When beggars die...
When beggars die, there are no comets seen. The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes- (Julius Caeser) William Shakespeare.
I was at the CORA Arts Stampede yesterday when I overheard that Joe Layode was dead. For those who might not recall, Joe Layode was Garuba of Nigeria's first major and still unparalleled tv drama series, 'The Village Headmaster'.
Along with characters like Bassey Okon (Jab Adu) and his famous 'Chei Chei Chei' exclamation, Ife Araba, The Headmaster who had 'Knock 3 times and wait for answer' on his door (Femi Robinson), The Oloja (Dejumo Lewis), Chief Eleyinmi (Funso Adeolu), Councillor Balogun (Wole Amele), Amebo (Ibidun Allison), Okoro (Jimmy Johnson), Boniface, Sisi Clara (Elsie Olusola), Lakunle Ojo (Layi Ashadele) and many, many others, Garuba helped shape many young lives (including mine) who watched the series that was the Nigerian Oracle at that time. It was beautiful tv, it was a beautiful world and that programme was one of my early influences in drama.
He died a beggar.
Joe Layode who learnt his acting trade in England more than 4 decades ago was reduced to bit parts as he got older and TV in Nigeria revolutionised (becoming much worse). He finally became blind and was reduced to begging for his food around the Unity Estate in Iba, Lagos, where he lived. We'd planned to do a documentary about him, reach out to aid him, we never got round to it.
I never met him in person.
I was informed that the artist, Mufu Onifade, ran from end to end, seeking that he might be buried with honour. He didn't succeed. They had to bury him at the Atan Cemetery in a temporary grave, not fully 6 feet under because there was another body 6 feet down.
A temporary grave, you ask? Yes, that's what I heard, and only in Nigeria.
So what becomes of him permanently? I do not know yet. The actor, Funso Alabi, went unsung too.
When old heroes die...