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LAST Thursday was a day of horrible memories for many artistes.
That day, Joe Adekwagh (full names Joseph Terhemba Adekwagh), one of Nigeria's roundly talented and affable actors died suddenly in prime action. Excerpts from a release issued by the National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN), where he worked until death reads: "our valuable staff and prolific artiste Adekwagh slumped while serving as masters of ceremonies at the 40th year on stage event of the veteran actor, poet and essayist, Lari Williams. The actor of immense credit and show host died after attempt to revive him at a clinic in Surulere, (Lagos) where he was rushed to after he slumped. The Lari Williams event held at the Cinema Hall 1 of the National Theatre.

"Aged 44, having been born on February 18, 1963, Adekwagh is a native of Konshisha Local Government of Benue State. He was initially recruited in September 1989 as an artiste to form the nucleus of the then Hubert Ogunde led National Troupe of Nigeria. He continued as an artiste until in 1999 when his contract with the National Troupe lapsed. In 2001, Adekwagh was formally employed into the National Troupe, this time as a tenure staff. He was designated Assistant Stage Manager but he was always available to perform each time the National Troupe had a production that required his robust talent."

News of the artiste's death evoked tears within the art community. Known for his contagious warm personality, Adekwagh is remembered by many for his jokes and ability to interact freely with people of several artistic backgrounds - a quality which is rare among practitioners in the highly sectionalised Nigerian art community. Tall, ebony black, versatile and humble, the actor who had a trademark 'pyramid moustache' was one of the few artistes who played many roles and blended warmly within the crowd of stage artistes and screen actors. And he left behind fond memories of several well-interpreted roles he acted both on stage and in television and films. He also did some major works in radio as well as live event compering. Among his memorable roles was the character Tanko Daruje in the now rested Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) network soap opera Wind of Destiny.

Married, Adekwagh who was at a time vice Chairman and later Chairman of the Lagos State Chapter of the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) leaves behind two sons, Desmond and Mohammed.

His colleague at NTN, Shaibu Husseini, remembers as "the unpretentiously friendly thespian." He recalls that he was a prolific actor who "drops off 'lasgidi' after any exchange of pleasantry." According to him that signature greeting was the widely travelled Adekwagh's way of reminding his friends that Lagos is a tough place to live in like Europe, which he had experienced.

The NTN release informs that his body is now in the morgue of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital while the management of the National Theatre/National Troupe is in touch with his family who are yet to formally announce his burial programme.