10 Iconic Yoruba Nollywood Characters

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Before the relatively recent era of New Nollywood productions as Ayinla, King of Thieves (Ageshinkole), Anikulapo and Elesin Oba: The King’s Horseman, the Yoruba wing of Nollywood has thrived mainly by numbers and have stood the test of time as its early filmmakers (e.g. Gbenga Adewusi, Yekini Ajileye, etc.) were part of its development in considerable and impressionistic ways. Also, while this part of the industry has experienced tremendous growth, for instance a transformation from measly budgeted productions and shoddy storylines into well-bankrolled films with meticulously drawn plots,  the way characters are represented has improved as well. In spite of these changes, there are certain characters that longstanding fans of Yoruba Nollywood will forever remember because those characters have become permanently associated with the legendary actors that played them. Here, we go down memory lane and recall ten such characters.



Abija (also hailed as “Abija wara bi ekun”) is a powerful traditional warlord who is often kept company by a dwarfish, ghommid-like being called Ajan. Abija is so possessed of magical powers that he had a charm through which he communicated with Ajan in a manner similar to that of a telephone conversation. This character was played by the legendary actor Tajudeen Oyewole in movies he featured in from the 80s till the 2000s, which include Opa Aje, Koto Orun, Koto Aye, Aro Meta, Ija Eleye and Ipadabo Abija. In Yekini Ajileye’s Koto Aye, Abija, assisted by Ajan, faces and defeats a council of witches that held the village in their clutches and were bent on killing Oba Adedapo. Usually, Abija does not die in movies as he plays a messianic role and uses his diabolical advantage to conquer ruthless terrestrial forces. 


Abeni Agbon

Abeni Agbon (Abeni the wasp) is a character that dates back to the 80s and has appeared in Ajileye productions amongst other movies. Also in possession of diabolical powers, this female character played by Toyin Oladiran often used her powers for evil missions. Abeni Agbon appeared in Koto Aye and was the titular character in Segilola Abeni Agbon, in both cases playing the role of a witch that kills the twins of a woman that refused her naming ceremony food. Abeni Agbon is often a highly-placed witch in the coven as a leader or an assistant leader and, unlike other smaller witches, is difficult to defeat.


Iya Gbonkan

A villainous character, the presence of  Iya Gbonnkan produces nothing but hate and evil. This character played by Margaret Bandele Olayinka looks fearsome. She is an unrepentant witch in movies and has featured in Koto Orun and Koto Aye. In Koto Orun, while being the Olori Emere, another character, Koledowo referred to her as “Iya Gbonkan”. The movie was a horror-inspiring watch as, under her leadership in the occult, one of her subjects killed the eight children of a man. Although diminutive in stature, Iya Gbonkan was capable of sending chills of fear down the spines of other non-occultic characters and even the audience due to her demeanour. 


Dejo Tunfulu

Dejo Tunfulu was a dimwitted comic character played by the late Kunle Adetokunbo. He was known for stammering and a painfully slow speaking pattern that inspired moments of hilarity. Acquiring the name from the movie titled Aje ni iya mi, the character has proceeded to become one never to be forgotten by fans of the industry. It is also interesting to note that in many of the movies the actor appeared in, he was cast in the same role as Dejo. Some of the movies and shows in which Dejo appeared are Yemi My Lover (1993), Ito (2008) Omo Oran and, most recently before the actor’s death, Jide Jendo (2020). Often, it was difficult to separate the actor from the character because even when the actor wasn’t necessarily named “Dejo”  in particular films, he reprised the regular Dejo personality. 


Mama No Network

Kudirat Soyemi is responsible for the role of Mama No Network, a clownish female character with a hearing impairment. As a character, Mama No Network struggles to hear what people around her say because she has “no network” in her ears. It would require repetitive efforts at a close range for any character who wishes to engage her in a conversation to actually get her to understand. Often, she would mishear and misinterpret the person having a conversation with her and the moments in which she provides the wrong responses during such interactions provoke laughter and fun from the audience. With her signature catchphrase “Enipe”, Mama No Network urges speakers to repeat themselves as she strains her ears to listen. Having risen to prominence through Bolaji Amusan’s (Mr. Latin) movie Lagos To Benin, the character has appeared in several movies and comedy skits.



In 2008, Funke Akindele starred as the lead and titular actress in the comedy movie Jenifa produced by Olatunji Balogun and directed by Muhideen Ayinde. The movie proved to be a significant point for Akindele as it brought her more fame and earned her the Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role at the 2009 African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA). Since then, the character has stuck in the minds of fans. Jenifa is a wannabe Yoruba lady who moved from the village to the city and struggled to blend in. With a trademark local accent that often soiled her pronunciation of English words, the character of Jenifa has been reprised in follow-ups such as The Return of Jenifa (2011) and the currently running television comedy series Jenifa’s Diary.



This comical character is associated with Femi Adebayo in the Jelili franchise first released as Jelili (2011). Produced by the actor himself and directed by the duo of Tope Adebayo and Adebayo Salami, the movie tells the story of Jelili, a young man who prides himself as a local champion while he goes about causing mischief. Although the character does not have the same cult status as other Yoruba characters, it has been considered the most challenging yet fanciful role undertaken by the actor. Following the success of the initial releases of Jelili 1 & 2, Femi Adebayo re-invoked the character in Survival of Jelili as a young man who aspires to high social status as he tries luck with different professions. 


Fadeyi Oloro

Fadeyi Oloro was mostly a war general or a powerful, charms-loaded traditionalist who commanded fear in whatever movie he appeared in. This character, played by late Ojo Arowosafe, usually had a makeup-enabled sooty face and was in possession of countless incantations wherever he delivered his performance as a herbalist or warrior. Fadeyi first appeared in the Yoruba TV show Arelu which hit the airwaves in 1987, with the character being the villain who relied on “juju” to fight anyone who got on his nerves. Also taking up villainous roles in other Yoruba movies like Jagun Ina and Inu Bibi, the character was fully established as a force to reckon with in the Yoruba shows and video films universe.


Sunday Dagboru

Although Odunlade Adekola was already well known in the industry as far back as Ishola Durojaiye’s 2003 movie Asiri Gomina Wa, before the production of the movie in which he played the titular role of Sunday Dagboru, the iconic character made people see him in a new light, and the name stuck for years as a cognomen. In the 2015 Yoruba film, Sunday Dagboru was a trouble-making character who commanded respect on the streets and was known for his deadly punches. Fans believe that the film character was worth remembering and will go down in history as a crucial point in the artistic becoming of Odunlade. 


Pastor Ajidara

Pastor Ajidara was a character portrayed by the late Adesina Adesanya during his lifetime as a veteran in the Yoruba film industry. The character appeared in the 2003 movie Abela Pupa, produced by Ebun Oloyede (Olaiya Igwe) and has appeared in other movies mostly as a false, questionable prophet.


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