Charles Inojie is an embodiment of artistic class. Whether it is comedy that will make you laugh till your sides hurt or tragedy that will make you reflect about your life, this veteran filmmaker, actor, writer and director stops at nothing to ensure the audience gets the highest standard possible. After all, reputation is at stake. Let me quickly analyze some classical performances from his voluminous filmography.

What intrigued the most with ‘Police Recruit’ was the emotional realism it was based upon. Most policemen become so not because of the passion for national security but because of economic problems. Or in Nigerian Pidgin, “Na condition naim make crayfish bend.” This might sound sad until you watch it and burst out in laughter. I watched Bovi Ugboma’s ‘My Village People’ and there Charles was again. I then saw him on ‘The Johnsons’.

When the Israel Wekpe-directed-Ossa Earliece-written ‘Adesuwa’ play was running in December 2021, I played Obi Olise and guess who was in the audience? Surprise, surprise: It was Charles Inojie himself.

After the show he gave a brief speech on how he appreciated our creativity and asked how he could be of assistance. I believe he was part of a play in Port Harcourt that same year. Trust me, when an expert tells you you are doing well, then it means you actually do have a future. Also recently I saw him on Zik Aloma’s ‘Deks and Daughters Saloon’, where he (Spoilers Alert) supposedly played a ritualist (Chief Dollar), but all in good humour. From Charles Inojie’s works, I have learnt that comedy does not work without an emotional undertone. Don’t get me wrong. The humour and laughter draw us into the story, but it is those moments of self-reflection during storytelling that make a film more memorable.

Thus making the characters more remarkably humane.

I love sitcoms (dramedy) a lot because I believe it is the greatest test of a writer. You can’t really plan a joke. And not everyone finds the same joke funny. So how do you set it up for the punchline, every ten seconds? How do you make the audience interested? How do you keep the jokes coming in, on screen, where you cannot always get instant feedback like stand-up comedians get? That‘s where the genius of talent comes in and that’s why Charles Inojie really shines as the Edo-born Starboy (Starman) that he is.

Anyway, to make this article more intriguing, I have my list of 12 things I have learnt from Charles Inojie and the 12 films I referenced them from.

‘Police Recruit’: Although this Nollywood classic is full of rib-cracking laughter, this film showed in the rawest manner possible that life‘s frustrations can push you into situations you didn’t plan for. In other words, “Na condition make crayfish bend”. Charles Inojie’s police officer character portrayal gave us that touch of reality that every Nigerian who has had some unpleasant contact with some police officers could easily empathize with. The policeman you see on the road probably had dreams too that were squashed by lack of guidance, criticism, self-doubt or lack of opportunity. They are essentially humans

like you trying to make the best out of their circumstances.

‘The Master’: Don’t lend anyone money you are not prepared to lose. While it is good to help others, we should be sure not to get into trouble. Nkem Owoh’s character had borrowed money from Charles Inojie’s character but he got duped by fraudsters, masterminded by Kanayo O. Kanayo’s character. I also learnt the extensive effects of scamming other people of their hard-earned money. I also learnt not to be too greedy as it could lead me to losing my money and consequential heartache.

‘My Village People’: Sometimes a man‘s enemies are those from his own household. However, from a humorous perspective, “Uncle Jakpa”, played by Charles, reminded me of some family people I grew up looking up to.

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‘Invasion 1897’: Sometimes we must either bend or break to the wind of fate. Like Murphy’s Law: “Wetin go happen, go happen”. Playing “Chief Obaradesagbon”, he shared the fate that befell the King of Benin, Oba Ovonramwen, in 1897 and by extension, the Kingdom of Benin. And as usual, his role interpretation was effective in spite of it being a supportive character. However, as filmmakers know, there is no such thing as a minor role. It depends on how well you play it. Remember: Life is a mosaic, not a painting.

‘The Johnsons’: I will not say too much here, other than: “In the end, family is all that you have. Family and, of course, laughter, which Mr. Johnson and his family elicit whenever this TV show runs on air.

‘Deks and Daughters Saloon’: This TV show, amongst several vital lessons, is a cautionary tale for our Gen Z babes like “Jasmine” who want quick money from Yahoo boys and Sugar Daddies. Look before you leap. But as usual, we can always trust our comedy champion, Mr. Charles, who played “Chief Dollars”, to spice up and garnish the character with the necessary edge and tone of hilarity.

‘Pregnant Couple’: In this comedy from long ago, where Charles Inojie was paired alongside Maureen Solomon and Bishop Imoh, I learnt that marriage is not easy. And unless two people cooperate, everyone will eventually go their separate ways. But I learnt this lesson after laughing hard on many occasions.

‘Champions of Our Time’: Don’t discriminate against those life has been unfair to. It was said that the then Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, read this script, he was moved by it and quickly approved it for production. There was Joke Silva, Ngozi Ezeonu, Ejike Asiegbu and, as usual, our Edo Champion, Charles Inojie also answered “Present Sir” by a stellar performance as the secondary villain, aka “assistant boze” in Nigerian Pidgin. My mantra is: great antagonists make great obstacles and great obstacles make great films.

‘The Trade’: I learnt that sometimes those who should enforce the law and protect us can be corrupt too as was portrayed by “Officer Amadi”, a role Charles Inojie seriously and professionally killed without any shred or modicum of mercy. This film is a library classic for filmmakers worldwide. Jadesola Osiberu is a master director who outdid herself with this film work.

‘My Baby’: This film taught me to be content. Ufele (Nkem Owoh) was not satisfied with his girl children and brought more trouble into his household in his quest for male children to bear his name. And we can always trust Oga Charles to come and heighten the tension or settle the quarrel that often riddled Ufele’s household, which was full of “professional wrestlers”.

‘Corporate Maid’: This film is a classic Nollywood comedy. While Charles’ character kept the humour coming in, Mercy Johnson’s character taught us that no one is an angel. Sometimes the holier-than-thou amongst us have the darkest secrets, and most times we really have to look out for ourselves.

‘Aki and Pawpaw’: Charles played “Uche”, Aki and Paw-Paw’s hen-pecked uncle and level-headed neighbour. I learnt that you can’t rely on family to help you in this world and you are largely on your own. You have to hustle hard or face a lot of disrespect.

Conclusively though, these are just my personal favourite slices from his filmography, I have learnt uncountable lessons from Charles Inojie’s illustriously intimidating and eclectic career over the years. How about you? I am sure you have learned too.

What life lessons have you learnt from our Edo Comedy Champion who has supported and exported and is still supporting and exporting talent from Edo to the world?