Sunday, August 8, 2021

Encounter With 80’S Living Legend, ‘Samanja’

Relaxing quietly in the sitting room of his Kabala Costain residence in Kaduna and flanked by his wives and son, Alhaji Usman Baba Pategi, popularly known by his TV name ‘Samanja Mazan Fama’ smiled at the Daily Trust crew when they paid him a visit. The man who in the 80s and 90s graced the TV screens in many homes with his signature moustache, army uniform and a sense of humour could now only spare a few minutes to our correspondent due to old age and ill health.

The Prince of Pategi, in Kwara State, who gave up the throne to pursue his passion in the entertainment industry, has now lost his sight and walks with the support of family members. But he has in no way lost the ability to seamlessly slide back into ‘Samanja’; the character that has made him a living legend for many Nigerians.
While speaking with the Daily Trust, Pategi, in some instances slid back into Samanja’s pitch as he demonstrated how he barked orders to other characters in the drama series.
He described himself as a disciplinarian among his peers while in school which also made him popular. He was nicknamed ‘Samanja’ which means Sergeant Major after his TV programme by his fans. The Samanja drama was about life in the barracks and the influence his wife, Bariki, wielded over him. “I made sure I disciplined any soldier she reported to me, this made her a very powerful and influential woman in the barrack,” he said as he recalled the characters with nostalgia.
There were other shows he featured in that were so popular like ‘Malam Jatau na Albarkawa’, ‘Ka bani ka baka’, ‘kafi kwanan azure’, ‘So ko a lahira ciki da kwano’. “Those were my popular TV shows aired on NTA and FRCN in those years; we enjoyed our time because we entertained and educated the people.”
Even after 20 years, Samanja says he maintains a relationship with his contemporaries such as Aishatu Ali Bardoni, Aishatu Kwankiyal and Danjuma Mohammed (Mutuwa dole) who acted with him in other programmes.

Like many in his generation, the prince finds some of the current entertainment programmes as new and different from what they did in the 80s and 90s. To Samanja, the dramas they acted in cannot be compared with the present movies churned out by Kannywood. “You can’t compare the two because during our time, most of the TV shows were done to educate the people on certain issues in the society. But our society has changed and most of the things happening now in the entertainment industry are new to us the older generation,” he said.

Having dwelled in the entertainment industry, Samanja said one of his children has equally joined the entertainment industry and is into music. “I have no problem with that because I gave my children the liberty to earn a living as long as it’s not against the law of my religion and the country. So, I will do anything to ensure they succeed,” he said.
He explained further: “I will not force any child to do what he or she doesn’t have passion for because while a child was in his mother’s womb, God destined what he or she will become in life.”

Recently, when news circulated on social media that the veteran actor had passed on, many people, particularly those who watched his TV dramas aired on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and the Federal Radio Cooperation of Nigeria (FRCN), took to social media to post condolences. But in less than 24 hours, it turned out that the newsabout his death was false. The fake report of his demise had, however, captured the military’s attention and he was paid a visit by the representative of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Faruk Yahaya. It was gathered that the visit by the military was simply to show support and recognize his contribution to nation building.

Speaking on his rumoured demise, Samanja said: “Every soul must taste death, therefore there is nothing to worry about. God created us and also fixed a date for us to depart this world to a place where every one of us will account for his deeds.”
He said the recent visit by representatives of the COAS had excited him, adding that the recognition reminded him of his days as a soldier. “I had received a call from them that they will be visiting me at home and I told them they are welcome. When they came, they informed me of their plan to create an archive. To be honest, I was delighted by the visit and recognition,” he said.
The veteran actor, who once served in the military, said his performance was enhanced in the drama due to his military experience. “I served briefly in the military having joined because of my love for it. In those days, soldiers were very disciplined and commanded great respect. It was not a job for the lazy and if you misbehave, you end up in the guardroom,”
“You will get tired of frog jump for misbehaving in the barracks,” he said, smiling with nostalgia. “It was not a job for lazy people and it’s a disciplined profession. Soldiers in those days didn’t condone lateness to work,” he said.

Pategi, however, said things have now changed and advised that anyone who is not ready to serve the country should be disengaged from the armed forces to give room for those who are ready to be enlisted.

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