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For the Stars of March-April

For the Stars of March-April

Femi Akintunde-Johnson

In continuation of our felicitations and espousal of the great body of works and accomplishments of a few of our creative enigmas who celebrate their birthdays in the months of March and April annually. This is by no means exhaustive – nor equally structured – as in any human interactions; and some folks whose bits of information are not captured in this tiny slice of “history in a hurry” would probably raise eyebrows. We apologize in lieu of your consternation. Nonetheless, the beats go on…

BOB-MANUEL UDOKWU, MFR (18 April, 1963)

Here is one of the flag bearers of the Drama department of the University of Port Harcourt. Surely, with more than 300 videos, Obidimma Bob-Manuel Udokwu is one of the loud testaments of the varsity’s dramatic strides. Interestingly, Udokwu – a child actor throughout his early education – marched into UNIPORT with his mind fixated on drama, and his heart dancing across the riverine stage. It was not a coincidence that before he completed his first degree, he had snagged the role of Hasstrup in Isaac-Ene’s swirling soap, Checkmate (1991); and while he was coordinating the Oyo State Drama Group on his national service’s compulsory assignment (a task yours truly also performed in Ondo State few years earlier), Udokwu was rehearsing for an Igbo drama that would, years later, be used as benchmark for the advent of a global brand, Nollywood – tick Living in Bondage – in 1992. 

  From then, he never looked back. Like a house on fire, Udokwu gobbled up roles mostly with great charm and quiet proficiency. His contributions to the make-believe world are noted and notable. He played Mike in epochal Living in Bondage (1992 – directed by Chris Obi-Rapu as Vic Mordi); in 2019, he reprised the Mike role, 27 years after, in a sequel, Living in Bondage: Breaking Free, directed by Ramsey Nouah. Other early works include: Obi-Rapu’s Circle of Doom (1993), Chico Ejiro’s Black Maria (1994), Amaka Igwe’s RattleSnake (1995); he starred as Pastor Evariat in Karishika (1996), Alex in Most Wanted (1998); Tokunboh, Camouflage (both 1999); Outkast, Mothering Sunday (2001); Beyond the Altar, Evil-Doers, My Girl, Old School, and Valentino (all 2002).

His busiest years were between 2003 and 2007 (the glut years), logging about 100 videos, of diverse quality and themes, within five years! 

KANAYO O. KANAYO, MFR (1 March, 1962)

Eloquent and passionate, the 1992 debutante in the land-marking Living in Bondage has many epaulettes on his broad shoulders: actor, compere, and legal practitioner, since 2020 (at 58). He’s widely known as KOK or Kanayo O. Kanayo to millions of his fans, but in the rarefied world of the legal profession, he carries himself in his legal name: Anayo Modestus Onyekwere.

  With hundreds of movies bearing his visage, KOK desires a self-fulfilling legacy that will assure generations following that he, along with many others, has laid a foundation that moths of neo-colonialism and other abstract termites cannot destroy. He declares to us: “…from my view of the Movie Industry in Nigeria, we need to tell our children our own stories, from our own perspectives. We need to decolonize our thinking and examine the underlying truths in more than just movies. Our children are growing up, idolizing heroes with whom they cannot personally identify.” Apt.

  Well read, and driven, KOK seems to have a penchant for collecting degrees and diplomas. Check this out: Diploma in Mass Communication at the University of Lagos (1997), BSc, Philosophy in same school (UniLag, 2005); MSc in Political Science, (UniLag, 2010); LL.B (from UniAbuja’s Law Faculty, 2018); and was called to the Nigerian Bar after completing the Nigerian Law School programme (2019-2020). Bibliophile?

  Yet, the rigour of educational pursuits never hampered his capacity to function and dominate, along with few others, the 1990s and 2000s Igbo-speaking and English language moviedom. No wonder he has posted over 250 movies despite the constraints of the ‘golden fleece’.

  Well, some of his performances have been emotional, emphatic, passionate and realistic. The list of his works are long and windy, let’s capture some: Chief Omego in Living in Bondage (1992), Circle of Doom (1993), Emeka in Nneka the Pretty Serpent (1994), Rituals (1997), Full Moon, Obstacles (both 1998); Lost Kingdom, The Soul That Sinneth (both 1999); The Suitors (2000), The Battle of Love (2001), Evil-Doers, Fire on the Mountain, Festival of Fire (all 2002); What Women Want, Billionaires Club, Hand of God, Market Sellers, Moving Train, My Command, and Super Warriors (all 2003); Across the Niger, 419 Dangerous Game, Abuja Boys, Circle of Tears, Executive Billionaires, His Majesty, and The Good Samaritan (all 2004).

   The year 2005 was hectic, and gluttonous – that was the year he chalked off about 50 videos (including ‘spare parts’) in one calendar year! 

PATIENCE OZOKWOR (25 March, 1958)

Here’s the feminine version of the suave and persistent Desmond Elliot – the 65 year old acting General is a late bloomer to the creative space. Patience Ozokwor supposedly started trekking the video trail officially in 1999 (though, there is a trace of her march to Nollywood in the video, Ukwah {1995 – another source dated it 2000}) when she was a busy mother of three at 36. Yet, she could still churn out 60, 59, 53 and 28 videos (if public records prove accurate) in 2007, 2006, 2005 and 2004 respectively. Indeed, a ‘G’ for General.

  She has been a devotee of the Muse, acting on stage and radio drama in the East. Matrimony could not hold her back, and she groomed a top-drawer image of the charismatic devil-driven, double-faced woman that caught the fascination of many producers who bombarded her with strikingly similar plots and characteristics. 

  By her dexterity in typifying wickedness and all sorts of devilry in a strangely charming disposition, many producers and directors fell into the trap of endemic stereotyping, fostering on Ozokwor a uniformed character synonymous with esoteric terrorism, deviousness and general upheavals.

 The stats don’t lie: Ozokwor has been in more than 300 movies; playing the same corridor of relentless locations; shooting between 2004 and 2007 with frenetic enthusiasm. Even with some videos calibrated into parts, Nzokwor serenaded us at least 60 times in 2007 alone!

SOLA FOSUDO (18 March, 1958)

He teaches, and exemplifies the essentials of drama: focus, discipline and believability. The scholar-artiste commands respect amongst colleagues, and his students. Thoroughbred.

BUKKY WRIGHT (31 March, 1967)

 Poise personified, with a carriage untamed by age or circumstances. She is one we suspect may be ageless if she continues to bestow her graces upon us with deliberate attention to acceptable scripts worthy of accommodating her talents. Relentless.

  Finally, there are quite a bunch of other celebrants we are not able to dwell on their attainments and pedigrees, but whom we cherish nonetheless. May you continue to thrive, and drive your nation to great heights: Mike Bamiloye – 13 April, 1960; Omoni Oboli – 22 April, 1978; Liz Benson – 05 April, 1966; Stella Damasus – 24 April, 1978; Alex Usifo Omaigbo – 16 April, 1953; Ali Nuhu – 15 March, 1974; Chioma Chukwuka – 12 March, 1980; Daddy Fresh – 17 March, 1971; and Seye Kehinde – 21 April, 1965. To all, and more, we wish you a helluva great year.

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