So that Sadiq Daba may live
In the 70s and 80s, when there used to be just a few television stations in the country, the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, was the leading TV Station in the land. In those days, everyone depended on the NTA for news, reports, entertainment among others. It was particularly in entertainment that NTA really carved a niche for itself. Consequently, some soap operas shown on the station became popular nationwide. Prominent among such soaps were Village Headmaster, The Masquerade, Cock crow at Dawn, Supple Blues, Mirror In the Sun, Ichiokwu, Winds of Destiny, After the Storm and many others. These were all very captivating television drama series that mirrored our country’s peculiar and diverse religious and socio-cultural setting, while also providing huge entertainment for the teeming viewers. As it is usually the case with didactic works, most of the series had numerous moral lessons.
Though all of the soaps were quite fascinating and enthralling, one particularly found Cock Crow at Dawn quite breathtaking. A rich educational and entertainment serial that aired weekly on the NTA network, Cock Crow at Dawn was developed and financed by NTA and United Bank for Africa, UBA to promote widespread interest in farming. The idea was part of the effort to increase awareness about the need to diversify the country’s economy by returning to agriculture which used to be the mainstay of the nation’s economy. UBA, indeed, came on board the project as part of its agricultural credit scheme. The immensely talented Peter Igho wrote and developed the serial. The choice of location was Sabon Garin Tarria, a rural setting about 20 kilometers from the city of Jos in Plateau State.
As it is always the case with such popular soap operas, certain characters who are able to interpret their roles skillfully will eventually become the face of the drama series and as such become very famous national figures. In the case of Cock Crow at Dawn, one of such characters is Sadiq Daba who played the role of Bitrus, a rather naughty boy in the drama series. Tall, thin and amiable, Daba is a veteran television broadcaster, presenter, actor, director and producer who dazzled Nigerians with his immense talent in the late 70s through the 80s and early 90s. Aside his role in Cock Crow at Dawn, Daba equally featured in a couple of other drama series which include Rooster Crow at Dawn, Behind the Clouds and A Place like Home, Soweto and Moment of Truth. Widely travelled and educated, he studied at the St. Edwards College, Sierra Leone, NTA/TV College, ABU: Mass Communication and later went on training tours to Germany, UK and other places. Perhaps, in contemporary times his latest act is as Waziri, a nosy police officer, in the award-winning Kunle Afolayan’s movie, October 1st, which incidentally won him several individual awards across the world.
But then, as things stand right now, these are not the best of times for Daba. At over 70 years, when he should take a break from the hustle and bustle of life to enjoy the rewards of his hardwork, Daba is battling for dear life. The ace broadcaster has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, barely months after he was hospitalised for months due to leukemia, a cancer of the blood cells that has no known cure. However, with adequate medical care or a blood marrow transplant, the disease can be managed. Naturally, the financial implications of such medical treatments are always quite enormous and as such Daba could do with some help from well-meaning Nigerians. We can all celebrate this amazingly talented compatriot by rising up to help him in every way we can. We should not wait until he dies before coming out to eulogize him as it has almost become customary with us. This is his hour of need and we should demonstrate our humaneness by stretching forth our hand of love, towards him.
Members of his primary constituency in the entertainment industry should especially show the way forward by coming out to rally round him. Being one of the industry’s founding fathers, Daba’s colleagues need to come together and demonstrate their benevolence towards him. Nigerians are naturally kind-hearted and we must bring this to bear in our response to Daba. He has given us much to cheer about while he was in sound health. Now is the time to pay him back. It is, however, rather imperative to stress that, perhaps, the best way to honour this illustrious entertainment guru would be for governments across the country to raise the bar in terms of healthcare delivery. All tiers of government across the country must invest massively in the health sector such that every Nigerian, irrespective of social status, could have access to quality medical care.
We must work hard to reverse the trend where only a few privileged ones who have the wherewithal could travel abroad to access quality medical care. If top government functionaries by virtue of their official positions could be flown abroad at public expense for medical treatment, then what happens to millions of hapless compatriots who do not have the resources to do same? Are they already condemned to avoidable death?
The strength of every nation is its people. It is the people that help to give impetus to every policy, programme and activity of government. Nations that are desirous of spectacular growth and development don’t joke with the health of their citizens. Ours should not be an exception. Therefore, governments and all stakeholders should do all they can to ensure that the health of the citizenry is not in any way jeopardised.
Ogunbiyi is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy.
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