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- Published: 14 January 2020
It is no more news that Mercy Johnson Okojie’s blockbuster movie ‘The Legend of Inikpi’ is set to premier in the cinemas on January 24.There is also no doubt that the epic has garnered a rave review since the veteran Nollywood actress and former Senior Special Assistant to Kogi state Governor on Entertainment, Tourism and Cultureuploaded the trailer on her Instagram page.
What is news however, is the fact that the encomiums oozing out of her home state have touched on raw nerves and generated controversy in the Kogi state’s entertainment and art circle, to the extent that a senior member of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, has called into question the enormous support she received from the state government.
Enthusiastic admirers of MJO are saying that she has placed the state and her rich cultural heritage on the global map with her new movie. So much so is the excitement in government circle where the Chief Press Secretary to the Deputy Governor, Promise Emmanuel made claims that Mercy Johnson Okojie is coming second to late Prof. Francis Idachaba in the hierarchy of those who reformed the state.
In an article titled: ‘The Mediocrity, Like Francis Idachaba, like Mercy Johnson’, Emmanuel had written that with the coming of Mercy Johnson’s movie, the existing mediocrity in the film industry in the state would be wiped out.He was in a sense comparing how Prof. Idachaba brought back to life the ailing Kogi State University and gave it a universal accolade. This is what, in his opinion, what the renowned thespian has done with “The Legend of Inikpi”, her first full-length epical film that is showcasing a visual feast of the ancient cultures of the Igala and Bini kingdoms.
Indeed, Okojie, an Ebira stock of the state is savouring the tributes with appreciationto the people and government of Kogi state. In a viral video she uploaded on her Instagram page, Mercy Johnson said “we wanted this story to feel as authentic as possible. Filming in my home state was a priority, getting cast that knew and understand the story was key.”
While acknowledging the support she received from the state, she wrote: “I’m humbled for the support, show of love and mostly, I am incredibly proud of the work we have done,”
But a former chairman of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, Kogi Chapter,Thomson Makolo Jnr has found and described as unsavoury the raving review trailing the film. TheNollywood actor and filmmaker, in a critical attack said there was nothing quite special in what the thespian did. Makolo was particularly miffed by the CPS’s assertion that MJO has come to reform the film industry in the state.
In a swift reaction, Makolo said there was nothing exceptional that Mercy Johnson is bringing to the table, stressing that before her appointment into the stategovernment, a lot of movies had been churned out by prominent actors and moviemakers in the state.
“I will like to set the record straight. Before Mercy Johnson’s appointment as an SSA to the governor on Art, Culture and Entertainment, there was an industry and certain people have laid a foundation for what we have today as arts and entertainment industry in the state.
“In 2005, I was the chairman of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, Kogi Chapter. I was the youngest to ever occupy that office in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. By 2005, I had invited a veteran director and filmmaker, Zack Amata to come to Kogi to shoot my movie titled ‘Makafa’. That movie also starred the likes of Segun Arinze and many others.
“In 2007, I also shot a language movie that brought in Aquila Njama as Director, with top-class Igala actors drawn from home and outside.
“I will like to ask, what exactly is mediocrity? The mediocrity that before Mercy came to do a film there was no film making in Kogi State? What exactly is mediocrity in this context?
“For me, the true mediocrity is one who was appointed as an assistant to the governor in a certain area, and instead of you assisting the governor to bring up ideas, create a platform for engagement and derive certain values, all you chose to do in your four years of appointment was to produce a movie. Can that make you a matured person?
“My pain is the fact that there is a general insult that is going around now that before this movie was produced there was no effort in film making in the state.
“Again, there is a sentiment they are whipping that I don’t understand. Mercy has not done us a favour by making Inikpi film. Mark you, other producers have made Inikpi in the past without any government sponsorship,” Mr Makolo Jnr. stressed.
The filmmaker challenged the producer of the movie to declare the budget of the film, “so that we would be able to evaluate whether the movie meets the standard of what has been brought to the market”.
According to him, by producing ‘The Legend of Inikpi’ Mercy Johnson is not doing any favour to the Igala people.
“There is nothing exceptional that she has done. Telling the Inikpi story is nothing for me exceptional.
“If Mercy was passionate about the industry, why are they making it look like it’s favour she has done by telling the Igala story? Is it because she is non-Igala?
“Tell me, did she do a favour to the Igbos when she was cast as Igbo character? The answer is No. It is s just because she had something to offer that was why she was given such roles,” he added.
The filmmaker, however, advised the government officials in the state to face their governance activities and stop delving into professions they scarcely have experience in.
“I will like them to face their government activities and do not delve into the professional sector.
“At what point has a government aide started speaking for movie producers in Kogi State?
“So, to say that there is mediocrity and Mercy has come to set the record straight is what I do not agree with. Let them go and check the records.
“If it is so much in the interest of Kogi State government to invest in the film industry in the state, let them set a counterpart funding and give other filmmakers the opportunity to come and access the fund and tell the world what they can do to, not by funding one person and making the others look like they don’t know what they are doing,” Mr Makolo Jnr. added.