At dawn on Sunday, after the completion of his daily prayers, Adebayo Faleti shared with family members his desire to go home; he then asked for a bowl of hot pap before proceeding on his journey to the afterlife. They sought to bring him back but alas the journey was one that could not be avoided. The home he inferred, it now appears, was his final abode.
“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he…” — These words can aptly describe Faleti, a veteran actor and broadcaster who always wanted to be a celebrated artiste and despite the financial paucity in his family, struggled to make his dreams come true — after he had “seen the good, bad and the ugly sides… tasted the roses and the crosses of life”.
Alagba Faleti, as he is popularly referred to by friends and colleagues, “was determined to succeed by every good means,” and long before his death, he had earned the status of a celebrated poet, journalist, thespian and writer.
He was born in Agbo-Oye, Oyo State on December 26, 1930, and died at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, on Sunday, aged 86.
Sought greatness, struggled to get it
Even though it seemed impossible by virtue of his background, he said he wished “very strongly to become great and popular” like Hubert Ogunde, Kola Ogunmola, Duro Ladipo and Oyin Adejobi.
Faleti, the first son of his father and only child of his mother, always had a passion for drama — and despite having to put his primary education on hold due to the meagre income of his parents — his desire never waned.
He didn’t let the financial encumbrance of his childhood deter his dreams. What he had no money to do, he accomplished through invention and creativity by assembling some interested colleagues to start his own eventually successful theater group named Oyo Youth Operatic Society. It was founded in 1949.
Faleti would later teach for six years in a primary school to raise money for his college tuition.
“By the time I resumed secondary school, I was already over- grown, almost twice the age of every classmate of mine. Because of this, my education was made piecemeal,” he once said.
Translated the National Anthem to Yoruba
Some people’s acts on earth die with them when they take their exit while a few great beings have their deeds and works outlive them.
Faleti is one of such persons — because as long as the Yoruba language fails to go into extinction and Nigeria remains a united entity, he will have a place in history.
His good grasp of Yoruba and the skill of translation handed him the opportunity to translate the Nigerian anthem into his mother tongue.
“As a village boy I did not have to read or be lettered in the language before having a mastery of it,” he had said.
“Everyday, I got tutored about it. I was born into it and the blood flows freely in me and my parent also took their time to teach me its rudiments.”
Faleti also translated speeches by former military president Ibrahim Babangida and Ernest Shonekan, head of national interim government.
Thought impotent but sired 15 children
Just like his education, Faleti tied the nuptial knot late — many years after his peers. He had waited that long because he wanted to actualise his dreams before starting a family.
His long wait resulted in his mother fearing that he was impotent.
However, Faleti proved to be a fertile and fecund man, having sired 15 children in his lifetime.
Advocate of monogamy
Faleti was an advocate of one man, one wife in the institution of marriage.
In an interview years before his death, Faleti countered the belief that the African man is naturally polygamous, positing that polygamy is often by accident, and not by choice.
“I am not a polygamist, I only marry a wife at a time. I live with one wife at a time,” he said.
“I always say this all the time that an average African man is not polygamous by nature only by chance; not by choice but by some accident. If there is a quarrel and it gets unsolved, we part ways and marry another one, that’s what I believe in,” he had said.
He prayed for a successor before death
During the final moments leading up to his death, Faleti said something profound: that he had asked God to send forth a successor to finish the work he did throughout his life as if sensing that his time on earth was almost up, that his rent for existence was nearing expiration.
According to Adeniyi, one of his sons, Faleti said, “he wanted God to send someone else to come and complete his work because he had done all he could do.
“He also said that he wanted to go home. Suddenly, I noticed that he was not breathing again. We took him to the University College Hospital, Ibadan where he was confirmed dead.”
His Son wrote about death days to his demise
“Nothing in life (including death) is permanent. The only permanent thing in life is death itself,” read a Facebook post written one of the sons of Faleti, two days before his death.
Following his demise, the heartbroken son, Jare, took to Facebook yet again to comment on the post that now appears to have been a sub-conscious prophecy of what was to come.
“What a life! I wrote on Facebook two days ago about life being transient. I never knew death was at my own backyard already,” the US-based film translator wrote.
“You took my father away from me – Iku (death). I never knew this would be my last picture with you – Adebayo Faleti. #Tears. RIP to the man I love more than anything in the world. A giant has fallen.”
Contribution to Culture
Faleti’s contribution to arts and culture was by no means measurable.
He acted, wrote and produced several movies, most notably Saworide, Magun, Afonja, Basorun Gaa and Sawo-Segeri. Among his poetic piece were Ijamba Odo Oba, Alagbara Ile ati Alagbara Oko and Adebimpe Ojedokun.
He was the general manager of the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS), also known as Radio Oyo.
Faleti was among the pioneers of the first television station in Africa, Western Nigeria Television (WNTV), later known as the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
He also published a dictionary containing formal Yoruba names.
In his lifetime, he received many awards including the national honor of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON), the Festival of Arts award with Eda Ko L’aropin and the Afro-Hollywood award for outstanding performance in arts in 1955.
Faleti, by virtue of death, may be missed — but on earth lies many of his unerasable feats.