Living In Bondage To Amina: Exposing The Trailblaze In 'paulo'!

This piece attempts to narrate the trajectories of the man known as 'The Father of Nollywood' in producing the movies Living in Bondage and Amina.

The year 1992 witnessed the release of a classical Nigerian movie whose hit penetrated over a thousand homes and for which the impact culminated in the Nigerian home movie industry being nicknamed the derogatory sobriquet "Nollywood" [mean "Nothing from the Wood"]. "Living in Bondage" was the name of a movie that set the pace for the nation's movie industry to start competing favorably with the rest of the world movie makers like America's Hollywood and India's Bollywood.

Well conversed in the Igbo language by the movie casts that featured Kanayọ O. Kanayọ, Ngozi Nwosu, Kenneth Okonkwo, Rita Nzelu, Bob Manuel Udokwu, Nnenna Nwabụeze, Francis Agu, Ngozi Nwaneto, Okey Ogunjiofor, etc. and with a good subtitle in English, the three-hour film centered on a poor man who got lured into occultism by a supposed friend. And one of the consequences the poor man had in the course of satisfying the requirements necessary to become rich in the league of billionaires was presenting his lovely wife as a ritual sacrifice.

"Andy, onye a abụghị nwunye gị!" (Andy, this person is not your wife!) said Paulo; the friend to Andy; the poor man during one of their cult activities for Andy's initiation into occultism. "Andy, ọ bụrụ na-ikpọtaghị nwunye gị ebe a n'ụbọchị asaa, ị nwụọ!" (Andy, if you don't bring your wife here in the next seven days, you will die!) enthused by Daniel Oluigbo, the Occult Master to a very confused but seemingly deceived Andy. Like someone that truly lives in the bondage of the devil, the helpless Andy ended up sacrificing his lovely wife for a money ritual. He became rich after successfully performing the rituals, but not without being free from the consequences of his atrocities. The ghost of his wife continued to hunt him for life. Nevertheless, the regretted and badly hurt Andy (acted by Barrister Kenneth Okonkwo) ultimately got Paulo murdered in part 2 of the first-ever Nigerian movie thriller.

That Paulo in the movie is Mr. Okey Ogunjiofor who is set to release a blockbuster movie titled "Amina" on Netflix Original. The day after tomorrow, November 4th is the set date for the premiere of Amina. When we talk of the actor who cast "Paulo" in 'Living in Bondage' movie for real life, we are seriously talking about a young man who entered the streets of Lagos in 1988 [after many doors closed behind him on his attempts to find/secure a sponsor to produce his film failed] to hawk a product to raise funds for the production of Living in Bondage that earned him a deserved title of "Father of Nollywood". And when we talk of the real Okey Ogunjiofor, we are genuinely talking about a 'never-die-spirit' man who researched painstakingly the authentic story of Queen Amina of Zazzau for a solid twenty (20) years before shooting the film on the life of the legendary Queen Amina. That's not all.

The real 'Paulo' who birthed the ideas that brought homemade movies to every home for entertainment [and changing lives] when all the operating cinemas collapsed never got his due royalties after the release of his first movie. He was swindled for the fact that he was an innocent amateur in business by his movie sponsor [who happens to be an experienced businessman]. He was outsmarted for the fact that he was a complete novice in movie marketing by those he contracted to market the movie [talking of notorious pirates]. Worst still, he was forced to live with a social stigma as people around him were ever ready to stone him in life for luring Andy into killing a woman for occultism purposes. I mean there were people in those days after watching 'Living in Bondage' who believed that actor "Paulo" could be an occultic man in real life. Chineke meere anyị ebere! (God have mercy on us!) 

In all of the above, the originator of Living in Bondage classical movie, that is Okey Ogunjiofor, never got a dime for his work. He was devastated and he was never deterred. He was frustrated and he never despaired. He was betrayed and he was never depressed. That's OkeChukwu Ogunjiofor who went to the North [precisely Jos, Plateau State] with 86 crew members, recruited over 1,000 Northern artists- camped them for three months, training them on how to ride horses and use the swords to fight on horsebacks, built ancient buildings of mud and stones, recreated good set, props, and costumes to reflect the olden days of Queen Amina after over 20 years of researching on the life of Amina before shooting the masterpiece titled "Amina" about to be released in two days!

The inspiration to write the contents and ultimately film the history-making Nollywood movie, Living in Bondage, was factually based on what Mr. Okey Ogunjiofor (Paulo in the movie) experienced firsthand at an event [in name of a festival] that happened at a well-known location in Lagos. In other words, the movie wasn't entirely imaginary fiction. It portrayed the true reality/life obtained at that time [and of course, still happening today] as some of the acclaimed rich people in those days were occultists. The story and proposals for the production of the film were ready in the year 1988, but unfortunately, the people whom the "Father of Nollywood" approached for sponsorship of the movie production had doubts about his idealistic plans, and hence closed all their doors behind him. Put mildly, they never believed him that his film will sell well and bring not only spontaneous profits for both the initiator and investor(s) but will carve a niche for the Nigerian movie industry. 

Undeterred, but well-armed with unwavering faith to make it, the young Okey Ogunjiofor entered the streets of Lagos to hawk to raise the funds needed to shoot his first movie. Thus, he believed so much in himself, his vision, and his dreams. His zeal was to break a jinx for the benefit of the world and equally make a niche for himself. Four years later in 1992 after he had entered the streets for hawking, luck smiled on him for the production of Living in Bondage movie. He came across a kindhearted woman who referred him to meet a wealthy businessman. After listening to his movie story and feasible proposals, the businessman agreed to sponsor the movie production and also contribute to its sales/marketing via his business name.

After the successful production and sales of the Living in Bondage movie, the sponsor, for whatever reasons that could be greed, began to renege on the oral contract he had with the producer as per how the profits after the successful production and marketing of Living in Bondage videos could be shared. As a result, the young Okey Ogunjiofor wasn't only hugely cheated for his movie, he was heavily defrauded! Thus, he earned a zilch on the production of his first-ever movie. Satisfied that he has successfully broken a jinx on the nation's movie industry through the successful penetration of the 'Living in Bondage' movie in over a thousand homes across the country, Okey Ogunjiofor 1996 decided to make another milestone in our then-nascent Nollywood movie industry. 

He felt that we could start telling our indigenous stories to the world not just for entertainment, but also for research and documentation on the lives and times of our heroes and heroines past to re-write the negative narratives against Africa in the world, as well as create the impetus upon which Africa’s growing young population would stand and aspire for ideals. Hence, the zeal to do a true story of the life and times of the legendary Queen Amina of Zazzau in a film. And as a trailblazer who enjoys creating new ways to do the old things, extraordinary ways to do ordinary things, the man is fondly known as Paulo needed an authentic Queen Amina story for making the movie. It is therefore the painstaking searching and researching for the authentic story of Queen Amina that took him twenty years (1996-2016) long to complete, after which he began the preparations for the filming of the movie and post-production completed in 2019, marketed to Netflix Original and now set to be released today November 4th, 2021.

"AMINA" is a thrilling epic movie that tells about the most charismatic warrior and powerful queen who reigned over the seven kingdoms of Zazzau [now Zaria, Kaduna State, Nigeria] around the 15th/16th century (between 1533-1633). She was also one of the most alluring sovereign queens ever to rule on the continent of Africa at a period it was difficult to attain by a woman around the world. Featured by Nollywood and Kannywood actors & actresses like Clarion Chukwurah, Ali Nuhu, Mbasiti Jesse, Degri Emmanuel, Yakubu Mohammed, Lucy Ameh, Daniel Nelson Orah, Asabe Madaki, Alfred Baker Mgbejume, Jummai Musa, little Genevieve Ogunjiofor (played Little Amina) and a host of other talented actors, AMINA is a locally themed, globally relevant narrative that will keep you glued to the television and thrilled right from the beginning to the end without blinking an eye. 

In all of those, we render celebration to the dogged determination and resilience of Okey Ogunjiofor who spent two solid decades traveling across the cities of Zaria, Kaduna, Bauchi, Dass, Abuja, Suleja, Kano, Turunku, Jos, Taraba, Kogi, Ilorin, etc. to research the genealogy, life and times of Queen Amina of Zazzau. If you have been so curious to find the answers to the important question about why there are not many female leaders on the global stage today when history records showed that women excelled as leaders, then you would have done justice to your curiosity by simply watching AMINA today. Get your popcorn, and a bottle of your favorite drink ready to watch AMINA today upon release!

By Chukwudimma Aaron-Okonkwo

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