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One Day An Ant, The Next A Billion Naira Gi-Ant

Key lesson from Funke Akindele’s billion-naira feat
February 23, 2024
8:29 pm
Funke Akindele

The above headline sounds tame compared to the megaphone, shout-it-from-the rooftop idea I had in my mind. Not that anyone can out-promote the creator herself: Funke Akindele, the actor, director, producer whose film “A Tribe Called Judah” broke Nigeria’s box office records by grossing over one billion naira. Of course, this means that the amount has since climbed higher and is still growing.


Ada – Omo Daddy

Equally impressive is the fact that “A Tribe Called Judah” achieved the initial one-billion-naira feat in barely three weeks after it premiered. This is despite being amid highly promoted films like “Ada Omo Daddy” (dirs.: Akay Mason and Adebayo Tijani), “Malaika” (dir.: Steve Sodiya) and even “Merry Men 3” (dir.: Moses Inwang), which joined the party. Not to mention Hollywood and other foreign films that were being screened at the same time.


Merry Men 3

Yes, it was the Yuletide season. Still, a Nollywood movie grossing over one billion naira is no mean feat. The first film in Nigeria to break the box office record of getting to one billion naira, I believe, was “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (dir.: Ryan Coogler, 2022). Even then, it took “Black Panther,” which hit the magic one billion naira around mid-January 2023 after being released in Nigeria in November 2022, a significantly longer time than “A Tribe Called Judah” that was released mid-December 2023. And as previously mentioned, by the third week, the movie had already done its magic.


Black Panther 2 – Wakanda Forever

However, I must confess that the initial thoughts I had as news of “A Tribe Called Judah’s” achievement broke were not this clear and I was (definitely) not gushing. It’s possible this was because I wasn’t really shocked. Funke Akindele is no stranger to box office success with hits like “Omo Ghetto,” “Battle on Buka Street,” and “She Must Be Obeyed” which are direct projects. Not to mention films she only acted in.


With regard to “A Tribe Called Judah,” even looking in from the outside, one could see that there was an enormous amount of work that went into promoting the film. No one who doesn’t live under a rock can claim not to have been somehow affected by the PR blitzkrieg that heralded the release of the movie. Celebrities were out in full force on social media. The specially custom made A Tribe Called Judah merchandise were also hard to miss and I suspect there was more I missed.


Yet, before this gets misconstrued as PR and promotions being the main reason for the film’s box office success, there’s no amount of promotion that can push an inferior product to gross over one billion naira. Marketing can only go so far.


I hadn’t been planning on writing about Funke Akindele’s record breaking achievement. Nonetheless, what pushed me to write this was the surprising debate, though fleeting, that I saw online. It sounded like there were people questioning the veracity of the figures. First off, I thought these figures were from an independent source and that the one billion naira could be verified?


There were yet others who, perhaps, just for the fun of being contrary, wanted to criticize the movie, “A Tribe Called Judah.” I would be the last person to police what people should say (or not say) about a movie they used their money to buy tickets to watch, assuming all those people spent their own money in the first place. But the discussion wasn’t about the merits or demerits of the movie. What does a dislike of “A Tribe Called Judah” subtract from its over one-billion-naira box office sales?


This is also the reason I no longer waste time hitting my head against the wall, shouting hoarse, all in the name of critiquing or reviewing a film while the owner is $shmiling to the bank. There are exceptions, of course. I would write, just for record purposes. Or if someone I respect produces an inexplicably and uncharacteristically poor work, I’d feel bound to ask why. But I digress.


A tribe called Judah – Timini

I haven’t watched “A Tribe Called Judah” because it’s not yet available at my location. Even if I had, I would still not have focused on the movie itself at the expense of its box office achievement. It’s also because I have yet to watch a Funke Akindele film I didn’t like or, at the very least, liked certain parts very much. I like the fact that her films always have a message and some moral lessons. This used to be something old Nollywood was known for.


And, right from the beginning, I’ve always marveled at Funke’s ability to bring many distinct types of talents together: people from different levels of society, so to speak: from the big name to the not so big a name. It can’t be that easy managing everyone’s ego. Also, it must be said, for women, making any meaningful progress in Nigeria can be doubly, if not triply difficult. This is one of the many reasons Funke Akindele must be applauded and celebrated.


Speaking of being celebrated, Nigeria’s who’s who are falling over themselves congratulating Funke Akindele with the most puzzling being President Bola Tinubu. In early November 2022, while he was a presidential candidate, the Jagaban reportedly said it was an insult to “mention Funke’s name” in his presence: “Who is Funke Akindele before Sanwo-Olu of Lagos? She is an ant. Don’t even bother to mention her name in my presence. It is an insult. It is disrespectful.”


President Bola Tinubu

This was a response to his supporters singing or rather diss-singing about Funke Akindele at an event Tinubu was. All because Funke was contesting as a Lagos deputy governorship candidate under the PDP. Now, barely two years later, President Tinubu is beaming with pride and a ‘whole’ press statement was released by one of his advisers, Ajuri Ngelale to congratulate Funke Akindele. Apparently, she’s no longer an ant. Well, now she’s a billion-naira gi-ant.


If there’s any lesson to be learnt from this, it would be for the passionate (creative) person to keep working and not listen to or depend on the opinion of naysayers or the prideful. When success comes, as it will eventually, the ant-kissers will line up.


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