AS if the creative industry has become its permanent target, death, once more, has laid its icy hands on foremost actor, Justus Esiri. He was aged 70.
Only six days ago, rap artiste Susan Harvey, popularly known as Goldie, died in a brief illness. And in an emotion-laden voice, Esiriâ€s son, Onoriode, who is popular as Dr. Sid, confirmed his fatherâ€s death to The Guardian.
â€œMy father had taken ill and was hospitalised for about three days before he passed on late Tuesday night in Lagos,â€ Onoriode said, though a family source disclosed the late Esiri was suffering from low sugar, which got worse and had to be taken to the hospital.
Meanwhile, condolence messages have begun to pour in as President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday described the late Esiri as an epitome of commitment, excellence and creativity.
In a condolence message signed by his Media Adviser, Dr. Rueben Abati, the President re-iterated his belief that Nollywood actors have carved a positive image for Nigeria in the eyes of the international community, with the late Esiri, a Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), having contributed in no small measure to the creation and sustenance of that image.
In his tribute, Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, described Esiriâ€s demise as shocking and a monumental loss to the Nigerian culture and entertainment community. In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Dr. Taiwo Oladokun, Duke described Esiri as outstanding in the movie industry.
Also, frontline filmmaker, Mahmood Ali-Balogun, described Esiriâ€s death as â€œshockingâ€ and â€œdevastating,â€ adding that, â€œhe was too good a thespian to die.â€
Popular actor, Kanayo O. Kanayo, was still in shock early yesterday when The Guardian called. He said: â€œWe were together in Abuja recently, and I have been in touch with him.
Award-winning actress, Kate Henshaw, screamed, â€œitâ€s a lieâ€ when called up to pay tributes, noting: â€œWe worked together on what will count as his last job that will be premiered - Assassins Practice. So, you mean I wont see uncle Justus again? Itâ€s a lie. We the younger ones will miss his professionalism and fatherly advice.â€
Also, the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC) has joined other teaming Nigerians, Africans and European fans of Nollywood in mourning the dead actor. NFC Managing Director/Chief Executive, Mr. Afolabi Adesanya, described the passing away of Esiri as painful, and an irreplaceable loss to the Nigerian creative industry.
Born in November 1942 in Oria, Abraka, Delta State, Esiri had his early education at the Catholic School, Warri, before proceeding to Maximillan University in Munich, Germany. While in Germany, Esiri, who is survived by a wife and six children, attended Prof. Weners Institute of Engineering, West Berlin, and was later trained at the Ahrens School of Performing Arts.
Esiri has to his credit lead appearances in several Nigerian television soaps, television series and serials, and feature films, including the New Village Headmaster, Supple Blues and Things Fall Apart. He was, at a time, President of the Conference for Motion Picture Practitioners.