Famous for his role as Kabiyesi in the longest-running television series “The village Headmaster” in Nigeria, Dejumo Lewis, actor, dramatis and a communications consultant, bowed to life.
He exited the stage at 80 on December 23, 2023. He was a prolific figure in Nigerian film and television. The soap opera aired on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) from 1968 to 1988. His stellar performances alongside other talented actors made him a household name.
Lewis also made memorable contributions to acclaimed films such as “A Place in the Stars” (2014), “Crossroads” (2020), and “Power of 1” (2018), leaving an indelible mark on the Nigerian entertainment landscape.
Before he ventured into the media, Lewis had enrolled in the St Theresa’s Catholic Minor Seminary in Ibadan to become a priest; however, he changed his mind along the way and began a masters degree programme at the University of Ibadan (UI), where he studied Communications Arts.
He began acting in the Village Headmaster in 1964 shortly after he exited the Seminary school, which was the year Village Headmaster drama began production. His journey in the media began with freelancing in the Village Headmaster cast, and later joined the television industry.
He revealed in an interview with Sunday Tribune that the movie that came closer to his role in the Village Headmaster after it stopped airing was Agogo Eewo because it has similar story line and objectives.
“I think TK’s production of Agogo Eewo was something close to it because it had similar objectives of showcasing our culture and addressing indigenous challenges that we have concerning leadership and governance, that one was so outstanding. Other ones that I took part in were just social issues that were of interest to the producers and owners of those movies.”
The old soap opera that stopped about 30 years ago made a nostalgic return recently. Speaking about how he felt when the soap was stopped abruptly by NTA in the 80s, Lewis said it was depressing because there was nothing they could do to have it continue at that time.
“It was very sad and depressing. It appears there was nothing anybody could do as long as NTA’s top management decided to yank it off. It was stopped in 1989. It was sad because it was stopped without consultation even with sponsors, producers, and all the stakeholders that were involved in the production, it was just yanked off until it was resuscitated,” he said in the interview.
According to Lewis, ever since the television series stopped, people clamoured for it to be brought back but it fell on deaf ears as management of the NTA did not respond to it.
“There has been a clamour for the return of the ‘Village Headmaster’ over a period of 30 years, when it was rested unceremoniously. Viewers have been requesting on a daily basis to have the programme back, but the NTA turned a deaf ear to the clamour for it. Even while the creator was alive, he wanted a private production of the programme and he detailed Tunde Oloyede to work on it. But for some uncanny reasons, it just didn’t take off till the man died,” he said.
Those born in the 70s can’t forget the deep and rhythmic beat of the drums and the agogo, it was the sig-tune of the comedy the Village Headmaster where you watched the antics of councillor Bamishe, Teacher, Amebo, Sisi Clara, Eleyinmi and the swaggering king of Oja. He would swagger to the back, shuffle forward then, sit himself praying blessings on his people with a wave of his horsetail. Or, should we forget Saworoide?
Dejumo Lewis, a thespian, custodian of the Arts and master of stage, he would be greatly missed. A wave of his horsetail clears his throat “Carry on Eleyinmi.” Rest in perfect peace Kabiyesi.
Author: Kangmwa Gofwen
Lagos Bureau Chief, Nigeria