…Deploys theatre arts to correct hate speeches, war
Across the country these recent times, the drumbeat of war is seriously shaking the nation’s foundation. Hate speeches among other derogative remarks have become a common currency across tribes and tongues. Sounds of break up, secession, “quit” notice, restructuring – and rejection of devolution of powers, among others, have taking the centre stage of our national discourse.
But well meaning Nigerians are quick to caution the harbingers of war to thread softly and allow reason to prevail.
One of them is a Professor at the Department of European Languages and Applied Arts, University of Lagos, Akoka, Yaba, Professor Samuel Timothy-Asobele, who has moved against hate speeches and any impending war in Africa’s most populous country.
He attempted to achieve his aim through the use of theatre to dissuade Nigerians, particularly the youths, to eschew violence and embrace peace.
For him, theatre is a veritable tool to fight societal ills. And that was why, on Thursday, July 20, 2017, eminent professors, including the university’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academics, Professor Ola Rotimi, and scores of the university’s enthusiastic students, thronged the Board Room 401 of the Faculty, venue of the play, written by the don. Head, Department of English, Professor Hope Eghagha moderated the programme.
According to the playwright who has been described as a man of high intellectual standing, imbued with uncommon energy over the past three decades of academic prowess, there is urgent need to deploy resources and legal avenues to move against any impending war in the country. One of these, he said, is theatre/plays like the one he has espoused.
The Kabba, Kogi State-born Professor of French Language and one-time Head of the department, says “Nigeria is a collective responsibility, and should not be torn apart by strives or wars.”
For him, there is need to restructure the country, enunciate true federalism as agitated for by various ethnic groups like the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, Arewa Youth, Middle Belt Group, Niger Delta Group and Afenifere, but cautioned that this must be done with good reasoning.
In particular, he warned against violence being used by IPOB, led by Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, who is seeking the proclamation of Biafra Republic, adding that the move by the Igbo Leaders to douse tension in the region by calling Kanu to order was in good taste.
“Kanu should listen to Igbo leaders like, Abia state Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu; Governor of Enugu state, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, Anamra state Gov, Mr. Willie Obiano; former Chairman, All Progressives Grand Alliance, Chief Victor Umeh; former Senate President, Ken Nnamani; former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof Charles Soludo; Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe and General( rtd) Ike Nwachukwu,” he said.
The professor described his book, ‘The three unending Transition plays,’ which he dramatised as a “child of necessity and a contribution to the spread of democratic norms in Africa.”
As his audience watched the play on stage, he said that, “In Nigeria of today, there is that longing to know more about the unsettling conflict of governance that has beset our body politics. Also, ‘The Commander’s Telegram’ interprets the allegory of what happens when the family unit is endangered by misunderstanding that too often leads to war in the Nigerian Biafran Civil War of 167-70.”
Characters like Gen Ndigwe; Steiner; Capt. Olowo; Sgt Rimi; Lt. Maman; Gen Ekpeyong featured prominently in the book/play.
For example, page 94 of the book and dramatised in the Nigerian Civil War, reveals its atrocities and the conversation between Steiner and Gen Ndigwe thus:
Steiner: You cannot compare those (over 4000 Biafran dead soldiers) to our brave and expensively trained European liberators.
Gen Ndigwe: An end to your joke! Mathematicians of the world; how many African dead is equal to one European dead? We are a victim of a hoax, a sort of April fool!
Road to peace in Nigeria
Professor Timothy-Asobele, while condemning embers of war, said, “We all say ‘No’ to Prof Ango Abdulahi’s order on Igbo to leave the North in support of the Arewa Youth. We need to eschew violence.”
He said that the cherished philosophy, ‘Go On With One Nigeria’ (GOWON) must be continually imbibed by Nigerians, particularly the youths, to inculcate unity and development to Nigerians.
The Prof likened the ongoing hate speeches across the country to an armoured tank which, when in operation, could destroy just anything within its shooting range.
For the moderator, Professor Eghagha, who described his colleague as an “intellectual, who has been very active and courageous for over three decades,” there was the need to enunciate true Federalism in the country.
He said the pronouncement by the Arewa Youths could trigger North-South migration with dire consequences on the polity, and called for caution, describing theatre as a tool for highlighting and correcting societal ills.
No doubt, the play was a wakeup call for Nigerians to eschew divisive tendencies and issues that could cause war.
Meanwhile, the students and others who watched the play written, organised and presented by one of their own eminent dons, were full of commendation for its import and purpose.