The death of veteran actor, legendary comedian and ace film producer, Moses Olaiya Adejumo, alias Baba Sala, has thrown the nation’s entertainment industry and lovers of comedy into mourning. His death on October 7 at the age of 81, without doubt, marked the end of a glorious career in acting that spanned many decades.
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Born in Ilesha, Osun State, in 1937, Olaiya started acting in secondary school. When he came to Lagos, he became a driver and later a sanitary inspector. Later, he ventured into music and founded Moses Olaiya and His Federal Rhythm Dandies in 1960.
From music, he later changed to comic acts laced with music and dancing. He was reputed to have taught King Sunny Ade, then Prince Sunny Adegeye, how to play the guitar. The humorous man that many regard as the ‘King of Comedy’, was known for his trademark large bowtie, big spectacles, alarm clock and pipe. He set up the Moses Olaiya International Alawada Theatre Limited in 1969 and toured many parts of the South West and abroad with the group.
The deceased produced many films including the popular Orun Mooru (1982), Aare Agbaye (1983), Mosebolatan (1985), and Agba Man (1992). Since his passage, prominent Nigerians have eulogised his sterling qualities. According to Prof. Ola Oni of the University of Lagos, “Baba Sala was the last of the titans of the Yoruba Travelling Theatre, which comprises Hubert Ogunde, Duro Ladipo and Kola Ogunmola.”
Of the trio, Oni said: “Olaiya came with a different genre of production aesthetics. While Ogunde was show business-like, Duro Ladipo was historical and Kola Ogunmola was a quintessential actor.” In all, Oni concluded that “Baba Sala was a comedian extraordinaire and he became so popular with his style of presentation. He was completely avant garde.
He drew large audiences where he performed as Lamidi in production. He brought a different flair to theatre development in Nigeria between 1970s and 80s.” To Prof. Barclays Ayakoroma of Nasarawa State University, Keffi, “Baba Sala was an inspiration to us as young boys who had interest in theatre.”
Similarly, popular musician, Evangelist Ebenezer Obey-Fabiyi, said that Nigeria had lost one of the greatest artistes/comedians. He started his life as a musician and translated to theatre arts. The Alawada group reigned for so many years even after Hubert Ogunde, Ladipo, Ogunmola, among others.”
To Teju Kareem of ZMirage, Olaiya was “a man who gave us the face of comedy appreciation. He made us to understand the import of comedy as a correction tool of entertainment. Baba Sala’s genre stuck in our memory…He was a good example of what theatre should be.” Olaiya uplifted the beauty of Nigerian culture to a higher level.
As a renowned thespian, traditionalist, and one of the early practitioners of comedy, he exported joy and laughter to many a home. His plays traversed every aspect of Yoruba lifestyle and by extension, Nigerian culture. Some people try to learn the Yoruba Language in order to understand what he was saying. In his death, Nigeria has lost a great traditionalist and a great lover of Yoruba culture.
He taught many Yoruba actors the thespian act. In 1978, he was given the national honour of the Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) by the Olusegun Obasanjo military regime. Despite this honour, the government should immortalise him for his contributions to the development of entertainment industry, especially comedy.
As a pioneer comedian, he was indeed a role model. Let those in the entertainment industry emulate his shining example. We commiserate with his family, the entertainment industry and his fans throughout the world. May his merry soul rest in peace.