Nigeria must be the only theatre on earth where performers are born with awareness of their roles in every act and scene of our unending plays; we grow up in a segregated theatre in which our understanding of tragedy is any scene that entertains just a section of the audience. Every character is in a way flat, every action is predictable but the denouements still manage to leave you heartbroken, on realising that these comedies are actually based on you, your realities, your shame.
Our stories no longer shock the attentive audience, always being plagiarised versions of previously “enjoyed” tragedies as they are. I think our stories just embarrass the critics, and make them even pity the cast involved in the acts of rubbishing the intelligence of the easily dazzled or hoodwinked members of the audience who follow every play in expectations of a cliched entertainment or tragedy. Our inauthenticity is not forgivable, which is why critics are already questioning the imitation of the late President Umar Musa Yar’adua’s story by the people of Taraba State.
Our plays refuse to evolve because the motto of this big theatre called Nigeria is “That Which Provokes you, Pleases Another”, and this sensitivity to performing for a polarised audience encourages political plagiarism. Every performer knows that inside this dark theatre, among the gullible audience, are those whose only criteria for rating excellence are the religion, ethnicity, region and even affluence of the performers. Once the performer is of our ethnic descent or regional extraction or religious belief, his flaws are overlooked because every section of the audience wants members of his group to dominate the stage. We have been witnesses to near academic approvals of plagiarism by a section of this audience, only because it pleases them, only because whatever provokes the others is a victory!
This dangerous division was at its peak when the late Yar’adua, from whose history Governor Suntai’s people stole their script, was lying unconscious in a hospital bed overseas. Yar’adua, a Muslim, Hausa Fulani and northerner was not wanted out of the political stage by a section of the audience who share at least a background with him. This dangerous division was also at its peak on the passing of Kaduna State’s Governor Patrick Yakowa. It is though not surprising that the mood of those moments were rightly plagiarised in our reactions to Governor Danbaba Suntai’s (in)capacitation. Yakowa was seen as a taboo to be a lead character in a Muslim-dominated play, just as Suntai’s deputy is also being despised by fanatical Christians who had not expected a Muslim to lead in Taraba!
These sentiments of alliance with our own dispossess us of the power to be rational and true to our conscience. This is the reason, I find the campaign by a section of the audience for immediate return of a recuperating Governor Suntai to the stage an inverted understanding of wisdom. The ongoing is actually an offshoot of the Muslim – Christian rivalry that dominates the socio-political dramas of Taraba State, a disaster largely experienced in the north-central Nigeria where the Hausa – Fulani, from their dominations and perceived posturing on the larger stage, are stereotyped as villains!
What we lose in our chase of the sentimental is a fact that our trouble in this theatre is merely our ignorance of Nigeria’s stagecraft. Our trouble is neither the Hausa Fulani or Muslim nor the Christian reactionaries who are needlessly quick to shout “marginalisation” and condemn an entire people for a crime of its elite. Yes, our people are being deceived and shown that the villains are those who possess and portray any identity different from ours. No, the actual villains are those who edit a perfect script to favour their ends, those who seek to entertain just a section of the audience. Like an Alhaji Sulaiman who whips up sentiments to score a political goal even when his performance is terrible, like a Reverend Solomon who edits his script to highlight the villainy of the Muslim in order to be seen as the emancipator of a “marginalised” Christian community. But that’s just how the political elite manage the stage, to keep the audience quiet on their flaws. Political elitism is a very dangerous form of gangsterism, where the main interests are the gains of the members, where religious and ethnic badges which are worn for electoral or communal supports are dropped to conveniently share booty.
The Suntai Cabal correctly plagiarised Yar’adua’s in abiding to our motto and gullibility. Because, here is a theatre where every crime has its supporters packed in sections labelled “Church” and “Mosque”, counting beads of sentiments to perpetuate selfish interests. Sadly, the sentiments are vain because respective localities wouldn’t have been a hub of poverty, destitution and unemployment if the elite are actually on stage to impress us. Their dramas are distractions, and because we refuse to harmonise our criticisms, similar scripts are being interpreted anew to dare our provocations. We have been seated too long in this theatre, we fail to gauge the gravity of Suntai’s plagiarism. The play being directed by a Cabal in Taraba reveals that our Constitution is just a collation of rhetoric on the shelves of lawyers, which allows the offending people to refuse to leave the stage even when the curtain is drawn.
This desperation indeed confirms that the stage is a goldmine for which death itself must be outsmarted, and this makes it more difficult for a section of this theatre to empathise with the ailing Returnee. We must understand that this theatre is nobody’s family property and that unless the provoked and the pleased sections of the audience realise that the performers are simply there for their selfish interests, this plagiarism will become a script for every unfortunate actor in this compartment of “Fresh Air”. May God save us from us!
Blueprint Newspapers (30/08/13)
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)