The ranks of Nigeria’s theatre practitioners was further depleted, Tuesday 19 February, with the passing of legendary actor, Justus Esiri, at the age of 70.
Esiri, who personified the famous TV series of the ‘80s, Village Headmaster, was one of the greatest talents and professionals to have bestrode Nigeria’s theatre landscape.
The Nollywood veteran starred in many TV soaps and films that earned him admiration countrywide and beyond.
One of his greatest footprints is his star role in the much-loved soap, Village Headmaster where he took on the eponymous role of the ‘headmaster’.
Born 20 November, 1942 in Oria-Abraka, Delta State, Esiri began his acting career in Germany, where he had gone to study engineering.
After leaving Urhobo College, Effurun in the then Bendel State, Esiri was at the Maximillan University, Munich, German, in 1964; and later the Prof. Weners Institute of Engineering, West Berlin in 1967.
But in 1968, Esiri changed course and moved to Germany’s Ahrens School of Performing Arts. This marked the beginning of what was to become his very eventful acting career.
Between 1968 and 1969, Esiri was the only Nigerian male performing on stage in Germany. The actor also worked with the Voice of Nigeria, VON, German Service, as a translator.
He was performing on stage in Germany when a visiting Nigerian delegation invited him home to perform in a government-sponsored programme. Acting held Esiri down in Nigeria, and he never returned to Germany.
Esiri, who earned the national honour of Member of the Order of the Niger, MON, distinguished himself throughout his acting career which spanned over five decades.
For his contributions, he was bestowed with several awards including THEMA Awards, NTA Honours Awards and AMAA Awards. He was also the star actor in acclaimed productions such as Wasted Years, Forever, The Prize, Six Demons, Corridors of Power, Last Knight, The Tyrant, The Investigation and The Ghost. Assassin’s Practice, one of the most recent movies he featured in, was produced last year.
Esiri is survived by his wife, Omiete and children, including hip-hop singer, Dr. Sid.
As the acting family and the entire country bid their darling ‘village headmaster’ farewell, we salute his immense works and the great legacies he left behind.