The premise is all too familiar; starry eyed village girl leaves her village behind for the bright lights [when there is indeed light] of Lagos carrying the hopes and dreams of her entire family on her shoulders.
Of what extraction would such a person be if not the very epitome of Ibadan Mesiogo?
Claiming to represent the ancient town of Aiyetoro, she declares to anyone who cares to listen; Suliat Kan, Aiyetoro kan……. everyone in Aiyetoro is just like me!
Founded in 1947 by a group of Seraphim settlers who had left their previous dwellings after violent clashes with members of the Oro cult, Aiyetoro [loosely translated to mean happy city] underwent very rapid development on account of the hard work and industry of it’s citizens.
One of the most remarkable achievements of these people was the building of a seven mile canal linking the village with the then inland waterways.
They didnt wait for development to come to them, they made it happen.
Fast forward to 2008 and things have certainly taken a drastic turn for the worse in Aiyetoro…just like the rest of Nigeria.
The once industrious town’s flag is now proudly hoisted by Suliat, our heroine.
Jenifa is not so much a Nigerian home video as it is an event.
This movie happened on an unsuspecting nation and it happened it’s way across practically every class in our society.
I believe this was a lost teaching moment.
In my thirty odd years as a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I cannot remember [correct me if I am wrong] a single policy of successive governments that has managed to alter people’s behaviour without the use of force.
It just never happens…our central governments never manage to think that far.
You might say WAI [War Against Indiscipline] succeeded in making Nigerians cleaner people but that was achieved practically at gunpoint.
We promptly went back to our dirty ways as soon as we had a government with different priorities.
Recently I was reading an interview Oliver Stone gave about his 1987 film Wall Street
He said he had created the Gordon Gecko character to be viewed in a negative light by the public….perhaps even a hate figure.
To his utter amazement, the public fell in love with him and he became cool.
Today the famous line uttered by Gordon in that movie ‘Greed is good’….is now part of movie legend.
There is indeed a message in Jenifa.
But the producers are too weak to make it the central point of the movie.
They were too busy, perhaps unwittingly, glamourising the caricatures they created and disguised as characters.
They are shrewd enough to know that Nigerians love caricatures…..Baba Suwe
has had a long and successful career searing the caricature of the ultimate buffoon into the consciousness of Nigerians.
The list goes on… Dejo, Opebe Disable, Baba Sala, Alabi Yellow ….men who have made a career elevating buffoonery into an art form.
We do have a problem with the way our women are growing up having their self worth determined by money and money alone.
There is a social time bomb ticking with the amount of ladies on our campuses who are putting their body and their psyche through so much abuse to the point where it becomes normal to them.
The gratification is instant but the penalties are slow burning.
Simply put, women were not designed for the sort of thing they are putting themselves through on our various campuses these days.
We will begin to see the results of this when said women begin to have children of their own and raise a new generation.
Your guess is as good as mine as to how they will turn out.
The main problem with Jenifa as an event is that the case is not made sufficiently and forcefully enough that the perils of life as superficial as the ones on display on campuses are very real and damaging.
Gbogbo Bigs Girls [spelling correct?] is indeed made to look cool.
There is no hope whatsoever given, that the lifestyle of her crew can be resisted with any measure of success.
The message is that if you are poor and you come to University, you will be pimped and handed on a platter to some predator to have his way with you ..for a fee of course.
In this movie, the bad girls dont win but the good girls dont either!
And this is why I think a teaching moment was lost.
A chance to send a message to would be Suliats that you can come to campus and leave with your self esteem and dignity intact.
A message that this evil scourge can be successfully resisted even if it means such a person is the last girl standing.
The moment is gone now and we must wait for the next one….the event has happened…..but there will be another one.
God helping we will recognise it and make maximum use of it.
Movie makers should not shirk their responsibility to society because they they want to titillate and entertain Nigerians while making a fortune at the same time.
That, in my humble opinion, was the way it should have been Don Jazzied!
UPDATE: I think it’s also fair to say that the movie was quite funny in parts and made a lot of people laugh.
In these difficult times, I think it’s very important for Nigerians to get a good laugh now and again.