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TRIBUTE: The Man, Justus Esiri (1942 – 2013)

Justus Esiri. Photo: Facebook

With the reported death, yesterday, of Nollywood great Justus Esiri, the entertainment industry, and indeed Nigeria as a whole, has lost one of its greatest sons.

Esiri, Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), was for many years, a leading man in drama and movies, and one of the few in his category to have successfully crossed over from stage and TV, into the home video industry now popularly called Nollywood.

He was however mostly known  for his role as the Village Headmaster in the then popular television series of the same name.

Born on 20 November 1942 in Oria-Abraka, Deltta State, Esiri attended Urhobo College Effurun in the then Bendel State, Warri.

He also attended the Maximillan University, Munich, German, 1964, Prof. Weners Institute of Engineering, West Berlin, 1967 and the Ahrens School of Performing Arts, 1968.

It is believed he started his acting career in Germany. He was the only Nigerian male performing on stage between 1968 and 1969.

According to reports, he also worked for Voice of Nigeria, German Service as a translator; and it was while  performing on stage in Germany that a delegation from Nigeria invited him home to perform in a government sponsored programme. He never returned to Germany.

Soft-spoken but firm, Esiri was a fun-loving and scandal-free actor who brought respect and regard for a profession that was for many years looked down on by the Nigerian society.

And it is no surprise that one of his sons is today a leading entertainer in his own rights, making music that’s making millions happy. Dr. Sid, one of Esiri’s sons who broke the news of his death yesterday, spent years studying to become a dentist, before dumping his certificate and facing music.

‘I just called him and told him both the negative and positive aspects of the entertainment industry and he has to be focused. I scolded but gave him my blessing and he picked up.’, Esiri once said of his son’s choice.

He had six children with his Kalabari wife Omiete.

A recipient of the Nigerian national honour, THEMA AwardsNTA Honours Awards and AMAA Awards, amongst many others, he was a greatly decorated performer who won accolades home and abroad for his talent, hard-work and consistency.

Justus Esiri, 70, was an avid golfer.

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