Born in the 80s, my formative years were mostly in the 90s. I remember quite clearly-or not-how TV was back then in Plateau State; where I was born and raised. We had to wait till 4pm for the TV stations to begin operations-if they ever opened before 4pm, I cannot remember. Well, back then-if you have no memory about this-when you put on the TV before 4pm, what you got was this “sh” sound with a black and white background. Just unintelligible stuff. Then a few minutes to four, the background would be changed to vertical stripes of different colours; and then at four on the dot, the national anthem would be played and, ta da! Our favourite cartoons and programs would show one after the other.
Apart from the programs brought to us by NTA and PRTV, and the ones our parents bought on VHS video tapes, we had some rather interesting home videos produced by the Nigerian Film Industry. I wasn’t aware if in those years they had a name for the industry like they have it now – Nollywood.
I must say, those films were mostly horror films. The level of suspense was so high you would cringe and freeze at the thought of what was going to happen or what had just happened. I remember watching all the Mount Zion films on the market, all of them that were released, no kidding. And I can never forget Ultimate Power Part 1 to 12. I was very young at the time, under 10 when I watched those. Although they instilled fear in me, I knew they taught something, I learnt something. But then, I could not forget that woman shouting “Ayamatanga” in front of a wardrobe that opened up for her to their travel witches’ coven. And then, there was this Movie, not a Mount Zion Production, where they were chanting “Karashika, Karashika, queen of darkness” and there was “Nneka, the pretty serpent”, “Sakobi, the snake girl”, “Evil Genius”, “Full moon”, “Isakaba”, “Witches”, “Scores to Settle”, “Evil Forest”, “Light and Darkness”, and there is this one movie I can never forget…”Just a night” where a group of kids went out on an excursion and maybe lost their way in a forest or the car broke down and their teachers and driver died mysteriously each time the moon shone? Correct me if I’m wrong. I also remember “Diamond Ring”. It featured Teju Babyface, among other older actors. It has really been a while so I cannot remember the exact story. However, I remember that someone died and was buried wearing a diamond ring, it was stolen after the burial and the thieves were haunted until they returned it. The memories I have left of those home videos are fragments, tiny bits of scenes and lines but then I remember we really enjoyed them.
Everybody in the sitting room watching, cringing, hiding/covering our faces and we had no film censors board to tell our parents that some of those movies were actually horror movies and little kids, like us, should not be allowed to see. There were really funny ones with unthinkable costumes like the ones used in “Oganigwe”. The thought of it!
We cannot talk about TV in Nigeria without mentioning soap operas and we cannot talk about soap operas without mentioning The New Masquerade! I’m sure that is the first TV series a lot of people would think of when we mention Naija TV. Chief Zebrudaya, Jegede Sokoya, Natty and the rest of the cast? Those guys killed it! There was Jaguar Nana-my memory for this one is a bit bleak. I cannot even remember if it was a Naija production because I remember clearly that Jaguar was in Liberia at a point in time sharing his Liberian experience with us. And there was another comedy soap opera titled “Ichekwu”! A good number of friends who I have tried to share this memory with have said they cannot remember ever watching it. “Ichekwu” featured a white man in an Igbo town who needed a translator; he was able to find an Igbo man and unknown to him, the translator’s English wasn’t so good. I’m sure you can imagine how disastrous it was. Another TV series that was popular in those times is Tales By Moonlight. These programmes were aired mostly in the 90s. Then in the first few years of the millenium, we had TV series like “Taxi Driver”, “Everyday people” and “Family circle”. It was also in that era that Wale Adenuga Productions debuted “Super story”. The soundtrack for “Superstory” to me is the soundtrack of all time. I know you all agree. Still, the story of WAP would be incomplete if we do not make reference to “Papa Ajasco”. Growing up watching Papa Ajasco, Mama Ajasco, Boy Alinco, Pepeye, Pa James, the series, Ajasco was just wonderful!
These were actors who paved the way to the growth of Nollywood as big as we know it today: some as we know are still working, while some are retired. Liz Benson, Sandra Achums, Regina Askia, Susan Patrick, Victoria Inyamah, Hilda Dokubo, Bukky Ajayi, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Stella Damasus, Franca Brown, Gloria Anozie(Gloria Young), Zack Orji, Pat Attah, Tony Umez, Clem Ohameze, Patrick Doyle, Fred Amata, Zulu Adigwe, Ramsey Noah, Charles Okafor, Saint Obi, Bob Manuel, the lady who we came to know as Onome, to mention a few, are actors and actresses that made a great impression in that time. Sadly, some have passed on. God bless the souls of those who have-Justus Esiri, Sam Loco-Efe, Ashley Nwosu, Enebeli Elebuwa.
Some of the stories were highly exaggerated while some were just plain, simple and true. For me, the film industry experienced a turn around when “Worlds Apart” was released. The stories took a new dimension after that. They had a certain “freshness”, you could say “newness”. They had A new attitude, a new “swag”. From then on, more new faces came into the limelight, a newer generation of story writers, actors, and producers emerged. And they ushered the Nigerian Film Industry into a new phase. This is the phase where they became “Nollywood”.
It was in this phase Nollywood Movies started showing in the cinemas. We started having movie premieres, our actors, directors and producers started attending film festivals abroad, and they also started organizing award shows to encourage and appreciate our actors, and all those involved in film making. (Isn’t that just grand!)
I remember going to the movies with a friend back in 2012. The movies listed for that day were movies we had seen or movies that one of us had seen. So we decided to find one which neither of us had seen and we paid for our ticket, we decided on was “Married But Living Single” and on our way to the cinema floor we were talking about it -what we expected. We thought it would be a Hollywood romantic comedy-we did not check the catalogue to see the cast. When we got to the door, my friend noticed a poster and said to me “Is that not the movie we paid for?”, instantly We started laughing as our “Hollywood Romantic Comedy” was starring Joseph Benjamin and Funke Akindele a.k.a Jenifa. It was a Nollywood production. We laughed some more, we thought to ourselves “Our fate had been sealed”. We only hoped that it would not be just the two of us in the cinema hall and thankfully, a good number of people walked into the cinema hall for the movie. To be honest, I was surprised, better still, Impressed. We shared a few laughs and giggles as the movie played. At the end of the movie, our conclusion was “it wasn’t bad at all”. Well, typically, we still criticized the film and thought they could do better. However, we were still excited at the thought of seeing Nigerian films in the cinemas. To this day, more Nollywood movies are shown in the cinemas than we ever thought possible. I must say, this is a great achievement for the movie industry and an even greater achievement that we have accepted it.
We have watched Nollywood grow from what it was in the 90s to what it is today and it would be “bad belle” not to appreciate them for the tremendous growth. Today, Nollywood is ranked third after Hollywood and Bollywood and they are still getting better. I’m loving the movie premieres, I’m loving the trailers, I’m loving the original movies, I’m loving the interviews on national and international TV, I’m loving the award shows, I’m loving Nollywood everyday; and I believe you too reading this have the same love for Nollywood. To the godfathers and godmothers of Nollywood (actors, directors and producers) and the newer generation who have added newness and freshness to the industry, may you live long to make more impact. We love you, we celebrate you! This is our Nollywood to keep and preserve. And that we shall do…*drumrolls, please* and *fireworks*…*Toodles*