The veteran actor, Otunba Jimmy Abayomi Olugbenga Abayomi Obileye, popularly known as Yomi Obileye, may have died, but his death has left so much fond memories for the entertainment industry. He died yesterday morning from a yet to be disclosed ailment.
Comedian cum actor, Gbenga Adeyinka confirmed the news of passing away of the actor yesterday via his Instagram page. “If tears could build a stairway and memories were a lane, we would walk right up to heaven and bring you back again.
“Rest In Peace Uncle Yomi Obileye. Thanks for the memories. I can’t help but want to watch Hostages again. Sleep well egbon and may God give your family and fans the fortitude to bear the loss,” he wrote.
Like Don Corleone in The Godfather, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by Albert S. Ruddy, based on Mario Puzo’s best-selling novel of the same name, who had a significant impact on people, Yomi Obileye impacted the country’s movie industry, Nollywood.
He was known for his role in Tade Ogidan’s 1997 movie, Hostages and Palace, a soap opera that featured Liz Benson, Jide Kosoko, Antar Laniyan, Dayo Adeneye, Jide Alabi, Tunji Bamishigbin. He also featured in Head Gone, a star-studded comedy flick produced by Naija Ninjas and directed by the music artiste, Dare Fasasi, who is best known as Sound Sultan.
He was the elder brother to Taiwo Obileye, broadcaster cum actor, known as Chief Daddy, a 2018 comedy drama with the same title, and directed by Niyi Akinmolayan; Tales of Eve: Thanks for Coming (2015). His last movie project was Unforgettable Forgettable.
Born in 1943 to a magistrate father, the late Yomi Obileye despite his privileged background happily mixed with and was considered a part of the masses.
He was one of the most trusted right hand aides of Professor Wole Soyinka; bossom friend of HRH, Oba Gbenga Sonuga, a former director of Lagos State Arts and Culture from whom, he got his Otunba chieftaincy.
As seasoned actor, he was on all the Nigerian Television Authority’s (NTA) drama programmes of the 1970s. He joined the multinational, Rank Xerox with other veteran artistes like late His Royal Highness, Oba Funsho Adeolu, Alaiye Ode of Ode Remo and the 70s musician, Segun Bucknor.
From being a Sales Executive, his artistic background catapulted him into the executive management cadre as the first and last Marketing Services Manager, where he combined the jobs of corporate public relations with marketing services of advertising and field sales performance promotions. He left the company in 1983 to pursue his other talents.
Otunba as he is fondly called held among other corporate positions the Chairman Board of Directors of a South West licensed movie distribution company, Unique Ultimate Limited. He was Vice Chairman of Universal Films & Communications Limited, which he founded with his leading protégé, Yinka Ogundaisi with the consulting firm, Y.O. & Associates Consulting. Until his death, he was a devout Catholic. His loving wife, Dupe Obileye, survives him.
Reacting to the news of the death, Yinka Ogundaisi described the Yomi Obileye as an actor of great repute. “Last week, I went to see him at St Nicholas in my wheelchair. He recognised me. I didn’t know he was going to die soon. He even told his Personal Assistant to pay money to my account.
“Nigeria has lost one of her greatest artiste and humanity great role model. He was my principal and I the associate; I was his right hand on culture business. For me I have lost a friend, a guide, mentor and a generous understanding boss! Who will now fund my artistic brainwaves?” he said.
For Dr. Sola Adeyemi, MA programme coordinator, Goldsmith College, University of London, “there have been too many losses these past few seasons: our ranks are getting depleted” begins the email I received yesterday, in response to the passing of many of artistes. Whilst I was agreeing with the sentiment in that missive, little did I know that we were a few hours to losing another one. The news of the demise of Yomi Obileye, the veteran actor, or ‘Uncle Yomi’ as we popularly called him, on 24 April, was shocking. I use the word ‘lose’ because I don’t think these friends and mentors decided to leave us, “just like dat”, as Fela would say. There are many factors, most of which are socially inflicted – the health infrastructure that leaves many ailments undiagnosed, security, sense of hopelessness at the destroyed dreams of a potentially vibrant nation. So many reasons, and so many deaths. Yomi Obileye was one of the more remarkable members of Wole Soyinka’s Orisun Theatre Company (formed in 1964). He acted in many of Soyinka’s early skits in Before the Blackout.
And was a premiere cast member of The Beatification of Area Boy: A Lagosian Kaleidoscope (by Wole Soyinka) directed by Jude Kelly for West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, England in 1995, acting alongside Tunji Oyelana, Wale Ogunyemi, and Makinde Adeniran. The first time I met Uncle Yomi was at the Arts Theatre of the University of Ibadan. He graduated from the department and was still associated in an informal capacity with our theatre productions. His best friend then, the late Sunmbo Marinho, was one of our tutors. Uncle Yomi also had a copying services centre, a franchise from Xerox, a few metres away from the Theatre. And that is why I will forever remember Uncle Yomi, and why his memory will endure. For he not only photocopied scripts for us without charging us, he also left instructions not to charge us for any photocopying. He was that generous. And he was also a professional to the core, informally teaching us Voice, Acting and Movement.”
Speaking with The Guardian via the telephone, former Deputy Vice Chancellor (Management Services) University of Lagos, described as a good and great actor both on stage and mainly television. He added that the late Yomi Obileye has been on the Nigeria theatre scene for over 50 years.
He said, “He worked for Xerox, that was when he was in Lagos. He did a lot of television programmes then. Being in University of Ibadan, that means that he was part of the productions done by the Noble Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, Dapo Adelugba, and Wale Ogunyemi. I think he also played a role in Kongi’s Harvest, the first movie that was in Nigeria.”
Commenting on the passages of the veteran actors, who understand the ethos of the Nigerian theatre arts, the professor of Theatre Arts, Design and Aesthetics said, “As a veteran actor, it is obvious that we are going to miss the lot experience they would have impacted on the younger generation of artiste.
“Because when you see them in any of their movies or television productions, you see that they belong to a different generation. By this I mean the likes of Yomi and Taiwo Obileye, Jimmy Solanke, Taiwo Ajai Lycett and the late Wale Ogunyemi. These are the rare veterans. This is very unfortunate, coming after Mrs. Francesca Emmanuel, although she was in her 80s, she was also within the arts and played prominent roles. These are people that we all would miss.”