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HYBRIDIZATION, SOCIAL-DARWINISM, AND INSECURITY IN NIGERIA: A STUDY OF SELECTED PLAYS BY SOYINKA, OSOFISAN, AND UMUKO
The African continent has come under much social, economic, political and cultural vicissitude occasioned by its contact with the European continent often referred to as the Western world. This suffering started as far back as the time of the slave trade when Africa was raped by brutish Europeans who were the slave masters. In the search for the fulfilment of a selfish ambition, Africa became the breeding ground for beast of burdens to be used in Western farms and plantations. Physical and psychological harms were inflicted upon Africans. By the 19th century, slave trading became obsolete but the racist Western world was yet to be satisfied and fulfilled with their spoils and exploit. Thus they sought another means of ravaging the African continent. In the guise of civilization and preaching the “Gospel of Christ”, the Europeans refused to let go of the enslaved continent with each of the European countries struggling to posses more African land and mind than the other. To sustain the ‘peaceful’ domination of Africa by the Western powers, the partitioning of Africa into colonies became imperative. This was consolidated at the Berlin West African conference in 1884 and 1885. The Niger area became a British colony and ruled by the selfish dictates of the Queen of England. To achieve the English goals, a new form of tolerated and acceptable slavery began. The British introduced the indirect rule system and used Africans against Africans. To get to the grassroots of their colonies, they made use of the traditional rulers and even created one where there were no such authoritarian traditional leaders as found among the Igbo. These new traditional rulers introduced to Western corruption with promises of different rewards awaiting them if they cooperated with the “Union Jack”. As such the collapse of an egalitarian traditional system of the African society was imminent. In addition to economic exploitation, the Christian missionaries from another angle created divisions among Africans by empowering those Africans who have accepted the new religion against those who were still stuck with the African gods and ancestors.
Yemi Ogunbiyi opines that,
Prior to 1863, the twin face of British colonialism, the Church Missionary Society had, under a broad policy of the so called ‘C’s’- Christianity Commerce and Civilization- pursued a systematic policy of producing an elite class of Nigerians who would be leaders in church, commerce, and politics… and readily provide “a vigorous impetus to the realization of the objectives” of both the church and the British government (17).
An African elite class, trained in the British/Christian missionary cultures, was created to dominate the ‘illiterate unbelievers’. A new culture, a new religion, a new language, a new form of education, and even new forms of theatre were thus sown on the African soil. Though championed by the minority British and few African elites, the new culture and religion became the acceptable way of life in the colony but not without dire consequences. Using Udi community as an example, Paul Obi-Ani asserts that “This new system of administration imposed on a people unaccustomed to bureaucratic niceties, was bound to run into difficulties. The people of Udi division were used to village democracy in which every adult male had a say in the governance of his community. No individual exercised absolute authority in their lives”(286). The traditional society became secondary. By 1914 when Fredrick Luggard amalgamated the North and the southern parts of the colony probably to form a unitary control, to reduce the cost of running the colonies, or for other selfish reasons of British benefits, Nigeria was born. The deprivation of culture, religion, leaders/rulers, the right to live, and the forceful imposition of new policies unsuitable and unfavourable to the colonized were met with protests and rebellions against colonial authorities. Consequently, the colonizers took to dehumanizing protesters, and subduing the ‘subversiveness’ of the people through every available force required including maiming and killing. The African elites who enlisted in the military were sometimes used to suppress protesting communities whose crimes were asking for freedom in order to remain who they were and live the peaceful and communal life they enjoyed before Western invasions. This could certainly be called the first form of terrorism, and the foundation stone of brutality, corruption and insecurity in Nigeria. Yonah Alexander qualifies the actions of the colonizers as terrorism when he avers that terrorism is the “… use of fear, or force to achieve certain political, economic, religious, or social goals.” (114). Therefore the British use of force in the creation of Nigeria and even greater force to subdue and suppress any cry of oppression in order to achieve their economic, political, etc goals falls within the confines of the above scholarly definition of terrorism.
By 1960, Nigerian soil with the blood of the innocents who desired to remain Africans against all odds while majority of the Nigerian elite class were also imbued with British infamous desire to subdue the weak and the defenceless. By the time the British were done with the colony, Africans were no longer Africans, a new generation, a hybrid that believes in taking it by force after deceptive promises must have failed rather than engaging in communal dialogue was born in Africa. Power was handed to the bourgeois class whose minds were transformed into British with African heads. Thus Nigeria’s independence in 1960’s, did not to liberate the people from British rule because the elites whom the British handed over the government to still enslaved by British ideals and dreams. Rather than re-establishing a traditional African Nigerian society, they sustained the British Nigerian society to the benefit of their greed and power led to the smouldering of the views and interest of the traditional communities in Nigeria’s conflagration and the suppression of justified agitations and peaceful protests with military force.
Theatre as a viable tool for cultural propagation and National development has through written and performed dramas highlighted possible problems and solutions to most of the challenges of the Nigerian society. These include the current trends of deplorable in security state ranging from Niger-Delta militancy, Boko Haram insurgency, armed robbery, assassination, to kidnaps as shall be analyzed in this work.
1.1. Problem of the Study
The Nigerian society is bedevilled by civil unrest and a mass protest against policies resulting in wonton destruction of lives and properties. Alexander Madiebo explains that “The former colonial master had to keep the country one, in order to effectively control his vital economic interest… the amalgamation of people of different cultures and backgrounds created an identity and social interaction problem that the prevailing circumstances thus were far from normal…’ (3). The civil unrest and anomaly ranges from clash of cultures, religious crises, political crises, crises of economic emancipation, the quest for ethnic relevance, etc. Lewis Coser avers that “in situations where conflict is destructive, it can hinder progress in the society, encourage individuals to resort to unfriendly behaviours, encourage “win by-all means necessary” attitude where emotions take precedence over reasons, lead to the disintegration of groups and the scuttling of national development” (26). There is no gainsaying the obvious impacts these crises have had and how deep the cut continues to go in the flesh of Nigeria. While the colonial masters are long gone, the system they selfishly created are yet to be honestly and fully re-assessed by the elite class in order to right the wrongs, heal the broken cultural walls and restore relevance to the traditional societies which have a major role to play in checkmating the situation and sustaining the name Nigeria. The insecurity quagmire can be traced to the desire to be heard, to be free to be whoever you want to be, to feel and experience the traditions of your ancestors and to sustain the communality the indigenous African society was renowned for. Rather than leading the communities through their legal traditional heads according to their custom, the Nigerian leaders emulating the ways of the colonial masters tend to disregard these leaders. They create new self-serving traditional leaders and foist them on the people. This created a gap between the people and their community leaders who are now puppets in the hands of the ‘modern’ Nigerian political leaders. A case in study is the imposition of Ibrahim Dasuki as the sultan of Sokoto on the people by the Babangida administration against the rightful successor Muhammadu Maccido in 1988, a decision which caused large-scale violent protests throughout northern Nigeria. Thus the quest to identify with our traditional way of life, and have our traditional rulers rule over us in our communal ways is a major factor militating against a peaceful Nigerian society and a major challenge to conquer. In order to effectively tackle the research problem, selected plays by Soyinka, Osofisian and Umuko will be used to buttress our points. The large scale of violence insecurity and gross negligence in our society today calls for a research of this nature, the theatre should therefore not be complacent. Theatre through the ages has always seeks to educate while entertaining, thus there is serious reasons to make concerted efforts towards handling issues of insecurity and theatre through its various media should be a strong part of this struggle taking into consideration the power embedded in it.
1.2. Objective of the Study
- This study therefore, sought to access the role of a people’s worldview that has been deformed by western ideology in increasing or decreasing the problem of insecurity in Nigeria. The study will evaluate to what extent the denigration of the traditional system has done damage to the society and to what extent security challenges could be ameliorated through empowering the traditional systems of the different communities in Nigeria.
- The study will analyse how theatre as a tool for curbing social ills and enhancing required development has been used to warn and suggest measures of improving the society by different dramatists.
- Works such as Esiaba Irobi’s Hang men Also Die, and Nwokedi reflect the vengeance of aggrieved unemployed university graduates on a society that saps their strength, deprives them of their rights as citizens and takes away their dreams. In Nwokedi the single handed revolutionary approach by a ‘youth corper’ to sanitize the political system by eradicating the suspected corrupt politicians which includes his father and brother-in-law through a cultural festival respectively is quite compelling. Ahmed Yerima’s Hard Ground examines the grievances of the exploited masses in a Niger-Delta community. Some dejected youths resolve to forcefully take their rights and shares in a depraved society exploited by selfish political leaders unperturbed by the plight of the dying masses.
- This study will therefore excavate that history of socio-cultural Darwinism and hybridity in the Nigerian society and how they constitute threat to security through a critical analysis of selected plays.
- The study will also ascertain how dramatist like Soyinka, Osofisian and Umuko have contributed immensely in their attempt in ameliorating the insecurity challenges in Nigeria through plays.
1.3. Significance of the Study
The National Security of a nation is a pre-requisite for the existence and survival of that nation and her sustainable development and progress. A nation that cannot ensure or boast of an average security standard for both lives and property in her territory has therefore lost a chief ingredient of her sovereignty. While the security situation of Nigeria has remained deplorable even before the ‘independence’, with the situation deteriorating each day and defiling almost all attempts made to ameliorate the tragedy, ‘human disaster’ remains the most threatening of all other factors contributing to this state of National insecurity. Penina Mlama notes that, “theatre is a process through which man studies and forms an opinion about his environment, analyse it, expresses and shares his view about it, and acquires the frame of mind necessary for him to take action to improve it… as, theatre is both economic, socio-political and indeed life itself”(8). What then is the role of the dramatist in the face of this lingering crisis? Using selected plays as paradigms, this study while encouraging further research into the relevance of cultural practices in solving security issues will emphasize the need to revamp the African communal life which is fast giving way to the western style of sectarian dominance. This will serve as a reference material for other researchers, policy makers, law makers, historians and non-government organizations as well as other organizations with similar interest. It will also serve as a wakeup call for the Nigerian leaders and security operatives to realize the role of misplaced identity in the security challenges as it seeks to assess and reassess earlier and current situations, measures taken, and proffer alternatives to revive, restore and if necessary restructure a ‘nation’ infamously bleeding into anarchy.
1.4. Scope of the Study
War, terrorism, and insecurity are not exclusive to Nigeria. The world over today is threatened by insecurity arising from civil unrest and the revolution and agitation for change. The revolution in the Arab world since 2010 popularly tagged the “Arab Spring” seeking a change in government is not much different from what Nigeria experiences from time to time. While this study makes the Nigerian situation its focus as it traces the historical trends of insecurity from the colonial era, relevant materials on security issues and across the borders of Nigeria is utilized to buttress the efficacy of the argument in the study. Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman, Femi Osofisan’s Aringindin and the Nightwatchmen, and Eni Jologho Umuko’s The Scent of Crude Oil shall be used as the primary sources to exemplify the Nigerian situation and to illuminate to what extent infusing our indigenous traditional practices will accelerate and advance our consciousness.
1.5. Research Methodology
This research seeks to establish the relationship between actions and consequences in the Nigerian Security upheavals. The qualitative research methodology will be adopted for this study. Since historical facts and literature texts on security issues will be of utmost importance. In this vein, it becomes pertinent to utilize the Historical methodology as an instrument which functions as a design that “… traces the beginnings and development of people, institutions and things” (12), and the literary methodology which “…focuses on written and printed library and archival sources, especially books, journals, theses, reports, literary works, such as plays, novels and poems” (13) according to Sam Ukala. The research through the Historical methodology looks at the origin of violence and issues of communal and cultural clashes of high magnitude right from the European conquest of Africa till date. The Literary methodology on its part provides printed analyses of most of these incidences and how they have been represented in play texts including the plays of study. Relevant materials are sifted, analyzed, summarized and expanded through the interpretation of the researcher to advance the view point of this study. The Modern Language Association (MLA) style of documentation is adopted in the written acknowledgment of the sources of information.
1.6. Theoretical Framework
This research is guided by the theory of Anarchism and the theory of evolution known as Social-Darwinism. Between 1859 to the Second World War, some Europeans capitalized of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and idea of the survival of the species to propagate a new political theory known as Social Darwinism. This theory was used to justify most actions and policies ranging from capitalism, race and empire to Adolf Hitler’s Nazism eugenics. David Paul Crook contends that “At one level it is seen as justifying rampant capitalism, ruthless competition and unregulated economic individualism. At another level it conjures up visions of racism and elitism, imperial aggression and militarism, visions that end with Hitler and the death camps of the Holocaust”(13). Crook further explains that these Europeans used Darwin’s theory to create a manipulative politics on the assumptions that “People lived in a “human zoo” and zoos required zookeepers”(14). Microsoft Encarta Premium 2009 records that “The colonial nations of Europe used ethnocentric theories of cultural evolution to justify the expansion of their empires.” Such theories as further explained in Encarta, “described conquered people as “backward” and therefore unfit for survival unless colonists “civilized” them to live and act as Europeans did.” To the Europeans, this view justifiably empowers an alien society to control the social and political life of another. It is therefore apposite to employ this theory in this study since the Nigerian society is a victim and still suffers the consequences of the cultural evolution theory. The European invasion of the African continent and the subsequent colonization of most African countries, and Nigeria being a victim, could be subjected to this theory. As such, the British existence in Nigeria sought to denigrate and subdue the African cultural practices through a process of “hybridization”. This theory did not take into consideration the survival and earlier successes achieved in these small-scale African societies. It rather created a new system, a hybrid; mixture of European and African culture which has led to the loss of appropriate cultural grouping and description in most African societies. The new practices as influenced by the Europeans did not go down without creating new problems for the African society. Besides the economic and psychological impact on the people, the physical consequences continue to be a challenge. These challenges had earlier been often ameliorated and resolved through African cultural approaches established long before the cultural evolutionist’s racial ideology. Maudline N. Okpara in Issues in Peace and Conflict Studies and Other Social Sciences explains that “In Africa there are various traditions; religious practices and belief system… and these structures are utilized as instruments of conflict resolution”(69). In Nigeria today these various traditions, religious practices and belief systems are fast giving way to the western form of Alternative Dispute resolution and as such created a new social malaise which’s study would best be guided by the theory of Anarchism.
Anarchism is a 19th century political theory opposed to all forms of repression of the individual and his culture. It is a rebellion against force and the truncation of an individual’s freedom of choice. Anarchism only allows for voluntary cooperation and not under any form of pressure from government organizations. It emphasizes the total control of societies by voluntarily organized groups and not by the political state. It is believed to be the most effective way each individual may attain their complete development. According to Bertrand Russell, Anarchism,
is the theory which is opposed to every kind of forcible government. It is opposed to the state as the embodiment of the force employed in the government of the community, such government as anarchism can tolerate must be free government, not merely in the sense that it is that of a majority, but in the sense that it is assented to by all. Anarchists object to such institutions as the police and the criminal law, by means of which the will of one part of the community is forced upon another part… (44).
The political theory was established as a peaceful agitation but the forceful refusal of the oppressors to set the oppressed free encouraged the forceful resolve of some groups of anarchists which the Microsoft Encarta 2009 describes as “Another School of Anarchism, relying on organized action and even deeds of terror to achieve its purposes…”. Considering other views on Anarchism, The New Encyclopedia Britannica (15th edition) views anarchism as an ideology “Whose central tenet is that human beings can live justly and harmoniously without government and that the imposition of government upon human begins is in fact harmful and evil”(371). Similarly, The Encyclopedia Americana (International edition) sees anarchism as a theory “that looks upon all law and government as invasive, the twin sources of nearly all social evils. It therefore advocates the abolition of all government as the term