By Nwagbo Pat Obi
The Nigerian children and young persons formed the initial members of the audience that watched late Moses Olaiya Adejumo’s comedy when he started his comic theatre in the 1960s. He was popularly known as Baba Sala.
In his burial ceremony at Ilesa, Osun State Nigeria, many of those who are grown up now (although pained at his departure), gave God glory for the knowledge he had imparted to them, and prayed God to grant him eternal rest.
Pamela Udoka, president of ASSITEJ Nigeria, urged members to be part of his burial ceremony where she described him as a comedian and a friend of children in the theatre who captured children’s interest with theatre.
His son, Emmanuel Adjumo (Boisala), theatre practitioner with the National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN) said the late comedian had high regard for children and young persons because they motivated his acting on stage. Emmanuel is the ASSITEJ Nigeria member in charge of documenting ASSITEJ activities in the Nigerian Secretariat.
According to him, “Baba Sala believed that comedy in the theatre would make children happy and inculcate discipline in them, hence build up societal value, because children are the leaders of tomorrow. So when many parents felt that comedy was just for the audience to laugh, Baba Sala convinced them that it was not. He urged them to always bring the children to watch him on stage. Many parents thereafter became grateful to him, because his comic theatre really shaped their children’s behaviour.”
In addition to the variety comic shows, he also organized the Father Christmas show every Christmas in the streets of Ibadan, Nigeria. In this, he would invite other entertainers; musicians, dancers, drummers, storytellers, to perform. This attracted more than 1500 children and he showered them with gifts.
Stating that his father was his motivator and mentor, Emmanuel explained that Baba Sala’s desire for the wellbeing of all children was because his parents had had only two children and his passion to play with many children even at an old age, was fired by this. The great comedian was emotional about theatre for children and young persons in Nigeria.
ASSITEJ Nigeria and various theatre groups took part in honouring the great artist in the events that took place in many locations in Nigeria. In Lagos, the Segun Adefila-led Crown Troupe of Africa performed in the memorial lecture on his behalf, where many theatre scholars and stakeholders in the arts participated. Dr. Chinyere Okam, ASSITEJ Nigeria Secretary was at the programme in Idaba Ilesa, where he was laid to rest at the Cheribum and Seraphim premises.