July 11, 2019

Ajo Fest Director, Ogungbade, Dies

By Toyin Akinosho

Jide Ogungbade, the theatre director widely noted for interpreting Fred Agbeyegbe’s “Ajo Plays” into full carnivals on stage, has died.

“Nicholas Babajide Ogungbade, passed on in the evening hours of Tuesday, July 9, 2019 in Lagos after a period of illness”, a family statement announced.

A poet, playwright, singer and music composer, Ogungbade was born in Minna, in the Niger State of Nigeria in 1952.

He worked for over two decades as a Drama Producer with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (now Radio Nigeria), where he wrote, directed and produced hundreds of episodes of drama pieces that fetched him numerous awards. He trained upcoming broadcasters at the Radio Nigeria Training School, Oshodi, Lagos and was also the Assistant Choir Master of the Cherubim and Seraphim Movement Church, District 6 (Ayo Ni o) located on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, Lagos.

But Ogungbade is most notably known for directing the series of production of plays, written by Fred Agbeyegbe, which lit up the Lagos theatre scene between 1983 and 1986.

The burgeoning theatre circuit in the city in those years reserved high place for the Ajo Theatre Production Company of which Ogungbade was Artistic Director, such that the experiment was called “Broadway”, while other production companies, including Anansa Playhouse and several others, were referred to as “Off Broadway”.

Those “Ajo” plays, including The King Must Dance Naked (1983), Woe Unto Death (1984), The Last Omen (1985), and Budiso (1986), were all later collectively performed, one per weekend, over a period of four weeks as Ajo Festival in 1986. As key interpreter of these, sometimes epic plays, from
script to the stage, Ogungbade fused elements of folklore, colours of African festival rituals, dance and poetry to transform basic storytelling to memorable visuals.

He is survived by children, grandchildren and relatives.

Funeral arrangements will be announced later.

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