In the 70s and 80s, when there used to be quite a few television stations in the country, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) was the leading TV station in the land. In those days, everyone depended on the NTA for news, reports and entertainment, among others. It is particularly in entertainment that NTA really carved a niche for itself. Consequently, some soap operas shown on the station became popular nationwide. Prominent among such soaps were Village Headmaster, The Masquerade, Cockcrow at Dawn, Supple Blues, Mirror In the Sun, Ichiokwu, Winds of Destiny, After the Storm, and many others. These were all very captivating television drama series that were fashioned to mirror our country’s peculiar and diverse religious and socio-cultural setting, while also providing huge entertainment for the teeming viewers. As it is usually the case with didactic works, most of the series had numerous moral lessons that highly imparted on the society.
Though all of the soaps were quite fascinating and enthralling, one particularly found Cock Crow at Dawn breathtaking. A rich educational and entertainment serial that aired weekly on the NTA network, Cock Crow at Dawn was developed and financed by NTA and United Bank for Africa (UBA) to promote widespread interest in farming. The idea was part of the effort to increase awareness about the need to diversify the country’s economy by returning to agriculture which used to be the mainstay of its economy. UBA sponsored the project as part of its agricultural credit scheme.
The immensely talented Peter Igho wrote and developed the serial. The choice of location was SabonGarinTarria, a rural setting about 20 kilometers from the coal city of Jos, in Plateau State.
As is always the case with such popular soap operas, certain characters that are able to interpret their roles skillfully will eventually become the face of the drama series and as such become famous national figures. In the case of Cock Crow at Dawn, one of such characters is Sadiq Daba, who played the role of Bitrus, a rather naughty boy in the drama series. Tall, thin and amiable, Daba is a veteran television broadcaster, presenter, actor, director and producer who dazzled Nigerians with his immense talent from late 70s to the early 90s.
Aside his role in Cock Crow at Dawn, he equally featured in a couple of other drama series which include ‘Rooster Crow at Dawn’, ‘Behind the Clouds’ and ‘A Place like Home’, ‘Soweto’ and ‘Moment of Truth’.
Widely travelled and educated, he studied at the St. Edwards College, Sierra Leone, NTA/TV College and Ahmadu Bello University (ABU). He later went on training tours to Germany, U.K. etc. Perhaps, in contemporary time, his latest act is his role as Waziri, a nosy police officer, in the award-winning Kunle Afolayan movie, October 1st, which won him several individual awards across the world.
But then, these are not the best of times for Daba. At over 70 years, when he should take a break from the hustle and bustle of life to enjoy the rewards of his hard work, Daba is battling for dear life. According to reports, the ace broadcaster has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, barely months after he was hospitalised for months due to leukemia, a cancer of the blood cells. However, with adequate medical care or a blood marrow transplant, the disease can be managed.
The financial implications of such medical treatments are quite enormous and as such, Daba can do with some help from well meaning Nigerians. We can all celebrate this amazingly talented compatriot by rising up to help him in every way we can. We should not wait until he dies before coming out to eulogise him as it has become customary with us. This is his hour of need and we should demonstrate our humanness by stretching forth our hand of love, brotherliness and love towards him.
Members of his primary constituency in the entertainment industry should especially show the way forward by coming out to rally round him. Being one of the industry’s founding fathers (or grandfathers), Daba’s colleagues need to come together and demonstrate their benevolence towards him. Nigerians are typically kindhearted and we must bring this to bear on our response to Daba. He gave us much to cheer about while he was in sound health, now is the time to pay him back.
It is, however, imperative to stress that, perhaps, the best way to honour this illustrious entertainment guru would be for governments across the country to raise the bar in terms of health care delivery. All tiers of governments across the country should invest massively in the health sector such that every Nigerian, irrespective of social status, can have access to quality medical care.
We must work hard to reverse the trend where only a few privileged ones who have the wherewithal can travel abroad to access quality medical care. If top government functionaries by virtue of their official positions can be flown abroad at public expense for medical treatment, what happens to the millions of our hapless compatriots who do not have the resources to do the same? Are they already condemned to avoidable death?
The strength of every nation is its people. It is the people that help to give impetus to every policy, programme and activity of government. Nations that are desirous of spectacular growth and development don’t joke with the health of their citizens. Ours should not be an exception.
As a nation, our human resource remains our most essential development index. Therefore, government and all stakeholders should do all they can to ensure that the health of the citizenry is not in any way jeopardized.
Ogunbiyi is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.