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Ernest Asuzu: Light out on Nollywood’s ‘original bad boy’

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Ernest Asuzu

He was clearly one of Nollywood’s most sought- after actors of the 90’s and 2000’s. Producers made him their first choice for an actor, who could delightfully live the role of a lover boy or a mean fellow in a crime movie.

For most fans of Nollywood movies, a crime, adventure or love story was not complete without Ernest Asuzu. His deft handling of crime and romantic roles earned him the sobriquet ‘Original Bad Boy’ and made him a darling of the movie crowd. But the multitalented actor and singer has passed on.

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Light dimmed on Asuzu on Tuesday night. Asuzu’s wife, Jenifer, reportedly called up a few of his colleagues to announce the sudden death of the beloved actor and singer, who was popular as Elcream. “Ernest slumped and never recovered,’’ was how Mrs. Asuzu reportedly relayed the news of untimely death of her husband to a former President of the Actors’ Guild of Nigeria (AGN).

Tributes have continued to pour in for the actor of vast credit, who had a long drawn battle with his health.

Popular Nollywood actor, Charles Inojie said he was heart-broken on receiving the news that the well-built actor had passed on. “He was one of Nollywood’s star actors and most sought-after playboy role interpreters of the late ‹90’s and early 2000’s. He was about to carve a niche for himself in rap music when he died. I am broken hearted,” Inojie said.

Also, notable Nollywood director, who worked with him on a number of movie projects, Teco Benson took to his social media handles to pay tribute to the star of ‘Living Abroad’, ‘Accidental Discharge’, ‘and ‘Another Campus Queen’.

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Teco Benson wrote: ‘Rest in peace, my dear friend. You were so determined to live. You fought back all the physical and spiritual obstacles, even to the very last minute. When you called me four days ago to discuss some future plans, I never knew it was going to be the last. Nevertheless, God knows all. Rest on, till we meet to part no more. Rest on, star of some of my successful movies- ‘Suicide Mission’, ‘Broad Daylight’, ‘Accidental Discharge’’.

Tribute also came from one of his contemporaries, Emeka Ike. “My brother, you came, you saw and you conquered. Rest in peace Ernest Asuzu (El-Cream). This seems a dying season. Death, Oh! Death, where is your sting?’’ the popular actor wrote.

Aged 43, Ernest who hailed from Imo State, grew up in Lagos. He had his early education in Lagos and joined the movie industry in 1997. He revealed in an earlier interview that his career ambition was to become a ‘pop and rap singing star.’’

But a referral he got to attend an audition exercise in 1998 turned his career swivel chair full circle. “A friend mentioned that there was an audition for a movie in Surulere, and he encouraged me to give it a try. That there could be a part for a singer in it and so I gave it a try and was auditioned. I almost gave up before it got to my turn. Come and see people, eh’ he enthused. But the casting team was impressed with his performance at the audition. He got a call back in the 1998 urban telling ‘Dirty Game’.

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It took Asuzu’s performance in ‘Dirty Game’ and a few others after it, like ‘My Guy’, ‘Chain Reaction’ and Teco Benson’s ‘Broad Day Light’ for Asuzu’s talent to become noticeable.

Another pronounced performance in Teco Benson’s ‘Formidable Force’ and other movies such as ‘Passionate Soul’, ‘Another Campus Tale’ and ‘Power of Trust’ earned Asuzu a comfortable listing on the unofficial list of recognisable and A-list actors.

Star of a number of Yoruba language movies including ‘Ogidan’ and ‘Ago Kan Oru’, Asuzu who spoke Yoruba fluently had his eyes on the summit. His ambition was not just to make it to the very top of his career, but he revealed that his dream was to remain at the top and to be as relevant in the industry as ‘butter is to bread.’

He also wanted to combine acting with singing and to run what he hoped would be the biggest one-stop showbiz empire in the continent.

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“I have everything worked out. Launch into music big time, do acting side by side with it and go into production and directing. In fact the plan is to run one of the biggest one-stop showbiz empire’’ the star of hit movies such as ‘Burning Desire’, ‘Never End’ and ‘Last Wedding’ revealed in an earlier interview.

It didn’t, however, take long for things to begin to dip for Ernest, who later veered full time into music production and had, in fact, launched a seven-tracker album in November 2020. It started late 2000’s with rumour that he had developed some mental issues that defied treatment. There was also the rumour that he suffered stroke and was bedridden. Then the rumour that he had gone bankrupt or the viral news that he had passed on, all of which he debunked.

In his words: “I was rumoured dead, some people said I was mad; that I was a never-do-well. It hurts badly. I don’t know what they want to achieve by wishing me ill. Some said my ex was behind my problems but I honestly, do not know and I have not asked her,” Asuzu said.

A few months after, in January 2020, a video of the actor pleading for medical support surfaced and went viral. The leadership of the Actors’ Guild of Nigeria acted swiftly and announced plans to assist Ernest off the streets. The AGN did their best to get Ernest off the streets and sources within the AGN said he was assisted with funds to get medical care. Even the AGN President, Emeka Rollas confirmed that the Guild had reached out to Asuzu.

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The situation actually began to look good for Asuzu until another embarrassing video footage surfaced. This time, it was a frail looking Asuzu begging for alms on the streets of Lagos. It was obvious that he was down with stroke in the video. Again, the leadership of the AGN swung into action. The guild in a press statement said that the guild was on top of the situation and would do all it could to bring reprieve and succour to the ailing actor.

Although the AGN did not make public what it did to bring succour to the actor, sources close to him said things started to look good again for the Asuzu, who in November last year, launched a seven-track album entitled ‘The Truth’.

Asuzu reportedly declared at the launch that he was back, better and stronger and was set to make a loaded comeback to the movie turf. But that will no longer be, as light has dimmed on the beloved Nollywood, who will be remembered for his stunning run in movies such as ‘My Guy’, ‘Power of Trust’, ‘Last Wedding’, ‘Broad Daylight’, ‘Burning Desire’, ‘Never End’, ‘Royal War’, ‘Ogidan’.

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