By : Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Any idea, no matter how small or banal, can lead to great wealth.
Ordinarily, the word “ass” or “buttock” or “bottom” would be scoffed at. But one inspired man took that word in its Yoruba version known as “Ikebe” and made great and enduring wealth out of it.
Wale Adenuga, the son of a tobacco merchant, was born in Ile-Ife, in present-day Osun State, on September 24, 1950 and graduated in Business Administration from the University of Lagos.
He had a penchant for drawing and cartooning, and was thus appointed the chief cartoonist of the campus magazine.
He did his youth service in the old Bendel State, and began toying with the idea of starting up a cartoon magazine instead of taking the available option of joining his father’s business.
Wale Adenuga had business savvy up his sleeves such that he felt publishing the cartoon magazine was the way to go.
The attraction of the buttocks of a woman, that is, “Ikebe” was enough motivation to propel him on the trailblazing path.
In December 1976 he published the first Ikebe Super magazine with money he had saved up in his youth service year.
An imaginative wunderkind, he invented the characters and drew up the stories and cartoons in the magazine all by himself for the first four years.
At the heart of Ikebe Super magazine was the balding chronic womanizer Papa Ajasco, supported by the hilarious cast of his long-suffering wife Mama Ajasco, his impish son Ajasco, the playboy Boy Alinco, the rustic illiterate Pa Jimoh, the gold-digging lass of promiscuity Miss Pepeiye etc.
As the advert of the magazine promised, the Ikebe Super characters were indeed an uproariously merry lot that could make you laugh until you forgot your name!
The business grew well beyond projections, and Wale Adenuga had to engage artists such as Morak Oguntade, Aliu Eruoje, Byron Enumah, Femi Arowolo, Kola Fayemi, Adamson E.S. etc. to undertake the drawings.
There were no limits to the zones Ikebe Super magazine could venture into. In one instance, two robbers raided a house inhabited by a grandmother and her granddaughter and hollered: “We shall now rape all the women in this house!”
The young granddaughter begged the robbers thusly: “Please rape only me but don’t rape grandma as she will die!”
The grandma retorted sharply: “Let them rape everybody jare! Who told you that thing dey kill?!”
Ikebe Super sold all of 500,000 copies at its peak!
The phenomenal success of Ikebe Super led Wale Adenuga to the publishing of offshoot magazines such as Super Story and the children’s magazine Binta.
It’s remarkable that the Ikebe Super stories became so popular that they inspired a feature film, Papa Ajasco, shot on celluloid, and released in 1983.
I was among the first watchers of the film at Oduduwa Hall, of the then University of Ife.
I laughed so hard I nearly ruptured myself!
Incidentally the cast of the Papa Ajasco film was made up of my Ife friends such as Peter Fatomolola as the eponymous Papa Ajasco and the late Jimi Shodimu as Boy Alinco.
The famous Aluwe played the part of Pa Jimoh.
The film broke the record of filling up the 5,000-capacity main auditorium of the National Theatre, Lagos.
In the rollercoaster film, Papa Ajasco goes on a business trip to Calabar. He lodges in a small hotel run by a husband and his wife.
Papa Ajasco then asks the astonished owner of the hotel to send him a harlot for the night. The hotelier, in utter revulsion, tells his wife about the “evil” request of the man from Lagos.
The annoyed wife rushes up to give corrupt Papa Ajasco the length of her tongue. The horny Papa Ajasco mistakes the hotelier’s wife for the harlot sent for him for the night! Papa Ajasco instantly ravishes her!
When the hotelier waits for some time without seeing his wife, he rushes to Papa Ajasco’s room only to see the worst!
Maddened, he picks up his machete to slaughter Papa Ajasco who runs for dear life!
A race-for-life starts in Calabar on foot and goes all the way through many Nigerian towns with sign-posts until Papa Ajasco runs back to Lagos!
The funny episodic scenes include: the waking-up from death to snooker debtors, a side-splitting boxing match, a native doctor’s incantations thus – “if your life long, e no go sweet…” etc.
With the downturn of the Nigerian economy in the late 1980s, Wale Adenuga diversified from the print to the electronic media.
The earlier film, Papa Ajasco, was followed by Binta My Daughter in 1995. The television series, The Ajasco Family or simply Papa Ajasco, also came on stream to rave reviews. The Super Story television series became a hit.
Wale Adenuga founded with his beloved wife Ehiwenma the renowned Binta International School, Lagos in 1994.
He established the Pencil Film and Television Institute (PEFTI) in 2004.
Wale Adenuga has capped it all up with the setting up of WAPTV. Now, who out there will argue that buttocks, alias “Ikebe”, cannot set up an empire?
Uzor Maxim Uzoatu is a frontline Nigerian journalist, award winning poet and columnist