Popular actor, Giringori, dies at 70

Creator of popular old TV drama, The Masquerade,  James Iroha, popularly known as ‘Giringori’, passes on at 70, write JAYNE AUGOYE and MAUREEN AZUH

After a long battle with glaucoma, veteran actor and creator of the popular television drama series, The Masquerade, James Iroha, has passed on.

The artist popularly called Giringori, based on the role he played in the drama, died in the early hours of Tuesday, according to his son, Uche.

Although Iroha suffered blindness that kept him at home for years, Uche said he had high blood pressure.

He, however, noted that the cause of the death had more to do with old age.

 Uche, who noted that the father died in a private hospital in Onitsha, Anambra State, said Giringori was in high spirits to the point of his death.

The son, a visual artist, told one of our correspondents on the phone on Tuesday evening, ‘He talked and joked with everyone yesterday. My father was always his same comic person.”

Although he conceded that he would miss the man he described as a source of inspiration and legend, he enjoined Nigerians not to mourn but celebrate him.

The late Iroha studied Theatre Arts at the University of Ibadan. Although he was best known as an actor, he actually worked with the Eastern Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation during the Civil War. After the war ended, he was transferred to NTA Aba, Channel Six.

Prior to his retirement from the NTA, he started a new programme called Yesterday People. It involved interviewing old men who might have gone through thick and thin, and then discussed how they rose from poverty to riches.

In an interview with  SATURDAY PUNCH in January, he noted that he was inspired to create The Masquerade by his parent’s way of life.  According to him, the lead character played by Chika Okpala is a replica of  his father while Ovularia (Lizy Iboeme) is a replica of his mother.

On the choice of the title, he said, “I used it because in the African traditional context of the word, there is respect for masquerades. You could mask yourself and even talk to a king without fear of being arrested by his guards. That respect, which Africans give to masquerades, prompted me to title the drama Masquerade.”

Unknown to many people, the programme originally began airing on radio and was called The Adventures of Chief Josephat Okorigwe Nwogwu, before it was adapted for Television and began showing on NTA Enugu.

Born into a humble background, his parents were poor farmers but his father had many wives. After secondary education, he worked in Port Harcourt, Rivers State for a while before he gained admission into the University of Ibadan. He was also a pioneer student of the Department of Theatre Arts.

During the early years of Nollywood, Iroha featured in a couple of movies that include Black Angel, Osuofia, The Three Wise Men and Nneka the Pretty Serpent. He, however,  quit because of the loopholes and shortcomings he perceived to be existing in the industry.

In 1981, he was given a national honour of the Office of the Order of the Niger,  by the then President Shehu Shagari.

Although his sight began deteriorating a few years ago, he could not trace the origin.  He recalled, “I thought it was from television. It happened to Clarus and Ovularia, too. People wanted me to believe it was a spiritual attack by evil men. How can I start believing that? I have done what I can do for myself. If my best is not good enough, then it is okay.”

Iroha sought medical treatment in India where he was told by the doctors that he had cataract in one eye and glaucoma in the other.  Unfortunately, the doctor’s assessment implicated Nigerian physicians who the deceased first got into contact with.

He said, “They told me that Nigerian doctors had ruined my sight. They told me that no doctor alive would ever restore my sight. They told me I had cataract in one eye and glaucoma in the other eye. They removed the cataract and planted a lens. That is why I am able to see a little bit. I can’t read, I can’t write. Is it not worse than death.”
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