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95 garlands for living screen and stage acting legend, Charles Olumo ‘Agbako’

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Recall a screen character called Charles Olumo or Agbako for short? Remember him? Oh, just flip back to the glorious days of Nigeria cinema and movies.

Recall this stern-looking, skinny fellow who was always a devious character in most movies he was cast to play in? He is usually the character sent to behead and clean people out in movies.

Yes, that is Agbako! That is him! You know he disappeared from the scene following the decline in production of celluloid films? There was just no news about him until early this week when the veteran actor, whose real name is Abudusalam Sanyaolu, turned 95.

The harbinger of the good news that the top Yoruba actor had turned 95 was Emmanuel Adejumo, son of the late veteran comedian, Moses Adejumo, aka Baba Sala.

Congratulatory messages poured in for the nonagenarian soon as Adejumo, who is popular as Boisala, shared the good news on his social media platform. However, one of the congratulatory messages that trended was the one by ace film director and producer, Tunde Alabi-Hundeyin, who is popular as Dudu.

The accomplished director, who is famous for his post-celluloid efforts, such as Iyawo Alhaji and Amin Orun, showed from the message he shared to celebrate Agbako at 95 that they both had a robust and excellent working relationship.

In the tribute to Pa Sanyaolu on his Facebook wall, Dudu wrote: “Baba Agbako, I saw the post celebrating your 95h birthday today. I was moved. We first worked together in 1986 when I directed Ireke Onibudo, the celluloid film by Akin Ogungbe, as produced by Bayo Aderounmo of Benton films. I was surprised on location in Abeokuta (Ogun State) when I realised that you were even older than Akin Ogungbe himself.

“Baba Agbako, God has given you longevity and he will continue to give you good health to enjoy it.”

Continuing, Dudu recalled one of his many production experiences with the veteran actor, who kept a stern look even off screen: “I remember those nights deep in locations in the hills of Oke Ona with other veterans, like Ishola Ogunsola, Ray Eyiwunmi, Jimoh Aliu and Oyin Adejobi…. I must remember your role in the whole Ireke Onibudo was just one scene, but the most dangerous in the whole film.

“You were supposed to depict Olodumare or the voice of wisdom. We set up below a very high hill deep in the jungle of Oke Ona after Iberekodo in Abeokuta. I directed Tunde Kelani (the cinematographer) to set up his camera by 5am in a very low angle shot to the hill. You were put in a very long robe of white, with dropping white beard.

“The risk came because you had to climb a very high rock, shooting into the skies. I was afraid, but you called me to a corner and confirmed you will do it. You struggled to the pinnacle of the hills and the maverick production manager, Segun Akpata, and arts director, Pat Nebo, climbed after you with a basket of white doves.

“As the dawn came around 6am, you spread your arms wide like the Statue of Liberty and Segun started throwing up the doves behind you. I was down the hillside, by the camera, and by Tunde Kelani.

“You were beautiful in silhouette, with doves rising up behind you as Segun was throwing them off camera. All the doves, will fly around you and fly away. Suddenly, the last dove flew around your head and landed on one of your stretched hands. Wherever we showed the film, that scene always elicited standing ovation.

“Your courage made achieve the best scene I have ever done in my film career.”

Describing the person of Sanyaolu, Dudu added: “You never shouted about your age. You were humble and jovial. You will do this with a mixture of Egba dialect and English and everyone will be laughing and holding their sides, even off camera. You should have been arrested.”

While surmising, Dudu recalled: “I also remembered how you were part of my film, Amin Orun, in 1994, along with Sola Fosudo, Clarion and Clarence Chukwura and Baba Suwe, amongst others.

“As you mark 95 today, may the Almighty continue to keep you in good health. E o ni Ka AGBAKO OOOO!!! God Bless you sir.”

In a short inaudible message to mark his 95th birthday anniversary, the Ogun State-born living legend, who disclosed that he began acting in 1953 at the Apostolic Church in Mushin area of Lagos, advised those still active in the profession to be patient and disciplined.

The actor, who revealed that his father once used charm on him to discourage him from taking to acting as a profession, also admonished younger colleagues to draw their strength from God, because like him, their strength should lie in God and not man.

“What has kept me is the absolute faith I have in God and probably because I acknowledge the fact that my strength lies in God. Outside that, I eat natural food and take a lot of local herbs and that has helped in keeping me healthy, although there is no life keeper like Allah.

“But I am happy and I really thank Allah for sparing my life,” he said.


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