By Macson Obojemuinmoin
Duke of Somolu Productions, the theatre production company, says that the stage run of the historical play Ufok Ibaan”, in Uyo last week, has brought a fitting finale to a successful year for the company.
“We have fulfilled our goal of being the most prolific theatre producing firm in the country with four large Productions with cumulative budget in excess of ₦100Million”, according to Joseph Edgar, the company’s founder and executive producer.
The ‘large productions’ Mr. Edgar refers to include Ufok Ibaan, which re-enacts, in song and dance, the Ikot Abasi women’s uprising of 1929. The protest, against taxes imposed by the colonial administration, was inspired by the widely known Aba Women’s revolt. The Ikot Abasi uprising is not that much ingratiated into the national conscience. A play like Ufok Ibaan is meant to plug the gap.
Other 2021 productions from Duke of Somolu’s stable include Aremu, a docu-drama on the life and times of Olusegun Obasanjo, former military head of state and the first democratically elected President of the fourth republic, written and directed by Ahmed Yerima, a professor of Theatre Arts and former artistic director of the National Troupe; Awo, a stage play, devised from a slice of the voluminous biography of Obafemi Awolowo, the high achieving first elected premier of the defunct Western Region. Awo was written and directed by Makinde Adeniran, the highly regarded director and playwright. Ibiom: When Doves Fly, another historical Ibibio play, is the fourth of the four “large productions”.
Whereas Ufok Ibaan and Ibiom: When Doves Fly, were staged in Uyo, Aremu and Awo were performed in Lagos.
Edgar enthuses about the turnout at the Ibom Hall in Uyo for Ufok Ibaan. “The statistics are so encouraging especially if you consider the fact that it’s a new market for us and that we were contending with the giant Christmas Village and other such end of year festivities for attention”, he says. “We pulled in about 5,000 people to the three shows, with the command performance pulling in the niche market we had targeted. As for the cost of the play, he says: “This was ₦28Million well spent. I am happy and proud to be a Freeborn, true blooded Akwa Ibomite. I’d rather be nothing else”. The producer explains that the production of Ufok Ibaan “wasn’t meant to be a commercial venture as sponsors like FBN, Zenith, Access, MTN, Ibom Icon, Ibom Air and Monty Suites plus Anchor Insurance amongst others covered the bill”.
Edgar apparently doesn’t have challenges getting his plays sponsored. “Prestigious law Firm Wole Olanipekun & Co have signified its intention of fully funding Sarduana, expected to be a staged biography of the late Ahmadu Bello the first republic premier of the Northern Region “The play will be written and Directed by famed Prof Ahmed Yerima who is already working on (another bio-play) Emir Sanusi which will be staged both in Lagos and Abuja mid 2022”. Edgar expects to have “President Mohammadu Buhari and all State Governors in attendance” for the command performance of Sarduana at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel on October 2, 2022