Title: An Empty Kingdom
Author: Ebi Robert
Publisher: Bulkybon Books, Lagos, Nigeria.
Year of Publication: 2015
Reviewer: Ben Binebai, PhD
“An Empty Kingdom” presents politics that surrounds succession to the throne of Egweama as its subject matter. It is a dramatic edifice structured into three Acts accommodating nine scenes, with front and back matters. The play is logically connected to a stream of narration which maintains the classical or Aristotelian cause- effect continuum tradition of dramatic creativity.
Within these acts and scenes, the playwright constructs a linear plot structure which initiates a change in the choice of the new king away from blood to soil of the land with the total support of the youth, elders, women and chiefs of Egweama.
The play runs to a conflict when Daudogi, the only surviving blood of the Timi Royal lineage registers his incurable ambition and determination to ascend the throne against the popular will of the people. On the coronation day, upon the request of the people that the chosen king appears for coronation in the presence of the community and two other kings, Tuaton the popular choice of the people and Duadogi, the self-elected member of the royal family appear. This brings confusion.
As the traditions demand, it is the responsibility of Koko, the chief King maker, to crown the chosen one. Against the popular and sacred expectation of the citizenry, Koko crowns Duadogi under duress, to cover up his earlier crime of raping and killing a young girl; a secret which can only be exposed by Duadogi.
This not only astonishes the people but angers them to the decision of renouncing Duadogi as king and abandoning the Egweama Kingdom in pursuit of the chosen Tauton in the Rivers to honour him as king; thus, making Egweama Kingdom, an Empty Kingdom.
The succession to the throne of Egweama by the royal house does not catch the fancy of the youth and people of the kingdom. Hence the old tradition is set aside and ablaze for the new tradition of making royalty outside royal boundaries. Thus the conflict is between conservatism versus change, between an old order and a new order, between royalty and the common man. Duadogi is like Kurumi the eponymous hero in Ola Rotimi’s Kurumi who for selfish reasons defends the old tradition for his personal benefit.
This cultural reformation is an attempt at modernising the ancient customs and cultures of Egweama kingdom to get rid of obsolete traditions that vitiate humanity.
This is a deliberate design of change that displaces previous law- ful and relevant traditions and customs. What this implies is that kingdoms break and perish when the greed of individuals in power become increasingly alarming.
The empty status of the kingdom is caused by greed on the part of Duadogi and Koko and love for progress on the part of Sikigbo and the masses. Duadogi does not find favour in the heart of the people but Tuaton does.
The playwright once again demonstrates that the world of man is a world that changes. From the primordial age of man to this era of scientific and technological sophistication the world of man has changed tremendously. A society that is not amenable to change is doomed for disintegration. Duadogi’s struggle is caused by his self-centeredness by appropriating the ideology of tradition to fight his personal battles.
The author plots and weaves the best types of characters in a dramatic composition. The characters are true to life, rounded, naturalistic and three dimensional because they are psychologically propelled as they undergo changes, a true depiction of human life.
The most interesting ones are Duadogi, Koko, Sikigbo and Tuaton. Sikigbo is a man of vision, an agent of change, consistent in his belief and support for a new order. He fights a battle in which he does not give up even when he seems defeated. Duadogi is another interesting character.
He is strong willed, brutal, corrupt and stops at nothing to get what he wants. Daudogi is a very powerful representation of ancient and contemporary power mongers who rate their personal collapse as a bigger evil than the evil of the entire society. Koko the chief King Maker is another attractive character. He strikes us as a man of honour and integrity but as events later unfolds, he is a dishonorable man who raped and killed a young girl.
He is one of the key factors that drive Egweama in this dramatic universe to an empty Kingdom.
There are a thousand and one Koko characters across all the countries in post-colonial Africa and beyond who bring destruction to their societies because of their lack of nationalism. He refuses to take sacrifice for the survival of Egweama kingdom. His types in literature are Ozidi, Elesin Oba in Death and the Kings Horseman, King Zoba in Sounds of the Rising Sun etc.
This was the bane of politics and democracy in Africa until Goodluck Ebele Jonathan became a shining example of a leader who sacrificed to move society forward. The play has good syntactic structure.
The brilliant appropriation of phonological pattern of language in the play through the choices of remarkable proverbs used is to make the flow of words appealing and captivating to the reader.
These proverbs where native wisdom resides, give the play a local African colour and flavour. In conclusion, the far-reaching ends of the scrutiny of this play are relevant to a wide readership of the literary community.
Echoes of Burning Grass
Book Title: Burning Grass
Author: Cyprian Ekwensi
Genre: Prose Fiction
Year of publication: 1962
Reviewer: Adeniyi Taiwo Kunnu
Two years after the nation’s independence, Cyprian Ekwensi presented to the world, what was considered a piece of literature which serves to complement the highly commended and reviewed ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe in 1958. In it, he explored the traditional culture and civilisation of present day South East Nigeria, to deconstruct and reconstruct the many wrong and poor depictions of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, thereby presenting an unarguable documentation to the world from his very outstanding perspective.
Four years after the birth of what is considered the ‘Mother of African Fiction’ and 52 years down the line, Ekwensi’s literary material has become a fiction of facts, in which another valuable perspective of the people of Northern Nigeria has been made available and the auspicious time to leverage the evergreen piece of creative expression has come. It is unquestionable to state that this work explores a very important practice of the people of Northern Nigeria.
The author whose ancestry is the South East, but born and raised for a period in the North and traversed the Nigerian landscape in the course of acquiring education and work, could be said to have a most ideal certification to broach a subject matter that seems cocooned in what may not be properly dissected or at best left un-grasped.
Quite significantly, the book opens with a peculiar insignia of the activities of cattle herders. On page one the first few lines go thus: “When they begin to burn the grass in Northern Nigeria, It is time for the herdsmen to be moving the cattle southwards to the banks of the great river. And the hunters, lurking on the edge of the flames with dane gun, bow and arrow, sniff the fumes and train their eyes to catch the faintest flicker of beasts hastening from their hiding places.”
From the excerpt, a number of instructive incidences are painted and worthy of attention. First, burning of grass signifies a time to move, prompted by the dryness of the leaves which may not supply needed and sustaining nutrients for the animals that are to be kept alive. Two, the hunters also see this as their time to kill animals, whose fear of death from fumes and fire sends them scurrying for safety but unfortunately into the waiting bullets of game lovers. A third and most important part not talked about would be those who own the expanse of land that usually gets burnt at this period of the year, and the South to which they travel, whose occupants at their ancestral homes by the river may have their survival from their farmlands threatened by these herders.
Introspection into what obtains in the entire 24 chapters is primarily revealed at the beginning when Mai Sunsaye had to rescue a Kanuri girl from the slave hold of Shehu, a badass retired soldier and trouble monger. He takes us further by his actions and those of his family, the peculiar ways of a group of people, whose ideals needs be understood and re-invented for the sake of harmonious co-existence.
Sunsaye has fathered three sons and a daughter, with his wife Shaitu representing the figure that every man wishes to have. This picture, however, becomes discountenance when the head of a family is charmed, bringing us to the supernatural juncture of this work. Chief Ardo’s desire to become the Chief of Dokan Toro reveals his bestial side with what is known as Sokugo, the charm which causes one to lose his sense of direction, wandering away from home, leaving his family, which in turn brings suffering.
Although tendency abounds to want this portion overlooked, but the reality is that, it may be another important revelation to be considered by the investigative authorities, whose seeming incapability has left many wondering about the kind of intelligence deployed in the battle to secure lives and property where these killings have been rife.
From cattle rustling, to running from tax officers, to escaping death in the hands of Mai Sunsaye’s enemies, the procedures for getting married among the Fulani, other actions, reactions and further interjections put this work on the front page of national discourse, so as to understand precedents, have a grasp of antecedents, with a view to dispassionately intervening when issues of this nature comes up for serious discourse and consequent attention.
On page 76, an instructive revelation comes to the fore when Jalla in a conversation with his father said, “… We are men of cattle. Our cattle come first, and since it is our wish to take them to their pastures, all else must succumb to that wish”.
Again, the mindset of a people’s reality looks us in the eyes with these words. There seems a deliberate disregard for other opinion by whomsoever, because these animals, as it appears have assumed an important rank seemingly superior to those of humans.
Cyprian Ekwensi may have given the world a piece of prose fiction, helping to aid knowledge within the literary circles in the manner he has done, but it behooves those whose hindsight remains intact, and their foresight devoid of blurry encumbrance, to ingest, digest and attempt not to puke over these research piece that has enabled us become acquainted with the Ideological battle that Nigeria and millions of Nigerians find challenging to grapple in its entirety.
A gripping personal journey to rediscovering values
Book title: The Last Flight
A Personal Journey to
Author: Dapo Akande
Publisher: Ceenai Multimedia Ltd,
Year of publication: 2017
Reviewer: Maureen Ihonor
“The Last Flight” is a book that touches on many cogent issues bedevilling the Nigerian society. It is replete with numerous anecdotes and analogies while it ekes out critical lessons learned from personal experiences. The book implicitly questions the human, nay, African tendency to conjure up complicated solutions to problems when simple ones will do just fine.
Manners, Integrity, Neighbourly love, Discipline and a common good approach to Success ( M.I.N.D.S); all are as simple as they come and if rediscovered, embraced, widely and faithfully adopted, could do wonders to the mindset of our people and ultimately lead to the much needed rejuvenation of our society; the progress and wellbeing of our society. With hints of an autobiography, The Last Flight, notes the author, betrays the unmistakable influence a 20-year sojourn in the United Kingdom would expectedly have on the outlook of the author even if he did return to his motherland over two decades ago.
This book sets out to subtly coerce the reader to self-examine, reflect and assess his own set of values. It has something for everyone as I believe anyone who reads it will discover something in it that speaks their mind.
The Last Flight unapologetically preoccupies itself with the Biblical notion of Good Success while great attempt is made to contrast the self centred nature of Success (so prevalent in these climes) and the more common good complexion of Good Success. Great pains is also taken to trace a strong link between the pursuit of the common good, the fulfillment of one’s purpose and the notion of Good Success.
As the book draws to a close, it gradually comes to the conclusion that all the best intentions, grand political and socioeconomic solutions, may eventually fail to provide the apparently desired result if we as individuals don’t demonstrate genuine love for the other.
No matter how grandiose the development plan, if a solid foundation of love for our fellow man is not set, the plans will fall flat like the proverbial pack of cards. Love produces Character and Character develops a society. Though the ‘The Last Flight’
“shies away from categorically expressing an opinion on whether it’s a little late in the day to significantly change the mindset of the older generation; it does however, repeatedly and with much hope express the strongest belief that it’s not too late for the younger generation, if only we start now by inculcating in them time tested values inherent in MINDS. MINDS, an abbreviation of my recently registered NGO, MINDS Reform Initiative, has the sole aim of propagating these simple, long lost ideals”.
The scriptural verse which says a child who’s shown the way to go will not depart from that path when he grows up has never sounded truer.
The soul, the spirit and the very essence of ‘The Last Flight’ wholeheartedly aligns with that revered English author, William Wordsworth, who once said, the child is the father of the man. Just the right edge of keen sports imagery thrown in as dessert. The chapters are both short and fast and all stories are interspersed with just the right amount of quotations.
The inclusion of extensive quotations from other publications, the Holy Bible and from world renowned scholars fully demonstrate to the reader that the author’s vision enjoys worldwide and historical foundations as some have been successfully utilised to improve past and present societies round the globe. Oladapo is eager to demonstrate that a change in personal mindset is not only possible but is actually the only way for each citizen to move towards the long awaited “new Nigeria”.
His style is non-judgemental and rich with personal experiences of authority figures in his life from childhood; people who have and continue to affect him tremendously.
“The Last Flight” is a compelling work. I could not put it down. It is not only a theoretical analysis as each idea expounded in one chapter is fully given a practical review in the subsequent one. It will be difficult not to like Oladapo’s unpretentious style.
His work provides a window of opportunity for change in present day Nigeria, a change that can only come about when each citizen develops his mind by following the steps provided. I would recommend the book to everyone – young and old, who wants to witness some positive change in our community and country. Oladapo’s invitation to all of us is to hasten to board the flight as it may be our last opportunity.
After spending 20 years in the UK where he graduated with a BA (Hons) in English and Classical Studies from the University of Surrey, the author, Dapo Akande, returned to his motherland where he engaged in private business for over two decades. His unbridled passion to impart knowledge and values to the younger generation soon got the better of him hence his subsequent berth as an ardent Character Education advocate.
In his quest to further acquire knowledge himself, he’s currently pursuing a Masters program in Professional Ethics at the University of Lagos. He is married with children.
Mrs. Maureen Ihonor is the immediate past Director of Education of Corona Schools Trust Council. Presently the founder of Cedar Multilingual School
Photographers chart new way for industry
The Nigerian photography industry is taking a wider perspective as upcoming photographers would be rubbing minds on April 24th, 2018 with stakeholders including scholars, critics that have contributed immensely to the growth of the industry in Nigeria.
They will speak on the following topics; Evolution of Photography, Creative Business Practice, Accessing Finance in the Creative Sector, Law and Rights in an Emerging Market as well as Content Monetization.
The one-day conference tagged “Business of Photography Conference” is aimed at bringing photographers, photography manufacturing companies and servicing companies as well as photography retail businesses together under one roof to discuss, learn, exhibit, sell and buy everything photography.
The conference, which would hold at the Landmark Event Centre, Lagos, seeks to address the evolution of the photography sector from a business perspective and discuss a way forward as a means of charting a proper course for the future.
It would feature five segments; the Opening, the Conversation (panel session), Break out time (master classes), Networking and Exhibition. During the conversation segment, attendees would have the opportunity to listen to and chat with award winning Nigerian photographers about the future of photography in Nigeria.
The Master Class would be in five segments and would be anchored by amazing photographers; Portrait Photography (TY Bello), Commercial Photography (Yetunde Ayeni- Babaeko), Fashion and Editorial (Kelechi Amadi- Obi), Landscape and Architecture (Hakeem Salaam) and Motorsport/Sports Photography (Sheyi Afolabi).
The BOP team has also put together a lineupgreat minds likeGeorgette Monou, ZubbyEmodi, KeliAbiel, WaniOlatunde, Emmanuel Oyeleke, Bayo Omoboriowo, Bukky Karibi-Whyte, Sheyi Afolabi, TY Bello, IfeanyiChristopherOputa, Yetunde Ayeni-Babaeko and Kelechi Amadi-Obi, and Hakeem Salaam.
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