76: Celebrating love, fortitude, history

The movie directed by Izu Ojukwu is a cut above the rest of Nigerian pictures


THE day you agree to marry a soldier, that’s the day you agree to serve with him,” Aunty Mary (Ada Ofoegbu) tells the new mother, Suzie (Rita Dominic) in a striking line from ‘76’.

Watching the movie during its exclusive screening for journalists and select guests Wednesday last week at Ozone Cinema, Yaba, it is easy to see why the third joint production of Adonis Production (Adonijah Owiriwa) and Princewill’s Trust (Prince Tonye Princewill) was warmly received at both the Toronto International Film Festival and the 60th BFI London Film Festival.  It is an excellent, well-made movie that touches on history – the 1976 assassination of General MurtalaMuhammed, betrayal and love. Most importantly, it gives an insight into the unappreciated lives of soldiers’ wives and acknowledges their fortitude.

Directed by IzuOjukwu – also a producer on the project – the fact that the production team was painstaking and didn’t rush (91 days was spent filming on location in the Army Barracks, Mokola, Ibadan, after the cast had been trained for 21 days by instructors from the Nigerian Defence Academy) all contributes, to this piece of beauty that movie buffs across the country will start enjoying in cinemas as from November 26.

What leads Suzie to Aunty Mary in the first place is the plight of her husband, the dashing but secretive Captain Joseph Dewa (Ramsey Nouah) who wouldn’t disclose anything about his life to his wife. An operative of the Directorate of Military Intelligence previously serving in the office of the head of state, he has just been redeployed back to the barracks.

But unknown to him, a coup plot has been hatched and his close friend, Major Gomos (Chidi Mokeme) has been tasked to enlist him by the ring leader, Colonel Aliu (Pat Nebo)amidst the domestic storm being brewed by his in-laws. Dewa’s union with Suzie, who is heavily pregnant, has not been sanctioned by her parents who don’t like him because he’s from the middle belt while they are Igbo. Suzie’s brother, Ikenna (Nelly Ekwereogu), recipient of Dewa’s generosity also turns out to be a wolf in sheep clothing. He not only tells his sister to dump Dewa, he’s also aware of the coup plot and enlisted to implicate him.

Having been made aware of the coup plot also involving his neighbor, Captain Jaiye, whose diva wife Eunice (Memry Savanhu) wouldn’t let him enjoy peace in his house with her loud music, Dewa wants no part of it. He tries to alert the authorities but fails. The coup happens and results in the killing of the head of state (General Murtala Mohammed’s name is not mentioned anywhere in the movie but a black and white video of his assassination is blended into the movie) before it is foiled by loyal troops. Dewa is arrested alongside the main coup plotters and his pregnant wife is induced into labour by the turn of events.

Aside revisiting the 1976 coup and revealing  military trade secrets including how identity cards and registers are important components of coup plotting, ‘76’ is also an enjoyable story of love, betrayal and a celebration of great Nigerian music. In fact, the soundtracks enhance the production. It is a great advertisement for Nigerian evergreen songs including Fela’s ‘Buy Africa’, the late Cardinal Jim Rex Lawson’s ‘Jolly Papa’, Nelly Uchendu’s ‘Love Nwantinti’ , Prince NicoMbarga’s‘Sweet Mother’ and ‘Aki Special’,   Victor Olaiya’s ‘Baby Jowo’ and Victor Uwaifo’s ‘GiodoGiodo’  some of which are played on radio while others are performed   at night clubs in the movie.

Seeing  renowned set designer, Pat Nebo, playing the role of an army colonel and carrying it off well with veteran actor, Lari Williams getting  a cameo as a barber was also heartwarming. The intelligent blending of archival audio and video materials with events in the film can only be a plus for the film which, journalists and guests including Senator Ben Murray-Bruce couldn’t help but applaud as the end credits rolled.