Three notable Nollywood practitioners- Kunle Afolayan, Ayo Makun who is popular as AY and Play Network boss Charles Okpaleke are among the 339 Nigerians and friends of Nigeria selected to receive national honours from the Federal Government.
They were the only three from the motion picture space that made the cut. While Afolayan and Okpaleke will be conferred with national honours in the rank of Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON), Comedian, actor and film producer Ayo Makun will be conferred with the National honour of Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), Afolayan, Okpaleke and AY have by this award joined the unofficial club of Nollywood practitioners that have been honoured by the federal government for their invaluable contributions to the growth and development of that non-oil sector of the nation’s economy.
Those that have been previously honoured include Omotola Jalade Ekeinde (MFR), Patience Ozokwo (MFR), Peace Anyiam-Osigwe (MFR), Zeb Ejiro (OON), Teco Benson (MFR), Kanayo O. Kanayo (MFR), Emeka Rollas (MFR), Stephanie Linus-Idahosa (MFR), Zeb Ejiro (OON) and Mo Abudu (OON). Moviedom salutes Afolayan, Okpaleke and AY for giving the industry something to cheer about on this diet of the national honours award.
Kunle Afolayan (OON)
One of Nigeria’s best-known filmmaker, Kunle Afolayan is a prolific filmmaker who has been roundly credited for elevating the quality of Nollywood movies through big budgets, shooting on a big gauge and releasing in cinemas and on the biggest streaming platforms. After debuting in a Tunde Kelani movie ‘Saworide’ in 1999, Afolayan made his directorial debut in 2006 with Irapada, a Nigerian thriller which won the AMAA crest for Best Film in an indigenous language. His other filmic credits include ‘Figurine’, ‘Phone Swap’, ‘October 1’, ‘Citation’, ‘The CEO’ and lately ‘Anikulapo’ an epic Nigerian fantasy released in September 2022 on the streaming platform Netflix. Founder of Kunle Afolayan Production (KAP), Afolayan runs a film academy and a film village where he is currently making Anikulapo into a series.
Charles Okpaleke (OON)
Popularly called Charles of Play by close friends, is a Lifestyle Entrepreneur, Health Economist, CEO of Play Entertainment Network, and Brand influencer turned film producer. He has led Play Entertainment Network to give life to some Nollywood classics. His debut film ‘Living in Bondage: Breaking Free’ won several awards including best movie (West Africa) and Overall Best Movie at the 2020 edition of the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards.
Charles has also signed classics such as ‘Rattle Snake’, ‘Nneka The Pretty Serpent’ and ‘Glamour Girls’. In his 40’s, the debonair entertainment entrepreneur and brand influencer studied Medical Laboratory Science at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in science in 2005.
After his studies, he proceeded for his compulsory one-year Housemanship which he undertook at the State House Clinic at the Presidential Villa, Asokoro, Abuja. After this, he went for his one-year National Youth Service and later enrolled at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom where he obtained an MSc in Health Economics and Health Policy in 2007.
On his return to Nigeria, he worked with Family Healthcare International (FHI) on the Global HIV/AIDS Initiative Nigeria (GHAIN) Project and later worked as also worked as a postgraduate lecturer at the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus. Charles career swivel chair turned in 2008 when along with his brothers, Elvis (a lawyer) and Jeffery (an economist), founded Play Entertainment Network. The firm which began as a Sports Bar, serves as the umbrella body of Play Network Nigeria and Play Network Africa. The firm serves as a professional and structured multidisciplinary networking hub for entrepreneurs, business executives, future leaders and like-minded people. The firm is now well-regarded for producing big-budget productions
Ayo Makun (MFR)
Popular as AY, Ayo Makun is one of Nigeria’s A-list comedians, film producers and entertainment entrepreneurs. The Ifon, Ondo State-born theatre arts graduate of the Delta State University, Abraka is huncho of Corporate World Entertainment, the company that is behind the successful ‘AY Live’ Comedy show, reputed as one of the biggest comedy shows in Nigeria if not in Africa.
Like Ali Baba, AY occupies a top position amongst comedians whose heart partly lies in moviedom. Not only has the award-winning comedian featured in a couple of Nollywood movies, but AY has equally signed a few critically acclaimed movie productions as Executive Producer. He has starred in highly successful movies like ‘Being Mrs. Elliot’, ‘The Wedding Party’ and in the across-country production titled ‘American Driver’.
The movies that AY has signed as lead actor and producer are ‘A Trip To Jamaica’, ’30 Days in Atlanta’, ’10 Days in SunCity’, and most recently ‘Merry Men’, ‘American Driver’, ‘The Accidental Spy’ (Guardian)