The outgoing year witnessed the death of some of Nigeria’s top artistes. Adewale Oshodi reports how some of these deaths shocked the country.

THE outgoing year 2008 will remain one of the most difficult for those in the arts industry in the country for many years to come, as a number of top artistes lost their lives.

For Evangelist Sunny Okosun, his battle with cancer finally brought to an end an eventful life in which he used his music to fight the ills in the society.

Though a Nigerian, Evangelist Okosun’s songs were instant hits in countries like South Africa, Liberia, Sierra-Leone, Angola, Nambia, etc where there were war and great human rights violations.

He preached love, peace and unity in his songs and in his own little way, he contributed to the end of apartheid in South Africa, as well as the end of war in some of Africa’s theatres of war, like Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Congo (formerly Zaire) etc. The late Ozziddi King died on May 25 in the United States of America.

Elder Steve Rhodes, who died at the age of 83 as a result of old-age related ailment, will also be greatly missed. Rhodes was the doyen of entertainment in the country and many of today’s artistes developed under his wings.

Another great artiste, Oliver Akanite, popularly known as Oliver De Coque, also bade the world farewell this year.

The Igbo highlife musician died barely two weeks after the death of Sunny Okosun and Steve Rhodes. The manner in which he died came as a shock to Nigerians as he was hale and hearty and had even paid the family of late Okosun a visit before he also passed away.

Oliver De CoqueKnown for his curly beards, Oliver De Coque became popular in the mid 70s with his Expo 76 Ogene Super Sounds. Many knew him as the man with the golden voice and could be said to be the most popular Igbo musician in Nigeria and internationally before he died.

Kennery King, Orlando Owoh, also lost his battle with stroke this year. The Owo, Ondo State native, was a carpenter’s apprentice before he formed Orlando Owoh and his Omimah Band in 1960.

He was distinct because of his voice and his music teaches morals. Until his death, he was still performing despite his ailment.

The death of one of Nigeria’s Raggae artistes, Sammy Needle, also shocked the country. Though he had been ill for a while, he was, however, discovered half dead on the morning of Thursday, May 29, and by the time he was rushed to the hospital, he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Sammy’s death was so painful because he was just 38 and was a promising musician with a bright future.

Funso Adeolu of the Village Headmaster series also bade the world bye this year. Until his death, was a traditional ruler in a town in South western Nigeria.