Veteran actor, Justus Esiri, 70, began his final journey home yesterday with a Tribute Night organised in his honour by the Ibinabo Fiberesima led Actors Guild of Nigeria, AGN.
The star-studded event was held at O’Jez open-space bar at the National Stadium, Lagos. The final burial will take place in the late actor’s hometown, Abraka on Friday.
Sidney Esiri, the deceased’s second son, said a service of songs will be held in honour of his late father in Lagos Tuesday, and will be followed by a mass before the final burial in Delta State.
“On behalf of the Esiri family, we say thank you to Nollywood for honouring our father. Justus Esiri was a legend and can never be forgotten because he played a vital role for everybody around him,” Sidney, who is popularly known as Dr. Sid said.
Actor Ernest Obi, while eulogising the late Village Headmaster, posited that “he wasn’t just an actor or filmmaker; he was there for me when most people weren’t there. He was an enigma. One of the few people I invited to my marriage via text message and he came. He played the role of my father that day. He made that day the greatest of my life.”
In the words of Kate Henshaw, the industry is not mourning Esiri, but celebrating his life because he left a legacy worthy of emulation behind.
Prince Ifeanyi Dike, the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Actors’ Guild of Nigeria, AGN, led a prayer session during the event.
He urged guests to pray that God should ward off death among entertainers.
The late Esiri died of complications from diabetes in a Lagos hospital.
In her official statement after Esiri’s death, Ibinabo said: “With the incessant deaths occurring in the entertainment industry this year, it is high time we put a stop to it. We must surrender our lives to Almighty God, irrespective of our religious beliefs. Let’s come together and embark on prayers and commit our industry and practitioners to God. We need prayers.”
Esiri, Member of the Order of the Niger, MON, was famous for his role as the Village Headmaster in the now rested popular television series of the same name.
Born on 20 November, 1942 in Oria-Abraka, Delta State, Esiri attended Urhobo College, Effurun in the then Bendel State,Warri. He was at the Maximillan University, Munich, German, 1964, Prof. Weners Institute of Engineering, West Berlin, 1967 and the Ahrens School of Performing Arts, 1968.
Esiri started his acting career in Germany. He was the only Nigerian male artiste performing on stage between 1968 and 1969. He also worked for Voice of Nigeria, German Service as a translator. He was performing on stage in Germany when a delegation from Nigeria invited him home to perform in a government sponsored programme.
The veteran actor was a recipient of many awards including THEMA Awards, NTA Honours Awards and AMAA Awards. He was also the star actor in acclaimed productions such as Wasted Years, Forever, The Prize, Six Demons, Corridors of Power, Last Night, The Tyrant, The Investigation and The Ghost. He was also reputed to have performed on more TV network drama programmes than any other Nigerian actor.
Esiri is the father of Nigeria’s fast-rising musician, Dr. Sid. Asked in an interview how he felt about his son becoming a musician, he said; “I just called him and told him both the negative and positive aspects of the entertainment industry and he has to be focused. I scolded but gave him my blessing and he picked up.”
Some of the actors that attended the event were Olu Jacobs, Joke Silva, Rachael Oniga, Tunji Bamishigbin, Emem Isong, Desmond Elliot, Ini Edo, Rita Dominic, Kanayo .O. Kanayo, Fred Amata, Monalisa Chinda, Kelvin Ikeduba and Julius Agwu, etc.