There are a great many Nigerians who are embarrassed by Ebonylife’s latest comedy “Your Excellency.” They are probably praying that it does not make it to Netflix. But it just might because slapstick is what sells. And in Nollywood, the more ridiculous, the better.
Call it buffoonery but Ebonylife’s latest movie, “Your Excellency,” has elements of truth. For one, Nigeria has a politician nicknamed the “Dancing senator.” And dancing takes centre stage at political rallies. You see it also in Omoni Oboli’s film “Love is War.” Because it is a fact that. Campaign slogans like “Make America Great Again” which the lead character in “Your Excellency” Chief Olalekan Ajadi (Akin Lewis) found admirable or Obama’s “Yes You Can” or well articulated speeches do not necessarily characterise campaigns.
The second truth about Ebonylife’s “Your Excellency” is that there are cinemagoers who will totally love it. They will love it because they are just like the electorate in the film who vote for Chief Ajadi because he promised a ministry of happiness. They are the ones Fela Anikulapo-Kuti described as ‘suffering and smiling.’ They do not care about story, dialogue, characterisation or all the things that make a great movie. These people just want to laugh and be happy. It is because of such people that mediocrity has become the norm in Nigeria. They accept very little and have very low expectations. Give this audience an intelligent story, they cannot fathom it. Mo Abudu the executive producer and co-writer of “Your Excellency” knows this. It is the reason why she continues to defy the odds and smash boxoffice records.
Ebonylife’s “Your Excellency” is a parody of Nigerian politics. Chief Ajadi is running for president yet again after a couple of failures. As a matter of fact, his serial failure caused his first wife Laide (Shaffy Bello) to leave him and relocate to the UK with her children. He is a huge fan of Donald Trump so it is no wonder that he named his party the Republican Congress of Nigeria (RCN).
Comedian Seyi Law portrays his running mate Fred Asemota. After Laide left, Ajadi took a second wife Kemi. Funke Akindele-Bello who makes her directorial debut with “Your Excellency,” plays Kemi. She is Ajadi’s cheerleader. Kemi and Frank are the only ones who believe Ajadi stands a chance at the polls.
Ajadi’s contender is the young and suave Michael Idehen (Deyemi Okanlawon). Micheal isn’t just articulate and with a well thought out manifesto. He is also from a family of politicians. His dad (Bimbo Manuel) was a minister.
However, Ajadi’s fortunes change when he is approached by the Democratic Action Congress (DAC) to become their flag-bearer. The DAC is not known to lose elections. But the powers that be work against Ajadi.
In a moment of reflection, he tells Kemi that he just wants to help the people. There might have been a story somewhere in there. Except that it is unfounded due to poor characterisation and storytelling. The movie never lets the audience into Ajadi’s world. Who is he? He is wealthy but how did he come about that wealth? Is he a man of great integrity albeit uncouth?
A star-studded cast who have no real roles in the movie further erode the essence of the story. And distracting sub-plots which lead to no conclusions. Femi (Falz) and his girlfriend (Beverly Naya) from “Chief Daddy” make a cameo but it is of no consequence. Alexx Ekubo plays a struggling musician, Kachi. His wife Candy (Osa Ighodaro) has a reality TV show called Kachi’s Candy but it adds nothing to the movie. Toni Tones plays a low-life blogger. She lives in the slums but on social media she pretends to be wealthy. Except for one encounter with Michael, all her antics do not advance the story forward.
Ms. Abudu has campaigned her film as a feel-good family movie. It is the same strategy Ebonylife Films has adopted since the release of ‘The Wedding Party” in December 2016. It has worked and Ebonylife Films has enjoyed a free reign at the boxoffice for three consecutive years. However, December 2019 sees two other loved producers, Ayo “AY” Makun and Jade Osiberu premiering movies on 20 and 25 December respectively. So, it won’t be business as usual. Even AY recognises this. And for this reason, his film “Merry Men 2: Another Mission” will also be screening in the US and UK.
As for “Your Excellency,” it premiered on 13 December. According to the Cinema Exhibitors Association of Nigeria (CEAN) it grossed N18.9m in its opening weekend.
Ms Abudu and AY have been the queen and king of the Nigerian boxoffice with seven of Nigeria’s highest grossing films between them. It will be interesting to see between Ebonylife’s “Your Excellency” and AY’s “Merry Men 2” which film rules the December boxoffice. Or if they will be dethroned by “Sugar Rush” produced by Osiberu.
Directed by Funke Akindele Bello
Cast includes; Chioma Omeruah, Eku Edewor, Emmanuel Edunjobi (Emma Oh My God), Helen Paul, Kemi Lala-Akindoju and Oreka Godis,