Tribute To Big Slim: Hours To The End By Ngozi Emedolibe
A few minutes to midnight on April 16, I got a phone call from Ifeanyichukwu Onyeabo. It was not unusual.
Since 2013, I have been consulting for his IGOMO Pictures as a journalist; and when I started, Bellbird Media later, IGOMO Pictures retained our services and lately expanded the scope with briefs from SIC Entertainment Ltd, another company, he co-owned, which has been shooting and stockpiling content for two-to-three years now, preparatory for the launch of SIC TV.
“Big Slim”, that is what I call him, “how far na? How Jos?”
“I dey. Ngozi, how na?” he sounded particularly excited. “I need a beautiful profile of ‘True Legends’. I am sending some details to you on Whatsapp. I must get it this night, because they need it in the US urgently. An online content distributor requested for it.”
“Netflix?” I probed. Of course, I know the quality of his productions is Netflix-ish.
“I am sending all the details to you. I will be disturbing you all through this night to make sure it is ready…although I am not feeling too well,” he quipped.
“Wetin dey do you?” I said.
“E get as my body dey do sha. How do church people say it? OK, I am strong.”
“When you dey come Lagos na?” I asked because we were supposed to conclude work this Easter on ‘Yakanda’, his other film for festivals, whose publicity/execution plan had been approved.
“Na next week I dey come. My birthday is on the 28th. That my birthday… you will bring your family over sef, so we mark it.” “That will be nice,” I said.
“When the stuff is ready, send it through Whatsapp and email, so I can forward to them from my email. I will be monitoring you o.”
A torrent of Whatapp messages came in afterwards from him with the documents I needed; and I settled down to do a little research for the profiling which required his details as a filmmaker, his works, especially ‘True Legends’ and its cast.
When I was ready to send the stuff to him, I noticed he had called my line twice at about After-One. I, naturally assumed, he was trying to following up.
After sending the document via e-mail and Whatsapp, I noticed they were not ‘delivering’ on both lines, so I tried to return the call to let him know I had sent them to him, but the two lines were switched off. As a workaholic that he was, I assumed he must have worked himself out the previous day and decided to have a sound sleep by shutting everyone out.
But he needed to send a document to the US urgently…
There was a contrast here.
Hhmm…while trying to figure it out, the rude news came that he had been poisoned!
That was shocking for me. For a good friend I spoke with to pass on a few hours later confirms the ephemeral nature of life.
It is a huge vacuum o. Big Slim was a thorough film professional. There are just a few of them in the film industry, who would never take advantage of any artistes because of acting before a camera.
That is why his films have served as the launching pads for the careers of so many African artistes…from Nigeria to Ghana, Liberia to Kenya and South Africa. If your voice is good enough, he would encourage you to work on his next soundtrack.
“I have never done it before Sir”.
“Relax. You can do it. Trust me, you have so much in you”, Big Slim would say.
His heart was as large as his bulk and your ‘agros’ with him would never stretch into the next hour. Una fit shout at each other over work o, but it ended there.
His attitude to work was intensive, self-driven, and he was always striving to outdo himself; a perfectionist. I will miss you sorely, Big Slim.
I regret missing those last two calls from you. Was it to follow up? Or for something else? Only God knows. He will rest you beautiful soul, Big Slim.