… And the man died

“We lost him. He couldn’t wait for the surgery. Chief Eddie Ugbomah has just passed on. He died exactly an hour ago,” the terse message from Shaibu Husseini announced the death of veteran filmmaker and one of Nigeria’s most prolific cine creators of the celluloid era.

Ugbomah died at a private hospital in Lagos at the age of 78.

“I have the permission of the Chair of the Chief Eddie Ugbomah Medical Fund Committee, Alhaji Adedayo Thomas, Director General of National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), to break the news of the passage into eternity of the veteran filmmaker, Chief Eddie Ugbomah, OON.

“Sad, but we totally submit to the Almighty,” Husseini said.

Husseini, a member of the committee, said, “the late picture man was scheduled to undergo a surgery on Monday.”

According to Dr. ‘Diran Ademiju-Bepo, an Associate Professor of Film Studies at the University of Jos, Ugbomah “was one of Nigeria’s Cinema Era’s heroes! Man proposes, but God disposes. As mere mortals, every one tried. But God knows best.”

Before his death, the filmmaker had been reportedly lying helplessly in bed for nine months.

In January 2019, Ugbomah attempted to raise N50 million from the sale of his autobiography, ‘Eddie Ugbomah by Eddie’ to cover for his medical bills but it did not materialise.

He also sent a ‘Save My Soul’ (SMS) message to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, where he hails from.

Six weeks later, Ugbomah was still unable to raise the required sum. He sold his house and car but still he found himself nowhere close to N50 million. Eddie Ugbomah’s last appeal was: “Please, don’t let me die like a rat.”

On April 11, 2019, he called for help over his failing health on Facebook after which the Executive Director of NFVCB, Adedayo Thomas took him out of the hospital and transferred him to another hospital in Yaba for further treatment.

Ugbomah first called the nation’s attention to his frail health in October 2018 with revelations that he was suffering from high blood pressure and complications in his nerves.

Subsequently, Ugbomah was admitted into Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in Idi-Araba area of Lagos courtesy the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC).

Ugbomah’s Plea For A Lifeline, Wants Govt To Acquire His Work For Posterity
“I am seriously ill. The sickness has affected part of my eyes and ears. I can hardly hear very well unless you shout, I can’t hear you. I don’t see properly again,” his story slowly unfurled.

“I’ve been going from hospital to hospital, but the doctors have been diagnosing malaria and typhoid. It was on the verge of dying that a young doctor who heard of my complaints and carried out different tests that discovered that I am not suffering from malaria or any of the earlier diagnosed sicknesses,” he told The Guardian in an interview conducted before his ailment relapsed.

“I hardly sleep for long both at night and in the day. I am most times in pains in my head. And from the diagnosis I have to go abroad for treatment, which costs a lot of money,” he said.

Ugbomah, a man who has worked so hard to give a definition to the Nigerian cinema, breathed heavily, “thank God, it’s not cancer. The boy said there was a disturbance in my brain and it has to be treated abroad. I have been battling with the sickness for long, but nobody knew of it,” he revealed.

To raise fund, he decided to sell his intellectual properties. His words: “All I need is support; I want people to buy them. I have some documentaries of my 60 years experience in filmmaking, acting, among others, ready. I have my autobiography, my TV talk show — 60 episodes of 30 minutes each. I also have two galleries of the Hall of Fame, which I expect the Lagos State government to buy. With the support of well meaning Nigerians I should be able to raise the N50 million needed for my treatment.”

For the talk show, he interviewed history makers and shapers from politics to entertainment; it is great. “I want to show three of movies in the cinemas now. I have taken the trouble to transfer them from celluloid to DVD. I have spent a lot of money doing this. The Hall of Fame is a historical centre,” he said.

Almost choking, he said, “I just want them to acquire my works, which cut across history, performance, music, and biographies, among others.

If you take a good look at the works, you will see that they would be of immerse use to students in the Departments of Theatre Arts, English language, Filmmaking, Creative Arts, History and also, for anyone that wants to know the Nigerian story.

As a resource person in one of the Nigerian universities, I asked a final year student what was ‘cutaway,’ and he could not explain it. I did not blame him any way because many Nigerian universities do not libraries or galleries students could go to. So, my works would be of help to these students.

In fact, they are like encyclopedia, but situation has made me to want to hand it over to government whenever they are ready.”

According to him, “I would also want my state governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa; Lagos State government and the Presidency to help to save my life. I appreciate President Muhammadu Buhari for wishing me a happy birthday when I clocked 78. I know he didn’t know I was ill and on sick bed then.”Ugboma is not cowed by his current misfortunes. Though the illness has given him a punch, he wouldn’t stop discussing the Nigerian movies.

Ugbomah was a Nigerian film director and producer. He directed and produced films such as, the Rise and Fall of Oyenusi in 1979, The Boy is Good and Apalara, a film about the life and murder of Alfa Apalara in Oko Awo, Lagos.

The plots of some of his films are loosely based on real life events; The Rise and Fall of Oyenusi is based on the career of a notorious robber, Ishola Oyenusi.

Ugbomah, a native of Ashaka, Ndokwa East Council of Delta State, grew up in the Obalende and Lafiaji area of Lagos. He was educated at St Matthias, Lafiaji, Lagos and City College School.

He traveled to London for his college education and attended various colleges studying journalism, drama and later film. After his studies, Ugbomah worked with BBC and also played minor roles in Dr. No, Guns at Batasi and Sharpeville Massacre.

He was a member of an Afro-Caribbean drama group and directed some of the group’s plays such as, This is Our Chance, a play staged at the Stoke Newington Theatre Hall. He returned to Nigeria in 1975 and was involved in concert promotion before starting Edifosa, a film production company.

Ugbomah’s films usually tackle contemporary social and political issues. In The Mask, Obi, the lead character, played by Ugbomah himself tries to sneak into the British Museum to steal the Benin ivory mask and return it to Nigeria. Some reviewers have equated the Obi character to James Bond.

In the early 1980s Ugbomah produced films like Oil Doom and Bolus ’80. Most of his films were shot in 16mm except The Mask.

Later in his career Ugbomah turned to Yoruba video films. In 1988, he was appointed chairman of the Nigerian Film Corporation.

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