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At 50, The Village Headmaster celebrates timeless legacy

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It was a ‘reunion’ time for surviving cast and crew members of The Village Headmaster, a rested television drama series, as Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) on October 28 and 29 celebrated them at the Terra Kulture and at the Freedom Park, both in Lagos, to mark 50 years of the programme’s creation.

Created by the late Chief Segun Olusola and produced by Sanya Dosunmu, who is now Olowu of Owu Kingdom, the television drama series was actually first aired in 1968. Dosunmu also directed the popular film, Dinner With The Devil, in 1976.

The Village Headmaster was Nigeria’s longest ran television drama. It ran from 1968 to 1988.

According to Director General of NTA, Muhammed Yakubu, who represented the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, NTA’s main reason for holding the ‘reunion’ is to ensure that both the surviving and ‘unforgettable’ members of the series get all the accolade they deserve from such a flagship programme.

Alhaji Mohammed said, “The Village Headmaster remains the first indigenous drama series in Nigeria. It became a tool for social engineering and societal building. Village Headmaster reflected our traditions, values, and ethics.”

Members of the programme, who have passed on include, Akin Olasemo, Sam Agbebi, Albert Olayemi, Chief (Mrs.) Elsie Olusola, Oba Funso Adeolu, Wole Amele, Femi Robinson, Joe Layode, Ted Mukoro, Dele Ogunmiluyi, Justus Esiri, and Enebeli Elebuwa.

There was equally a roundtable to commemorate the anniversary with the theme: Drama: A tool for national development. The jaw session, which held at the Freedom Park, Lagos, was divided into two, as a way of properly interrogating the subject matter, and also, recreating the vision of forerunners of Nigerian television drama/cinema narrative.

Rev. Bayo Awala and Mrs. Deborah Ukazuma interrogated the issue. Speaking on the socio-economic development of drama, Awala said, this deals with “improving the well-being of every individual in society through drama and it contains so that they can reach their full potential. The success of a society is linked to the well being of each and every citizen. We need to invest in people. A drama must have a theme, and we know the potential attribute of drama, engagement.”

According to Dede Mabiaku, a versatile artist and producer, there is a need to, “reawaken the government, and study the audience and the economy, more of programming and creating content.”

Dr. Christopher Kolade said that the quest to bring social economic and national development must be done with the integration of the younger generation and providing what is suitable for them through drama.

The theme of drama as a tool for national unity and development dwelt on thematic structure of The Village Headmaster, which panelists noted was not just a mere drama series, but an engineering force that was used as a tool to criticise political mismanagement, comment on social problems, question culture, debate religious matters, examine economic society, assist educational programs, assist health efforts, raise people’s awareness about conservation, and help solve of traditions, values, and ethics.

Set in a fictional village called Oja, the drama treated social problems and the effect of government policies on people. The television series was produced after Nigeria gained independence; it was the first major television drama with a cast ensemble from different ethnic groups.

The late creator, Olusola, told The Guardian, in 2005, the drama “became an institution. People in government broke their meetings to watch it.”

The programme had different producers like Sanya Dosunmu, Segun Akinbola, and Tunde Oloyede and for many years, it was on TV. The Village Headmaster's story is very simple. There is no educated person in Nigeria who had not experienced the village and the brimming cultural interaction and mingling that goes on in a typical Nigerian village where headmasters had become the future rulers of the country. “It talked about everyday things - matters like cleaning of the environment. The headmaster was seen as the leader of the country. Talking about everyday life in the country, health, education, all of the problems that affected the country were discussed. I was happy everybody quoted what the headmaster would say,” he stated.

The drama was on a mission to help develop language and communication skills. It encouraged children to cooperate and helped the young to understand the world around them.

To cap the two-day interaction, there was a command performance of The village Headmaster on stage, titled: No Vacuum. Tunji Bamishingbin, with Yemi Akintokun as Assistant Director, directed it.


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