Babatunde Omidina … Grave side wreath for iconic humour merchant
He was undoubtedly one of the biggest names on the nation’s acting scene. The goofy security guard and mischievous interpreter of proverbs, Baba Suwe (real name Babatunde Omidina) was comedy and Comedy were Baba Suwe.
An iconic actor, he made waves in life and death. When the news of his death was announced on November 22, the nation stood still. Tributes poured in from home and abroad, all eulogising the undisputable comic giant and one of the most committed actors of the comedy genre.
Aged 63, Baba Suwe was colourful, creative and his unique artistry made him clearly a national celebrity. Fans who would simply go crazy anytime they encounter him on the screen, describe him as one of the most influential comic actors in the Yoruba language divide of the Nigerian motion picture industry.
Indeed, Omidina who is best known for his inimitable portrayal of the character of Baba Suwe in movies such as N150 Million, 36 Kinium and Kowope, has in an acting career that spanned over five decades, established himself as a central figure and as an actor who consistently remained on top of the chart.
A native of Ikorodu Local Council of Lagos State, Omidina who had his early education in Lagos and in Osogbo, Osun State, started his acting career in 1971. Baba Suwe’s talent as an actor came to the fore after he featured in a movie titled, Omolasan. An actor who dominated the Yoruba movie industry for decades until death, Baba Suwe became a household name after he starred in the 1997 hit by Olaiya Igwe titled Iru Esin. He rode on the back of the success of the movie to feature in numerous home video productions. He later signed several Nigerian movies such as Baba Jaiye jaiye starring Funke Akindele and Femi Adebayo as producer.
Star of notable movies such as Ba o ku, Oju Oloju, Baba Londoner, Ko tan si be, Aso Ibora, Obelomo, elebolo and Larinloodu, industry observers believe that Baba Suwe’s career began to nosedive in October 2011, after operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), arrested him at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, on the suspicion that he ingested cocaine wraps.
NDLEA had in a press statement maintained that their scans revealed “multiple hyper-dense nodular particles in the upper gastrointestinal tract, consistent with a large amount of drug ingestion.”
The actor was detained for 24 days at the NDLEA custody. With the help of his lawyer, Late Bamidele Aturu, Justice Yetunde Idowu of the Ikeja High Court granted him bail. However, shortly after his release, the actor, through his lawyer, challenged his arrest and detention in court and he obtained another victory in court. This time, the court awarded him N25m as damages, but he never got the monetary award.
Shortly after, the veteran actor began to suffer several health complications. He then cried out for help and help came for the actor from colleagues, friends and from top government functionaries.
President of the Theater Arts and Motions Pictures Producers Association of Nigeria (TAMPAN), Bolaji Amusan, revealed in a press statement that the association had been footing his health bills since 2017. Help also came through Rev. (Mrs.) Esther Ajayi reportedly donated the sum of N10m to support Baba Suwe’s treatment in the US.
Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, also donated N1m to support the late actor’s medical treatment. The actor was flown to Rhode Island for medical treatment in April 2019, but he returned and still complained about the complications. The Iconic actor lived with those complications until he passed on this November.
Asked to state his career ambition in an earlier interview, the humour merchant said his ambition was to continue to bring light and laughter to patrons of Nollywood movies.
“I want to act as long as God keeps me alive. This is all I know how to do-acting and general entertainment. I have not done any other major work outside entertainment since I started out over 40 years ago. I just pray for long life and good health so that I will continue to do what I enjoy doing.”
Asked also where he gets his inspiration from, Baba Suwe replied, “It’s from Allah. He gives life and so he gives everything you do in life. People and happenings around me also inspire me. I get my jokes from what they say or do around me. But the ultimate inspiration is from Allah.”
Married to comedienne Omoladun Omidina, who died in September 2009, Baba Suwe is survived by three children, several grandchildren, aged mother and family. He will be remembered as an entertainer who had more than a brilliant acting career and as that goofy security guard whose presence on screen brought to light and laughter to our faces.