“The Village Headmaster” is back with large doses of nostalgia – Peju Akande

I grew up watching the Village Headmaster on NTA. Then it was about the only television station in Nigeria. We didn’t have much choice regarding what to view but the little choices we had were worth the limited opprtunities; Village Headmaster, Samanja, Iche Oku, Magana ja ri ce, Cock Crow at Dawn…then came soap operas like Ripples, Checkmate…

However, the Village Headmaster series was not just one of my favourite, it was one the entire family looked forward to sitting down to watch. Every week, we the kids hurried to do our chores in order to be seated at 8 pm on Sundays  to watch the Village Headmaster, nobody wanted to miss the show.

It was heartening to hear that the show is back on screen with Globacom as sponsor and it was particularly exciting for me to watch the first episode that aired on 24 April on NTA.

There were characters that stood out for me back then in the 80s and 90s when the show was hot on TV. Though many of the people who embodied these characters are now late, a few made a comeback in the one that aired on 24 April; namely, Kabiyesi, Teacher Fadele, Amebo and Oloye Dagbolu.

Now, some of these characters were a delight back in the day and I look forward to seeing them again; first off; Kabiyesi, the Oloja of Oja village, where the story is situated. He is an old and bent elderly man played by Dejumo Lewis; though Lewis was much younger when he played Kabiyesi in the 70s and 80s, his character, as an aged Oba, had a ritual every time he came from the inner chamber to climb his three stepped throne. He would come out slowly, waving his horse tail, then he would face his throne, shuffle back; then shuffle forward, then back again before taking the steps to his throne. He always did that!

There was Chief Eleyinmi, who never let anyone forget he was Second in Command to Kabiyesi. This was played by late Funso Adeolu back in the day. Eleyinmi was a man whose hands were always hidden inside the folds of his billowing agbada. He always had an opinion which he expressed in highfalutin speeches to the chagrin of everyone in the palace. He was prone to wild gesticulations every time he spoke but never once did viewers see his hands. He made fun of his peers, often mocking them and giving them nicknames that stuck fast… he coined the expression- “hunter of rats and rabbits,” fo Bonnyface, he coined- bonny-mouth, bonny-ears. He was a hilarious character whom we enjoyed watching. He always attacked his fellow palace chieftain, Counsellor Balogun played by the late Wole Amele.

Sisi Clara was another character of note; she was a psychedelic woman, who was a seamstress with several girls apprenticing in her shop. This role was played by the late Elsie Olusola. Sisi Clara was close friends with Amebo the village gossip and many times the first to hear any gossip going around the village courtesy of her friend, Amebo.

Amebo was and is still played by Ibidun Alison; this character’s name became a byword for gossip. I’m not sure what a gossip was called before the character so embodied the name, it became a local expression for a tale bearer.

There was Bonnyface, a dim witted apprentice in an all-purpose shop where medicines and provisions were sold. The shop was owned by Bassey Okon, a cantankerous man who always had an opinion on everyone and every matter. He was famous for muttering “choi, choi, choi…before uttering what astounds him!

The first episode of the new look Village Headmaster saw old viewers rekindling their love for the show they watched over two decades ago, it’s more heartening that the likes of Oloja, Amebo, Teacher Fadele and Eleyinmi’s characters have returned.

Then again, while it is pleasing to see some of the old characters back, it was kind of disappointing that the new people playing the old characters will not display the idiosyncrasies their old colleagues demonstrated while playing the characters. For instance, Eleyinmi’s hands were never seen!

The new Eleyinmi, played by Jide Kosoko, is a “show of hands” man.

The Kabiyesi seems to have mastered the art of climbing his throne, no more shuffling back and forth

It is hoped that the producers, mindful of what nostalgia they have stirred in bringing this much loved show back to the screen will also not completely erase what made us fall in love with the show in the first place.

Then again, it’s early days yet, fingers crossed while we await the next few episodes before either giving a thumbs up or down for this show.


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