When Africa Magic announced that Chichi Nworah would be producing its most prominent series in recent times and that it would be titled ‘Slum King’, people wondered about Chichi’s newfound obsession with the slums.
She was still reeling from her ‘Shanty Town’ success, shot deep in the ghetto; now, she was about to put her name on another ‘slum’ story. Shanty Town had swept ten nominations at the 9th Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA), and despite only securing one win, it was still one of the viewers’ favourites in 2023.
Tobi Bakre played the main character after he enjoyed ample success from the critically acclaimed ‘Brotherhood’ and ‘Gangs of Lagos’, and received his first AMVCA award for ‘Best Actor in A Drama’ for which he played the role of a “slum criminal” in ‘Brotherhood’, it begged the question “so what’s new?”
And rightfully so. Viewers had just received three ‘slum-themed’ blockbusters, and Africa Magic was gearing up to deliver a fourth. They needed to bring fresh insight to the storyline and run from all the cliches. The series’ success would lie in how well they could deviate from what the audience expected, and they won, at least in that way. Chichi, alongside director Dimeji Ajibola and head writer Donald Tombia, managed to weave a story of mental health issues, the effects of drug abuse, and misfortune that leads one to a different future than initially anticipated.
The series followed Edafe Umukoro, who, after watching his entire family’s massacre and surviving his death, developed mental health issues accentuated by hearing voices and seeing his dead relatives. His family’s deaths would lead Edafe down an irredeemable path until he goes from a brilliant student and aspiring football player to a juvenile and eventual felon, condemned to die.
Still, as with every other human, his story is intertwined with others. His grandmother played a significant role in his life, helping to ‘rehabilitate’ him after his family’s death. Interestingly, her death nailed the final coffin in ‘Edafe’s’ story and produced the hardened criminal, Maje-esu. Before his grandmother’s death, she connected him with the friends that would turn out to be either his archenemy or his family.
The Ogunmefun brothers started as thorns in Edafe’s flesh and ended as poisoned needles in his soul. The younger Ogunmefun brother, Dare, killed his grandmother and led Edafe to commit his first murder in retaliation. The older one, Banjo (Akeem Ogara), held a 15-year grudge and waited for Edafe to return from prison, only to unleash hell on him and his friends, turned family.
Meanwhile, his other friends – Yagazie, Friday, Kate, and Kaima will become his chosen family alongside his father figure – Imole, The Baale of Orolede. Their storylines held pain and turning points and acted as a mirror of what life in the slums looks like for different people. Yagazie (played by Teniola Aladese) was a young lady full of life and obsessed with Edafe. After she unwittingly killed her father and watched her mom bleed out, she and her older brother, Friday (Jidekene Achufusi), are immediately forced to fend for each other. While Friday became a mechanic, Yaga rose to the top of their community’s drug syndicate.
Yaga’s love for Edafe coloured her entire storyline. However, Friday’s marriage to Emiene (Idia Aisien) and secret relationship with Banjo’s wife, Kaima (Oyinye Odokoro), led to great sorrow on the show. As Yaga held a torch for Edafe, he carried another for Kate (Sonia Irabor). Luckily for the latter, she left the slums as a teenager and didn’t return until she was a UK-trained doctor.
Each of their stories shows the different paths that lead people to get stuck in the slums. Each character suffered consequential personal disasters that led to their futures, proving that people are more than their present actions. They are the sum of their stories.
Slum King also explored themes of parental love, incest, ‘greater-good’ decision-making, drug abuse, ancestral values, gender-based violence, and femme fatality. It featured some of the most incredible acting from established stars and fast-rising cast members like Adeoluwa Akintoba, Mide Glover, Ehis Perfect, and more.
The crew also expertly executed cinematography, costume, hair, makeup, and stunts-direction. Every episode revealed a new secret, every turn left audiences in awe, and every new cliffhanger meant fans were counting down the days till a new episode aired. As expected, the series is not perfect. However, it makes up for what it lacks in perfection with riveting storytelling, great acting, attention to detail, brilliant technical execution, and connected directing.
With stars like Olarotimi Fakunle, Bolaji Ogunmola, Hermes Iyele, Charles Inojie, and Bob Manuel Udokwu, Slum King makes for a scintillating watch. Curious fans can enjoy the show all in one sitting, as all ten episodes are currently streaming on Showmax.