For the renowned father of Nigerian comedy, Moses Olaiya better known by his stage name 'Baba Sala', life was a mix of interesting variables.
However, in the early hours of Monday October 8, 2018, Nigerians woke up to the news that Baba Sala — the man whose trademark appearance was never complete without oversized glasses and bowtie to match, pipe in the mouth, and a comic swagger that brought smiles to the faces of all present whenever he mounted the theatrical stage to perform his art — had passed on.
News of his death was revealed by his media assistant, Isaac Hastrup, who noted that he died of old age-related sickness.
Confirming the death of his father, Emmanuel Adejumo, a post by one of his sons on his Facebook read: "My Daddy is gone. Finally gone home to glory. King of comedy finally says bye-bye to this world". The body of the comedian was deposited at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex Annex, (Wesley Guild Hospital), Ilesa.
Born on May 18, 1936 in Ilesha, Osun State, Baba Sala started acting at a very young age and enjoyed an illustrious career that saw him touring different parts of Nigeria. During his 82 years on earth, the comedian was married to 18 wives and had about 50 children.
He began his journey into showbiz as a musician in 1964, when he joined the 'Federal Rhythm Dandies' band. Baba Sala began to create highlife music and was instrumental in paving the way for music icon, Sunday Ishola Adeniyi a.k.a. King Sunny Ade (KSA), whom he taught how to play the guitar. The comedian had great love for KSA so much that when he chose to focus on acting, he gave up his musical instruments and drums to the singer — an action he would later seem to regret as he claims that his love for drama made him unable to maintain his voice, as he abandoned music.
After the death of the comedian was announced, several tributes has been pouring in for the late Nigerian icon who taught Nigerians how to laugh through his comic performances. In a tweet on Tuesday, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar said the late comedian belonged to a generation that invested in high quality home videos.
“Baba Sala belonged to a generation that pioneered Nigeria’s entertainment industry by investing to make high quality home videos. He brought fun and laughter into our homes. It’s my prayer that he will find rest even as his family is comforted and strengthened,” the tweet read.
Speaker of the Osun State House of Assembly, Najeem Salaam, commiserated with the family, while noting that Nigerians are highly indebted to the late comedian whose talent brought bright smiles to Nigerians.
In a statement on Monday signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Goke Butika, the Speaker described the comedian's death as the end of an era in the entertainment industry.
The statement read: “Late Apostle Adejumo was an enigma who redefined comedy and brought many people to work in the entertainment industry. The way and manner Baba Sala unleashed his talents from 60s was so maverick that Nigerians in thousands will continue to remember him for bringing them therapeutic laughter and lessons of life. We owe Baba Sala a debt of gratitude for he unleashed his talent to make people happy and learn through his comedy, and his comedy exploits brought our country, particularly our state, to a good map in the entertainment universe."
Eulogising his father, the son of the late comedian, Emmanuel said that although his father was not wealthy, he was someone who was rich in the knowledge of God.
“Though he was not wealthy, he was rich in the knowledge of God and he had a wealth of experience. He would tell us that his own father did not encourage him to be a comedian, that he didn’t have anybody to advise him when he was growing up, but he was always guiding us and praying for us. He was a prayerful man. He was a Godly person He never missed morning and evening prayers. If there was anything he was expecting, or any grip he wanted to undertake, he would instruct all of us to pray and fast for the thing to happen. We all learnt this from him," he told The Punch.
He further revealed that his father had forgiven those responsible for the pirating one of his movies, 'Orun Mooru'.
For bringing a turn-around even when circumstances proved otherwise, Baba Sala will be remembered as the humour merchant who taught Nigerians how to laugh.