The teaser trailer for the 2D animated movie adaptation of Cyprian Ekwensi’s “The Passport Of Mallam Ilia” was recently released. After freaking out over how awesome it looks (SO GOOD, YOU GUYS!), I started thinking of other Nigerian novels that deserve a place on the big screen. I settled on these 5:
1. An African Night’s Entertainment
Written by Cyprian Ekwensi and released in 1962, this novel is set in Northern Nigeria and tells the story of a man named Abu Bakir. After having his betrothed, the beautiful Zainobe, stolen from him by a wealthy man named Mallam Sheru, Abu Bakir goes on a journey of vengeance.
Revenge, desire, and lost love are just some of the themes this novel explores, which, of course, means that it has the potential to become a kick-ass adventure/romance/tragedy movie with a bit of fantasy (magic) thrown in. It would be a period drama, so imagine all the beautiful costumes and set pieces!
2. Soza Boy: A Novel In Rotten English
Published in 1985 and written by Ken Saro Wiwa, Soza Boy tells the story of a young and naive military recruit during the civil war named Mene. Growing up in Dukana, a town in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, Mene sees joining the military as the ultimate status symbol. He thinks it will get him attention from the girl he likes, and the respect of everyone in his village. However, the horrifying realities of war quickly open Mene’s eyes and he realizes how wrong he was.
The novel can be a difficult read because it’s written in rotten English (a mixture of pidgin English, broken English, and idiomatic English) but in the right hands, would make a very compelling film.
3. The Secret Lives Of Baba Segi’s Wives
“For Baba Segi, his collection of wives and gaggle of children are a symbol of prosperity, success, and a validation of his manhood. All is well in this patriarchal home until Baba arrives with wife number four: a quiet, college-educated, young woman named Bolanle. Jealous and resentful of this interloper who is stealing their husband’s attention, Baba Segi’s three wives begin to plan her downfall. How dare she offer to teach them to read, they whisper. They vow to teach her a lesson instead. What they don’t know is that Bolanle hides a terrible secret – a secret that unwittingly exposes the deception and lies upon Baba Segi’s household rests.”
Written by Lola Shoneyin and published in 2010, this novel offers an entertaining look into modern-day polygamous households, detailing the dynamics, struggles, intricate family politics, and conflicting personalities of the different characters. If that doesn’t scream comedy/drama gold, I don’t know what does.
4. Sugar Girl
Sugar Girl is about a little girl named Ralia who goes missing from home under mysterious circumstances (she gets carried away by a giant bird while on her way to the farm). After this, she proceeds to experience so much weird shit that Alice and Dorothy’s adventures in Wonderland and Oz respectively look like child’s play in comparison. She’s held captive by an evil witch, meets a creepy hunter, and even goes blind at one point (because every Nigerian children’s novel from the late 20th century was specially designed to damage their psyches).
Someone needs to make this into a fantasy movie and give that godawful Alice In Wonderland movie from 2010 a run for its money.
5. Purple Hibiscus
“Fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world is circumscribed by the high walls and frangipani trees of her family compound. Her wealthy Catholic father, under whose shadow Kambili lives, while generous and politically active in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home.
When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili’s father sends her and her brother away to stay with their aunt, a University professor, whose house is noisy and full of laughter. There, Kambili and her brother discover a life and love beyond the confines of their father’s authority.”– chimamanda.com
Purple Hibiscus explores a unique mixture of themes (religion, domestic violence, nature etc) and would make a very solid coming of age drama if done right.
BONUS: The Trial Of Jimmy Johnson
Jimmy Johnson is a twenty-something-year-old guy who has just returned from America after schooling there. It’s clear, right from the get-go, that he is a less than reputable character because like 50% of his luggage (which he has a LOT of) is full of guns and drugs. Airport security catches him the moment he steps of the plane but he bribes his way out of trouble with thousands of dollars (IN CASH) and expensive fabrics. He goes to a hotel and spends the night with a prostitute he picks up at the bar. The next day, on his way to his parents’ house, he gets stopped at a police checkpoint comprised of incorruptible police officers who insist on searching his luggage. After they find all his contraband, Jimmy is detained, taken to court, and sentenced to death in a trial so short it’ll make your head spin.
The Trial Of Jimmy Johnson plays out like a 71-page long comedy skit. It was probably supposed to be a cautionary tale for children about the dangers of joining bad gangs or whatever, but the message gets lost in the hilarity of the batshit crazy series of events. Someone needs to buy the movie rights from the author, Sly Edaghese because this has mad dark comedy potential.