Popular actor, Sam Loco Efe, dies at 73

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Sam LocoAccording to a source, Sam Loco, as popularly called, died last night in his hotel room located along Amakoihia, Orlu Road, Owerri, the Imo State capital.

Confirming the incident to The Guardian yesterday evening, the Imo State Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Jingiri Abubakar, said the deceased had been sick for about one week in an undisclosed hospital, adding that he only checked into the hotel to relax and get better for his entertainment business, before he suddenly died.

Abubakar disclosed that policemen led by him were making arrangements for investigations, promising to brief the press later. He did not give further details. “It is true. He died in Rapour Hotel in Owerri. We are in the process of going to mortuary now. We heard he had been sick for one week and he had just been discharged. He died last night. We will give you other details latter,” the police commissioner said.

Sam Loco was said to be working on a movie in Bayelsa State and was brought to Owerri to voice some aspect of the film, but died a few hours after he retired to his hotel room. His remains have been deposited at Oladinma mortuary in Owerri. When The Guardian visited the hotel yesterday, the officials wore long faces, discussing the issue, but declined other details about Loco’s death.

Nollywood watchers say this is another great loss to the Nigerian booming entertainment industry. Sam Loco Efe has been in the industry for more than three decades. He was not only a comedian but did equally well in almost all other aspects of the entertainment industry. A polyglot of sort, the late Loco spoke Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa fluently, though he was not from any of these tribes, but hailed from Benin, Edo State in South-South geo-political zone.

The deceased once said in an interview: “I seem to have a knack for languages. I had the interest to learn the languages as well. There is no language that is not important. I can speak Hausa 40 per cent; Igbo and Yoruba, 100 per cent. Of course, I can speak Benin language 100 per cent”. He could comfortably pass for an Igbo man, but said: “I am not even from the Igbo-speaking part of the South- South. I am from Benin. Most people keep saying I am from Benue. Some say I am an Ogbomoso man. Others feel this is ‘Omo Ibadan.’”

Sam Loco had performed on stage and television for over 47 years, but had been in the movies for about 35 years. At the 2010 edition of the Nigeria Prize for Literature, Sam Loco was invited as Special Guest of Honour, an invitation the media dubbed “surprising.” But the organisers, the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), explained then that Loco’s invitation was in recognition of his immense contribution to the growth of theatre in Nigeria.

“This year’s literature prize is for drama and there is no one, in our opinion, worthier of this honour than Sam Loco Efeeimwonkiyeke. Many years ago, Nigeria hosted the world to FESTAC 77 and a Nigerian drama, Langbodo, was staged to a full house at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. Sam Loco Efe was Akaraogun and he gave a performance of matchless beauty. The silence when he finished was, I am sure, a greater ovation than any artiste had ever received in that hall. It was so good that the then Head of State, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, ordered that the play be broadcast on network television every morning throughout the duration of the festival,” an official of the NLNG had explained then. “Today is indeed a very sad day in Nollywood. I can confirm that the great Sam Loco is dead,” National Secretary, Actors’ Guild of Nigeria (AGN), Chuma Onwudiwe, said yesterday.

Sam Loco, who for many years distinguished himself as a rare talent for both television and stage, was born in Enugu. His breakthrough in theatre began to manifest around 1968 in Benin when he formed the Overamwem National Theatre Group (ONTG). His group represented Mid-West (Area 2 division) in most national arts festivals. The group won laurels.

- The Guardian


Last Interview

 Sam Loco Efe is one of the most talented actors of contemporary Nigerian theatre. He has for many years distinguished himself as a rare talent for both television and stage drama.

Sam Loco Efe
I am Sam Loco from Benin in Edo State. Many people misplace my surname for a Delta man. Efe is a Benin name although the Urhobo people popularised it. Efe means Wealth in Benin as it also means in Urhobo but it means Cloth in Ibo. My surname is fully pronounced Efeeimwonkiyeke, meaning wealth has no time limit.One can be wealthy at 90 when people must have lost hope. What actually happened was that my grandmother was having only female children and after so many years, she gave birth to my father at an old age and when he arrived, the name given to him is “you see now my wealth has finally arrived.” I later inherited this from my father as I was the last of my parents children and the only male child.

 The beginning

I was born here in Enugu, but I spent my childhood in Abakaliki and a modest attempt at becoming an actor was what triggered my passion for the stage. There was a time, Government College, Umuahia came to Abakaliki with a production. We all got so excited and I said to myself that if these men can stay on stage before a large audience and render their lines without looking into any book or script, there must be something magical about it.
A few bold ones among us asked them some questions after the production and they said it was a matter of training and perseverance. So, when they left, I attempted a play that was larger than our collegiate level. I decided to produce William Shakespeare Julius Caesar. I acted Caesar and also directed it without any formal training.


Going to school in the East then was tough. It was not like the Western Region where students got everything free. It was tough for us, so my nephew and I alternated street trading on a yearly basis to enable the other acquire education. But because of the staccato arrangement, I must confess that I had to attend so many primary schools.
I was a very good footballer and so I went to almost ten secondary schools playing football and getting scholarships here and there and I was stubborn as well. As I was being admitted into one, I was being expelled from another.

 Challenges in Nollywood

I can say that the movie industry began with genuine theatre and movie people. As soon as things started getting better, charlatans found their ways into it. In their legion now there are a mixture of purpose, some are in Nollywood not because of the urge to be a Thespian nor the willingness to learn but I believe that as time goes on, we shall flush such people out. This is a house I helped to build and it would be madness for me to allow people with no history to rubbish the much that has been achieved.

 Story lines of Nigerian movies

I would not say that I am satisfied but I would rather say that I am happy with the progress made so far. Critics in Nigeria like to jump the gun. How old is Nollywood? We cannot deny that the story lines are getting better, even as we cannot deny that the performers are also helping to make things get better. However, there is a need for continued training by the stakeholders in the industry. But we shouldn’t deny that progress is been made.

 Best paid job

I think Langbodo was my first truly well paid job. Being a national production we were well paid. I was being treated like an egg because I played the lead role. On screen, I think it was my best paid job.


I became a dramatist through accidental discharge –Sam Loco Efe

He is easily one of Nigeria’s most popular entertainers. Chief Sam Loco Efe is a versatile actor, writer and singer. As a trained artiste, Loco Efe at the age of 66 continues to be a trainer and moulder of future leaders especially in showbiz where he has excelled both on stage and screen.

At the just concluded 5th African Film and Television Programmes Expo (BOBTV 2008), held at Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, Sam Loco Efe was the star of the moment. As the receiver of the prestigious award for legendary professionalism as a screen and stage actor, Loco’s name topped the list of the Best of the Best Honours of the BOBTV. But he was not the only artiste who was recognized for excellence. Others include: Umar Farouk ( Kanny wood); Chika Onu (Nollywood); Antar Laniyan ( Film and TV production) and Tony Ikoku (Broadcasting and management).

 Speaking from his “ hot seat” as the star of the festival, Sam Loco took time to reveal his choice of acting as a career, his training as an artiste, his challenges and preferences as well as his love life. The veteran actor also disclosed how he could have ended up as a robber if he hadn’t taken to acting.

Loco identified discipline as the hallmark of every actor. He attributed his success in his profession to dedication, discipline and adherence to professionalism.

“ I believe that training starts when one is born and ends when one is dead,” explained Loco, who observed that discipline goes with training in every profession. As a result, no actor can succeed without training and discipline.

His words:” Practice, they say, makes perfect. I sharpen my intellect on a daily basis and this is why there’s hardly any lines or words that I cannot commit to memory even within a short period.”
According to Loco, reading and simplicity have guided his career over the years, such that “ I sell my clothes to buy books…this is why I prefer simple dresses…I prefer to wear simple dresses and read many books.”

On what spurs him into action as an actor, Loco said,” many things put me on whenever I act. Some of these things are a product of the training I received and the environment from which I grew or find myself. But I hate pretenders…people have to be real in their conducts. Today, many people join the acting profession because they want to be famous and this is why they all get it wrong. There is a difference between being a famous actor and being a great actor.”

 To Sam Loco, acting is a talent that has to be nurtured through training and this requires that a good actor should not only strive to speak good English, but should also ‘talk’ English the way the native speakers do. He argued that one of the avenues through which an actor wins his audience is by learning how to communicate effectively using English or whatever language that is required. He observed further “ if you are a robber, the chances are that you would be a better robber if you are properly trained.”

Recalling how he wrote, performed and presented his first play for a drama competition on October 1, 1960, Loco hinted that he became a dramatist “through accidental discharge.” He explained with nostalgia how as a secondary school pupil, he was the only competitor whose entry came last but ironically launched him into drama without prior training.

On his dual personality as a man and an actor, Loco said he talks naturally from his heart as a human being but that his personality usually changes the moment he grabs a drama script. But the veteran actor is unhappy that Nollywood today parades more of fashion than acting,”

There is a gulf of difference between fashion parade and acting. Today, there are more stars in Nigeria than the whole of Europe put together. This why our emerging actors lose control the moment they get the impression that they’ve become stars. Majority of our actors today lose control on maintenance of stardom, forgetting that stardom kills creativity,” observed Loco.

Asked about his attitude to wine and women, Loco Efe said: “Whatever gives you pleasure, please do it. I do not pretend on the issues of wine and women but I’ve always learnt to do everything based on my tenacity. I think one is free to do whatever gives him or her pleasure, provided one does not destroy self in the process.”

 While explaining the challenges of the stage and screen, the veteran actor said the entire structural design of the artiste is put into use on stage but that the screen requires facial expressions and sometimes, elaborate make-up to achieve desired effects. His deep knowledge of both the stage and screen has earned him success.

On his marriage and love life, Loco was quick to say that he once got married to a woman who later died in the United States. But that he also has children by other women after the death of his first wife. the expressed support for polygamy, saying “ I endorse polygamy. It’s a soft landing cushion to avoid promiscuity and adultery.

Unfortunately, we now avoid polygamy because of Christianity.”
Loco’s main regret so far is the failure to have replaced self by younger actors. He hinted that he isn’t looking for actors who would exactly imitate him, but those who can attain his level of professionalism and discipline as against sacrificing creativity on the altar of commerce and stardom.

He explained, “ very soon I will do partial withdrawal from acting. Since attaining the age of 60, I’ve tried to get myself replaced but it’s been difficult. I will like to be remembered for how many lives I have impacted on positively and how many people I’ve trained …I would have been an armed robber if I hadn’t taken to acting…despite the fact that every human being is an actor.”

A graduate of Theatre Arts from the University of Ibadan, Loco came into limelight when he was voted best actor for his role in Langbodo, Nigeria’s only drama entry for FESTAC ‘77 directed by Dapo Adelugba. Also in 1996, Loco won three awards in the THEMA edition. Some of his popular works include: Picadilly Circus, Sergeant Okoro and Ukwa. He is currently national chairman caretaker committee of the Actors Guild of Nigeria as well as chairman, board of veterans of the same guild.


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