Baba Sala in my opinion wasn’t the funniest comedian in those days. There was Jacob whose personality alone was hilarious. His disability was one of his punchlines. He had a double hump, one in his back and one in the chest area. His scoliosis was that bad. And he had an elongated torso- another physical shortcoming that added spice to his funniness. He never really needed to open his mouth and of course whenever he did, he dropped hilarious bombs. No offense to Papalolo and Aderupoko, Jacob’s creative partners in the Jesters International Group, but it was Jacob that pulled in the crowd. No kidding It was him that most of us loved to see!
There was Ojo Ladipo alias Baba Mero who could have perhaps been the funniest, but he died too young and too soon. Way too soon!
Jagua was funny. Pretty funny. He had the brilliance to do his routine in pidgin, a major reason he was such a crossover TV star. His slapstick comedy style was inspired by Baba Sala but Jagua was much physical.
But all these acts put together, and the ones in between couldn’t stand next to Moses Adejumo Olaiya a.k.a Baba Sala! He single handedly took comedy from the start and made it into an industry. Baba Sala did to Nigerian comedy what the Afro-American Rudy Ray Moore a.k.a Dolomite did to Blaxploitation. He was in some way like the British Benny Hill too. Baba Sala’s vision was untiring. He brought comedy to TV, to the stage, to Magazine, to Radio, to Studio and much later onto celluloid. He was first a musician, the man who perhaps gave Sunday Adegeye now popularly known as King Sunny Ade, his first musical break.
Baba Sala was not essentially funny but he was a genius at situational comedy. A very opportunistic businessman who saw the future of the business way before it happened and exploited every platforms possible or imagined to reach his audience and to keep his act evergreen. Every Nigerian comedian or comedienne that ever improvised, used props, slapstick, stand-up, movies or ever build a fortune around this deal is only trailing Bab Sala, L.M.D Ìkòkò Ẹ̀wà! The man was a straight hustler! I remember in the 70s, every budding act wore one of those humongous bow-ties, the powdered hair, the stained dentition, the tobacco pipe, and everyone tried the self-deprecating type of routine. All of which were Baba Sala gimmicks. There was a Dogo Baba Kafi, Alajeju and Erekenisoobu and a Jinadu Ewele Baba Sakaworo. Quite obvious how everyone of the acts conveniently reprised the names of their stage kids. And even now Baba Sala’s influence can be noted in the mouthy way Odolaye Aremu, drops his name: “the Oko Múni, bàbà Waki, bàbà Jokojeje” and whatever routine too!
In 1979, I was in his presence as part of the Aworerin Fan Club, we visited him in his house at Ibadan. Matter of fact the visit was televised for the kiddie mentorship program then called “The Jolly Train.” I was awed by his achievements. He told us to ‘continue to develop our talents at first for free, and in time folks shall run after us with loads of money.’ I believed him. A year later the national award (MON)was awarded to him.
Old and retired, he’s been on my mind quite often of late. A victim of many death hoaxes in the last three years. We are definitely not in a hurry to let him go, but we are not candidly foolish to think he likely could live forever too. He is alive. Yes but my spirit is kinda restless about my idol LMD!
The title ‘Adùńbárìn Mátòṣì’ was the nickname LMD gave his TV best friend Adisa or Addis Ababa.