The October People

Femi Akintunde-Johnson

October is a great month when great stars and remarkable achievers are born. In fact, science has argued forcefully that children born in October have many great attributes: “Studies show that babies with October birthdays have strong minds and bodies” – live longer, more driven, and less allergic. What’s more, more American presidents were October babies; and even more distinct, more award winners were born in the 10th month!

In the same vein, a “study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that babies born in October and November performed better than those born in other months on tests of strength, stamina, and cardiovascular fitness.”  Yet another study says October children are most likely to be successful and wealthy (greening from ear to ear… are you still guessing the reason?) Below are excerpts in salute of some of our October stars:


Still teaching by leading the ropes and acting her roles efficiently and relentlessly – Lanre Hassan Adesina (Iya Awero) has logged six decades at the acting portals. Well, she was part of the Young Star Concert Party around 1964 – and that was not the beginning of her romance with drama. Reportedly born October 3, 1950, she incredibly started acting barely in her teenage years (at 14 yrs) in an era when theatrical displays were set aside for vagabonds. At 73 years old this year, she has seen it all. A founding member of Ojo Ladipo’s group, Awada Kerikeri, etc, the inevitable “Maami of Yoruwood” is a virtual irreplaceable in the sketch of presentations of Yoruba dramaturgy. She has also amassed work in the English medium of the art with surprising elasticity – a totem to an undying thespian spirit.


Ironically, this vendor of raucous mirth and disguised buffoonery, is also extremely withdrawn and introverted.    

  The well-liked actor, playwright, comic, director and producer, Sunday Omobolanle would be 70 in October, next year; and by his own admittance, he swayed into acting after watching Gbekude, a weekly drama on NTA 10, performed by “students of the University of Ife” (possibly the Ori-Olokun Players). From an apprentice pharmacy assistant, he joined the Ojo Ladipo Theatre Group in the early 70s. Soon, he was faced with an ultimatum thrown by then leader of the group, Ojo Ladipo: face theatre full time or quit. He chose to drop out of the pharmacy, forever. 

  By the time Ojo Ladipo died in 1978, Omobolanle had entrenched himself into the group as ‘Aluwe’, the swashbuckling, multi-clothed jester. The name-tag, phrasing his thought, was not original. The actual inspiration was by a man jocularly called Aluwe, from his pharmacy world, whose facial contortions and postures evoked laughter, in spite of not uttering a word of comedy. And Aluwe was reborn. The ‘Papi’ that completes the moniker was added by King Sunny Ade at the Ariya nightclub where Omobolanle frequented as a guest and fan. And it stuck: Papi Luwẹ.

  But he is not all guffaws and comedy; he has played non-stereotypical roles which attest to the possibility that there could be a life outside of Papi Luwe. He played Baba Mero in the emotionally charged Omi Lo Danu (1978), a commemorative stage play in honour of the group’s fallen leader, Ladipo (the original Baba Mero). Osuntunde in Kannakanna, and another role in Ẹkun Alagbara are similar arguments about his ability to deliver outside the Aluwẹ bubble.

 With the demise of Ladipo, the need arose to re-strategise; the group changed to Awada Kirikiri, and Adebayo Salami, aka Oga Bello, was appointed the new leader. The group soon surged into different areas of performing arts: television, celluloid, and later, video productions.


If it were left to her, she would have probably retired as Chief Matron of Lagos State, years ago, seeping the adulation of friends and enjoying the perquisites of high-grade pension. But the young nurse and mother was married to the head of Osumare travelling theatre. Widowed at 42 (to her first and only husband, Augustine Ayanfemi Phillips who died in 1984), she was bumped into acting slightly less than two decades earlier. The fortuitous entry occured when a Glover Hall performance by Osumare appeared doomed with the lead actress missing. Right after School of Nursing on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, young Esther secured a job with the Chest Clinic of the Lagos Island General Hospital. Her interest in her husband’s work was aloof, and tolerant at best. Yet, that day in 1965, with barely any time for rehearsals, and aided by hindsight of practised tolerance of the Osumare Theatre needs and demands, the 23-year old nurse stepped in for the ailing lead, and delivered a virtuoso performance that led Hubert Ogunde, the mentor of Femi Phillips and a guest at the show, to reportedly say: “you have an ‘instrument’ at home…use it!”. And her fate was sealed.

  This began her romance with acting which passed the 58-year mark this year. Two years after the demise of her husband, she resigned from her job in 1986, to focus on acting, and nursing the legacies of the Phillips. Again, on the advice of Ogunde. 

  Now popularly known as Mama Rainbow, a sobriquet derived from the Yoruba translation of Osumare (i.e. rainbow), the title of her husband’s group – a concession she claimed was for the benefit of her Igbo-speaking admirers. With the dwindling fortune in travelling theatre, and stirrings in portable transmission of theatrical pieces, she has since been a trailblazer in the video world…even at 81!


He probably has done more than 300 movies in Yoruba language, but I doubt if any, in that circuit, can snatch at the laces of his effective and unusual admixture of guts, emotions and pathos in Tade Ogidan’s action drama, Owo Blow (1998).

This landmark movie was shot barely three years after he resigned from some technical job at an unnamed water corporation (possibly Lagos State)… to focus full time on acting. And what a blast off!

  His usual didactic and benevolent preachments in many of his several movies were a million miles from the plots and delivery of Owo Blow. This experience radically transported him to different planes of emotional connections with his audience.

 In his neck of the woods, Hassan has been a darling of producers and directors, as he deploys his considerable talents in advancing ordinary stuff or weak plots, to a level of relative general appeal.  At 64 (on October 31), Hassan still maintains a boyish visage with greys of experience to stay on top of his game for many years.


She took to the University of Calabar stage with aplomb in the early 90s as a teenager. No wonder Nse Ikpe-Etim comes across as natural on screens, and her unambiguous simplicity; though her forthrightness in occasional public statements may be disconcerting to some people. 

  The lady who started off with Emotional Crack (2003?) doesn’t strike me as one who worries much about what strangers think or dwell on.  Ikpe-Etim garnered awards for her role in Emem Isong’s Reloaded (2008), and excelled in many other choice flicks. Lovers of this 49-year old dame will always appreciate her calm and articulate delivery of roles, and her unwavering strength of personal character.

  DAKORE EGBUSON – Exceptional actress with what appears to be a carefully manicured lifestyle – seemingly determined to excel in life – at her own pace – and a force of nature in things editable. Astute.

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