Twelve top actors, singers Nigeria lost in five months in 2017

Eric Arubayi

The Nigerian entertainment sector lost some of its brightest stars just five months into the year. The Yoruba film industry lost three stars within 30 days.

Also saddening is the fact that the veteran entertainers whom we lost, died because they were unable to raise funds to treat terminal ailments.

Here is the list of entertainers who have so far died in 2017.


  1.  The Yoruba movie industry recorded its first death of 2017 on January 2 when Toyin Majekodunmi aka Iya Kike, died. She was the first Nigerian entertainer to pass on in 2017. Married to a fellow actor, Solomon Majekodunmi aka ‘Baba Kekere’ for 37 years, she was a delight on stage and in movies. She had three children – two daughters and a son. She also featured in numerous Yoruba movies and often starred alongside her husband. Prior to launching her movie career, she worked with the Lagos State Ministry of Information for many years.
  2. William Onyeabor, cult Nigerian musician, died on January 16. He was aged 70.

The enigmatic electro-funk pioneer, who released nine albums between 1977 and 1985 before distancing himself from music, died peacefully at home in Enugu State. In the 2010s, some of his songs appeared on various compilations, most frequently his biggest hit, “Better Change Your Mind”, which appeared on Africa 100, World Psychedelic Classics 3: Love’s a Real Thing – The Funky Fuzzy Sounds of West Africa and Nigeria 70: The Definitive Story of 1970’s Funky Lagos, through labels such as Luaka Bop.


  1. West Africa Idol star and top Nigerian gospel artiste, Eric Arubayi jnr., died on February 11 at the Delta State University Teaching Hospital, Oghara. He was 34 years old. The deceased took ill after taking an expired drug meant to treat his malaria and typhoid ailment. A son of a former Vice Chancellor of the Delta State University, he was also a popular worship leader at the House on the Rock Church in Lagos. The singer tied the knots with a former model, Chinonso, in 2016 and the union is blessed with a son.
  1. MC Worthy, a promising comedian, slumped and died on February 13.  The humorist was already reaping the rewards for his hard work as he had just taken delivery of a Toyota Avalon car worth millions of naira before the cold hands of death snatched him away.
  2. Legendary Igbo traditionalist and high life music exponent, Ichie Mezuo Pericomo Okoye, aka Perikoma, died on February 16. During lifetime, he was prominent for upholding the Igbo culture and tradition through his music and various other activities. Some of his prominent tracks are High Tension, Ikeji Izuogu, Obodo Aghoka, Igatakwuteya aja, etc. He also featured alongside Pete Edochie in the film Lion Of Africa.
  3. Popular Kannywood movie producer, Ibrahim Bauni, died on February 17after a brief illness. Mr. Bauni spent 20 years in Kannywood film industry and had produced films like ‘Kalubale’, ‘Harafin So’, ‘Rumaisa’, ‘Sarauniya’, among others.


  1. After a protracted battle with diabetes and kidney ailment, veteran Nollywood actor, James Uche, died on March 8. He passed on in an ambulance while on the way to undergo dialysis.

The actor passed on two days to his scheduled trip to India for a kidney transplant and eye surgery in India surgery. It cost about N15 million. He was bedridden for several months and was in dire need of an urgent kidney transplant and eye surgery. He had been ill for eight years. He was down with high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney failure. The actor was famous for his role in Nollywood blockbusters like Igodo, Coronation, Lost Kingdom and The Councillor.


8. A fast-rising Nollywood actress, Modupe Oyekunle, died on April 5 after giving birth to her third child, a baby girl. Her baby survived. Popularly called Oyinbo because of her complexion, the deceased played a prominent role of Sandra in Segun Ogungbe’s blockbuster movie, Ibi Giga, among other movies she has acted in.


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She was a member of Igi Aloye caucus in Abeokuta, which produced the likes of Odunlade Adekola.

9. Tony Grey, a renowned Nigerian highlife musician, passed away on April 10. He was said to have suffered from diabetes and prostate cancer. Born over 60 years ago, Grey rocked the airwaves in the 70s through to the early 90s. Among his popular songs are ‘she is my love’ and ‘my message’.

The Ozimba crooner had been ill and needed money to be flown abroad for treatment. The ‘Come Back Love’ evergreen crooner, until his death resided at Cruz Land, Marine Quarters, Warri, Delta state.

  1. Veteran Nollywood actor, Olumide Bakare, died on April 22 after a failed battle with a heart and lung disease. Mr. Bakare was sick for over a year and reports say aside from suffering low blood flow into the heart, there were also indications of a lung-related disease.

He suffered cardiac arrest earlier in the year and was rushed to the emergency unit of University College Hospital where he was placed in intensive care.

Mr. Bakare, 65, is famous for his role as Chief Koko in the rested TV series, Koko Close. A crossover actor, he also starred alongside Genevieve Nnaji and Hollywood’s Isaiah Washington in Tony Abulu’s 2013 film, Doctor Bello.


11. Seasoned Yoruba actor, Samuel Adesanya, popularly called Pastor Ajidara, died on May 7. Mr. Ajidara, 62, died of kidney failure. His family had called for financial support of N12 million from the public, following his doctor’s recommendation that he would need a kidney transplant to survive. This was a few days to his death.

Ironically, Mr. Adesanya was owed about N4 million by the Ogun State government as a retiree of Ogun State Judiciary. He retired from the service on July 2, 2015‎ but was yet to get his retirement benefit till he died. Until his death, Mr. Adesanya was the Governor of Ogun State Chapter of Theatre Art and Movie Producers Association of Nigeria, TAMPAN.

12. Popular Yoruba movie actress, Moji Olaiya, passed on in Canada barely two months after she welcomed a child. She died on May 17 after she reportedly suffered a cardiac arrest.

The 42-year-old star actress was the daughter of legendary Nigerian highlife maestro, Victor Olaiya. She welcomed her first child in Canada a few months after she officially divorced her first husband.

Her death came as a rude shock because her last post on Instagram was less than 24 hours. She is best known for her roles in films such as No Pains No Gains, in which she played Ireti, Sade Blade (2005), Nkan adun (2008) and Omo Iya Meta Leyi (2009). She also starred in the Agunbaniro.


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