The Idoma people are one of the most artistic tribes in Nigeria, nay Africa.
Idoma, the second largest ethnic group in Benue State has a centuries-long tradition of storytelling in form of Alekwu poetry which involves the narration of history and legends using poetic devices, and “Ocha” – tales by moonlight.
In the olden days, storytellers and folk musicians enjoyed celebrity status in Idoma community as they were sought from far and wide by fans who made pilgrims to their residences to be entertained. They were also invited to perform in other villages, especially during epoch occasions such as coronations, royal weddings, festivals, wrestling matches, funerals, and private gigs for the echelons.
One of the most popular Idoma storytellers in recent times was the late Oleje Ona who regaled fun-seekers with his rich storytelling songs in Otukpo, in the 80s and 90s.
The themes of the stories usually revolve around honesty, bravery, wisdom, resilience, patience, hubris, greed, sorrow, war, and ultimately, death. They were also comic stories, especially the ones that have Ikinabo, the tortoise as the lead character.
This ancient tradition of storytelling set the mood for Idoma’s adventure into filmmaking in the digital era. It’s worthy of note that some of the most popular Idoma-themed movies, like “Inale”, and “Obiye” are adaptations of ancient Idoma folklores.
The Idoma-language movie industry gained prominence at the dawn of the new millennium. Some of the pioneers include renowned filmmakers Sunny Okwori, Manex Johnson Agada, and Ameh Comrade Godwin-Azikiwe.
Dan Ojo, alias Agwo or Edoka, Abraham Steven Ekwuma alias Anebi, Jane Odo, Emmanuel Ejike alias Chokoli, St. Godwin Ochala alias Ondaje, Comfort Ikwumonu, Trageel Ejembi, Faith Ada Collins, are among the actors that have made names in the Idoma filmdom.
The early-2000 movie, ‘Ihotu K’ije’ – The Love of Money – which starred late Nollywood actress, Ada Ameh, Mike Itu, and others was a pointer to what was to come. The director of the movie, Sunny Okwori outdid himself in his next Idoma-language movie titled Agwo Ml’Ochagwu. The comedy movie which has Dan Ojo and Ochakwu as the lead characters introduced most people to Idoma film.
Then came St. Godwin! St. Godwin Ochala was able to make a more direct impact because he set up his base in Otukpo, the metropolitan capital city of the Idoma Nation. His masterpiece, Anebi Ml’Edoka which was an à la Aki and Pawpaw, albeit a foolish version of the smart – mischievous duo – endeared most people to Idoma film.
Most Idoma people who traveled to their hometown returned to their city of residence with a copy of the crib-crackling movie.
The lead actors, Abraham Steven Ekwuma who played the role of Anebi, and Dan Ojo who played Edoka, became instant megastars.
Other Idoma movies that recorded some successes include “Ochanya, The Princess”, “Alekwu K’Idoma”, and “Ondaje”.
The most recent Idoma movie enjoying some spotlight is the 2022 dual-language film, “Akpa K’Oche, The Throne” produced by former beauty queen, Esther Daniels, and executively produced by ace journalist, Yemi Itodo.
The movie directed by St. Godwin Ochala has Nollywood ace, Abel Success Erube, and Esther Daniels as leads. It also starred Anebi and Chokoli.
Today with the gradual extinction of DVD players, the Idoma movie industry, otherwise known as Idoma Nollywood, is moving online. The lack of an Idoma Satellite TV channel has forced most producers to resolve to use online streaming platforms like Youtube.
Recently, ‘Ajoche’, an Idoma-themed epic series aired on Africa Magic channels for years.
With the advent of Idoma-born Nollywood stars like Lucy Ameh who played the role of Queen Amina in the Netflix movie, “Amina”, into the local native-language movie, the sky is the limit for the emerging digital Idoma movie industry.