This is Our Chance
Set in the rural African community of Koloro. Princess Kudaro has fallen in love with Ndamu, prince of the neighbouring village of Udura and both have decided to elope to get married. The lovers’ flight not only flies in the face of custom and tradition, it relights age-old tribal animosities between the two communities. As the two Kingdoms prepare to go to war, emotions and reality force both communities to come to face and to deal with the darker and more negative aspects of their cultures. …read more
Jewels of the Shrine
Okorie lives with his two grandsons who treat him more or less like a relic of the past. Okorie eventually gets his own back at his errant grandsons by tricking them into giving him a grand burial on the lure of a long lost heirloom but actually leaves them with nothing. …read more
A Man of Character
Kobina is an incorruptible middle-aged civil servant caught in the web of greed and corruption that has gripped many developing countries. He refuses to succumb to offers of bribes that would have enabled his family keep up appearances. His wife and daughter leave. Then he finds he could be charged for theft of funds from a safe at his place of work. …read more
Children of the Goddess
Children of the Goddess, centres around traditional rites connected with the birth of twins in the imaginary Kingdom of Labana and the arrival of missionaries on the African scene. The crux of the drama here is not in the nature of Christianity itself or its association with imperialism and attendant effects on the African continent but on the African’s own attitude toward this new phenomenon and how it has been claimed and made relevant within the African context. …read more
Companion for a Chief and Magic in the Blood
Both of these, much shorter, plays are contained in the Children of the Goddess collection, and continue with the same themes as the title play – the argument between tradition and modernity, which has a particular intensity for the African given the history of the last few centuries. The author espouses that while holding on to customs and tradition offers benefits, these are all but man-made constructs and not made in stone – and that culture and tradition has to adapt, that even certain aspects can be jettisoned altogether according to the realities of the present and the future. …read more
Enough is Enough
Set in a detention camp during the Nigerian Civil War, Enough is Enough is a story about six detainees and their guards. The inmates have been detained for several reasons but mostly for their opposition to the war – people identified as being against the war were at the time commonly referred to as ‘saboteurs’ or ‘sabos’ – a term associated anyone lower than scum of the earth.
The play revolves around the personal feelings and the attitudes of the detainees as they battle against the oppressive boredom of the camp, their conscience and their reactions to the war raging around them. It charts their descent into despair as they argue whether to stand for their principles, forgive their enemies or survive by bending to the will of their incarcerators.
The play in a way is a represented the conflicting sentiments of the general population during the closing months and weeks of the war.
THIS IS OUR CHANCE
Princess Kudaro and Prince Ndamu have been sent by their fathers, Chief Damba of Koloro and Chief Mboli of Udura, to be educated in a big city. Despite the fact that their communities have been long-standing rivals and venomously hate each other, they fall in love and enjoy the care-free anonymity of city life. However, both are simultaneously called back home to their villages.
Princess Kudaro is tutored in her father’s palace by Bambulu, an intelligent though self-important and pompous character who has had a western european education. Their quarrelsome relationship propels the central theme of the play, the tug between modernity in the western sense and traditional African customs and tradition. While Kudaro blindly and impetuously reacts to the stifling ways of life in the village, Bambulu argues for change, though his prescription verges around the more superficial aspects of western habits and conduct.
When Kudaro elopes with Ndamu, Bambulu becomes the scapegoat for her insurrection. He is arrested and threatened with death. Eventually, Kudaro falls into the hands of Mboli’s soldiers and in an ironic twist, Prince Ndamu is captured by Damba’s troops. Both chiefs, stubborn and fiercely proud, wrestle with the conflicting weights of tradition, enmity and parental love. Common sense prevails and Damba releases Prince Ndamu with a message of peace to his father, Chief Mboli.
JEWELS OF THE SHRINE
When Okorie, now in his eighties, begins to feel that his end is near, he is visited by a metaphoric stranger and voices his concern is that his grandsons, Arob and Ojima, will afford him nothing but a pauper’s burial. Since his own beloved son died, the two young men have neglected and treated him with disdain.
Arob and Ojima overhear Okorie telling his carer, Bassi, about the jewels that his father had made as a sacrifice on behalf of the village. They go out surreptitiously at night to find the jewels at the family farm where Okorie has hinted that they might be hidden. Their search proves futile.
Meanwhile, they find that Okorie is a much happier man lately and he had even bought new clothes for himself. Then they hear again, that the jewels were not hidden at the farm, but Okorie knows where the jewels are actually kept. The young men are resentful that they have been tricked to clearing the farm, an endeavour that they have previously refused to undertake. Okorie declares that he will be making a will to be read only after he dies. Faced with this prospect, Arob and Ojima begin to show an interest in the old man, often falling over themselves to show who loves the old man more.
Okorie passes away. The stranger appears again to read the will. Arob and Ojima are shocked when the will reveals that in fact there are no jewels. Okorie has also sold the house, the proceeds which he has in fact been using to care for himself in his last days.
A MAN OF CHARACTER
The play begins when Serinya, Kobina’s avaricious sister-in-law returns from a shopping spree in the fashion hot spots of the world and winds up her sister, Ayodele, about her miserable living conditions. Ayodele protests that she is happy and that Kobina is an honourable man.
She is obviously touched as a few days later she reacts to what she sees as Kobina’s uncompromising attitude. Anosse, Serinya’s husband has offered Kobina money to help smooth the employment prospects of a client. Kobina refuses flatly. In exasperation, Ayodele packs her things and leaves with their daughter.
Not long after, he finds that money is missing from an office safe which he is the sole keeper of the keys. It appears he has only his wily house servant Seboh left now in his floundering world.
Kobina calls Serinya and she becomes an unlikely ally in solving the riddle of the missing money. In what quickly begins to unravel as farce, the local magistrate, sergeant and a prominent lawyer all turn up at Kobina’s house to discuss the issue. They are prepared to bend the law in order to save Kobina.
However unknown to them, a notorious rogue related to Seboh has been listening in on the conversation and emerges to blackmail the party. He is in fact the culprit having made a copy of the keys to the safe.
Gripped by remorse and loyalty to his employer, Seboh then attempts to break back into the safe to return the money and is caught.
CHILDREN OF THE GODDESS
All is not well in the Kingdom of Labana. The rains have failed for several years and the Kingdom is beginning to be gripped by a famine. King Amansa, now in advanced years, is preoccupied: he lost his only son to slave raiders and the son’s mother has gone mad with grief, meanwhile his youngest and latest wife is still unable to provide an heir. There is conflict and unrest both in his domestic situation and in the body politic in general as new ideas imported from the visiting Europeans begin to take root. It is into this cauldron that the Reverend McPhail and his wife Caroline arrive, with a young African convert, Abraham, who had been saved from a sinking slave ship.
The play begins with Asari Amansa, the youngest of the King’s wives offering a sacrifice to Ndemeyo, a river deity and Goddess of Labana. She has been under pressure to produce an heir to the throne since the King lost his only son to a party of slave raiders. Effefiom, the Chief Priest and adviser to the King, and Anieye the King’s second wife lead a campaign of vilification against her, blaming her for all that has gone wrong in the palace and in the Kingdom. When a brass tray with two feathers is found near the palace that cannot be lifted by anyone except Asari, they accuse her of witchcraft and press the King to banish her from the Kingdom. However, Asari announces that she is now pregnant.
A ship is spotted in the estuary off the bay. Soon Reverend McPhail, his wife Caroline and Abraham come ashore. Rather than send them packing, King Amansa allows them to remain and set up a missionary post. They befriend Ekpa, the King’s sick wife and she is well on her way back to health when she discovers that the young man, now called Abraham, is her long lost son.
Despite the continued protestations by Effefiom on one hand, that the presence of the new strangers in the kingdom will bring doom and disaster for his people, and the McPhails’ arrogance and total disregard for African tradition and customs on the other, the King charts a savvy course. He has no particular regard for the new religion but he recognises the good the Reverend and his wife have done for his wives and several other sick women, particularly in childbirth, and moreover they have built a school for the children. Like the Roman Emperor Constantine, he realises the power of this new religion and how it could be used as an instrument for good for his people.
Things come to a head when Asari delivers a set of male twins. Labana is thrown into turmoil. Twins are regarded as an evil and are usually taken away and left to die. The McPhails intervene in this process at the peril of their lives – as the King explains no one is above tradition and culture a concept that the McPhails themself recognise. Eventually he agrees to an ordeal whereby if two leaves placed in the village square survive the day’s searing heat the twins will be allowed to live. The McPhails take part in the ritual and the Reverend himself takes the leaves out in the sun.
Both camps wait anxiously as the day goes by. As the sun begins to go down the leaves appear to have withstood the heat. The King declares that the twins will be allowed to live.
Amid the celebrations by the Christians, the King offers to convert to Christianity but ironically Asari is steadfast in her belief in the Goddess stating that the tray in which the leaves were placed was the same one she had used to make her sacrifice to the Goddess.
Companion For A Chief
Companion for a Chief deals with the issues of life after death and ritual killings to accompany prominent men and chiefs on their way to the spiritual world. Set in Boka, an imaginary African village in the early nineteenth century, Tubaru, the priest choses Suoma as the sacrificial journey man, not on the basis of any divine intercession, but on a long-standing family feud and because he also coverts Adeigra his wife. However, when he arrives in the dead of the night to carry out the ritual the tables are turned, and it is his own head that is taken to be buried along with the Chief of Boka.
Magic in the Blood
Magic in the Blood is a farcical comedy, a light-hearted approach to this continuing theme of tradition versus modernity. When a thief steals a goat little does he figure that if he gets caught he will be facing the wrath of tradition for not offering the head of the goat to the elders of the village, rather than for his culpability for theft. Chief Mboli has been to the big new cities that have been springing up and wants to drag his village in to the present. He has moved the trial of criminal cases from the Council of Elders to a new Court in line with the separation of powers, and he has even appointed a woman to sit on the court. The session descends into chaos as the judges bicker over everything else and nothing to do with the case before them. It takes the defendant to actually restore some semblance of order, and when he claims he is the great grandson of the village’s greatest hero he is totally absolved of the crime. Chief Mboli has the last card. He invites the culprit to an ordeal based on the traditional belief that all the descendants of the hero are immune to arrows. Needless to say the culprit vigorously declines the offer.
Medicine for Love
Ewia Ekunyah has three main problems. His first are the traditional wives that powerful, elder relatives have chosen for him to marry; his second is his ambition of winning the election for a parliamentary seat; the third is whether to employ methods dictated to him by reason, education and religion to solve his domestic and public problems or to employ the services of a traditional medicine man.
While Ewia is in the thick of the local parliamentary elections, he suddenly finds himself besieged with two women, Berkin Wari and Ibiere Sua, who have married under native custom by various senior relatives and sent to him. Unable to make his mind up, he allows both women to remain in his house. Matters are not helped by the fact that Berkin is accompanied by her father and Ibiere by her mother. Soon each party is accusing the other of a making love medicine to capture Ewia’s heart.
Ewia needs to win the election. He has invested all of his savings and sold his houses to oil the wheels of his election campaign – exorbitant promises been made to the electorate, the palms of powerful supporters have been greased and opponents bought off. Although he has been brought up steeped in the Christian faith, he begins to entertain the thought of engaging the services of a traditional medicine man. However, his domestic situation is further muddled as Dupeh, his rather pushy aunt and guardian arrives with a third “wife”, Nene Katsina.
Auntie Dupeh swings into action to eliminate the rival ‘wives’. At a hastily organised birthday party she attempts to spike the drinks of all the others, but she appears to be beaten at her own game when all the others turn up with their own drinks and glasses. But all is not as it appears to be. Auntie Dupeh actually feigns her collapse – she knows Ewia will be touched by how each of the women react to her, and obviously only one Nene Katsina will be most sympathetic.
With the force of her personality, Dupeh goes on to brow beat the election committee to support Ewia’s nomination. One after the other opponents are coerced into withdrawing from the contest. Towards the end, one inscrutable candidate, Sonrillo, poses a challenge. Agatarata, the medicine man’s services are called in to make him change his mind. To make matters doubly sure he introduces a magic ink which will make the entries on Sonrillo’s election forms disappear and invalidate his nomination. Unfortunately the charm goes awry when it is Ewia’s candidature that becomes invalid, and Sonrillo’s eventual withdrawal letter emerges blank.
Ewia is devastated. He spends the following days wallowing in shock and self-pity. Meanwhile the ‘wives’ desert him and take up with new prospective suitors. However, Auntie Dupeh is not done yet with Ewia’s future. She announces that she is engaged to Kiudu Bonga, a local power broker who was behind Ewia’s main opponent, Sonrillo. As part of her dowry, Bonga returns the houses Ewia had sold along with the offer of a job as the Chairman of the Committee for Drainage and Sewage.
All ends well for all the characters. Love is definitely in the air as they gather, with their partners, at Ewia’s house to celebrate.
Dinner for Promotion
Dinner for Promotion is the story of two ambitious friends Tikku and Seyil, whose main preoccupation is ‘to get to the top’. But unfortunately there is only one post to be filled at the top, and neither of them can arrive there without crossing the other’s path. It is also the story of two elderly ladies, Madam Pamphilia Sipo, and her sister-in-law, Madam Una, who have been lifelong enemies but who became reconciled in the course of the dinner. It is the story too of Mr Sipo of ‘Sipo Amalgamated’, who takes his stomach very seriously and will not be comforted until he has eaten at the correct time. And it is also the story of two young girls, Sharia and Toru, who take part in the struggle of the young men to arrive at the top. To a lesser extent it is also the story of Mr Senka, landlord to Tikku and Seyil, whose persistent effort to collect his monthly rent is, to say the least of it, not very successful.
It is the early 1960s. Tikku and Seyil share a flat in an imaginary African city. Both work for a prominent family business, Sipo Amalgamated. However, they cannot keep up with their rent and resort to all kinds of ingenious tricks to keep the increasingly exasperated landlord off their backs. Tikku’s sister Toru arrives and hatches a plan to solve the problem – promotion at work by means of befriending and marrying Mr Sipo’s only child, Sharia. However, Seyil gets to Sharia first much to Toru’s annoyance so she encourages Tikku to steal Sharia away from Seyil. Sharia loves her father intensely and with this gem of information from Toru, Tikku advises Seyil to say some very uncomplimentary things about Mr Sipo. Seyil loses Sharia, and Tikku seizes the chance to propose to Sharia.
Tikku, Toru and Seyil make arrangements to invite Mr Sipo and his wife Pamphilia to dinner. The aim is to impress Sipo and entice him to offer promotion to Tikku. Seyil offers to handle the invitations, but he has not forgiven his friend for up-staging him and plans instead to ruin the party. He sends an invitation to Mr Sipo’s sour and caustic sister, Madam Una, who he has learnt despises Pamphilia with a vengeance. He also sends an invitation to Tikku and Toru’s illiterate peasant parents to attend their son’s ‘engagement’. Then he sets up a list of incidents to sabotage the dinner.
The Sipos arrive and from the start everything begins to go wrong. Madam Una and Pamphilia immediately go for each other’s throats. We find that their enmity is deep and goes back to their childhood. A hoodlum posing as a debt collector from the radio-hire company appears and demands the radio back. Soon after the landlord arrives and insists that he will spend the whole evening until he receives his money. The host’s parents arrive to surprise and utmost embarrassment, showing up the class gulf between both families. The urbane Sipos handle each episode with grace until the very food on which any semblance of dinner party depends begins to be threatened by sudden trip ups to the gas supply. Madam Una and Pamphilia, who have now made up, join hands and take to the kitchen. However, the disruption to the dinner is unrelenting. The hoodlums return for the furniture and cart away the chairs and dining table. Sharia herself who had agreed to stay away from the dinner arrives. Then the lights go out. Mr Sipo reaches the limit of his tether, incandescent with rage, and hunger.
Issues come to a head when the thug tampering with the gas supply is caught. Sipo learns about the plot to marry his daughter to secure promotion and the real reason for the dinner party. He offers promotion but not to the one who chooses to marry his daughter. Seyil plumbs for promotion while Tikku, to his sister Toru’s dismay, decides to stick with Sharia. In the end, Sipo is forced to offer Tikku promotion within the family business and a consolatory promise of a job elsewhere to Seyil.