June 14, 2024

Tribute: ‘Goodnight my chief comedian, destiny helper’

  • March 5, 2024
  • 4 min read
Tribute: ‘Goodnight my chief comedian, destiny helper’

By Ifesinachi Nwadike

2011. At the height of the beef between Kelly Handsome, Mo Hits and Choc Bois, I recorded a song I titled ‘Beef’ that addresses the episodes. Spotify, Audiomack and other streaming platforms weren’t a thing then. You have to visit radio stations, pay presenters to air your song, then look for shows. For those in Lagos, you’d go to Alaba to pay marketers to add your song to mixtapes. In Owerri before the (Gov.) Rochas (Okorocha) disaster, you go to Douglas Plaza and pay as little as N2,000 to one phone technician who would sneak your song into every phone that came for repairs there.

That was how I was promoting ‘Beef’ until one evening, when I got a chance to perform at the opening of a new bar in one popular hotel around World Bank, Owerri. ‘Beef’ wasn’t popular then, so I kind of got a poor response. But the audience began to cheer when a rotund man walked towards the stage and began to record me with his phone. I looked around to understand the reason for the sudden cheer, only to realise that the man videoing me was (John Okafor) Mr. Ibu. He was the celebrity guest of the night, and without invitation, stood up to support me. His action boosted my moral and I became the star of the night.

Mr. Ibu didn’t stop there; he invited me to his table after my performance. And that was how I met the owner of the hotel who was at the verge of launching a record label. Mr. Ibu told him right in my presence to pick me, that I have a future in the industry, and that was it. He asked me to come to his office the next day for discussions and I did. There, he handed me over the most popular OAP in Owerri at that time. He was to be the manager of the label. To kick off my career, I had to do radio tours in Imo, Port Harcourt and Enugu first. But that was not to happen because the manager’s lust for his fellow men stood in the way. Seeing that I wouldn’t yield, he found a way to discredit me before the CEO who had travelled to Atlanta, US at the time. So, I never got the chance to defend myself and the deal went south.

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John Okafor (Mr. Ibu)

But I got close to becoming a celebrity in 2011 because of the support of a man I grew up watching from a distance. MY CLOSE PALS KNOW HOW MUCH I LOVE AND ADORE IBU. Yes, love and adore. Because even in death, I remain his number one fan. From the days of Akidi and Isakaba, I have always looked out for films featuring Mr. Ibu. During our 9-to-5 days in Lagos, Ifeanyi Sixtus Agbaegbu and I had the habit of unwinding during weekends with old Nollywood films featuring Mr. Ibu or (Sam) Loco (Efe) or Osuofia (Nkem Owo) or Chinwetalu. But we preferred Mr. Ibu because, of all Nollywood actors, Mr. Ibu was the only actor that did not have to speak before you laughed. His posture alone, the way he walked, and most of all, his chewing mannerisms were capable of cracking one up. Then when he speaks, or makes that his exclamatory trademark “hei” while shutting his eyes, or furrowing his face or stammering… Mr. Ibu was effortlessly funny. Have you seen him dance? The way he carries his body. The way he wiggles and whines and twists and sticks out his tongue? Mr. Ibu was no doubt Nigeria’s funniest man in Nollywood. So you can imagine my elation and easy acceptance of the name when my friends, during my NYSC days in Calabar, branded me Mr. Ibu, because, when, in my comic elements, I strike the same resemblance with IBU. Was it coincidence or did I unconsciously train myself to become like my Idol?

This loss is personal to me. I love Mr. Ibu with all my heart and I was relieved when he was discharged. I didn’t know he was rushed back to the hospital. I didn’t know it was a goodbye. Good night sir. My chief comedian. My destiny helper. The starlight of my comic aspirations.

You are free now, from all the pain, from all the drama by those that were meant to protect you when it mattered most!


* Nwadike is a poet and author of How Morning Remembers the Night

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