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.