By Tony Ogaga, Damilola Fatunmise, Deji Aroloye, Christian Agadibe & Rita Okoye
EMOTIONS ran high yesterday as veteran actress, Bukky Zainab Ajayi, was laid to rest according to Islamic rites at Atan Cemetery, Yaba, Lagos, a few hours after her death. The thespian passed away early Wednesday morning after a brief illness. She was 82.
Until her death, Ajayi was one of Nollywood’s most experienced actresses. With movies like Mother of George, Indecent Girl, Diamond Ring, Witches, Thunderbolt, and Critical Assignment, the thespian definitely wrote her name in the annals of Nigerian movie industry.
Ajayi’s last public appearance, which many agreed as the climax of her career, was at the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA) held on March 5, 2016 at Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos where she was wheeled on stage to receive a well-deserved Life Achievement award. After receiving her plaque, Ajayi gave an emotional speech, which drew tears from not a few guests at the event.
“I wish I could stand up but if I stand up, I will fall down. You are all standing for me. Thank you. I am very grateful,” she said with tears.
Born February 2, 1934, Ajayi displayed a deep love for the theatre at a tender age and her father, who used to take her to watch movies, had influenced this.
Fondly called Mama Bukky Ajayi, the actress studied Drama at the Stanislavsky Institute of Drama, London. She worked briefly in London before returning to Nigeria in 1965 after which she kick-started a broadcasting career, working as an announcer, presenter and newscaster at Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
At NTA, Ajayi presented a couple of children’s programmes including Nigerian’s Sketches, which promoted Nigerian culture. However, the actress got her screen break when she secured her first TV role in the now rested popular drama series, Village Headmaster in the ‘70s. She went on to play a cameo in Amaka Igwe’s Checkmate. Despite her age, Ajayi never dumped acting, as she remained active in Nollywood until the very end of her life.
Meanwhile, tributes have begun to pour in for Bukky Ajayi. Among those who eulogized the late actress are veteran film producer, Eddy Ugboma, Ibinabo Fiberesima, Fred Amata, Jennifer Eliogu, Georgina Onuoha and Kemi Lala-Akindoju.
A great loss
-Eddy Ugboma, producer
She was an international artiste that worked in Germany and London before she finally came back to Nigeria. What a great loss to the industry. She is a far better actress than most of the ones we have today. I will personally miss her.
A shocking death
-Fred Amata, actor
As president of the Directors’ Guild of Nigeria, I received with shock news of the death of veteran actor, Bukky Ajayi. I commiserate with the immediate family and the entire Nollywood on this loss. May her gentle soul rest in peace.
She’ll be fondly remembered
Ibinabo Fiberesima, actress
I commiserate with the family of the late Bukky Zainab Ajayi. She will be fondly remembered. May her gentle soul rest in peace.
A blessing to Nollywood
-Jennifer Eliogu, actress/singer
Bukky Ajayi lived a good life. She was a blessing to her family, friends and also Nollywood. Thank you for everything. Rest in the bosom of the Lord.
A great woman
-Bayray McNwizu, actress
Bukky Ajayi is a great woman. I can’t bring myself to say ‘was’. This generation is thankful for the life she lived. Rest Well.
She gave all to acting
-Omotunde Adebowale (Lolo of Wazobia FM)
Here is a woman who gave her all to the profession she cherished. I am happy she was celebrated at the AMVCAs. May her soul rest in peace.
I’ve always dreamt of playing her daughter in movies
– Rachael Okonkwo, actress
She was a gift from God. I have always dreamt of playing her daughter in movies, but it’s quite unfortunate that never happened. Rest in the bosom of the Lord.
Stars don’t die
– Tracy and Treasure Daniels, actors
Stars don’t die; they wax in glory. She shone morning, noon and night. She shone all the way to glory. Sleep in the bosom of the Lord, mama-
It’s my ambition to act with her
-Nkechi Emmanuel, actress
I didn’t get to meet and act with her, which was my dream, but I know we will act together when we meet to part no more. Rest on mama.
She came, she saw and she conquered
-Queen Blessing Ebigieson, actress
Bukky Ajayi was a very brilliant actress. One thing I can say for sure is Nollywood just lost one of the best actors. She came, she saw and she conquered. May her soul rest in peace.
A breath of fresh air
-Georgina Onuoha, actress
She was a breath of fresh air. I was fortunate to share moments with her. She will forever be loved and remembered. Adieu Mama Bukky Ajayi.
I regret not working with her
-Folashade Olona, actress
It’s so unfortunate that I didn’t work with her. May Almighty Allah forgive her sins and make the grave easy for her to rest.
She mentored me
–Adeniyi Johnson, actor
We lost a mother. With her heart of gold, she mentored and made me confident when I was nobody as far back as 2009.
A legend has gone
-Kemi Lala-Akindoju, actress
A legend has taken a bow! Thanks for all you did.
She lived for noble course
-Bimbo Thomas, actress
I’m still feeling her last speech at the AMVCA and tears are rolling down my eyes, and I ask myself, why can’t we celebrate our icons when they are still with us? Bukky Ajayi lived for a noble course and she shall forever be remembered.
Her death is painful
Femi Branch, actor
Her passing is both painful and glorious. Painful because she was such a lovely soul and glorious, because we got a chance to celebrate her one last time. Thanks to the AMVCAs. Rest on Mama.