Veteran Nigerian comedian, Moses Olaiya, popularly known as Baba Sala, is currently down with stroke and urgently needs financial assistance.
His health condition came to the fore at a press briefing organised in Lagos on Friday to shed light on his biography due for presentation on December 4.
The book, ‘The Triumph of Destiny,’ which was co-authored by Babatunde Akinola, Collins Oyedokun, and Kunle Ajani, will be presented in Lagos.
The comedian, who sank into the background after enjoying patronage and limelight for decades, spoke with difficulty at the event.
He not only looked frail and breathed with difficulty at the event, he could barely walk, as two people supported him to the venue.
He noted, “I need help. Nigerians should help me. I am not dead yet, they should not let me die suffering.”
Although he is 80, his family, including one of his wives, Funmi, said the octogenarian was not suffering from old age but lack of funds for medical treatment.
His first son, Dele Adejumo, told the gathering that ”circumstances and poor management had wrecked all his father’s investments.”
Baba Sala was one of the first Nigerian filmmakers to be affected negatively by the activities of movie pirates.
His first movie, Orun Mooru released in 1982, was pirated and affected him adversely.
He said then, “Initially, we did it on 36mm and later reduced it to 16mm. This film, unknown to us, was dubbed by some wicked people and pirated as original. I had never experienced such a disappointment in my life. I was shocked to the marrow and only God knew how I survived paralysis at this period. I was cheated and left shattered. For the realisation of this dream, I had gone to borrow over N1.5 million from a bank to see me through the business. You can imagine how much that translates to in the present day, I automatically became indebted, and I sold most of my properties to settle the debt.”
Mr. Adejumo listed the Awada Spot in Ibadan; Alawada Standard Hotel, Ilesha; Alawada Records, Ibadan; and Ibukun Alawada Photo magazine as some of his father’s investments which had to be sold off.
He said, “He has investments but they have all been wrecked by mismanagement. He also had a three-storey building in Mushin, Lagos, which he had to sell to offset debt incurred when his work, Orun Mooru, was pirated. We still have some of his recorded works not in public yet but machines that will be used to transform them to an acceptable format are not easily available. We do not have the kind of money they are charging us.
“We have been told that baba needs a lot of money for medical treatment abroad. He is suffering from a stroke and other ailments. There are many people of his age who are not like this. We are trying our best as family members. We take him to the teaching hospital weekly but he needs proper medical attention.”
Shedding light on the book, Mr. Oyedokun said, “The book chronicles the pride of place that Baba Sala acquired for himself in the Nigerian theatre industry as the first comedian and consummate entertainer. It captures the antecedents and essence of the creative energies of a comical trailblazer.”
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 Nigeria.
A prolific filmmaker, Baba Sala started his career in show business as a highlife musician in 1964 with a group known as the Federal Rhythm Dandies.
He tutored and guided the Juju maestro, King Sunny Ade, who was his lead guitarist at the time.