After a long battle with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), following his arrest at the Muritala Mohammed International Airport in October 2011, over allegation that he was couriering drug en route to Paris, popular Yoruba movie comedian, Babatunde Omidina, aka Baba Suwe’s acting career could be said to have nosedived, earning him less visibility on the entertainment scene. But the thespian came to public eye again recently with the news of an undisclosed ailment, and this appears to be causing mixed feelings between his colleagues and fans.
Fans who got hints that the entertainer was seriously ill, and had been abandoned by his colleagues took up some notable actors in the Yoruba movie sector, accusing them of selfishness, insensitivity and misplacement of priority. The professional associations have also been under attack for contributing to politicians’ campaign, while a member who needs urgent medical attention is abandoned.
Apart from personal concerns being expressed by fans of the ailing actor, Baba Suwe himself spurred the emotion of his fans in a viral video where he inferred that he had actually been abandoned in his critical moment, claiming he would be needing about N100million for his medical attention abroad.
During a recent interview with Esho Promotions TV, the comedian was seen clutching a walking stick.
He said: “I am now using a walking stick. If I don’t use it, I might fall down, if I am mistakenly pushed. I want to travel abroad for further treatment. They said in America that if I can get funds, I would be able to go back to being my normal self and go back to my acting. If I am given N100million, I don’t mind, I just want to take care of myself.”
Refuting some of the allegations against individual actors and associations, former president of Theatre Arts and Motions Pictures Association of Nigeria (TAMPAN), Dele Odule, said while it is untrue that Baba had not received help from individual thespians, the participation of association in a matter of this nature is official and dependent on whether or not, he (Baba Suwe), has been an active member of any association.
Odule, in a chat with The Nation, claimed that he had no personal grudge against the ailing actor said that in spite of odds, TAMPAN, under his leadership, had sent a donation of N100, 000 to Baba Suwe when his sickness was earlier announced, a contribution he said the actor did not acknowledge. He said it was quite painful that colleagues and association are being accused of not reaching out to the ailing comedian.
“I have read a lot of things being said about us and to be sincere, it is not good. The little that people can do, they have done. They ask too much from artistes. We are human being too. There are lots of other professional bodies that have members going through the same situation and they are not called out. So why is it always the case with us?
“Another question people need to ask if the person belongs to the association that is being accused of ignoring their responsibility. Is the person paying his dues too? What has the person done for the association? Last year, I saw him at our convention and I was surprised at his condition; I did not know it has worsened. I later sent N100, 000 to him on behalf of the association. And he did not even acknowledge that he received the money”.
On why it is important that members get involved actively in association matters, Odule used himself as an example: “In 2015, when I came in as the President of TAMPAN, we needed to go to Abuja for a meeting and there was no fund yet, I had to sell my 504 Peugeot to raise the flight ticket to be able to meet the deadline given to us. And after the meeting, we were given money and I was refunded for the five tickets I paid for. But if we were not given money too, it wouldn’t have been a gesture too much to be made for the association as a leader. So if I have a challenge today, and the association looks back and see what I have done, they can decide if I deserve something in return.”
He urged the public to desist from sentiment and face the fact of the matter, adding that, apart from colleagues and association, Baba Suwe belongs to some religious organisations, and has family members who are also responsible to the actor.
“If there was a provision of such in the association’s constitution, and it is not extended to him, then we can have a case. It is purely sentiment when people say he has been abandoned. He was never abandoned. One thing we should know is that Baba Suwe has an immediate family; he also belongs to one of the religious organisations, so why is it that it is his colleagues that should be responsible for his case? Have they reached out to these two; his family and religion body?” he asked.
He noted a similar allegation was levelled against the association when Moji Olaiya died few years back.
“It was also the case with Moji Olaiya, so much was said about her too when she passed away, and the association did not have money to arrange for her remains to be brought back to Nigeria. They accused us, saying we all drive big cars. Don’t we have right to that after working hard?”
Asked how well the ailing actor was being paid for his acting services, he said: “Baba Suwe started travelling abroad in 1997. He built his house 20 years ago, and started using car about 30 years ago. It is only a person that is comfortable that can do all of these things. This is his own trying period and we can only pray that it passes by, everyone goes through it in life.”
Baba Suwe was arrested on Wednesday, October 12, 2011 while trying to board an Air France flight to Paris.
Despite different CT scan tests showing drugs were deposited in his body, as claimed by the agency, efforts to get the suspect to excrete the substance proved abortive. This led to a lawsuit filed by the actor against NDLEA. The case went in the actor’s favour and he was to be awarded N25million for damages – an amount he is yet to receive from the agency.