THE TRANSFORMATION OF YIBO KOKO

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Will famous comedian, Yibo Koko, turn his back on the art form that brought fame and fortune to him? As he makes a big and bold move into movie production, Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha highlight the inspiring turns in his exciting career
Eight years ago, Yibo Koko walked out of comedy. Having gained a good reputation as one of the leading and successful comedians, he decided it was time to exploit another creative art form which comes naturally to him. At the time, comedy was at its inchoate stage. Nigerians were yet to see this crop of entertainers as professionals making any meaningful contribution to the national economy.

Koko also had a soaring reputation as an excellent dramatist who could write, produce and direct stage plays, particularly dance dramas. He was also much sought after for production of amazing carnival floats. Albeit, Koko, a graduate of Theatre Arts from University of Port Harcourt fell in love with the camera, an instrument that fascinated him for its ability to capture and retain images for posterity.

Captivated by the vast opportunities that technology offered to the creative industry, he sought to apply the skills of machinery on acquired and in-born intelligence. Removing the toga of comedian, he sailed across the pond to study film-making in 2006 at the New York Film Academy at St Catharine’s College Oxford University and subsequently advanced Film Making at the Universal Studios Hollywood California in 2007.

Over there, he burnt the candles day and night, determined to cut his teeth in the world of make believe. His hard work would later pay off when his short film, ‘A Clean Woman’ which he presented for his thesis was adjudged the best for that session. Two years later he was the recipient of the ‘Outstanding Achievement in Film Making’ Award at the 42nd Brooklyn Arts Council International Film Festival, Long Island University, New York.

That film announced his arrival in the film industry. Having functioned in various capacities, not a few people remember his inspiring trajectory in the creative industry. Today, he goes by many titles: creative director, writer, actor, stage performer, film and carnival consultant. In all these fields, he has served excellently, achieving towering feats that have stamped his authority as a respected creative personality.

As a stage performer, Koko is remembered lovingly for the outstanding stage production ‘Seki’. The cultural musical that showcased the culture of the Ijaw people awed audience at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos with the aesthetics and fluidity of the performers earlier this year.
An encore was later performed in Port Harcourt at the request of the Rivers State Government. It was not the first time Koko would work with the government of his home state.

During the Rotimi Amaechi administration, he was appointed into the Rivers State Tourism Development Board where he deployed his creative ingenuity and concept design skills. Prior to that appointment, he was the Creative Consultant to the Rivers State Ministry of Culture and Tourism. He conceptualised and designed the Rivers State carnival popularly called CARNIRIV in 2008. He was in charge of choreography for the state contingent at Abuja carnival, among other appointments.
“I also served as ‘Concept Designer for Movement/Choreography/Carnival Float’ for Rivers State contingents at the Abuja Carnival-Winner Overall Best 2008 and 2009 Abuja Carnival.

The success recorded caught the attention of the Cross River State government, and I was appointed ‘Creative Consultant to Masta Blasta Band Calabar Carnival’. Masta Blasta Band at the Calabar Carnival has since the last five years been accorded Winners-Best Float Design 2010, 2012 and Overall Best Carnival Band 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Similarly, I served as ‘Concept Designer/implementation and delivery – People of The World Band, Nottinghill Carnival’ emerging with an award for ‘Best Float Nottinghill Carnival London 2013’.

In 2011, I was appointed ‘Sub Committee Chairman for the 17TH National Sports Festival 2011 Rivers State’ (Garden City Games, Opening and Closing ceremony) Concept/Creative Development and production in collaboration with China Beiad International Cultural and Sports Company. That same year, I was contracted to handle Production and Set Design including online videography for the inauguration of President Bony Yayi of Benin Republic in Porto Novo. Enthused by the excellent and creative delivery, we equally did event management with production and set design for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Benin Republic. In recognition of my capacity, I was invited to TED X as guest Speaker in 2013 to present on the topic – “Vision, the Art of Seeing Things Invisible”.
In July 2014, I was ‘Guest Speaker at The Arts Council of WS80 London’, alongside Mutabaruka (Jamaica) Linton Kwesi Johnson (UK) and Auntie Thea (Trinidad and Tobago. The topic was “The Power Of Art – A Nigerian Experience.”

Shortly after his tenure with the Rivers State Tourism Development Board ended, he was made the Head of Production: Africa Magic Mnet West Africa’, a post formerly held by Erica Klopper. He was able to make some impact with the introduction of new programmes such as High Lites with IK. He was also a judge at the reality show ‘Nigeria’s Got Talent’ There are different versions of how and why he went from being a regular staff of the pay TV company to an adhoc employee. While the rumour mill is rife with tales of his sack, Koko insists that he resigned because he could not cope with a nine-to-five schedule.

“For the better part of my life, I have been my own boss since I established Yibs Ensemble Limited. Even in my earlier days when I worked at the Hotel Presidential in Port Harcourt, I lived in the hotel.” However, a pointer to the good relationship between him and the company is that Multichoice Nigeria gave him a consultancy deal. Perhaps, that was the experience he needed to sharpen his skills. From the Multichoice Nigeria experience, he gained the confidence to canalize his energies on broad based consultancy in the creative industry for media organisations, media entrepreneurs and private investors.

Koko claims to have started the marriage between music and comedy which has been perpetrated by Klint Da Drunk and given further verve by Julius Agwu and MC Miracle, now, he is working on another ground breaking project that will highlight his prolific filmmaking prowess.

With his latest flick, ‘Three Tramps and the Law’, Yibo Koko hopes to consolidate the increasing propensity for comedians to go into film making.
“If anyone was in doubt that comedians can make excellent films, AY has erased all doubts by making two movies that have been well-received.”
Set in the beautiful city of Port Harcourt, ‘Three Tramps and the Law’ spins a story round four strangers whose quests for wealth crack the veneers of greed, lies and deceit that lie in them.

Moving focus from the genital mutilation that characterised his first short film, Three Tramps and the Law centralised on the conflicting nature of man in times of adversity.
Four strangers: a washed up lawyer, stranded French woman, a homeless prodigal and a street urchin teamed up and embarked on an inheritance scheme that will lead up to self-realization.

The film which falls in the genres of drama, adventure and comedy signals a comeback for the filmmaker. He revealed that the film would feature A-list actors and a foreign actress. It will be a prelude to ‘The Rising Son’, by the late Amaka Igwe. “Everyone in this industry knows that Amaka had a reputation for excellence. She would never compromise on standards. I feel honoured that she chose me to direct the movie.”