If there’s anybody that will hardly erase the sad end of Nollywood actor, Obinna Nwafor, popularly called Saint Obi, from his memory, that person should be legendary filmmaker, Zeb Ejiro.
In fact, since the sad news of Saint Obi’s demise hit the internet like a thunderbolt, last Saturday, Ejiro has been reminiscing on how his path and that of the deceased crossed.
For the sheikh of Nollywood, destiny and work brought them together and, since then, Obi had never left Ejiro’s side.
The legendary filmmaker recalled that he met Saint Obi, while he was planning to shoot his 1998 advocacy movie on HIV/AIDS, titled ‘Goodbye Tomorrow’.
The movie, partly sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation, WHO, was one of Ejiro’s biggest movies ever.
According to Ejiro, RMD was supposed to play the lead role (Mark Alade) in the movie but, barely two weeks to commence the shooting, the veteran actor lost his priceless wife, Mee, to the cold hands of death. A situation which paved the way for Saint Obi to shine, as RMD had recommended him to Ejiro.
First contact with Saint Obi
Recalling how their paths crossed, Ejiro said “We had completed casting and were getting ready to hit the location, when a tall handsome young man strolled into my office in Surulere.
“RMD was supposed to play the lead character, alongside Hilda Dokubo. We had concluded plans to commence production but, two weeks to hit location, RMD’s wife, Mee, passed on.
“It was obvious that RMD would not be part of the production after we had put everything in place. So, I was considering a lot of actors to replace RMD as he was bereaved.
“Suddenly, a well-built handsome guy, light in complexion, just walked into my office in Surulere and told me that somebody had directed him to me. But immediately I set my eyes on him, I told him that you were the one I was looking for. And he said wow!
“At that point, I didn’t know if he had acted in any film before, but I just asked him if he could fit into the role and he answered in the affirmative.
“I immediately auditioned him, and he performed excellently well. That was the beginning of our story. The movie was a monster hit as Saint Obi acted alongside Dokubo. It was one of the best movies I have ever done in my life. That was my first contact with Saint Obi. After ‘Goodbye Tomorrow’, we did a lot of other movies together including “Candle Light”, TV series among others. Though Saint started his acting career in 1988, after starring in “Behind The Clouds,” a soap opera being shot in Jos.
Last telephone conversation
Speaking further, Ejiro said Saint Obi called him on the telephone two weeks before his death, after he had tried reaching him for almost one week.
Ejiro said he was remaking his popular TV series in the 90s, ‘Ripples’, and had wanted Saint Obi to be part of the production. But when he couldn’t reach him, he moved to Ibadan to commence shooting of the series.
However, two weeks before his demise, Saint called Ejiro on the telephone to intimate him about his protracted illness.
“Two weeks before his demise, my phone rang and it was Saint Obi on the other end. I asked him where he had been; that everybody had been looking for him. That was when he told me that he had been down and was admitted to a hospital. He added that he had done multiple surgeries and his condition wasn’t improving. His elder sister then made arrangements to move him to Jos, where he could be given proper treatment. That was the last time we spoke, as I promised to reach out to him again. But I never did, as the next thing I heard was that Obi is no more,” Ejiro narrated.
He, however, blamed Saint’s sudden demise on his crashed marriage, adding that he couldn’t survive the shock living apart with his family.
“Obi told me a couple of times that his marriage was crumbling and it was eating him up. He was a family man, somebody that loved to stay with his kids and build a happy home.
“But when his marriage crumbled, it really affected him and he never recovered from the shock till death.” When a man is not together with his family, he will be depressed. No man wants to go into that kind of situation and be happy. So, that contributed to his death,” Ejiro revealed.
Humiliated by in-laws
Similarly, popular filmmaker and journalist, Zik Zulu Okafor, who was close to the deceased recounted how the actor suffered humiliation, harassment and intimidation in the hands of his in-laws.
Quoting what Saint told him in confidence, Okafor wrote: “I do not know why my wife’s siblings see me as a gold digger. They confront me, harass and fight me in my matrimony. And my wife did nothing to stop them. I work hard, I earn my money. I have never depended on my wife “
Parting with wife
The actor and his wife, Linda Amobi, parted ways last year after a running battle over the custody of their three children. The couple married in 2006 and have three children, two boys and a girl, together.“
( Vanguard ).