Lagos City Council. He learnt to play the guitar and performed with bands. He later formed his own band.

Adejumo switched from music to acting. This was the beginning of his active years as an actor.  He explained: “What happened was that we normally had intervals during our performances, during which we staged drama sketches to break the tedium of music and dance. Now, people increasingly expressed interest in that more and so in 1965, we rested the band and went into full-scale drama.” It was a measure of his acting talent that the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service gave him a contract to do skits on radio.  His success on radio led to his television appearances.

The artiste became a businessman as Adejumo established businesses, including a recording company, a chain of hotels and a cinema. His dynamism took him into film-making. His reasoning: ”Film paid better than stage productions, because you can show it at three, four or more venues at the same time and that fetched you a lot of money, many times more than one stage production can give you.”

Sadly and ironically, Adejumo fell on hard times on account of his involvement in film-making. He never fully recovered from the financial loss he suffered as a result of the piracy of his first film, Orun Mooru (1982).  He was a victim of his fame. Indeed, his death is a poignant reminder that piracy continues to thrive in the country, wrecking creative minds and destroying lives.  Adejumo’s death should put anti-piracy efforts on the front burner.  Though he released other films after the first fiasco, Aare Agbaye (1983) andMosebolatan (1985), there was no doubt that Adejumo had become a shadow of his former self.

But Adejumo’s recognition remained undiminished. In addition to his 1978 national award, Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), Adejumo attracted significant honours for his professional distinction: The Legendary Award for Achievement and Excellent contribution to entertainment in Africa, London; Merit Award by Radio Nigeria, Gold F.M Ilesa Osun State; Nigeria Union of Journalists, Osun State Broadcasting Corporation (OSBC) 2000 (Leadership Award); NTA Ibadan at 50 Award for Outstanding Contributions to TV Broadcasting in Nigeria; Golden Comedian Award.

Comedy and comedians have changed in Nigeria, but Adejumo’s enduring relevance is the unique creativity he brought to his performances and the passion that took precedence over materialism. His words: “Bring something unique on board, that was the secret of the success of the Alawada brand. It was a new idea. I didn’t copy anybody.” Adejumo was socially conscious. His comedies provoked laughter, but they were also meant to provoke thinking. He will be remembered for his cultural services.

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Author: Editorial