By Oboh Agbonkhese
But that is what happens when an otherwise good venture is hijacked by a people dedicated to feeding fat on ignorance and vulnerability. So, when Prince Aderopo eagerly goes for the whiteman’s education, the freedom knowledge gives is tainted by the sexual exploitation a Reverend Father subjects him to. If he must become human again, he must be cleansed. So, just as his forefathers would have done, a girl must die for each of the number of years he was abused; in a land where all young girls must remain virgin till wedding night, they must die at the point of deflowering.
That is how the multiplier effect of exploitation ruins generation after generation. Ask the Almajiris, victims of a feudal system that keeps many poor so the few rich can feed and manipulate them. Don’t ask them, because they do not even know. But the Ogoni people know, the many youths whose money-making time coincides with electioneering know and like it or not, Boko Haram insurgents now know. Just listen very well to their speeches. The real tragedy is not that many virginal Nigerians die daily, it is the fact that survivors wake up each morning to the possibility of dying, while the few Inspector Waziris and Sergeant Afonjas run aground.
Meanwhile, by the time Inspector Waziri solves the riddle, he has experienced what it means to be a black man working for the whites: they keep calling him “Danny boy.” He is also an Hausa man working in Yorubaland, and sees what the seething tension between the ethnic groups can cause if left unattended to. For instance, an Nyamiri kills an Aboki, who must have killed his daughter, in the land of Ofemandu. Therefore, when the Union Jack comes down on October 1 and the Green-White-Green rises to kiss the sky with pride, Waziri’s emotion is inscrutable. But we know he cannot, dares not, be optimistic. Today’s Nigeria justifies that priceless look on his face. For before the colonial master left, he had taught us to favour the privileged few and trample on the rest: anyway, whatever arrangement suits their purpose is just fine.
Afolayan keeps raising the bar in quality production. He overreached himself in recreating the temporal and physical setting of this feature film. Millions must have gone into getting those vintage cars and household items: that gramophone! His cinematographic abilities and creativity we have come to take for granted.
However, synchronisation is an issues that cropped up in, at least, two instances. First is when the Prince dances to music from the gramophone. At a point, his steps are in dissonance with the music beat. Again, when his last ritual sacrifice is interrupted by the law closing in, the beauty of his jump and roll out of the “shrine” is tainted by a split second hesitation. Then again, there is the slip in line 5 of the old National Anthem: it is “Nigerians all and proud to serve” and not “Nigeria all am proud to serve.” Reference to tribes carries no‘s’ even in the plural sense. So you cannot have ‘Igbos.” It is Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Esan, Itsekiri, and so on. I stand to be corrected, anyway.
These “mistakes” could easily have been corrected. But you can never know with creative artists. Each of these flaws is striking. So Afolayan might have deliberately created them. If he did, then he knew his work would be pirated just as October 1 was pirated by a people only interested in link roads and strategic economic moves.
And, although Afolayan is a great actor, I wish he could resist the temptation of acting in his movies. You cannot be the best in interpreting certain roles. Getting what you want out of your cast is part of what makes you good. If it is a case of cost cutting, then no wahala.
By the way, for a first-timer, at least on the big screen, Demola Adedoyin gave a good account of himself. His freshness was delectable. Let us wait and see how he turns out after money bags make him do seven movies in a week (some of our actors and actresses proudly claim such feat, thank you.) But my star is Sergeant Afonja. His delivering (in words and action) is priceless. His look, when Prince Aderopo says “Kudos,” is worth a million Dollars. Each time he says“Epeto,” his sincerity of purpose dares you to laugh. He is a successful foil to Inspector Danladi.
They are both officers of the law in service of a country they love. But where Afonja is earthy and culture-conscious, Danladi is the quintessential professional, who expects every thing to go by the books. However, between them is a devotion that helps them transcend mutual suspicion largely inevitable between people of different tongues. It is this link that helps them rescue the situation.
The beauty of the arts is that it lend itself to multi layered interpretations and different meanings. So, until we come to terms with who pirated October 1 and ask the person why, we are still very far from righting all the wrongs. A people as loving, industrious and blessed with natural and human resources as Nigerians deserve a better life. For only a society alien to African communal tradition will allow pirating of a good thing, while the rightful owner has no house in Asokoro or Lekki; does not ride a Jagaban or marry models. That is what happens in a pirated independence.
Let us continue to bear our cross, lamely agree with the Prince when he says Nigeria’s “independence arrived 10 years too early,” and pretend we have not heard of a people saying enough is enough and matching words with action. It is “Our suffering motherland” anyway, in spite of all 40 basic natural resources that can make any country a superpower.
This review was first published by Oboh’s lens.