Directed by Tope Adabayo and Adebayo Tijani, Jagun Jagun is a Nigerian mythological drama that puts forth the making of a tyrannical leader who is then challenged by a simple man who is courageous enough to confront him. Jagun Jagun, meaning ‘The Warrior,’ is never too subtle. It wants to get its point home and entertain the audience through visceral melodrama. It works in most parts, but the pacing could have been better. There are moments in this film that surprised me and moved me in ways I didn’t expect.
The story revolves around Ogundiji, a tyrannical lord who once stood against tyranny himself but later became the monster he once fought. He ran a school of warriors where people from all over the neighboring villages came to learn the art of war. Ogundiji manipulated the simple villagers and provided them with such training that they actually acted as his slaves, pillaging other villages on his command. Gbotogun, a simple man from Iwon, joins the school of warriors and falls in love with Ogundiji’s daughter, Kitan. Ogundiji fears that his position will be lost, so he plans to tactfully remove Gbotogun from his path, but fate has other plans.
Plot Synopsis: What happens in “Jagun Jagun”?
Ogundiji, son of Ogunrogba, is a formidable man. Everyone knows that he is extremely powerful, as he has ancient charms in his possession. He uses them to win wars. When nothing works in his favor, he uses a special warrior spirit called Agemo to defeat his enemies. No one dares speak against him, let alone wage war against him. Ogundiji runs a school of warriors. His deeds aren’t questioned, and he uses the pupils as his messengers of death. The fact that anybody who does not have Ogundiji’s support in a war is already deemed lost means that Ogundiji has the support of the kings of many kingdoms, and he has proved to be a lifesaver against barbarians in so many cases. This is why they didn’t say anything when Ogundiji randomly executed a student in his school of warriors or even gave unjust punishments. Ogundiji had only one main concern. He wanted to remain the ruler until he died. He didn’t want the power taken away from him. He had a daughter, Kitan, who helped run the school, and his wife, Erinfunto, kept her in check so that she did not mingle with the students.
Gbotogun, aka Gbotija, from Iwon village, has been meaning to learn the art of war ever since his village was pillaged by a group of barbarians. So, he made his journey to reach Ogundiji’s school of warriors. He had just one charm, which made it possible for him to converse with trees. Any tree’s wood was under his control. Although Gbotija never imagined in his wildest dreams that he would become the greatest warrior, his destiny had already put him on that path. Soon, a chain of events started that made Ogundiji fearful that Gbotija would take his kingdom, and so he decided to murder him, but in a way that would make it seem that Gbotija died during the ‘tests’ to become a brave warrior.
How did Gbotija become famous?
If Gbotija was a ‘nobody’ or just another pupil, Ogundiji wouldn’t have contemplated his execution. But Gbotija had proved that he was capable of helping people through his tree charm. When Ogundiji burned on the stake a man from Alaje village who had come to the school as a pupil, his wife Ajitoni did a charm in her village and evoked the Deities of Elegiri. She asked them to show no mercy and kill the spouse of the one who had murdered her husband. This would be the only justice for her. So the spirits of the deities showed up at Ogundiji’s place and attacked Erinfunto. As they had weapons made of wood, Gbotija came just in time to use his pact with the trees to make the weapons useless. After this incident, Ogundiji couldn’t just kill Gbotija at his whim. He had saved the life of his wife, and now he was a known entity in the school.
How did Gbotija grow close to Kitan?
Call it Gbotija’s courage or foolish nature, but before he saved Erinfunto, he had irked another member of Ogundiji’s family. One day, after their training, when the food arrived for the pupils, they saw that it wasn’t even enough to feed half the school’s population. Kitan saw the food distribution in the school, and she came fuming to punish the ones who had ordered the return of the food baskets. No one spoke up except Gbotija. Kitan punished him for his insubordination and whipped him to no end. Seeing Gbotija’s unwillingness to bend the knee, she tried to break him with harsher punishments, but Gbotija took it bravely and always remembered to be a righteous man. This quality made Kitan grow fond of him, and it was another reason Ogundiji couldn’t just kill Gbotija.
How Did Ogundiji Plan To Kill Gbotija? Who Finally Killed Ogundiji?
Gbotija didn’t really come onto Ogundiji’s radar until the school’s festival, where pupils had to showcase their skills. Kitan had made Gbotija the head of the food distribution, and he had risen considerably up the ranks. Even then, Ogundiji didn’t really think of murdering him. Something had to happen that would make Ogundiji think that Gbotija had the potential to remove him as the ruler. He was generally very secure, but whenever he feared that he had met his match, he trembled and grew fiercely insecure about his throne. When Gbotija managed to pass a javelin perfectly through a series of moving circles, Ogundiji was stunned. He was the second man to have ever completed that feat, apart from Ogundiji himself. So he planned to remove Gbotija from his path.
He planned a few ‘tests’ that Gbotija would have to go through if he was to marry Kitan. All of them were arbitrary in nature and were designed in such a way that Gbotija would perish or decline to fight, living a life of dishonor. Firstly, he pitted Gbotija against his father figure, Gbogunmi. He thought Gbotija would be killed, as Gbogunmi was the ‘son of war.’ Yet, when the fight ended, Gbotija was victorious. He lamented the fact that he had to kill Gbogunmi, but Ogundiji had simply left him no other choice. Ogundiji was stunned to see Gbotija victorious, so he gave him the second test, which was to be sealed in a coffin for seven days. Everybody was aghast by this test, especially Kitan. She couldn’t understand why her father was being so harsh.
Gbotija survived for three days, and Ogundiji ordered the coffin to be drowned in the nearby pond. The tree charm again saved Gbotija, as the coffin was made of wood. When nothing worked, Ogundiji made Gbotija his messenger of death and sent him to massacre Alaje village for sending the spirits to kill Erinfunte. Gbotija obeyed yet again and destroyed the village. When he returned with a heavy heart, he thought his final test was in front of him. Agemo, the warrior spirit, was in front of him, and with the help of his tree charm, he dodged the spirit, and a tree branch stabbed Agemo, reducing it to a purely physical form. Agemo was none other than Kitan. Gbotija was distraught, and Kitan, before dying, revealed that Ogundiji wasn’t her real father. He had killed her biological father and then abducted her because he saw Agemo’s spirit in her. He made her his messenger of death and used her spirit to win his battles.
By the end of Jagun Jagun, Gbotija, who had spilled so much blood only to lose Kitan and learn that she wasn’t even related to Ogundiji, finally realized that Ogundiji was a cruel tyrant who wasn’t testing his daughter’s lover but simply waiting for him to die. Before dying, Kitan had told Gbotija that Ogundiji had a son of his own named Regent Oyenike. When Gbotija returned, to everyone’s surprise, he started a rebellion against the tyrant Ogundiji. He opened their eyes to the fact that Ogundiji wasn’t teaching the art of war; he was instead teaching everyone how to be slaves. Ogundiji, in an effort to suppress the rebellion, started to name the battles he had won and what the students were up against. In a state of fury, he blurted out the Iwon war. Gbotija heard him mention his village’s name and realized that it was Ogundiji who had massacred his entire village, including his father. He went in to kill Ogundiji. Erinfunte received the news that Regent was Ogundiji’s son and ultimately it was not Gbotija but Erinfunte who killed Ogundiji, perhaps because of Ogundiji’s betrayal. This is how Ogundiji’s reign of terror finally came to an end.