In the 80s to early 90s, long before Nigerian households were exposed to the joy of cable TV, the streets of Lagos were usually empty and quiet on Sundays, bar a few people returning from their places of religious worship. In fact, those ones also hurriedly returned home, in order to catch their favourite shows on television. The shows were unofficially known as the Sunday tonic, especially for their moral, cultural and socio-political messages.
One of those shows Nigerians would not miss for a handshake from their President was Feyikogbon, a Yoruba series that used a storytelling format similar to another popular Nigerian TV show, Tales by Moonlight. Feyikogbon (literally translated in English as ‘use this to gain wisdom’ or ‘learn from this’) first aired on NTA Channel 7, Lagos in 1978. It quickly became popular among Nigerians in the South-West, who gathered around their heavy television sets every Sunday.
Chief Sunday Akanbi Akinola was the brain behind the show. He assembled a group of young, unknown actors under the Abalaye Theatre Group. The actors would eventually make names for themselves with their rich representation of the Yoruba culture. Chief Akinola saddled himself with the Jimi Sholanke role in Tales By Moonlight, acting as Ayo Mogaji, the head of Feyikogbon village who sat in his compound and told the villagers very relatable stories rich in proverbs and valuable life lessons.
Several episodes of Feyikogbon were filmed in the Abule-Oke area of Ipaja, Lagos, where Chief Akinola had found an ideal village setting. The costumes by the cast in the show were also reminiscent of the fascinating Yoruba culture, with aso-oke being the most common piece of attire. All episodes of the series ran for approximately 25 minutes. And by the time an episode ended with the melodious chant: “Ere wa d’ere ayo, o di fere ki’le o to mo (our play has turned to joy, it’s until dawn before the start of a new day)”, you could sense viewers’ fulfillment and anticipation for the next Sunday.
Feyikogbon went on to produce many breakout stars including Yetunde Wunmi and Ajobiewe. Ajobiewe, real name Sulaimon Ayilara Aremu, became popular for his peerless voice when he recited the ewi (cognomen) and engaged in praise-singing. And in the Ipaja community where Chief Akinola filmed the widely watched show for many years, only a handful of residents knew that his real name isn’t Feyikogbon. Such was the success of the show.
Despite Feyikogbon’s success, many of its cast have struggled to reap the rewards.
Chief Akinola revealed in a 2014 interview that he had fallen on hard times due to illness. “I am old but still active. I have been sick for over five years, battling with hypertension,” he said.
It was reported in November 2019 that the 69-year-old thespian was in desperate need of N30 million to travel abroad for the treatment of kidney failure and hypertension which he has been battling for over five years. He told the press how he had sold everything and only stopped short of selling his house, a five-room bungalow in Ipaja he built in 1985, to cover for his medical treatment. He now survives on pension from the Nigerian Army which he served in the 60s.
A revamped Feyikogbon produced by Yinka Ogundaisi began airing on one of DStv’s Africa Magic channels in 2014. The show is considered to be one of Nigeria’s longest running Yoruba language television series.
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