ON Wednesday, July 7, 2010, the Nigerian entertainment industry was plunged into mourning as death struck again, claiming the life of another veteran actress, Madam Toun Oni, popularly known as Mama T.
A family source informed ENCOMIUM Weekly that the versatile actress and role model to many gave up the ghost while on her way to the hospital. And a day before her death, she had complained of having pains all over her body, which informed her being taken to St. Paul Hospital, Ebute Metta, Lagos for urgent medical attention.
“Mama was hale and hearty all through. She was even joking with people around her. There was no sign of any serious ailment at all. But on Tuesday, I learnt she was just complaining of body pain and we decided to take her to the hospital. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get to the hospital before she passed on,” narrated a source.
Mama T passed on at the age of 72, according to her elder brother, Adewale Oni, aged 82. She is survived by three children: Ruth, Ronke and Toyin. She also left behind an aged aunt.
Details of her burial plan are yet to be made public, but tentatively, Thursday, July 15, 2010 has been fixed for the burial.
She would be buried at Atan Cemetery, Yaba, Lagos.
Toun Oni had featured in countless movies and soaps, among them Checkmate, Family Circle, Mirror in the Sun, Fuji House of Commotion, Irapada. According to her colleagues, the vacuum left by her exit will be very difficult to fill.
We chatted with some of her family members and colleagues on the kind of person she was and what they would miss most about her.
RONKE ONI, Last child
How would you describe your mother?
Words have failed me. My mother was everything to us, she was loving, generous and caring. I don’t really know how to describe her.
What would you miss about her?
Everything, she was very funny. I would miss the way she used to shout at me when I make her angry.
What do you cherish most about her?
Everything, she was a wonderful person to be with, there was never a dull moment with her. I would miss a lot of things about her not just one specific thing. I cherished her style and dedication to God, she was a devoted Christian and that made her unique. She would never do anything that was against the scripture.
What lessons have you learnt from her?
I learnt that it is wrong to engage in things that can upset God and many other lessons.
What was your last conversation with her before she died?
I wasn’t around when she died.
How did you receive the news of her death?
It was very shocking. I almost screamed my life out until I saw things myself.
We learnt she was not sick?
Not at all. She just had pains even those who were with her on Monday said she was playing with them all through the day. She was healthy and strong. The pains started from her chest and she was rushed to the hospital where she gave up.
Has she been having such pains before that day?
No, that was the first time she had such pains.
How do you intend coping without her?
We don’t have a choice, we will definitely cope but we will miss her.
RUTH ONI, Second child
What would you miss about your mother?
A lot of things. I will miss her motherly advice, the money she used to give to me, her care, companionship, love and everything.
How would you describe her as a mother and as an actress?
Words are not enough to describe her, she was one in a million. She was everything a mother should be to her children, she was very caring and playful. We all loved her and we would miss her.
What was her last moment like?
I can’t really say because I was not around when she died. I had no conversation with her before she passed on.
How do you intend to cope without her?
God will take care of us, we don’t have a choice than to cope, we will really miss her but life goes on.
What was the cause of her death?
She wasn’t sick at all, she was a Jehovah’s Witness, she went to work at the Kingdom Hall and she suddenly told her members that she was having pains, she said she could not breath then she was rushed to the hospital where she died.
Are you a Jehovah’s Witness too?
None of us is a witness but we go with her once in a while. I am a Redeemed member.
What do you do for a living?
I am a businesswoman.
BABATUNDE ONI, First grandchild
How will you describe your grandma?
She was very funny, caring, playful and loving. She loved me in particular. She loved carrying people along, she was a good advicer. When you tell her your problems, she always looked for a way to solve it.
What will you miss about her?
Everything. I would miss the way she used to shout at me whenever I offend her, I really loved to see her shout because it made me laugh.
What do you think was responsible for her death?
Nothing was responsible, she was of age and we all know that one day we will all die. I believe it was her time to go.
What do you do?
I am a student of University of Lagos, in Part 3.
OMODELE BELLO, Younger sister
When exactly did she give up the ghost?
The early hours of Tuesday, July 6, 2010.
What did she tell you was wrong with her?
Just general weakness of the body. She even played with everyone, sent people on errand and called one of her grandchild to come and spend the holiday with her. She bought so many things, she just called her son and explained that she wasn’t feeling okay and she was taken to the hospital.
Can you describe the type of person she is?
She started acting as a teenager, she is a nice person. We will miss her so much. Everyone in the neighbourhood knows her to be like that. We didn’t plan for her to die but we just accept it. We didn’t even want to tell our aged mother but when she began to suspect we told her and she fainted immediately.
TOUN ONI’S AUNT
Mama, when did you hear about her death?
My daughter wasn’t sick, she just came back and complained of pains.
How did you feel when you heard the news?
I was devastated, I didn’t hear anything (sobbing). My child left me suddenly. Adetoun Oni, we were supposed to celebrate her 40 years on stage. She would just come here and play with me.
What will you miss about her?
She would bring food, clothes, money, toilet soap, I can’t explain. I can never forget, she told her grandchildren to come to the family house and I told her to buy something for me. She bought vegetables.
ADEWALE ONI, Elder brother
What sort of relationship do you have with her?
She treated me like a father.
How did you feel when you received the sad news?
I am her brother, I am still alive and she’s my younger sister and she’s dead. How do you want me to feel?
What will you miss about her?
So many things. We don’t quarrel, she was very obedient.
‘The Toun Oni we knew,’ by her colleagues
‘She was a mother to most of us who don’t have mothers. She would advice you on your career and even domestic issues. She was just so caring, a wonderful mother indeed, a role model. No doubt, her death has created a vacuum difficult to fill. Now, we need to start looking for another mother to replace her. The news of her death came to me as a rude shock but one can’t question God. She would be missed by all.’
- Antar Laniyan
‘She was a caring mother and a role model. I knew her since the days of my late father. She was very dedicated and committed to this profession. I believe she has not reaped enough fruits of her labour. Her death is still very shocking and sudden to me despite her age. Her death is a blow to the industry and the nation as a whole. But I thank God for her, she lived an exemplary life.’
- Muka Ray
‘She was so cheerful and motherly, a versatile actress and role model. I still believe she died young because such a person is expected to live longer than that. She was an asset to Nollywood as a whole. We were close on the set of Mirror in the Sun, we acted in Home to Ajegunle created by Larry Williams. Her attitude to all of us was wonderful. She was just a mother and a role model in the industry. I am yet to get myself back from the rude shock of her death. We will all miss her.’
- Princess Dupe Adetuwo
‘I received the news of her death with shock. I am even speechless at the moment. The woman was just too nice and hard working. She suffered a lot for this profession. She has not reaped the fruits of her labour. It is a very sad occurrence. We would all miss her a lot.’
- Ebun Oloyede
‘I am still in shock, but there is nothing one can do because death is inevitable. But her death is painful to me. Such a veteran who should have lived longer and passed her experience to the younger generation just passed on like that. She has really done much in the industry. Toun Oni was a liberal woman, she related with both old and young colleagues alike. She was a fantastic actress and role model. Her death is another deadly blow to our growing industry.’
- Dele Odule
‘Her death is a rude shock to me. I can’t hold back my tears. I had a plan to see her for my job not knowing she would die that soon. We have lost yet another veteran with a difference, I could remember when we were at Family Circle location, she used to embrace all of us, settling quarrels. She was just a wonderful mother. Surely, all of us in the industry and beyond will miss her. May her gentle soul rest in perfect peace.’
- Lepa Shandy
‘Her death is painful and a big loss to the industry and the nation as a whole. She would be remembered for her care and willingness to render help. I have known her since 1973, and since then, we have remained quite close. We have worked together on stage and have stuck together like a family. That is why I am still finding it difficult to come to terms with her death. The entire Fuji House of Commotion would definitely miss her.’
- Kunle Bamtefa
‘Oni’s exit is a vacuum that would be difficult to fill. She assumed dual roles by being the mother of the house and a mother of the cast. She was just a source of inspiration to many people who had the opportunity of meeting her including myself. It was her professionalism that earned her the national honour of Officer of the Order of Niger, OON. She would definitely be missed by all.’
- Victor Eze
‘Toun Oni positively affected my life and the lives of all other members of the cast and crew of Fuji House of Commotion. Right now, I am at a loss as to what to say because she was like a mother to me, but we cannot question God. We pray God to give her family the fortitude to bear the loss.’
- Jude Orhorha
‘Her death is a sad development. The news came as a big shock to me and it is quite painful. I spoke with her son and he told me that she died after complaining of headache. Toun Oni was not just one of the most talented actresses we had, she was a role model to many people. AGN will immortalize her.’
- Segun Arinze, AGN president
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, July 13, 2010