The beauty of theatre came alive in Ososa, Odogbolu Local Government Area of Ogun State last Friday, as children of the late thespian, Chief Hubert Adedeji Ogunde remembered him, 25 years after his death.
The occasion was the grand memorial of the theatre guru who reigned like a colossus until he passed away in a London hospital on April 4, 1990. The event also witnessed the unveiling of “A Living Historic Museum” in his honour. There were artistic performances by different theatre groups including the Association of Nigerian Theatre Practitioners (ANTP) and newly formed TAMPAN, both trying to outshine one another as they re-enacted the life and works of the pioneer director of the National Troupe of Nigeria.
Life is short but art is long, as Ogunde’s didactic and critical music blared through the Public Address Systems mounted at the anniversary arena. Not only a theatre practitioner, Ogunde was a great musician, composer and social critic whose relentless fights against injustice and oppression were recorded in 95 sound tracks compiled into 13 audio CDs after his death.
Amid encomiums by actors, actresses, government officials and traditional rulers, the Ogunde museum was commissioned with promises by the Ogun State government to partner private investors in the development of tourism and culture. While commissioning the museum, the rich cultural heritage of Ososa people was on display with cultural groups including masquerades entertaining guests. Indeed, for the Ososa people, it was an unforgettable day and for the children of Ogunde, the memory of their patriarch will forever remain indelible.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Ogunde’s daughter, Mrs. Victoria Oloruntegbie, stressed the importance of the museum, which she said was inevitable in cementing the memory of Hubert Ogunde. Her words: “Suffice it to say that the film equipment and works of Ogunde are perfectly intact, it is pertinent to state here that the museum we are gathered here to commission is the personal apartment of Hubert Ogunde.
“It’s the building where he spent the last 10 years of his life. With all the compilation, arrangements and expenses were borne by the Ogunde family. This is a dream come true and a promise fulfilled as pledged during his 20th remembrance anniversary. The museum houses all Ogunde’s works including songs, pamphlets of his plays, costumes, drums, drama equipment, and personal effects.
“Despite the fact that our father never left any will, he left us with contentment, integrity, hard work and love towards each other. This has made the family to remain one with unprecedented strong bonds. We appreciate and give honour to our late mothers and those that are still living, all of whom have contributed immensely and have been great assets to the success we are celebrating today.”
Commenting on the Hubert Ogunde Film Village, which is now lying fallow, Oloruntegbie lamented that the project is in ruins. “The film village, a 30-acres land donated by the Ogunde family and the good people of Ososa which used to be the envy of all and sundry, particularly those in the film industry, is now in ruins due to utter neglect as the family could not keep it functional.
“We sincerely request and plead that government should assist us to resuscitate this film village, the first of its kind in Nigeria, so as to make it a tourist centre of excellence that will promote African culture and Nigerian film industry in particular,” she pleaded.
The Ogunde family also expressed dismay that the graveside promise of an annual award featuring a special gong and N1000 prize to be given to the best secondary school in the field of entertainment is yet to be fulfilled. Though, the family noted that the pledge was not made by the current administration in Ogun State, the family pleaded that the award be renewed, reworked and rejuvenated to meet the current status.
While appreciating the state government for naming the main theatre hall at the Cultural Complex, Kuto, Abeokuta after their patriarch, the family appealed that the hall be upgraded to a worthy, efficient and functional theatre venue. “We wish to passionately plead that the bust purported to be that of Chief Hubert Ogunde on the top floor in the state’s Hall of Fame in Abeokuta should be replaced with a better and well decorated work of art,” the family said.
The Gbegannde of Ososa, Oba (Dr.) Adetoye Alatishe, described the late dramatist as someone that brought honour to Ososa both in his lifetime and in death. Going down memory lane, the monarch described the late playwright as probably the first native of Ososa who put the Ijebu town on the world map.
“We remember how as children, we all ran after him, while he drove his car around the town. He drove himself for as long as I can remember. He was always ready to participate in community projects both in the cultural aspects and also in the development of the infrastructures like electrification of the town, construction and supply of water throughout the township. Ososa has never been the same since his demise, even though his children, led by Chief Ayo Ogunde, are making strong and remarkable waves of keeping the memories.”
Oba Alatishe also lent his voice to the children’s plea that the film village established in memory of their father should not be allowed to be in waste. “On behalf of the traditional chiefs and the good people of Ososa, I want to plead and request that the government or private organisations should take the gauntlet up and make this dream a reality. The vast expanse of land allocated for the film village is still there, waiting to be fully developed,” he said.
The Olowu of Owu-Abeokuta, Oba Olusanya Adegboyega Dosunmu, himself an actor and former member of the Village Headmaster cast, described Ogunde as a man of strict character, worthy of emulation by the younger generations. “He influenced my going into the theatre, and forever I will never forget him. He was a man who knew what he wanted in life, if not, he would have been misled by the tides of events,” the monarch stated.
Ambassador Tokunbo Awolowo, daughter of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, described Pa Ogunde and his father as men of integrity, who were committed to truth, transparency and discipline. “Pa Ogunde and my father were two of a kind whose lives touched and influenced others. They were two people who knew the extent of life. They had money, but they never allowed it to distract them from the common people. Money is not everything, there are other things like good legacy worth more than money,” she volunteered.
…We never imagined he would ever die
–Iyabo Ogunde, wife
Pa Hubert Ogunde had many children. But it is easy to identify an offspring of the late doyen of the Nigerian theatre in the crowd. Ogunde’s striking features – light complexion, gap-toothed and eyeballs are easily noticeable in all his children.
Last Friday in Ososa, Ogun State, as the Ogunde’s immediate and extended families including the entire community gathered to celebrate his unique theatrical legacy after 25 years of demise, it was not difficult for a visitor to distinguish an Ogunde from others.
Among them are lawyers, doctors, engineers, script writers, oil magnates, businessmen and women, all gathered to celebrate the late dramatist, with the commissioning of a museum, which houses his personal effects including films, equipments, posters and costumes.
As the music of their late father blared through the public address systems, the children went into ecstasy, singing with excitement along with the invited guests. One of them, Mrs. Bimbo Oloyede, told TS Weekend that the memory of their father would continue to be fresh in their minds. “He introduced us to God’s path as well as taught us how to fast and pray. Papa was a disciplinarian and would not spare the rod to spoil the child. He was a rare father whose affection, care, and fatherly advice would be missed forever,” she reminisced.
Mrs. Dayo Akinboye, one of the youngest children of the late thespian, described his father as a strict disciplinarian as well as a caring father. “He taught us to be hardworking, humble, and prayerful at all times. Papa also urged us to always do good to our fellow human beings. I stayed with him for the last four years of his life; accompanying him always to everywhere he went except when I went to school. But for the fact that I was in school, when he was about to die, I would have been by his side. We were that close.
“Papa taught me to be humble and generous. Although, he had many wives and children, he never discriminated against anyone or showed likeness to a particular one,” she said.
On his part, Bayo Ogunde said: “For Nigerians to still gather here in thousands to celebrate our father 25 years after, is a great honour to the family. God has been good to us, particularly as a family. It is that unity that has brought us together to celebrate his unique theatrical legacy after 25 years of demise. To God be the glory.”
Kole Ogunde expressed gratitude to God for keeping the family together. “Usually, when a popular and rich man dies, like our father, there were usually stories of discord among them, but ours is not like that,” he stated.
Second to the last wife of the late dramatist, Mrs. Iyabo Ogunde, popularly known as Iya Pupa, said she would marry the dramatist if there were another life after this. “Papa was not a husband but a father to me during his life time. He was too caring that we never imagined that he would ever die. During his lifetime, he always stressed to always uphold and defend truth, which he said is important in life.
“I want to thank the children for remaining one even after the death of their father. He will be a happier person in the grave because they all kept his wishes and prayers that they forever remain one. Thank God, they are all doing well in their different endeavours. May God continue to be with them,” she prayed.