Junior Pope and ‘The Other Side of Life’

Ferdinand  Ekechukwu

One of the last video posts confirming the death of actor Junior Pope would have passed for a movie scene, or better still, a publicity stunt, except for the palpable sad mood captured in the clip. His lifeless body covered up to his neck in a hospital bed, curtains inserted in his nostrils. The Actors Guild of Nigeria’s (AGN) National President, Emeka Rollas and another Nollywood star, Jerry Amilo, solemnly stared at the corpse.

Remember Jerry Amilo? He is the same actor who claimed to have died in an accident some years ago but was sent back to life after he got to the other side. The scenario at the hospital ward was as difficult to believe as it appeared. But then it was real. John Paul Odonwodo, best known as Junior Pope had passed on moments after he left a movie set titled ‘The other Side of Life”. Quite ironic!

The actor would have turned 40 years on May 7, 2024. Many Nollywood aficionados and teeming fans of the actor, a regular feature in the Asaba sector of the Nollywood production, had on Wednesday, April 10, expressed fears that he and some colleagues may have drowned in a boat mishap in the Delta State axis of the River Niger while on their way back from a location.

Nollywood had recorded such in the past, not once, not twice, maybe not exactly a boat mishap.  This latest tragic incident involved a popular actor, hence the outcry.  Hours before the boat mishap, Pope a bit apprehensive of the river, had shared a video of him, offering prayers for a safe journey while heading to the location unprotected.

Meanwhile, the AGN National President, Rollas who had earlier believed that Pope drowned in the water alongside others, in an update on the incident, took to Instagram to announce that the actor was revived and was receiving treatment in a hospital. Also, some videos making the rounds on the internet would corroborate the actor’s short-lived chance.

But, in the early hours of Thursday, April 11, the glimmer of hope flickered when Rollas took to his Instagram page to announce the eventual death of the actor and three crew members who are yet to be found.

“Two notable hospitals tried their best to revive him but to no avail. God knows the best. We finally lost him. Mr. Friday’s corpse has been identified but three other corpses are yet to be found,” part of his post read.

In the wake of his demise, the AGN in an announcement declared last Thursday as, ‘No Shoot Day’ for all Nollywood filmmakers, and suspended Adamma Luke, the producer of the ill-fated movie and all films that involve riverine areas and boat riding, indefinitely.

Like the saying in our local parlance, who ‘no shoot day’ help? Will it bring back the dead actor and his crew members or console bereaved families?

Beyond the suspension and ‘no shoot day’ declaration is the lack of structure in the industry. Nollywood, an industry that has put Nigeria on the global map, sadly is an all-comers affair to every Tom, Dick, and Harry investor either as producer or filmmaker! There’s been a clamour for proper regulation of the industry where certain measures of safety and welfare would be assured.  

The late Junior Pope is one of the leading stars of Nollywood that dominate the Eastern axis, alongside others such as Emma Ehumadu, Sylvester Madu, Zubby Michael, Alaso Wariboko, Gentle Jack, Hanks Anuku, Jerry Amilo, Ken Erics, and a host of others. It is the prayer of many sympathizers and industry watchers that his death kick starts the revolution that Nollywood needs to actualise proper structure and regulation.

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