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Suffering and smiling: Travails of Nigerian veteran comic actor, Mr Ibu

When the name John Okafor is mentioned, many people may not easily put a face to the name but once Mr Ibu is called into…

When the name John Okafor is mentioned, many people may not easily put a face to the name but once Mr Ibu is called into any conversation, smiles come to the faces of his fans.

However, until recently, unknown to many, while the actor was planting smiles on the faces of his friends and fans, he was facing many problems which didn’t make him smile, to say the least.

Over a span of two decades, the thespian has featured in about 200 movies most of which are comic films. Some might not know, but the actor also ventured into music for a short period of time with the release of his songs titled ‘This Girl’ and ‘Do You Know’ on October 15, 2020.

Born in 1961, the actor, who hails from Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enugu State, moved to Sapele to stay with his brother, after his father’s demise. This was after his Elementary School.

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While in Sapele, the film star had to do some menial jobs to sponsor himself to school and support his family. He worked as a hairstylist, ventured into photography and also worked in a company that produces crates.

After secondary school, he was admitted into the College of Education Yola, but pulled out due to financial difficulties. It was gathered that he later enrolled in the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Enugu, when he was financially able to.

However, the sad news that has come out of the household of the funny man is not a funny one as it has been reported that the actor’s leg has been amputated due to diabetes.

Leg amputation

In October 2023, John Okafor revealed that he was suffering from an ailment that threatened the amputation of one of his legs. He said he was struck by the problem while on a movie set. He appealed to his fans and the public for prayers and financial assistance to cover his medical bills. He also shared a video of himself lying in a hospital bed, expressing his fear of losing his leg.

The Abubakar Bukola Saraki Foundation, which was established by a former Senate President of Nigeria, Bukola Saraki, paid off Okafor’s entire medical expenses on 18 October 2023.

The foundation also stated that Okafor still required a lot of financial assistance to sustain him in the hospital and for his travel abroad for further treatment. In November 2023, Okafor underwent a leg amputation. His family said the amputation was done to keep him alive and increase his chances of recovery.

Poisoned thrice

Moreso, in March 2022 the actor revealed that he had been poisoned at least three times, twice by his village people. Recounting his ordeal at the time, the movie star stated after being discharged from the hospital, “I was poisoned, but not at an entertainment event in Abuja. I was poisoned in my home town, and then I journeyed to Abuja, where the poison affected me and grounded me. At a point, I almost gave up, but God said ‘no, you are not going to give up’. And here I am. I have been discharged.

He continued, “It’s a long story because the sickness didn’t start today, all these while we’ve been running around, going from here to there, from one diagnosis to another, mentioned different names of sicknesses. I was even tired of the results, how could all these aliments be in one person’s body?”

Death of 2-year-old son

Another tragic event that befell the actor and his family was the demise of his two-year-old son, Emmanuel Mandela Okafor, in 2012 due to the negligence of a Lagos State hospital.

Speaking on the said incident, Mr Ibu said, “The matter was actually between the Paediatric Department of the hospital and me. It was in 2011. My wife and our two-year-old son had been kidnapped. After I paid the ransom demanded and they were released by the kidnappers, I returned to Lagos from Enugu.

“Then on January 18, 2011, my son fell ill. He was diagnosed with inflammation of the liver. The hospital suggested that he should be scanned. At the same time, I was informed that I could take my son out of the hospital to get the scan done elsewhere. But the same people later declined, saying that everything had to be done in the hospital because he was too weak to be taken outside.

“After a while, I was told that there was no electricity in the hospital. When I asked if there was no standby generator, they said there was no fuel in it. I offered to pay for fuel only to be told that the man who operated the generator was not around. When I left the place and got back later, the man had still not returned. Then I was advised to write an application and to submit it to the admin department.”

He further noted that what hurt him the most was the fact that a doctor sought his permission to harvest his dead son’s organ shortly after the lad’s death. “That was how my son died. Later, one of the doctors came to me and, without even sympathising with me, asked if I could release my boy’s corpse to him so that they could cut it open and use it to teach medical students. At that moment, I felt like committing murder for the first time in my life.”

Abduction

In 2012, the funny man revealed that he was kidnapped twice because his abductors believed that he was a wealthy man. While speaking about the experience, he disclosed that he chose to exhibit a modest lifestyle on and off the TV because of his past ordeals in the hands of kidnappers.

He said, “They say our job is about packaging but that does not apply to some of us again.

“Packaging no longer matters in the entertainment industry because of the fear of kidnappers, who believe that we are rich as being paraded on the screen.”

Wife, adopted daughter drama over funds

In recent times, there’s been reported trouble in the household of the actor while he is recovering in the hospital. According to the news making the rounds, the actor’s adopted daughter, Jasmine, had accused the actor’s wife Stella Maris of trying to use some of the funds donated to the actor to buy a car. Meanwhile, while countering the accusation, Stella stated that Jasmine had hijacked the actor’s bank accounts.

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