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By Otunba Mufu Onifade, fsna.

The death of Chief Adedeji Aderemi, famous Yoruba actor and orator, is indeed an unexpected huge blow on all lovers of Yoruba movies, language, culture and cosmology.

I had worked with this sage popularly known as Olofa Ina, on many projects and occasions. I met him for the first time in 1992 at the home of the late Muyideen Aromire (Alade). At that time, Aromire’s home was a Mecca to different shades and categories of Yoruba actors and filmmakers. Old, young, freshers, stalites; they all besieged him like a god of the industry. Indeed, he was a god of the emerging new technique in filmmaking in Nigeria. He constantly shot films and always needed them. They all also respected and needed him for his industry.

Such actors and industry players I had met there at one time or the other include Jide Kosoko, Toyin Afolayan (Lola Idije), Rammy Shitta-Bey, Nike Peller, Lere Paimo and a host of many others. Baba Olofa Ina used to come from Ibadan (just like many of them who came from outside Lagos), but he never came around if there was no job. Anytime he showed up, people milled around him as a star, and he showered them with his array of Yoruba proverbs and idioms.

If he spoke for 10 minutes, he must dish out between 5 and 10 proverbs. He never repeated them. They came with ease and were always succinct. The truth is, he would not speak without garnishing his words with Yoruba proverbs and idioms. This is probably why Gbenga Adewusi nicknamed him Baba Yorubawa!
Yes, that reminds me, I also worked with him on the set of some productions by the Bayowa Films and International. Baba hardly quarrelled with anyone. He was as patient and tolerant as he appeared in the films. Of course, Baba deserved credit for being a thoroughbred theatre practitioner who practised the Alarinjo (travelling) theatre selflessly. He was reputed to be one of the people who suffered greatly for the industry to grow. In the beginning, they did not do theatre for money. They did it for passion, for dedication and for prestige. Fame only followed later. Of course, he wasn’t a poor man; which was the reason he was later made a high chief at his Ede home town in Osun State.

Ever since our first meeting, and based on his wisdom and oratory, I saw in him a father figure and he unwittingly adopted me. Our tribal marks were also an attraction and a strong connection. I had visited him a couple of times at home when he was based in Ibadan. With pride, he would show me to everyone around. He was living at Oja Oba, a densely populated area in Ibadan – not too far from the palace of the Olubadan of Ibadan. That means he lived in the midst of the people. He was a man of the people. And they loved him greatly. This speaks volume about the number of people Baba would introduce you to.

I used to visit him in my university days and he always ended his introduction of me with, “Ọmọ ‘fáfitì ni o” (He’s a university student). In my school days, one of my school mates (a lady – name withheld) who was involved in a project with me called me aside one day.
“Mufu, I need your help?”
“What is it about?” I asked.
“I have some spiritual problem that I believe your dad can help me solve.”

Firstly, I needed to correct her wrong impression about my dad: my surname, Onifade, was not my father’s name. It was my grandfather’s; and he was late. My father at the time was a full-time farmer and hunter, not a priest. All the same, she took time to explain the problem to me. I can’t disclose the problem here, but it involved her and her boyfriend with her mum in the middle; and many tentacles had been developed around the ish. The details were scary.

Not knowing where to turn to, I paid a visit to Baba Olofa Ina in Ibadan and explained everything to him. He asked that I should bring the lady. I told him I might not be on the trip because my hands were full (I was a student already in professional practice). He didn’t mind. A few days later, my friend visited Baba in Ibadan. To cut the long story short, she was delivered of the spiritual encumbrances. The details of what she went through was too deep for me to understand at the time. However, that she was now fine was pure satisfaction for me and Baba himself. She became eternally grateful to me (as if I was the one who performed the miracle) until she later left Nigeria.

Now this is my pain. I called Baba on the phone sometime last year after a long time. In fact, the moment I mentioned my name, he screamed out of joy! After a long moment of pleasantries, I now told him the reason I called: I wanted to work on a book of YORUBA PROVERBS with TRANSLATIONS, MEANINGS AND ANALYSES. Of course, Baba was the best candidate to work with on such a project. He was open. He was delighted, willing and ready to work with me. He said, “Mufu, when you come, you are not staying in the hotel o; you will stay in my house,” which I considered a rare privilege.

I have since been torn between many other projects (art, theatre, literature, events, etc) until I read the heart-shattering news of his untimely passing yesterday. For a moment, everything around me froze. My eyes were cloudy, but I still didn’t believe the information. So, I went straight to Google: his death dominated all news media!! My body shivered and jerked incoherently. I felt cold all over. I still haven’t recovered from the shock. Sleep peacefully, and toil no more, Baba Yorubawa, awo rere tó ń jẹ ní mọ̀rẹ̀!

Otunba Mufu Onifade

Mufu Onifade holds MA, Art History from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, but informally trained as a theatre practitioner and writer. A published author, he has written in the genres of play, prose, and poetry. He was a columnist with The Guardian and later, the defunct 234Next Newspapers. He was Contributing Editor for the UK-published Nigerian Videos Magazine and editor of many art exhibition catalogues. He can be reach on mufuonifade@gmail.com

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