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OBITUARY: Sadiq Daba, The Thespian Who Told The Nigerian Story With Pride

Death, of course, may reduce number; but it may give room for number to be added. Death may first destroy; but it makes in the…

By Lexzy Ochibejivwie

While speaking at a programme where the University of San Diego, US, honoured him in 2011, Legendary Broadcaster Larry King told a touching story of how a small radio station gave him his first broadcast opportunity in life. There was pin drop silence as King captivated his audience with the interesting story. His baritone voice was interrupted with cheers and claps but he fired on.

Well, this is not about Larry King but our own Sadi Abubakar Daba who passed on, on Wednesday. Like King, the Nigerian pride got his own opportunity at a radio station in Kaduna in 1973 and ever since then, he never looked back until he took the final bow.

It is true that most times people would only say good things about a person, only when such person passes on. One of the things this may mean is that death is not necessarily a bad experience; it may afford an opportunity for the unfolding of good deeds.

Daba in his prime

Death, of course, may reduce number; but it may give room for number to be added. Death may first destroy; but it makes in the end. As it often does, death comes with sorrow; but it also ushers in joy. Death can dampen emotions; but it can also inspire. Death may signal the end; but it makes a new beginning. It can cause decay; but the decay it causes is the beginning of bloom, the beginning of growth.

Such is the eternal mystery of death – a life-carrying, life-giving phenomenon in and of itself. When people die, the opportunity for progress is shared. The life and times of the dead itself present an inspiration; it opens up humanity; and it really teaches. This is true of the life lived by Sadiq.


Abubakar Daba, the Nigerian broadcaster, actor, director and producer of note, who passed away on the evening of Wednesday, 3rd March, 2021 at Ayinka General Hospital, Ikeja. Before he passed, Daba lived a very good life. He was loved by most people. He was a man of immeasurable and unforgettable talent. Through the screen, he deployed his talent as a force for good, touching lives in so many relevant ways. As one of the few thespians to have emerged from northern Nigeria, Daba distinguished himself on and off set. He seemed to believe that talent must be used in the service of humanity. For him, talent is good, but service, especially service to humanity, is better.

Sadiq Daba with Activist Joe Odumakin

He was a man truly kind-spirited, congenial and modestly bold in character. Daba did not believe in pedestrianism – he was not an ordinary person and did not do things ordinarily. He loved to do small things in a big way and loved to be great for the small things he did. For his hard work, rewarded of course by God’s abiding grace, Daba’s contributions to the Nollywood were singled out by those who matter in the industry. In 2018, because of his brand, because of his special signature, and because of his consistency, he was nicknamed “Garkuwan Nollywood” – which when translated into English from Hausa language means “Shield of Nollywood.”

Daba understood the script of life. His understanding of life’s script would be evident in the way he interpreted the major roles he was given. He was always mindful of the fact that the true nature of humanity must reflect in any role assigned to him. As a result, he took every role so seriously, so much so that one finds it difficult, if not impossible, to distil real life episodes from those in movies. Daba was pure talent who was always lost in the camera. He belonged to those classes of Nollywood actors who were never conscious of the camera. To him, there should be no difference between the character of a man in a movie and that in real life. In many cases, Daba made this indistinguishable – for he was indeed a perfect example of a good actor. From him, one could outline some of the major parameters for judging a good actor. Known as an actor, Daba also made a mark in broadcasting.



Will this smile be seen again? Not in this world.

Born in the late 1940s in Sierra Leone, Daba hailed from Kano state. He attended St. Edward’s Secondary School, Sierra Leone. He went on to attend several institutions, but it was particularly at the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, that he got his highest degree. Daba first stepped feet on the soil of his country on June 28, 1968. It was curiosity that set him apart from where he was born and never returned there. Curiosity also made him discover where he truly belonged and establish his purpose and meaning in life. Nigeria turned out to be a land where he answered his life’s calling and fulfilled his dreams first at a Kaduna radio station as stated above and then at a television station in Sokoto. From here, Daba literarily began to burst at the seams, he discovered himself more and more and never again looked back. As one who was always zealous to make his talent known, he always positioned himself for higher opportunities. In his mid-20s, Peter Igho discovered him and he starred at Cock Crow At Dawn – arguably Nigeria’s longest-running TV programme.

In an interview he granted a year ago, Daba testified to the impact this movie had on his career:
“For me, it broadened my scope, opened a bigger vista outside my core profession, which is broadcasting, and pushed me headlong into acting. Roles came, challenges came, and from the small television, we went on to big screen cinema.”

Daba in action in the award-winning October 1 movie

After starring in “Cock Crown At Dawn,” Daba came to be known as “Bitrus” – the character he took in the movie – by fans. This name stocked with him, such that most of his fans are not even aware of his real name. He has also been involved in other movies to reckon with. But the one to note especially was Kunle Afoloyan-directed ‘October 1st’. This presented Daba another wonderful opportunity to announce his presence on the world’s stage, when he won in 2015, the Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Actor for the way he interpreted the character of “Inspector Waziri.” With this award, Daba once again showed when for over four decades of acting, he remains relevant.
Daba believed in national unity. He believed in humanity and love. He believed that Nigeria is better when there is no distinction in among various ethnic nationalities. Daba believed that bonding worked better for Nigeria and the country is better when there is a sense of togetherness. He relayed his experience:

“Nigerians love one another. When I was sick, no one asked me whether I was Hausa or Ibo or Yoruba. I don’t even know the people who contributed money to enable me go abroad for medical treatment. Why didn’t I go and look for my Kano people only to come and help me? Do I even know if my Kano people contributed? The important thing at that moment was Sadiq is sick. It was not Sadiq is Hausa or Sadiq is Yoruba.”
Daba was a man who believed in humanity. He was one who believed so deeply that humanity is defined by service.


In 2017, he announced that he been diagnosed with leukemia and prostate cancer. As a testimony that his talent was well recognised and to tell of how kind-hearted Nigerians can be, a fundraising was made for him by several Nigerians of goodwill, including human rights activist, Josephine Obiajulu Odumakin, and Mabel Oboh. Nigeria’s philanthropist and billionaire Femi Otedola also paid his medical bills, when his health worsened. To testify to the fact that Daba was a man called to service, he joined Project Pink Blue to fight against the scourge of cancer to mark World Cancer Day on 3rd February, 2018.


Daba’s final resting place

As an observation, Daba made indelible marks in broadcasting and acting. He didn’t take the backstage in all that he did and find to do. Daba was no pushover. He was always prominent and was good at what he did. He was pure talent nurtured to fruition. Daba mentored various young talents, for he was a man who believed in young talents. He would be missed by his fans. He would be missed by movie producers and directors. He would be missed by the Nollywood industry as a whole. He would be missed by his wife, Bolaji, and their four children. But for all of the people to whom Daba made imprint, his memory, his talent and the succour he provided would never end. Life is stressful, dear. That’s why they say, ‘Rest in peace’.”

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