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Changing of guard

By Muyiwa Adetiba

There is this story told by Kirk Douglas about his son Michael. For the sake of the younger generation which might not have heard of him, Kirk Douglas was an icon among the thespians of his generation.

Nigerian flag
Nigerian flag

His son Michael took after him as children sometimes do especially when they admire their parents and have creative genes embedded in them.

One afternoon, in the winter of his acting career and the spring of his son’s, he was standing outside a supermarket when two lovely ladies spotted him and giggled. He knew the signs having experienced them many times in the past.

His chest swelled up with pride at the expected adulation. He squared his shoulders and pasted his most alluring actor’s smile on his face as the ladies neared.

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‘You are Michael’s father,’ they gushed excitedly. They didn’t notice that the balloon in the swollen chest had been deflated and the alluring smile had become wane as they talked excitedly about his son’s latest film and how masterful he was in the romantic scenes. Like the way of all mortals, Kirk’s prowess and fame were decreasing while his son’s prowess and fame were on the ascendancy.

Kirk, the once famous dad, had become the father of his now famous son. As John the Baptist said of Jesus, ‘He must increase and I must decrease.’ It is also the way of life. Parents should decrease while children increase.

On Sunday, I was invited to the premiere of a film titled: ‘King of Boys.’ Although I was an avid cinema goer in my younger days, I haven’t been to the cinemas much in recent times and have attended even less of premieres. I found the premiere an interesting experience. My initial belief that most Nigerian films lacked content and depth was pleasantly altered.

‘King of Boys’ is rich in content and depth with about three different narratives intricately woven together. It is also as contemporary as they come. And with elections coming in a few months’ time, it speaks to our current political situation. This film is about greed, slush funds, betrayals, controlled terrorism, corruption, manipulation of security by politicians and the connection between politics and shadowy gangsters.

It reminded one of the Offa incident where the political thugs of a prominent politician raided a bank killing many innocent souls in the process. Just like the Offa incident where political thugs became robbers much to the discomfort and chagrin of their handlers, some of these thugs cannot always be put on a leash. They get impatient; they get hungry; they get greedy. And when they do, they commit crimes that can embarrass their paymasters. That was the development that led to the downfall of the ‘King’ in the film.

It is not often that the head of a ‘Mob’ or ‘Mafia’ is a woman. But in this film, the king is indeed, a female who got to the top position by a combination of feminine wiles, ruthlessness and betrayal. The movie shows how her early life experience conditioned her for a life of ruthlessness. But she also had streaks of empathy and kindness for the down trodden.

Like most ‘Mafia bosses,’ she became very rich by collecting a sizeable toll from all crimes committed in her domain. She used the money to buy political patronage. In exchange for protection from prosecution, she offered physical protection to top politicians and ensured that her favourite candidates won at the polls. She became so influential that Governors and Senators attended her parties. She was given slots for top political positions. But she wanted more. The film shows what she wanted and what made her political benefactors to draw the line. In doing that, a battle line was drawn.

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About this time, one of her ‘boys’ became greedy and also wanted more.  He went outside his boundary and committed crimes that got his boss, the ‘King’ under scrutiny. From then on, things got nasty but racy. Heads began to roll literally and figuratively.

‘King of Boys’ shows how our system is compromised by various ‘orders from above’; how top law enforcement officers are compensated for simply looking the other way. How a judge gives a wrong judgement to save his family. It also shows how one detective defies all odds in search of truth and justice. There are the human aspects as well. For example, the ‘King’s’ only biological child lives a life of delinquency which is eventually exploited by her adversaries.

Not surprisingly, he is also almost always on drugs. This goes to show that even the rich and powerful also cry. Then there is the straight cop’s turbulent family life as he watches his wife die slowly, unable to afford the foreign treatment that will save her. It is a film that will make you laugh in parts, cry in parts and hold your breath in parts.

At the end of the thrilling experience, the director of the film walked to the stage with her actors and crew to take a bow. She is also the writer of the script. She is Kemi Adetiba, my niece in whom I am well pleased—to answer those who wonder about the similarity in the surname.

Her last major outing as director was ‘Wedding Party’ which broke the box office. She will be hoping that this one will too. All indications point to a successful outing for ‘King of Boys.’ As she acknowledged the presence of her parents during her emotional speech, I couldn’t help thinking of the Kirk Douglas story. Kemi was not born when her father, Dele Adetiba was one of the stars of the tube in the late sixties and early seventies as a newscaster on Nigeria’s only TV network alongside Mike Enahoro, Julie Coker, Joe Ebuwa, Ikenna Ndaguba and Kere Ahmed.

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And as a sports commentator on radio alongside the incomparable Ishola Folorunso, Ernest Okonkwo and Yinka Craig. But she must have heard stories. And as she cut her teeth on radio and in the communications industry, she must have met people who would have asked her what her relationship with Dele Adetiba was.

She would have basked in the name recognition and adulation. She has however, increased over the years while her father, now a retired communicator who rose to become the MD of the biggest advertising agency in his time, has decreased. He would probably now be the one to be asked about Kemi. I am sure he would not mind allowing her to enjoy the deserved limelight. After all, it is every father’s wish that his child rises higher than him. Kemi, I am proud of you, as we all are.

The film has been planned to hit the screens nationwide on the 26th (yesterday).


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