The death of two talented Nollywood actors, John Ikechukwu Okafor (Mr. Ibu) and Tolani Oyebamijii (Sisi Quadri), is a great loss to Nigeria. The celebrated thespians had contributed immensely to the development of Nigerian film industry. They will surely be missed by millions of their fans. John Okafor made Nigerians laugh through his comic acts, musical videos and dance. Okafor died at 62 in Lagos on 2nd March, 2024, due to cardiac arrest, after a protracted illness that led to the amputation of one of his legs.

While he was sick, many Nigerians showed him love and donated money to offset the cost of treatment. Despite the lifeline, Mr Ibu could not survive. The deceased actor featured in over 200 films, including those from the popular Mr Ibu series. He was very active in the Nollywood industry from 1978-2020. Some of his popular films included Mr Ibu (2004), Mr Ibu 2 (2005), Mr Ibu and His Son, Coffin Producers, Husband Suppliers, International Players, Mr Ibu in London (2005), Police Recruit (2003), 9 Wives (2005), Ibu in Prison (2006), and Keziah (2007). He later ventured into music and released two songs in 2020, “This Girl” and “Do you Know.”

As a social media influencer, Okafor showcased his dancing skills, together with his family members. In 2012, he disparaged and equated homosexuality in the Nigerian film to a virus. “If there is any way in this world that people can make them stop or kill it, please do,” Okafor stated.

No doubt, Okafor contributed so much to the development of the Nollywood films. His comic roles are loved by many fans of Nollywood films in Africa and beyond. A UNESCO report in 2009 ranked Nollywood as the second largest film industry in the world in terms of sheer numbers of film production. The industry has also grown in terms of quality.

Okafor and other thespians succeeded in using Nigerian films as a tool to decolonise the minds of Africans. Instructively, the success of Nollywood film industry led to the development and growth of other film industries in West, East and Southern Africa. In Nollywood films, other Africans and the blacks in Diaspora could even see themselves, relate and identify with the culture, themes and people portrayed.

Related News

The Ugandan scholar, Monica Dipio, has alluded to this fact when she states that “Nigerian film is popular in the sense that it transverses the immediate culture in which it is set, as people beyond the borders of the immediate community can identify with it.” The cultural proximity between the Nigerian films and African audiences is a major plus for Nollywood film industry. There is urgent need for conversations between Nollywood and other film industries in Africa and the world.

We commiserate with the family of the deceased and his numerous fans over the great loss. His numerous fans should take consolation in the fact that he left a rich visual legacy, which will endure years to come.

Similarly, we mourn the demise of Sisi Quadri, who died on March 1, 2024 at the Ladoke Akintola University Teaching Hospital (LAUTEC), Ogbomosho, Osun State. He died at the age of 44. He will be missed by many of his fans. He was renowned for his role in the 2004 film, Seranko Seniyan. He starred in other popular Yoruba movies such as Aje Ni Eegun, Iya Oko Mi, Omo Iya Oko, Oluwa-Burna and most recently in the multiple award winning movie series, Anikulapo (2023) series.

He also featured in a skit with the legendary Mr Macaroni and Isbae U. Although bearing a feminine stage name, and with a sharp tongue to hilariously insult people, Quadri carved a niche for himself in the Yoruba-language films, a vibrant sector of the Nollywood film industry. We condole with his family and fans.

It is sad that both actors died when fans are calling for more comic acts from them. While death is inevitable, we still urge those in the nation’s film industry to ensure the provision of adequate and affordable healthcare services to Nigerian actors. Considering their immense contributions to the development of the nation’s film industry, we urge the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) and the government to immortalise them. May God grant them eternal rest.