Legendary actor, scriptwriter, director and producer Joseph Abiodun Babajide Adu who is popular as JAB Adu is dead. The actor reportedly died early hours of last Sunday in his country home in Abeokuta, Ogun State. He was aged 82. His wife, Aina Lewis-Adu confirmed the news of the actor’s demise to Adu’s long time associate the veteran director Bayo Awala. The late Adu and Awala worked on the 1972 successful feature by Jab Adu titled ‘Bisi Daughter of the River’.
Popularly called ‘Uncle JAB Adu’ by most of his younger colleagues, the late Jab Adu was a pioneer cast member of the Village Headmaster series, which the Late Chief Segun Olusola created in 1968. He was at first cast to play the lead role of the Village Headmaster but the crew later cast him to give real life to the screen character Bassey Okon, the Efik fellow who managed a provision shop in the series.
The interpretation JAB gave the role has become something of a standard for such type roles. From the Village Headmaster series JAB’s next stop was filmmaking. He produced and directed the big budget celluloid film, Bisi Daughter of the River, which is recorded as one of the earliest celluloid films made in Nigeria. When production of celluloid films dipped, Jab Adu who is survived by a wife, children and grand children continued working on television and radio but mostly writing and producing radio programmes.
Condolence messages have continued to pour in for the veteran actor who is best remembered for his role as Bassey Okon in the Village Headmaster. In his tribute, veteran director, Bala Awala simply remarked “there goes a good man, a man of peace and a true professional’’. Artistic Director of the National Troupe, Mr. Akin Adejuwon has described the death of the actor as ‘painful’. According to the Troupe boss “people like that should live longer so we can go to them to get ideas on how we can move the arts and culture of this country forward’’. Also, Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has condoled the family of the actor whom he described repeatedly as a ‘Master Artiste’’. The Minister said the elder artiste lived an exemplary life and he exhibited sterling qualities through out his lifetime. Alhaji Mohammed particularly noted that the actor made a huge impression on him during his days on the Village Headmaster series and on several other television programmes.
When Jab Adu spoke to The Guardian recently, he spoke about his life, career and experience on the set of the Village Headmaster. He said: “actually Village Headmaster started in 1968 and we were auditioned for it. There was Ted Mukoro who played the Village Headmaster and myself. I recalled at that time that I spoke good English and so they didn’t see me as someone who could speak pidgin and it was a debate whether I should do the headmaster or Ted should do the Pidgin English part. But when they looked at our stature, they said Ted would fit the role of the Village Headmaster and so I took up the role of Bassey Okon and took the challenge of creating that character. So that was how I came to play the role of Bassey Okon. It was a challenge for me to create that character and of course you know I was in Village Headmaster for about nine years and it was after that time that I said listen, I can’t do the same thing all my life.
I wanted to do something else that was how I left Village Headmaster.’’