Interview: Collins Okoh Walks Us Through His Co-writing Path For “A Tribe Called Judah” 

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A Tribe Called Judah arrived on Prime Video on the 21st of April 2024. This was after it debuted in Nigerian cinemas last December and became the highest-grossing Nollywood film ever made, amassing a total of 1.4 billion naira in domestic box office revenue. It’s easier to link the blockbuster to Funke Akindele, a formidable Nollywood player and the captain behind the smooth sailing of the project. But the story of this swashbuckling experience is incomplete without acknowledgment of Collins Okoh, one of the project’s tripartite screenwriting team.

Collins Okoh, a native of Delta State, has been in the spotlight since the unprecedented commercial success of A Tribe Called Judah. He seems to be enjoying the moment, which probably conflicts with his reserved personality. But it has not been a smooth ride for him. Years ago, he was only a writer who gloried in stringing words together for his Facebook audience. Even though he was a student of Pharmacology, writing was a passion that clung to him. 

The doors into Nollywood opened for him in 2019 when a Facebook friend fell in love with his writerly style and considered him suitable for a hands-on, professional screenwriting adventure. He got connected with Funke Akindele afterward, jumped on a couple of projects, including co-writing Omo Ghetto: The Saga; and then, the rest, like people say, is history.

From meeting Funke Akindele to working on earlier projects and co-writing the script of A Tribe Called Judah, Collins Okoh does not hold back the fond memories as he spills the beans in a chat with Culture Custodian.

This conversation has been condensed for precision. 

Congratulations on the success of A Tribe Called Judah! How do you feel about the groundbreaking achievement of this film, especially as you are one of its scriptwriters?

I feel excited about it. It means we are doing something right. 

Tell us about working on the script with Akinlabi Ishola and Funke Akindele. What was the experience like and how long did it take to create the script?

It was a good experience working with them. They are experienced writers. We came together and discussed the story we wanted to tell. We all had a particular vision in mind. So we went and thought of ways to do it better, and then we met again. If you are co-writing with someone, there will likely be creative differences. It’s now a matter of how much or less difference we can manage. So, there were creative differences, but at the end of the day, we all made a choice.  The scripting took a month and two weeks. 

You co-wrote Omo Ghetto: The Saga with Yinka Adebayo and Funke Akindele, which is also one of the highest-grossing Nollywood films of all time. This is believed to be the beginning of your journey in Nollywood. How so? 

I had a Facebook page where I wrote for fun. One day, someone who worked with Funke Akindele reached out to me. The person was impressed by my story and asked if I wrote scripts. I said I had written scripts before but not on a professional level. I got an email from the company [Funke Akindele’s] to come over to their office. While at the office, I wrote a short script and they were impressed. They told me they had a movie coming up and wanted me to join the writing team. That was how I joined Omo Ghetto: The Saga

How would you compare the scriptwriting process for Omo Ghetto: The Saga to A Tribe Called Judah, especially as both are successful at the Nigerian box office?

I feel like it was a bit more challenging working on Omo Ghetto: The Saga. For A Tribe Called Judah, I had a clear idea of what we wanted. For Omo Ghetto, we had an initial version before COVID-19 happened and altered the direction of the story. Overall, I prefer the experience with A Tribe Called Judah, but Omo Ghetto was awesome too.  

If you had to choose, which do you think is the more important part of A Tribe Called Judah: plot or character development? Why?

It’s the plot. Character development is good though. The whole idea of a single mother having five children who are from different cultures seems a bit far-fetched, but then it’s not common to find a situation where you see people from different cultures come together to achieve a common purpose. The plot also focuses on the challenges faced by single mothers.

One important aspect of the story in A Tribe Called Judah is the robbery, which the children, except Emeka, successfully get away with. In the end, the sons leave the town with their mother. What informed this resolution, especially considering the moral concerns?

At the post-credit scene, the brothers were declared wanted for their involvement in the robbery operation, as should be. I think that settles the moral concerns. 

Knowing that you have established yourself through Funke Akindele’s productions as a force to reckon with in Nollywood, what more new grounds are you hoping to break as a screenwriter?

I want to tell other stories. I want to tell medical dramas, horror films, and psychological thrillers. I am especially interested in medical drama. I majored in pharmacology before I got into scriptwriting, so that sort of explains my interest. I am also actively working on two new projects which I can’t mention currently for confidentiality.