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Final cock crow for screen star, Sadiq Abubakar Daba

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Sadiq Daba


The cock crew late on Wednesday and in seconds, the news of the death of one of Nigeria’s consummate actors and accomplished broadcaster Sadiq Abubakar Daba, was all over the place. A master of his game and an actor, who came into prominence on the back of the successful television series by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) entitled ‘Cock Crow At Dawn.’

Uncle Sadiq, as younger colleagues simply referred to him, passed on Wednesday night after a long battle with Leukemia and Prostrate cancer. Tributes followed from the low, the high and mighty in society and it poured in from all over the world for Daba, who the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, described as ‘an iconic thespian, broadcaster and a giant of his time.”

The Minister, in a statement issued in Abuja, said . Daba’s death was a huge loss to the entertainment industry and the nation in general. Also, Daba’s colleagues, both young and old, have taken to their social media handles to pour encomiums on the award- winning actor, broadcaster and Fellow of Theatre Arts (FTA), who was buried on Thursday in Lagos.

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Katherine Obiang, Daba’s colleague at the NTA described the tall and lanky thespian as ‘an amazing broadcaster, actor, teacher, mentor and friend’. She also wrote “Sigh..Sadiq Daba, my Oga, what can I say? We were quick to fight as colleagues but also quick to make up. We would hear your voice from the control room of the NTA studio and your laughter reverberated through the studio walls, cracking everyone up in the process. You will be sorely missed.’’

A screen star, who remained timeless until he passed on, only a finger countable number of Nigerian stars have remained timeless and Daba was one of them. Daba’s journey to stardom started in the 80s. So, flash back to the 80s, a period that have been described as the glory days of Nigerian television drama. A lanky young man, a production staff of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), who played the role of Bitrus in ‘Cock Crow At Dawn’, reputed as one of the most successful television drama series, which showed weekly then on NTA, met the series teeming viewers regularly.

As Bitrus, the teenage son of Bello, played by the late George Menta, Daba soon became the darling of all, especially young viewers then, as he held fans of the series that had been long rested, spell-bound week in, week out. Daba put up a high wire act that many TV viewers, who followed the programme then have not forgotten till date. There are fans that called him by his stage name Bitrus till date, even though the programme was rested nearly three decades ago.

A critic once said that Daba, who voluntarily retired from the NTA, put up a profound performance on the series that would be difficult to forget. The critic reasoned that though Daba had gone ahead to feature in other productions, including the MNET short film ‘A Place Called Home’ and had also presented and produced some television programmes for the NTA, it was as Bitrus that Daba shot into prominence. Indeed, it was that high wire act and his other classical artistic contributions retained an irreplaceable place for Daba in the artistic scheme of things.

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A detribalised and approachable personality, who dedicated his life to television production, Daba revealed in an earlier interview that his love for theatrics started way back in early school. He was till death, a poetry and film buff and would spend his off school periods watching films at home and at the cinemas. Then too, Daba used to imagine himself ‘talking on radio or television to millions of people’.

He revealed that he admired the legendary broadcaster, Williams Roberts and decided that he was ‘going to be like Roberts’. Daba revealed too that he told his late dad how he so much admired Roberts and to encourage him, the elder Daba bought him a recorder, which he used to practice. ‘’I will pretend to be reading the news or presenting a live show and when I am done, I will play it back’’ he said.

Daba walked his dream until he found himself in the newsroom of NTA, Sokoto. He was at his beat as a news presenter, reporter and producer when his path crossed with the inimitable television man, Peter Igho, who was at the time head of the drama unit of the NTA, Sokoto. Igho found Daba a good centre to hang some of the stories he produced on. So when Cock Crow At Dawn was born, Igho, who retired as Executive Director Programmes of the NTA, drafted Daba to play Bitrus in that series that turned out a big hit. It was from there that Daba’s career took a leap. He became an acting star and instant celebrity.

‘’I enjoyed every bit of my days on the set of ‘Cock Crow At Dawn.’ It is the kind of programme that we should have on our screens today. It is almost 30 years now after and people are still talking about the programme. It meant we impacted positively on them. It is really amazing that till date, people still remember my character, Bitrus. I enjoyed playing the role and we all gave it our best shot and that is my philosophy. I give everything I am involved in my best,’ he said.

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If Daba did not continue acting on television, it is because of a needless NTA policy that barred staff of the station from participating as actors on television drama productions. That policy led to the demise of a number of television drama productions produced by NTA.

Daba didn’t embrace acting in Nollywood, as most of his contemporaries did. Producers approached him, but he would not bulge. He had issues with stories they told and the lack of attention to details. Even though he featured in a couple of Nollywood movies, including October 1 and Citation, Daba still expressed displeasure with development in Nollywood and Kannywood. ‘’They are just imitating Hollywood and Bollywood. Meanwhile, we have great stories that we have not explored. I am very selective and will only feature in productions that will remain timeless.’’

Daba said he was fulfilled as a broadcaster. He added that he was grateful to God for the grace to live his career dream.

“I don’t have any regret and that is because I think through whatever I want to do before I get myself involved in it. I have had a good time as a broadcaster and I am still in it even though independently. You don’t actually retire as a broadcaster, especially if you are a production person. You keep doing it until your body says otherwise,’’ he said.

An actor of immense quality who won some of the major industry awards, including the 2015 AMAA award for his performance as Inspector Waziri in Kunle Afolayan’s jubilee hit October 1, Daba’s body to quote him, said otherwise: “It is time to rest from the pains and trials of a protracted illness. ”

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Sadiq Abubakar Daba
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