When it was announced that Babatunde Omidina, popularly known as Baba Suwe, had died, social media was awash with tributes. Many of these social media posts contained video clips of the veteran actor highlighting his humour, which has become his greatest gift to Nigerians.
This is his Netng obituary.
Baba Suwe was born on August 22, 1958 in Inabere street in the Lagos Island part of Lagos. His father had three wives, although he was the only child of his mother.
He had his primary school education at Jamaitul Islamia in Lagos and Children Boarding School before proceeding to Adekanbi Commercial High School in Mile 12, Lagos state. He then moved to Osogbo, Osun state, where he attended Ifeoluwa Grammar School although he dropped out in form four.
When he returned to Lagos, Baba Suwe tried his hands on several trades, including learning and working as a tailor. After a while, he worked as a carpenter and even worked as a clerk before moving into acting.
In an interview with The Vanguard, a Nigerian newspaper, he described himself as a unique species who managed to forge another path for himself despite not doing well academically.
He said: “I am a special species created by God. I hail from Igbgogbo, Ikorodu, Lagos State but born and bred on the Island. My father was an average Nigerian who was into trading of eye-glasses, and my mother was a trader.”
“I am the only child between my parents. My father had three wives. I dropped out of secondary school when I was in form four. Growing up for me was tough but fun. I enjoyed every bit of it because I was quite mischievous.
“As a teenager, I didn’t really know the importance of education but thank God; I am managing well. I am also a different person from what you see on the screen, a quiet and easy-going person.”
Acting Career and comedy overdrive
When he was 18, Baba Suwe had his first acting experience while still in secondary school. The travelling theatre of Baba Mero and his group visited his secondary school in Osogbo to perform. After the show, Baba Suwe gathered some of his friends to form a small theatre group where they practised creating new songs and dances. Thus began his journey into acting.
Baba Suwe never had formal acting training. He believed that it was a gift from God.
“I was born with the talent of putting smiles on faces, so I really did not need any training.”
His first acting production was a free show at Amuto playing ground, Lagos Island. After that, the performance was moved to LTV 8.
In an interview with Nigerian newspaper, The Punch, he said that “while at LTV 8, we had gone for a stage play, and after the performance, some people walked up to me and asked if I was the one in the costume that just left the stage. I told them I was the one, and they asked if I could perform at their station, which was NTA Channel 7.
“They also invited me to the National Theatre where we used to have 10-minute performances. We were then told to perform at their station. Their producer then was called Gani Kasumu.
“They really loved our first performance and we ended up recording 13 episodes of the programme. That was how the ‘world’ got to know about Baba Suwe and we became very popular.”
Baba Suwe began acting professionally in 1971, appearing in a weekly comedy series, Erin Keke. There, his growth as a comical actor began, and he soon became a viewers’ favourite. His performance caught the eye of the veteran actor and film producer, Obalende, who featured him in his first movie, Omolasan.
The movie propelled Baba Suwe to popularity within the movie industry due to his ease of creating humour and effortlessly cracking jokes, making him a sought-after actor.
In 1997, Baba Suwe was featured in the tragicomic Yoruba movie, Iru Esin, produced by Ebun Oloyede, popularly known as Olaiya Igwe. Although a highly emotive film, Baba Suwe provided much needed comic relief where he played the role of a barber.
His humour lay in his spontaneity as he could think up funny lines and expressions during his shoot. He admitted that fellow actors and crew members were sometimes unable to control their laughter when he delivered his lines.
“Most times when I am on set, I make the director, film editor and a lot of others laugh that they forget to cut out the unnecessary parts.”
Baba Suwe usually acted as a dark-skinned stock character who wore oversized clothes and made actors and viewers laugh. In movies like Baba Londoner, Lepa Shandi, Elebolo, Larinloodu, and Ko tan si be, he acted the role of the Baba Suwe stock character, which ultimately became his brand.
Marriage and NDLEA Saga
Baba Suwe got married to actress Omoladun in 1995. He described her as someone who understood him well both as a wife and as an actress. The duo featured in many movies together where she sometimes played his foil character. Baba Suwe said sometimes when they quarrel at home, she would use their presence in a movie to get back to him.
She died in September 2009 after battling hypertension for a while. She had a child before their marriage and three other children for him.
He said: The death of Omoladun was a great loss I cannot get over in this lifetime. She will remain my best companion. She understood me better than any other person on planet earth. At times when we quarrel in the house, she would abuse me on set and that would mark the end of the issue.”
Two years after the death of his wife in 2011, Baba Suwe was embroiled in a drug trafficking allegation levelled against him by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). The actor was on his way to France where he had been invited to be the MC at a naming ceremony when he was picked up on suspicion of ingesting wraps of banned drugs.
Baba Suwe spent 19 days in the custody of the NDLEA officials as they attempted to retrieve the supposed drugs it was claimed was in his stomach.
Recounting his ordeal in the custody of the NDLEA, Baba Suwe said he was not allowed to leave despite not finding any incriminating evidence.
He said: “Even after two days of not excreting cocaine as expected, I was not left off the hook. Some even said I used charms but if that is true many herbalists in Nigeria should be billionaires. I spent more than nineteen days sleeping on a couch for something I know nothing about.
The actor was ultimately represented by lawyer and human rights activist Bamidele Aturu, who secured his release and sued the agency for wrongful imprisonment and violation of his rights. A Lagos court awarded him N25 million in damages although he never got the money as his lawyer died in 2014.
Baba Suwe blamed his ill health and battle with diabetes on his ordeal in the agency’s hands. In 2017, he travelled abroad for medical treatment and also revealed in an interview that his ailment had taken a huge financial toll on him.
The actor said the defamation affected his career as many people he related with in the past avoided him despite his innocence.
“The crisis travelled so far that even if I use all the newspapers in Nigeria to tell my own side of the story, some people will still not believe it. It almost killed me, tarnished my image and my career.”
On Monday, November 22, Adesola Morenikeji Omidina, Baba Suwe’s son, announced on social media that his father had passed away from complications due to diabetes. He was 63 years old.
Impact and Tributes
Since the news of Baba Suwe’s demise was made public, actors and fans alike have come out to express their condolences and speak about his contribution to the Nigerian movie industry particularly the comedy genre due to his effortless manner of bringing smiles to faces.
Adebayo Salami described his death as a massive loss as he was an important figure to their industry.
“Unfortunately, his demise left a huge vacuum in the Nigerian comedy industry. His fans started missing him a long time ago when he became ill.
“He was very talented. A clown. Whatever he did or said appeared funny. His colleagues, too, will miss him greatly.”
Skitmaker and comedian Woli Arole told netng that the late comedian was an inspiration to him and many people. He described Baba Suwe as one of the best comedians to come out of Nigeria.
He said: “Baba Suwe touched my life with his humour, very undiluted concentrated comedy. He’s a superb actor with a unique style of delivery. One of the best comic acts that have come out of Nigeria. God bless his memories. I honour him as a LEGEND”
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos state, in a statement through his chief press secretary, said the late actor’s “demise was painful and a great loss to the deceased family, Nollywood and the country as a whole, especially fans and lovers of the popular Yoruba actor.”
Yomi Fabiyi who was a protege of Baba Suwe said the late actor gave him his first role and believed in him when no one else did.
“You qualify as my father, you are my father and you played your fatherly role. No human is perfect but if anything you did, you gave this dream of mine a reality. You lifted me and I appreciate all your kindness.”
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, in his condolence message described Baba Suwe as someone who brought joy to Nigerian homes with his humour saying he left behind a vacuum too difficult to fill
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Source: The Nigerian Actor who made Millions Laugh