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How An Agbero Has A Diary And Vader Manages Several Creative Personalities
Vader Wildcard is a musician, a comedian and an all-round creative genius. In the last seven weeks, the world has come to know him as Samo, the lead in his Agbero Diary series.
When Vader the Wildcard says his name is Franklin Nnamdi Ikemefuna, he immediately starts to laugh because he knows that others would too. It is not that his name is funny, it is that no-one expects that to be his name. It is the fact that an Igbo man from Delta state frequently embodies and plays a Yoruba garage boy in his series, If An Agbero Had A Dairy.
The hilarious series features Vader perfectly mimicking a motoboy with the right accent, intonation and thought process. The character, Samo, is not a stranger. We have all met or at least heard about someone like him. With Samo’s diary, we are taken into the garage world and the intricacies of the existence of all that share it.
The complexities of this series easily go unnoticed as Vader delivers each diary with unbridled humour and narrates Samo’s thoughts with careful introspection. In seven weeks, it has become one of the most watched in Nigeria and trends on Twitter every time it drops. One would assume that every step was planned but even its creator is as shocked as we are.
Vader is an all round creative but his entrance into comedy was almost accidental or well, can be described as an arrangement by the forces of nature. About the diary, he tells us over Twitter Space that when he did the first episode, “it was supposed to be a one-off.”
“The thing with when something becomes successful is that people like to make it look like that was the plan. As for me, it wasn't. It was supposed to be a one off right? Because I have a lot of content creator friends, you know and I worked with them. Last year, I collaborated with a lot of them. So, behind the scenes, I would help them flesh out ideas, write out scripts and all that.
His friends were always telling him he was too funny and talented to be in the shadows and he decided to try in 2022. He chose to go on TikTok but struggled to navigate the app for a while. When time came to decide the content, he thought to himself, “I grew up in Ibadan, in Molete. For those who know Ibadan, you know Molete is the headquarters of thuggery in the Southwest and these were people that I grew up with. I just thought, what if I put a spin on the narrative to put an agbero in a different light, wherein you look past the tendency for violence and look at the fact that these guys are human beings too. They bleed the way we bleed, they fall in love and they have their mental challenges too.”
He wanted to make one video and move on to another thing. That one video, on January 12, was well received and commenters wanted to know if the series would continue. It was also the same day he opened TikTok. Seeing the positive reception, he did a followup video which went viral.
“So, from the jump, I just wanted to do it and move on to the next one. But as it all happened, I was just so blessed that people gravitated towards there immediately. ”
He continues, “Immediately, I started thinking of how best to scale up because I am surrounded by people who think on a global scale. There have been conversations and offers to turn it into a proper series and I knew then that most people were talking out of excitement. Because how would you feel in the next couple of weeks when people don't like this content anymore, how would you feel? Are you just excited because it's popping right now?”
Vader is working with some people to expand the project but would provide details later. In the meantime, he takes us behind the extensive character bible for the series and points out that, for him, it was important “to create characters that can exist outside of Samo Agbero. Samo is the conduit through which the other characters are introduced to the world. I am not trying to make him the hero and then have everything work through him. I am trying to create a universe of some sort.”
In this universe, the fans are allowed to pick their favourite and this expansion of thought is important to the creator. “We can have so many heroes, right? So like I'm not even the favourite character for a lot of people. For some it's Elele.”
The characters, their names and attributes are anecdotes from Vader’s childhood. He played street football and hung out with these people while growing up and soaked in their experiences. “I had very contrasting realities. I went to a private school and some of them went to public schools or did not go at all. Football was the thing that brought us together. I was inquisitive as a child and I was a sponge. So it was easy for me to soak up their experiences. So it is easy for me to piece these together.”
Although born to Igbo parents, he says he was born in the midst of “serious Yoruba people and my parents gave me a name that was easy for Yoruba people to call. They named me Tobi. My dad was very good at speaking Yoruba. My mum speaks small. My dad had a thing for languages. So I had that growing up. I think that created an enabling environment for me to soak in all of these languages and internalise and spin in my own narrative.”
Comedy is a new-found path for Vader, who was first introduced to the creative world as a music artist. In 2017, he won the Hennessy VS Class. His album To Be Frank is a collection of life experiences that make you smile, ponder, sign and then laugh. On Valentine’s day this year, he was on the track Ikogosi. And, like comedy, his journey into rap was also accidental. In university, he had called another person’s work out for being mediocre and the person challenged him to rap. Vader spent time writing lyrics just to get back at the guy. He is still writing and recording music.
Within him is a set of creative personalities and each takes their turn depending on the time of day. Frank is the professional, the one who goes to corporate events and sits at the negotiating table; Vader is the musician and the alter ego fans once knew before he began to keep a diary as Samo, the Agbero. As a creative, he wants to do more and contribute his quota in expanding the ecosystem and bridging gaps.