Just as the film industry is still mourning the death of ace comedian, Pa Moses Adejumo (Baba Sala), another veteran actor and comedy giant, Chief Ola Omonitan, popularly known as ‘Ajimajasan’ passed on last week while battling a heart-related ailment. Both are from Ilesha. He died at 80 after a prolonged battle with a heart related ailment. City People visited him 2 weeks back at the South-East 3 wing of the University College Hospital, UCH, Ibadan, we met Ajimajasan was struggling to breathe. He breathed with the help of oxygen bag. He could barely speak too.
So pathetic was his case that his family members were advised, by the hospital, to take him home and be managing his health condition there. He was said to be suffering from an enlarged heart, spinal cord problem and prostrate cancer. Worst still, surgery was not an option as he couldn’t come under the scalpel owing to old age and his frail condition (he was 82). Half of his body, from abdomen to the head was what was functioning, the other part and legs were paralysed. In fact, he couldn’t do anything on his own. He was placed on an oxygen bag that costs not less than 7,500 naira daily. Not only that, there was a drug he took everyday that cost an average of 12k, depending on the chemist that sells it. All these exclude so many other expenses.
Ajimajasan, according to his first daughter and the eldest child, Ajike, who is a teacher, has been admitted at the hospital since September 17. “Though, he has been managing his health all this while, going for medical checkups regularly, but the condition degenerated some weeks back when he realised that he got tired easily, while walking. He was taken to a private hospital, from where he was referred to UCH after some checks were carried out on him. “We have been running all kinds of tests and scans, through which it was revealed that my father is having an enlarged heart, spinal cord problem and prostrate cancer. There was a part of his spinal cord that was said to have been shifted, thereby gathering some kind of pus. Since then we have been on it and sad enough surgery couldn’t be carried out on Baba because of his age,”she said.
It was also gathered that Ajimajasan has gone through major surgeries pertaining to prostate cancer.
Ajimajasan, is known for his comic acts in films in those days, having started his acting career at age 18. That was in the days of WNBC/WNTV in Ibadan. He formed his theatre group, Ajimajasan Theatre Group in 1968 with 10 members. Arikuyeri, Oloye Ajere, Jacob, Papalolo, Aderupoko, Iya Ijebu, Adamson, Baba Eleko (their stage names) were all part of the group. Until 3 among them, Jacob, Papalolo, and Aderupoko went to form their own group with permission from Ajimajasan.
He was the rave of the moment in the 70’s and 80’s with his brand of TV comedy plays. Based in Ibadan, Oyo State, together with Papalolo, Aderupoko and the late Jacob, they ruled the South West, Kwara and Kogi States, with their comedy plays particularly on the television. A few years back, Daily Sun had a chat with Ajimajasan in Ibadan, Oyo State, and he spoke about his life and career. Below are excerpts:
“I am Ola-Omonitan-born almost 7 decades ago in Ilesa Osun State. I started drama at age 18 with folk drama and not comedy. It was the time people watched play and burst into laughter. Between 1956/59, in the days of WNBC/WNTV, Duro Ladipo, Kola Ogunmola, Ayinla Olumegbon, Oyin Adejobi and Akin Ogungbe all of blessed memory, I was the youngest among them. Moses Olaiya was into juju music and magic then.
I could remember vividly Chief Lere Paimo was with Oyin Adejobi, before he joined the Duro Ladipo group.”
About his talent he revealed that it was given by God to whoever He pleases. It’s not sold in the market, mine is different from yours.
The most important thing is to discover it on time through prayer. Most of the plays I acted that made me popular were revealed to me by my grandmother in my dreams. Though, she died many years ago, yet the talent remains.” parental influence “I was brought up in a polygamous home.
Things were not smooth for me, because my father died at a very tender age. My mother picked the struggle from there to make sure I become something in life. She vehemently rejected the idea of being an artiste. After her effort to fix me back into school failed, she appealed to me to learn a trade. That led me to learning furniture making at Oke-Ado in Ibadan. I still participated in drama, without the knowledge of my mother. I only learnt apprenticeship to satisfy my mother, my main interest then was in drama.”
“At the beginning, things were so rough, I worked like a jackal to make a name. I didn’t see money as a priority in theatre, until now that everything has suddenly changed. I went into theatre to make people happy, learn, and share with the people, the experience of life at large. Ninety percent of the people who started drama then were there for fame, while money was secondary.”
On his Omonitan group “I formed my theatre group in 1968 with just a group of 10. I gave each member a stage name aside their real names, such as Arikuyeri, Oloye Ajere, Jacob, Papalolo, Aderupoko, Iya Ijebu, Adamson, Baba Eleko and my humble self Ajimajasan.”
“We were together for years until 3 among them, Jacob, Papalolo, and Aderupoko decided to graduate, I supported them on their mission. Some of my fans then frowned at it, believing that, their departure at that time would bring a set-back to Ajimajasan Theatre Group. I told them that God is the best knower.”
“I’m a human being, I am highly romantic. It is only my wife, who can testify to that.” On role model “I am a Christian. I believe that without God I am nothing. I don’t know enough. I keep on learning everyday. The strength comes from God, from prayers. My strength comes from having a close relationship with God that is the strength I have.”
Best Role “I haven’t thought of it, before now, but the most important thing is, if you are not ready to take a role, don’t take it. If you take a role, then fall in love with that character and play it to the best of your ability. When you do that, remember that every role is challenging.
“I don’t have any best or most challenging role. In every role, you are named to be a different person, with certain attributes and circumstances. From experience, what you do is to create illusion of being another person. So, it is challenging for any actor to play any role. My best play? I don’t know.”
How I came into limelight “The play that really brought me out was Ogunlaye. Omo Arayele, my first Yoruba play that was transmitted on the network. It was followed by Bata Wahala, another popular comedy play of 52 episodes. It focused on the government programme, War Against Indiscipline (WAI). Through that I became a star. The name Ajii became a household name.
Many people did not even know my real name. “One day, I was on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, very close to Gurumaraj village. The last thing I knew was that my driver was struggling with the steering of the car. I said Baba owo re ni mo fi emi mi le. The V- Booth Benz was a right-off, the driver died. How I survived the accident was beyond my imagination. The last thing I saw was a narrow gate to heaven. It was a drama beyond drama, before I went into coma. It was a terrible thing.”
On how he got the stage name Baba No Regret he explained that he took on that name as a consolation when people started making jest of me after that incident, that things had turned upside down for me. The meaning of Baba No Regret is that, as an artiste, a comedian, who makes people laugh, and happy, I have no reason to regret. I have so much belief in God.
I shall never regret being in the theatre industry in my life. I believe things will soon be okay for me, though, things were not as rosy for me as before. That incident ruined almost everything I laboured for.
I was on treatment in the hospital for almost 4 years, because I had internal injury. I thank God for His Mercy. I am gradually regaining my health. I am still alive, no regret.” Home videos “I never believed in castigating or condemning people’s work, but, as an experienced artiste, I believe in constructive criticism, which will yield positive result to all.
Truly, people release films, and market them, but the people who buy films are not fools. There, comes a time the customers demand will dictate the type of film to produce. If you spend huge amount of money to produce a film and at the end, the demand for it is relatively low. You won’t need anybody to advise you to produce something worthy, before you go for a quality work.
Most of the home videos now are commonly based on marital affairs. So, within a few minutes, the audience can easily predict its end, because it is no more a new thing to them. Let artistes touch other aspects of life. We artistes, mirror life, while the life we mirror is not static, let the home video makers diversify, produce meaningful films, which will hit the audience with a bang.
His last message to his fans was: “I assure them that God willing, I will be back on stage very soon. They should not relent in their efforts, because their prayers have positive impacts on me and my family. I will say without them, there wouldn’t be Ola-Omonitan (Ajimajasan). I love them all let them keep on supporting me with prayers. I assure them, my best is yet to come. I promise them more interesting comedy. I strongly believe in the Almighty God. I know He created me for a purpose and spearing my life in that accident was a clear demonstration that He made me for a special purpose.”