Mr Ibu, Nigerian actor who cracked African ribs, dies at 62

Renowned Nigerian actor John Okafor, better known as Mr Ibu, who died on March 2, 2024. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • In October 2023, Mr Ibu revealed that he was suffering from an ailment suspected to be diabetes.

For most of the last three decades when Nigerian Nollywood films filtered through Africa’s porous borders, many actors have come and gone.

Some became sleek celebrities. Others disappeared in the crowds.

Mr Ibu?

He retained his forte: Often appearing in skits as a drunk poor man or just a street fool who could be used.

Those skits became popular as social media grew, and everyone laughed.

Born John Okafor on October 17, 1961, Ibu didn’t start as a film star. In fact, he went to the Institute of Management and Technology in Enugu, Nigeria 

He was from Umunekwu in Nkanu West Local Government Area of Nigeria’s South East Enugu State. 

After his father died, Okafor moved to Sapele in South South Delta state in 1974 to stay with his brother where he did menial jobs so he could send himself to school and support his family.

He then worked as a hairstylist, ventured into photography and also worked in a company that produced crates.

As Nigerian Nollywood films started to grow, buoyed initially by piracy and later by social media, Ibu found his calling, appearing in movies that told social problems in Nigeria, but actually in Africa, as well as comedies.

On Saturday (March 2, 2024), he died from cardiac complications, having been ailing for several months.

The veteran comedian passed away at Evercare Hospital.

Mr Ibu’s death came just a day after another popular Nollywood Actor, Tolani Oyebamiji aka Sisi Quadri exited the stage after a short illness.

The National President, Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Emeka Rollas, broke the news of the death of Okafor on his Instagram page on Saturday.

“Sad Day for Actors Guild of Nigeria. Mr Ibu suffered cardiac arrest according to his manager of 24 years, Mr Don Single Nwuzor,’’ Rollas said on his Instagram page.

“I announce with a deep sense of grief that Mr Ibu didn’t make it. May his soul rest in peace,” he said.

In October 2023, Mr Ibu revealed that he was suffering from an ailment suspected to be diabetes that eventually led to the amputation of one of his legs.

In an earlier interview, the actor said he was struck by the problem while on a movie set with colleagues.

He then appealed to his fans and the public for prayers and financial assistance to cover his medical bills.

He also shared a video of himself lying in a hospital bed, expressing fear of losing his leg.

Then the Abubakar Bukola Saraki Foundation, announced on October 18, that it had paid off the bills for him.

Yet, it said Mr Ibu’s financial status meant he still needed help to further the treatment abroad. 

In November 2023, Ibu’s leg was amputated after suffering from an illness that required seven different operations.

His family would say the amputation was done to increase his chances of recovery.

Mr Ibu’s listing includes 200 different Nollywood films most of which he appeared to make us laugh. He was a singer too. 

On October 15, 2020, he released his songs titled “This Girl” and “Do You Know”.

Mr Ibu’s popularity was reflected in the way news of his death elicited condolence messages even before it was formally confirmed.

On X, many fans have shared some of his famous skits, which have become good fodder for memes these days.  

One fan known as Albert Nat Hyde wrote on his X about ‘Before Mr Ibu died’, describing the life pressures that may have contributed to Ibu’s situation.

Mr Ibu’s struggles to seek medical attention, he argued, was because his savings had been looted by close family members. However, his family had been at the forefront of fundraising for his treatment late last year.

Legendary Joe also wrote on X handle: "Heaven is about to laugh out loud, as one of Africa's funniest arrives pearly Gates. Mr Ibu ends his chapter here to launch another in paradisiac realm. Rest Well Sir."

Ayekooto @DeeOneAyekooto said Mr Ibu brought happiness to many homes through his God-given natural talent.

The President of the Igbo Movie Producers Association of Nigeria (IMPAN), JohnPaul Nwanganga, said the death would be a great loss to the movie industry.

“I have just confirmed the death of a close friend that took him to hospital. He died in a hospital in Lagos.
“Right now, I am heartbroken over the sad news.

“I enjoin the family to take heart that after all the things he went through he has left to be with his creator,” Nwanganga said.

Okafor is survived by three children Emmanuel Okafor, Chelsea Okafor, and Jay Jay Okafor.