BIRTH AND EARLY DAYS
He was born in 1941 at Iseyin, Oyo State and he was named Moshood Folorunsho Abiola. He would later pick on the stage name of ‘Professor Peller’, an appellation that has stuck to him like a second skin.
HIS MAGICAL PERFORMANCES AND
When Professor Peller was alive, he was the most brilliant magician in all of Africa. I am not too sure if the record has been broken. Even in death, Peller remains the greatest of all. He performed not only before princes but also held kings spellbound with his magic. Here is how Femi Oyebode, a Professor of
Psychiatry at the University of Birmingham described Peller and one of his shows in 1972 at the George V Stadium in Lagos (that is the old name of the Onikan Stadium): “My last ever visit to the stadium was to see Professor Peller, a magician, and said to be a member of the Magic Circle take on the last of our traditional magicians whose name now escapes me (itself a significant fact)”.
Professor Peller was dressed in black tails, a top hat, a wand in one hand, black shoes and well-cut hair. He was a perfect picture of debonair gentleman and was assisted by an attractive young woman. He flicked his white handkerchief and a white dove flew out. He pulled at his cuff links and flowers bloomed under his command. He was confident, majestic. He was suave and graceful. He levitated his assistant. He cut her in two without drawing blood. He locked her in a cupboard, chained up several times over yet she disappeared! It was a masterly performance. The crowd clapped, hooped. We were seduced against our better judgment. We wished desperately that the traditional magician would enthrall and endear us to his magic, the mysteries of African magic. We were disappointed or shall I say that I was disappointed.
When he came on stage dressed only in a loincloth of indeterminate color, you could hear the audience gasp aloud. Was this African magic? This crude, little thin man who seemed recently woken from the dead? He swallowed a stone and turned his backside to us, slipping his loincloth to one side and excreted the stone.
Awfulness and shame. He submitted his abdomen to a sharp sword to be sliced open. But by now, the absence of razzmatazz and of finesse had turned us against him. The crowd poured through the gates. That was how disgusted we were. You can say that at George V stadium, in early adulthood I lost two of my childhood dreams. A master at his craft and a consummate entertainer, he cast a most powerful spell on the following African leaders, right in their presidential palaces: The late President Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo (Eyadema later died after spending 38 years in power, he was the longest-serving ruler in Africa when he died in 2005 (see his picture below). His son, Faure, is currently the President of Togo).
The late President Samuel Kanyon Doe of Liberia says, There is an interesting story behind his performance for the late strongman of Monrovia. There was a time Peller had a performance in Liberia in the 1970s and the crowd was just too massive. The Liberian government drafted security forces to the venue of the act to control the surging crowd. One of those responsible for maintaining security that day at Peller’s performance was a young man called Samuel Doe. So when Doe became President, he summoned Peller, Nigeria’s finest magician to come perform for him.
Such was the stellar performance of Peller. Doe said he was busy controlling the surging crowd and he could not witness the event properly as at that time when he was a junior soldier.
The former President of Benin Republic, Mathieu Kerekou was also one of those who patronized Peller.
He was described as a very romantic man. His most prominent wife, Alhaja Silifat, fell in love with him while she was still in the secondary school. She confessed that she had always admired him and his performances even before then and each time she watched him perform, her heart fluttered with affection for the fine magician with tribal marks.
The whole of Nigeria knew her as Lady Peller and she is most famous for the act in which she was ‘sliced’ into pieces by Peller and had a hard time putting her back. Now 66 years of age with her husband gone
No. I will not call magic a lie but I will describe it as a well-oiled pack of grandiose dramatization, outright deception, fantastic misdirection and uncanny slyness. There is nothing spiritual about magic, it is nothing but an agglomeration of well-practised tricks. However, if done well, an excellent magician can actually ‘create something out of nothing’ or make the ‘possible from the impossible’ (even if that will look like he or she is going against the established laws of Newtonian physics, it is all an illusion) in a very fluid and convincing manner (in that case, I will call many Nigerian politicians magicians).