Remembering 2 Nigerian entertainers who died on June 12

June 12 is often remembered as the day Nigerians set aside ethnic, religious and other differences to vote for the late Chief MKO Abiola as president in what is usually referred to as the freest and fairest election ever in Nigeria.

The election was, however, declared inconclusive and subsequently annulled by the military administration of General Ibrahim Babangida.

Millions still have fond recollection of the business mogul who went from president-elect in 1993 to political martyr upon his death on July 7, 1998.

But June 12 is not about Abiola’s “stolen mandate” alone. It is also the date Nigeria lost two iconic entertainers.

Agidigbo, Juju and Highlife maestro, Fatai Olayiwola Olagunju, popularly known as Fatai Rolling Dollar, died on June 12, 2013.

Born – in his own words – “in Isale Eko on July 22 1928”, he was 84 at the time of his death.

Baba Yato, as those in his inner circle called him, was a hit in the golden era of highlife music in the 1950s and 1960s. He mentored the likes of Orlando Owoh and Ebenezer Obey, and was an influence on Fela Kuti.

A loss of fortune, which he blamed in part to the destruction of musical instrument he rented to some people during the raid on Fela’s Kalakuta Republic, resulted in him living in abject poverty for more than 25 years in the Mushin area of Lagos.

He returned to the scene in the early 2000s and released an album titled Returns on the Jazzhole label in 2002. That was followed by the megahit, Won Kere Si Number, launched at Glover Hall, Marina, Lagos in 2004.

Fate smiled on Rolling Dollar a second time at old age and he travelled to many countries, performing for the high and mighty until he took ill during a US tour.

He returned home and died a few days later at a hospital in Lagos, leaving behind a wife and several children.

His burial took place according to Islamic rites at his uncompleted building in the Maya area of Ikorodu, Lagos the day after his death.

Exactly a year after Fatai, Nigerian female gospel singer and entrepreneur, Kefee Obareki, died at a hospital in Los Angeles, California in the US.

Born on February 5, 1980, the University of Benin Business Administration graduate was 34 when she died.

Her Wikipedia entry reads: “In 2000 she released an album titled Trip and that made way for her into the Nigerian music scene as a Gospel artist. In 2003, she got signed to Alec’s Entertainment, a record label founded by her former choir director and she released her Branama album shortly after that. The Branama album brought her into the spotlight as a fulfilled Gospel artist with sales both national and international. And that served as a starting part to her successful career as Nigerian gospel artiste.”

Kefee was married to Alec Godwin for three years until 2008. She married radio host Teddy Esosa Don-Momoh on March 3, 2013 in Sapele, Delta state.

A few days after reportedly collapsing on a Chicago bound flight, the singer thanked fans for their prayers in a tweet, saying “nothing dey happen”.

Nigerians were stunned to learn of her passing two weeks later on June 12, 2014.

She was buried on Friday July 11, 2014 in her hometown Okpara Inland, Ethiope East Local Government Area of Delta State.

The burial was largely boycotted by Nigerian celebrities who shed virtual tears on social media immediately after her death.