Remembering the Legacies of Village Headmaster at 50

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Ibidun Allison a.k.a Amebo during the press briefing

The surviving cast and crew of the nation’s longest running television drama series rekindle the fond memories of ‘The Village Headmaster’ with the plans to celebrate its golden years in October, Yinka Olatunbosun reports

Walking into the quiet premises of the National Television Authority (NTA) Victoria Island Lagos would have been awkward for those who spent their youthful years there rehearsing for a variety of television productions in the 60s, 70s and 80s. NTA was a hub of creative content that was educative and entertaining.

The masterfully crafted and hilarious television drama series called ‘The Village Headmaster’ had the sort of followership that European club football now has in Nigeria. Created by Chief Olusegun Olusola, the series starred Ted Mukoro, Justus Esiri and Femi Robinson all of whom played the role of the Village Headmaster albeit at different times in the course of the production. Others were Funsho Adeolu who played Chief Eleyinmi, Jab Adu who played the character Bassey Okon, the village chemist; Ibidun Allison who acted as the palm wine seller and village gossip popularly known as Amebo, Joe Layode who acted as Teacher Garba, amongst others.

To mark the fifty years since the Village Headmaster hit the screen, the NTA and The Village Headmaster Family (VHMF) have announced a series of activities scheduled to hold in Lagos in October. The Chairperson, VHMF, Ibidun Allison revealed that in addition to the curated conversations on the ideals and legacies of the rested television drama, post-humous awards will be presented in honour of the contributions of the legendary cast and crew members who have died.

“The Village Headmaster ruled the nation’s air waves for more than two decades, promoting national unity and through its diverse characters, proffered many solutions to educational, social and political situations. Its ability to use drama to pass messages to its teeming audience is one of the attributes that will be examined at a roundtable discussion at the Freedom Park on Tuesday, October 8,’’ Allison said in good humour, with reference to her traditional role of breaking news in the rested television drama.

The talk session with the theme, “Drama: A tool for National Development’’ will feature discussants led by Prof Ahmed Yerima and Prof Duro Oni. Others include Joke Silva, Zik Zulu, Kadaria Ahmed, Femi Odugbemi and Deborah Ogazuma.

While fielding questions from the journalists during the press briefing at NTA, Lagos, the Head of NTA Lagos Network Centre, Mallam Ahmed Lawal assured the journalists that the station still has in its possession some episodes from the Village Headmaster. For years, there has been reports that many of the series had been lost. Mallam Lawal also explained that due to the shortage of the VHS tapes, some tapes had been redubbed while others had found their ways to Alaba International Market. Some of the latter had since been retrieved and preserved.

“Archiving is key and critical. NTA has what it has in its library.We have the content in both the original and digital format. We know that there will come a time when former formats such as the VHS, DVD would go extinct. So, we started digitising. Today, we have servers containing the digital content. We are trying to harness them into one network so that they can be accessible,’’ he said.

On October 10, there will be two stage performances featuring the veteran actors at the Terra Kulture Arena, Victoria Island. One of the drama productions is titled, “Double Speak’’ while the other will be two episodes of the Village Headmaster. The celebration will come to its peak at a commemoration dinner at the Shell Hall, MUSON Centre, Onikan on Friday October 11. At the ceremony, the Village Headmaster Foundation will be launched. This foundation will cater for the needs and welfare of persons in the entertainment industry including ailing and retired practitioners. It will also help in capacity building for upcoming artistes in Nigeria.