Remembering Laide Adewale, 13 years after

by Mufu Onifade

In 2006, I decided to stage my play, ‘Love Is Blind’ as part of the activities to mark my 40th birthday anniversary. There is a character in the comic play called Psychologist. When I was writing the play in 1995, the character was deliberately created for one veteran actor: Uncle Laide Adewale whom I had met since the 80’s and further interacted with in later years as a student at the Obafemi Awolowo University. As a student/playwright/producer/founder of a performing group called The Multiple Strokers, not only did we perform regularly at Ifè, we also thoroughly enjoyed Uncle Laide’s unblemished professionalism on stage or screen. Before our very eyes, he gave life to Ola Rotimi’s new play, ‘Man Talk, Woman Talk,’ a comedy of classical dimension. Uncle Laide was an excellent comic character even in real life. He made us laugh a lot.

To show his versatility, he was a dreadful character in Ola Rotimi’s tragic play, ‘Kúrúnmi.’ When I saw him play the role of Kúrúnmi again in 2004 at the Main Auditorium of the University of Lagos, a play sponsored by NIB (Nigerian International Bank), I could not believe this was the same Uncle Laide who had off-handedly exchanged funny banters with us at Ifè. He was more than an enigma. Anyway, I was much more interested in his comical character for my play; which was the reason I wrote him as Psychologist into my comedy in 1995.

So, in 2006, as I prepared for my birthday celebration, I travelled to Ilé-Ifè, Uncle Laide’s base to acquaint him with my plan and the fact that I wanted him to play Psychologist in the play. He asked for the script, which I handed to him same day. He promised to get back to me and I returned to Lagos at once.

Two or three days later, Uncle Laide called me to convey his willingness to be part of the production. I screamed out of joy. My wife ran out from the bedroom out of fright, thinking something terrible had happened to me. When I revealed to her the news I had just received, she didn’t really understand until many days after.

We were meant to rehearse the play for two weeks. So, Uncle Laide arrived a day before schedule and I deliberately lodged him in an hotel in front of my house. My wife’s job was to prepare his breakfast and dinner everyday throughout the period of his stay. Of course, Uncle Laide was ever delighted at the meals coming from a professional caterer.

We rehearsed the play for two weeks as scheduled and had a fantastic performance at the National Theatre. Uncle Laide’s performance threw the audience into disarray as the reeled in raucous laughter. He was the comedian to watch.

The play was directed by Makinde Adeniran and featured great actors like Ewenla Rọpo, Friday Francis, etc. All along, Uncle Laide and I never discussed his fee. He was the only actor in the play who refused to discuss his fee. Anytime I raised the issue, he found an excuse not to entertain the discussion. At times, he deliberately changed the topic to something else

So, the next day, after the show, I went to his hotel room to show my sincere appreciation. I then brought out an envelope which contained what I thought could not even be commensurate to his huge sacrifice and sterling performance. He looked at the envelope without collecting it from me. He then told me what I will never forget in my life: He said he did not take part in the play because of money. To him, the motivating factor was the script, which he liked so much. Bottom line: his performance was on pro bono (free of charge)! I almost cried that morning. This was a highly respected and much sought-after veteran actor of national and international repute. He had the liberty to charge a much higher fee, but he purposely lavished me with his unparalleled generosity! I remain eternally grateful to him.

In 2007, Uncle Laide passed on! I felt completely broken. My wife and I cried uncontrollably. She loved him so much and was even looking forward to when he’d be in Lagos again. I was then Director of Publicity for NANTAP (National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners), Lagos State Chapter. Sulayman Deji-etiwe was the Chairman. I was part of the burial committee (Lagos axis) which included eminent members like Irene Omolara Akinsola, Edmond Enaibe, Peter Tade Adekunle, and many others. We ensured that we emptied the creme-de-la-creme of the Lagos Arts Community to Ilé-Ifè in honour of a man greatly loved by all of us.

At Ilé-Ifè, tears flowed freely from the humongous crowd that came from all parts of Nigeria and beyond. In fact, if tears were enough remedy, Uncle Laide would have resurrected that day.

Today, we remember our very own Uncle Laide Adewale who passed on 13 year ago at 62. He lived an exemplary life that gave inspiration, happiness and joy to everyone he ever met. Now and forever, he lives on in our hearts.

Keep on resting in peace, the great Thespian, till we meet to part no more.

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