By William Ikhianosimhe Orbih.
Up North was released in 2018; how come I am only hearing about it in 2021? Well, I have been so engrossed in books, pursuing endless degrees. I am yet to find them. Recently, I took some days off from my vanity. I went to the city of the angels, known in Spanish simply as Los Angeles, to a house with fully subscribed Netflix. One of the thousand movies I watched is the one above, with Banky W as the lead star.
Yes, Banky W; the musician, has stamped his feet firmly on the Nigerian music industry. We will never forget the vibes of Strong Thing and Lagos Party. We will never forget his Etisalat jingle; 080naija for life. And we will certainly never forget that it was he who brought the likes of Skales and Wizkid to the limelight.
But can anything good come out of Banky W, the actor? This was what I thought until I watched him star in the movie ‘Up North’. Bear with me, Up North and not Wedding Party was the first Banky W movie that I watched.
Up North convinced me enough that I immediately reached for Wedding Party 1 and 2. It was beautiful to watch these record-setting movies, especially with the hindsight of Banky’s marriage to Adesua Etomi that eventually also took place in real life about a year after the Wedding Party 1 was released.
Back to Up North and to a brief recap of the movie, in case there are otondos out there yet to watch it. Chief Otuekong, portrayed by Kanayo O Kanayo, is a rich businessman. For once, he is not into money ritual. Thank God! But he is, as usual, the rich and domineering figure, before whom every human being is nothing but a means to an end.
Bassey, his son, acted by Banky, is interested in the privileges that come with being the son of a rich man, but not in his father’s company that makes the privileges possible. Even more so, he detests his father’s highhandedness and overbearing control over him and everyone else.
The time came for NYSC, and Bassey found himself posted to Bauchi. It would have been very easy for him to get redeployment to Lagos, given his father’s money and influence, but his father wanted him to go to Bauchi. He intended, by it, to teach Bassey to be more appreciative of his privilege and learn never to defy his influential dad.
Although reluctant to go, it was not long, once he arrived, before Bassey found in Bauchi the needed get away from his father’s shadow. While in Bauchi, a lot of things happened to him. He found himself and found the love of his life. He found toughening and a sense of purpose in the opportunity he had to inspire four secondary school girls to state success in the tracks. Above all, he fell in love with Bauchi and with Northern Nigeria. He never left.
The significance of Up North goes beyond Bassey’s adventure. It even goes beyond presenting a glimpse of the North to people of (or at least, who live in) the South, which I think was the movie’s major purpose.
Up North is a movie that hypes Bauchi state in a way I think Africans must learn to hype Africa and anything that is African. In this, the movie does a most excellent job. I have been to Bauchi a couple of times.
I have friends in Bauchi, among whom are two of my classmates from Seminary; Agbata Chukwuka Raphael and Yohanna Irmiya. But watching Up North has further opened my eyes to the deep beauty of Bauchi state. It is not for nothing that Bauchi State is nicknamed the pearl of tourism. It will remain a pearl of tourism even if we are to take away Yankari Game Reserve.
It is even more significant that I watched the movie while in California State in the US. 40,000 feet above sea level, the lyrics of one of Notorious BIG’s song dominated my mind. ‘I’m going going, back back, to Cali Cali…’ the chorus runs. While ruminating what is arguably California’s unofficial anthem, I could not help thinking of Tupac’s California Love, the closest contender to Biggie’s jingle.
For all the profanities in the lyrics of these songs, they will always be classics. California owes these two hip-hop legends, who unfortunately died too young, eternal royalties. Their song hyped California more than Silicon Valley and Hollywood Boulevard has been able to do.
While listening to BIG and thinking of Tupac who both died at 25 years (one of them on my birthday), it almost immediately dawned on me that singing the praise of cities is not completely new to Nigerian music.
T Y Bello’s The Land is Green is a classic example. Where is that woman? Wherever she is right now, I just want her to know that her song is forever green. Recently, we can talk about Don Jazy’s Surulere, Olamide’s I Love Lagos, Don Jazzy’s Ojuelegba, and Wizkid’s recent album, Made in Lagos.
Although these songs (with the exception of Bello’s The Land is Green and Olamide’s I Love Lagos) were more about struggling and surviving against all odds than they were about glamourizing these places, they nevertheless put these names on the map in a way courses on Nigerian geography and history can never achieve. Singing about cities is one way to present them to the world and show the world that part of them that is often hidden.
This is what Up North achieves for Bauchi. It shows us many beautiful sides of Bauchi state. The scene where Maryam insists on showing Bassey the town before he departs was purposely included for this reason.
Remarkably, Up North does not glamorize Bauchi without also addressing some of the social-cultural issues in Bauchi society. It does not fail to highlight some of the cultural obstacles to girl child education and some of the obstacles to “northern” girls reaching their full potentials.
Very remarkable, is how in doing all these, it stayed very respectful to the dominant culture of the North and the many ways it has been influenced by the dominant religion, Islam.
At the end of the day, Up North helps me define what I mean by “hyping” as it relates to Africa. It means telling the African story, reclaiming it from caricatures. It means showing the other sides of Africa often ignored. It means being brutally honest as a prelude to putting in the work to put right the wrongs. It means being proud of one’s heritage and being patriotic.
A final word on Banky. I hope one day I will get to write on Banky the politician too. I can bet a million naira that he was rigged out when he ran for Lagos’ Eti-Osa Federal Constituency seat in Nigeria’s House of Representatives in 2019. I hope he wins in his next attempt, and I also hope that when he does, he does not turn out like one man called Desmond (if you add Idiot, na you sabi ooo).
Disclaimer: “The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of William Ikhianosimhe Orbih, and do not necessarily reflect those of The World Satellite. The World Satellite will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article.”