I still can’t believe that Obinna Nwafor globally known as Saint Obi is dead.
In fact, I’m still in tears and shock over his painful and sudden demise.
Obi, a true and thoroughbred Nollywood giant reportedly died on Sunday, May 7, 2023, after battling a protracted illness in Jos, Plateau State.
Painfully, I’m not the only one weeping and mourning this irreparable loss. His, family, friends, colleagues and fans all over the world are equally crying and wailing over the sad and solemn news.
I concur with famous America cartoonist; Walt Kelly who posited in his hugely acclaimed series tagged Pogo, that:”I hate death; in fact, I could live forever without it.”
I still remember vividly my first encounter with Obi, who bestrode Nollywood like a colossus during his era and reign, as a mega star.
That was in the late 90s, at my ‘biggest bros’, Ichie Sir Azuh Arinze’s first rented apartment on College Road, Ogba, Lagos, where I lived with him for years.
Obi, who was extremely close to my brother, had come visiting and Arinze instructed me to cook for his guest. Of course, being a busy bachelor without a wife then, I always act as his cook. (I was a very good chef).
I prepared Egusi soup and swallow for our star visitor, who was at the zenith of his career when he stylishly breezed in. He sauntered in donning denim shorts, branded sports T-Shirt and matching white trainers. He was looking like an American basketball star in his very colourful and fitting outfit. Of course, his visit lit up the entire neighbourhood.
After savouring and devouring my delicious meal, Obi commended my “culinary skills and expertise” before leaving later with my brother.
He also blessed me with some cash from his wallet that same day. Amiable Obi further admonished me to take my studies seriously, since I was an undergraduate.
Our brotherly love and friendship further blossomed when I graduated and started practising as a journalist covering Nollywood and the entertainment industry in general.
I must confess that Obi, despite the huge age difference between us, completely ‘’fell in love’’ with me and equally brought me closer to his very tight and heavily guarded space, as a journalist and friend.
I must reiterate it here that bringing me closer was a huge sacrifice, because Obi, whom I fondly call Brosmi while alive, cherishes his privacy and space a lot. Sincerely speaking, he does not joke with it and hardly accommodates people, let alone a very restless and inquisitive journalist like me.
But I made a pledge to him; I would always respect his privacy and truly kept to my words, even now that he’d gone.
As a journalist with prying eyes and ears on the ground, I knew a lot about his private life, but never divulged or reported any, based on our ‘’unwritten vow.’’ And with that, I earned more of his love, trust and respect.
I was a regular visitor at his then talk of the town duplex apartment in Surulere, throughout the period he domiciled there.
Obi also invited and personally took me on a tour of his then ultra modern and multi million naira office in the heart of Surulere.
I still remember Obi telling me that Zeb Ejiro, my brother and I were the only persons that had the honour and privilege of seeing the office ahead of its unveiling.
I must confess that aside being very meticulous; Obi was also ahead of most of his colleagues when it comes to living the life of a true movie star. He lived big and impacted lives positively with his fame and fortune.
In fact, he was a man of class and style and once told me he was living his dreams in Nollywood.
Obi was already cruising and painting town in different colours with his Benz product when most of his colleagues were still plying commercial vehicles.
Don’t also forget that he set one of his Benz products on fire while shooting a scene that requires the car being burnt, in his hit debut movie as a producer, Take Me To Maama.
Obi invited me specially to his Lekki Phase 1 duplex when he relocated from Surulere.
And when he came back from the US, after lensing his last movie, True Color, Obi invited me over to his Lekki home where we both sat in his living room to preview and critique the big budget movie for hours. He thanked me profusely after listening to my inputs and suggestions about his latest offering.
In fact, I was a regular visitor at his Lekki home and office, until traffic gridlock in that axis stopped me from visiting.
My brother and I were among the few close friends that attended his mother’s burial with him in their village in Ogwa, Mbaitoli, Imo State. The imposing all white mansion he erected in that sleepy community is still the talk-of-the-town and cynosure of all eyes, till date.
I still remember with fond memories how visibly elated and excited Obi was when he bought his then headline making G Wagon Benz and Benz S-Class respectively. We ‘celebrated’ lavishly at his Lekki home when I later visited upon his request. He loved and drove mostly exotic Benz products while alive.
In fact, the father of three lovely children loves the German auto with a passion and relishes cruising in them.
Interestingly, a mild drama ensued between us that day when I asked him prices of the expensive automobiles. In his usual way, Obi retorted: “Amatus, you be journalist na, Google the prices and do the maths.”
Similar occurrence happened again few years later when he invited me on a tour/inspection of his about to open ultra modern office in the same Lekki.
After we finished going round the massive and breathtaking duplex housing both his well furnished office and fully equipped state of the art studio, I jokingly asked him the total amount expended on the project.
In his characteristic manner, reticent and sometimes taciturn Obi said: “Amatus, as my guy and journalist do the estimation na.” As usual, we ended up laughing over it.
Obi has a very funny and special way of greeting me whenever we see, either at his place or events. He says: “My guy, how your side na?” I would then respond, “brosmi, your guy dey tight. And he says again, “I know na.”
We would then follow it up with either a handshake or hug, depending on the mood and environment.
He once told my brother, Sir Arinze that he regrets not having a blood younger brother like me. Obi confessed that he missed not having a younger sibling to flow and relate with, the way and manner my brother and I normally do.
It’s no longer news that Obi was the only male in a family dominated by eight female siblings.
With the exception of the unveiling of my latest books, FAMOUS FACES last October, Obi graced all my major events with his intimidating and towering presence. He did not only attend, he also supported me with cash, no matter how little. That was Saint Obi for you. He was a cheerful giver with a heart of gold and a saintly soul.
Obi was among the few Nollywood stars that give me money without asking, in those my early days as a journalist covering Nollywood with a passion.
Very kind and generous Obi never fails to ‘dash’ me money whenever I visit his home or office. Sometimes, he does transfers, too.
According to him: “It is just to encourage you for being a very focused and hard working young man. Also, for being that younger blood brother I never had.”
And he does it in a very funny manner. Usually while escorting me out of his office or home, he would stop midway, stretch out his right hand and says: “At-all, at-all, hold this one na, fuel your car for coming to see me. We go talk again soon, Ngwanu!”
He was a guest at my wedding reception in 2006, at the upscale Niteshift Coliseum alongside several other Nollywood stars, top musicians and comedians.
Obi also graced the two editions of my annual music and comedy concert tagged: BOWLER HATS BASH.
Obi seldomly calls me Amatus on the phone; he only does whenever there is a challenge.
Mostly when unfavourably stories about him surface in the media, he would call my attention to it and we would discuss what to do next.
In my over two decades of extensively and professionally covering the Nigerian motion picture industry, globally known as Nollywood at the very top, I would beat my chest to say that cerebral Obi was among the few stars who insisted that entertainment journalists ask them questions outside the entertainment industry during interviews.
He would insist you engage him on politics, national issues, business, global politics/hardcore news and any topic under the sun, aside Nollywood.
In essence, you must come prepared to interview him. And he was always equal to the task. Obi abhors pedestrian questions from journalists.
Like all mortals, Obi was fallible, had his shortcomings and never claimed to be perfect. But these human flaws never over shadowed his many good sides, deeds and sterling qualities as a husband, loving father and top-notch entertainer with so much swag and confidence.
I’m also of the opinion that the six-footer, ex footballer and passionate basket ball player, was way, way ahead of his time in Nollywood, based on his many giant strides. Obi was deep and very versatile.
Based on how close I was to Obi, several persons, especially my colleagues in the media inundated me with calls, when the rumour of his death first surfaced online. They all wanted to confirm from me if what they were hearing was true or false. However, I made them understand, I could not also reach him.
Sincerely, it is quite sad, devastating and hurting that Obi’s death was later confirmed and it has left us with broken hearts and tears. But the fond memories we shared and enjoyed with him, both on and off screen will linger and flourish forever in our minds and daily lives.
As I conclude this piece with tears still cascading down my eyes, I leave you with the immortally surreal and comforting words of Max Lucado, the famous Christian author and preacher: “We see a hearse, we think sorrow. We see a grave, we think despair. We hear of a death, we think of a loss. Not so in heaven. When heaven sees a breathless body, it sees the vacated cocoon and the liberated butterfly.”
Indeed, a saintly soul has exited Nollywood.
Adieu Saint Obi, my big brother, my dear friend.
Azuh Amatus, a multiple award-winning journalist, is the Publisher of DAYLIGHT Online Newspaper and Author of bestselling books, FAMOUS FACES…Interactions With Nollywood Stars And Stakeholders (1&2).