Junior Pope: 'Two Bodies Found, Three Missing'- NIWA

Junior Pope And The Irony Of A Booming Industry In Ruins 

1 month ago
3 mins read

When Amaechi Muonagor died on March 24, three weeks after John Okafor (on March 2), we counted five Nollywood deaths in the first quarter of 2024. About three weeks later on April 10, yet another popular actor, Johnpaul Odonwodo, known as Junior Pope, died. About two weeks before Junior Pope’s death, there were strong rumors about the death of ace actor, Zack Orji. This was later rebuffed by the Actors Guild of Nigeria, although Orji is said to continue to fight for his life as a result of illness.

Remarkably, Junior Pope is not just another avoidable incident in the continuing litany of dead or dying Nollywood actors. Junior pope tended to crystallize the advocacies that we have been making about an unending series of mishaps in Nollywood. His death indicated that Nollywood’s teeming fans still love their actors and the movie industry in Nigeria. He starred in over 150 movies, scooping awards in the process, including Nollywood Most Promising Actor in Nigeria at the Entertainment Factory Awards in 2010.

And so, thousands had flocked to St Joseph’s Hospital, Asaba, at the news that Junior Pope didn’t actually die from the boat accident, and was receiving treatment in the hospital. And then he died. The social media scene of fans of the actor was apparently vibrant, but also chaotic and emotional, all befitting adjectives to describe the current state of the movie industry in Nigeria. The fans looked to be in a Nigerian-type prayer crusade. But they were simply distraught fans of an industry in distress.

A Renewed Cry for Urgent Action

Some estimates show that Nollywood employs well over 300,000 people, with some movies engaging over 100 technical workers. Going by figures from the National Bureau of Statistics, nearly 3000 films are produced by Nollywood annually. Ranked the second largest movie industry worldwide, Nollywood was estimated to worth over $6.4 billion as of 2021, contributing about 3% to Nigeria’s GDP. Nollywood films are the mainstay of many television stations, albeit illegally. The industry is set to generate $14.82 billion by 2025. Will it achieve this with the gale of disturbing news?

The hospital scenes truly mimicked the market for Nollywood films. They also showed that urgent measures are necessary to rescue the industry from the edges of extinction. The serial deaths of movie actors seem a metaphor of a dying, but highly economically important industry.

READ ALSO: Amaechi Muonagor: Time To Tame The Outbreak Of Deaths In Nollywood

We reiterate the recent call and advocacy to rescue Nollywood, especially given the circumstances surrounding Junior Pope’s death. In fact, he had cried out in a social media video about the failings of a movie industry. His death should be the ultimate price to upend the failings. How can such a movie trip happen without life jackets and other emergency paraphernalia?

And then the Social Media Sickening Buzz

As noted above, days after the death of Amaechi Muonagor, it was falsely reported that Zack Orji another superb actor, had passed on. Similar scenarios played out about other actors, including John Okafor, before he eventually died.

Apart from making it look as if people celebrate the news of death, it is time we called out some social media content flirts and blogging imps. Modern society cannot allow social media users to continue to freely spread false news. While the freedom of information cannot be stopped, there should be underlying consequences for false news alarms, which continue to cause the country panic. Election results, death of political office holders, terrorist attacks, kidnappings, and even weather forecasts are cases where Nigeria daily suffers the punishment of heedless social media.

Unfortunately, as in the rumors surrounding Junior Pope’s life and death, the conventional media also carried unconfirmed news. Yes, the immediacy and quest to report breaking news drive the craze on the social media. Yet false news is misleading news, and something must be done about it.

What is more disturbing is that fans miss out on important information, which should be the interest of frenzy and lazy bloggers, who love to feast on gossip. For instance, the identities and number of those travelling with Junior Pope in the boat, the identity of the hospital where he was briefly treated after being thought to be alive, weather they were going to shoot a movie or returning from a movie-shooting trip, etc., continue to be mysteries at worst, or subjects of guesswork, at best. The consequence is an ever dwindling confidence in the media. Many people simply wished away Junior Pope’s initial news of death as a prank, especially with his own alarmist video of the risk of riding fast on a boat without life jacket.

Even those who should know such as top people in the movie industry contribute to the alarm and bedlam by showing misleading and nauseating videos of dead bodies. In 2015, there was national outrage when popular actor, Muna Obiekwe, was shown in a video receiving dialysis for a kidney disease. Subsequently, his lifeless body was shown just as it happened with Junior Pope. Indeed, all these point to a hapless communication industry in Nigeria, and it opens the way for a national dialogue on the role of social media within Nigeria’s communication structure.

 

Dr Mbamalu, a Jefferson Fellow and Member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), is a Publisher and Communications/Media Consultant. His extensive research works on Renewable Energy and Health Communication are published in several international journals, including SAGE. Follow on X: @marcelmbamalu

Dr. Marcel Mbamalu is a communication scholar, journalist and entrepreneur. He holds a Ph.D in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and is the Chief Executive Officer Newstide Publications, the publishers of Prime Business Africa.

A seasoned journalist, he horned his journalism skills at The Guardian Newspaper, rising to the position of News Editor at the flagship of the Nigerian press. He has garnered multidisciplinary experience in marketing communication, public relations and media research, helping clients to deliver bespoke campaigns within Nigeria and across Africa.

He has built an expansive network in the media and has served as a media trainer for World Health Organisation (WHO) at various times in Northeast Nigeria. He has attended numerous media trainings, including the Bloomberg Financial Journalism Training and Reuters/AfDB training on Effective Coverage of Infrastructural Development of Africa.

A versatile media expert, he won the Jefferson Fellowship in 2023 as the sole Africa representative on the program. Dr Mbamalu was part of a global media team that covered the 2020 United State’s Presidential election. As Africa's sole representative in the 2023 Jefferson Fellowships, Dr Mbamalu was selected to tour the United States and Asia (Japan and Hong Kong) as part of a 12-man global team of journalists on a travel grant to report on inclusion, income gaps and migration issues between the US and Asia.

Dr. Marcel Mbamalu is a communication scholar, journalist and entrepreneur. He holds a Ph.D in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and is the Chief Executive Officer Newstide Publications, the publishers of Prime Business Africa.

A seasoned journalist, he horned his journalism skills at The Guardian Newspaper, rising to the position of News Editor at the flagship of the Nigerian press. He has garnered multidisciplinary experience in marketing communication, public relations and media research, helping clients to deliver bespoke campaigns within Nigeria and across Africa.

He has built an expansive network in the media and has served as a media trainer for World Health Organisation (WHO) at various times in Northeast Nigeria. He has attended numerous media trainings, including the Bloomberg Financial Journalism Training and Reuters/AfDB training on Effective Coverage of Infrastructural Development of Africa.

A versatile media expert, he won the Jefferson Fellowship in 2023 as the sole Africa representative on the program. Dr Mbamalu was part of a global media team that covered the 2020 United State’s Presidential election. As Africa's sole representative in the 2023 Jefferson Fellowships, Dr Mbamalu was selected to tour the United States and Asia (Japan and Hong Kong) as part of a 12-man global team of journalists on a travel grant to report on inclusion, income gaps and migration issues between the US and Asia.

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