By Yusuf Omotayo
When the Lagos to Accra bus opened at the state capital and was besieged by hawkers selling table water, biscuit and other items, it was like watching Lagos all over again. Only the presence of Kweku, who had come to welcome his Nigerian friends, Jasper and Romanus, convinced me that they were actually in Ghana. Another member of the group who should have been there, Nnamdi, was in Germany, or so I hope because you might never know with someone like him. He could as well still be in Nigeria while telling everyone he is in Germany. But this took place at the beginning of episode 2, so you’ll need to watch episode 1 to know where I am coming from.
Maybe I should have indicated a Spoiler Alert caveat at the beginning of this review of Episode 1 to 3 of Ghana Jollof, an original Showmax comedy series. I’ll be honest that I did not flow with the first few minutes of episode one partly due to the unfamiliar style adopted where each of the four friends is introduced in a commentary style. Each of them gives a commentary of their first meeting at Unilag. The ‘first class’ Jasper who had set his sight on graduating with high grades ‘after he claimed he smashed the jamb score by getting 450 despite the overall score being 400. He would ultimately graduate with a second-class lower.
Then there is Romanus or Roma, who wanted to go to a private university but settled for a federal one. He also claims he scored 390 in his JAMB exam but would ultimately drop out of school.
Nnamdi comes in as the stereotypical loud Nigerian who wears shiny but cheap outfits and jewellery but would not fail to tell anyone who cares or does not care to listen that he buys all his stuff from abroad.
Then finally, the Ghanaian Kweku, who Nnamdi accuses of coming to Nigeria because of a girl. Although he denies this, who would blame him when the lady in question is a ‘paragon of beauty.’
After the first few minutes of episode one, the narration style becomes familiar and would even be appreciated because it allows the audience to quickly get to know these four friends. I suspect the entire series would likely be built around them, which is good because they already have too much individual drama to keep the story going.
I was curious to know where the Ghana Jollof title came from, and the first time I came across it was when Jasper informed Romanus that he would be going to Ghana to stay with Kweku. The latter replies that he would also like to go to Ghana and ‘jollof’ with him. Incidentally, when they get to Ghana, their first meal there is the now-famous Ghana Jollof. It seems Ghana Jollof is now synonymous with enjoyment, although I am pretty sure not many Nigerians will agree with this interpretation.
The real drama of the series starts to cook towards the end of episode 2, where Romanus, who struck a quick connection with a lady he meets at the club, Effia, goes to her apartment for the first time. There he sees her father’s picture, a retired general whom he has had a brief altercation with earlier in the day and panics. Before he can leave, the father arrives with his military, and the episode ends on a cliff end.
This is one of the reasons why the series is undroppable. If you tell yourself that you will watch one episode and return to the next one another time, I am sorry for you because your chances of not being able to move away from your screen is very high.
Another interesting thing about the show is its unpredictability. It does not have high suspense like a horror movie, but the story keeps on growing and unfolding humorously with each episode. From the perspective of a Nigerian, I can not but see the similarities and differences between the two cities of Lagos and Accra. There is always a street food seller, only that the kind of food being sold might be different. Then the familiar stock character of the security guard who wears oversized trousers and doesn’t understand simple instructions and speaks funnily. As it is in Lagos, so it is in Accra.
The humour in Ghana Jollof is in layers. There is the type in your face, and you can’t miss them like when Kweku’s presence for the first time in the Unilag hostel brings down Nnamdi’s morale because suddenly, he isn’t the ‘biggest boy’ in the room again. Or when Romanus sees Effia’s father and freezes before saluting him only to go back home and tell Jasper that he handled the situation like a man. Then there is the subtle humour that the viewer can only notice because they are relatable or delivered in a sarcastic way, like when Romanus asks Jasper if his father is as intelligent as he claims if he is in the army. Or the fact that Jasper continues to intimidate Romanus and wants him to be forever grateful to him as his ‘host’ although both of them are in the same predicament.
Beyond the humour, an exciting drama is already unfolding. Effia, whom Romanus meets at the club, is Kweku’s ex-girlfriend, but neither party seems to know that yet. Kweku is also at the centre of an admiration triangle between his secretary and HR personnel.
The series brilliantly introduces the different characters slowly so that they become familiar with each episode. Basketmouth has outdone himself with this one as predicted, it may soon be his best work yet.