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Ada Ameh: The Actress Who Brightened The World Despite Her Travails

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For over two decades, she graced the screen in multiple roles, sometimes making the audience cry in cathartic releases and other times bringing smiles to their faces in comedic roles. Her death on Sunday, July 17, 2022, at a Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) hospital in Delta State, came as a shock to many Nigerians, particularly her fans.

Aged 48, Ameh had an incandescent personality on and off-screen. Her dynamic performances on screen were a joy to watch as she appeared to go over and beyond to entertain film lovers and provide a much-needed escape from the reality of society. While she was entertaining her audiences on the big screen, however, she nursed her own problems, many of which only became widely known shortly before her demise.

But for what might be considered a change of fortune, the movie industry would not have had the opportunity of being blessed with Ada Ameh’s artistry. Her childhood dream was to be a singer, and then she later considered being a medical doctor, but as with everything about her life, her career took a dramatic turn.

Born on May 15, 1974, to an Idoma (Benue) father and an Akwa-Ibom mother, in the Ajegunle area of Lagos, a community famous for its slums but also vibrant street entertainment which has birthed many music, movie and football stars like Daddy Showkey, Samson Siasia, Odion Ighalo and Taribo West.

She grew up in the Nigerian Navy Barracks in Ajegunle as her father was a Naval officer. There, she attended primary and secondary school. At age 14 in 1988, she dropped out of secondary school when she got pregnant. It was a trying period as her father was initially annoyed but later supported her through her teenage pregnancy. She would later name the child Gift Ameh. The experience was a learning point for her, and she shared it with young girls while she was alive motivating them to find their feet when they stumble in life.

“Going through life as a single mother was not an easy thing at all, but today I am proud to call myself a proud single mother because whenever I see my daughter, I am glad,” she said in an interview. ”I want you to understand that even though I dropped out of secondary school, I am a proud single mother. Just take it that my life is a history. If not for God, I don’t know where I would have been.

“My major concern is for the young girls. I am not a victim. I am a proud single mother. Today my child is my school; she was the school that I graduated from. My first degree was that woman. You will not understand what it means to become pregnant at fourteen.”

A chance meeting with Zeb Ejiro kickstarted her acting career as Anita in ‘Domitila’. She said in an interview that she rehearsed the role for just one day, which was the beginning of a career that spanned over two decades.

“We are here today because somebody like Zeb Ejiro discovered me from where I was born and raised in Ajegunle, Lagos. He allowed me to shoot my first movie, ‘Domitila’.” The success of the movie made ‘Domitila’ a popular street parlance and another name for a prostitute.

For Ameh, acting was not just a career; it was also an opportunity to put smiles on people’s faces.  She said: “It is not just about the money I am paid, but the satisfaction I get standing in front of the camera and making people happy,”

Ameh had an eventful acting career. After her appearance on “Domitila”, She went on to appear in other movies like Aki na Ukwa, Phone Swap, Blood Money, Atlas, Òlòtūré, Our Husband, King Of Shitta, Ghana Must Go, A Million Baby, One Good Turn, Double Trouble, My Village People, Mighty Mama, On my honour, My village people, Lockdown, Mr and Mrs Okoli, Gone (2021) and The sessions.

Her popularity grew with her presence in the TV series, The Johnsons, where she played the role of Emuakpo Johnson until her death.

Perhaps Ameh’s selfless desire to make other people happy was ignited from a place of personal pain. The bubbling, energetic actress went through a lot of grief before she passed away.  She lost six of her siblings at different periods, but it was the demise of her only daughter, whom she described as a sister in 2020, that broke her.

She said in an interview: “I had lost three of my sisters before that time, and each had like three children. I had lost three of my brothers and my father.

“After burying all these people…I thought I was going to be the next. But when my daughter died, my world crumbled before me. I could cry for days. I’ve been in and out of the hospital.”

The actress suffered from depression due to the loss of her daughter and siblings and was quite open about her battle with mental illness. Despite this, there was no indication of her health status from her social media pages as she was the same old energetic bundle of life. Her sudden death sent shockwaves across the country.

Since her demise, tributes have continued to pour in, especially from her fans and colleagues in the movie industry.

Actress Nancy Isime wrote: “My heart is so heavy; I don’t even know what to say. One of the people I look up to in the film industry. Rip aunty Ada Ameh. I’ll miss you so much.”

Actor and film producer Femi Kayode whom she always referred to as her son in a long Instagram post weeks after her demise, wrote about how much he missed her.

He wrote: “Mummy, still hard to view your pictures without breaking. Another Sunday is here but can’t call you to say how lovely church service was. I miss doing your hair and makeup. I miss making your jewelries and being your photographer. I miss all the hot juicy gists. I miss being your son. A lot we should have talked about now but left undiscussed.”

Actor Charles Inojie who played the role of her husband in the TV series, The Johnsons wrote: “It is with deep sense of loss, total submission to the will of God, that Native Media Tv, cast and crew of @theofficialthejohnsons painfully announce the passing of our dear sister, friend, colleague and Matriarch of The Johnsons clan Ada Obande Ameh (aka Emuakpor Johnson).”She was buried on Friday, August 26 in Benue State.

CREDIT: Yusuf Omotayo

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