In the 1980s, laws were made by the National Commission to limit the amount of foreign content a local broadcasting station could show in Nigeria. As a result, Nigerian producers had to create more local content for television. They started by recreating popular literature and theatre productions for television. Books like Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and D.O. Fagunwa’s 1949 novel, Igbo Olodumare, was adapted as a television series on NTA. But the industry grew quickly and screenwriters began to create more contemporary stories like Checkmate. This was before the boom of home videos in Nollywood.
Around this time, the popular Nollywood veteran Paul Adams was still a young man at the start of his acting career. Adams was relaxing at home when a friend told him to come out and try for an audition not too far from his home. He ended up auditioning for the part of Kunle Ajayi in the new TV series called Checkmate. As soon as Checkmate started running on television, it became an incredible success. It aired on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) from the late 80’s to the early ’90s, captivating viewers all over the nation. The success of the show gave Paul Adams and other members of the cast a special kind of fame. Richard Mofe-Damijo was the smooth and charismatic Segun Kadiri, a sworn enemy of Haastrope Investments. Bob Manuel-Udokwu played the suave, unserious playboy Richie Haastrope. While Ego Boyo was the beautiful and dynamic Ann Haastrope. There were some other unforgettable characters. Francis Agu played the role of Benny Haastrope, Bimbo Manuel was Nduka, and Toun Oni was Chief Fuji’s mischievous first wife.
In Checkmate, Ann Haastrope returned from America with her younger brother Richie and discovered that her older brother Benny was running the family business into the ground. Her father was in his sick-bed and her younger brother was too inexperienced, so Ann Haastrope took the family business into her own hands. The themes on the show spanned from cultism to polygamy, politics and romance. Checkmate’s gripping storyline and unique characters made it one of the best television series in a time that some people now refer to as the ‘Golden Age’ of Nollywood.
NTA created and broadcast a fascinating collection of television series in the ’90s. Besides Checkmate, there were shows like The Cock Crows At Dawn, The Village Headmaster, The Masquerade, Mirror in the Sun and Second Chance. Checkmate was one of Amaka Igwe’s creations. Amaka Igwe, a multimedia mogul, was a force to be reckoned with in the Nigerian entertainment industry until her death in 2014. Her media company, Amaka Igwe Studios, produced some of the best content on early Nigerian television – productions like Rattlesnake, Violated, Infinity Hospital and Solitaire. Seven years after the Checkmate TV series had ended, Amaka Igwe created Fuji House of Commotion, a separate series based on the chaotic life of one of the Checkmate characters – Chief Fuji. Fuji House of Commotion was extremely popular during its time on television. Each episode was a hilarious piece of Chief Fuji’s domestic life.
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