It was hard to imagine that someone who had gained national popularity on the rested New Masquerade series and home videos could be cut down by illness, poverty and neglect.
That is the story of Mr. Romanus Uchenna Amuta aka Natty.
It was a tough job getting him to speak, as a stroke had left him with slurred speech and sluggish movements. Sitting before the reporter was a shadow of the crafty and witty character, which he cut as Natty.
“If government does not come to help me now, then I will die very soon,” were the few words he let out with great effort.
Interestingly, Natty is one of the few surviving cast of the once celebrated New Masquerade.
The comedy show didn’t just disappear from the tube gradually, it took some of its stars along.
Cast such as James Iroha (Giringory Akabuogu), Christy Essien-Igbokwe (Apena), Claude Eke (Jegede Shokoya) have died, while Davis Offor (Clarus) is currently blind.
In Natty’s case, stroke caught up with him in 2006, and left him bedridden. When he miraculously managed to regain his steps in 2010, he could only manage to limp, as the right side of his body had gone numb.
Currently, he doesn’t just limp or manage to walk and move with only the left side of his body, he is almost a vegetable. Reason: he is slowly losing his memory of past events, old friends and his surroundings.
As he struggled in slurred and un-coordinated speech to narrate the story of his life as a stroke patient, Natty told Saturday People that he had become tired of life and needed urgent medical attention.
He laments that though he is just in his 60s, he is already looking like a 90-year-old due to the partial paralysis that has confined him within the walls of his “old three bedroom flat” on 7, Umuchi Nwoko Street, Off One Day Road, in Agbani Road, Enugu, Enugu State.
He says poverty has further worsened his case, as he can’t afford to eat good food, buy drugs or receive medical attention.
He cannot even afford good clothes or the good things of life, he says, adding that virtually all the property in his residence was acquired in the 1970s and changing them has become a mission impossible.
“Even the best clothes in my wardrobe were bought in 1984 when I made some reasonable money working with Daily Times Newspaper as an Advert Representative in Enugu. Since then, to buy even pant na war,” he stated.
At a point during the interview with our correspondent, Natty began to cry.
“Will I be poor in New Masquerade and still be poor in real life, and even now that I’m about to die?” he wondered, with tears dropping from his eyes.
He struggled to add, “I’m … so, so, so, so poor that I could not even cure the stroke when it was just starting. Now that it (the stroke) is even worse, there is no money to even enjoy myself, even if na small enjoyment before I quench like my mama wey die a long time ago.”
Natty’s recurring comments about being poor would definitely take not a few Nigerians down memory lane to how he (Natty) came into limelight starring as a true representation of the ‘poverty class’ of the Nigerian society in the New Masquerade series, which was aired on the Nigeria Television Authority for many years.
What attempt has he made to overcome poverty and stroke, even now that he is supposedly in his twilight years on earth?
“I have reached out to my friends, but it appears they have abandoned me to die.
“For my people (his relatives), they have tried, but they can’t kill themselves. My children have also done their best for me,” he stated.
He, however, says that the major source of his worry is that he has been left to his fate despite several overtures to government officials and political appointees through notable personalities in Enugu State.
He said, “I believe that if government comes to help me my problems will be over. But the more they delay in coming, the more my body dies, and soon the entire Natty will just die and leave you people.
“If they (government) can send me to any of the best hospitals in the world, I will surely get better and bounce back to life.”
Alternatively, Natty is calling on the Enugu State Government to give him land and money.
“They should give me land. I need a land and money from government. I need money; plenty money,” he pleaded.
On what he would do with the land and money, Natty says, “I will invest in the land or sell it so that I can treat myself or at least take care of myself instead of this poverty.”
For the money, he says, “They should give me plenty money, enough to take me out of this country for treatment.”
Natty is married to Mrs. Cordelia Amuta, a primary school teacher and they have two male and four female children.
They are all living in different places.
He hails from Udi Local Government Area in Enugu State and his children are all grown-ups. Unknown to many, he has a 12-year-old son from another woman whose identity is not known.
Natty’s wife, Cordelia, was not at home on the two occasions Saturday People visited his residence, as she was said to have gone to work. But on the second visit to his residence, the little boy, Okechukwu, was at home and had a lot to reveal.
According to him, his mother hails from Ogugu in Awgu Local Government Area of the state and he is the product of the affair his father (Natty) had with her in 2000.
On his experience with his sick father, Okechukwu, a student of Army Children School 1, Enugu, says he feels pain that he is not experiencing the care of a father.
He said, “Any time my friends in school tell me about what their fathers did or bought for them, I usually feel like killing myself because my father is not only sick, he doesn’t have the money to shower me with that kind of love also.
“Sometimes, I stay in my room and cry. My stepmother has been very good to me, but then I have always wanted to enjoy the tender touch and care of my father.
“He would have loved to do that but he is sick. The things he would have loved to get for me, he can’t because there is no money. My father is dying and I am appealing to people, Nigerians and the people in government to come and help my father.”
Okechukwu added, “My mother is in her village in Awgu, so I don’t get to see her all the time. That is why I really need my father to be alive and healthy for me.”
One of the surviving members of the New Masquerade cast is Chief Chika Okpala, aka ‘Zebrudaya’. Zebrudaya, who was the lead cast of the series, was approached for comments on Natty’s state and he said, “It is really unfortunate that Nigerian actors have been left to die. I don’t know why calamity has chosen to befall the film industry, especially the cast of the New Masquerade that is almost wiped out.”
Shaking his head, the comic actor added, “If Natty dies without the government coming to his aid, it will be so bad. But I know that death is a necessary end that must come when it will and so we will not run away from death.
“We don’t know how we came into this world and we don’t know what we signed with God when we were coming.
“All we know is that we came into this world, we met each other and we propagated the show and the show worked. So anywhere God plucks one off, so be it.
“I will keep praying for Natty and we hope something good will come, and early, before it might become late.