Director of the popular television series, The Life of a Nigerian Couple, Adeola Osunkojo has described her experience working on her documentary on the 1976 military coup in Nigeria as a revelation that has drawn her to empathise and respect men of the Nigerian military and their wives.
Speaking after the screening of the documentary entitled 76: The story behind the story, Osunkojo said that producing the documentary, which digs into the lives of members of the family of military accused of complicity in the coup before and after their execution showed her that military in Nigeria are not properly taken care of and that their families are left to suffer, wondering how the country would expect complete loyalty from such people.
The filmmaker said: “I have absolute love and respect not just for the soldiers but for their wives, because when their husbands go out to fight different wars, they don’t know what will happen. They are not sure of chances that the man will come back and when that man dies in war, they will not have the kind of life they’ve had when he was alive. How do they take care of their children, does society even care for them? So, for me I have a lot of love and respect for the soldiers and their wives because behind those soldiers are even much more stronger people who hold their hands through the process or who wait for them to come back, who even fought for the family aspect of their lives. Many of the women whose husbands were condemned for the 1976 coup were left with young children even when they had no means of livelihood.”
Speaking on the emotional toll that working on the film, which is a fall-out of the feature film, 76 directed by Izu Ojukwu and released in 2016, took on her, Osunkojo explained that there were moments when stories told by wives and children of men and officers, who were executed for taking part in the coup got so distressing that she wanted to abandon the story and move on to something else.
She explained: “It got to a time I called Izu and I said I couldn’t do this anymore, the documentary forced me go as far back as the Biafra war and then watching towards the point where these people were killed. That was when I took out some of those violent scenes in it because it was too painful to watch, it was very uncomfortable for me and I called Izu, he said: “Adeola I have left 76,” because personally for him too, the course of research, seeing all those footages was a real gruesome experience. So, when it was happening to me he said don’t take me back there. He however assured that I was going to be okay.”
The documentary, which is a combination of real life footages and clips from 76, the Izu Ojukwu, directed feature film, drew one of the largest audiences at the five-day festival is an emotive exploration of the physical, psychological and financial trauma that families of those arrested and executed for participating in that Friday morning coup went through after the sudden arrest of their breadwinners.
For some of these families, most of who were sent out of the facilities they occupied after their husbands and fathers were pronounced guilty, the most difficult part of the saga was their inability to see the soldiers again after their sudden arrest and the fact that the Nigerian Armed Forces has until date not delivered the bodies of these men to their families or even formally informed them about their conviction and execution.
Read the full interview HERE