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BOOK REVIEW: Olayinka Oyegbile’s The Dirty Leap: Dramatizing Disillusionment And Dystopia

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Alaafin Adeyemi III: The Throne Of Numerous Authorities

By
Toyin Falola

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.

READ ALS: BOOK REVIEW: Adetanwa Odebiyi’s Twisted Love And The Dangers Of Favoritism In A Nuclear Family

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.

READ ALSO: BOOK REVIEW: The Aesthetics Of Performance And Orality In Na’Allah’s Dadakuada

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.

READ ALSO: BOOK REVIEW: Abdul-Rasheed Na’Allah’s Seriya And The Aesthetics Of Socialist Realism

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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MUSIC REVIEW: Simi’s “Woman”: An Explosive Tool For Social Change

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Alaafin Adeyemi III: The Throne Of Numerous Authorities

By

Toyin Falola

Explosive—that’s one word that aptly describes Simisola Bolatito Kosoko’s latest single: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udnkr-pMRa8

Better known by her stage name, Simi, this amazon of an African musician has yet proven the strength and quality of her musical renditions. “Explosive” must be an apt appellation for a song that has garnered close to a million views on YouTube within 48 hours of release. What is so electric about Woman that has made it the talk of the town?

Simi’s “Woman”: An Explosive Tool For Social Change

With Woman, Simi has proven that she is a master of her art. The song is a masterfully mixed sampling of popular Fela tunes, from Suffering and Shmiling, to Water No Get Enemy. Through this song, Simi has donned the philosophical robes of one of the greatest musicians Africa has ever produced, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, to direct society’s focus to the challenges of the average woman. She previously took successful older songs and repackaged them to more powerful effects, as in her

Aimasiko (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDIqkEWLYzE)

and

Joromi (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRS8Afj3dOM)

The latest single is a much bigger project. Leaving aside her constant trope of “love”, Simi moved to a more consciously activist one. The proclamation in the song is direct: It’s a tough world for a woman. It’s always been, and Simi brings our attention to this by making us know that women receive criticisms from all angles—from men and from fellow women too. This is perhaps the best time to release a song like this, seeing as the #Nobodylikewoman campaign trended on social media some days ago. This was a campaign through which women spoke up about hate speeches and denigrating words they had received in the past. Society looks upon women as a class of people that need to be subservient. Simi throws a snicker at the popular term “submission” by asking if women have assignments to submit. What exactly should women submit? Why should inordinate gender dominance be shrouded in the garment of “a woman needs to submit to her husband?” Why can’t girls can? Why shouldn’t women go for what they want and become who they would love to become?

The woman is a song from a musician who understands women’s experiences and can fully relate to the lyrics of the songs. One can trace a connection between Simi and Beyoncé, a celebrity American musician and powerful woman who has preached the message of women empowerment and the appreciation of women through her songs. Brown Skin Girl and Woman are two songs from two different musicians having thousands of miles between them; yet, they both speak to the needs and challenges of women while serving as a source of strength and assistance to a class of humans that are, contrary to societal perceptions, strong, resilient, and robust.

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Sampling is not a new concept in the music industry. There are scores of African musicians that have sampled Fela – from Falz to Burna Boy, and now to Simi. One thing that one can notice in these musicians is the will to fight against societal perceptions and spread clear messages through the vehicle of music. The woman is not just a song, and it is not just a musical single. Instead, it is a powerful tool that would spark needed conversations in society, re-concentrate our focus on the significant issues affecting women, and help bring about some required changes.

If I were to offer a dissenting voice, it would be that Simi’s voice has become too consistent to the point of saturation. For now, I will take the message since Simi is representing the voiceless.

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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BOOK REVIEW: A Journey Of Guided Discovery: A Review Of James Yeku’s Where the Baedeker Leads

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Alaafin Adeyemi III: The Throne Of Numerous Authorities
Professor Toyin Falola

By

Toyin Falola

The first time I started to read James Yeku’s poetry collection, I wondered why he chose that title for his book. First off, not many people would know what a Baedeker means. However, the earliest glimmer of revelation hit me, and some tens of pages into the collection, the revelation was fully confirmed. When one considers the author, the content of the poetry collection and the title, one would understand the aptness of the double entendre in the title, or should I call it multiple entendre? To fully understand, we must first know what a Baedeker is. A Baedeker is a guidebook that comes in handy for travelers. Karl Baedeker started the publication of these traveler’s guidebooks, and decades after his death, the Baedeker has become known as the symbol for quality guidebooks.

BOOK REVIEW: A Journey Of Guided Discovery: A Review Of James Yeku’s Where the Baedeker Leads

James Yeku

James Yeku is an assistant professor of African digital humanities at the University of Kansas. He was born and grew up in Nigeria. He lived the better part of his childhood, adolescence and even his young adulthood in Lagos before moving to Canada, and later Kansas, the United States. Where the Baedeker Leads is proof that the human is restless—always in transit, whether mentally, intellectually, spiritually, or physically. Amid the human’s eternal journey, the importance of a helpful guide, the Baedeker, cannot be overemphasized. Family members, friends, a university degree, an appointment—all these have the potential to serve as the Baedeker.

Where the Baedeker Leads is a chronicle of a man’s experiences in two different worlds and the noted similarities between these two worlds, despite their stark differences. It also gives a clue into how people note experiences and formulate perceptions by relating them to other things they have previously encountered. What relationship is there between Lagos and Saskatoon? For how long does a human feel alien in a new environment till they blend in and call and see the new place as home?

James Yeku’s Where the Baedeker Leads is a 95-page collection of 57 poems. I love that this poetry collection touches on every aspect of concern that a contemporary Nigerian in the diaspora could have. From Saskatoon to Móremí, Dr. Yeku speaks to us of the issues that affect a Nigerian in Kansas the most: of police brutality and the #EndSARS agitations; of the Buhari era and its adverse effects on the life, economy, and standard of living of Nigerians; of love; of settling down; of kidnappings.

READ ALSO: BOOK REVIEW: Olayinka Oyegbile’s The Dirty Leap: Dramatizing Disillusionment And Dystopia

The collection opens with “Saskatoon,” a poem that, through vivid imageries, aptly narrates the beauties that endear one to Saskatoon. The reader understands that Saskatoon is a good place for people who love comfort and pastoral life through the poem. Yeku acquaints us with the people of Saskatoon and the vital role they play in the bubbly and loving nature of the city. Saskatoon is its people, radiant souls tipsy with dreams. One does not need the words of a magi to know that Saskatoon is a city of welcoming and amiable people.

In “Isolation,” the poet hits us with the reality of what was left of the world at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The imageries are consistent, and they appropriately describe the state we found ourselves in during the enforced lockdowns worldwide. Yeku takes us through the experience of a man in isolation—the dread for the pandemic, the loneliness, and the longing for physical human interactions. He whets readers’ appetites with the hopes of what could yet come by asking them to imagine scenarios where they are back on the streets, in the midst of the hustle and bustle. He ends the poem with a thought-provoking line that reminds us that humans crave things they had earlier detested in moments of deprivation. Typically, people do not like the stress that often comes with hustles and bustles, but at the height of a pandemic and the enforced lockdowns, they craved even the slightest amount of activity.

James Yeku is a poet rich in language and language use. He knows how to pick his words and string them together to spark the sound effects and elicit the correct responses. “Traveler” is a short but thought-evoking and powerful poem. In this poem, Yeku relates different forms of traveling to reinforce the same phenomenon and message. From the people who travel through their thoughts and minds in the form of a daydream to the poet’s words that travel on a mission to achieve his aims, to the poet who travels as he writes to achieve his dreams, every entity travels with a destination in mind; and a journey that the Baedeker guides lead to an arcane of futures, and a world of endless possibilities.

In “Away in Lagos,” James Yeku yet proves that he is a master of alliterations and metaphors, which are two of the most robust tools of outstanding poets. Through the deft use of these tools, he creates an impressionable image of Lagos in the reader’s mind. You do not need to have visited Lagos to understand the message of the poem entirely. He not only compares Nigeria’s beautiful city to its counterparts in other parts of the world, but he also draws a not-often-talked-about issue of how Lagos residents (known as Lagosians) continually leave the city they call home in search of greener pastures; how they would rather have winter than the harmattan of Lagos; and how in many cases, their moves are often ill-advised and not well thought out. At their arrival in their city of destination, the reality of what they left behind hits them; then, they start to feel uncertain about actualizing the dreams that made them flee in the first place.

“#EndSARS” evokes memories and brings to the fore the realities of the average Nigerian. In this poem, the anger and frustration of the Nigerian are strongly brought forth through the poet’s choice of words. Like every Nigerian, the poet is angry at the country’s political leaders, law enforcement officers, police brutality, and a system that continually fails the citizens. “#EndSARS” shows hopelessness and despair and how people would revolt when they are pushed against the wall.

“Bubu” is yet another poem from the collection that laments the fate of Nigerians. For six years now, Nigerians have witnessed what can be deemed one of the country’s worst governments. The country’s state is more lamentable at the deafening silence the government gives to the people despite justifiably raised concerns and agitations. It is one thing for a government to strive and yet be unable to deliver on the job, but it is outright unacceptable and grossly wrong for a government to not deliver on the job yet see no need to be accountable to the people. And what happens when the Buhari-led government eventually decides to speak out? Citizens are fed speeches reeking of nonchalance and a stark dissonance from the experiences of the people. The government speaks without empathy and from a reality different from that of the populace. These are the issues that are rightly addressed by the poet in “Bubu.”

READ ALS: BOOK REVIEW: Adetanwa Odebiyi’s Twisted Love And The Dangers Of Favoritism In A Nuclear Family

James Yeku has successfully woven together  words that speak volumes. Through them, he has been able to touch on diverse issues that affect the people. Where the Baedeker Leads is a book that provokes you to reason, rethink, and discover. It is a collection that everyone would find at least one poem to relate to. Though it is rare to find a book that suits everyone’s taste, I have read Where the Baedeker Leads, and I must say James Yeku has committed time and intellectual resources to put together poems that are unified in their diverse message and will always find a place to rest, as they journey from the pages of the book, through readers’ minds.

Where the Baedeker Leads by James Yeku is a 2021 publication by Mawenzi House, Toronto, with support from the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Book Fund.

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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BREAKING: Tanzanian Novelist Gurnah Wins Nobel Prize In Literature

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BREAKING: Tanzanian Novelist Gurnah Wins Nobel Prize In Literature

The novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah won the Nobel Prize in literature Thursday.

Gurnah was born on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar but arrived in the United Kingdom as a refugee in the 1960s and lives there today.

His work focuses on the experience and identity of refugees.

The Swedish Academy, which choses the winners, said it had chosen Gurnah “for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”

It comes after a rocky few years for the prestigious award, which went to American poet Louise Glück last year — a more popular choice after a run of controversy.

The prize was postponed in 2018 after sex abuse allegations rocked the Swedish Academy.

READ ALSO: Why Buhari’s Govt Supports Herders’ Suit Against South-South Governors – Malami

There were protests in 2019 after it was given to the Austrian writer Peter Handke because of his strong support for the Serbs during the 1990s Balkan wars.

In 2016, the academy broke with tradition and handed the prize to Bob Dylan, the first musician to win the award.

As well as the international recognition, Gurnah will receive a gold medal and 10 million Swedish kronor (more than $1.14 million). The money comes from the estate of the prize’s founder, Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, who died in 1895.

Until his recent retirement, Gurnah was Professor of English and postcolonial literatures at the University of Kent, in the U.K. In 1994, his novel “Paradise” was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

On Wednesday, Benjamin List of Germany and Scotland-born David W.C. MacMillan won the Nobel Prize in chemistry.

And on Tuesday, Japanese-born American Syukuro Manabe, German Klaus Hasselmann and Italian Giorgio Parisi won the Nobel Prize in physics.

On Monday, U.S.-based scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.

Reuters

 

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