The silent parts of the screen: Lion Heart and lessons of 7
Very close friends of mine understand that I rarely watch movies, and that is because I consider them time-consuming. While returning to Nsukka from a research project meeting which was held in the Enugu Campus of the University of Nigeria, a friend and colleague asked, “Prince, have you seen the Lion Heart movie”? I was shocked that Odii Aloysius, a typical academic, had seen the movie, and I had not. I replied in the negative, though with a motivated interest to view the rightfully hyped Lion Heart, since Odii has approved of it. Odii finally helped me get access, and I am very grateful to him.
Watching the movie?
The last time I got glued to my phone watching a movie should be in 2012, which is traceable to my work life. So this time, at 2am, I had worked with my computer, completely exhausting the battery. Hence, I had no other option than using my phone to view the movie. This became a filler for the night. It was a marathon movie experience with narrow and broad smiles, loud laughs and frowning cues until its final moments. However, I enjoyed myself on the overall.
For the purpose of not letting this skip, I want to restate what every other Nigerian has opined – “Lion Heart isn’t the conventional Nollywood movie…”. It isn’t at all: The storyline, the setting and the development of the plot proved to be beyond what we have come to accept as Nollywood. Apparently, generations will keep viewing this because it has gone into the ranks of movies with limitless longevity.
1st lesson: Arrogance is a weapon in Igbo land
The movie came with lots of lessons I have tagged, “The silent parts of the screen”. To start with, the movie distinctively sold a narrative of the Igbo culture in one word, “Resilience”. This is among other theatrical attempts to correct the general perception of “Nigerianess” and “Igboness”. On the theme of resilience, the movie attests to historians’ description of the Igbo people as the arrogant bloc of the Nigerian society. The popular adage, “Igbo enweghi Eze”, which means “The Igbo people have no king”, was reflected in the contexts of Edochie’s refusal to cede ownership of his transport company to another even while in debt”; “Kanayo’s difficulty in taking up a company of a fellow Igbo who is in debt, heedless of a 3-billion-naira intervention”, and Owoh’s (aka Osuofia) reliance on the zest of Nnaji (Genevieve) to get the company working in spite of his position as supervisor. A selling point of this lesson is that when an Igbo man is arrogant, it isn’t for nothing. It is either to protect a cherished object from a prey, or to emphasize his/her relevance which is never compromised.
2nd lesson: Good men speaking up is salvation
The stereotype of Ndi Igbo being a dubious people because of their heightened love for material wealth, especially money, was captured in the movie. This time, it was reported differently, when Owoh, regardless of the consequences, prevented his Igbo brothers from duping a Northerner. This reminds us of the stance General Odimegwu Ojukwu took in the North when he prevented the 1966 coup plotters from having access to a section of the North, as well Aguiyi Ironsi’s effort in saving Lagos Capital from further killings while the coup lasted. These two figures had their actions in the interest of the country’s unity, disregarding the ethnic sentiments they could have otherwise protected. Owoh’s salvaging gesture in the movie can be likened to those of Ojukwu and Ironsi in history. Thus, inasmuch we have bad eggs in all tribes, the good ones still exist. The problem becomes when the good ones refuse to speak. Imagine the consequences if Owoh had maintained silence. Edmund Burke challenged, “Evil only triumph when good men do nothing”. This is a huge lesson for every Nigerian.
3rd lesson: No dead ends for Ndi Igbo
One historian in Emefiani’s book, “In Biafra Africa Died” described the Igbo as ingenuous. This means that they don’t get trapped in bad situations for a long time. They would always look for ways to turn circumstances into opportunities. At diverse times in history, this spectacular quality of ingenuity has been demonstrated. Two of such times are the constructions of the famous Uli airport and varied arms and ammunition during the Civil War. One more is the miracle of surviving Awolowo’s 20 Pounds to the Igbo after the Civil War. In these times, the Igbo people never depended on the government nor its resources for survival, yet they survived beyond popular expectations. How was this captured in the movie? The serial failures of the Nigerian government across board, alongside its policies, and how they have succeeded in putting citizens in debt and death have been a signature. This is evident in the movie’s portrayal of a government that would conceive a BRT plan to make road transport system efficient and suddenly renege. The movie portrayed a government that was insensitive to the investments and risks people would have already taken to benefit from the policy. As usual, just as the average Igbo man would never mind the government when it comes to the worst, but chart survival paths, Edochie, Nnaji and Owoh were consistent in displaying the die-hard attitude traceable to Ndi Igbo. They bounced back to business looking the other way. The Nigerian government should by this movie consider its ways and see how they can get citizens to trust them completely.
4th lesson: Grey hairs complement energetic muscles
The zest of the young and the wisdom of the old are two instruments needed for national development. At a time when there is the clamor for “not too young to rule”, it is important we also drive, “Not too old to matter”. We remember how this played out in Achebe’s “Arrow of God”, which had the energetic “Obika” in resolving an issue roping his in-law to a tree. Yet the case was without a lasting remedy, until the wisdom of the elders prevailed. So, imagine the outcome of the Lion Heart’s story if Owoh, Nnaji or Edochie had individually piloted the affairs of the company. Genevieve’s zest and high spiritedness complemented the aged wisdom of Owoh and Edochie. Therefore, young people should not be too quick to eliminate the role of the elderly in our sociopolitical space. Their relevance, money can never buy.
5th lesson: The universe attracts to us what we firmly and steadily think
It was quite marveling that with a 950million-naira debt hanging over the heads of the lead family in the movie, they still had time to chill, merry and converse. The family wasn’t tensed in any way. Onwenu still made out time to join her son, Phyno, in the studio, while Owoh still went about with his jokes. Who does that in the middle of crisis? Nevertheless, the movie reminded me of Rhonda Byrne’s book, “The Secret”, and its fundamental proposition: “Our dominant thought becomes our reality”. Taking words and cues from Edochie, Owoh, and Onwenu, it was clear they had a strong belief that the company wouldn’t fall. These positive signals, sent into the universe through their beliefs, did the miracle. It felt good that Nnaji learnt to align with this principle of being positive. As Robert Greene advised in his book, 48 Laws of Power, “Emotions are contagious”. For clinical psychologists and social workers, this very line in this movie serves a therapeutic purpose.
6th lesson: Language can be oil
Native languages work wonders in human relationships. We would often agree that native languages carry a mystery within that binds strongly. Little wonder South Africa, regardless of colonization, made efforts to insert its major native languages into its national anthem. Whenever that anthem is sung, we see how South Africans move emotionally to its lyrics and rhythm. Indeed, the story of a society is better told in its native languages. The power of language became the connection between the two business moguls in the movie. Interestingly, the Igbo man tend to speak more Nigerian languages than other Nigerians of various ethnic origins. This again sells the narrative of the “Nigerianess” in “Igboness”. At this point, we can ask, “Are Ndi Igbo more Nigerian than other tribes”? For want of time and space, pro/anti-Igbo may pick this for some debate.
7th lesson: Phyno could provide a template for restructuring Nigeria
Sometime ago, I saw a tweet about Phyno and how his 2018 was on a low. While I made a defense for Phyno, the owner of the handle who had been a childhood friend blocked me and told the world how he felt cool with his act. I never knew then that Phyno would be on the cast of this movie, and I bet this must have taken a whole lot of his 2018. To this end, here is my defense for Phyno, again: I understand that Lagos seems to be the hub of music in Nigeria, and the artiste that refuses to go to Lagos has the slimmest chance of succeeding. The centrality of Lagos in most industries, including entertainment, is quite unbecoming, and Nigeria can’t grow with this pattern. Young artistes without sponsorship might not afford the cost of leaving their residences for Lagos. The consequence amounts to death of crafts and talents. I can’t reliably say if Phyno has plans underway or at the moment to shun the Lagos syndrome. Although, paying attention to the scene where Phyno was likely in an Enugu based studio, accompanied by the legendary Onwenu, says something deep about Enugu relating to music. Further, if that song had emerged from Enugu, gaining validation of “Obiagu” through those awesome dance steps of his, it puts much glaringly the question of opening up the entertainment sector away from Lagos. Time is ripe we begin restructuring in every sense, and creating hubs outside Lagos. Gentlemen and ladies, if music takes the lead, it may serve as a template for other industries to follow in no distant time.
Conclusively, the movie, “Lion Heart”, though interpreted from different optics and languages, has distinctively put the Igbo nation and what they represent at the fore. Moreover, it reveals, the “Nigerianness” of the Igbo people. It has etched itself into undying memories and, so dearly, immortalizing our own icon, Chinualumogu Albert Achebe, whose ideas graciously dot its storyline. Clearly, this movie is a pride of Africa, a pride of Nigeria and, resoundingly, a pride of the Igbo nation.
I am very grateful to Amarachukwu Ochu, Chibueze Ofobuike, Ijeoma Asilebo and Jordan Okoro for their contributions to this article.
Prince Chiemeka Agwu is a lecturer with the Department of Social Work, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He is a researcher with interests in Social Policy, Health Systems and Migration. He can be contacted through [email protected] or +2347034437569