In the 90s, Yoruba movie scripts with love concern came largely in two monotonous plots: the ultra-ridiculous theatrics of ‘Yemi My Lover’ and his Mermaid-like girlfriend, Moji; then the Ireti-Ogogo seemingly uni-directional love story. While the former appealed to a wider audience, the latter was more of the past-time of little kids and a few adults with infertile imagination.
In those years, Ogogo and Ireti stood out as the Yoruba film director’s response to Romeo and Juliet. Yet, they never for once kissed on the big screen, these characters. Ireti was laid-back but sparingly adventurous while Ogogo was self-conscious and overly rigid.
But the twosome was for decades Yoruba movie director’s default choice of cinematic lovebirds. Across these years, the choice worked like magic perhaps because of two reasons: the directors didn’t think outside of the everyday idea of love and romance and, well, the audience didn’t care.
If they did, many did not show it. More importantly, movie lovers of that era lacked today’s richer taste and cosmopolitan outlook, occasioned largely by the idea of the world becoming a global village.
So at the time, both characters chimed on set, the audience cheered and the director smiled to the banks—-it was a win-win engagement all round, or so it seemed.
But by the first half of the noughties, the Ogogo-Ireti cinematic love life came to a tragic end. On Friday, 27th September, 2002, Ireti died, altering the Yoruba Nollywood director’s default approach to characterization.
Despite their awkward bodily contacts and conservative theatrics, it appears that sort of chemistry would never be seen in Yoruba Nollywood. And events in the years after Ireti’s death seem to have altered this immediate line from a mere conjecture to a statement of fact, sadly.
Tall, confident, dark-skinned and allegedly handsome – Ogogo represented in the old Yoruba movie world what Odunlade Adekola, Femi Adebayo and Lateef Adedimeji perhaps represent in the culture space today. And, but for language deficiencies, the man could as well stand in as a summation of the trio.
He was at a time the face of the rampaging Odunfa Caucus, which had five impressive minds behind its formation and evolution: Yinka Quadri, Abbey Lanre, Rasaq ‘Araosan Pafuele’ Ajao (before he ran away for greener pasture), Kaka Odunfa, and Ogogo himself. Abbey Lanre was often behind the camera, exhibiting his directorial prowess; Araosan’s artistry hovered between comedy and ritual performance; while Kaka handled logistics.
But if Kura Matete (Yinka’s sobriquet) was Ogogo’s old time nemesis, Ireti (Bimpe Adekola) indeed was the yin to Ogogo’s yang. Of course, both lovebirds serenaded many wannabe lovers in an era when matters of the heart never escaped the ceilings of conservative ideals.
Ogogo, for me, does not excel in storytelling. Even in his heyday, his stories suffered from a monotony of plot. A fairly discerning lover of script would hardly spot any significant difference between Ibinu Elewon (2003?) and Omo Olomo (2004?), for instance. (This perhaps was an Odunfa curse though, as same could be said of Yinka Quadri’s numerous movies too. Abulesowo and Irunmulowo, for instance, have no markedly distinctive plots).
The all too familiar approach to characterisation, too, often subjects his stories to unintended placidity. But whatever he lacked in storytelling, Ogogo made up for in excellent acting, with fairly decent elements of verisimilitude.
Warts and all, Ogogo contributed immensely to the growth of Yoruba Cinema, within the limit of his vision and expertise. Odunfa equally produced perhaps the longest list of superstars in the industry, many of them regarded as symbol of longevity in the Yoruba movie space: Faithia Balogun. Funke Akindele. Ope Ayeiola. Bimpe Adekola (Ireti). Saheed Balogun. Bisi Komolafe. Toyosi Adesanya. Yomi Gold. Bisi Ibidapo Obe (Bisi Omologbalogba). Iyabo Momoh ( Mama Ajasco). Sunny Ali. Lanre Lemboye. Iyabo Ojo. Babatope Bayode (aka biggy). Keji Yusuf. etc
In retrospect, it’s tempting to imagine that Ogogo could have been bigger and better if he lived in another era. Yet there is a part of him that swings delicately between self-restraint and rigidity. Quite ironically, these two things at the heart of the actor’s appeal.
There, also, is this ultra-religious aura he exudes, consciously or otherwise, which may serve as virtue in some cases and barrier in others, especially in the age where issues of morality are increasingly becoming fluid. Should Ogogo himself be questioned on the place of time in his career trajectory, the actor would perhaps characteristically sum up the projections with the title of one of his most important works: Sababi—–predestination. He may even add that immortal line of his: (Wallahi Tallahi, Mo fi Olorun bura…). And he may not be overly wrong.
In the end, however the narrative goes, the verdict of history isn’t ambiguous: Ogogo stands tall among the tribe of Yoruba culture’s amazing contributions to Nigerian culture of film-making. Warts and all.
Omo adiye sun won sebi kuku loku,
kiwon to lo ata tan adiye dide oyan fanda
ILARO omo erin lonibu, omo efon lo nona…