Nigerian director Bolanle Austen-Peters’ drama film, “Man of God,” tries to present the Biblical story of the prodigal son in a modern Nigerian context. The protagonist here is Samuel, who grows up distant from his extremely religious family, to try and make a living out of his own efforts away from religion. “Man of God” has a kind of amateurish appeal to it, especially with regards to acting performances, and might be a nice watch for those keeping an interest in following contemporary cinema from every corner of the world.
‘Man of God’ Plot Summary
Since his very childhood, Samuel does not find any interest or enjoyment in practicing religion, and often escapes from the congregations that his father presides over, being a very renowned pastor. The father, known as Prophet Josiah Obalolu to his many followers, is very stern and regular in reprimanding the young boy, always scolding and beating him up over his absence from the church.
Young Sam always promised his mother that he would run away from home and never look back at his father, and he manages to do so as he grows up to be a popular young musician. Sam now studies at a university, where he struggles to keep up his studies alongside his music. He is very good friends with the daughter of a family friend, Tej, who helps him out with missed class notes and exam preparations, and she also constantly encourages him to visit church fellowships and remain in touch with his Christian religion. Sam, of course, does not pay much heed to this advice and instead wants to focus on his music career to grow rich along with his band member and casual girlfriend, Rekya.
One evening after his performance, Tej visits Sam backstage and introduces her friend, Joy, to whom Sam takes an almost instant interest. He gradually tries to make a connection with her and even asks for help from Tej, who gets a bit disturbed as she possibly has her own romantic interest in Sam. Rekya and Sam have a disagreement over his unwillingness to send replies to his mother’s letters. The young man asks Joy out, and they start a relationship, despite Joy, who herself is very religious and faithful to the church, getting to know about Sam’s father and about his unfaithful lifestyle.
At some point, Rekya has been involved in drug distribution and other such activities, and she makes a large sum of money within a short span of time, buying a grand apartment where she invites Sam and expresses her wish to leave Nigeria soon. Sam, who had stayed away from these criminal jobs, perhaps only because he did not have much time to do them, now concentrates on finishing his university education with the help of Joy. But he grows a bit wary of a young pastor, Zak, who visits Joy’s graduation party and seems to show interest in her. Soon, Joy goes away to youth service and is irregular in writing back to Sam. Finally, after four months of nearly no reply, Sam asks around for any news of his girlfriend, and is shocked to hear that Joy has married and settled down with Pastor Zak.
Major Spoilers Ahead
How Does Sam Turn Into A Man Of God?
Sam immediately gets into depression and grief and has to be gradually helped out by his oldest friend, Tej. Years pass, and Sam and Tej are now happily married, with Tej managing to bring Sam back to religion, and he now performs at congregations. However, the elderly married couple who serve as pastors in this church are not content with Sam because of his choices and actions. They object to the content and style of the songs that Sam performs, and also to the fashion that he follows for himself, with shiny jewelry and other accessories. But Sam, having been an unreligious music star only a few years back, of course, does not follow their advice and keeps on with church work only for the sake of his wife. Tej asks him to hold on for some more time with the church till he can think of some better work, but it becomes impossible for Sam when the pastors accuse him of sexual misdemeanors with young women members of the church. This leads to a misunderstanding between the couple as well, as Tej tries to say that the pastors might be accusing her husband only to mend his ways, but Sam perceives this as his wife trying to support the church.
The two apologize and mend their relationship a few days later, but now Sam is seen receiving a call from an unknown young woman who asks him what she should do about their baby growing in her womb. At the same time, Tej receives an envelope at her house addressed to Sam and decides to open it. She is heartbroken to find sonography images of a pregnant womb, along with a letter informing Sam that the woman has decided to go for an abortion as she cannot afford to become a mother at such a young age without any support from the father. Although Tej does not reveal any of this to Sam, she distances herself from her husband, both mentally and physically.
Around this time, Sam receives a call from Rekya, who has returned to Nigeria and wants to meet him. Rekya shows off her rich and luxurious lifestyle, which she can easily afford with her high-paying but unlawful profession. It is his ex-girlfriend who first suggests to Sam how profitable the church business can be, and the man now decides to make use of religion for the purpose of business. He wakes his wife at night, and knowing that she won’t doubt such matters, Sam tells her that God visited him in his dreams and asked him to follow in his father’s steps to become a pastor. Tej forgives all the past and helps her husband establish their own ministry, called the Vineyard of Love Ministries. Sam continues to visit Rekya, though, and regularly gets sexually intimate with her.
While their ministry goes off to a successful start, one day, Sam and Tej are visited by a woman after the congregation, who hints at knowing Sam’s past of committing misdeeds with young women. This woman is then seen submitting a complaint at a police station, as she is the elder sister of the woman with whom Sam had gotten pregnant, but the police ask her to procure any documents claiming that Sam had forced her sister into an abortion to make her case considerably stronger. On the other hand, Sam and his ministry start to receive large sums of money from Rekya, which he doubts at first but soon does not mind. With such huge funding, the ministry grows quickly, and Sam becomes influential enough to drive around with police escorts.
One day, out of the blue, Joy and her husband Zak come to their church for some business, and the two couples find it very awkward at first. It is revealed that Zak left his religious role as a pastor some years after his marriage and now works in sound production. Sam meets with Joy and hints at getting back to their intimacy too, but the woman removes herself from the situation after apologizing for having left him without any notice all those years back. Sometime later, Sam’s younger brother, Daniel, comes to meet him.
The reunion of the two brothers is not sweet, though, as Daniel vents his anger and frustration at Sam for never returning home in all these years, never thinking about his parents or family, and never even getting in touch with them. He informs Sam of the passing of their mother, and walks out insulted when the elder brother offers money to him as if to pay off for his absence. As Sam starts to receive text messages from an unknown number, reminding him of his illegitimate relationship and also out of frustration regarding his current life, the man asks Rekya to involve him in her profession and to help him settle down somewhere abroad.
‘Man Of God’ Ending Explained: What Happens When Sam Finally Returns Home?
The climax of the drama plays out over conversations regarding two phone calls—one on the side of Joy and the other of Sam. Zak overhears Joy sending a voice message to Sam, asking him to stop texting her, and sits her down to have a talk with her. Although she is scared that he might doubt her faithfulness, she is delighted with her husband’s words as Zak comfortingly explains to her why he left the ministry and church some time back. He now realizes how much the church meant to Joy, and sincerely apologizes to her for having thwarted his own wishes on her life; Joy readily forgives him, and the two live a healthy and happy married life.
On the other hand, Tej goes through the ministry’s papers and finds records of suspiciously large fund transactions and also documentation for traveling to Canada. Just at this time, she overhears a phone conversation between Sam and police officials who inform him of the death of Rekya. The woman had been involved in drug and human organ trafficking, and her documents showed Sam and his ministry as her clients. Tej then angrily discloses all her findings to her husband and also tells him that she had always known about the hushed-up pregnancy and abortion.
As a religiously faithful wife, she had always tried to protect her husband, but she is now livid as Sam tells her that he wishes to be away from her and has been trying to immigrate to Canada without her. She threatens that she has all the power required to get Sam in trouble, and when he still leaves her, she delivers on her promise. Tej drives down to a police station and submits all the documents required to prove Sam’s involvement in infidelity, forceful abortion, and money laundering. Sam is sentenced to a long prison sentence, and when he is finally released, he has no wealth or property left in his name. Now in simple clothing and with an air of humility, Sam returns home to his father and family, who readily welcome him back with open arms, and the film ends with their celebrations.
Exactly like in the parable of the prodigal son, the father welcomes his son back, forgiving every sin and blasphemy he had once committed. The father is only happy that his son finally returned, and is quick to thank God for this return. The message in “Man of God” message is quite clear: do not meander away from the path of religion with an unabashed attitude and belief in one’s own self, for the ultimate end of such a lifestyle is destruction. Not getting into the judgment of such a message or belief, “Man of God” might be a watch of interest to get to know what’s up in the mainstream cinema of Nigeria, and can be avoided otherwise.
‘Man of God’ is a 2022 Nigerian Drama film directed by Bolanle Austen-Peters.