Lord of the Creeks… Another Narrative Of Nana Of Itsehiri
There have been tons of extant literature and perspective on the rise and fall of the acclaimed Merchant Prince of the Niger Delta Chief Nana Olomu of Itsekiri. In fact, historians like Peter Ekeh and Obaro Ikime have written extensively on the life and time of the revered king who is accepted as the wealthiest and most powerful figure in the history of the Itsekiri people of the Niger Delta.
There have also been several plays and movies, particularly documentary productions, on and about Nana, the fourth Itsekiri chief to hold the position of Governor of Benin River. A few movies like Peter Ihuguare’s King Nana and Abayoma Ikomi’s Nana of the Niger Delta have been made on the powerful prince. But most of them have merely focused on the events that led to the decline of the relationships between the Itsekiris led by Nana and the British forces.
Now, there is an effort to approach the story from another angle and indeed tell it from an African point of view. And there is a ‘son of the soil’ as some people would say, who is spearheading that effort. Enter the veteran actor and scriptwriter Mr. Albert Egbe. The actor, who earned the alias ‘Mr. B’ after delightfully living the role of the con character ‘Mr. B’, in the long rested Ken Saro-Wiwa television series Basi and Company revealed that he is at the head of a production team that is very desirous of re-telling the Nana story as it ought to be told.
Egbe who is based in South Africa stated that the idea to tell the Nana story on the big screen started as far back as 2007, a year after he was elected Treasurer General of African Federation of Filmmakers (FEPACI) which was then based in Johannesburg.
Egbe who has written so many successful scripts including Twins of the Rain Forest commissioned for production by Mnet in 1999, said, “I came up with this project as far back as 2007. It is a historical movie, an epic and it is really based on the life of Nana of the Itsekiri but it has been adapted in such a way that unless you know the Nana story you will not be able to connect it”.
With a title Lord of the Creeks that does not give out the main thrust of the narrative, Egbe noted that essentially the film has to do with the effect of the contentious Berlin treaty of 1885 which he summed up as “the allocation and distribution of Africa among the European powers”.
According to Egbe, “Our story is also about the attempt to enforce the treaty in Africa and the effect that treaty has on my people, the Itsekiri people who are the poster people of the Delta area of what became Nigeria. So that is the story we are telling”.
Although it will be shot entirely in Nigeria, Egbe said the intention is to tell an African story with an international connotation and also to make an international production that will match productions from any part of the world.
“I am telling an African story and the effect that a treaty that was signed way away from our knowledge has on us as a people. So it is really an African story with an international connotation. The idea is to make an international production, with a mix of Nigerian and South African actors and technical people that can compete with any other production. I have always felt that Nollywood has grown very superbly and we have reached a certain level now but in my own thinking, I feel we are still in the middle kingdom.
We need to move to the upper kingdom and I am hoping that with this production I will be able to contribute my quota in the effort to move the industry to the upper kingdom”.
Funding is key to this kind of project and Egbe said he was in town as part of the pre-production effort for the film, and expressed awareness that he needs funds to pull off such a huge project, saying he has plans on how to raise funds for the project.
According to him, “The story is Itsekiri story. It’s a Delta story. So my main funding will come from Deltans and Itsekiri people. But I’m also combining my funding experience in South Africa and also my experience in the U.K. So it is going to be a tripartite sort of unofficial co-production. There will be a Nigerian input, a South African input and a U.K. input. In fact, one of the actors I am thinking of using is Pierce Brosna with whom I acted in Mr. Johnson in 1990. So, these are the inputs I am working on in trying to make a rather special film and a statement that we can actually match foreign films and that we can actually produce something that will fly across the globe and screen at major festivals around the world”.
Funds permitting, Egbe said principal photography will commence “before the raining season next year”. He also stated that a few Deltans he has sold the idea to were excited about the project. “The Nana story is a familiar narrative and they want it to be told. It is not the first time this story will be told but the angle we are looking at has never been approached before.