Three takeaways from the season premiere of ROK’s new drama ‘Ojukwu’

Ojukwu

Last week, ROK 2 announced their new drama Ojukwu and, with a title like that, the bar was seemingly raised. Ojukwu is coming at a time when Nigerian viewers are appreciating epic, regal dramas on television (Africa Magic’s Ajoche has quietly becomte a hit) so therefore Ojukwu has got the potential to be a crowd-pleaser. Last night’s premiere is yet to set the tone, but it introduced us to a handful of characters in the village of Umu-Ojukwu, and its internal dynamics.

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The men wear loincloths and the women in hemp fabrics, with body markings and tattoos. It looks like Ernest Asuzu’s Udoka will be important to the story, as the show calibrates itself with time. Here are the three takeaways from the premiere.

It’s all about the Patriarchy

In the first few scenes, we meet Udoka and played by veteran actor Ernest Asuzu, who is been shunned by the elite club of men in the village because he doesn’t have a male child. Udoka is characterised as a man with a relatively large influence in the village, with lands and livestock. But he has six daughters so there’s that. Nothing says sexism more than the fixation on male children to carry their father’s name, even to the detriment of women. At a point, we see Udoka’s wife advising him to take in a new wife, giving him her blessings and support. “Have you thought of Emeruwa’s daughter?” Udoka’s brother Ejiofor (Uchenna Odoputa) suggests to him, “She has the right hips for bearing sons.”

Yeah, patriarchy.

When Sambasa Nzeribe’s Agu snooped up behind a woman at a stream and called her “aggressive” for her cold reaction

Women have never been safe, regardless of the place. In the era of #MeToo and the conversations on sexual assault and harassment, some men still don’t get it: how to approach women and how to handle rejection. Men, all of sudden, become babies and must be spoonfed the basics of respectful human interaction. On the show, Agu (Nzeribe) shows up like a creep from a thicket of forest trees, and makes his way towards Urenna as she stoops to fetch water from the stream.

Every step is creepy, and the scene is a study in the predatory behaviour of rapists and abusers. Urenna, who is the daughter of Udoka, looks visibly scared when Agu taps her and she reacts coldly. “Are you always this aggressive?” Agu says, still maintaining his closeness to her, perhaps hoping she will soften up. Men have always pathologised women’s reactions when they experience something uncomfortable, calling them “hysterical” and whatnot even when they are fully responsible for the trigger. “Don’t you ever say I’m aggressive again” Urenna dares Agu, and I just had to root for her.

The funny case of sowing wild oats

The premiere of Ojukwu is littered with African proverbs, and it’s in this regard that Agu is given a little more character detail. He is a wrestler from neighbouring village Umu-Anam, quite popular and purported to be a ladies’ man. In his home, a wizened messenger is sent to deliver a message: he’s been invited to a village to have the luxury of sowing his wild oats, for which he will be compensated with cowries and livestock. It’s an interesting proposition, one that we will get to fully understand in subsequent episodes. But I had to laugh when the old messenger says: “You are a wrestler with vibrant male seeds.”

I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. Also, Kenneth Okolie is yet to show up, which makes the next episode something to look forward to. You can catch it on ROK 2 on Mondays at 7pm, DSTv and GOTv.

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