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Tears in moviedom for Sola Onayiga, Ada Ameh

By Shaibu Husseini
23 July 2022   |   3:55 am
Dark clouds enveloped Moviedom in the early hours of Monday, July 18, when news filtered out that the grim ripper had pounced on two illustrious members of the acting tribe- Sola Awojobi Onayiga and Ada Obande Ameh.

Ada Ameh

Dark clouds enveloped Moviedom in the early hours of Monday, July 18, when news filtered out that the grim ripper had pounced on two illustrious members of the acting tribe- Sola Awojobi Onayiga and Ada Obande Ameh. The news threw moviedom into deep shock.

The veteran actress and Fellow of Theatre Arts reportedly passed on at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) few days after she was moved from the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital to the general ward. Tears flowed freely and has continued to flow for the actress of vast stage and screen credits who is popular as ‘Ireti aka cooking practicals’, an alias she earned playing the quarrelsome and ever loquacious wife of the polygamist Chief Fuji in the defunct situational comedy on television Fuji House of Commotion.

A naturally endowed actress, Sola’s foray into the world of make believe was as she said a fulfillment of childhood fantasy. The gap-toothed Lagos born actress had always wanted to hit the stage. That was why even as a clerical staff of the defunct Nigerian Telecommunication Limited (NITEL), Sola still found time to do some acting.

However, the sun shone on her career after she got a referral from a friend at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), to be part of the drama segment of the then popular teen’s magazine programme, Youth Scene, which ran on Channel 10. It was on the back of that programme that Sola’s acting talent became noticeable.

Later, Sola joined the Organisation for Young Artiste, (OYA) a theatre ensemble that was based at the time at the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos, and through the ensemble, she got steeped in theatrical activities and as she did, her interest in the arts and acting in particular increased.

Born to the family of the famous Awojobi’s of Ikorodu, Lagos, Sola had her early education at St Mathias Catholic Girls Primary School, Lafiaji, Okesuna Lagos and at Glory College, Ikorodu. On completion of early school, she enrolled to study drama at the University of Ife, (now Obafemi Awolowo University). Sola revealed that she left the university a better and well-baked artiste and explained that she made the best use of her stay in Ife.

Freelancing was next on her bill after she returned from Ife. She had earlier toured Rome in 1987 and in 1992 with the Ben Tomoloju led Kakaaki Arts Company. She also got an opportunity to try out her steaming talent on radio on drama programmes such as True to Life, Survival Express and the very popular Gamji Street.

But the turning point for Sola came when she encountered one of Nigeria’s respected theatre directors, Jide Ogungbade, during a drama presentation by Youths of the C&S Ayo Nio church, where they both worshiped. Impressed by the way she portrayed a character in the play, which the group put up, Ogungbade invited Sola to audition for a role in Fred Agbeyegbe’s play The King Must Dance Naked, which was being packaged for the defunct Ajo Festival.

Sola Onayiga

Sola took up the challenge; attended the audition and was cast to play the role of Queen Mother Odosun, with Jide Ogungbade directing. The after production reviews were roundly positive. Her deft interpretation of the role shot her into public space and also earned her the sobriquet- ‘Fiery lady of the stage’.

From the Ajo festival stage, Sola grabbed stage and screen acting credits with some of the most memorable being The woman who must be feared, Esu and the Vagabond Minstrels, Dilemma of a ghost, and Ben Tomoloju’s Jankariwo.

Married to Tosin-Kanbi Onayiga, a clergy and media practitioner, Sola will be remembered for her deft interpretation of the role of Ireti in Fuji House of Commotion.

Once asked if like the screen character Ireti she was quarrelsome in real life and Sola replied, “no, I am not. That screen character is much more than a direct opposite of my person; it’s just make-believe and I don’t carry the role off set with me. I leave it on set after every shoot.”

IF the news of Sola Onayiga’s passing shook Nollywood, then that of the death of inimitable Nollywood actress, Ada Ameh, on Sunday while attending a function in Warri, Delta State, dealt a big blow on the industry.

The star of the popular sitcom on Africa Magic The Johnsons reportedly died at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s hospital in Delta State, around 11pm, on Sunday, after she collapsed. Nollywood has been dripping in tears since the news broke that the immensely popular actress had passed on.

Tributes from Twitter, facebook and Instagram have been massive, with fans, colleagues and family members all jostling to drop a condolence message on their various social media handles. It will take a while for the motion picture industry to recover from the reality of losing a colleague who declared openly that she was battling max depression and mental health challenges having lost her only daughter Aladi Godgift in 2020, her dad and six of her siblings within a few years.

“Everything is going to be fine. I have an issue right now and it is taking my life. I will not die. We will get over it,’’ Ameh declared in a video she published on her Instagram handle in June.

In July, while appearing on the popular TVC’s Your View programme, the actress revealed that she has been depressed for some years, but it worsened when she lost her daughter in 2020.

“It worsened when I lost my daughter in 2020. We practically grew up together; she was like my younger sister,’’ Ameh had said, adding that she lost six siblings and her father before her daughter passed on.

“I had lost three sisters, three of my brothers and my father. So, after mourning all these people and I lost my daughter, my world crumbled before me. Sometimes, I see myself crying for days.”

A gifted actress, Ada was everywhere on the silver screen, giving life to roles she is cast to interprete. If she was not in a film or in a standup comedy show or in a commercial, you are sure to feast on her gifted talent on television, particularly on The Johnsons drama series where she plays ‘Emuakpo Johnson’, the semi-illiterate wife of the screen character Lucky Johnsons.

Born to a dad who is Idoma from Benue and a mum who is from Akwa-Ibom, Ada who was raised in Lagos, had her break on screen in 1996, after a significant role that she played in Zeb Ejiro’s very successful 1996 movie Domitilla. Since then, Ada has continued to make very good impressions. Not only that, her acting light shone steadily and brightly.

Witty, friendly, and humble, Ada revealed that although she had nursed the ambition of “becoming a singer and later a medical doctor,” her interest in acting grew whilst growing up at the Naval barracks in Ajegunle area of Lagos. She recalled in an earlier interview that she featured in some skits in early school and later as a member of a church drama group, and she got a lot of commendation.

It was on the strength of those commendations that she summed up courage to approach the filmmaker Zeb Ejiro who was at that time prepping to go on set for his blockbuster movie Domitila. She auditioned and was cast to feature in the urban telling. That was how it started for the actress of vast credit and until her untimely exit.

There had been no stopping the star of critically acclaimed movies such as Kunle Afolayan’s Phone Swap, Civil War, 30 Days in Atlanta and The Johnsons, who clocked 48 on May 8.

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