His name is synonymous with Comedy in Nigeria. Many of those who watched TV in the 70s and 80s will still remember him vividly. Everyone simply called him Baba Sala. His stage name was Lamidi Sanni alias Baba Sala. But his real name is Moses Adejumo Olaiya (MON). He was the undisputed King of Comedy on TV and on Stage with his big signboard-like Bow-tie and Table clock size wristwatch.
He was more than that. He was a dramatist, singer and Yoruba actor who was regarded as one of the fathers of modern Nigerian comedy. That’s why many believe that the history of Comedy, TV drama and Stage play in Nigeria cannot be written without highlighting his contribution.
In those good old days, at 7pm every Wednesday night on NTA Ibadan, many people in Ibadan and all its surrounding towns and villages, in the South West, usually would rush home to watch his Alawada Comedy Show.
He, along with other dramatists like late Hubert Ogunde, Kola Ogunmola, Oyin Adejobi, Duro Ladipo and many more, helped to popularize Theatre and Television acting in Nigeria.
So successful did he become that his name became so popular all over Nigeria and he got a National Award of MON.
But he suffered a little set back when he dabbled into film production and produced his first film Orun Mooru, which was pirated before he could make his money back.
One of his 4 tapes was stolen and mass produced. He lost so much money and had to sell off 2 of his houses which he used as collateral for the N500,000 loan he got for the project from National Bank.
So devastated was Baba Sala that he nearly committed Suicide. That was then.
Now, at 77 ,age has mellowed the very active veteran actor who now lives in Ilesha his hometown, Osun State. These days church activites take a lot of his time. He is an Elder Apostle in the Cherubim and Seraphim (C&S) Unification Church. No.1 model parish in Ilesha.
Because he is now an old man he does not have the vitality and energy he used to exhibited when he was much younger.
He also has a hotel called Statward Hotel.
Last week, we went in search of Baba Sala in Ilesha and found out that old age has mellowed the Ilesha actor who now lives a very quiet life.
What’s your day like, he was asked. “These days, it’s all about church activities” he explained. “I am an Elder in my church. I do less of acting or theater work. I have been a member of C&S even before I started acting”.
Can he still act? He says “why not? Yes I can, if I am invited and if they can get a role that would make me sit down throughout”.
“Acting is in my blood. If I have to act, I can still act”.
Not many know that he started out in life as a civil servant – a sanitary Inspector. After work, he would shed off his sanitary inspection (Wole Wole) garments and go for teaching part-time work in the evenings.
Late evenings, he would go round town collecting daily thrift contribution (popularly called Ajo by Yorubas).
Late in the night, he would transform and this time, into a highlife musician. Baba Sala started his career as a highlife musician, in 1964 with a group known as The Federal Rhythm Dandies where he tutored and guided Juju music maestro, king Sunny Ade who was Baba Sala’s lead guitarist.
So the story of King Sunny Ade is incomplete without the mention of ‘Baba Sala’
KSA commenced his music career under the tutelage of the then Moses Olaiya Orchestra, a high life musical group, where he picked up his talent as a music future hope. The group later deviated to Theatre act.
How does he see his acting career?
“I have been through the rough roads of life”, he says. Moses Olaiya said it all: “I never knew comedy would become something that ambition before but I never thought I will be an actor or will do comedy” I dont know my career was going to be this successful.
He traced how he came about the name, ‘Baba Sala’, I started off acting in pidgin English. Infact, I won an award at the old WNTV/WNBS.
Then one day the Controller of Programmes, Ayo Oguntade now advised me to change to Yoruba. So I took up the name Lamidi Babasala, Wosilat is Iya Sala Ade Love was Amuda. It was first Lamidi Sanni alias Baba Sala, then Baba Sala was coined one of my wives Karile coordinated the women.
I had 16 wives but only 4 are left. Iya Sala is not my real wife she was only my stage wife “which he said was chosen because he started out in a predominantly Muslim community.
Though a Christian, he chose the names “Lamidi Sanni Oropo, Baba Sala.” His stage wife, Iya Sala, he fondly called ‘’Wosi Wonkoko’. He chose his youngest wife to be Sala because of her small size. According to him, the second wife fitted properly into the role.