June 29, 2023

Ijakumo: Kunle Remi, perfect lead actor in story of greed, religious fraud and vengeance

Ijakumo: Kunle Remi, perfect lead actor in story of greed, religious fraud and vengeance

By Biodun Busari

The film

Ijakumo: The Born Again Stripper hit Netflix on Friday, 23rd June, 2023, and it’s become a talking point as one of many Nollywood stories with realities that Nigerian society endures where the societal ills of greed, deceit, lust, betrayal, religious corruption, and vengeance mingle with flamboyance, pride, ego, wealth, and power.

The film was scripted by Kehinde Joseph and directed by Adebayo Tijani, with a duration of 120 minutes. It was nominated for Best Picture Editor (Steve Sodiya), Best Sound Editor (Kazeem Agboola) and Best Cinematographer (Idowu Adedapo) in the 2023 Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA).

Its music was performed by Abosede Peace. While the film is mainly in English, it boasts of representation of the three major Nigerian languages – Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa.

The cast

It was produced by Toyin Abraham and stars Toyin Abraham as Asabi, Kunle Remi as Pastor Jide, Lolade Okusanya as Sharon and Mary, Olumide Oworu as Young Jide Debbie Shokoya as Young Asabi, Bimbo Akintola, Kolawole Ajeyemi, Lilian Afegbai, Antar Laniyan, Mike Godson, Eso Dike and other actors.

The lead actor

Kunle Remi plays the role of a Pentecostal Pastor Jide (PJ) who rises to fame and affluence by standing on the shoulders of some power cabals that clandestinely own a mega-church he shepherds. This wealthy class known as The Syndicate has Bimbo Akintola as the leader and other members like Segun Arinze, and Antar Laniyan who control him and other investments.

PJ with Sharon in the former’s matrimonial bed

The story 

If Nollywood storylines must reflect Nigerian society, then almost everyone will agree that Remi is a perfect pick and fit to play the role as most of the modern charismatic pastors especially in cities like Lagos, Abuja, and Port-Harcourt are eloquent, bold and handsome; a kind of qualities that magnetise people to their churches which he charmingly displays. 

Jide has a humble beginning and languishes in poverty, despite his oratory talent, but his thirst for wealth sponsors his journey to Lagos after he meets an Igbo businessman, Chief Ifeanyi (Mike Godson) who visits his village but falls into the trap of louts that want to loot and kill him.

One piece of Jide’s life is his girlfriend, Asabi, the daughter of a powerful spiritualist played by Debbie Shokoya, who stands by him through thick and thin. It’s Asabi that tells Chief Ifeanyi that Jide can preach when he wants to compensate them for saving him from the miscreants.

As Jide begins to rise in fame and riches in Lagos, the poison he puts in Asabi’s drink not only terminates the pregnancy she has for him but almost kills her. Jide defends his cruelty that the herbalist’s only daughter is not in his class because of her tribal marks.

Asabi cheats death and subscribes to vengeance after his late parent tells him, in a trance, that she can’t give birth again as she almost bleeds to death. He, however, tells her that she has the spiritual powers to inflict pain on her wicked boyfriend.

The reflection 

PJ is a religious leader that flaunts affluence and charisma, as well as using slyness to manipulate the congregation by enriching his masters. He leads a double life that portrays the lifestyle of many revered pastors. He knows he can’t go back to the ‘trenches’ having received a warning from the cabals.

He’s mastered his trade until he falls prey to his ex-lover, the old and rich Asabi (Toyin Abraham) who employs an exotic Ugandan stripper, Sharon acted by Lolade Okusanya. PJ meets Sharon at a club and discovers the same lady is his choir leader, Mary in the church he pastors who has begged him for money to take care of her ailing sister but he has refused to help her.

Bimbo Akintola plays the role of the leader of The Syndicate

Sharon understands why she is hired and succeeds in the operation by getting the Thumb Drive for Pastor Jide’s ex, Asabi. The woman, then, goes ahead to redistribute the pastor’s wealth back to the original owners that Jide has duped, manipulated and cheated before he eventually ends his life.

The drama uncovers some of the corruption that has eaten deep into religious places in society, in which clergymen manipulate their innocent followers and turn God’s work into a business. Remi’s role is a reminder that there are bad eggs trying to drag the church of God in the mud.

The skills

Remi emits class in the drama as he uses his voice, smiles, laughs, body and gesticulation in playing the lead role that makes the film a captivating watch. Even, how he switches from his normal life to a wounded lion when his life is on the line in the den where Mary is kept and tortured, shows is the master of the game.

How he cunningly uses the Bible verses to decline Mary’s request for help in church, the dirtiness he reeks at the club, the pastoral appearance he demonstrates among the brethren as well as the ‘great-husband’ charming behaviours he oozes at home not only attest that Remi is one of the top Nollywood actors at the moment but also exposes how Nigerian society harbours many wolves in sheep’s clothing at the expense of unsuspecting people.

The production

The sounds, lightings and visuals in the film are incredible in enriching the plot as it unfolds. The atmosphere in the church, the cultural beats in the village, the solemn strings in the ‘coven’ of the syndicate, the blaring music at the club and other background musicals are all superb to illustrate the story. The soundtrack is great! One of the cinematographic feels is when Asabi furiously smashes the glass on the floor over Sharon’s failed assignment. Also, the pros and cons are fantastic, as well as the locations. Ijakumo has a quality production, and that stands as its credit.

The flaws

Like many other Nollywood movies, Ijakumo can’t boast of being perfect as it has its shortcomings. The scene where Sharon and Mary meet in Pastor Jide’s hideout appears to be shallow as Mary is expected to be shocked seeing her look-alike but sees it as normal instead. Also, the pastor who has tortured his choir leader who he believes is the same as Sharon does not display any iota of surprise when the real Sharon is brought to him. 

One question that needs to be answered is why Asabi deploys physical means to take his vengeful act on Jide when she knows she will use spiritual powers to kill him. And one needs to ask what drives Nollywood movie producers of ending their stories lately in Hollywood-like combats packaged with effects that are not found in Nigerian society. 

The lesson

Toyin Abraham’s Ijakumo: The Born Again Stripper storyline is great and culturally balanced exposing cruel and deadly activities people can devise to get wealth including killing, maiming and torturing neighbours to sustain their affluence, and the end shows that all that glitters is not gold.