The Supreme Price – Compelling, Entertaining
This is a documentary film that tells the story of Kudirat Abiola from the Point-of-View of Hafsat Abiola-Costello, who unintentionally becomes an activist when her father, the late Chief M. K. O. Abiola, is incarcerated for declaring himself Nigeria’s President after the annulment of an election he is widely believed to have won in 1993. Bill Clinton, former American President, is quoted as saying that the June 12, 1993 election in Nigeria is “the best demonstration of democracy after the end of apartheid”; but Gen. Ibrahim Babangida’s government invalidated it for reasons, which remain unknown until this day.
Hafsat Abiola-Costello, Walter Carrington (US Ambassador to Nigeria, 1993 – 1997), Prof. Wole Soyinka, Lekan Abiola, John Campbell (US Ambassador to Nigeria, 2004 – 2007) and Joe Okei-Odumakin are some of the interviewees in The Supreme Price, where they give far-reaching insights on the Abiola household, the pre and post June 12 days, diplomacy and international politics plus patriarchy.
The film is well-enacted with relevant photographs as well as footage of social and political events. The footage of Abiola and his wives at an occasion plus the apparent tension amongst them tells viewers that there must have been a recent disagreement between them or that a certain problem was brewing. It is enlightening to see Abacha, making a broadcast on TV while Kudirat Abiola listens in her living room shortly before her unfortunate assassination.
The rest of the footage – from electioneering campaigns to the demonstrations on the streets, following the annulment of the June 12 elections and the invasion of the Abiola household 0n the orders of Abacha’s government – are apt and revealing.
The digressions – like talking about Nigeria’s oil midway into the film – are excellent. Gender is one idea, which is reiterated in The Supreme Price. “Good governance is not about gender”, “To play the game that women are divided is to advance patriarchy”, “Activism and wife don’t go together” are some statements made in the film; notions that Hafsat Abiola-Costello has been challenging through the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy, KIND. Ironically, one of the biggest advocates of patriarchy is none other than Lekan Abiola, Hafsat’s brother, who promotes the view that a woman should be as near to her closet as possible; where, according to him, Allah answers her prayers the most. He is averse to his sister’s cause, remarking that she is wasting her time.
The beauty of this film is that there is no attempt to hide uncomfortable or opposing facts like Lekan Abiola’s full display of patriarchy. Alan Channer; the producer of The Imam and The Pastor, another documentary; once said, “Documentaries can dissolve assumptions or even eliminate stereotypes; thereby creating mutual understanding.” So, when people like Lekan Abiola see The Supreme Price, they may be persuaded to rethink their position.
The determined young lady, Hafsat Abiola-Costello; who left her diplomat husband, Nicholas Costello, and two young children in Belgium to take up an appointment as an aide to the Governor of Ogun State on the MDGs; must be fulfilling her dream of contributing to the change she wants to see; having commented in the documentary that “Nigeria has changed a lot, but has not changed enough.”
There are two misconceptions in The Supreme Price. One, the map of Nigeria they dispaly shows Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba as the three tribes, which make up Nigeria, error! The minorities, found almost all over the country, must be represented in Nigeria’s map. Another map of Nigeria depicts the Christian South and the Muslim North, blunder! Is Abiola-Costello’s family not South Western Nigeria and Muslim at the same time? Those parts must be expunged from the film without delay.
The film also reveals the intriguing and divisive nature of polygamy. Apart from Kudirat’s children, neither the surviving wives of Chief Abiola nor his other forty-eight children feature in the documentary.
The Supreme Price; though a documentary film, whose story we know very well; keeps viewers on the edge of their seats with superb exposition and entertainment. Director Joanna Lipper ought to be commended for telling such an intense and fantastic story. Choosing to let the film transcend the June 12 struggle and relate present-day occurrences is triumph for the late Kudirat Abiola, who paid with her life as she fought injustice because it reaffirms her belief that Hafsat will continue the activism even if she dies in “battle”. Accordingly, the jury at the 2014 Africa International Film Festival, AFRIFF, awarded The Best Documentary Film Prize to The Supreme Price.