My favourite column will always be one in which the writer makes something out of nothing: She came in like a blast from the past and sat on an empty seat of a round dinner table next to me. She was served with Chinese food which she dissected with a fork and knife, slowly emptying the rice, noodles, shrimps and all the other “assorted” stuff into the bowels of her hungry stomach. Just like the glo advert in which she stars where she was heading for a party and was dreaming of eating “orisirisi” food by the best caterer and dancing to the beat of King Sunny Ade. Talk of life imitating art!
You know who I am talking about. Queen Amebo, the nattering, talk-talk, palm-wine-selling woman from Oja in the popular TV series Village Headmaster we all grew up watching in the swinging ‘70s. I am not writing this for today’s social media children of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but if they want to read it—na dem sabi. I am writing for their parents and grandparents who once watched Village Headmaster every Sunday night in that bygone era of black-and-white television when NTA was the unchallenged king of the airwaves and we would gather around our ancient analogue television boxes or peep from our affluent neighbour’s window to watch our chatterbox Amebo peddle her latest hot exclusive about happenings in our mythical “global village.”
This is the kind of evergreen stuff that brings back nostalgia steeped in honey, making one to wonder: “Where have all the good old times gone?” We didn’t have social media, yet we were happy talking, gossiping in our own space where freedom reigned. We didn’t have “hate speeches.” We didn’t have obnoxious laws that threatened to send us to the gallows just for talking or merely gossiping about who is sleeping with whom? Or who has stolen what? Or who has snatched whose wife? In those halcyon days, Amebo or Mebo-Mebo (as Eleyinmi or Funsho Adeolu in real life sarcastically called her) was a character played so well by Ibidun Allison, our own village “blogger” from whose “talk-talk” mouth every hidden secret was unearthed and broadcast. Amebo was our star reporter, the omnipresent newswoman without a notebook and a tape recorder but gathered stories with the zeal and professionalism of an investigative reporter. She filed her stories orally—with a caveat: “Do not say I told you.”
Amebo is the personification of Nigeria, a country that loves the sound of its voice. We love to talk. We talk politics. We talk religion. We talk football. We talk in the marketplace. We talk in church. We talk at beer parlours. We talk at work when we should be working. We talk even in our sleep. We talk on radio. Today, every radio station from Brilla FM to Cool FM to RayPower to the mushroom of stations everywhere, has an interactive programme where diverse audience easily call in, using their mobile phones. The same with television, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In our state and federal legislatures, it’s the same talking shop which at times breaks into raucous fights with the mace kidnapped or even smashed! No one can stop Nigerians from talking. We are Amebo country.
Queen Amebo, the epitome of our talking country sat next to me last Saturday at the 70th birthday party of Lady Maiden Ibru at Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos. God must have arranged it. The powerful old school music drowned our voices. We could hardly hear, but we still managed to talk. Like Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Amebo had transformed into Ibidun Allison. She had put away her gele, iro and buba, switched into Western dress and carried a “satellite dish” on her head for receiving and broadcasting news. You will hardly know her. But thanks to my wife who whispered to me Amebo-fashion that “the woman sitting next to you is Amebo,” the star of the new glo advert campaign of the same name. I introduced myself and she shocked me with her Queen’s English accent. So this Amebo no be illiterate sef? That was my first pleasant surprise. I asked how she feels being reintroduced to Nigerians and to a new generation of younger Nigerians through glo and she replied:
“It’s a good thing for the new generation of Nigerians to begin to know me and know what I do. I am happy about it and I hope that these people who now know me would see not just Amebo but would see the whole of the Village Headmaster TV series which is coming back to the screen. We just had a stage performance barely two weeks ago and we had a large audience and we told them that we are coming back. The programme by the grace of God is coming back.”
Will you still be able to play the role of Amebo?
“Why not? I should be able to. I will be able to, by the grace of God.”
What’s your relationship with Glo?
“Glo just decided to use Amebo because Amebo is a talk, talk, talk character. And with glo you talk, talk, talk endlessly. I think it’s a good introduction to their brand.”
How do you see the genius of Mike Adenuga in fetching you to advertise glo?
“Don’t forget I have been working since 2003 with glo. I can proudly say I am one of those who introduced Globacom and introduced glo to the Nigerian public in 2003. I have been their ambassador since then. Brand Amebo and brand glo are doing well. A lot of people are changing to glo. Because with glo, you can talk, on and on and on. It’s per second billing so it is easier and cheaper for most people.”
Have you met Mike Adenuga in person?
“Oh my goodness! Mike Adenuga came to ask me Ibidun Allison to work for him in 2003! He actually came to me. So I am happy. I think he is a nice person. And I think he is someone who is interested in the masses and want the best for Nigeria.”
Who is your own favorite actor or actress?
“Myself. Me. Ibidun Allison. I am my favourite actress.”
What kind of man is Mike Adenuga?
“He is an easygoing man but a thorough businessman. For him, the business comes first. He is very interested in his business. And to him, that comes first.”
On that final note and with the noise unbearable, I ended the interview with the legendary actress, an old wine with a new label, a woman who had brought us joy in the past and has continued to regale us today with her undiminished talent in a new vista of our proudly Nigerian telecoms brand. And kudos to The Guru and his team for coming up with this creative, original concept of an evergreen talkative character, reconnecting millions of Nigerians to an idyllic past and introducing her to the younger generation to drive their uniquely Nigerian youthful brand glo. This ad should win an award. It will. Like Amebo, Do not say I told you!!!
NEXT WEEK: LET’S FAST AND PRAY FOR OUR ANTHONY JOSHUA