Felicitations: My February People

By Femi Akintunde-Johnson

Unsurprisingly, the hullabaloo that presaged and enveloped the 25 February, 2023 national elections made many birthday celebrations within that period go under the radar. Even as we look towards the next set of elections on 11 March (for governors and state legislators), the drums for personal celebrations of some of our finest creative persons would still be a little underplayed. However, gems should not be discarded on account of existential tug of war for naked political power, by people who may or may not appreciate the prescience of artistry or the finer elements of authentic creativity. Let us go ahead, and celebrate them.


A household name in Nigeria and Britain of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Even today in her 80s, Taiwo Ajai-Lycett has remained a faithful thespian – unadulterated by age, trend or circumstance. She attained iconic status with her heroic performance many years ago, when she acted through her make-believe role (even as the real-life loss of her husband, Tom Lycett, was announced to her just before she climbed the stage) in 1993! That legend has remained an enduring photographic aphrodisiac to all creative practitioners – encountered only in truly great works of art. 

She made her debut in 1967, at the UK’s AvantGarde, Royal Court Theatre, London. She later trained at: Guildhall School of Music and Drama, City Literary Institute, The Dance Centre, and The Actors’ Studio, all in London. She is also a card-carrying member of the British Actors Equity Union.

Her reputation was signposted by the way she handled her tiny, non-speaking part in Conor Cruise O’Brien’s Murderous Angels, staged at the Gaiety Theatre in 1971, during the Dublin Theatre Festival, where she played Pauline, the wife of the slain African patriot, Patrice Lumumba. Her expression of grief was so intense and authentically African in pathos that O’Brien penned a landmark tribute: “Rarely has an actor done so much for a part with so little help from the author”!

  She appeared in two productions at the 1972 Edinburgh International Festival: Stanley Eveling’s Caravaggio Buddy and C.P. Taylor’s The Black And White Minstrels. Forty seven years later, she returned to the Edinburgh International Festival for Ifeoma Fafunwa’s Hear Word! Naija Woman Talk True (2019), the first Nigerian stage play to appear at the Harvard University’s The American Repertory Theatre….

Her television credits are even more robust: the well-loved BBC’s Some Mothers Do ‘Av ‘Em (1973 – 1978, BBC); Crown Court (1972 – 1984, on UK’s ITV network); General Hospital (1972 – 1979, on ITV); Frankie Howerd’s History of England (1974, British TV movie); and Angels (1975, UK)….

 Back home, she also starred in some of our classic weekly television shows: Laolu Ogunniyi’s Winds Against My Soul (1979), NTA’s For Better for Worse, The Honourable, Eyo Fancy, Jab Adu’s The Young Ones, Rasheed Gbadamosi’s The Mansion, and the current spectacle, the Africa Magic’s Tinsel (2008 – date).

 Her debut in film was in the 1978 movie, A Warm December, starring the first African-American Oscar winner, Sidney Poitier (who also directed)…By the way, she’s 82 now, and doesn’t look like she’s slowing down that quickly.


Former model, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde latched onto acting like duck to water – she is endowed with the looks, temperament and talent to excel in front of the klieg lights – and from the mid 1990s, as a strapping 17-year old, Jalade sauntered through Reginald Ebere’s Venom of Justice (1995) with such great promise unusual in a novice. The linchpin of her career, however, was the ‘sick’ lead role in Andy Amenechi’s Mortal Inheritance (1996) where she played a sickle-celler who would wade through daunting challenges. The performance fetched her the first major honour at the Reel Awards in 1997 – the Best Lead Actress in English Language. At only 19 years old, she was perhaps the youngest recipient of such a big accolade in any major award property – even till now!

She has gone on, in her 27-year career, to mount many other hills…with some of her admirers claiming she’s starred in more than 300 movies…. Surely, the wide-eyed debutante of the mid 90s is today’s filmic phenomenon – and she’s only 45 (on 7 February).


Just back from a study stay abroad in 1984, all Gloria Ijeoma Anozie wanted to do was to express her creative self. She started as a proper journalist with Daily Times on the energy beat around 1986, after a two-year training at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, NIJ. She also had stints with Poise magazine – and her journey to human-interest avenue kicked off.   

  She later freelanced with high-stepping Quality magazine (owned by Newswatch). Of course, it was inevitable that she’d be one of the foundation members of the vivacious May Ellen Ezekiel’s Classique magazine in 1989/90. Soon after, she was ensnared by the rambunctious lifestyle of musician and TV producer, Charles “Charly Boy” Oputa, and they combined to give bemused Nigerians the wildly unpredictable Charly Boy Show, from 1990.

  Her biggest break remains the staggeringly seductive (for its time), Glamour Girls (1994/1995), produced and written by Ken Nnebue, directed by Chika Onukwufor. The adorable magistrate of the popular analgesic TV commercial also graced several videos and TV soaps.  Anozie-Young is married to star method actor, Norbert Young, and turned 56 on 4 February.


Before he joined the political hustle in 2014, Desmond Oluwashola Elliot was a fine specimen of appropriate characterisation in his multifarious roles, supposedly unleashed in about 300 movies, apart from a bunch of TV soaps and series. He had a soapy entry into acting – with parts in TV shows: Everyday People, One Too Much and Saints and Sinners. 

  The years 2004 to 2007 were his most prolific period, as he was throwing his acting skills all over the place…  The stats are verging on the incredulous – see, within those four years, he flirted with over 200 movies! This feverish rush for all sorts of roles simmered drastically to about 15 per year in 2008 onwards. Yet, whatever the lure of politics, Elliot is still in his prime for a boisterous acting return… at 49 (on 4 February).

   Beyond the highflyers whose details are at my fingertips, we extend hearty February felicitations to the following: Tiwa Savage (5th in 1978), Foluke Daramola (15th in 1978), Adesuwa Etomi (22nd in 1988), Osita “Pawpaw” Iheme (20th in 1982), Fathia “Balogun” Williams (5th in 1969), Korede Bello (29th in 1996) and Malaika (15th in 1973). 

  We also remember the unvarnished brilliance of our departed stars: Bukky Ajayi (2nd in 1934), Francis Agu (18th in 1965), Sikiru Ayinde Barrister (9th in 1948), Geraldo Pino (10th in 1939) and Orlando Owoh (14th in 1932). 

Due to the eclectic nature of modern information gathering tools, some of these dates may be a little off the mark. We plead for understanding, and encourage the wronged owners of those dates (or their inheritors) to make efforts at published corrections. 

Regardless of any ‘dated’ hesitation, it is doubtless that these are “February Forever” celebrators, and we wish them all – the living and the memories of the dead – unquenchably flourishing legacies. Felicitations!

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