The passing of Ada Ameh

Ada Ameh, a prolific Nollywood actress, mostly in our memories as Emu, the ubiquitous and cantankerous mother of the house in the TV series The Johnsons. She along with other cast members of the series brought us to tears and laughter – haha – over the years. They, in fact, gave us reason through their acting that they were truly one family we knew down the road.

Ada’s famous Warri accent endeared her to all of us. They were indeed like a real family, each one with their quirky character. But Ada, it was who took the cake with her endless quirks and loveable Warri accent. Ada, although of Idoma extraction from Benue State, convinced not a few that she was in fact from Warri. It was a testimony of her acting prowess that convinced many that she was indeed from the South-South region of Nigeria.

She embodied the role, picked up that accent, carried the attitude and worked hard to bring the character to life. It looked effortless but Ada who was not a Warri woman basically became one before our very eyes through sheer hard work and dedication to her profession. Such high thespian quality is what she brings to every role she plays. I have watched her in many movies where she simply becomes whatever her director leads her to become.

Only recently I found her in a TV series by director Biodun Stephen where she works in a restaurant owned by actress Blessing Obasi Nze. She brings the same tenacity to the role; we watch it and want more. As always, her character comes to life.

It is this woman with such formidable humour, such TV and screen presence with such attention to time, her film craft has passed and thrown us all into mourning. I never met her but news of her death made me gasp and groan as if I did. Is it not ironic that she would pass in a city where she had come to be adopted, where she was literally adopted in her most well known character, Warri.

Ada was a Naval officer’s daughter who was born and bred in one of Nigeria’s creative capitals, Ajegunle. From there she moved into Navy territory and got pregnant at 14 years. Her daughter died two years ago, completely devastating her. In an unsettling interview she had given, Ada had said, “She lost six siblings in quick succession and her father.” But in the end while still nursing her wounds she lost her only daughter, and in her own words, her life crumbled before her eyes.

The shock will not leave her and she had said in that interview that she wondered if death was harvesting her family members, adding eerily that she wondered if she would be next. She had also complained about a heavy weight of mental illness. Most people wish it away because she said someone commissioned her for a job which she had not done because she had been mentally ill. Netizens did not sympathise much asking her to return the person’s money.

In many parts of the world, there is grief counselling. Grief if not well managed can kill. But here in Nigeria, it’s hardly a thing. People expect you to simply move on. It’s hard losing one but six, a dad and only daughter. It’s heart wrenching to see Ada this way. She in fact had complained of a long drawn battle with depression. How hard can it be to bear such pain alone and even be afraid to talk about it? We need to begin to pay attention to people with mental health challenges. And kick out the stigma. No one is immune.

Read also: In memoriam: 7 movies that will keep Ada Ameh in our heart

Ada”s passing also tells us how vulnerable we all are and how kindness is the only currency we have. This journey is temporal. Let’s make the best of it by being charitable in all ramifications.

At 48 years, Ada passed young but we cherish the joy she brought to our homes. Tributes have been pouring in from all quarters. Actors, actresses, producers and the Nollywood family. But actor/director Fred Amata said, “I am yet to absorb the news of her death, a devastating one, but a true talent never dies. She lives on because her legacy does.” So true!

Ada, who was a cast member of the Guinness award winning movie, 30 days in Atlanta, was also celebrated by Netflix. “Ada Ameh was a thorough professional who devoted her years to entertaining us. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends and colleagues at this time. May she rest in power.” We join all her well wishers in condolences. Time to be more generous with that family or friend battling depression or mental illness. May Ada now know peace… Amen

This is the time for psychiatrists and psychologists to begin to educate citizens on mental health challenges – Depression. Anxiety attacks, panic attacks, post-natal depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other such illnesses. Too many people are sad around the world. Suicide cases rising higher even in Nigeria. We all need to know the basics. How to manage a friend who wants to end it all, how to deal with a family member with depression, many around. Ada may not have understood the darkness that enveloped her. May her shining light draw attention to the illness that took her away from us… Amen. Ada rests… her fine legacy lives on.

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