BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
The message of this 2012 movie is unambiguous: Be nationalistic. Never fancy the idea of travelling abroad. Turn down international offers; I mean, what can any other nation offer you that you cannot find in Nigeria? Oh, and say it again and again ‘Nigeria is the best country!’. Say it one more time. Good.
With its preachy plot and characters who seem a tad naive, Elvis Chuks’ True Citizens tells a story of loyalty to the Nigerian cause. Six friends who share an apartment have varied interests which they pursue with tenacity and determination to succeed. Although most of them are given opportunities to further their interests outside the country, they turn them down, insisting that Nigeria is where their dreams must be actualized. Solomon (Kenneth Okolie) is a police officer, sworn to the truth and a leader to the friends. Obinna (Uti Nwachukwu) is a writer. Scripture (Brian Okwara) is a musician who also works as a help to make ends meet and has a girlfriend he adores, Gabriella (Clara Iweh). Kola (Alexx Ekubo) is a basketballer, Akpors (Melvin Oduah) is a soccer player, and Jubril (Vitalis Ezeiruaku) is a martial artist.
When Solomon is murdered by an aggrieved wealthy criminal, the friends are terribly shaken and are at the brink of giving up on their dreams when Jubril has a trance and sees Solomon encouraging him. He motivates his friends and they go on to accomplish their goals in Nigeria, coining a name for themselves: True Citizens.
Having all these celebrities who have represented Nigeria in one competition or the other star together in one film is no small feat. Watching an avalanche of fine young faces can be exciting too, but it quickly gets tiring when there is no corresponding storyline to go with. Laden with too many holes and an overenthusiastic message, the plot of True Citizens is poor, its good intentions notwithstanding.
We spend the first few minutes watching each one of the friends showcase their skills again and again. Then there’s a focus on Scripture who is being seduced by his boss’ daughter, Juliet (Claret Onukogu). Gabriella gets jealous and breaks up with him. Solomon also goes over to a house alone in the middle of the night to arrest a man with a band of guards, and all he has is a pistol. Then he dies and out of the blue, a proclamation is made that he was to be made the Assistant Inspector General of Police shortly before his demise and they would like to transfer the post to his friend Jubril who isn’t even in the police force. Where on earth is this done? As if that isn’t tacky enough, the DPO for the state is found trading words with his subordinate time and again, and at the news of the latter’s death, he is arrested for murder. I like to think the protocol for arrest is done differently but well, we move on.
Then some man has a dream and comes to tell the police to release the culprit because he is certain he’s innocent? And they oblige him? Are you actually playing with me right now?
Somewhere in the movie, Obinna the writer is locked behind iron bars to prevent his teeming admirers from causing a stampede of some sort as they clamor for his autograph, and what does he autograph? A number of pamphlets, looking like loose pages of a children’s book! And he’s supposed to be a renowned bestselling author? Wow!
And then the love/kissing scenes are just perfect for eye-rolling. The chemistry is near zero between Scripture and Gabriella, and the lyric exchanges seem like recitals, barely heartfelt. Props must be given, however, for the believable camaraderie among the friends. It is one of the few highpoints amidst the downers.
I’m guessing Akpors is named so because he is meant to be comical, but his dry humor won’t let him be great. Melvin Oduah isn’t about to be actor of the year; his forced acting gives him away. Vitalis, who isn’t remotely the best actor of the lot is also made to man a major role in this movie, causing one to wonder if he has family ties with the producer. And t would seem like the movie couldn’t find a good place to end, and so began to stretch unnecessarily.
Again, I’d say True Citizens has a lot of good intentions in its writing; palpable ones too. To say it is realistic, however, is another matter entirely. Turning down an opportunity with some of the best teams in the world because you believe in your country just doesn’t seem plausible to me. Scratch. It is plain unwise. Why then are we proud when we have Nigerians making things happen on the foreign scene? Shouldn’t we just preach ‘Stay at home and shine’? Looks like someone’s definition of patriotism is misplaced.
The production seems tawdry, the acting so-so, and while the movie might bag Federal Government awards, it’s a little too patronizing; too sugary, too salty and just not quite right.