Filmmakers hold tribute for late Esiri

It was a night of nostalgia, as filmmakers, on Monday, converged at Ojez arena, National Stadium to pour encomium on late actor, Justus Esiri, who died on February 19, 2013.

Put together by Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), the thespians, most of whom were clad in white attires, stormed the venue in great numbers, rendering songs, comedy and emotional speeches in memory of the late actor, whom many referred to as a mentor.

Late Esiri, of the ‘Village Headmaster’ drama fame, died of Type 2 Diabetes, as the age of 71. The tribute, by his colleagues, was a complementary ceremony to the burial rites already scheduled by the deceased family for this weekend, in Oria-Abraka, Delta State.

As early as 6:00pm, actors, producers, film marketers and well wishers began to troop into the popular celebrities’ hangout. At the tick of time, the number increased. It was a rare single gathering of artistes, who are usually scattered around the country, shooting movies at different locations. As they made their ways to the arena, they threw banters at each for the rare opportunity they get to mingle, not knowing when their path will cross. It was an occasion of mixed feeling, as much as they cherished the convergence; they wished it was not for such a sad moment. Most of them had recalled gloomily, that they had converged on the same spot a few months back for another veteran actor, the late Enebeli Elebuwa.

Stage set, and the anchor persons; comedians Okey Bakassi and Julius Agwu started the event with praise and worship, a sonorous segment led by Kate Henshaw, Arinze Okonkwo and Chioma Chukwuka.

The atmosphere was fully charged with some of the stars praising and dancing vigorously to choice songs from popular gospel singers. A supposed solemn moment, Henshaw has admonished the crowd that the best attitude to put up for the night was to celebrate the life and times of the late Esiri, whom she described as a man of great accomplishments. Thus, the entertainers became flexible, dancing to their hearts’ content.

But the solemn moment was soon to come; as colleagues of the late actor relived the memories of the departed both as a professional and private person. opening the floor, was the deceased’s son, Sidney, a singer, who was dressed in gray colour shirt upon a black pant. He described is father as a man who was very humane, but thorough as a professional: “I remember my father use to say to me that if you do not want to be forgotten after you passed on from this earth, it is either you do something worth writing about or you write something worth reading. I believe my father did just that. From now to the end of the world, my father will forever be remembered for his contribution to Nollywood.” Popularly called Dr. SID, the young Esiri seized the opportunity to avail the gathering of the burial arrangement.

The burial rites continued today, with a Lying in State at the Esiri’s Mafoluku residence, Lagos. Next set of activities will be in Delta State, where another Service of Songs will take place in Warri on April 11, and Lying in State and Interment in Oria-Abraka, on April 12.

Fidelis Duker, Director of Abuja Film Festival, who was among the people that gave tribute described himself as one of the numerous benefactors of late actor’s benevolence. Kanayo O Kanayo, who spoke about the professional attributes of the late thespian, noted that Esiri, during his life time, never forgot his lines as an actor. “ there were just two actors that I know in this industry who did not only master their lines on set, but who also mastered the lines of others playing along with them. They would correct you, when you make mistakes delivering your lines. These two actors are late. They are Justus Esiri and Sam Loco Efe.” The crowd cheered.

Other filmmakers who spoke at the event include: Mahmood Ali-Balogun, Tunji Bamisigbin, Ernest Obi, Kate Henshaw, Zack Orji, Bob Manuel-Udokwu, Olu Jacobs and Zik Zulu Okafor.

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