BEN OLAYE: Exit Of Showbiz Icon
By Ceasar Kagho
ABOUT 40 years ago, during the time of Robert Stigwood’s “Saturday Night Fever”, (featuring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-…John), Bendel State, now Edo and Delta States, was the undisputed baiston of show business in Nigeria – be it creative arts, television, night clubs or live shows.
Scores of artistes of all shades and shadows – TV actors like Chief Ajas, Ben “Risky” Keoguale, Kokori, Usiobaifo, Casino Manager (Ray Slater); radio presenters like Joe Fabro Iwobi and Patrick Okoh, musicians like Sir Victor Uwaifo, Osayomore Joseph ( Ulele Power Sound), Idemndia Cole (Talents of Benin), Arakatula, Tony Grey, One world, Ben Alaka, Ehi Duncan, Black O’ Rice, Efe Uwaifo, artists like Idugboe, TV presenters, Producers and personalities like Matt Imerion, Alida Obiyan, Lai Arasanmi, Emma Ogosi, Robo Arigo, David Orere, the Ifodes (Churchill and Friday), you name them, they were simply “terrific” in their creativity.
I was fortunate to be a roving Senior Reporter with the Nigerian Observer in Benin City, barely in my from 20s Fleet Street, London, walking under fire-brand Editors and writers like the legendary Uncle Niville M. Ukoli (Twins of the Rain Forest), Tom “Bee” Borha, Mike Ogbeide, Bisi Amagada, Uncle Lindsay Barret (including Show Biz columnist Festus Rapee) who were daily giving me assignments like Scotland Yard sending Mr. James Bond on a new mission.
And so I met most of the big Nigerian stars— Fela, Bongos Ikwue, Sunny Okosun (Ozzidi), Sir Victor Uwaifo, Tony Grey (Ozimba), Monomono, The Black Children— those based in Bendel State and those on tour. Among the unique genre of entertainment during this period was disco music in night clubs and on television spread all over the four quarters of the state.
Deejays like “Bloodstone” Richmond Mc Gray, Melis Menta, Charlie Bee Murphy Okojie, Godfrey Okosun, Eddy Kwansah and dancers like Tony Azeta and his group. One of the most outstanding and talented of this genre was the power trio, The Magic Feet ( Benjof—Ben, Johnny and Fred) led by the energetic Choreographer, impresario, dancer and business man, Mr. Ben Olaye. Together with his equally powerful and gifted team mates made up of brothers Johnny and Fred Parker, the Benin-based Magic Feet thrilled audiences wherever they performed, be in on TV, Mr. “A” Night Club in Benin or at Holiday Hotels in then sleepy Asaba as well as anywhere in the state.
It is a very sad to eulogize passing on to eternity of Ben Olaye, which sad event took place last Sunday in Benin City. Ben was a very kind, friendly and compassionate friend whom my filmmaker son, Idhebor, spoke with on the phone about two months ago through Eno Louis’ connection in view of our video documentary on Bendel Deejays (My Father’s” Book in which the Magic Feet were prominently featured) but Ben had told him he was sick and we were looking forward for his recovery and subsequent inputs on the project, of which Ben was highly capable of doing for he was right at the centre of the history.
I remember in late 1982 on our way back from Suleija (near Abuja), my good old friend, Mr. Sylvester Sido and I ran out of cash and petrol in his 504 air-conditioned Station Wagon crawled into Benin at about 7:30pm in the evening and went to Ben Olaye residence off Mission Road and after a brief refreshment I ask him for assistance to fuel our car. He looked at me with a smile and said: “Ceasar, since I knew you, in spite of all your projections of my group in your news paper articles, you never asked me for anything”. He went into his inner chamber and returned with a wad of Naira which not only filled our tank but gave us some good beer at Enerhen Junction, Warri, were we found that a squadron of Mopol had just entered Warri to combat the rise of banditry. May his gentle soul rest in perfect peace — Amen.
-This piece was lifted unedited from Kagho Ceasar’s Facebook Timeline