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On Wednesday, the Nollywood luminous industry dimmed a shade darker with the heartbreaking news of the death of Junior Pope, born Pope Odonwodo. The industry mourned the charismatic talent who could ignite a scene with his mere presence. More than just an actor, Pope was a father, a husband, and a filmmaker who poured his heart into every role he played.

Pope died alongside three crew members after their boat capsized in the River Niger in Asaba, Delta state on their way to a movie location. Initially, a glimmer of hope flickered when the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) reported signs of life. However, the hope was tragically extinguished hours later after the guild confirmed Pope’s passing, stating that efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Shortly before the boat mishap, Pope, who appeared scared of the river, shared a video of himself offering prayers for a safe journey while heading to the movie location.

“See me lamenting….The risk we take to entertain you; crossing river 9ja yesterday with no life jacket…. Na wahooooo Who does that ??” the actor captioned the Instagram post.


Born on May 7, 1984, in Bamenda, Cameroon to a Nigerian father (Luke Odonwodo) who is from the Ukehe tribe in Enugu state and a Cameroonian mother, Pope spent his early years in the Central African country, where he completed his primary and secondary education before relocating to Nigeria.


Pope discovered his passion for acting while studying accounting at the University of Nigeria (Nsukka). His breakout role came in 2007 with Tchidi Chikere’s film, ‘Secret Adventures’. Whether he took the roles of a bodyguard, kidnap kingpin, palace attendant, or servant, Pope showcased remarkable versatility, captivating audiences in diverse roles. From the complexities of dramas like ‘Bitter Generation’ to the comedic brilliance displayed in sitcoms like ‘Professor Johnbull’, the actor was super talented.

The film star’s multicultural upbringing was a key aspect of his identity which contributed to shaping his perspective as an actor and public figure.



Beyond the dazzling lights and roaring applause, Pope’s heart belonged to his family. “In All I Give Glory To God, Indeed God Is Merciful….. God Is The Greatest, And Family Is Everything,” he wrote on Instagram in April 2021 alongside a family photo.


Pope family

Pope and his family

Pope cherished his role as a devoted husband to Jennifer Awele, his wife, and a doting father to their three children. Their love story, beginning with a chance connection on Facebook, blossomed into a beautiful wedding ceremony in 2014. Pope was never shy about wearing his heart on his sleeve, showering his family with affection on social media. Even in the face of his last moments aboard the ill-fated boat, a raw desperation echoed in his final video. In Pidgin English, he cried out, “Abeg na only me dem born. I get three children, na me go raise them”. This was not just a plea for survival; he desperately wanted to fulfil his most “cherished role”; raising his children. Throughout their marital journey, Pope often spoke highly of Jennifer Awele, who he described as his “peace”.



In a 2023 interview, the actor recalled some of the challenges he faced when he newly got married to his wife. He also prayed to “run mad” the day he laid his hands on Jennifer.


“Back then it seemed like it wasn’t working, it was not easy at all. I have not mentioned it before but to the glory of God, today let me share this,” he said.

“After I got married, the first year was not rosy; I collected my wife’s gold jewellery and used it to borrow money from aboki. So, I give Him the glory for giving me a patient wife. Why would I want to touch a woman like this? God forbid. One thing I told myself and God is that the day I lay my hands on my wife, let me run mad. Instead, I walk away.”


In June 2023, they celebrated their 9th wedding anniversary after which he unveiled their multi-million naira mansion on social media.

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Lennox Mall

In 2010, he won the ‘Nollywood Most Promising Actor’ award at the Entertainment Factory Awards. His influence transcended the Asaba film industry. He became a recognisable face in Nollywood, particularly known for his work in action comedies and crime thrillers where his charisma and talent shone brightly.

Though his time on this earth was cut short, Pope leaves behind a legacy that transcends the silver screen. His impact on Nollywood, marked by his talent, professionalism, and warmth, will continue to resonate for years to come.


The Cable

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