Sadiq Daba: Superlative Voice of Radio, Screen

Veteran Actor, Sadiq Daba
Veteran Actor, Sadiq Daba

BEVERLY HILLS, March 15, (THEWILL) – If you had two dozen students in a class and Sadiq Daba walked in as a teacher, 48 pairs of eyes would have followed every of his move from the moment he stepped in. Tall, military-trim with well-defined features (pointed nose and prominent earlobes suggestive of high intelligence and a headful of hair) Daba would have been a sight to behold by his wards. The same students would have listened keenly to whatever he had to say, delivered in a pellucid voice with a tinge of baritone.

“Acting,” the great Sir Laurence Olivier famously said, “is more voice, more voice and more voice.” Of course, Sir Laurence delighted European and American audiences with his inimitable voice on the stage and screen. So did Daba hold the attention of millions of viewers and listeners in Nigeria and beyond with his uniquely distinct voice: as an actor and broadcaster.

Nigerians of a certain generation remember too well the popular soap opera and docudrama Cockcrow at Dawn that ran for 104 episodes beginning from the seventies up to the eighties. Wherever you were, whatever you were doing, you took time off every Friday evening at about 6pm to sit with others (family members, neighbours and friends) before the 14 by 14 black and white television sets covered with antimacassar standing squarely in one end or angle ninety of sitting rooms in most Nigerian households.

If your parents were not rich enough to afford the ubiquitous black and white Sanyo or President, you watched the 45 minute soap somehow, somewhere – sometimes peering between the legs of an adult or a partly opened window or doorway curtain.

On those days, the soundtrack of the soap composed by Bongos Ikwe and of the same name was sure to rouse you from play like a school bell driving students back to the class after recess/ break for something more serious. Yes, watching the docudrama was something serious for millions of Nigerians such that it was almost sacrilegious if you missed one episode.

Among the soap’s parade of stars, Sadiq Daba stood out. He was young and good to look at as Bitrus, nearly always at loggerheads with his father and sometimes going in opposite directions after some nasty verbal exchange. But it was Sadiq’s voice that got and held the attention of most of us at the time, plus he was a damn good actor.

His journey to the screen and as a broadcaster began most inauspiciously, though with his kind of voice he would no doubt have ended up as a Thespian or a broadcaster.

Sadiq Abubakar Daba was born in Kano but the peregrinator that he is, he soon moved to Sierra Leone where he had his education at St. Edwards Secondary School, Freetown.

From his teens Sadiq Daba enjoyed listening to the radio. With time, he started speaking like those he heard from the wireless. With time, also, his father bought a tape recorder for him, the better for him to train his voice.

The Dabas returned to Nigeria on June 28, 1968 and with his certificate handy, Sadiq had a stint with Government Coastal Agency where he supplied materials at the ordinance depot in Yaba. Peripatetic by nature, Sadiq Daba was off once again, this time to Kano where he worked with Nigeria Customs. While in Kano he paid his brother, Major Mohammed Daba, a visit in Kaduna. It was while in Kaduna that fate stepped in to alter Sadiq Daba’s destiny by way of a chance encounter with one Baba Ahmed (Khalifa) at Hamdallah Hotel.

Charmed to no end by his voice, Khalifa introduced Sadiq Daba to Radio Television Kaduna where he began as a continuity announcer in 1973.

From then, the young man had some spell at NTA/ TV College and higher education at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Sadiq Daba worked with NTA for 35 years where, the all-rounder that he is, he reported, read the news, acted, directed and produced. A versatile actor, Sadiq Daba has played different characters in films such as Behind the Clouds, Ripples, A Place like Home, Moment of Truth and most recently as Inspector Waziri in Kunle Afolayan’s widely acclaimed October 1.

With that record of performance, Sadiq Daba made a number of friends in the entertainment industry, among them Afolanya. Indeed, some of his highly placed pals rallied round him after he was diagnosed with the cancerous infections.

Following his death on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 of leukemia and prostate cancer at Ayinke General Hospital, Ikeja, tributes have poured in for the veteran actor and broadcaster. Among them is an accomplished producer himself, Edi Lawani.

Reminiscing on his relationship with the deceased Daba, Lawani wrote through WhatsApp that “he was fun to be with. A good listener, he knew no diplomatese in his candid conversations. He said it as it was and as he saw it always. Truth or nothing. Slow to acquainting, he was spiritually inseparable from his chosen acquaintances and friends. He remembered every detail of his many meetings with a myriad of people in his line of work and leisure time.”

Lawani who knew Daba professionally and as a friend described the late actor as “multi-talented,” insisting that “his self-effacing demeanor endeared him to many who related with him at close range. He was a very hardworking man with a very fertile mind. He rolled with the young and old in equal measure. He never shied away from making a move to help a friend in need. He was a teacher who taught many of us many lessons of life on the move. He was a very observant person as he was highly perceptive. Sadiq Daba understood body language like his native dialect. He could be moody in some extreme circumstance. He was forthright and lived his life like an open book, although many were never able to turn the pages of that book. To such persons, they formed an opinion of a one-dimension man that they thought Sadiq Daba to be.”

At least one other person has corroborated Lawani’s views of Daba’s moody mien and that person is none other than his own son, Abdulkadiri. In one recent interview, Daba’s son recalled of his father thusly: “When he is annoyed, he indirectly vents his anger on us. I used to feel bad but now I try to console him and make him relaxed. We then talk as men not as father and son. Sometimes when we go out together, he introduces me as his friend and vice versa. He does not move with the crowd.”

It is also true that Daba wasn’t a crowd person. Though not without friends, he was almost solitary like a leopard. On one occasion, for instance, many years ago, the famous actor was found sitting all by himself at Bar Beach at about 2 or 3am. There was no one in sight, leading some to speculate that there was something wrong somewhere. Far from it. A man who preferred his own company couldn’t wish for a better place to meditate or, as Virginia Woolf so aptly put it, a room of one’s own, especially for the creative types.

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Sadiq Daba was a thoroughgoing professional – “in front of the camera or behind one,” as one writer described him posthumously. For his 69 years, Daba lived life to the fullest, was married to Bola from a royal home in one of the Yoruba states. But above all was the uncommon courage he showed while suffering a debilitating disease. Although there were painful moments while undergoing treatment with oxygen machines for months, Daba had encouraging words to Nigerian youths.

“Believe in yourself and do not be a copycat,” he advised them through a reporter who interviewed him on his hospital bed. “Be proud that you are a Nigerian. You cannot be more American than the American. In American films, they do not glamorize their slums, they show you the better parts of America. Those who want to go into acting, drama and broadcasting should know that they are going to be ambassadors of Nigeria.”