African Outlook Online


WHEN LIFE IMITATES ART: The Wayward Role Reversals of Nollywood Stars


The Wayward Role Reversals of Nollywood Stars


By Femi Akintunde-Johnson

To most young people in Nigeria, representing over 60% of Nigeria’s fabled 170 million population, the ‘dramatic’ stars of television and movies are models of emulation, figures of poise and centerpiece of their admiring dreams.

As it is usual all over the world, the attraction of the make-believe world is so strong that many have been known to lose their lives and souls, get maimed or marooned because of their unrealistic imitation of fantastic antics, lifestyles and characteristics of their favorite stars. They attempt to imitate an imagined reality and end up hurting themselves, sometimes permanently.


However, in another environment, especially Nigeria’s version of America’s Hollywood – the great abattoir of broken dreams - our own Nollywood had provided the celebrity tabloids countless stories of scandalous and movie-like ‘nonsensicals’. What we read in our newspapers, magazines and social networks (internet) concerning the lifestyles and activities of Nigerian Nollywood stars suggest that our actors (of course, that includes actresses) lack the capacity to separate their professional roles from their individual private lifestyles. And we are not referring to semi-illiterate Yoruba or Igbo or Hausa language actors here. These are well-educated (many are graduates of Nigerian universities) or trained actors who live their lives as if they are permanently acting out a script – on and off the set.


In many of our home video story lines, you will see well-liked actresses acting the roles of cheated wives, lamenting the anguish of coping with treacherous husbands or an unruly girl selling her body to the highest bidder or being consumed by the greed of ritualists and wanderlust mad men. These images are well played and are steamed with intelligent and proverbial dialogues that are familiar with the reality of the Nigerian family institution.


Of course, we assume the Nollywood stories reflect a glimpse, if not a mirror, of what is going on in Nigerian homes and reality. Yet - and this is where the real madness starts - in spite of this role demonization of adultery, infidelity in marriage, battery and banditry in relationships, and all the nonsense that shake the foundations of trust, love and unity binding marriages and the Nigerian family; our actors and actresses have exposed themselves as victims of their own profession.


The beautiful actress who loses her husband to gold-digging hustler (or ‘husband-snatcher’ as we call them) in a well-received video, also does the same number on her colleague in real life.


We have read about big names like Funke Akindele, Mercy Johnson, Foluke Daramola, Mercy Aigbe, Sikiratu Sindodo, Bukky Wright, Lola Alao, Bisi Ibidapo-Obe, Mosun Filani, Tonto Dike, Ireti Osayemi (and so on and so forth) being openly accused of husband-snatching or nuzzling with another’s male-friend or jumping from one affair to the other in bewildering haste. In fact, some actresses go out of their way to regale us with sizzling nuggets of their pasts – riddled with childhood rapes, homosexual molestation, occultic tendencies, etc.


These stories seem crazy only to those who live outside the bog-world of make-believe. Or how else do you describe an actress who plays the role of a tormented second wife in a production this week, and then the following week, simply strolls over into real life and becomes another man’s second wife?!


Life imitating art?  That twisted logic appears to be the “reigning” thing in Nigerian movie world now. Every day, we are assailed with dirty stories of backbiting, fetish attacks, scam attempts, rumor-mongering… a Mercy Aigbe shamelessly claiming she didn’t snatch Bimbo Akinsanya’s husband; after all the senior wife doesn’t stay in Nigeria… so, who would take care of the poor man in the wilderness of Lagos? Such irrational thinking… such dysfunctional mindset has been performed by an actress called Mercy Aigbe several times in the make-believe world…that she now does not know the difference!


The other day, it was the turn of Bisi Ibidapo-Obe who waged a media war with the supposed “co-founder” of her pregnancy, ex- Hon. Dino Melaye. Like the usual soap opera, the combatants exposed lurid tales of sexcapades, treachery and Philistinism. Not once, did the actress or her supporters allow shame or modesty to moderate their utterances. And Tonto could wag her dainty gingers over her twitter keys chirping about which co-star deflowered her!


Did you not hear Lola Alao recently training young Nigerian girls the sacred art of husband-snatching. For real! She was quoted assuring us all that if a young single girl finds joy and love in the heart of a married man, she should grab the ‘’meat’’. Who cares about adultery? After all, where are the young single men? Really?


Where did we get it wrong? Perhaps overwhelmed by the gravity of admiration and vastness of her popularity, the Nigerian actress seems shell-shocked by her fame and incredible opportunity (some will say notoriety) to convert celebrity to dollars. She is lured by constant adulation and media frenzy, whereas few years earlier she was prancing from one house to another in a humble neighborhood barely clad in faded wrappers or towels.


To Be Continued…


By Femi Akintunde-Johnson (Writer, Journalist & Author); Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.