As Babatunde Nurudeen Omidina, also known as Baba Suwe, returns to dust today, it is safe to conclude that it is no longer a laughing matter. He had “died” several times, only to bounce back to life.
I recall a hilarious interview Baba Sala, (real name Moses Adejumo) granted the Nigerian Tribune in 1992. We had asked him if there had ever been a time where his life of comedy had caused people to doubt him as a serious person. He described an instance when he fell ill and was rushed to the hospital at the point of death. As the nurses rushed in to assist the patient, they all relapsed into uproarious laughter when they realised it was Baba Sala. They thought it was one of his comical antics. According to him, the more he told them that he was serious about his illness, the more they laughed. Even as he told us the story years later, we could not help but laugh at his theatrics.
The interview was actually about the extent of the debt he accumulated with the old National Bank over the making of his epic film, Orun Mooru. The master tape was stolen and the pirated copies made it impossible for him to recover his investment and redeem his debt.
It was a serious matter but Baba Sala’s typical comic retelling of the pathetic story sent the reporters reeling with laughter. “Ohun to n dunmi le ma fi rerin” (It is what is paining me that you are laughing at), he said, repeatedly, igniting yet more laughter.
This is the irony of the lives of the men who make us laugh. They live in pain while providing comic relief to many. Only God knows the millions of people that the comedy and jokes of the likes of the late Baba Sala, Baba Suwe, Papa Lolo, Jacob, Lukuluku Bantashi, Samanja, Chief Zebrudiah alias 4.30, Jegede, Baba Mero, Omoladun Kenke Lewu, Ajimajasan, John Chukwu, etc saved from early graves.
The last years of Baba Suwe tell a graphic story that comedians also cry. It is another indication that the Nigerian film industry, indeed, all professional and labour associations, need to consider health insurance policies with seriousness. What a tragedy that we have to cry over a man who made a career out of making us laugh.
Adieu, Baba Suwe.