Teni Billionaire: Giving new life to a forgotten TV show and its host – Dotun Olutoke

On 25th June, 2017, the cash-backed TV game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, was called off Nigerian TV screens abruptly. The disappearance of the show signalled the end of an uninterrupted 13 years weekly disbursement of money to Nigerians and of course the end of “cashing-out” by the telecom sponsor, MTN. 

For more than two years now, the face and voice of the delectable host, Frank Edoho has also disappeared from the screen, appearing intermittently as an anchor at occasionally-televised social gatherings. To the millions that make up his audience, he is no longer the Frank putting people on the hot seat, mischievously making signature statements like: “Are you very sure?”, “Is that your final answer?”, “You just won 1 million Naira”.

But a few weeks back, Frank Edoho resurfaced! In the most unlikely of places. This time, he was seen putting one of Nigeria’s award-winning hip-hop star, Teni, on the hot-seat in the musical video, Billionaire, which within hours of its release trended on Twitter, with majority applauding it especially for its creative concept.

Billionaire, with its “aspirational” message, is an addition to the collage of songs like Dice Ailes’ Otedola, Adekunle Gold’s Pick Up, Burna Boy’s Dangote. As in these songs where Nigerian billionaires have been eulogised by the stars, the telecom mogul, Mike Adenuga and his billionaire colleague, Femi Otedola got honourable mentions in Teni’s Billionaire.

But more than that, the creative video headlined by the Uyo Meyo crooner is a near-perfect adaptation of the popular game show as it attempts to tell the story of an aspiring individual whose reality metamorphosed from aspiration to realisation in becoming a billionaire.

The video which begins with a scene of elderly people in a gay mood and children dressed for an event transitions almost immediately to Teni singing the following lines as she is teleported to an imaginary island where there is wind-fall of cash:

                                                Wanna make love on the moon dancing to my tunes.

                                                Is it too much?

                                                It’s not too much

                                                I wanna be on Forbes list

                                                If wishes were horses, is it too much

As the singer is seen animated on the front cover and inner pages of the coveted Forbes List, the tone of the song Billionaire turns boastful at the same pace as the lyrics turns to Yoruba. The aspiring billionaire claims to be an offspring of a King and by reason of her status, she is not meant to entertain fear or show signs of cowardice.

The subsequent scenes present a determined Teni studying hard for an examination with legs dipped in water before the video transits to the big-day on a big stage, where she is a guest of on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

The resort to seeking help from the eccentric comedian, Brother Shaggi, builds up the climax in the music story with Frank Edoho in his characteristic manner creating tension and suspense as the hot-seater awaits her fate. The raptorous celebration that follows the announcement of Teni as the winner of $1 billion dollars draws the curtain on the musical piece.

While Billionaire delivers brilliantly in almost pristine visuals and metallic audio, it oscillates between a contemporary hip-hop song and an archetypal Nollywood grass to grace vehicle.   

Even though Broda Shaggi is characteristically overdramatic, his input in the video provides comic relief.

The musical video could have appealed to a more linguistically-diverse local and international audience if the renditions in Yoruba are subtitled in English. Perhaps, it won’t hurt anyone if the featured Dream Catchers girls admired by Rihanna, Naomi Campbell and Diddy have been given some seconds to display their dance artistry.

Billionaire video is a beautiful creation that applies original thinking to bring back memories of an almost-forgotten TV series. Even if Teni might not successfully resurrect Frank Edoho, she has no doubt set up the director, T.G. Tomori for accolades while Teni herself awaits awards bigger than the Headies.     

Dotun Olutoke is a recovering writer interested in grassroot advocacy, multimedia documentary and forgotten histories.

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