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On this day, April 3rd, 2017; Kogi State Governor, Alh Yahaya Bello inaugurated over 63 political appointees as Special Advisers and Senior Special Assistants to take charge of different sectors and endeavours in line with his “New Direction” blueprint. Amongst these appointees was Veteran Actress, Mercy Johnson Okojie, a daughter of the soil whose appointment was a cynosure from whence and when it was announced, till the day of inauguration as the Senior Special Assistant on Entertainments, Arts and Culture.
Early critics did not hesitate to beam their searchlight on why she had to be, and many even became recalcitrant to understand that she was just ONE out of over 63 people appointed. Still, there were objective concerns raised on her foreknowledge of the state and the struggling entertainment sector as at that time. Some even alleged that she could not speak the language of her forefathers, Ebira.
Today, all these concerns have been practically doused by unfolding events which are a reflection of her commitment, and passion to place the good radar of entertainment on the state, despite the dicey terrain and nature of the sector.
23 days after her inauguration, she hit the ground running as she embarked on her first project, a Summit on Entertainments, Arts and Culture, one acknowledged to be the first ever since the creation of the state. Of course, all the projects that came after that were all novel in the annals of the state. The summit came a day after she led a team of entertainers in the state on a tour of Ebira land, and a humble homage to the paramount ruler of the Ebira people, HRM Alh Dr Ado Ibrahim.
The Summit which was a rallying ground for eggheads from across the state who had held the fort for the sector, also brought home an erudite Kogi-born Professor of Arts from the University of Maiduguri, Prof Sunday Enesi Ododo, the Guest Speaker.
At the summit, critical issues which became a launchpad for the Veteran Actress were raised, and addressed. Gov Bello who was elated, stated that the summit had vindicated his choice of a Veteran in the sector, and promised a consolidation of subject matters, especially efforts at ensuring that the cultural heritages of the state do not go into extinction.
Needless to add, the post-summit interview which Ozioma granted in Ebira language, laid to rest what seemed to have troubled “concerned citizens” to their utmost bewilderment.
Four months after the Summit, her second project, “GYBTalentHunt” came on board. It was a serious search for Kogi state’s future nollywood stars which commenced at the Civic Center in Okehi, her hometown; then taken to Kabba, Idah, Anyigba, and concluded at the State Capital, Lokoja. What was meant to just be a search, also turned out to include an acting class for contestants under the tutelage of Nollywood’s most reputable acts such as Francis Duru, Bimbo Akintola, Klint D Drunk, John Okafor, and Ace Movie Director, Frank Rajah.
The talent hunt was one stone that killed two birds. Apart from identifying acting potentials, it was also an opportunity to source for the bulk of talents for her third project, a Kogi produced movie to also project the Kogi numerous cultural values to the world. She had revealed that winners of the hunt would take lead roles in the first movie, and will be rewarded at the premiere of the movie. The hunt was massive, and well accepted across the three senatorial districts of the state.
Barely two months after the talent hunt, the proactive Actress on Thursday 26th October, 2017 resumed location for the shooting of “Inikpi,” a tale of the legendary Igala Princess.
Apart from top veteran actors like Sam Dede, Saheed Balogun, Odunlade Adekola and herself, the bulk of the talents casted for this epic movie are people who proved themselves beyond every reasonable doubt during the talent hunt.
The movie project came with myriads of challenges, especially those that had to do with auditioning, going extra miles to source for funds from external hands, traveling and settling in unfavourable conditions and locations for the best of outputs. In all, the support from the state government, selfless talents from across the state, and the Attah Igala eased up the stride.
For Mercy Johnson Okojie, whose husband, Prince Odi Okojie has been fully involved and supportive in all the projects, it is ONE STEP AT A TIME as there are more in the offing for the state. No wonder she has knew no rest while making sure that the movie tells the story in a way it has never been told, comes out in a quality it has never been made, and will be taken to the feat it had never reached.
Just about two weeks ago, she released the first teaser of the blockbuster, an indicator that the movie is ready for premiere. According to her, the formal announcement of the date for the launch would be announced in a Press Conference billed for this month. Amongst these strides, she was still rallying supports for upcoming talents in the state, as well as surmounting the storms in her career, personally. In 365 days.
From tomorrow begins another year of “first-ever” projects through her office, just as she has evidently shown the passion to do greater works, and get more supports more than the days before. She has also proven beyond doubt that one does not need to pass 365 nights in a place to impact on the place beautifully.
Tomorrow, those acts she hatched from the scratch would be in the eyes of the cinema, dragging roles in humility with today’s top notch actors and actresses; the Kogi Diary becomes an endearing tale for the world to tell; and we will all owe it a duty to contribute to the development of our state.
To this end, this is my Mercy Johnson in 365 days…
– Alex Adeiza
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