Jenifa’s Diary is arguably the most popular Nigerian TV series of this decade. It found popularity for the manner in which it was able to unite Nigerians irrespective of tribe, class and gender. Some of the charms of the series include its hilarity, relatable characters, catchphrases, and its lead character, Jenifa, played by the excellent Funke Akindele.
However, Jenifa’s Diary’s hold over its viewers has waned- possibly, the result of its going on for too long. It is now in its 16th season. To re-energize the franchise, showrunner Funke Akindele has created Aiyetoro Town, a spinoff centered in Jenifa’s hometown, Aiyetoro. Here we see the blue collar hilarity and rainbow-themed sartorial style that Jenifa brought to Lagos in abundance.
Aiyetoro Town’s first four episodes focus on the town’s upgrades and Jenifa’s homecoming. First, Aiyetoro is no longer a village, it is now a town. Also, there is a new Baale (Femi Branch) who is an upgrade on his predecessors—he is well-educated and digitally savvy. The Baale has a problem with the level of illiteracy in Aiyetoro and wants to fix it. He calls a meeting with the town elders to discuss his plans to eradicate illiteracy. It is during the meeting that we meet Chinedu (Camilos Orji Ibe), one of the series’ more likable characters. Chinedu is a thrifty Igbo man, born and bred in Aiyetoro. He speaks Yoruba well, albeit with a heavy Igbo accent.
After his meeting with the elders, the Baale sets up a task force to get a list of indigenes who can’t speak English so they can enroll in a free adult school he has set up. Another group led by the notorious Adigun (Ayanfe Adekunle) sets up their own task force and go around the town threatening folks who speak vernacular with jail time. To escape jail, you have to bribe them with cash or in kind.
Jenifa’s street sister, Laide, is now one of the big girls in Aiyetoro. She runs a hair and makeup salon. In her salon, clients are treated to unrefined twists to trendy makeup looks. After each job, she takes a picture and uploads on social media. Jenifa, who is now sophisticated, grows weary of seeing the horrific makeup jobs so she calls Laide to inform her she is coming home to school them. Her homecoming will reignite the rivalry between her and Aiyetoro’s other successful female export, Shalewa.
Jenifa’s Diary was appealing because of its hilarity, characters and lead performance; Aiyetoro Town is equally hilarious, promises more interesting characters and even better performances. Although overblown caricatures can be exhausting, the performances of the actors are so well done we can overlook them. Characters to watch for include Chinedu, Laide, Adigun and Bayole.
Laide has a wicked tongue she is ever ready to let loose—she hurls insults rapidly, effortlessly and comically, often at the expense of her coworker, Aina (Adedoyin Fagbohun), who is equally capable of clapping back. Their back and forth jabs in a sweet-to-the-ears Ibadan dialect come in plenty of doses but are always welcome.
Adigun is played by the Yoruba actor, Ayanfe Adekunle, who rose to fame with his role as Monsuru in the viral Ile Alayo. Adekunle breathes life into a role that will seem lifeless with another actor. Lastly, there is Bayole, an effeminate man who sells female underwear, played by Instagram sensation Broda Shaggi. Here, he is given a role that requires the energy of his Instagram persona but also one that allows him showcase his acting talents and he takes to the role with gusto.
Aiyetoro Town, much like Jenifa’s Diary, is created for watchability and not coherence. It comes with a great degree of melodrama but what it lacks in coherence and subtlety, it makes up for with pure comic entertainment. Aiyetoro Town’s first four episodes introduce viewers to the world Jenifa comes from. In the next episodes, we will see how she interacts with it after being exposed to city life.
Aiyetoro Town’s First Four Episodes Below