CLASSIC REEL : Saworoide

Cast: Kola Oyewo, Lere Paimo, Akinwunmi Isola, Adebayo Faleti and Kunle Afolayan.

Year of release: 1999

Directed by: Tunde Kelani

Plot: A king foolishly bypasses an ancient custom and brings down his community via greed. Crisis in the land increases at the arrival of an even bigger tyrant.  Only one thing can liberate them... Saworoide.  

Adapted from Professor Akinwumi Isola's play of the same name, this well-made satire is among the notable works of prolific filmmaker Tunde Kelani; known for the rich quality of his productions and close attention to detail. Aside from tackling real-life issues, his films also vividly presents Yoruba culture and usually set in rich rural locations. Saworoide, rather reminiscent of Shakspeare's Macbeth and Geroge Orwell's Animal Farm,  was released to critical acclaim and remains one of the true classics of Nollywood, depicting corruption in politics.

The story begins with the new Oba of Jogbo Lapite (Kola Oyewo)  preparing for his coronation. Although the significance of the incisions and three objects, notably the ancient 'Saworoide' (brass belled talking drum) was explained to him by the Ifa priest (Fatomilola), he  refuses to undergo the compulsory rite for some unknown reason-  thus committing a sacrilege. But to his dismay, he later receives a warning from Baba Opalaba (Adebayo Faleti):

Any king that avoids the incisions risks sharing his crown with someone else

If he wears the crown without having the incisions and Anyagalu beats the Saworoide, he'll die of a splitting headache. 

One would think that the about to be crowned Oba would just get on with it but instead, he orders the assassination of certain people who poses a threat to his right to the throne, including taking hold of 'Saworoide' to protect himself. Kola Oyewo portrayed a King who cared more about his personal comforts- gleefully aided by his chiefs- than actually serving his people. How he does it, by going into partnership with the logging companies, allowing them to destroy lands,  the natural forests and the people's farms, hence losing their valuable crops.  However, a tyrant is bound to make mistakes- in Lapites' case more mistakes one of which being trusting the wrong person, which end up being his undoing. Amazing how one act of stubbornness sets a chain of events and how important an ancient artefact can be. Yet, we never know the real reason why Lapite refused to undergo the rites, other than not wanting to be tied to a backward tradition.

While Lere Paimo was outstanding as Lapite's equally greedy Chief Balogun, even as noteworthy are Chief Peter Fatomilola and the late Adebayo Faleti. Chief Fatomilola, (who played Papa Ajasco in the 80s) took on the role of the Ifa priest which such realistic yet unexaggerated accuracy that no one would remember his real-life status of a University Professor, playwright and novelist, but then again, his father WAS an actual Ifa priest.

 Adebayo Faleti- who passed away in 2017- also had a supporting role, yet a significant one.  He played the wise yet enigmatic Baba Opalaba, a not exactly silent observer who viewed the events of the film with knowing eyes and grim amusement, constantly speaking in proverbs with veiled meanings. He does not openly rebel against Lapite and the other tyrant- which more than likely was the reason he was spared from assassination or imprisonment- but he gave the impression that a change would eventually come, hence just sat back and watched for the tide to turn... delivering the film's epilogue before the ending credits.

Then there was Kunle Afolayan- son of late filmmaker and artiste Adeyemi Afolayan (Ade Love). The future CEO of Golden Effects Pictures charmed his way into the hearts of fans with his role as Ogagun, a  young man fans immediately rooted for. But the same could not exactly be said for Kabirat Kafidipe who played Princess Arapa- who was supposed to be his love interest but delivered her lines in a rather stilted way. But given her role in a later film, Iwalewa, she improved as an actress.

With Kunle Bamtefa,  Bukky Wright and the late Jab Adu in the cast, shot in a vast rural location and delivering a strong message, Saworoide has left its mark.


Adebayo Faleti was Africa's first newscaster, first stage play director and first film editor and Librarian for WNTV.

Saworoide was followed by Agogo Eewo in 2002, starring Dejumo Lewis.

Saworide was Kunle Afolayan's film debut as an actor. 


  1. Proud of you Amina.
    Note that this film has some numbers of influence on my film 'ARAMANDA' (The Amazing God) that I wrote in 2004,produced and co-directed in 2010.
    It is also still evergreen till date, and available on subscription to
    I am Akinyele Balogun.


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