- Speaks On BABASALA’s Last Days
+The Story Of His FAME & WOMEN
When the news broke, two Sundays back, many took it as one of those rumours it is the news that ace comedian, Baba Sala whose real name is Moses Adejumo was dead. It was so because he had been rumoured to be dead many times in the past few years. In fact, last year he was said to have been dead twice within a space of the week and it all turned out to be a rumour as usual. But this time around its been confirmed that Baba Sala is dead. He died in Ilesha, his hometown, in the night of Sunday 7th October 2018, around 10 pm. He died peacefully after having his dinner on the day at the age of 82. He was born 18th May 1936.
The news of his death, however, has not only hit the theatre industry so bad but the society generally. This, of course, is expected of a man who didn’t only contribute immensely to the growth of the movie industry but the entertainment world as a whole. He was a phenomenon in his field and his acting prowess was legendary. He could best be described as the grandfather of modern comedy in Nigeria. Back in those days, when acting was still acting; Baba Sala and his ‘Awadakeriri Group’ were so popular and known for television series and stage plays. Baba Sala was a prolific film writer and producer with several works to his credit; he produced films like ‘Orunnmoru’, ‘Mosebolatan’, ‘Aareagbaye’, ‘Agbaman’ and the list goes on. That is to tell little about how successful Baba Sala was in his active years. Having metamorphosed from being a Highlife musician (leading Federal Rhythm Dandies group) to a complete entertainer, in the theatre industry with special interest in comedy. But before he died, all kinds of things were said concerning his health status. There was a fashion of the story that he was suffering from stroke, that he was broke and needed help to enabling him access better health care and all that. Hearing all these, one couldn’t but curious to know the true position of things. Did Baba Sala really suffer a stroke before he died? Did he die poor?
It was the curiosity and the urge to find answers to the many questions surrounding Baba Sala’s last moments on earth that prompted City People to travel to Ilesha, the hometown of the late veteran comedian; where we spoke extensively to Pa Moses Olaiya Adejumo’s eldest son, Pastor Dele Adejumo, at Baba’s residence, Abiola Avenue, Grace Olabisi Street, off Ijebu-Jesha Road, Ilesha, Osun State. He opened up on the many lies been peddled about his late father, his true health status before he died. He spoke about what his last moments like and many other issues. Our visit also coincided with that of many other sympathisers who came to pay their condolences. It included a powerful delegation from the Association of Nigeria Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTP) which had the like of Chief Lere Paimo (Eda Onileola), Chief Jimoh Aliu (Aworo), Pa Wole Olowomojuore (Baba Gebu) and Members of Baba Sala’s Church, the Sacred C.S Church, Idasa Number 1, Ilesha. Below are excerpts of his conversations with City Peoples DARE ADENIRAN in Ilesha.
As the eldest child of Pa Moses Adejumo, kindly share with us what were his last moments like? How and when did he die?
Well, to the glory of God it was a peaceful exit for Baba. In fact, there was no sign that he was going to die because he was very okay at the time his death occurred. Of course, we are all aware of the fact that age has been telling on his health; there were many things he couldn’t do again. On that day after the Church service, he ate and even had his dinner on that Sunday night. It happened right inside his room around 10 pm. According to those around him, it was raining that night and people attending to him saw him shivering but they felt probably it would have been so because of cold as a result of the rain. They applied balm on his body and they felt it was time for him to take his medications and go to bed. But they noticed he refused to take the medications and that was all.
How did you take the news and what was the first thing that came to your mind?
When I got the news, painful though, but the first thing I said was that ‘’Glory be to God’’. Then I asked them if they have really confirmed? Was there any doctor around to confirm? And then I called my sister’s husband who lives in Ilesha, to drive his wife down because that my sister happens to be a Medical consultant. But before could get to the house members and medical personnel from the Church have already gotten to the house and did all the necessary things.
But from the last moments you spent with him, did you notice any sign he was going to die?
My last moment with him was September 16th, precisely on Sunday when we had our annual family Thanksgiving in the Church, which we all came home fro. I wanted to head back straight to Lagos from the Church. But before the end of the service, he was allowed to go and rest. So I went beside the car to greet him, he was just praying for me. No hint whatsoever that he was going to die. But what I noticed was that he was so happy, perhaps seeing me preaching that day; because I was the one preached in the Church that day. Even the previous day before that Sunday, we were together in his room and it was just the normal chatting, nothing serious.
You said there were some things Baba couldn’t do again before he died, like finding it difficult to speak? Because the story out there was that he suffered a stroke. What really was the nature of his illness?
He had never suffered a stroke. He never had anything like that.
Where then did the stroke story come from?
People were sharing all sorts of stories probably because of his personality as a star. He never had a stroke; though sometimes the weakness could kind of tell on his body that he may not be active as he used to. That was not unconnected with old age and how he spent his youth days; he was very active on stage and all that.
And as expected of a superstar that he was then, women will naturally flock around him too?
May be that too.
But there was this story that it got to a point that Baba had to cry out for financial help in order to allow him to access a good healthcare?
All those things were insinuations of people. Like yesterday now, people were already putting it on facebook that we are seeking help for the burial, which we have not had any meeting yet. He never asked anybody for any special help. It is only that some genuine people have been saying that at least, with all his contribution to the society that people should at least show that kind of compassion, to appreciate him, even from the government but he had never personally asked anybody for anything.
What about the book that was said to have been launched to raise money for him?
The book was written by some journalists who had worked closely with him in the past years; it is all about his Biography and was not to raise fund but to celebrate my dad.while he was alive. The authors are Akinola Babatunde, Collins Oyedokun, Kunle Ajayi.
Did the launch achieve the purpose it was planned to achieve?
Unfortunately, the turnout was not as impressive as expected but some important personalities, as well as some traditional rulers and government official representatives, were there. But even up till now, many of those who promised have not done anything. I am speaking on behalf of those guys that planned the event now because I was there to represent Baba. That was December last year in Lagos, at Oriental Hotels.
So why all these stories that Baba was poor, he had a stroke, begging for money and all that? Why didn’t you come out to speak against such claims, for them not to tarnish your family’s name?
That is a major issue with the media, especially the social media. As a matter of fact, at least I went to Rave T.V before the book launch; because it was before that time that they had already started carrying all kinds of rumours; that they wanted to launch a book to raise fund and all that. I spoke on the program that the book launch was not to raise funds but to celebrate Baba. I was also at the Fresh F.M in Ibadan to speak on the same subject. I also spoke with some newspaper journalists.
As the eldest child you must have shared some memorable times with your late dad, how would you describe him?
It has always been a pleasant time with him; mostly we spent time together in prayer. We spent a great deal of time together on devotions. He was a God fearing man, he loved people. There was no how you come to my father sad and go back the same way. I was aware of the fact that many people used to come to him for assistance and to the best of my knowledge he will do everything possible within his capacity solving peoples’ problems. There was a time I took him to the American Embassy, thinking he was the one travelling out of the country but to my surprise, he went there to refer someone for visa. That was even at his old age, as early as 4 am fro that matter. That was how caring my father was.
What was your growing up like, as Baba Sala’s son?
Growing up then, we did not really value what we had back then. It was kind of a normal thing. Like when I was in high school they call me Lamidi, my father’s stage name “Lamidi Baba Sala’’. Some of my colleagues still call me Lamidi up till now. But thank God that my father left a good legacy. He gave us something to live on. During his lifetime, he also protected the name and that is what we are also doing. He made us understand that that is the best thing he has got, the name.
In your relationship with him as father and son during when he was still acting, the challenging period and now that he is dead. What have you learnt in all these?
One great thing I have learnt is that there is nothing too difficult in this life that can take life from somebody. What do I mean? There is no situation that is too difficult that can claim life unless we give in into it. Because what my father went through that could have destroyed him didn’t have effect as such over his life and relationship with God and his family. Like the issue of piracy that people thought that was the end for him. He was still acting and you will still seem him in the dancing or preaching as nothing has ever happened. His lifestyle at home was normal as it was before the incident. Despite the tension, the burden, the pressure on him; we knew he was owing banks and all. But he didn’t allow that weigh him down.
The issue of piracy on his major blockbuster Orunmooru must have contributed to his health challenges later in the years?
That was never the issue. Orun Mooru was pirated in 1984. Though the debt was there, we knew that was a great burden for him on how to offset the debt. So all those things were there that we knew but he was doing everything he could to the extent that it got to a time that he began to sell his properties. All that time he never broke down. His health status never changed. So the issue of his health was due to stress, the rigorous rehearsals. Also, it was like a boxer who had been very active in the ring and then after a while just stopped; no exercise, no fight and all. It will definitely tell on his body.
What other businesses was Baba into in his lifetime apart from acting?
Most of his investments are within the entertainment. He has Alawada Records, Ibukun Alawada Photo Magazine Production and Hotels.
What is happening to those investments now?
Those investments, I would say have not been so active for a long time because of his commitment to the Church and as well I will say none of the children so far or mostly really has interest. Though we are already having some of the children, who are showing interest in the film production now. So by the grace of God, there is an arrangement for all the investments to be revived. We are working towards that and even do more for his memory, to immortalise him.
So with all these things and challenges that came later would you say Baba Sala died poor or rich?
The issue is that from time, he was not a rich man but he was famous and comfortable. He didn’t beg. The same way the Bible says ‘we didn’t bring anything to the earth and we won’t take anything away’. So, he died naturally. ‘’He didn’t die poor. He died comfortably and we give God the glory.’’
What really went wrong in the issue of Orun Moru and the aftermath effect of the whole saga?
Like I used to tell people, the Orun Moru saga didn’t really have an effect on my father. The only thing was that after he left the theatre he got much committed with the Church. So there was no immediate person to take over from him. Because by the time he was retiring to Church most of the older children were abroad.
How far with the legal aspect of the Orunmooru incident?
There was a legal action but it wasn’t successful. That was about over 30 years ago. There is nothing we can do now if noting was done that time legally. I knew there was kind of court case with the people that were involved and at the end of the of the days it was like
Baba also did some other jobs after Orunmooru, were they as huge as Orunmooru?
The issue of Orunmooru, being his first complete project, was because before then he had been having firm insertions; stage plays and all that. And that was why he invested so much in the firm. To the glory of God, the storyline, the technical and everything about Orunnmoru was of good quality. The film met with the great expectations of the people during that time and when it finally came it satisfied the urges of the people. It was highly accepted. It will take the special grace of God to produce something as big as that. Though another film was on before Orunnmoru was pirated, ‘Aareagbaye’ was already in the market before ‘Orunnmorun’ was pirated. ‘Aareagbaye’ was not as huge as ‘Orunmoru’ because the expectation then was to see something related to elections of 1983. Orunnmorun came out in 1982. After then ‘Mosebolatan’ came up in 1986. The likes of ‘Obegbona’, ‘Agbaman’, ‘Ana Gomina’ and many others came out.
In those days and even now in the entertainment world, women always flock around stars. Was it the same thing for Baba Sala?
Well, that is true. Baba did his own bit in that aspect too.
How many wives would say your dad had?
I can’t say precisely unless you want me to sit down and start counting.
Roughly put, how many can you pick?
About 18 or 20
How many are you, the children?
We are many.
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Bamidele Adejumo. To the glory of God, I am the first child of the family. I am a pastor. However, we thank God for the comments and contributions of people so far, concerning Baba. What people have been saying, the tributes and all. We pray that God will console all of us. Because I have come to realize that, it is not just the family that will miss my father; it is the society generally.
What is the burial arrangement?
The burial arrangement has not been made yet. We are expecting some information from the Church, with their calendar and all. Then we can now begin with those people who are interested like ANTP, TAMPAN, Churches and a whole lot of others.