For more than four decades, popular comedian Afolabi Afolayan (a.k.a Jagua) was a phenomenon in the Nigerian entertainment scene, taking comedy to unprecedented height.
His rustic and down to earth comedy act created a cliché that made many homes a happy lots creating laughter for many children, providing answers to many housewives’ frustrations and actually hooking on many youths who became influenced with his famous pre programme signal tune ‘my belle o my head o’.
Afolabi Afolayan was a class of its own in the Nigeria comedy scene.
The mercurial actor who started his comedy series in 1968 died suddenly in 2000, no thanks to the debilitating state of the Nigerian health system.
He was one of the most sought after personality on NTA through the 1980s and 1990s up to the time of his untimely demise.
His daughter, now Mrs Olayinka Afolayan- Odiase could not hold back her emotions when she was asked to recount the event that led to the passing on of his father who was a recipient of the Nigerian government OFR and MFR.
“‘I was waiting for my father so that we might go out for a function when I received a call that my father was admitted. He has earlier complained of a heart problem. By the time I arrived at the hospital, my father was gone and I could not believe that he has missed the father she was talking with barely an hour ago, for ever.’
Many Nigerian believe that Jagua was an old man before he died but guess what, he was just 52years of age.
Since his demise the Nigerian movie industry has moved on a shade more sophisticated than in the days of Jagua.
But many Nigerians still crave for the good old days of comedy, acted in the very heart of the agrarian Nigeria villages where the organic bonds of friendship and relationships were very strong.
Jagua’s acting career went beyond the villages. It took him to schools, colleges and Universities and was mobile through the length and breath of the country. Now the Jagua series are back to the NTA screens in Kaduna, Sokoto, Jos, Lagos, Enugu, Aba, Bauchi, Maiduguri, Uyo Jalingo and Port Harcourt.
Olayinka, Jagua’s youngest daughter now wants to step into the larger than life shoes of his father.
When asked by this reporter whether she intend to follow the footsteps of her father, she emphatically said ‘Yes’. The photogenic actress who has done a number of series with her father said: ‘It will not make sense if I do not follow his footpath.” Olayinka who is a Mass Communication graduate of the University of Ibadan (Lagos campus) said her sister Omilale Afolayan has produced two movies in Yoruba – ‘Ko Yewon’ and ‘Ore Oluwa’.
No doubt, Olayinka has already cut her teeth in the movie industry with her association with her father. The mother of two who has taken after his father said one of her father’s greatest gifts is in making people happy.
She said: “My father was somebody that makes people happy both in his private life and in his films. He goes out of his way to give. He was generous and passionate in what he did.
He was a very good dad; simple, down to earth, a giver, very easy to relate
She poured out her heart from her home in south east London: “Today (5th October) marks his 10th year of him passing unto glory. I would like him to be remembered as someone who though had a rough childhood with pressing everyday issues of his own, brought cheers and laughter to the lives of his people. Cheers, joy, laughter, lots and lots of happiness; that’s what I want my dad to be remembered for”.
Olayinka is a real Nigerian going by her pedigree. Born in Rumfa Sokoto, he had her early childhood in Ile-Ife with her grand mum who hails from Sierra Leone.
Her real mother is Ibo and she is currently married to an Edo man. She can be referred to as a multi linguist.
She can speak Hausa, Yoruba and a sprinkling of Ibo. Olayinka who is had earlier bagged a diploma in Law at the Ogun State University said she had done some scripts which she intent to put into play in the nearest future.
Asked about her impression of the Nigerian movie industry she said the problem has to do with technical quality and continuity. The budding film actress who has acted with her father from the time she was a kid, berated the lack of quality in some of the Nigerian movies in terms of story lines but was quick to add that the industry has moved on from the days of her father.
Her favourite artists are Olu Jacob, who she describes as the best, Gerneive Nnaji, for her elegance and beauty, Omotola for her strong will, Mercy Johnson, John Okafor (humorous like her father), Jide Kosoko, Sam Loko and perhaps the greatest Ikem Owoh (Osofia) for his ability to create laughter with little effort.
Olayinka who believes in being respectful and of good behaviour said she inherited such traits from her father.
Married to John Odiase, Olayinka said her motivation in life is to be passionate in what she is doing and give the best of it. Asked about her suggestions on how to improve the Nollywood movie industry the younger Jagua who is in her mid 20s, said the movie industry should be used to improve the culture of the Nigeria people which can be regarded as a strong brand for marketing the country’s image.
She said: “I like to say I like what Lancelot Imasuen and Emem Isong, are doing
educating people about our culture, and ways of life.
“This helps to remove some of the ignorance about our culture. They generally bring to the fore what is and what is not”, she continued
Olayinka whose best food is efori (yam porridge) and chicken, wish to thank all her friends and fans and well wishers who had stood by her during the past ten turbulent years, during which she missed her father whom she loved so loved.
She concluded: “I love you so much and pray thatyou will find helpers in all your time of needs”
By Emmanuel Urhiofe, London