Foremost Nigerian comedian, dramatist and veteran actor, Moses Olaiya, popularly known as Baba Sala, is dead. He died in the early hours of October 7, 2018 in his hometown, Ilesa, Osun State. He was 82. News of his death came with a deep and irreplaceable sense of loss to the entertainment industry. The veteran theatre artiste and filmmaker, who was said to have suffered old age-related ailments for long, was earlier rumoured to have passed on several times. The demise of the iconic patriarch, Apostle Moses Olaiya, has ended an era of flowing and successful theatre career which had held the Nigerian theatre stage spellbound for more than five decades unarguably, making his acting skills the delight of every home. He was a trailblazer his death has robbed the country of one of the finest and incomparable thespians of all time.
He and his contemporaries, nonetheless, laid the foundation for the theatre and comedy that have now taken Nigeria’s creative industry to the next level. The genre has now taken a life of its own. And through his numerous sacrifices, contributions and commitment, the industry is now a huge employer of labour and a great contributor to the nation’s economy and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The prolific filmmaker was born in Ilesa on May 18, 1936. He started his career in show business as a highlife musician in 1964 with a group known as the ‘Federal Rhythm Dandies’ where he tutored and guided the Juju music maestro, Sunday Adeniyi Adegeye, aka King Sunny Ade, who was his lead guitarist. Unquestionably, he is regarded as the father of modern Yoruba comedy. Baba Sala, alongside other dramatists like Hubert Ogunde, Kola Ogunmola, Oyin Adejobi and Duro Ladipo, popularised theatre and television acting in Yorubaland and, indeed, Nigeria. Baba Sala, his stage name, overtook his real name and became a household reference for television entertainment production. Until his ‘death, he was regarded as the `grandmaster’ of Nigeria comedy genre which brought joy to millions through his hilarious jokes and created many classics that will ensure his memory lives on. He was a multi-talented artiste whose works straddle music, theatre and comedy. He had a travelling theatre troupe performing in concerts and he got his works recorded on vinyl and LP albums, cassettes, cartridge celluloid, CD, video CD and DVD. Such works include Orun Mooru (1982), Aare Agbaye (1983), Mosebolatan (1985), Obee Gbona (1989), Diamond (1990, home video ), Agba Man (1992, home video), Return Match (1993, home video), Ana Gomina (1996, home video) and Tokunbo (1985, TV).
The late comedian left an indelible mark on the sands of time and an impressive legacy of courage, hard work, and commitment to the theatre industry. Nevertheless, his exit signified an end to his own brand of comedy, and left a wide gap in the theatre arena. We join millions of fans to commiserate with his family, the Nigerian movie industry and all lovers of comedy across the globe over the passage of this comic genius whose movies served as a forerunner to Nollywood. After his death, and to immortalise his name, The Best of Nollywood magazine announced that the category “comedy of the year” will now be known as “Moses Adejumo Comedy of the Year.” This, in our view, is a befitting honour to a man whose contributions to the industry will remain evergreen for generations to come.
Baba Sala revolutionised comedy, nurtured and served it as a tonic to soothe the troubled lives of his audience. With his savvy clownishness, Olaiya usually brought joy and humour to the souls of millions of Nigerians. He was also a man who doggedly created an empire of theatre, the platform for the theatre industry to flourish in Nigeria.