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News and social media feed of music superstar, Davido’s wedding to his longtime lover, Chioma, on 25th June, 2024, was huge, such that it dominated social space and online news outlets days after, making it somewhat difficult for other worthy news events to trend or noticed in the week that was.

One of such that went almost unnoticed was the burial of legendary Nollywood star, John Okafor, popularly known as Mr. Ibu. As announced by his family, his five-day funeral rites and part of activities for the late actor commenced a day before the much talked about wedding.

Mr. Ibu was buried on Friday, June 28, 2024, in his hometown of Amuri, Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enugu State. The late comic actor passed away on March 2, 2024, after battling ill health for a period of time. In October 2023, Mr. Ibu had revealed his struggle with diabetes.

Sadly, a month later, his leg was amputated after enduring seven surgeries, according to reports. His family members later took to social media to solicit funds to settle his medical expenses. This was responded to by several Nigerians and organisations, who contributed different sums of money for his treatment.

However, controversy later erupted when members of the comic actor’s family, mostly his wife and his adopted daughter, Jasmine, accused one another of embezzling the funds donated by his fans, leading up to his final days.  Despite his ability to make others laugh, John Okafor ironically did not enjoy domestic happiness.

He was said to have been married five times, most of which ended in bitter divorces. He described his fifth marriage in a report as being even less happy than his previous ones. He was said to have been survived by 13 children, which was also seen as a cause for concern.

A lady, identified as the actor’s first daughter, Amarachi, teary, spoke at his burial and recounted that she had no prior relationship with her father. According to Amarachi, the first and last time she met him was at the hospital, on the moment of his dying.

She noted that the memories of him she would carry along were those at the hospital, which was the only one they had. An emotionally-laden Amarachi revealed that people who knew her father well spoke of him as a great actor and a caring man loved by many.

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The late actor’s daughter also confessed that she had always lived with her mother and was sad that things got to happen as they did. 

A host of Nollywood stars, his close friends and colleagues, Enugu State government officials and personalities were among dignitaries that honoured the late jolly good actor.

Celebrities, politicians and captains of industry came in large numbers. Nollywood veteran, Patience Ozokwo, and the arrival of Labour Party 2023 Presidential candidate, Peter Obi pulled a spectacle seen in a viral video during the burial ceremony.

Enugu State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Ugochi Madueke, declared during a novelty match for his delightful comedy career that even in death, the state government was proud of the late Nollywood actor. Many others spoke glowingly about the late Ibu.

“Mr. Ibu was a great and unique actor. That was what brought all those people out to honour him, and Enugu State Government is proud of him,” he said.

Nigeria’s Culture Minister, Hannatu Musawa described him as a household name who had made families smile throughout his career.

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Such was the comic genius of the actor John Okafor that he often didn’t even need to open his mouth to make people laugh. His facial expressions and his body were his biggest selling points.

His death at the age of 62 left family, friends and fans of Nigeria’s film industry Nollywood across Africa in mourning. He left a vacuum which many are now jostling to fill, with keen Nollywood observers pointing at Charles Inojie or his name sake, Charles Awurum to fill Ibu’s characterisation.

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John Okafor aka Mr. Ibu burst onto the scene in 2004 with the movie Mr. Ibu, which tells the story of the eponymous single father and his son as they journey through life, getting into a series of tricky, and hilarious, predicaments. This reporter once had an encounter with the Nollywood legend sometime in 2017, on set of a movie somewhere in Lagos. 

A report followed after titled “John ‘Mr. Ibu’ Okafor: His Political Ambition and Dream of a Nollywood City”, part of which will be shared here.

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On this very day, his bulky frame looms larger than ordinary as he was cast for the role of a gateman.

Playing comic roles most often times affected his personality that people think of or described him derogatorily.  In the real sense, he described himself as “Highly tactical person,” while placing his harmonica on his right thigh. He would explain what he meant by “highly tactical”, but first had beckoned on a crew member for some form of assistance.

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He had also called on the production manager to help him – while he undressed as it was a wrap for that day. “I see myself as a disciplinarian, I attach so many affairs of humanity to my community”, he said. “I settle so many cases from people near my town, near my community; people around my village come to me for settlement of conflict.”

But all that does not portray him as such, not even when with “his humorous acting was often characterised by stupidity, hilarious imbecility, and a sharp disconnection from reality”. The unimportant image his make belief characters cast on him beggars belief.

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Mr. Ibu had a dream; a noble one for the industry that made him. A lover of music, it appeared the interest of his state, Enugu, lies much at his heart that he had conceived a project and through which to contribute his quota in entertainment, had written to the government for permit to build a Nollywood City in Enugu.

He said the state has the highest percentage (86%) in movie making locations amongst all the states of the federation, according to him. As he spoke, the serious disposition of him evinces, the type not regularly seen of him in movies. He wore this unfunny look and eases of sign of displeasure.

“Enugu state obliged. And then a whole lot of preparation was done. Somewhere along the line, we heard that some group of people assembled themselves to meet the government to tell them to stop me from doing it alone that group like them should be involved.”

Meanwhile, the opposing group he alleged were major Nollywood practitioners who were at the same time soliciting for land from the government for a project to be called ˜Actors’s Village”, which he believes is far below what he’s looking at.

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He continued, “What I was trying to do is for everybody and not for one person alone. It’s going to be a town . . . a city on its own. And then the government of Enugu state will benefit from it massively, even the federal government will benefit from it too because of tourism. We are going to develop a school there.

“I created the opportunity, I registered the name of ‘Nollywood City’, then I paid lawyer, then I invited developers from South Africa and investors from few other countries that are ready to invest. The architect finished drawings which were given to the government and then they gave it a nod that it should be built. I then chose some areas which didn’t go down with the government.

“I then said OKAY fine if it doesn’t go down well with you guys you people can now give me a place of your choice. It’s been since last year (2016) and I have waited I don’t know what have been delaying them. So we are waiting for the government to just point a finger ‘look at the place’, and then we start immediately. I have waited for so long and I don’t know . . . it’s all about government thing so it has taken time.”

On his timeline then was a movie on xenophobia. The production made him visit countries like Ethiopia, Botswana (Gaborone), Zimbabwe, Liberia, and Ivory Coast. “All I want to find out is the truth behind xenophobia which I have gotten”, he claimed. “And they have given me support because I attended the meeting of African Diaspora Forum (ADF) in South Africa.”

At the meeting there were a great number of African countries together and high commissioners who attended. “They hosted me and asked me how do I feel about today’s meeting? I told them it’s something that’s happening in Africa that’s not supposed to happen. There and then they asked me what are those things that this is African Diaspora Forum that anything can be repaired.

“I said that I’m pleading that since you people have given me right to shoot xenophobia, through a peaceful introduction of that quarrel, I’m going to mediate the fight because I’m not going to bring out the real cause of that problem. But I’m going to act from the settlement level so that I broker peace between each country, and South African who are the bone of contention.

“The movie is being scripted right now. So, I employed a writer who is now writing and within a space of six months it should be done because the writer is also travelling around those countries gathering his own findings. Expectedly by May, 2018, he will be ready with the script.”

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