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‘Hijack ’93’ Is A Rare Retelling of Nigerian History

Charles Okpaleke’s Play Network Studios is fast asserting itself as a niche powerhouse in Nollywood.
July 1, 2023
12:53 am
Jet set on the job

With classic remakes such as Living in Bondage: Breaking Free (2019); Nneka the Pretty Serpent (2020), Rattlesnake: The Ahanna Story (2020), and Glamour Girls (2022) to its belt, Play Network Studios is venturing into the uncharted realms of Nigerian film history with a rare feature film, Hijack ’93.


Some four months after the annulled and iconic June 12 presidential election, on October 25, 1993, a group of four, young, male adults – with nothing but their guts, gust and toy gun – hijacked a flight headed for the capital city of Abuja and rerouted it to neighboring Niamey, Niger Republic.


Richard Ogunderu, the rebels’ default leader, and his gang members, Benneth Oluwadaisi, Kabir Adenuga, and Kenny Razak-Lawal were acting under the aegis of the Jerry Yusuf-led Movement for the Actualization of Democracy (MAD) in protest against the annulled election result.


Aiming for the rescue with the big guns

They held the Nigerian Airways aircraft and thirty-four travelers hostage for three days after releasing about a hundred passengers, including Chinese vice president Rong Yiren.

One of their demands was that the military junta under the leadership of Ibrahim Babangida should declare Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola (M. K. O.) as the rightful successor to the country’s seat of power. In addition, the hijackers demanded for the freedom of (the) press, and the prosecution of corrupt military officials who abetted the stolen mandate.  Otherwise, they threatened to set the plane on fire.


Their luck was only but fleeting, though.


Drawing them out with stalled silence and negotiations smokescreen, the Nigerien-Nigerian authorities assessed them, and determined the level of threat they posed. Finally, the aircraft was invaded by soldiers, and the young men were apprehended. At least a passenger was killed.


The “MAD” men spent nine years and four months in prison – alone in a foreign country of strange tongue, until their release in 2001.


This was the event Hijack ’93 is based on and, for all intents and purposes, it is a movie I describe as the first of a retelling and the retelling of a first.


The crew on set

Upon its release, it will be the first movie telling a historical event, and one which had happened for the first time in the nation. Unarguably, it would also be the first hijack movie in the country.


Hijack ’93 stars glittering faces in the industry such as Nancy Isime, Jemima Osunde, Sharon Ooja, John Dumelo and Efa Iwara. Although, this, understandably, has drawn a trail of criticism since it centers on ‘Nollywood’s Perpetual Sin’ of not casting fresh faces. Generally.


While I share same sentiments, I do think Hijack ’93 should be given the benefit of the doubt for one reason. Posting on his Instagram account, Charles Okpaleke referred to keeping the identities of his lead actors – the hijackers – anonymous until the movie’s premiere, and also mentioned their “fresh, new energy that … every movie needs.” We just might be in for a surprise of novel talents after all.


The movie boasts a line-up of ace movie producers: Rogers Ofime (executive producer, Native Media TV) and Agozie Ugwu, while Robert O. Peters sits in the director’s chair. Topping the fine team will be Nigerian-British filmmaker and actor Femi Oyeniran.


Hijack ’93‘s production will be the joint effort of local media houses, the British Film Institute, and the UK Government’s Department of International Trade, the latter being a body keen on facilitating, sponsoring and promoting the two home countries’ cinematic relations.


Crew and cast at work aboard airplane

This story, unique in its own right, however, will be another testament to Charles Okpaleke’s brand. It embodies his strength, commitment, and passion to telling Nigerian stories, as an insider, and he could not have stepped into the role at a better time.


With history scraped from secondary schools’ curricula, and the encroaching wave of Westernization through social media, young Nigerians are vulnerable to identity crises and a dearth of representation in art.


It is important, now more than ever, for Africans to keep the fire of their past stories – in all its gory and glory – blazing. Both as a reminder and relish.


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