Arts & Culture
BOOK REVIEW: Olayinka Oyegbile’s The Dirty Leap: Dramatizing Disillusionment And Dystopia
No literary work is divorced from the society in which it is created. Whether covertly or overtly, literature is usually influenced by the society in which it is created. As Ngugi wa Thiong’o rightly noted, literature does not exist in a vacuum. In creating literary works, writers draw from their society; therefore, literature mirrors life in society. It reveals both the positive and the negative aspects of the society and presents it to the audience. Thus, writers in the Third World are not only fully aware of the appalling state of their society and its inhabitants, but they also attempt to reflect these unsavoury realities to the reader.
The Third World writer does not engage in arts for art’s sake. In the hands of the Third World writer, art becomes a means to lament, protest, convey, speak the minds of the people, and let the world know the existing state of affairs in the society and the dynamics of navigating through it by the commoner. Therefore, most of these writers use their works as a crusade against extortion and maltreatment of the underprivileged people in society.
One of these writers is Olayinka Oyegbile, a Nigerian writer who has written several news articles on Nigeria’s political, economic, and social conditions . However, this review will primarily focus on his latest play titled The Dirty Leap (published by Kraftsgriots in 2021), which explores and exposes the disillusionment at rural and national levels, with a view to elucidating on how as a socially committed dramatist, he engages with the circumstances that obtain in Nigeria, particularly the bane of development and modernization.
In The Dirty Leap, Oyegbile reflects and refracts on what has become of his nation’s political leaders and their promises of development and prosperity. What is fascinating about his presentation is the approach from the rural or local level. In the play, Oyegbile sets out on a journey of revelation in seven dramatic folds through the character of Yusuf’s disillusionment in a post-independent nation. In relation to this, the playwright puts this issue in a cyclical perspective through the character of Hadiza, who unknowingly gets stuck in a drug trafficking ring in the city. Also, through the character of Chief Arowolo, the enablers of this predicament unlock and highlight the bizarre attitude of corrupt African leaders and how they hinder significant development.
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Overall, hopelessness and disappointment pervade the play as the playwright adopts the modernist approach to express the growing disenchantment with the industrialized society, as it descends on modes of realism. In this play, Oyegbile’s embrace of the tenets of modernism was geared towards questioning the principles of realism and nationalism, as well as questioning the ideals of decolonization through the projection of a dystopian postcolonial society which ultimately creates and triggers the sensibilities of readers on a new definition of social objectives for political leaders and citizens.
Oyegbile’s subversion and metaphorization of the trajectory of movement in his play is noteworthy. He traverses the dynamics of post-migration experiences as a disillusioned one in the quest for a better life after being forced out of their own space or environment. This is evidenced by Yusuf’s movement from his rural community to the city due to persistent economic hardship and political incompetence by government authorities, which is also shown through the character of Chief Arowolo, the local government chairman who denies Yusuf’s family of their rightful compensation. The Dirty Leap opens the paradox of the city, the persistent contrariety between an individual’s intended success and the reality that ensues. Through the actions and inactions of the main character, the play exposes the consequences of this dilemma and how a “leap” to a big city from a rural community does not necessarily translate to success and development, which can be “dirty” sometimes, as suggested in the title.
Furthermore, the intense focus and close examination of pressing socio-political ills in the society by the playwright in the play is fascinating and worthy of mention. In other words, Oyegbile follows the school of thought that asserts that the writer is obligated to show his commitment by reflecting the socio-political vices that obtain in the society in which he lives and writes and, most importantly, adopts local or rural aesthetics in the literary work. This element is demonstrated in The Dirty Leap as the dramatist presents characters from the rural community, from the protagonist to the villain. Essentially, the creation of the problem in the play is not ascribed to a foreigner who is non-relatable to audiences and what is obtainable in the writer’s immediate environment.
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Also, Oyegbile, in his play, creates a node of using the particular to talk about the universal by using the binaries of rural/modernization; citizen/government official; education/employment; and hope/greed, which aptly represents the Nigerian environment. As a committed writer and employer of modernist tenets, Oyegbile could be said to have offered a threshold for experimentation with narratorial perspective, the representation of interiority, and the relation between such interiorized consciousnesses and their surrounding social milieus. The Dirty Leap is a modernist drama that exhibits quite a number of modernist features. The play conveys an overwhelming sense of pessimism, hopelessness, and despair through the use of vulgar language, symbols, and scatological imagery. The author’s disillusionment and anger at the state of the society are also reflected and well explored in the play.
This drama text examines representations of post-independence disillusionment as it explores a range of nodes whose features are failures of political leaders and the plight of the masses in Nigeria. It depicts how the average person is oppressed in the society by the supposed upholders of the law. This is shown through the character of Chief Arowolo, a former local government chairman at a rural community, who moves into the city to run an organized drug trafficking ring. This is in comparison with Yusuf, a commoner who moves into the city to make a decent livelihood but gets entangled in the disillusioned world of Chief Arowolo. Through this, Oyegbile presents Nigeria’s dysfunctional socio-political clime. The exploration of this part of the play draws readers’ attention to the apparent disillusionment that pervades the political and social space, coupled with the obsession with power and corruption that is the bane of development in the country.
The dystopia feasts on in the play as it aptly mimics the current situations in the country’s public space, particularly the judiciary arm of the government, which by and large is an extension of what happens in every arm of government in the country. Even though literature is fiction, it is like a mirror, and it is close to the real happenings in the society, which people can relate to. Through the dramatic presentation of the prison scenes, Oyegbile creates a semblance of the truth of the dystopia in the nation and how the three organs of government—executive, judiciary, and legislative—abuse power and corrupt public life to the detriment of the masses. To combat this, the average man will have to fight for himself, which is what Yusuf tries to do as he takes on the mighty Chief Arowolo.
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Oyegbile’s physical leap may be short, but he landed us in the mud where we all become pigs. You and I are confronted with dirt and despair as we try to understand our conditions and navigate the ocean of hopelessness. I am stuck in this mud, and I doubt that Oyegbile can rescue me. I had no idea that leaping with him would land me in this mess!
Falola is a Nigerian historian and professor of African Studies. He is currently the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin.
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Arts & Culture
Toyin Falola, Citizenship And The Diaspora In The Digital Age: Farooq Kperogi And The Virtual Community
Citizenship and the Diaspora in the Digital Age: Farooq Kperogi and the Virtual Community (Africa: Past, Present, and Prospects) | © May 2023 | ISBN: 9781666933413 | By Toyin Falola
Publisher: Lexington Books (May 2023)
Paperback: 384 pages
• Preface And Prologue
• Table of Contents
• PART A: CONTEXT AND CULTURE
Chapter 1: Building an Online Audience
Chapter 2: Philosophical Foundations
Chapter 3: Black Cultures
• PART B: CRITICAL ISSUES
Chapter 4: The Decay in Pre-Tertiary Education in Nigeria
Chapter 5: ASUU and the Decay in Tertiary Education
Chapter 6: Comparing Higher Education in Nigeria and America
Chapter 7: Politicizing: Media Communications in A Democracy
Chapter 8: The English of the Nation
Chapter 9: Comparative “Englishes”
Chapter 10: Societal Decadence
Chapter 11: A Nation on the Boil
• PART C: CONCLUSION
Chapter 12: Assessment, Expansion and Evaluation
In Citizenship and the Diaspora in the Digital Age: Farooq Kperogi and the Virtual Community, Toyin Falola examines how the members of the Nigerian diaspora create a virtual community and instrumentalize the digital age to speak about the nation and its failures, possibilities, and promises. This book depicts individuals’ relationships with society and how the world’s progressive shift toward technology and globalization does not disregard the concept of society and its members. As a result of this shift, people have been migrating to new places without giving up their citizenship in their home countries. This book explores how migrants are focused on the idea of a virtual community, examines how citizens’ roles have evolved through time, and displays society’s essential principles in this light.
Furthermore, it evaluates social commentaries enhanced by the dynamics of the digital age, such as societal issues like education in Nigeria, the question of democracy, challenges facing the country, and the development of a national language. Many of these societal challenges are examined in this book from the perspective of Farooq Kperogi, who has conducted extensive studies and published on the above themes. This is balanced against emerging facts, Nigerians’ positions, and disregarded realities. Kperogi’s relentless writings on Nigeria make him a preeminent figure whose positions are valuable to the understanding of modern Nigeria.
Toyin Falola is a Professor of History, University Distinguished Teaching Professor, and the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair in the Humanities at the University of Texas at Austin, USA. He has received over thirty lifetime career awards and sixteen honorary doctorates. He has written extensively on the African Diaspora, including The African Diaspora: Slavery, Modernity, and Globalization.
Find More: https://www.amazon.com/Citizenship-Diaspora-Digital-Age-Community/dp/1666933414
Arts & Culture
BREAKING: After Subsidy Removal, NNPC Increases Petrol Price To Over N500
The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) on Wednesday adjusted the pump price of petrol by over 100% to between N488 and N557.
The development followed the announcement by President Bola Tinubu during his inaugural address on Monday that fuel subsidy was ‘gone’.
However, it was learnt that the president will meet with organised labour from 2pm Thursday (today) afternoon.
The prices have now been adjusted upward from between N189 to N194 to N537 per litre in Abuja and other North-central States.
For Lagos and other South-west states, a litre of fuel now sells for between N488 and N500 per litre.
In the South-east, the price will range from N515 to N520, while in the North-west, the price of the product was raised to N540. In the North-east, it moved from N199 to N557 per litre.
For the South-south, it is now from N511 to N525 per litre. Nigeria’s subsidy budget of N3.6 trillion for this year, expires in June, 2023.
Arts & Culture
From The Mouth Of The Authoritative Bystander: Steve Ayorinde’s Commentary On The 30 Years Of The New Nigerian Cinema
By Toyin Falola
Anyone can choose to be an observer. Any observer can choose to document and publish their observations. However, what stands Steve Ayorinde’s recently published documentation of observations out is authority — hence my decision to title this piece “From the Mouth of the Authoritative Bystander.” Authority is earned: in Ayorinde’s case, he has earned the authority to comment on the emergence and growth of the new Nigerian cinema because he is unarguably one of Nigeria’s best and most celebrated film and art critics.
Expertise and experience breed authority, and for Ayorinde, both have been in play in his life. Ayorinde has spent decades as a journalist, media critic, film judge, and international commentator whose takes have often been sought both within and outside the country. Furthermore, he has served Nigeria’s biggest economic state — Lagos State — as a Commissioner for Tourism, Arts, and Culture. All these, among many other achievements and strides, point to Ayorinde’s qualification to embark on the journey to document the evolution and growth of Nigeria’s Nollywood in the past 30 years, a movie and film industry that’s been adjudged as one of the world’s fastest-growing movie industries.
Ayorinde is not new to Nigeria’s movie industry. In his foreword, Prof. Jonathan Haynes takes us back to 1996 — where Ayorinde and Okafor’s media piece introduced and critiqued the nascent Nollywood industry. For Ayorinde, watching this new Nigerian cinema start and grow from his earliest predictions must bring some fulfilment. And while it is still expected to grow in leaps and bounds, writing this book at this point is crucial — as crucial as the newspaper piece of 1996 — for it will serve as a means of taking stock, looking back, gauging achievements, measuring success, and highlighting aspects that need improvement.
In 185 pages, Ayorinde serves his authoritative verdict on the altar of six sub-parts, focusing on feature films, directors, actors, actresses, and landmark events. Through this breakdown, we can quickly examine the evolution through Ayorinde’s parameters.
Ayorinde’s bystander’s verdict opens with a seemingly chronological strip-down of in-depth commentaries on 30 of the most era-defining movies and films produced by the Nollywood industry. These 30 works of art, grouped under the sub-section titled Feature Films, include movies from the days of the early cinema and the VHS cassette player to the days of the VCD to the days of the new cinema and online streaming platforms like Netflix. Ayorinde’s expository commentaries on the films of the first decade of the new Nigerian cinema featured Awada Kerikeri’s Asewo To Re Mecca, NEK Video Films’ Living in Bondage, Mainframe Film and Television Prodcutions’ Ti Oluwa Nile, NEK Video Films’ Glamour Girls, Andy Amenechi’s Mortal Inheritance, Gab Okoye’s Battle of Musanga, Zeb Ejiro’s Domitilla, Cinekraft’s Owo Blow series, Femi Lasode’s Sango, Amaka Igwe’s Forever, Rainmaker 70’s King of My Country, and Andy Amenechi’s Igodo. Through these twelve films, Ayorinde shows us the birth and earliest developmental traits of the Nollywood industry. These films also serve as proof that literature mirrors life and society, as the themes of these movies and many like them that were made in the 1990s reflect the preoccupations of the then Nigerian society — kidnapping, ritualism, prostitution, education as the means to livelihood, the migration to greener pastures in the city, among many other concepts.
Kingsley Ogoro’s Osuofia in London, Jeta Amata’s The Amazing Grace, Niji Akanni’s Aramotu, and Chineze Anyaene’s Ije were Ayorinde’s selected films for the expository commentaries on the new Nigerian cinema’s second decade. Through his commentaries on these feature films, Ayorinde makes us understand that the early 2000s to 2010 marked the era during which Nollywood started to gain global traction and attention. During this period, filmmakers in the industry began to tap into collaborations with foreign producers. Similarly, this period marked an increase in the involvement of female directors and producers in Nigeria’s fast-rising Nollywood industry, as well as the game-changing effects of newer technological equipment to help shoot and project more glossy and flashy films.
Kenneth Gyang’s Blood and Henna, Obi Emelonye’s Last Flight to Abuja, Biyi Bandele’s Half of A Yellow Sun, Kunle Afolayan’s October 1, Ayo Makun’s 30 Days in Atlanta, Izu Okukwu’s ‘76, Steve Guka’s 93 Days, Kemi Adetiba’s Wedding Party and King of Boys, GDN Studios’ Eyimofe, Hassan Giggs’ Sadauki, Funke Akindele’s Omo Ghetto: The Saga, Desmond Ovbiagele’s The Milkmaid, and Izu Ojukwu’s Amina serve as the feature films spotlighted by Ayorinde for the third decade of the new Nigerian cinema. Through these films, Ayorinde showcases the evident changes in the evolutionary trajectory of the Nollywood industry, including massive advertising and influencer marketing made easily through social media platforms and the gross followers industry stars have amassed on social media platforms; collaboration with streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Showmax, and increasing national and international award nominations.
In reviewing the feature films spotlighted by Ayorinde in the first part of his verdict, one would notice recurrent categories such as comedy, epic, thriller, and drama — enough to posit that these are the most defining and popular film categories that have yet existed in the Nigerian Nollywood space for the past three decades.
In the second part of the book dedicated to directors, Ayorinde profiles 30 of Nigeria’s most iconic film directors — 32 if one chooses to consider two couples separately — a pattern that doesn’t fail to drive home the point that the selection is continued deference to the symbolism of 30, being the number of years for which the new Nigerian cinema has existed. Ayorinde’s profiling ramps up directors from the contemporary to the pioneer directors of the new Nigerian cinema — from Tunde Kelani to Kunle Afolayan, to Okwo Mildred, to Ojukwu Izu, Obi-Rapu Chris, Kenneth Gyang, Kemi Adetiba, Steve Gukas, Obi Emelonye, Ishaya Bako, and Andy Amenechi, among other prolific directors that have worked to place Nigeria’s films on the global map. The profiling includes the directors’ filmography, nominations and awards, the education of these directors and how their education has shaped their work.
In profiling actors, Ayorinde’s selection cuts across several sides of the Nollywood industry (indigenous-language and English films) and different generations of contemporary and pioneer actors. This selection spotlights 30 actors, including Abdullahi Sani Musa, Femi Adebayo, Odunlade Adekola, Gabriel Afolayan, Fred Amata, Ekpeyong Keppy Bassey, Sam Dede, Pete Edochie, Desmond Elliot, Timini Egbuson, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Jideo Kosoko, Olu Jacobs, Osita Iheme, and Chinedu Ikedieze. Like the profiling of directors, this also includes the filmography, industry experience, awards and nominations of each of these actors, and how their work and accolades have shaped the industry and strengthened its relevance.
Trail-blazing Toyin Abraham, Sandra Achums, Taiwo Lycett-Ajai, Funke Akindele, Halima Atete, Hilda Dokubo, Rita Dominic, Adesua Etomi, Kate Henshaw, Nse Ikpe-Etim, Patience Ozokwor, Genevieve Nnaji, Joke Silva, Sola Sobowale, and Mercy Johnson, among other prolific Nigerian actresses, have the spotlight for the third part of the authoritative bystander’s tales. The commentaries on these actresses cut across their filmography, education, work experience, entry into the industry, awards, and influence on the overall Nollywood industry. If not anything, Ayorinde’s careful selection of 30 actresses in a way that diversely and inclusively represents the three decades and the evolutionary milestones of the industry while highlighting the growth and development of these actresses — especially those that have been around since the earliest years — is worthy of applause.
The creative industry burns bright with stars and talents. In the same vein, uneasy lies the heads that wear the crown, and the industry is also the abode of some of the most troubled people. In the fourth chapter of his book, “The Unforgettable Thirty,” Ayorinde pays tribute to some of the best minds and most influential people who have shaped Nigeria’s new cinema — albeit they are no longer alive. Among these “Unforgettable 30” are legendary Hubert Ogunde, Moses Olaiya Adejumo, Adeyemi Afolayan, Sam Loco Efeeimwonkiyeke, Francis Agu, Biyi Bandele, Felicia Mayford. Sadiq Daba, Nura Mustapha Waye, and Chico Ejiro. Given that Africa is a place where we don’t speak ill of the dead and hardly even speak of the dead at all, Ayorinde’s recognition of the “Unforgettable 30” is a bold and commendable act — especially as these actors, actresses, directors, and producers immensely contributed to the birth and growth of the industry.
In “Landmark Events,” the last part of the book, Ayorinde maps out stand-out events that primarily affected the growth of the new Nigerian cinema. These events, which he categorized into three — Decade 1 (1990 – 1999), Decade 2 (2000 – 2009), and Decade 3 (2010 – 2019) include film festivals, conferences, major acquisitions, collaborations in the industry, the exposure of Nollywood to global audiences, the growth and expansion of Nollywood, awards, the birth of the African Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, and the selection of Nigerians as Academy voters, among other landmark events that have come to prove how far the Nollywood industry has grown and the influence stakeholders in the industry and the industry as an entity has amassed so far.
In the opening paragraph of this piece, I defined authority and the parameters through which I adjudged Ayorinde as an authority on the new Nigerian cinema. If there were to be any doubt about the authoritativeness of this book — and if the sheer amount would not clear those doubts of information shared in the expository profiling of the first four chapters — the “Landmark Events” chapter is a solid proof of how close Ayorinde has been to the source, how closely he has followed and monitored the growth of the industry, and how deeply invested he is in it.
This book is a gift whose value and worth will appreciate as generations pass — it is a goldmine of information that will shape how future generations of researchers, scholars, and critics will view, understand, study, and critique the Nigerian film and movie industry. A product of passion and dedication, the book will remain of considerable value in the decades ahead and will surely become a treasure to behold in our understanding of Nigerian cinemas.
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