Culture Custodian Ranking: The 10 Most Iconic Characters in Nollywood History

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Whether you’re a Nollywood fan or not, you can’t escape nor deny the roles that a lot of its characters play in shaping popular culture. From the crazy characters you love, to the evil ones you love to hate, Nollywood has managed to create pretty memorable characters. These are characters that have–against all odds–etched themselves into our memories and found a permanent place in our hearts. With their humor, fierceness, and charisma, these characters are ultimately iconic because of how they’ve successfully tugged on our heartstrings while serving as a point of reference to quality entertainment in the movie scene.

Honorable mention:

 Bayo Bankole and Victor Oyebode as Boy Alinco

The Nigerian sitcom Papa Ajasco and Company which started airing in 1996 had a number of interesting characters and Boy Alinco is one of them. Played by Bayo Bankole, Boy Alinco is a character you can’t get enough of.  With his trademark one step backwards and two steps forward move, unique dress sense and numerous pick up lines, Boy Alinco is a crazy but lovable character. Papa Ajasco and Company is a show that made the childhood of most 90s Nigerian kids, and Boy Alinco’s presence on the show was definitely part of the fun. The skinny, suspenders wearing character possessed the ability to make you both chuckle uncontrollably and focus intensely when he came on screen. 

10. Reminisce as Makanaki in King of Boys

When Reminisce, fondly called ‘Alaga’ and ‘Baba Hafusa’ by his fans was cast as Makanaki in Kemi Adetiba’s crime thriller King of Boys, many worried that the talented rapper had been cast in a token role only to generate publicity for the movie, and drive his fans and possibly haters to the cinemas; a move not unknown in Nollywood where star-studded casts are used to fill up multiple plot holes and distract the audience from the hullabaloo happening onscreen. However, from Makanaki’s, aka Maka, first appearance on screen as top henchman turned rogue, he was nothing less than magnetizing. His villainous character was so iconic that even though the audience could have sworn that he died in the final scenes of the movie, the filmmakers found a way to resurrect him for the Netflix limited series that served as the movie’s sequel.

9. Chidi Mokeme as Scar in Shanty Town

While the early reviews on Shanty Town have been polarizing, nobody in good conscience can speak ill of Chidi Mokeme’s performance as Scar. With a great level of skill, Mokeme returns to the big screen and shows us why he’s one of the revered actors of his generation as he alternates between not-to-be-fucked with pimp and boy-boy to the political players.

The deeply complex character and probably the greatest villain portrayed in Nigerian cinema represents a lot of what plays out in Nigeria and Mokeme’s embodiment of that role is a true masterclass that masks a screenplay that honestly leaves a lot to be desired.

8. Sola Sobowale as Toyin Tomato in Super Story

Before there was King of Boys, there was Toyin Tomato, a superior side chick to Suara in Super Story’s “oh father, oh daughter”. Sola Sobowale’s character was the queen of “soft life”, always looking out for herself and showing there is no love without money. As the villain of the story, Sola Sobowale embodied the character to the extent that she referred to as Toyin Tomato in real life. 

7. Kunle Bamtefa as Chief Fuji in Fuji House of Commotion

Kunle Bamtefa played the patriarch of the family of chaos in Nigerian sitcom, Fuji House of Commotion. Chief Fuji was a lover of women, an unarguable fact with his family of 3 wives and a long time bride to be. With many wives comes many problems, and the good Chief had to come up with clever ways to keep a semblance of peace between his family. Even with his wandering eyes, Chief Fuji was as good a father as he could be. His icon status was earned with his ability to keep all the members of his family alive despite the rivalry. Fuji House of Commotion was a Nigerian favourite, and it is remembered for its complex family dynamics and drama. In true soap opera fashion, there was always something bizarre happening within the families that brought viewers back every Sunday evening.

6. Sola Sobowale and Toni Tones as Eniola Salami in King of Boys

Eniola Salami has captured the Nigerian imagination since the character was introduced to the silver screen in Kemi Adetiba’s 2018 political crime thriller, King of Boys. Sola Sobowale plays the character for the most part, while Toni Tones plays the younger version of the character, in flashback scenes, in the 2021 sequel. Beyond the strength of both women’s acting, the character derives her appeal from the unique position she occupies in the story. She is a middle-aged woman trying to stay ahead in two worlds dominated by men: in the Lagos underworld, she is the reigning queenpin struggling to ward off the men who thirst for her throne; and in the Lagos political scene, she wants to become the Lagos State governor, a seat that’s typically the preserve of men. To achieve her goals, Salami makes ruthlessness and cunning her bread and butter. But she remains relatable because the story not only expounds on her motivations, it makes her vulnerable, as when she loses both of her children to gang violence.

The character is set to return to TV when part three of the series premieres, as the director Kemi Adetiba divulged last November. 

5. John Okafor as Mr Ibu

Played by John Ikechukwu Okafor, Mr Ibu is a comedic role whose hilarious acting is characterized by his facial expressions and infamous petty one-liners. The character has lived on for almost two decades since the release of Mr Ibu in 2004. Mr Ibu is one of those characters that just thinking about will put a smile on your face because the movie is super memorable and the character a fan favorite. It is no surprise that while casually scrolling through Twitter or Instagram, you see references being made to the Mr Ibu character: it is that unforgettable show John Okafor put on in 2004 that makes random references to the character possible thereby placing it in a league of its own. 

4. Richard Abiodun and Femi Ogunrombi as Papa Ajasco in Papa Ajasco and Company

Papa Ajasco was the lead character in the family television sitcom created by Wale Adenuga in 1996. The show was a spin-off of a feature film of the same title, and Papa Ajasco stood out not only for his mannerisms and his funny way of dressing; his typical outfit was a shirt and tie, with a wrapper substituting for pants, but also for the funny situations he constantly got into, especially with his wife, Mama Ajasco. Shortly after the series began, it soon became one of the most popular sitcoms in the country. The philandering but lovable character was first played by Richard Abiodun, before he quit the show and Femi Ogunrombi took over the role. With his ‘ojigbijigbi’ catchphrase, usually said while he slapped his semi bald head with his hands when caught in comical situations, Papa Ajasco remains iconic till this day.

3. Funke Akindele as Jenifa in Jenifa’s Diary

The OG of wannabe bad bitches, Funke Akindele’s unforgettable portrayal of Jenifa, aka Sulia kan of Ayetoro is one for the books. Jenifa, a boisterous young woman leaves Ayetoro, a small town where she reigned as a local champion, for the big city of Lagos where her greed and penchant to belong to the in-crowd leads her down the destructive path of prostitution that almost costs her life. Jenifa, with her terrible grammar and outlandish sense of fashion, was such a hit that not only did the movie have a sequel, but it also birthed a series that has now run for over 20 seasons, making it one of the most successful Nollywood franchises of all time.

2. Nkem Owoh as Osuofia in Osuofia in London

Regardless of when you got introduced to Nollywood and its iconic characters, it is almost impossible to not have heard of Osuofia. Osuofia was played by Nkem Owoh in what has gone down as one of the most natural performances in Nollywood history making it difficult to differentiate actor from character with Nkem Owoh still being identified as Osuofia to date. Osuofia in London offers a variation on an old story: a country bumpkin comes to town, where city slickers try–and ultimately fail–to take advantage of him and steal his money. Osuofia in London was released in 2003 but till this day serves as a source of quality entertainment for many and is one of Nollywood’s bestsellers. While Nkem Owoh has gone on to feature in a variety of films, his Osuofia character is one that lives and will live on for many years to come.

1. Chinedu Ikedieze and Osita Iheme as Aki and Pawpaw in Aki Na Ukwa

It doesn’t matter if you are a boomer, millennial, or too cool for school gen-z, when you hear ‘Aki and Pawpaw’, you know exactly who they are. The rambunctious duo whose breakout movie Aki na Ukwa was released in 2003, exactly two decades ago, have been forever immortalized as Nollywood household names. While both Chinedu Ikedieze and Osita Iheme have gone on to star in many other movies, as a duo and individually, over the course of their careers, their names will always be linked together as a testament to how legendary their performances as cocky, trouble rousing and effortlessly funny boys were. Twenty years is a long time to remain relevant in the movie industry, but these two as Aki and Pawpaw which has also spawned an endless rollout of hilarious memes, and their immersion in Nigerian pop culture will always be those guys.