Akwubaliba - University Of Nigeria Nsukka

ISSN: 2006-4241
Volume 15
April, 2013
IKENGA, after which this journal of the Institute of African Studies, University of
Nigeria, Nsukka, has been named, is a cult object of the Igbo-speaking peoples to which
traditionally is attributed success or good fortune in the professions or in life generally. It
is also closely associated with the right arm with which a man hacks his way through life.
IKENGA could, therefore, be briefly described as the Igbo god of achievement. The
journal is dedicated to the critical study of the fortunes of the black man down the
centuries, and of his contemporary problems and dilemmas. Its interest covers the entire
spectrum of African Studies.
IKENGA is not committed to preaching any particular gospel but will
accommodate all views based on the objective study and analysis of issues, whether
historical or contemporary, which are of special relevance to the fortunes of the black
man. Opinions expressed in the articles which IKENGA carries are entirely those of the
Professor Sam M. Onuigbo
Ibenekwu Ikpechukwuka E.
Associate Editors
Prof. Pat Okpoko
Dr. Casmir Ani
Dr. T.N. Nwaezeigwe
J.T. Omenma
Advisory Board
Professor E. J. Otagburuagu Professor E. Emeyonu
Professor M. Onuoha
Professor J. Oriji
Professor E.U.M Igbo
Professor K. Yankson
Professor J. Umeh
Dr. E. Etuk
Art Adviser
Chijioke Onuorah
Editorial Secretary
Onuigbo Chukwudi
Articles, reviews, books for review, subscriptions and other business enquiries to Editorin-Chief or the Secretary, Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Contact us @ [email protected]
Website: www.unn.edu.ng/africanstudies
Performing Local in Nigeria Rap Music: the Forces of Inter textuality and Appropriation.
Emaeyak Peter Sylvanus ………………………………… …………………………………1
Traditional Nigerian theatre, Ideology and the National Question: Igbo Masquerade and Folk Tale
performances as example.
Ifeanyi Ugwu (Ph.d)………………………………………………………………………… 18
Exploring the Existence of the Supreme Deity Concept in Igbo Pre-missionary Contact Religious
Jeff Unaegbu & Joy Ezeigbo…………………………………………………………… 25
The Nigerian Playwright and the Hermeneutics of Choice: Two views
ChinenyeAmonyeze………………………………………....................................……… 60
Effects of Simulation Method on Secondary School Students Achievement in Government.
Ezegbe BarrnedethN.,
H…………………………………………… …………………………………………………….74
Riverine Poetry and the exploration of the Environment
Chinedu Onuigbo……………………………………………………………………………89
Folk Theatre and the Ethnolanguage Discountinum: Cultural Implications
Chinenye Amonyeze…………………………………………………………………………. 103
Appraisal of the Role of Organized Labour in the Struggle for Nigerian’s Independence, 19451960 Okonkwo C. Eze (Ph.D)…………………………………………………………….115
Slow Emergence of Female Playwright in Nigeria: A Critical Overview.
Dr. Ngozi Udengwu……………………………………………………………………... 128
The 1999 Constitution and the Issues of Indigeneship and Citizenship In Nigeria,
Ibenekwu Ikpechukwuka E…………………………………………………………….. 151
The Nigerian Press and the Struggle for Democracy: Not yet Uhuru
Barr. Nwokolo Peter N……………………………………………………………….…. 167
Igbo Minstrels as Pathfinders in Contemporary Society: Social Changes and Challenges
Susan Nwakaego Orajaka & Jeff Unaegbu……………………………………………185
Managing the Potentials of Artists with Special Needs for Sustainable Development in Nigeria
Charles U. Adora, Ph.D……………………………………………………………….…197
Special Needs Children Acquisition of Knowledge
Okechukwu Franca O………………………………………………………………….…210
The Social Implications of Traditional African performances: The Dual Functions of Akwubaliba
Incarnate Being in Igala.
Dr Felix Egwuda-Ugbeda………………………………………………………………………224
Language Use for Ethnic and Religious Tolerance: Implications for Social Stability inNigeria
Ben Okey Opara, Ph.D……………………………………………………………………… 233
Role of Political Education in Sustenance of Nigerian Democracy: Implications for National
Dr. Ezegbe, B.N., Dr. Ikwumelu, S.N. & Okeke, Jonas N…………………………………. 245
Archaeology and Traditional Mural Painting in Nsukka Area of Northern Igboland.
E.I. Itanyi (Ph.D) …………………………………………………………………………… 256
The Politics of Igbo Origins and Culture: The Igbo-Ukwu and Nri Factors Reconsidered
Dr. Nwankwo T. Nwaezeigwe………………………………………………………………. 268
Sustainable Tourist Planning of Ndiowu: A Virgin Tourist Ecstasy
Nwankwo, Elochukwu & Anozie, Okechukwu…………………..………………………288
The New Contributory Pension Scheme in Nigeria: Investment Returns and Pensioners Benefits
in Federal Universities in South-Eastern Nigeria
Nwagwu, Ejikeme Jombo, Ph.D……………………………………………………………307
Art As a Critique of Bad Governance in Nigeria: Some Examples
Okoro, Marins N. & Odoh, George C…………………………………………………….. 332
Perceived Impact of Violent Conflict on Emotional Adjustment of Children in Nigeria
Nwoke, Mary Basil Ph.D……………………………………………………… …. 345
Nwabueze’s Parliament of Vultures as a Dress Rehearsal of Socio-Political Realities in Nigeria:
A Pragmatic Analysis
Sam Onuigbo, Ph.D & Sr. Adaoma Igwedibia………………………………………….. 362
Administrative Problems of Planning Education in Nigeria
Agbara, I.C……………………………………………………………………………………371
The Aro and the Concept of Aro-Okigbo: Facts and Falacies of a Histrionic Igbo Hegemony
Dr. Nwankwo. T. Nwaezeigwe……………………………………………………………….. 383
The Principles of International Humanitarian Laws and the Nigeirans Civil War: A Review of
Akachi Adimorra-Ezeigbo’s Roses and Bullets
Barr. Dr. F.O Orabueze, Prof. (Mrs) Tina Okoye and Dr. (Mrs) Ifeyinwa Ogbazi……… 398
Implications of Game Theory on Political and Religious Activities in Nigeria, 1999-2012.
Iwundu, I.E., Ejim, E. S.& Ezeigbo, J.C……………………………………………………440
An Ethno-Archaeological Perspective on Oil Palm Tree (Eliaeis guineensis Jacq} in Old Nsukka
Division of Enugu State
Agu, Sabastine C & Okagu, George O……………………………………………………… 458
Socio-Economic Globalization in Nigeria: Christian Religious Responses
Donatus I. Njoku Ph.D……………………………………………………………………..477
The Early Colonial Period and the Twenty-First Century Igbo Fashion: A Comparative Study.
Nwigwe, Chukwuemeka & Morgan, Trevor Vt………………………………………492
Performing Locale in Nigerian Rap Music: the Forces of Inter textuality and
Emaeyak Peter Sylvanus
Centre for Music Studies, City University, London, EC1V 0HB, United Kingdom, &
Department of Music, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Email: [email protected]
Scholars of Popular music are now studying how people use music as a channel for conceiving
places and (de-) or (re-) constructing locality-based identities.1 This article shows how arbitrated
popular musics can be a native resource for identity construction, as well as how practices of the
production and consumption of popular music are concurrently expressive practices for
visualizing and performing locale. The discussion will also bounce around musical features of
globalization. Consequently, I draw from and apply contemporary cultural theory to the study of
popular music concepts like localization, glocalization, indigenization, and domestication to
describe processes by which people engage with, appropriate, and locally place, displace,
emplace or even re-emplace globally circulating musical products, styles, and genres.
Specifically, my analysis of how rappers use aspects of song texts, musical style, and multimedia
imagery as vehicles for envisioning territory is accomplished by a fusion of the creative and
cultural studies/approaches to rap music. For this purpose, I shall rely on the song ‘Lagoscity’ by
the Nigerian rap musician called Tupengo. In all, this article submits that Nigerian rappers
understand that the discourse of Hip-hop, particularly rap typically includes the custom of
representing locale, which is accomplished using intertextuality to appropriate from Nigerian
popular culture, as well as the globalized Afro-American rap idiom.
Keywords: Nigerian Rap music, globalization, identity, intertextuality, appropriation.
Notable scholars like Murray Forman have asserted that the distinctive practice of ‘representing’
locale using Rap music makes this Popular music genre thoroughly suitable for studying the
musical invention or re-invention of locality as well as the musical relationships between what is
local and global (see Forman 2000). This approach to the construction or de- / re-construction of
geographical identity via Rap is so significant that Adam Krims has called it “Hip-hop’s urge to
locality” (Krims, 2002: p. 191). In a later publication, Forman (2002) details the complex and
multiple spatial discourses of rap and hip-hop in the USA. Further studies also reveal that Rap is
now a truly globalized genre – depicting how local and global forces have been employed on the
final commodity. Enter then the term glocal (-isation), which initially emerged in commercial
circles to explain the tactics for marketing global products in ways applicable to local sales
territories. The articulations and interpenetrations of the local and global in popular cultural
expression are now commonplace among scholarly writings in this century. (See for example,
Mitchell (2001b)). Forman’s book and Mitchell’s collection represent the significant
contributions the concepts and methods of cultural studies provide for understanding how the
discourses of rap and hip-hop emplace identity. However, I contend that what is missing from
both books is a sense of how the poetics of rap, that is, the musical tracks and lyrics of rap songs
actually function as vehicles for these visualizations of place. By contrast, this article offers a
detailed examination following aspects of textual poetics such as rhetorical structure and
intertextuality, plus transcription/discussions of the musical track of the examined rap song.
Although few researchers have discussed some aspects of the musical and textual connotation of
rap, they have, generally speaking, focused mainly on rhythmic organization and sound sampling
techniques. At other times, they have also made various arguments about rap as a crucible for a
particularly African-American aesthetic (see Baker (1998); Keyes (1996); Rose (1994); and
Walser (1995)). Perhaps the most detailed account about formal aspects of rap and representation
is found in Krims’ (2000) work titled Rap Music and the Poetics of Identity. In this book, Krims
uses very meticulous transcriptions of texts and textures of the genre to validate the ways in
which rappers and rap producers construct place-based identities, particularly in his analysis of
southern U.S. rappers’ imaginations of what he calls a distinct ‘rap geography.’ The expression
rap geography simply attests to the power of global flow of capital and consumer culture – the
evidence that the local interconnects with the global. The notion of glocalisation is hence
palpable when one considers that many adolescents from places as diverse as Brazil, China,
Egypt, India, Iran, New Zealand, and South Africa, have indigenized Rap; and consequently reinvented the genre into a medium for creating their respective rap geography (local identities)
and expressing local concerns for a glocal (that is global and local) audience.
Nigerian youths are not exempt from this genre and its contemporary practice. Historically, Rap
music achieved widespread popularity in Nigeria as early as 1979 with the song Rapper’s
Delight by The Sugarhill Gang.2 Thirty years on the genre has become a staple of Nigerian Pop
music menu – dominating the airwaves and videos locally, regionally, and globally. Popular
reviews opine that the earliest attempts at homegrown rap were ridiculed, resisted or completely
reviled by the mainstream. Having listened to some of the earliest productions like The Way I
Feel Rap by Ronnie (1981); Break It by Oby Onyioha (1984); Lagos by Mustapha Amego
(1990) and Which One You Dey by Emphasis (1991) I can understand why they got such
derisory reviews: the artists were often aesthetically awkward in modern business sense, overly
imitative of Anglo-American style, and textually fatuous. Nonetheless, their efforts laid the
foundation for such respectable Nigerian exports like TuFace Idibia, 9ice, M.I, D’Banj,
Ruggedman, Mode9, Trybesmen, Dr. Sid, 2Shotz, Naeto C., Eedris, and a host of emerging
superstars. The following discussion focuses on the musical imaginations and representation of
the cosmopolitan city of Lagos in songs by contemporary Nigerian rappers like Vex and
Tupengo, as well as the impact of globalization on such cities and its products.
Overview of the Globalizing City of Lagos
The tradition of representing Nigeria and, particularly Nigerian cities like Lagos, in song is a
long one. Songs about the city of Lagos, for instance, are replete among such Nigerian popular
music genres as Highlife, Nigerian Hip-hop, Rap, and Afrobeat. Many of the songs invoke the
different forms of nostalgia that have been constructed in emerging Nigerian popular culture
studies (see, for example, Adeleye-Fayemi (1994)). These include the aural equivalent of the
cityscape; the genteel pleasures and enchantment of the beauty spots of the city; the boisterous
cosmopolitan scenic views of minarets, towering edifices, churches, bridges, and peoples and
recreational facilities. Songs like Lagos by Vex (2012), and Lagos City Hustler by Naeto C.
(2010) summarize the reminiscent representations of the city. Others such as The L-zone by MPiece (2009), and Lagosians by Slim T. (2012), implicitly and/or explicitly extend their placedbased imaginings to cover unattractive and pessimistic views of the city in which genteel
pleasures are replaced by the pains and sufferings of the urban poor, of socio-economic
inequality, and power tussle. Demographically, actual musicians and audiences for Nigerian Rap
music cut across class lines, and the dichotomies of the rural-urban origin resulting from a huge
flow of rural migrants to the city is a strong factor. Due to this internal rural-to-urban migration,
Lagos has seen an explosive population growth from 1.4 million in the 1970s to nearly 8 million
in 2006, and is projected by the United Nations to be approximately 13 million in 2015.3
Unofficial estimates of the city’s population at the turn of the millennium run up to 21 million
souls.4 This places Lagos as the most populous African city after Cairo. Despite efforts by the
administration of the day, the city struggles to absorb this influx with resulting overcrowding,
low-paying jobs, and strain on its infrastructure: all of which are embroiled in popular discourse
about the kind of aesthetics that the rise of illegal squatter settlements of migrants portray along
the outskirts of the city.
On the happy side, there has been a resurgence of interest in Nigerian popular culture made
possible by a dramatic contrast to the cosmopolitan fantasies of the governing urban elite who
have embraced globalization. Since the 1980s, and by actively courting global capital, different
administrations have embarked on one project or another to remodel Lagos as a ‘global city.’
The attempts by the city administration and business interests to globalize Lagos can be seen in
transformations in the urban form of the city from mixed, multifunctional spaces to rationalized
functional zoning, involving major restructuration projects which include the development of
major industrial parks, walled housing estates for the newly emergent middle class, shopping
malls and cultural centers, all with the requisite accompanying parking lots or multi-story
garages. To facilitate movement between all the zones, the state government has overseen the
construction of major new motorways across the city, including through historic and densely
populated areas. While the project of remodeling Lagos into a global city after the stature of New
York, London or Tokyo remains incomplete, the transformations begun since the 1980s have
irrevocably altered the urban landscape. Also, the city’s global position continues to evolve,
often through informal and quasi-legal arrangements that bypass most political obstacles. This
opening up of Lagos, and Nigeria more generally, since the 1980s has not only implied the
inflow of global capital, but also of global popular culture, including Anglo-American popular
music. In essence, the flow and flight of capital implied that rural migrants to the city were
attracted by new jobs and opportunities created there by growth in the textile, banking, and
communications industries; as well as (and perhaps, more importantly) a new urban lifestyle that,
while not abandoning its base in the rural culture they grew up with, actively engages with the
cosmopolitan culture of the city of Lagos. Globalisation thus paved way for mainstream media
deregulation in the mid 1990s that encouraged national, regional, and multinational record
companies to advance talent within the creative and cultural industry.
Consequently, recording companies such as Kennis Music, and Chocolate City brought with
them their local and international (mostly American and English-language type) catalogues of
pop, rock and rap, which the Nigerian fledgling middle class began to eagerly consume in costly
CD format. Media deregulation also lead to the introduction of cable television networks with
dedicated music channels like MTV, MTV Base, Channel O, Soundcity, and OnTV to Nigerian
audiences for the first time. As expected, there prevailed a somewhat underlining tension
between the city of rural migrants and that of the cosmopolitan-globalizing-urban elite. This
meant that a certain number of Lagosians could afford to pay for cable network transmissions to
view media that was hitherto unavailable to the rest. Nevertheless, that margin has narrowed
considerably in recent times. My opinion is that this simplistic opposition of the global and the
local within Lagos city – sustained by the processes of rural-to-urban migration and urban
reform– has catalyzed the emergence of a ‘Rap geography’ embedded in hybridized popular
culture expressions such as Nigerian Hip-hop and Rap. These are themselves the result of global
processes of capital flow and flight, urbanization, and the formation of new identities. In the
following, I turn to a detailed discussion of a single song by a Nigerian rap artist to elucidate the
inherent musical and textual strategies developed to (re-) imagine the city of Lagos.
Performing Locale: Lagos through Rap Music
The Nigerian rap musician in focus here is called Tupengo. He was born and raised in Agege,
Lagos, Nigeria. According to the online blog Nigeria Music Network, the lyrical rapper has
worked with a variety of first-rate artistes and producers like Sarkodie, Skales, Phenom, Kel and
a host of Nigerian stars at home and abroad. Prior to his hit single titled 'Lagoscity' (2012), he
released such party bangers like Oyashi (2010). The song ‘Lagos city’ is recorded as a singletrack
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLfOSveh5zw). The cover photo of the album (Figure 1)
shows the rap artiste with his beautiful ladies (presumably backup singers) in their sexy outfits in
the background. In this song the rapper paints a verbal portrait of the city in which he grew. By
inflecting the song with a typical vocabulary, and evoking specific places in the urban geography
of Lagos, Tupengo creates a bright, and optimistic sonic aura of the city. Current reviews reveal
that the song Lagos city was well received in Nigeria and abroad. Below is an excerpt of a
bloggers’ comment following its release.
I think it’s about time people recognized Tupengo’s genius. He’s good, period. This is
another track, which was created to ‘big up’ his hometown Lagos city, and the whole
Hip-Hop community globally. If you are from Lagos…you know Lagosians rep [-resent]
their town to the fullest. Many would agree that the song could serve as the new Anthem
for Lagos.
The above review is particularly striking because the advocacy for a ‘new anthem for Lagos’
goes to heart of representation and identity. But what might this really mean for a broader
academic debate?
The music forming the multi-layered backing track for the rap is also
appropriately bright in tone. The musical foundation of the track is represented in the schematic
of some of the musical features of the song (see Example 1). However, not all of these features
occur simultaneously throughout the three minutes and twenty-five seconds (3:25) track. The
different layers enter and drop out at various times, constantly varying the texture within and
between verses and chorus. Harmonically, the track is built on a continuous alternation between
two held-out block chords: A minor and F, played on a synthesizer and a decayed electric guitar
(staves 1, 2, and 4 in Example1).
Figure 1: Front cover of Tupengo’s single album, Lagos city, showing the artiste with two ‘Lagos city
ladies’ in the background.
While the organ-like timbre of the synthesizer is sustained throughout the measure, the twanged
guitar chord decays quickly after the first beat of the measure. The sustained timbre of the
synthesizer is varied sometimes by adding additional layers, say, synthesized violins to the
texture (see stave 3 of Example 1). The serious minor key sound of the two alternating chords – i
and VI in A minor – is accentuated by the voicing, with its parallel 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, and octaves,
contributing to the haunting but assuring sound of the track.
Example 1: Schematic of parts of the musical track of Tupengo’s ‘Lagos city’.
In the way samples are used, Tupengo employs recognizable melodic samples from folk and
popular music. He uses such melodic samples from pre-existing recordings much less than other
artistes/groups – preferring to compose his own original music from scratch. From the schematic
of the song ‘Lagos City’, Tupengo obviously created some of the backing tracks by composing
short melodies that serve as motifs or ostinatos, and realizing them on the computer using music
software. He also added rhythm tracks, using samples of various percussion sounds (kick drums,
toms, snares, high hats, etc.). Tupengo arguably records other instruments (like the conga/talking
drums) ‘live’ in the studio and adds these sounds to the basic tracks produced on the computer.
The artiste uses the latter technique to add a melodic part to the song, transcribed on the eighth
stave of Example 1. However, the syncopated entry of the melodic fragments and the ostinatolike quality of the repetition are more akin to African-American rhythmic practices.
The song is given further rhythmic support by synthesized bass and percussion parts, the latter
using kick drum and dampened snare sounds. This ‘rhythmic section’ is similar to the breakbeats of American rap: in this case the bass and drums are mixed low in the track so that they do
not come across like the speaker-pounding jeep-beats of a more aggressive American rap variant.
This is consistent with Tupengo’s emphasis on melody and harmony as support for the text in his
earlier songs, with rhythmic play. Turning to the vocals and the lyrics of the song, Tupengo
cultivates in this track his particular, recognizable rapping style. He makes use of Brokin5
(‘Nigrian pidgin English’), the English language, and his vernacular – the Yoruba language. He
seemingly lengthens the last syllables of most lines, varies the vocal timbre of the held out
vowels, and bends the vocal pitch downward on these syllables in ways that suggest passion and
attraction – the aural equivalent of the look on the rappers’ and backup singers’ faces (see Figure
Before the first verse, Tupengo is heard in the background singing the name of the city ‘Lagos’
in a declamatory, expression-filled voice (see the bottom staff in Example 1) with an interjection
of the popular saying: Eko oni baje o! (‘Lagos will not be ruined, nay!’). As with most of his
songs, Tupengo raps the first verse solo, and then alternates lines during the choruses. But even
as he raps solo, other voices can be heard joining in on certain words or syllables, typically at
line endings or on particularly important words – a common practice in African-American rap as
well. In the following transcription and of parts of the lyrics of ‘Lagos city,’ I name the solo
rapper (Tupengo) above his respective lines; underline the words or syllables in which the other
voices briefly join in; and also indicate and underline in the English translation which words the
other voices joined in on.
Tupengo – Lagos City
Lyrics & Music: Tupengo.
Verse 1
[Tupengo: solo rap, backup vocals join in on underlined words/syllables.]
Plenti story to tell abouti Lagos
There’s so much to tell about Lagos
Ilu Agege, ilu ogbon: ati kekere mo ti mo na
Of Agege, which I’ve known from childhood
Omugo onimu ri re’le
The foolish leaves (Lagos) empty handed.
If you de waka, I don die!
As you go about the city, whoa!
Fine, fine baby too mush
You’d notice the abundance of beautiful ladies
Lagos festival de here
In here you’ll find the Lagos festival
Eyo festival de here
The ‘Eyo’ festival is found here
We geti beta govunor
We have a very good governor
Plenti tings to carry us
As well, we have infrastructure to support us
We geti road, geti lite, geti food, geti skool
We have roads, electricity, food, and education
We geti Lagos…geti, we geti wota.
We have Lagos…we have, we have water.
[Tupengo/backup vocals].
We’mo, we’mo, ilu Agege, ilu ogbon
You have no idea about Agege, Lagos
Lagos city is where I come from
We’mo, we’mo, mega city toun dazzul
You have no idea about the dazzling city of Lagos
We’mo, we’mo, omo beta dey here.
You do not know how profitable Lagos is.
Verse 2
[Tupengo: solo rap, backup vocals join in on underlined words/syllables].
Beautiful places, beautiful people; everyman inside to hustle
Look around you, and you will see what I’m saying
Eko oni baje o, gbogbo eniyan
Everyone, Lagos will not be ruined
Help each other o – na so we dey carry am go
Lend a helping hand – that’s how we do it here
Fasola… e de here; Tinubu…e de here
Fashola (the governor) is here; Tinubu (former
governor) is here
Dangote… e de here; Mike Adenuga…e de here
Dangote (the magnate) is here; Mike Adenuga
(the tycoon) is here
Our father, who art in heaven…
Pray for Nigeria, stop the evil
Aka’wa, ‘kawa gba’dura.
Let’s join hands in prayer.
Verse 3
[Tupengo: solo rap, backup vocals join in on underlined words/syllables].
Centre place for business
Centre place for music
Centre place for fun
Fun you can’t let go!
Different things are happening
You do wanna go down there.
I don’t wanna sleep and lose myself – I love this Lagos the way it is.
Omaka ‘jola, omaka j’ola
Tomorrow brings joy
Eko lo ti sele, idobaale mo wa o
It’s happening in Lagos, I doff my hat.
Eko oni baje o!
Lagos will not be ruined!
Whereas a line-by-line analysis of this song would be helpful, limitations by space prevent me
from discussing the song in that much detail. However, a few points deserve mention, and will
illustrate one of the salient characteristics of Tupengo’s rapping. Tupengo employs a dense
intertextuality, with references to other texts such as Yoruba (Nigerian) proverbs, popular
dictums, the lyrics of other folk and popular songs, and so on. Much of the song is packed by a
vocabulary typical of Yoruba/Brokin song texts, including words such as omugo (‘the ignorant’),
e de here (‘we’ve got it’), adura (‘prayer’), carry go (‘advance’), ola (‘tomrrow’), omo (‘bloke’)
and ilu (‘town’). But besides this more general use of such vocabulary, the song itself contains
very specific intertextual references.
For instance, verse one of the song opens by evoking the usual thoughts of most rural migrants to
Lagos – of people who are often mesmerized by the sight and sounds of the city. The line ‘…I
don die’ is a popular expression of awe. This expression has often been used since the 1990s to
evoke migrants’ perceptions of what they expected to find by leaving their rural villages behind
and moving to the city. By adding the expression ‘Omugo onimu ri re’le’ (‘The foolish leaves
(Lagos) empty handed’), Tupengo makes the statement ironic, implying most migrants find that
making a life in the city is hard for the newcomers, and thus fail to make the most of Lagos.
The line ‘Eko oni baje o’ (‘Lagos will not be ruined’) is a derivative of the popular culture –
appearing especially in media advertisements, and implying that by listening to particular radio
or television stations, one is listening to the sound of the city itself. Tupengo’s rap emplaces this
famous line within the urban geography as he invokes the sights and sounds of ‘beautiful
places/people’, and different ‘Eyo festivals’. By saying ‘idobaale mo wa o’ literally connoting
high regards for someone or something, the rapper acknowledges his gratitude to some
individuals (past and present) who have invested in and worked to make Lagos what it is. He
does so in verse two when he names sitting and former governors, and entrepreneurs, and asks all
to pray for the common good.
Trading off lines at the beginning of verse three, Tupengo with his back-up singers briefly
invoke a nostalgic discourse of the boisterous city, citing it as the center for business,
entertainment, and tourism. But this succinct evocation is quickly framed as ironic, and thus
displaced by the line ‘I don’t wanna sleep and lose myself’: referring to the contemporary reality
of omugo (‘the fool or ignorant’) who would likely depart Lagos empty-handed. In the same
verse, the rapper explicitly evokes and juxtaposes the different ways the cosmopolitanglobalizing-urban elite and rural migrant perceive the city. In all, apart from referring to the city
of Lagos as a whole, Tupengo conjures more specific aspects of the geography of the city,
mentioning, for example, Agege where he grew up. In the chorus of the song, the rapper employs
the typical ‘we’re-number-one’ type of expression often associated with American rap. The
difference here is that he phrases it in a way that again emplaces him firmly within the city –
referring to Lagos as the city of cities.
So far, the argument has focused on what might be called the poetics of the glocal. In his
discussion of Rap and Hip-hop outside the USA, Tony Mitchell argued that rap has become, for
many around the world, a ‘tool for reworking local identity.’6 In this article, I have attempted to
show how this reworking of local identity is quite explicit in the case of Nigerian rap from
Lagos. In his appropriation of the globalized genre of rap, Tupengo has thoroughly
reterritorialized and indigenized the genre – embodying in his rap the sounds and discourses of
other indigenous musical genres, and creating a hybrid musical expression that serves as a
vehicle for local imaginations of place.
This imagination of place is accomplished not just through the discourses surrounding Nigerian
popular music, but also through the words and sounds of rap songs themselves. The profuse
intertextuality of Tupengo’s raps with texts of Nigerian popular culture, for example, emplaces
the rap within a specifically Nigerian space. There is also an implied acknowledgement of the
connection Nigerian rap songs have to the long extraction of popular expressions and songs
about Lagos and the country in general. The Nigerian rap musicians draw all these sources
together in, and emplace themselves within, their own musical imagination of the urban
landscape of the city. Attention to the poetics of their rap can thus provide us with some insight
into how rappers can use the texts and sounds of rap to imagine their localities and emplace
themselves within these imagined places. It is perhaps ironic that Nigerian rappers like Tupengo
inadvertently comment on and critique how globalization has shaped Lagos by appropriating,
indigenizing, and locally re-emplacing the globalized musical genre of rap. The case study
discussed here could easily be used to construct a narrative about how local rappers appropriate
global commercial popular culture forms to talk back to and resist globalization. I think,
however, that the dynamics of such a discourse would be slightly more complex. I would suggest
that Tupengo’s rap, and similar Nigerian raps, embody and embrace the dimensions of the city of
the globalized cosmopolitan – after all, contemporary Lagos is a consequence of processes of
More over, regardless of the differences in consumption patterns based on class, ethnicity, and
religious orientation, Lagosians generally share a common contemporary urban culture, which is
based on a synthesis of local tradition with modern global culture. Tupengo’s particular
familiarity with the rap idiom is made possible by the continued opening up of the Nigerian mass
media to American popular culture. Even diaspora influences of Nigerian rappers in countries
like the UK, who first introduced Nigerian-language rap to audiences abroad, did not simply do a
direct UK-to-Nigeria-to-UK flow. The flow was made possible by and mediated through global
processes – significantly, the partnership between local Nigerian record companies and
Generally, Nigerian rappers have indigenized the global musical genre of rap and hybridized it
with local genres of Nigerian popular music. Tupengo, for instance, has fused into rap the sounds
and discourses of Nigerian folk music, text, and Popular culture. In the song ‘Lagos city’ he
employs the forces of intertextuality and appropriation to re-emplace within their own music
existing ways of representing the city. As Nigerian rap globalizes itself in the crucible of Lagos,
Nigerian rappers in the city continually explore ways of drawing on and synthesizing the global
and the vernacular in order to re-imagine the urban landscape; and in the process envision their
own local identities in the globalizing city. All in all, this paper has explored how both the object
of scrutiny – the cosmopolitan city – and the vehicle for their expression – Nigerian (language)
rap music – is implicated in both local and global processes. From listening to Tupengo’s Lagos
City, we hear the local pulse of globalization, and in the rap we also hear the intricate,
interpenetrating counterpoint of the local and the global.
Many thanks to Dr. Adebowale Adeogun who provided the English language translation to the Yoruba
lyrics of the song ‘Lagos city’ by Tupengo © 2012, Pastor Child Music. Used by permission.
1. Bennett 2000; Stokes 1994a; Whiteley, Bennett and Hawkins 2004.
2. Uchenna Ikonne runs the popular ‘old school’ Nigerian music blog: ‘With Comb & Razor’, and he’s a
huge collector of all groovy music to come out of Nigeria in the past three decades. Together, we listened
to Nigerian rap released on vinyl records between 1981 and 1991.
3. The National Population Commission.
4. The New York Times estimate.
5. Over 90 million Nigerians speak and understand what is commonly called the Nigerian Pidgin English
or ‘Brokin’. This brand of lingua franca is an amalgamation of words derived from the English language,
Creole, and slangs from the various vernaculars. The linguistic flavours thus differ from one geo-political
part of the country to another. However, it is widely regarded as the common man’s means of eloquent
oration. (For further readings, see, Akhimien, E. Pius (2004) ‘The Use of “How are you?” in Nigerian
Society; and Ihemere, K. Uchechukwu (2006) ‘A basic description and analytic treatment of Noun clauses
in Nigerian Pidgin’).
6. Mitchell 2001a: pp.1–2.
Adeleye-Fayemi, B. (1994). ‘Gender, Sexuality, and Popular Culture in Nigeria’. In Ann
Arbor (ed.) Media, Popular Culture, and ‘the Public’ in Africa. Michigan: MPublishing.
Akhimien, E. P. (2004). ‘The Use of ‘How are you?’ in Nigerian Society’. Journal of
Pragmatics, 36/11: 2055 -58.
Baker, A. (1998). ‘Break It Down! An Analytical Look at Structural Relationships in Rap’.
Popular Musicology 3.
Barber, K. (1987). ‘Popular Arts in Africa’. African Studies Review. 30/3: 1 – 78.
Barber, K. and Waterman C. (1995). ‘Traversing the Global and the Local: Fújì Music and Praise
Poetry in the Production of Contemporary Yorùbá Popular Culture’. In Daniel Miller (ed.)
Worlds Apart: Modernity Through the Prism of the Local. London.
Bennett, A. (2000). Popular Music and Youth Culture: Music, Identity and Place. New York.
Forman, M. (2000). ‘’Represent’: Race, Space, and Place in Rap Music.’ Popular Music. 19/1.
Forman, M. (2002). The ‘Hood Comes First: Race, Space, and Place in Rap and Hip-Hop.
Ihemere, K. U. (2006). ‘A Basic Description and Analytic Treatment of Noun Clauses in
Nigerian Pidgin’. Nordic Journal of African Studies, 15/3: 296 – 313.
Keyes, C. L. (1996). ‘At the Crossroads: Rap Music and Its African Nexus.’ Ethnomusicology.
Krims, A. (2000). Rap Music and the Poetics of Identity. Cambridge.
Krims, A. (2002). ‘Rap, Race, the ‘Local’, and Urban Geography in Amsterdam.’ In Richard
Young (ed.) Music, Popular Culture, Identities. Amsterdam.
Mitchell, T. (2001a). ‘Another Root – Hip-Hop Outside the USA.’ In Tony Mitchell (ed.) Global
Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA. Middletown.
Mitchell, T. (2001b). (Ed.) Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA. Middletown.
Rose, T. (1994). Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Hanover.
Stokes, M. (1994a). (Ed.) Ethnicity, Identity and Music: The Musical Construction of Place.
The National Population Commission. <http://www.population.gov.ng/index.php/censuses >
accessed on 29 August 2012.
Walser, R. (1995). ‘Rhythm, Rhyme and Rhetoric in Public Enemy.’ Ethnomusicology. 39/2.
Whiteley, S., Bennett, A., and Hawkins, S. (2004). (Eds). Music, Space and Place: Popular
Music and Cultural Identity. Aldershot.
Emphasis (1991), ‘Which One You Dey’ Polygram (later Premier Music)
Mustapha Amego. (1990), ‘Lagos’, Elopee Black Music Records – EBM 0002
Oby Onyioha (1984), ‘Break It’ Sunny Alade Records – SALPS 43
Ronnie (1981), ‘The Way I Feel Rap’ Vinyl – PHD016
Tupengo (2012),‘Lagos City’, GberaTinrin Studios.
< http://www.jaguda.com/2012/10/14/new-music-tupengo-lagos-city/>
Department of Theatre and Film Studies
University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Nigeria’s socio-political and economic problems have largely defied scientific,
technological and commercial moves towards lasting solutions. Scarcity of essential
commodities is on the increase, insecurity of life and property looms high in the horizon,
necessary resources for quality teaching and learning in the educational sector are still far
from sight. The country’s leadership is not crossing its legs, savouring the conundrum –
or is it?
Although a lot has been done, and no lasting solution has been in view, all hope is
not lost. This paper posits that the answer to the national question – the challenges of the
nation – can be sought in the ideological manifestations of traditional Nigerian theatre,
particularly the masquerade and the folk-tale performances. Ideology refers to a
systematic body of ideas articulated by a particular class of people. Example, it can refer
to the ideas which underlie the activities of particular professional groups (Storey 3)
Hence, ideological manifestations of the traditional Nigerian theatre comprise the
motivating factors, the essential notions and the obvious ideas that sustain it. These
include the belief systems, customs and traditions that underlie the theatre, which
manifest through performances. Ideologies can be called to service while discussing the
national question, for purposes of clarifying the principles underlying the nation’s
challenges and adducing solutions.
Traditional Nigerian theatre is, therefore, a microcosm of ideologies, which this
paper seeks to explore and – ultimately-collate as reference points in analyzing the
country’s socio-political ills and recommending solutions. Igbo masquerade and folktale
performances are used as examples.
Studies done by scholars like Simon Ottenberg (1975), Nnabuenyi Ugonna
(1984), Emeka Nwabueze (1986), Ossie Enekwe (1987), David Kerr (1995), have
established that the masquerade performance in Igboland is a traditional African theatre.
The ideological manifestations of this theatre are inextricably connected with the
traditional conceptualizations of the masquerade character, its social functions and
dramatic skills, its relationship with the audience. The traditional ideating of the
masquerades as spirits of ancestors, informs its connection with religious and spiritual
ideologies. Its social functions and dramatizations point at its ethical, semiotic, and
aesthetic ideologies, while its audience relationship portrays its patriarchal standards. The
audience factor also portrays the masquerade’s communalist ideology.
The religious, spiritualist, ethical, patriarchal, communalist and aesthetic
ideologies are singled out here to be elaborated for purpose of this study. Viewing the
religious ideology, David Kerr maintains that “masquerades (since pre-colonial Africa)
were usually based on ancestor worship” (6). Supporting this position, Emeka Nwabueze
states that the masquerade “is a revered Igbo ancestor” (50). These suggestions signify
religious ideology which is quickly corroborated by Oseloka Osadebe’s comment that the
masquerade is “an essential social instrument, well founded on solid, religious basis”
The conceptualization of the masquerade as spirits of the dead
‘Mmonwu’,’Mmanwu’ or ‘Mmuo’, in Igbo culture area; ‘Egungun’ in Yoruba land,
‘Egwu’ or ‘Eguata’ in Igala area, ‘Alekwu’ in Idoma, ‘Ekpo’ in Efik, and ‘Ekpe’ in Ibibio,
portray its widespread ideology of spiritualism. Ossie Enekwe expresses that the
masquerade is a manifestation of extra-human forces in the human sphere (56), while
Osadebe further avers that “the masquerade is a means of instant impersonation in the
embodiment of ghosts or the assuming of the role of spirits” (45). The theatrical
implication of the masking tradition consists largely in its elements of impersonation or
imitation, which Aristotle highlights as an essence in his definition of drama. Therefore;
the extent to which the masquerade succeeds in imitating the spirits of ancestors, or any
human entity that it sets out to mimic, determines its functional effectiveness.
As a god that shows benevolence, punishes where necessary and attends to the
people’s requests, the masquerades throughout its theatrical display, inspires awe and
loyalty. It is sincerely and faithfully worshipped and revered in their performances,
during which the acting space comprises village paths, village common or market square,
some masquerades in Igboland enforce moral rectitude, justice and communal tasks. The
category of masks well known for this function is the nocturnal masquerade whose main
acting instrument is his voice. A hand prop that makes deep, grotesque sounds when it is
swung round in mid air, as well as a device – ‘Ize-ma’ – used to make the voice of the
masquerade sound guttural, jarged and grotesque, are employed. The weird voice of the
nocturnal agent and the fearful sound that accompany it lend to the darkness of the night,
a sure feeling of spirit presence.
This ‘night spirit’ is called ‘Ayaka’, ‘Ajukwu’ ‘(Achukwu)’, ‘Onyekulum
(Onyekurunye)’ or ‘Osulugwogwo’. There are usually a large number of this mask that
parade the close peripheries of people’s homes, singing lampoons, calling derogatory
names and exposing the deeds of criminals within the community, warning them to
repent before nemesis overtakes them from the ancestral realm. Their audiences,
therefore, are people lying behind their heavily locked doors. In dead silence, they listen
and imagine the grotesque costume and make-up worn by the mysterious, ethereal
Some lampooning masquerades operate in the day time in the presence of people
they indict. In his study of ‘Okumkpo’ masks of Afikpo, Simon Ottenberg notes that the
masquerades fulfill satirical roles. During the performances, the masks do not mince
words in calling the names of people who exhibit anti-social behaviours. The immunity
of the masked actors as supernatural beings encourages them to speak without fear of
litigation or attack. Outside Igbo land, satirical masks can be exemplified by the Yoruba
‘Egungun’ known as ‘Apidan’ and ‘Onidan’ which constitute satirical troupes, ridiculing
evil people. “These ‘Egungun’ companies present a spectacle which is a mixture of
carnival, ballet and satirical revue” (Ricard 48).
The activities of the night and satirical masks signify the ethical ideology of the
theatre. In this perspective, the interests and aspirations of the performance are to sanitize
the society by ridding it of evils. A similar indicator of ethical ideology is the activity of
belligerent masquerades which troupe to the domains of citizens that fail in their
communal duties, break communal laws and taboos or forment interpersonal or family
conflicts. These masks apprehend their victims, belabour them and sometimes impound
their properties. In Unadu town of Igbo-Eze South Local Government, “the ‘Esato’
masquerade forces heady members of the community to comply with village regulations”
(Eze, interview). Fear of this punishment deters crimes and immorality.
The theatricality of these social involvements are the humorous and mimetic
movements of the masked actors at the points of action. They mimic, through dance, song
and movement, the physical attributes of their victims thereby providing entertainment
for the spectators who, as human beings, derive pleasure in ridiculous situations.
Masquerades that function as vigilante in the community also manifest ethical
ideology due to their efficacy in warding off thieves, burglars and possibly, evil spirits,
witches and wizards. The masks use their occult and spiritual endowments to act. They
parade the village paths during the day, but at night they are armed with dane guns to
shoot at any clandestine infiltrator. In Obollo Eke, Udenu Local Government, particular
masquerades identified as ‘Akatakpa-Obollo’ and ‘Omabe-Oche’ execute these functions.
The ideology of patriarchy – ideas, beliefs and attitudes that promote male control
of the society – is obvious in the masquerade performance. In the masking tradition of the
Igbo, men distort, conceal, and mask the true nature of the performance machinery. The
deliberate falsehood operates in the interest of the ‘ruling class’ – men – against the
interest of the ruled – women. Consequently, mystery, fear and obedience are forced on
the women. Describing the ‘Okumkpo’ masquerade performance, Kerr further points out
the marginal status of women in the theatre, when he opines that “… women were not
allowed to have any contact with ‘Okumkpo’ and so could not vent their grievance
against a male – dominated society… (7). Simon Ottenberg corroborates this subjugating
tendency in his opinion that when a performance is on course at the village common, “the
elders and the more prominent male members of the audience occupy vantage viewing
positions while women and children are edged into the sun or some other uncomfortable
corners to watch the events” (96). In many other Igbo settings like Nsukka, Umuoka,
Abo, Awka; parts of Imo and Abia states, the patriarchal practice also predisposes the
female gender to similar situations, especially where shades and halls are not sufficient
for the audiences to sit or stand and watch the play.
Writing on Mmonwu: The Dramatic Tradition of the Igbo, which, according to
him, has basically developed in the heart of Igboland, in areas like “Owerre (Owerri)
Ọkigwe (Ọkigwe), Ọlu (Ọrlu), and Ọka (Awka), Nnabuenyi Ugonna reports that while a
performance progresses, female members of the audience are the main targets of rough
and cane carrying masquerades. “The uninitiated, the women and the children run away
in terror as some belligerent masks, mainly the ‘Akakpo’ give them the dramatic chase”
In his exposition of this gender inequality, Onuora Nzekwu maintains that:
Women have been excluded from sharing in the secrets for
they are weak and fickle, and are therefore not fit to take
part in them. They are also mysterious and sometimes
unclean (134).
This patriarchal ideology is not peculiar to Igbo masking. Discussing the cult of
masquerade among the Igala of Nigeria, John Sani Illah remarks:
No woman, no matter her age (there may be rare exceptions
of priestesses or those that live in priestly abstemiousness)
can be an initiate. Neither are they allowed to enter a culthouse or pry into the mysteries of the masquerade (ewoli
egwu). It is believed that women are weak and cannot keep
the secrets of the masquerade. Moreover, it is also believed
that they could pollute the process of communion with the
ancestors at certain states, for example during their monthly
periods (62).
The theatre also manifests the ideology of communalism. The performance occurs within
the context of festivals, funerary rituals and other celebrative events. During the festival,
for instance, friends and relations from neighbouring quarters converge at the village
common, with members of the host community, making merry and being treated to the
pleasure of dance, music, costume, charts, crafts and other arts. Celebrants reaffirm their
communal bonds, interacting and sharing as members of one communal entity.
The aesthetic ideology of the masquerade theatre in Igboland is illustrated by its
concern for what Damian Opata calls “the elegant and visually satisfying”, which “does
not rest only on appearance, but perhaps on the problematic expression: mimesis (a Greek
term for imitation of action) (87). A masquerade that depicts elegance, beauty and
glamour is ‘Agbogho mmonwu’ – found in many localities of Igboland-depicting
beautiful young maidens who died just before they consummated their marriage rites
(Enekwe 97). Others are ‘Ekpe’ – translated as ‘beauty’; ‘Ekwe’- glamour; ‘ijele’ –
magnificent, royal, colorful and artistic. These masquerades do not only display their
beauty and glamour, they also strive to mimic, move, dance, use gestures with artistic
skill in order to approximate the exact qualities that they represent. Any shortfall in this
mimetic attempt attracts grumbles and indictment from knowledgeable members of the
audience. In certain circumstances, an elder or any experienced initiate corners an
unskilled, masked actor into a hide-out to either admonish him, instruct him, make
suggestion or even advise him to leave the arena. The masquerade, therefore, strives to
satisfy the audience visually. When the actor uses his voice, he makes it pleasing to the
ears of the audience. Generally, in movement, voice, costume, dramatization, the
performance must satisfy the expectation of the audience or face communal sanctions.
So far, the religious, ethical, patriarchal, communalist and aesthetic ideologies of
the Igbo masquerade theatre have been examined. It will also be revealing to explore
Igbo folktales for ideological manifestations.
Ideological Manifestations in Igbo Folktale Performances
Folktales refer to very old and anonymous traditional stories that are passed from
one generation to another in spoken form. They include myths, fables, tales of heores
(whether historical… or legendary), and fairy tales” (Abrams 125). Folktales also refer to
invented stories by known narrators, many of who achieve written forms of their tales. As
theatre, narrative events involve a narrator telling stories, such as animal tales, mythical
and legendary achievements, and heroic deeds. According to Toni Duruaku:
The single narrator sometimes acts out the roles, switching
from character to character as he tells the story. The more a
story teller does this role switch well, the more proficient
he is said to be (19).
Folk enactments, involve dance, mime, music and other artforms. Ozidi Saga in Ijo
Village of Toro Arua, Rivers State, is a folktale relating the mythological story of the
people, ‘kwagh-hir’ of the Tiv people in Benue State is a famous and “wide-spread”
story-telling performance in Nigeria. It features a story teller, “who walks, leaps and runs
round the arena, calling out the theme of the traditional legend or the newly created tale”
(Harper 27). Traditionally, in Igboland, this enactment is also experienced in moonlight
Some Nigerian writers have invented tales based on indigenous materials, with
which they crafted literary drama. Examples: Sam Ukala employed folktales to craft his
plays like Akpakaland and Placenta of Death. Femi Osofisan used the myth of Moremi to
build a literary drama entitled Morountodun. Igbo folktales articulate various ideologies
which are ethical, mythical, humorous, spiritualist, occultist, class-conscious, collectivist
and others. Each tale exhibits possibilities of portraying more than a single ideology. For
instance, the Igbo tales of how the tortoise often outwits other animals portray humorous,
collectivist and ethical ideologies. The ridiculous and funny situations weaved into the
tales create a deep impact of humour, while the collective force usually organized by
other animals to deal with the tortoise whenever he pulls a fast one on them, does not
only convey the ideology of collectivism but also, a vengeful culture.
What the tortoise suffers as consequences of his intrigues, points at an ethical
theme, stressing what is right to do and what is not. The humorous ideals of Igbo tales are
also portrayed in the ridiculous stories of how smaller animals have exploited the
elephant’s large bulk to tackle their generally impossible tasks. It becomes humorous to
imagine the elephant throwing in its large bulk stupidly and getting wounded without
really achieving the set objective. This means that bulk is not always might.
There is a tale of how the powerful lion caught in a web, begs a rat – passing by –
to save him. The rat does so after the lion has vowed not to devour it. But when the lion is
released from the web, it gets hold of the rat for destruction. Some ethical questions are
obvious, such as: is it not right to render help to a fellow being? If someone’s goodness
can lead to his demise, should goodness be thrown to the winds? Ethics, demands that
one good turn deserves another. Goodness is promoted when it is well reciprocated. Also
conveying an ethical idea is the tale of a young maiden, who rejects poor suitors and
accepts a limbless creature that is disguised as a very rich and handsome person. The
story conveys the idea that many young girls fall into the same trap as the above, and
should, therefore, learn how wrong it is to be inordinately materialistic in choosing life
Fairy tales relating numerous encounters of men and women with ghosts of
different shapes and sizes, inhabiting various mysterious trees, woods or objects, point at
the Igbo sense of spiritualism and occultism. Often, these men who encounter the spirits,
employ charms and other occultic powers to regain their grounds when the spirits
mesmerize them. Occultic consciousness is also obvious in the tales that portray heroes
using their charms to perform supernatural and magical fits, do impossible things like
disappearing and re-appearing, transforming into animals and back to human.
There are ideological myths such as tales of man’s origins. In these myths, efforts
are made to explain nature without scientific or empirical proofs. When questions arise,
as to how God created the world or why he instituted death, myths are constructed to
offer explanations. Myths exist that explain why the tortoise’s shell is fragmented, why
women don’t always grow beards, why the chameleon moves as though the ground on
which it treads is too soft and about to sink. Mythic tales portray certain heroic
achievements ascribed to legends like Amadioha in Igboland, Ogun and Sango in
Myths invented by folks about national heroes like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Herbert
Macaulay, and others, also demonstrate mythic ideology. Zik’s abilities as a nationalist
fighter, his diplomatic missions, and his skills in evading many intrigues allegedly
hatched by colonial detractors, provided grounds for observers to conceptualize him as an
enigma, a spirit in human flesh, who could disappear and appear at will. He was viewed
as a multi-complexioned fairy, who is fair today, and dark the next day. As an ideology,
the mythic ideating of a hero comes to play, but to attract this; the hero must have, like
Zik, created mystery around his personality.
Anthropomorphic ideology is obvious in folk stories describing the human
activities executed by inhuman forces like the sun, the moon, the star, the rainbow and
the woods. One tale narrates how the moon and the sun competed for supremacy on the
sky-each of them striving to outshine the other in providing light to the earth. But a
judging voice – the moderator's chanting voice – sang out, urging the star to give way to
the moon, who was alone on the entire sky, yet it shone more than all the stars put
together. In the competition, the moon and the star were interacting verbally like human
beings. In some other stories exemplifying this ideology, the rainbow is presented as
discussing with the Creator; others tell how the wood spirits or gods spoke with men or
women who are requesting for one favour or another.
Both the masquerades and folktales manifest important ideological resources for
discussing sociopolitical problems of contemporary Nigeria. Patriarchy ranks high in the
ideological spectrum. In the masquerade performance, the Igbo patriarchal tradition is not
contested by any visible female gender contradiction, and the silence of women over their
predicament appears as a seal to the practice. But in contemporary Nigeria, the practice as
a transferred culture from tradition generates serious feminist counter reactions and
engenders conflict of sexes in homes, offices, business enterprises, educational settings,
literary texts and critical writings. These conflicts translate to other forms of socio
political set-backs in the nation. How then can gender crisis be mediated to give way for
national development? One way out of the problem is to first examine the intentions of
various feminists and consider their potentials for rationally impeding patriarchy. Then,
an appropriate option for settling the crisis of sexes will be chosen.
The tragic marginal status of women in the masquerade performance, and the
women’s inertia are untenable. Hence, some contemporary feminist temperaments are
admirable and full of prospects. There are diverse feminist philosophies, some of which
are as objectionable as they are destructive and somewhat counter productive to the noble
visions of other ideals of feminism. Three feminist perspectives identified by John
Adebayo Afolabi vindicate the above stands. These are represented as ‘Womb-men’,
‘We-men’ and Woe-men’ (126 – 127). The Womb-men and the We-men are very
reasonable, but the Woe-men are extremely unreasonable and irrational. The Womb-men
see themselves as men, capable of doing most of what men do, and due to their
possession of womb, they believe they are better than men. Their logic is that without
them, procreation would discontinue and the world will become extinct. At any rate, they
concede supremacy to men in certain respects, and submit to them where and when
Looking at the temperament of the Womb – men, one may assess their group as
being fascinated by the feminist slogan of “what men can do, women can do it, even
better”. But in truth, these feminists are still skeptical about the validity of their ideology
or temperament. Hence, they are one leg in, and less than pragmatic. Men still loom
supreme in the inner recess of the women.
The Wo-men consider themselves equal to men and even better. They are never
ready, for any reason, to concede supremacy to men, they are very ready to redress what
they consider a long standing oppression of women. With dignity, they want to prove,
and many of them have proved, that what a man can do, a woman can even do better.
Most of them are highly educated; they try to eschew scandal and immorality. A close
observer of We-men may be constrained to class some well known Nigerian women as
having many of the attributes of this group.
The Woe-men are bitter feminists who are frustrated and ever ready to fight men,
both in writing and utterances, even in action. They are extremists. Some of them are
highly educated and try to render man a nullity (Afolabi 128). It may be right here to
assess this group of feminists as dreamers, who are envisioning an era of matriarchy in
Nigeria. But we all know that matriarchy is unimaginable in this country.
Few plays by Nigerian female playwrights present women collectively fighting
for the rights of women, like Stella Oyedepo’s Rebellion of the Bumpy Chested, Tracie
Uto – Ezeajugh’s Our Wives Have Gone Mad Again, Tess Onwueme’s The Reign of
Wazobia (Udengwu 38). The plots, characterization, themes, and linguistic levels of these
plays largely portray the above feminist perspectives. The above analysis leads to the
inference that some feminist claims should be pragmatically sustained, looking at their
possibilities towards curbing patriarchal hegemony. The leading advocates of patriarchy
can even testify to the sociopolitical, economic and political heights so far attained by
women like Mrs. F. Ransom Kuti, Mrs. D. Akunyili, Mrs. N. Iwuala and others.
This class of feminists is graded as being the type in which the “future glory of
Nigerian women resides” (Afolabi 128). This paper, therefore, recommends the group as
the kind of feminists to emulate and of course improve further on. If this happens,
perhaps, men might relax their strangle-hold on male-supremacy, while women can see
their limits even beyond the sky – all in the interest of greater national growth.
Religious ideology of the traditional Igbo theatre can be emulated in the present
Nigeria to service sociopolitical exigencies. The worthy attributes of traditional religious
ideology identified in the masquerade and folktale performances are: reverence, sincere
devotion and loyalty in worship. These attributes were also present in the ancient Greek
adoration of their gods like Dionysus, Zeus, Apollo. For many years before the decline of
Greece, these attributes fostered patriotism and national unity among the Greeks.
In order to emulate these qualities for purposes of national development, Nigeria
becomes envisioned as a ‘major masquerade’, more divine than all the masquerades in
her soil put together. Nigeria remains a general religion to all Nigerians and everybody
shows sincerity and reverence to her. But if B.N. Iffih reminds us that “a society that pays
lip service to religion is not serious” (166). We can decide that Nigeria, in the present
context deserves sincerity and seriousness in our devotion and loyalty to her.
Unfortunately, insincerity permeates all aspects of Nigeria’s existence – in her leadership,
work places, roads, companies, churches and educational institutions, and these have
precipitated underdevelopment.
The ethical ideology of traditional theatre discussed here comprises such ideas as
spirituality, sincerely, fear of the unknown, and satire. Spirituality can be exploited for
addressing Nigeria’s moral predicaments. Government can pry into the affairs of
Nigerian churches and investigate their spiritual sincerety. This can be achieved by
enforcing some limiting tags on religious freedom whereby fanaticism, proliferation of
churches, clandestine modes of worship, should be checked and curtailed constitutionally
and legally.
Church leaders should demonstrate more intensely, their spirituality and moral
rectitude and emphasize on these qualities rather than their promises of quick wealth and
prosperity. Fear of the unknown can be exploited in checking social misfits, law breakers,
corrupt tendencies and immoral attitudes on our roads, in the offices, homes, streets and
public places. This can be achieved through the use of secret ethical monitors and
technical devices that are planted in unknown or private places to monitor and track down
evil and immoral people. In Britain and the United States of America, over speeding on
the roads and other driver’s offences are easily monitored and checked with remote
devices that can follow the movement of vehicles without the culprit being immediately
conscious of any physical impact.
The masquerades as spirits, are sincere to the people, they don’t accept bribe.
These attributes should be emulated by character moulders and law enforcement agents in
exposing evil characters. Criminals, cultists, immorality, fraudsters, and kidnappers
should not be hidden or protected by people who know them. Like the masquerades,
people should speak out.
Dramatists and other artists should use their art more deftly in satirizing the evils
in the society, with a view to stamping them out. Many satirical plays in Nigeria are
already doing this but there is more room for more work. Ola Rotimi’s if is a satire
against Nigeria’s “evil and criminal” regime of the Second Republic (Umukoro 42).
Plays must satirize, with more punching intensity, the current social, political, economic
and religious misconducts in the country.
More people should speak out without fear or favour, against evils in our society
because, as Wole Soyinka points out, the man dies when in the face of social atrocities,
he keeps silent. In a communiqué issued during the Second Plenary Meeting of the
Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), at Umuahia on 8th – 14th September,
2012, the important issue of “Promoting Authentic Development in Nigeria” was
discussed and the bishops commended “those Muslim and Christian leaders who are
raising their voices to condemn the ongoing barbarism in Nigeria” (3). In the private
sectors, quality production should be the motto of manufacturers, while a standard
supervisory body like NAFDAC (National Food and Drugs Administration and Control
Agency) should always expose substandard materials without fear or favour (like the
Igbo masquerades). Let every Nigerian, (the politician, the educationist, the medical
practitioner, the security man, the student, the market woman, the parent at home) strive
to attain “aesthetic excellence” which is an imperative “ideological resource that could be
retrieved” from the masking tradition (Opata 92) or count himself out of the ‘arena’
because the eye of the audience is anxious to behold a blameless spectacle in which
shoddiness is far – fetched.
Folktales, like masquerades, yield ideological resources for making suggestions
towards national development. Both art forms share in the ethical, mythical, communalist
and spiritualist themes that have been discussed here. However, folktales rank
specifically high in portraying collectivists, spiritualist and occultic ideologies. Relating
these issues to contemporary Nigerian situation, it becomes glaring that the country
demands collective responsibility towards sociopolitical and economic emancipation. All
hands must be on deck to scrap corrupt leadership, insecurity, poor educational standard,
fraud and insincerity in national affairs.
The ideologies of spiritualism and occultism have been largely condemned as
promoters of ritual atrocities in the country, and should be vehemently discouraged. The
high rate of mysterious human abduction, killings and armed robbery are largely byeproducts of these practices. Fear of these evils has denied Nigeria of numerous
development-oriented investments, such as viable foreign and indigenous companies.
Even the established entrepreneurs could be constrained to relocate to other nations or
pack up and return to their home communities where relative security and trust might be
This paper has identified and examined ideological resources manifested in the
masquerade and folktale performances. An attempt has been made to adapt these
resources to the contemporary Nigerian sociopolitical situation, employing them as
yardsticks for suggesting answers to the national question. It is discovered that both the
masquerade and the folktale manifest similar ideologies, though with minor distinctions
in emphasis. As parameters, some of the ideologies like spiritualism, occultism, and
patriarchy are found to be yearning for total extinction or major adjustments to provide
room for national development. The paper, therefore, concludes that Nigerian traditional
theatre’s ideological resources can largely and profitably be exploited for making
suggestions towards national development.
Abraham, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms, 7th ed. Orlando: Harcourt, 1999.
Afolabi, Adebayo John. “Of Womb-Men, We-Men and Woe-Men: Feminist Aesthetics,
Theatre Practice and the Democratic Process in Nigeria”. Theatre and Democracy
in Nigeria. Ed. Ahmed Yerima and Ayo Akinwale. Ibadan: Kraft, 2002:126 –
CBCN. “Promoting Authentic Development in Nigeria”. Communiqué Issued at the end
of the Second Plenary Meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria
(CBCN) at the Bishop Anthony Nwedo Pastoral Centre, Umuahia, Abia State, 8th
– 14th September, 2012.
Duruaku, A.B.C. A Handbook on Drama and Theatre. Owerri: Colon Concepts, 1997.
Enekwe, Ossie. Igbo Masks: The Oneness of Ritual and Theatre. Lagos: Nigeria
Magazine, 1987.
--- Interview. “The Adamma Masquerade Troupe of Ngwo”. University of Nigeria,
Nsukka, 1999.
Eze, Cyril. Interview. “The Unadu Masquerades” Unadu, Igbo – Eze South L.G.A., 1999.
Harper, Peggy. “Dance”. The Living Culture of Nigeria. Ed. Salutri. O. Biobaku. Lagos:
Thomas Nelson (Nigeria), 1976.
Iffih, B.N. “Societal Malaise in Nigeria: Suggestions for Improvement”. Nsukka Journal
of the Humanities. 8 (December 1997): 156 – 171.
Illah, Sani John. The Performing Art of the Masquerade and its Challenging Status in
Igalaland. M.A. Thesis Submitted to the Postgraduate School, Ahmadu Bello
University, 1983.
Kerr, David. African Popular Theatre: From Pre-Colonial Times to the Present Day.
London: James Currey, 1995.
Nwabueze, Emeka. From Ritual to Entertainment: A Study of the Theatrical
Development of Igbo Festival Masquerade Performances. Ph.D Thesis, U.S.A;
University Microfilm International, 1986.
Nzekwu, Onuora. “Masquerade”. Drama and Theatre in Nigeria: A
Critical Source
Book. Ed. Yemi Ogunbiyi. Lagos: Nigeria Magazine, 1981: 130 – 135.
Opata, U. Damian. “Theatre, Ideology, and Society in Nigeria”. African and World
Literature: University of Nigeria Journal of Literary Studies 1 (2001): 83 – 94.
Oseloka, Osadebe. “The Development of the Igbo Masquerade as a Dramatic Character”.
Ph.D Thesis, 1981. USA: University Microfilms International, 1986.
Osofisan, Femi. Morountodun. Ikeja: Longman, 1982.
Ottenberg, Simon. Masked Rituals of Afikpo: The Context of an African Art. Seattle:
University of Washington Press, 1975.
Ricard, Alain. Theatre and Nationalism. Trans/. Femi Osofisan, Ile-Ife: University of Ife
Press, 1983.
Storey, John. An Introduction to Cultural Theory and Popular Culture, 2nd Edition.
Georgia: The University Georgia Press, 1998.
Udengwu, Ngozi. “In Search of a Feminist Theatre in Nigeria”. The Creative Artist: A
Journal of Theatre and Media Studies I. Eds Clementina Abone, Tracie Chima
Utoh – Ezeajuh, Alex Asigbo. Awka: Valid (2006): 30 – 40.
Ugonna, Nnabuenyi. Mmonwu: A Dramatic Tradition of the Igbo. Lagos: University of
Lagos Press, 1984.
Umukoro, Obikpeko Simon. Drama and Politics in Nigeria. Ibadan: Kraft, 1994.
Ukala, Sam. Akpakaland. In Akpakaland and Other Stories. Agbor: Oris, 2004.
--- The Placenta of Death. In Two Plays: The Placenta of Death, The Last Heroes.
Ibadan: Kraft, 2007.
Jeff Unaegbu1
Joy Ezeigbo2
1. Senior Cinematographer, Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka,
[email protected], 08035272576.
2. Research Fellow II, Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Some studies assert with evidence that the concept of a supreme God is foreign to Igbo pre-missionary
contact religious thoughts. They mostly point to western influences on such a “supremacy” concept in both the
minds of the early observers of the Igbo and in the Igbo themselves who had been either proselytized or
swayed by the proselytization of Christianity, consciously or not. Other scholars confirm the presence of a
supreme God in Igbo religious thoughts. Using Georg Hegel’s Dialectic and Uzodinma Nwala’s Radical
Interpenetration as theoretical framework, this work presents both views, collecting data through documentary
evidence of ethnographic reports and closely examining the perspectives of ethnographic reports in pursuit of
any undeniable proof of the existence and extent of structure and popularity of the concept of supreme
deification in Igbo thoughts. The evolution of Igbo traditional religious systems catalyzed by migrant
knowledge and the adoption and syncretization of the appurtenances of outside cultures were investigated. The
researchers came to the deduction that for the pre-Aro adult Igbo, the definition of supreme Deity is different
from western thinking today in that a supreme Deity is particularistic or universal in a decentralized form for a
given Igbo clan and from the viewpoint of that clan, the deity is the highest among gods in the world (where
“world” meant a smaller sphere than is seen today). Before Aro, then, many politically acephalous Igbo clans
attributed supremacy to Ani, the Earth deity. Ani was popularized by the pre-missionary contact Nri (500BC 1500AD) who came from the east (Igala-Jukun-Hamito-Semitic cultures) with Chukwu (as a concept, not
name), but later saw the importance of controlling the autochthonous Igbo through yam as far as agriculture
was concerned. Thus, religious focus was shifted to Ani, leaving Chukwu in an otiose position. Later the Aro
(1690AD-1902AD) adopted the name “Chukwu” for Ibinukpabi. At the height of the Aro acculturation in most
of Igbo land, Chukwu came to be widely known again and general cultural processes of adopting Him as
supreme in a decentralized form was in progress before the British interrupted. The appearance of a supreme
deity in the Igbo religious thought is closely tied to a need for its existence.
a. Background Information:
The researchers reckon, based on the bent of multiple pieces of examined academic
works, that there was an antithetical wave of reevaluations of earlier works concluded as
ethnographic reports of African pre-missionary contact cultures and belief systems. The main
aspect of this wave which had its tide from 1970 to 1990 was what Professor Timothy Uzodinma
Nwala called the “Great Debate on African Philosophy”. This was because of the “consummate
passion, rigor, extensive interest generated and the vast amount of literature that poured out in
the process”. (Nwala, 2007:38). Nwala saw the Debate as “part of the discourse on African
culture, philosophy and identity, a process of self-reflection among Africans”. (Nwala, 2007:38).
The researchers take a larger view of the wave as the whole process of the discourse on African
culture and belief systems which includes debates by African and non-African scholars. As part
of this wave, much literature in the area of African traditional religions was seriously criticized
as westernized in points of view. The observed indigenes, themselves, were not spared. There
was suspicion that they had been culturally contaminated by western influences and captured
thus in these early ethnographic reports. Early report on the accurate astronomical aspect,
concerning the Sirius stars, of the Dogon traditional religion (Griaule and Dieterlen, 1965)
sparked off a debate as to whether the report was westernized or whether the native Dogon
people themselves were westernized. (Carl Sagan, 1979). (Ian Ridpath, 1978). (James Oberg,
1982). (Van Beek, W. E. A., 1991). The point of whether any African religious thought did have
a supreme God was also seriously indulged. Regarding this, early reports which argued for the
non-existence of a supreme God (Ellis,1894:38) (Frobenius,1913:187) (Young, 1937:44) were
reappraised and negated severely by Anyika (1988) who found allies in Mendelsohn (1962:37),
Idowu (1973:104,105) and Tempels (1969:21). Anyika (1988:333) charges, “…arm-chair
researchers and stay-at-home investigators like A.B. Ellis, Leo Frobenius and Cullen Young
distorting African history, claim that Africans have neither a concept nor worship of the one
interminable God.” Even E.G. Parrinder who acknowledged the presence of a supreme God in
many African religious systems was accused of negating direct worship of the same God by
Africans, except in the case of the Ashanti. (Anyika, 1988:334). Some writers acknowledge the
worship of gods that are today taken as the supreme Gods of some African ethnic groups; still,
they argue that such gods were not genuinely supreme or universal, but rather, particularistic, in
the pre-Christian or pre-missionary contact era. (Agbakoba, 2000:13). By particularistic, they
mean that every clan in one ethnic group had their own way of worshipping a given god. And the
nature of a particular god or goddess, say ani (the Earth goddess in Igbo religious thought), is
different for the different clans of the same ethnic group worshipping the same god. Also, a
particularistic god, however prominent, has no absolute authority over certain mutually exclusive
powers of lesser gods. To Agbakoba (2000:13) “the logical structure of a genuinely Supreme
Being did not exist in the pre-Christian era African thought. Therefore, such a being did not
really exist”. The use of Supreme Being here by Agbakoba is taken to mean supreme God. This
opens up the question of what the definition of supreme god is for all the writers arguing for or
against His existence. It may well be that some writers see a supreme god as one that had all the
nature and attributes of the Christian God. This study is careful in making some definitions clear
as indicated below. Just as with early reports on other African pre-missionary contact cultures,
early reports about the pre-missionary contact religious thoughts of the Igbo of Southeastern
Nigeria faced similar reevaluations. The particular point of a belief in a supreme God was
intensely indulged, and the once-hot fire of the debate is just beginning to smolder. The question
was whether the Igbo generally had the concept of a supreme God and then believed in and
worshipped Him before the coming of Christian missionaries.
b. Working Definitions of Terms:
The concept of a Supreme God in a Universal (but decentralized) Sense for the Igbo
(Note the use of capital “G” to echo its use in the works of the ethnographic reports reviewed.
The use of “G” does not in any way indicate a subconscious association of supreme God with the
Christian God in the minds of the researchers): This idea is sometimes seen differently by many
writers involved in the debate, thereby presenting a fundamental problem. When one says,
“supreme God in Igbo religious thoughts” what does one mean? A general definition would be
that the idea, supposedly for the Igbo, posits that there is a God who created the world and
everything in it, including man. He is far above, too good, too powerful, all-wise, all-seeing and
all-knowing to be approached directly; therefore He is either withdrawn or immanent. And He
created a pantheon of minor deities (Ani, Agwu, Ogwugwu, Amadioha etc.) and delegated powers
to them so that they act as intermediaries between Him and the Igbo. He governs with a great
deal of devolution or decentralization of powers “in which the inferior powers or deities can
creatively chart their own courses, provided it does not conflict fundamentally with the interest
and nature of the Supreme Being”. (Agbakoba, 2000:4). Rituals are directed to the lesser deities
in the belief that such rituals get to the supreme God (Chukwu, Chineke, Ezechitoke,
Olisebuluwa, Obasi). The ancient God is not humanized in Igbo tradition belief. Because the
Igbo deities Amadioha and Ikenga are masculine, Chukwu is assumed to be male. Sparks of Him
supposedly resides in every Igbo person and it is called Chi or personal god which returns to
Chukwu at the person’s death for reassignment. (Nwoga, 1984:15).
The Concept of the Supreme Deity in a Particularistic Sense for the Igbo:
The concept of the supreme Deity in a particularistic sense is one in which for a given
clan of the Igbo area, a particular deity is taken by that clan as chief among a pantheon of lesser
deities (just like Zeus of Grecian mythology. Zeus was chief but he did not create the world).
This deity is seen as the last resort and the most powerful amongst the pantheon of deities. In
places where Ani or any other Deity aside Chukwu is the Chief Deity, an agnostic view persists
as to the origin and creation of the earth. In places where Chukwu is the Chief Deity, He is seen
as the creator of the earth.
iii. Pro- and Non-God Works: Because the exploration of the concept of “supreme God” and
not “supreme Deity” is used in most of the reviewed works, we shall tag the works arguing for
the existence of the concept of supreme God in much of Igbo religious thought as “Pro-God” and
the works arguing that the supreme God concept is mainly foreign to the Igbo as “non-God” to
help clarifications.
iii. Pre-Missionary contact: In this study, this refers to the period before the arrival of Christian
missionaries into Igbo land. This distinction need to be made to distinguish the period which is
part of a larger period known as “Pre-contact” in this study to mean the period before the arrival
of Europeans into Africa (if an African context is implied) or into Igbo land (if it is so implied).
iv: Culture: In anthropology, this is the patterns of behavior and thinking that people living in
social groups learn, create, and share. Culture distinguishes one human group from others. It also
distinguishes humans from other animals. A people’s culture includes their beliefs, rules of
behavior, language, rituals, art, technology, styles of dress, ways of producing and cooking food,
religion, and political and economic systems. (Bodley, 2009). For Ezeh (2012), “Culture is the
sum total of the strategies that society employ to survive.”
v: Religion: This is a social construct encompassing beliefs and practices which enable people,
individually and collectively, to make some sense of the great questions of life and death.
(Barrett, 2001). Unaegbu (2012:6) defines religion as a “social institution of responding beliefs
and manifest practices of reverence, worship, obedience and ritual observances fueled by
attempts to represent and order, by explaining, senses of a greater being or beings and
supernatural phenomenon so as to improve conduct in human affairs and or achieve spiritual
improvement and completeness”.
c. Area of Study
The area of study is the Igbo of Southeastern Nigeria. It is the dominant culture group in
the east with a total land area of about 15,800 square miles (about 41,000 square kilometers)
lying roughly between latitude 5 and 7 degrees north of the Equator and longitude 6 and 8
degrees east of the Greenwich. (Ilogu, 1974, 2). The Igbo area is bounded on the southeast by the
Ibibio people (with Arochukwu as the outpost), by the Idoma, Igala, Igede and Tiv to the north
(after Nsukka and Ogurugu towns), by the Ogoni and the Ijaw to the south, by the Bini to the
west (with Agbor as the outpost), by the Esan to the northwest, by the Ekoi of Ogoja to the east
(after Abakiliki town) and by the Urhobo and Isoko to the south. (Nwabara, 1977: 15)
(Nwaezeigwe, 2007:2).
Map of IgboLand (Source: Wikipedia:http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/archive/b/b3/20081226213859!Igboland.png)
Igbo land lies in four areas. There are the fertile low-lying deltas and riverbank areas
which fall within the mangrove, rain and freshwater swamp forests vegetational belts. They are
also flooded during the rainy season. The central Igbo area is on a high plain of derived savanna
as do the Udi highlands, which are the only coal-mining location in West Africa. Therefore, as
one moves to the north, one experiences a gradual decrease in the intensity of rainfall. The Igbo
population grows by the day. A 1921 estimate places the population at nearly four million.
(Talbot, 1926:18, 154). The 1963 population census in Nigeria recorded eight million; 1985
estimates put the population at about nine million. (Nwala, 1985:15). By 2010, the CIA World
Fact book puts the Igbo population (including the various subgroups of the Igbo) at 18% of a
total Nigerian population of 152 million, or approximately 27 million. (“Igbo People”, 2012). It
is important to note here that the Igbo were said to have adopted the name “Igbo” just after the
Nigerian Civil War (Alaezi, 2006:32). The Igbo were earlier referred to as the Ibo(e), Ebo(e),
Eboans or Heebo (Basden, 1938; Lovejoy, 2000:58; Randall, 2002:51; Cassidy & Robert,
2002:168; Equiano, 1794:14; Alaezi, 2006:31).
d. Theoretical Framework:
This work is hinged on the theory of Dialectic and the theory of Radical Interpenetration
The theory of Dialectic was propounded as the philosophic system of the German philosopher,
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Hegel believed that the evolution of ideas occurs through a
dialectical process—that is, a concept (or thesis) gives rise to its opposite (antithesis), and as a
result of this conflict, a third view, the synthesis, arises. The synthesis is at a higher level of truth
than the first two views. Hegel's work is based on the idealistic concept of a universal mind that,
through evolution, seeks to arrive at the highest level of self-awareness and freedom. An Igbo
philosopher, Timothy Uzodinma Nwala, also arrived at a similar proposition. He postulated the
theory of Radical Interpenetration. Nwala (2007:29) writes:
Radical Interpenetration is a theory which enables us to see the course and
history of human knowledge and civilization as a progressive movement from lower
forms of being/ existence to higher forms, in which some of the contradictions either in
the existential conditions or epistemic notions are increasingly transformed, where there
is no radical boundary between one level of existence or and another, where one sheds
into the other.
e. Operationalization of Theories:
This research applies Dialectic and Radical Interpenetration to the evolution of the
culture of the Igbo people with a view to finding the extent of penetration of the worship of the
supreme God in a universalistic sense, especially the Chukwu Deity, and the series of
acculturations and adoptions, syncretization or jettisoning of material and non-material culture
leading to this belief or higher truth. The researchers investigated direct or remote signs of
European and/or Afro-Asiatic (Hamito-Semitic) cultural influences that may have given birth to
or fostered this belief before the coming of Christian missionaries. Furthermore, the documented
evidences of the pro-God works (thesis) are examined. The non-God works (antithesis) are also
examined. A verifiable deduction is the goal. This work is like a sieve trying to filter the
evidences coming from two debate camps, and seeking to arrive at this higher truth distilled from
snatches of unimpeachable concrete facts from preceding literature for and against the point.
a. Reports on pre-missionary contact existence and direct worship of supreme God.
The reports supporting the existence and direct worship of a supreme God is
“overwhelming” (Nwoga, 1984:25). We shall take a select few.
Agbedo (2007:11) reveals:
Communal worship in Olido [in Elugwu Ezike] involves the annual worship of
the Arch Deity. The annual worship referred to as ‘Isu Ji’ takes place between February
and March. During the worship, every male adult takes with him one tuber of yam, a half
gallon of palm wine and kola nuts to the shrine of the Supreme Deity.
This worship of the Supreme Deity (Idenyi Umunaaja) happened (and is still happening,
reports Agbedo) at the same time with the worship of the Ala deity (Agbedo, 2007:11). We are
not sure when this worship of the Supreme Deity began; it would have shed more light as to
which religious cultural influence Elugwu-Ezike in northern Igboland fell to in its adoption of
the Arch Deity.
Arinze (1982:185) views Igbo religion thus:
The Igbo traditionally believe in God, in spirits, good and bad, and in ancestors.
Their worship revolved generally around the worship of the ancestors and the spirits
(incorrectly called gods by some writers), although God was often invoked at prayer and
names were given in His honour.
This classification is different from that of Onwuejeogwu (cited in Nwoga, 1984:11) who
classifies Igbo religion into Chukwu (the Great Creator of all things), Alusi (the invisible
supernatural beings and/or forces, Mmuo, the invisible spirit of the dead, Uwa, the visible world,
and, Ike mmadu, the “power” in the individual that drives him to action. It appears Onwuejeogwu
had a different earlier classification of four as is portrayed in Onwuejeogwu (1972:21). F.C.
Ogbalu (1960) classifies the Igbo cosmology into God (Chukwu), gods (Chi), and idols (arusi). It
appears there are many classifications as there are writers reporting on the existence of the
supreme God.
A rare direct prayer, showing belief in a Supreme God, of some of the titled traditional
Igbo elders in Ihembosi as at 1966 was secretly captured by Father RC Arazu and reported
directly in Isichei (1977:169, 170):
Ulaasi!, that the things we have said, come to be as we have said. Behold ofo
[sacred staff in nonactive mode]. Behold ohi! [sacred staff in active mode]. We beg and
beg and beg of you: Chukwu Abiamayi, Anyanwu-na Eze-Enu! …. That impending
calamities coming from oyibo [white man]…, that the mouth of none of those evils ever
touches an Ihembosi skin….
There may have been the influence of Aro’s Chukwu Abiama on these men.
Late Mazi Emezi Okor of Umuelem village was the oldest man in Ihiagwa as at 1975. He
was said to declare solemnly:
Ihiagwa people were the first people on earth; they were even met in the present
spot by the Otamiri” which is Chukwu – God…. Ihiagwa people did not immigrate from
anywhere else. Ihiagwa people arrived the earth with ‘CHUKWU’ who had his abode in
a shrine ‘Okpu’ at a spot between Iriamogu and Ishiuzo villages of Ihiagwa. He
communed with his chosen people of Ihiagwa until they started pestering him with petty
domestic matters. When a woman went to the ‘OKPU’ to ask Chukwu to tell her who
stole her ‘ogiri’ ‘Chukwu’ felt he had had enough and left Ihiagwa for Arochukwu where
he established another habitat among the Aros.
(Ihiagwa Town History, 2012).
The influence of Aro is unmistakable in this oral history.
There are other evidences of direct worship of the Supreme Deity. C.K. Meek (1937)
showed such instances in the Nsukka belt. W.R.G. Horton (1956) indicated the worship of the
Supreme Deity amongst the Nike and the Ibagwa. S.C. Ezeanya (1969), E. Ikenga-Methuh
(1981) and R.C Arazu (1981) have also dug up evidences of direct worship of the Supreme
Being. It appeared most of these shrines are located in northern Igboland. Ezeanya as cited in
Kalu (2002:354) studied the Aja Ezenu in the Awka and Nsukka areas. Methuh and Arazu
studied the Ikpa Mkpu Chukwu festivals in the Ihembosi, Okija and Ihiala sub-groups. Talbot
(1926:40) reported that Chukwu has cult symbols and personal, family and public altars amongst
the Afikpo Edda. Leonard (1906:424) observed that the Igbo approached Chukwu when “all
other gods, arbitrators, advocates, mediums and mediators have miserably failed”. A plethora of
evidences of the worship of Chukwu is given in The Supreme God in Igbo Life and Worship by
Methuh (1976).
Reports on the nature and attributes of supreme Deity (ies):
Onwubiko (1991:66-73) asserts that Chukwu or Olisaebuluwa is the supreme God
amongst the Igbo and he is all-knowing, creator, omnipotent, All-wise, All-knowing, All-seeing,
Judge, Immortal and Holy or has attributes similar to the ones pinpointed.
Direct evidence of how Chukwu and Ana is seen by traditional worshippers as at 1966 is
shown in this interview of an Ihembosi elder, Ezenwadeyi, conducted by Rev. Fr. Arazu as cited
in Isichei (1977:173):
We look up at heaven: The heavens have been there for a long long time. They
are not supported with pillars. But they stay there. And it is said that it is there that
Chukwu stays. It is said that Chukwu is above. He sees us. What every person does, He
sees it….
Be it Chukwu, be it Agwu Nsi [Deity of herbs], be it Ogwugwu, be it Ulaasi [Deity
of nearby streams], be it Ekwensu [Deity of sudden calamities, which Christians
conveniently see today as Satan], they are all under….(he checks himself). Chukwu owns
all and sundry: He and Ana. Chukwu and Ana own all.
We can discern that the speaker was cautious in attributing superior power to Ani over
Chukwu, much later though, he says that Ani is greater as we will see in another section.
The Chief Priest of the Supreme Deity (Idenyi Umunaaja) revealed to Agbedo (2007:6)
that the Arch Deity is a Being of an exceptional nature, possessing attributes “far too noble, far
too abstract and believed to have originated from the pristine thoughts of the ancestors, the
ndiishi”. He is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. “He is the just and impartial Judge,
meting out judgment on the wicked in this world and certainly bringing all men to judgment in
the next world”. Idenyi Umunaaja is said to be in charge of all other gods within his jurisdiction.
In another section of Agbedo’s article, it appeared Idenyi Umunaaja has a honorary husband
called Ugwunokome who “serves as a messenger to Idenyi Umunaaja, who has a hill He named
after him, Ugwunokome. Through Ugwunokome, the Arch Deity supervises the hill” (Agbedo,
Here we discern European influence, especially because the interview was happening in
very recent times. The nature of the supreme god appeared to be the same as the nature of the
Christian God. Looking closely, we see that the existence of a shrine to his honour and the
devolving of powers to other gods makes him supreme in a decentralized sense and not a
centralized one as to be omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent.
Mazi Emezi of Ihiagwa in Ihiagwa Town History (2012) narrates:
[Chukwu] communed with his chosen people of Ihiagwa until they started
pestering him with petty domestic matters. When a woman went to the ‘OKPU’ to ask
Chukwu to tell her who stole her ‘ogiri’ ‘Chukwu’ felt he had had enough and left
Ihiagwa for Arochukwu where he established another habitat among the Aros.
Mazi Emezi went on to say that Chukwu could not forget his chosen people of Ihiagwa.
So he later returned to Ihiagwa in the guise of his son, Otamiri, and made his shrine deep in the
forest between Ihiagwa and Nekede. On his arrival he sent for the people of Ihiagwa and Nekede
for a new covenant. Ihiagwa people as the original people of ‘Chukwu’ understood his message
which was coded in semaphores and met Chukwu at the appointed time. A new covenant was
established and ‘Chukwu’ now known as Otamiri chose eight priests ‘Ohas’ to represent Ihiagwa
in his spirit court. Despite the encroachment of Christianity, the ‘Ohas’ of Ihiagwa still pay the
annual visit to their spiritual father for discussion and the reception of decrees and guidelines for
the conduct of their affairs (“Ihiagwa Town History”, 2012). This story is also reported in
Nwoga (1984:47) and his analysis was that the Chukwu referred to was not supreme but has the
same equation as the oracular deity of the Aro as it is indicated that He went to Aro. The story of
Ihiagwa may be an attempt to put Otamiri before the Chukwu of Aro or may be a hint that the
god, Chukwu, was worshipped in Ihiagwa before the Aro. If the latter case is true, then this may
indicate that their concept of Chukwu came from sources older than the Aro, possibly the Nri.
The Nri people were said to believe in Chukwu and to see Him as Supreme, but then had no
shrine in which He was worshipped directly, mainly because they began to focus on Ala deity,
leaving Chukwu in an otiose posture (Afigbo, 1981:9). The Aro were later to use the same name
“Chukwu” in reference to their god and to have a virgin bush or grove which became His shrine
(Afigbo, 1981:252).
a. Reports on scarce pre-missionary contact existence of Chukwu
Agbakoba (2000:12) asserts:
…the idea of Chukwu is very vague in the traditional society as could be seen in
the dispute about its nature and its lack of priesthood, temple or shrine cult, festival
day(s) etc. Let us also note here that in pre-Christian times, personal names involving
Chukwu were rare compared with such names today.
As we shall see, the timing of the traditional society in question matters a lot. The period
of the Nri hegemony popularized the Ala deity, while the period of the Aro popularized the
Chukwu deity and we have noted that there were shrines for the Arch deities seen as Chukwu
with various names, Idenyi Umunaaja or Otamiri, in some Igbo communities. It is interesting to
note here that a serious researcher, Northcote Thomas (1913) as cited in Nwoga (198425)
admitted that Cuku did appear in the mythology of the Aguku Nri “where Cuku is connected with
the origin of kingship and of yam”.
b. Report on the archdivinity/ supremacy of Ala deity, not Chukwu:
Agbakoba (2000:6) reports that “among the Igbo, the source of normativity is Ani, the
earth goddess”. Ani is also seen as “the supreme lineage cult” (Agbakoba, 2000:9).
Ezeh (2009:45) writes, “The Igbo’s central deity is ani….” Parrinder as cited in Ezeh
(2009:45) says ani is “most important …divinity of the Ibo…, It is more important than any of
the sky gods”. Idowu (1973:169) agrees that “among the Igbo, the archdivinity is called Ala”.
This is the case if the period of study falls within the Nri hegemony. The accident of the
otiose posture of Chukwu might have led to a convenient forgetfulness of him since out of sight
is out of mind. Yet, when the idea of who owned the world arose, Chukwu came to mind if the
Eze Nri was asked (Afigbo, 1981:37).
c. Report on the non-supremacy of any deity:
Evidence of disputes in name, personality and Supremacy:
Oguejiofor (1996:60) as cited in Agbakoba (2000:5) reports that, among the Igbo,
disputes about the name of the Supreme Being is deeper. It is asserted that Chukwu, the name of
the Supreme Being was actually Chukwu Abiama, which was the other name of Ibinukpabi (the
long Juju) of the Aro people. On the other hand, amongst the western Igbo, the name of the
Supreme God was Olisaebuluwa (the Olisa Deity that carries the earth, or universe or good
fortune). Oguejiofor (1996:69-72) also points to the arguments of those who take Ala or Ani as
the Supreme Being of the Igbo.
Evidence of the specificity of power of Chukwu:
In the case of Olisaebuluwa, Agbakoba (2000:5) thinks:
[He] may well be a deity whose specific task is to bear the world, making it no
more supreme than other principal deities; or since ‘uwa’ means both the universe (or the
earth) and fortune, Olisaebuluwa may mean the god that bears fortune or the god of
Agbakoba focused on the name of the Deity. It may well be that the numerous duties of a
Deity could go beyond the confines of its single-specific name.
Evidence of the particularity of power of supposed supreme Deity(ies):
Although Agbakoba (2000:9) sees Ani as “the supreme lineage cult”, nevertheless, Ani,
the earth deity is also seen as not a universal deity in Igbo land in terms of not having a common
priesthood, rites, shrine etc. To Agbakoba (2000:9):
Every community has its own Ala, which is believed to be the hallowed presence
of the earth goddess, who brought forth their ancestors and support and guarantee the life
of their progeny in the present and the future. Ani is, therefore, the ultimate lineage
cult…that would aid the preservation… of the lineage…. For these reasons the Ani of a
people provides injunctions and reward (positive and negative) for only members of such
a community. It is not binding on outsiders, whether they are Igbo speaking or not.
This particularity of power of supposed supreme deities can be discerned also from direct
ethnographic evidence from the same interview of the Ihembosi elder conducted by Rev. Arazu
in Isichei (1977:173, 175):
Wherever men are, they worship in their way. Every man just as I am now, I established
that shrine there, and call it Ana. And it signified where I live….
In every town, whatever the men select, they establish it to be their “spirit”. In every
town, something is established. And whatever it is becomes the…. becomes the Alusi [deity] of
that people. Whatever a people establish becomes alusi for them.
We see vacillation in the thought of the man, suggesting uncertainty as to the tradition of
other Igbo clans in greater detail, suggesting evidently, just like he said, that every Igbo clan
worshipped in their own way.
Writers have been accused of logical and experimental flaws. Whether this accusation
helps in psychologically boosting the sense of correctness in other writers remains to be
investigated. A few of them are outlined:
Arm-chair theorization and overgeneralization:
This is a charge that some of the assertions in pro-supreme God works were made as the
writers sit at home and theorize without going to the field for direct empirical observation and
who when they do theorize, may overgeneralize in their supposed findings.
To Nwoga (1984:20):
Some participants in this discussion reveal the inadequacies consequent on a)
overgeneralization, that is, trying to adduce conclusions which cover wider areas than their
material should justify; and b) lack of field experience, such that the speculations and arguments
are results of logical gymnastics based on the field reports of other scholars. An essay by Charles
H. Long entitled, “The West African High God: History and Religious Experience” is an example
of such an exercise in generalization and speculation.
Nwoga (1984:20) also charges some studies of having personalized views because of
translation problems from Igbo to English. But, somehow, Nwoga may have overgeneralized
when he said:
Until it is possible to evolve a system that fits satisfactorily into the language of
the Igbo, all that the scholars are doing is evolving individual syntheses and speculations.
(italics ours).
This means that whatever contending writers are doing, they are making conclusions that
are personal, UNTIL, an English system that interprets Igbo words as close as possible is
evolved. Furthermore, Nwoga’s argument against the contenders was also written in the nonsatisfactory English and deduced from premises supported by “voices of dissent” (Nwoga,
1984:25) whose views were investigated and interpreted with the English language system which
supposedly does not satisfactorily fit into the Igbo language.
In our introduction, we cited Agbakoba as asserting that “the logical structure of a
genuinely Supreme Being did not exist in the pre-Christian era African thought. Therefore, such
a being did not really exist”. (Agbakoba, 2000:13). Agbakoba, however, argued in detail from
an Igbo pre-missionary contact religious perspective, with lesser examples from other African
ethnic groups (Agbakoba, 2000:12) and then made a generalized assertion, affecting all other
African religious belief systems.
Translation Catch:
There is the accusation of lack of “consistency in the matter of terminology among the
Igbo scholars and their European counterparts” (Nwoga, 1984:12). Translation problems are
suspected to arise in reportage. And Nwoga points out that these translation problems help in
“personalized and therefore tentative nature of the studies of Igbo religion so far”. (Nwoga,
1984:12). These are some of the perceived errors in the works of writers arguing for or against
the existence of the Supreme God in Igbo Religious thoughts.
4. QUEST FOR DEDUCTION: Evidences of Supreme Deity in the Evolution and
Dispersal of Igbo Religious Culture from Nri to Aro:
A fitting background to this section would be evidences of how cultures move around and
borrow from each other like mixing liquids or colours reflecting their environments. In watery
areas, white dresses appear ubiquitous and masks dedicated to water spirits are predominant. In
dry zones, forest and land deities appear, influencing dress codes. Interestingly, Reverend Dr.
Onyeneke (1984:32) asserts:
If the outer edges of the Igbo territory are taken as a circumference of a circle
with center around Orlu, distinctive masquerade patterns appear clearly at the
communities closer to the outer edges of the circumference; each pattern begins to water
down its peculiarities, especially by mixing with other traditions, as it approaches the
communities at the center.
To Onyeneke, the strong disparities in masking patterns in different parts of Igboland
lead to queries such as “whether the masquerade is an original Igbo development or whether it
was not derived from culture contacts with the other African ethnic groups who are the Igbo
neighbours” (Onyeneke, 1984:33). Religion is also seen as behaving in this mode. And the Nri
and Aro seem to have greatly influenced the Igbo religious thoughts.
Nri Religious Influence (500 BC-1911 AD):
Onyeneke (1987:14) observes:
There is a strong opinion that the Awka-Orlu highland region (Nri subcultural
region) is the area of strong primary settlement from where subsequent migrations
outwards developed. Such a movement went west, across the river Niger, to touch on the
Edo people but, recoiled backwards later with the rise of the Bini empire. There was the
migration from the Orlu –Amaigbo area southwards towards the Niger delta and
eastwards to the areas of the Cross River. Also clear cultural bonds are accepted between
the Nri and the Nsukka areas.
The Eri period is estimated from 500 BC to about 1500 AD (Afigbo, 1981:10)
(Onyeneke, 1987:47) or from 800AD (Onwuejeogwu, 2002:117). And the Nri (Eri’s son)
hegemony began from 900 AD and continued to 1911 AD (Onwuejeogwu, 2002:117). The
Umunri are seen as either having migrated from Igala (Nwaezeigwe, 2007:277) or are of the
same stock with the Igala, probably Jukun, who themselves came from the east, meaning that the
ultimate origin of the Nri must lie in the east (Jeffrey,1956:131) (Afigbo, 1981:39). There is even
a suggestion that Eri begot Idah (by a younger wife aside Namaku) from whom the Igala
descended (Afigbo, 1981, 59, 60) or Onoja who founded Igala land (Onwuejeogwu, 2002:120).
The autochthonous Igbo that the Nri met on their arrival absorbed the seeming superior culture
of the Nri and bred out the Nri (Jeffrey, 1956:127). Interestingly, the Nri brought the concept of
Chukwu as supreme deity (and a theocratic monarch that controlled the earth force, Ala, by the
use of ofo) when they came into Igbo land (Onwuejeogwu, 1972:44). The Nri culture was
pushed outwards and “was felt in all parts of Igboland and beyond to the neighboring ethnic
groups” (Onyeneke, 1987:47). Nri influence extended well beyond the nuclear northern Igbo
region to Igbo settlements on the west bank of the Niger and communities affected by the Benin
Empire. There is strong evidence to indicate Nri influence well beyond the Igbo region to Benin
and Southern Igala areas like Idah. At its height, the kingdom of Nri had influence over roughly
most of Igboland and beyond. (Muhammad & Hrbek, 1988:254).It reached its furthest extent
between 1100 and 1400 (Isichei, 1997: 246-7). There was strong contact with northern Igbo,
especially Nsukka (Isichei 1976:4) (Ifemesia 1972:22) (Onyeneke 1987:52). Igala culture, which
is said to have come from the Igbo, later influenced the Igbo in a backward contact to Adani,
Nimbo, Nsukka, Obukpa, Eha-Alumona, Opi, Anambra-Niger lowlands etc.
“The power and authority of Eze Nri were based on the belief and recognition of many
Igbo settlements that Eze Nri had spiritual authority over them” (Onwuejeogwu, 1972:47-8). The
Nri gave the Igbo much of its masquerade institution. The masquerades of the northern Igbo have
a strong Igala influence (Onyeneke, 1987:52, 53).
The Nri legend of origin began with the concept of Chukwu who was said to have sent
Eri from the sky to the earth and Eri came down the Omambala (Anambra River) to near the
present Aguleri. Afigbo is not sure if it was the Nri that brought the Chukwu concept but is
confident that they “attained eminence by manipulating that cosmology”(Afigbo, 1981:10, 49).
This emphasis on Chukwu at the beginning of the Nri era shifted to Ala, the earth deity with the
growing importance of agriculture, especially by the introduction of yam, cocoyam and palm
trees (aside iron technology and Ezeship) by the Nri into Igboland.
Afigbo (1981:9) notes:
It was Ani or Ala that now became so important to the Igbo that it became one of
the most vital functions of the Eze Nri to preside over its worship. This development is in
accord with the otiose character of Chukwu (the High or Supreme God) in Igbo
cosmology, and the domination of the Igbo world by the Earth goddess…. The earlier
period was probably the dynamic age of Chukwu when he created and dominated the
Igbo world. But with the coming of agriculture Igbo gaze would appear to have switched
from the skies above to the earth below, with Ala displacing Chukwu into remote
The researchers wonder now where the Nri got yam. This may help to throw more light
on where the Nri came from and what was the religious concept there, if they were migrants into
Igboland. Logically, if yam came from Igala, then it would have gotten to Nsukka and from there
into Igbo heartland without it being introduced ritualistically by the Nri. Yam may have come
from the direction of the Jukun, whose neighbours today are the Tivs in both Benue and Taraba
States. It is interesting that Afigbo (1981:16) hazards that the Igbo might have come from the
Niger-Benue confluence. The Tivs are the greatest cultivators of yams in Nigeria. That the Nri
came from the same origins as the Jukun of Taraba State is strongly supported by the indication
that cultural similarities finger both the Jukun and the Nri (who gave their culture to the Igbo) as
Jews. For example, “sof” or “sofuo” means “vanish” in Hebrew and Igbo languages; “udara” is
the same fruit within a variety of the same species and has the same name (“udara”) in both
Hebrew and Igbo; “obara” (Igbo word) means “blood” or “bara” (Hebrew word); “ozala” (Igbo)
means “wilderness” or “ozal” (Hebrew) etc. (Alaezi, 2006:215). For the Jukun, their feast of Ingathering (Puje) or festival of booths has a strong similarity to Jewish culture. There is a striking
resemblance between the Arago custom and the Hebrew seven-day Feast of ingathering. The
Puje festival is held in the booths outside Wukari at the close of the harvest, and last seven days
If then the Nri had origins in Israel, then the concept of Chukwu as living in the sky and
presiding over the affairs of mankind might have come remotely from Israel. Moses of Israel had
an ark of covenant made which symbolized the presence of the Israeli God, Jehovah, just the
same way the Nri had a shrine made for any god they focused on. Later, the Aro were to make a
drum or basket of the creator god called Obasi bi nelu or Chukwu. The Nri religious influence
declined with the rise of newer powers, amongst which was the Aro.
Nwoga (1984:45) sees the Nri concept of Chukwu in the Nri legend of origin as sounding
“like the Heavenly God of justice till one comes across stories in the Igbo folklore canon that
have more credibility as religious and ritual myths”. The question would then be which folklore
came before the other, and why only that of Nri had a supreme god posture amongst the stories
that Nwoga presented. We suspect that the other folklores Nwoga presented which equate
Chukwu with the Chukwu of the Aro must have come during the Aro religious influence and the
mockery form of these later folklores indicates a subtle political protest of some Igbo people
against the Aro influence, that is, if the stories were not influenced by the Aro defeat of 1902.
Space may not permit the presentation of these other folklores. A study of Nwoga’s The Supreme
God as Stranger in Igbo Religious Thought is suggested.
Interestingly, Kalu (2002:354) asserts:
The success of the Arochukwu oracle, and to some extent the Nri ritual network
which predated the rise of the Aro among the Igbo, derive largely from the people’s
conviction about the Supreme Being.
There are numerous evidences of town deities which are Supreme in that the Deities
are the personal gods of the founders of such towns and most important for that town. Adherents
of such town deities would still note the supremacy of Chukwu over all if the need arose. In Inyi
of Enugu State, the town deity was and still is Ajala whose festival is still celebrated around
October. These deities are seen as supreme in a particularistic sense, but soon began to assume a
decentralized form as they became famous outside the town. Igwe ka ala of Umunneoha, Agbara
of Awka, Ojukwu of Diobu and Onojo Oboni of Ogurugu are notable examples (Animalu, Okeke
& Unaegbu, 2011:109). There is remarkable evidence of the Nri religious fervor in the mode of
consultations by worshippers of these deities. There is a mixture line of the influences of both the
Nri “in the west” and the Aro “Chuku Juju” by 1720AD as reported in Talbot (1926:234).
Aro Religious Influence (1690-1902):
The Aro migrated from the Igbo heartland to displace an existing Efik-Ibibio settlement
on the Western section of the Cross River and got mixed up with them. The Aro got acquainted
with the nsibidi sign writings and Ekpe cult of the Cross River non-Igbo groups. They effectively
penetrated Igbo heartland southwards to Ngwa, northwards to Afikpo, westwards to Okigwe,
towards the Orrata-Isuama and the Nri-Awka direction. Sufficient Aro migrant groups
established Aro towns such as Ndizuogu, Ajalli, Ndikelionwu, Ndiowu, Ndiokpaleke, Ndiokolo
of the Ndienyi clan in Aguata area (Onyeneke, 1987:54). Olaudah Equiano (1792, 2007:26), who
was enslaved at age eleven in 1756, sees the Aro as “oye-Eboe” (that is onye Igbo or Oyibo) or
“red men living at a distance” who brought “us firearms, gunpowder….They always carry slaves
through our land”. The Aro are seen as very fair in complexion compared to the rest of the Igbo
such that they were taken as French mulattoes who had gone native (Hives, 1930:248).
As to the diffusion of culture, especially the masking tradition, Onyeneke (1987:55)
would say, “The adaptive incorporation is easy for one who had something of his own to begin
with, and it must have worked to adapt the migrant to the locality to which he has moved”.
We see the evidence of the influence of Aro on Ihembosi and also evidence that the Aro
went about borrowing cultures from the Igbo clans they came to just like the Igbo folklore
tortoise borrows feathers from every bird in order to fly to heaven! These evidences can be
derived directly from elder Ezenwadeyi in Isichei (1977:175):
Umuchukwu [the Aro] came and borrowed a lot about which they speak, and
they tell us “Chukwu says”; But even that is not outside Chukwu’s dominion. There is no
other way to say it! It is of the same Chukwu that all speak about.
The Aro traveled through Igboland unharmed like the Nri before them. They were
unharmed because they entered into igba ndu or blood covenants with the leaders of the
communities they passed through. Also no one wanted to incur the wrath of the Long Juju
(Ijoma, 2002:47). It will not be farfetched to say that they borrowed the Chukwu Okike concept
from the Nri in that the Aro concentrated in the Omambala area from where the Nri advanced
into the Igbo country (Okoye,2002:184, see map). The power of Aro came to be based on the
long Juju or the Ibini Ukpabi (Ibibio for “Drum of the Creator God”). Ibini Ukpabi came to be
known as a place where Chukwu abiama revealed Himself and was used to settle cases,
particularly those of murder, witchcraft, poisoning and family disputes. The oracle was
paramount throughout the Niger Delta; the losing party of a case was traditionally destroyed by
the oracle, but the priests of Ibini Ukpabi developed a preference in selling the losing party into
slavery instead. As the system continued, it was alleged that the priests of Ibini Ukpabi falsified
some of the verdicts of the oracle in order to procure victims to be sold into slavery. Hundreds of
people visiting Ibini Ukpabi did not return; their communities usually believed that the oracle
had devoured anybody that visited it (Crowder, 1962, 65). Some of the Aro were “full-time
diplomats, being their home’s representatives in the colonies, spying on them, and acting as the
agents of the great oracle…” (Okoye, 2002:183). Thus their religion diffused among the Igbo
people and the concept of Chukwu came to be known again. Equiano (1792, 2007:31) notes that
his Igbo people as at 1756 believed in “one Creator of all things, and that he lives in the sun, and
is girded round with a belt that he may never eat or drink”. This evidently suggested that Chukwu
Okike was known in his place, since Anyanwu was not a creator god but the eye of light.
People began to see Chukwu in the same breath as Ala and sometimes in a higher reach,
depending on the place in question. A clear evidence of subtle confusion of which deity was
supreme even in the Igbo traditional worshippers as at October 1966 is evident in the
aforementioned interview conducted by Rev. Fr. Arazu and granted by elders in Ihembosi as
cited in Isichei (1977:177):
Question: And tell me, Chukwu and Ana, which of the two is greater than the
Answer: [An elderly speaker] ….when we steer clear of Ana, shall we climb to the
sky? If we steer clear of the heavens, what can we do? We would say that Ana seems to
be greater (than Chukwu)…. [a younger speaker now] Our father, Chukwu is greater than
Ana. Chukwu will take us back, first, and we go home. The earth (Ana) is dug and we go
into the Earth (Ana). But Chukwu it is who will take us back first.
We can discern here that either the Aro or western influence on the younger speaker had
subconsciously increased his knowledge of Chukwu and for him, Chukwu is greater. But his
father, who had been influenced by indigenous Igbo culture, thinks otherwise. This shows that
Ala was more popular than Chukwu in the younger days of the older man, at least in Ihembosi. In
1902, the British destroyed the shrine of Chukwu in Arochukwu (Afigbo, 1981:252).
We have shown that there were shrines to the Supreme Deity in other Igbo areas aside
Arochukwu in the review of pro-God literature. The researchers have also tried to analyze the
age of one of them with a view to discerning whether it came before the Aro influence. The
existence of such shrines is a lasting evidence of the existence of the supreme god concept
amongst the Igbo, albeit in a decentralized form. The worship of Ala has been shown to be
popular, supreme but particularistic in Igboland before and during the Aro religious moments. Its
supreme-particularistic nature was demonstrated by the Ihembosi elder as indicated in the review
of Non-God literature. Kalu (2002:365) concluded in his paper that a gradual assimilation of
“cross-cultural influences” occurred as the “different segments of the Igbo migrated, settled
away from the Igbo heartland and interacted with non-Igbo groups”. The result of such “crisscrossing of cultures, especially on borderland Igbo communities, are evident in variations in
nomenclature for certain elements of the belief system”. Having seen evidences of the above
statement in the evolution of religious culture amongst the Igbo and having synthesized
information from our previous analysis, The researchers came to the theory, open for
verification, that most often, when a culture adopts appurtenances of other cultures too fast, some
adherents of aspects of the earlier mode of that culture naturally raise an alarm, believing that the
baby is being thrown away with the bath water. This indicates that too-much-too-soon is
antidotal to cultural identity and that time is needed for digestion, reflection and consolidation of
borrowed appurtenances into the heart of a culture. Culture then is like a colour in a larger river
of other colours. It has shallow hues outwards and deeper hues inwards. And time pulls the
penumbral hues into the umbral heart. Just like a painter moves his paintbrush to mix a red
colour with a green colour to produce yellow, so also two cultures mix to produce a novel
hybrid. The more ideas and people move around like the hand of the painter, the more a culture
adopts new modes and abandons old ones or allow them to go into desuetude like the colours. In
modern times, therefore, the pull for this adoption and abandonment is more intense than ever.
At the risk of overgeneralization, there is a global pull towards one large colour or culture made
up of a combination of strong and sufficiently exposed umbral hues of other colours or
appurtenances of cultures. There is, in other words, a move towards a one-world culture or
universal white colour.
Afigbo, A.E. (1981). Ropes of Sand: Studies in Igbo History and Culture. Nsukka: University of
Nigeria Press.
Agbakoba, J.C.A. (2000). “The Absence of a Genuine Supreme Being in Traditional African
Thought, Traditional Ethics and their Effect on Contemporary African Society”
Unpublished Mimeograph, Department of Philosophy, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Agbedo, C.U. (2007). “Deities and Spirits in Igboland: The Elugwu-Ezike Cultural Perspective”
Journal of Religion and Culture (2007) Vol. 7, N0. 2.
Alaezi, O. (2006). Ibo Exodus: The Untold Story, Unheard History. Aba: Onzy Publications.
Animalu, A.O.E., Okeke, F.N. & Unaegbu, Jeff (2011). Biography of the Eminent Pioneer
Geophysicist: Cyril Agodi Onwumechili, Professor of Physics. Abuja: Ucheakonam
Foundation (Nig.) Ltd.
Anyika, F. (1988). “African Traditional Religions and Contemporary African Society” in ITK
Egonu (ed.) Readings in African Humanities: African Perspectives in World Culture.
Owerri: Vivians and Vivians Publishers.
Arazu, R.C. (1982) “The Supreme God in Igbo Traditional Religion” Unpublished Paper.
Workshop on Igbo Studies. Nsukka, Institute of African Studies.
Arinze, F.A. (1982). “Christianity and Igbo Culture” in FC Ogbalu and EN Emenanjo (eds) Igbo
Language and Culture. Ibadan: Ibadan University Press.
Barrett, D.V. (2001). The New Believers: Sects, ‘Cults’ and Alternative Religions. New York:
Nepenthes Publishers.
Basden, G.T. (1938). Niger Ibos. London: Frank Cass and Co. Ltd.
Bodley, J.H. (2009). “Culture.” Microsoft® Encarta® [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft
Cassidy, F. G. and Robert, Brock Le Page. (2002). A Dictionary of Jamaican English (2nd ed.).
Jamaica: University of the West Indies Press.
Crowder, M. (1962). The Story of Nigeria. London: Faber & Faber.
Ellis, A.B. (1894). The Yoruba Speaking People. London: Heinemann.
Equiano, O. (1794). The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa
The African. Norwich. Eight enlarged edition.
Ezeanya, S.N. (1969). “God, Spirits and the Spirit World” in Biblical Revelation and the African
Beliefs. London: Lutherworth Press.
Ezeh, P.J. (2009). “Traditional Institutions” lecture note, Department of Sociology and
Anthropology, UNN.
Ezeh, P.J. (2012). “African Political and Social Systems”, lecture note, Institute of African
Studies, UNN.
Fasi, Muhammad; Hrbek, Ivan (1988). Africa from the Seventh to the Eleventh Century. London:
Floyd, E. Randall. (2002). In the Realm of Ghosts and Hauntings. USA: Harbor House.
Frobenius, L. (1913). The Voice of Africa. (Vol I). London: Hutchinson.
Griaule, M. and Dieterlen, G. (1965). Le renard pale. Paris: l’Intitut d’Ethnologie (Republished
in English as The Pale Fox by Continuum Foundation, 1986).
Hives, F. (1930). Juju and Justice in Nigeria. London: John Lane.
Horton, W.R.G. (1956). “God, Man and the Land in a Northern Ibo Village Group”. Africa, 26.
Ian Ridpath (1978). Skeptical Inquirer Magazine. Fall Issue. New York: Committee for Skeptical
Idowu, B. (1973). African Traditional Religion. London: S.C.N. Press Ltd.
Ifemesia, C. (1979). Traditional Humane Living among the Igbo: A Historical Perspective.
Enugu: Fourth Dimension Publishers.
Igbo People. (2012). Wikipedia Online Encyclopaedia. Retrieved September 16, 2012 from
Ihiagwa Town History. (2012). Ihiagwa.Org. Retrieved November 13, 2012 from
Ijoma, J.O. (2002). “Igboland: A Historical Perspective” in Ofomata, GEK (ed.) A Survey of the
Igbo Nation. Onitsha: Africana First Publishers Limited.
Ikenga-Methuh, E. (1981). God and Man in African Religion. London: Geoffrey Chapman.
Ilogu, E. (1974). Christianity and Igbo Culture. New York: Ton Publishers.
Isichei, E. (1976). A History of the Igbo People. London: MacMillan Press.
Isichei, E. (1977). Igbo Worlds: An Anthology of Oral Histories and Historical Descriptions.
London: Macmillan Education Ltd.
Isichei, E. A.(1997). A History of African Societies to 1870. England: Cambridge University
James Oberg. (1982). “Chapter 6: The Sirius Mystery”, in UFOs and Outer Space Mysteries: A
Sympathetic Skeptic's Report. USA: Donning Press.
Jeffrey, M.D.W. (1956). “The Umundri Tradition of Origin”, African Studies, Vol. 15, No. 3.
Kalu, O.U. (2002). “Igbo Traditional Religious Systems” in Ofomata, GEK (ed.) A Survey of the
Igbo Nation. Onitsha: Africana First Publishers Limited.
Lovejoy, Paul. (2000). Identity in the Shadow of Slavery. USA: Continuum International
Publishing Group.
Meek, C.K. (1937). Law and Authority in a Nigerian Tribe: A Study of Indirect Rule. London:
Mendelsohn, J. (1962). God, Allah and Juju. Boston: Beacon Press.
Methuh, E.E. (1976). “The Supreme God in Igbo Life and Worship” Journal of Religion in
Africa, Vol. v.
Nwabara, S.N. (1977). Iboland: A Century of Contact with Britain, 1860-1960. London: Hodder
and Stoughton Educational.
Nwaezeigwe, T.N. (2007). The Igbo and Their Nri Neighbours. Enugu: Snaap Press Ltd.
Nwala, T.U. (1985). Igbo Philosophy. Lagos: Lantern Books.
Nwala, T.U. (2007). “The Otonti Nduka Mandate: From Tradition to Modernity”. Inaugural
Lecture of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, March 15.
Nwoga, D. (1984). The Supreme God as Stranger in Igbo Religious Thought. Mbaise: Hawk
Ogbalu, F.C. (1960). Omenala Igbo. (The Book of Igbo Custom). Onitsha: Varsity Press.
Oguejiofor, J.O. (1996). The Influence of Igbo Traditional Religion on the Socio-political
Character of the Igbo. Nsukka: Falladu Publishing Coy.
Okoye, T.O. (2002). “Urban Life and Urban Development in Igboland” in Ofomata, GEK (ed.) A
Survey of the Igbo Nation. Onitsha: Africana First Publishers Limited.
Olaudah, E. (1792, 2007). The Astonishing Adventures of Olaudah Equiano aka Gustavus Vassa,
the African. Norwich (1792), reprinted by Frank Cass (1969), Abic Ventures, Enugu
Onwuejeogwu, M.A. (1972). “An Outline Account of the Dawn of Igbo Civilization in the Igbo
Cultural Areas” in ODINANI: The Journal of the Odinani Museum, Nri 1.1. pp. 15-56.
Onyeneke, A. (1984). “Christianity and the Masquerade Society in Igboland”, Ikoro, vol. 5, No.
1 &2, July, p. 31-33.
Onyeneke, A.O. (1987). The Dead among the Living: Masquerades in Igbo Society. Nimo: Holy
Ghost Congregation.
Sagan, Carl. (1979). Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science. USA: Random
Talbot, P.A. (1926). The Peoples of Southeastern Nigeria, (Vol. IV). London: Humphrey
Tempels, P. (1969). Bantu Philosophy. Paris: Presence Africaine.
Thomas, N.W. (1913). Anthropological Report on the Ibo Speaking Peoples of Nigeria. London:
Unaegbu, J.E. (2012). “Religion as a Social Institution: A Comparative Study of the Igbo of
Nigeria and the Dogon of Mali”, Term paper submitted in partial fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Course IAS 513, Advanced Social Institution, Institute of African
Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Van Beek, W. E. A. (1991). “Dogon Restudied— A Field Evaluation of the Work of Marcel
Griaule.” Current Anthropology. Volume 32, Number 2, April, p.139-167.
Young, C. (1937). African Ways and Wisdom. London: The United Society for Christian
Department of Theatre and Film Studies,
University of Nigeria, Nsukka
[email protected]
A dramatic text can possess characteristics that can distil or explicate certain significance. A
deconstruction of a writer’s philosophical approach to characterization reveals it as either
discursive or psychoanalytical.This research analyzes selected Nigerian plays by Ahmed Yerima
and EsiabaIrobiwhich have widespread popularity with youths and examines them with reference
to the current socio-political turmoil in Nigeria.The aim is to unravel the psychoanalytical basis
of audience identification with the psychological characters in the literary works. The work
reveals that the approach adopted by a writer can be predicated on psychological introspection or
moral grandstanding. While a choice can be made between alternative attributes, often a
selection is made between real options and followed by the corresponding action. Since violence
has become a major staple shaping contemporary social attitude, audience sensibility and
interpretation the improper heroes depicted in EsiabaIrobi and Ahmed Yerima’s works can be
said to possess certain values which are commonly accepted by the Nigerian populace.Irobiand
Yerima’s playswill be used to buttress the argument that the playwright’s interpretation of reality
and transaction of this perception is predicated on a hermeneutic temperament and a deliberate
philosophy of choice. The ethical perplexity of showing the vulgar reality of contemporary
Nigeria while maintaining a decorous artistic level becomes a veritable Catch-22 scenario for the
interpretive playwright.
Hermeneutics implies a scientific interpretation which encompasses not only the issues involved
in the text or performance but everything involved in the interpretive process. It is a defined
discipline of interpretation theory including the entire framework of making meaning. The
hermeneutics of choice implies that the playwright’s choice of subject and dramatic elements
should be subjective in its style and premise. There is need for proper education in art
appreciation not only on the part of the audience but theatre critics who generally quickly rush to
make condemnatory statements about dramatic works without taking proper cognizance of the
efforts and literary nuances fused into the works. In a post modern world such as ours, the
writer’s choice of creative art must be not only encouraged but enforced.
In art’s bid to mirror reality while performing a dynamic function of transposing fiction
to real life, Nigerian playwrights have sometimes employed what the famous American critic,
Roger Ebert refers to as ‘substituting depression for personality’. Choicerefersto the intellectual
analysis of the merits of multiple alternatives in order to pick one. A consequent action is the
immediate aftermath of such a decision to engage. As a science of interpretation, hermeneutics
avoids a singular critical angle toward understanding meaning. It views dramatic characters, their
behaviours, and meanings as actions perceivable in multiple ways. What should be prominent to
the interpreter in understanding the rationale for an act must necessarily include the internal
perceptionsand beliefs of the dramatic characterthat performed it.
As Martin Esslin says,
To writers like Beckett, Ionesco, or Pinter, the fact that boy gets girl in the last act, or that
the desirability of racial tolerance is convincingly demonstrated, is irrelevant. The boy
and the girl still face an absurd universe; no social reform will alter its mysteriousness.
By tackling a small, and to these writers, irrelevant, segment of the reality of the human
situation, the conventional theatre presents a distorted and unreal picture. If a play
attempts to deal with the new content in the conventional form of logical construction,
consistent characterization, and coherent language, the implied assumptions behind its
form will belie its apparent content (7).
The facts which a playwright documents in the fictional text is most times creatively manipulated
and in this way reshaped. Thisinterpretive approach can dualistically aim at therestorationof a
reader/audience’sdisposition to listen and absorb the understood cultural mechanismas a toolof
disclosure or by contrastdeconstruct meaning presentedto the interpreter in the form of a
disguise. The second style requires a rejection of the message as reality and skepticism toward
the intended meaning.
Walter Lippman tows the assertion that writers should exploit their poetic freedom thus, “the
theory of the artist as prophet has this serious defect: there is practically no evidence to support
it. Why should there be? What connection is there between the capacity to make beautiful objects
and the capacity to discover truth?”(95)
Sigmund Freud examines the transformation of the dream to the text as a process art. This
is EsiabaIrobi’s disposition in his play, The Other Side of the Mask. In the play, Jamike, a
disgruntled sculptor who has failed to win any sculptural award after entering for so many art
competitions, becomes a recluse and social outcast pining away in his house. Jamike’s obvious
mental imbalance degenerates to the level that his panjandrum hallucination sentences him to
making distorted horrific works best descried as internal scream. His futile state is worsened by
his shock discovery of his mentor’s dismissive comments about his work when unbeknownst to
him Jamike is eavesdropping. Jamike takes out his frustration on the world and murders his
neighbor before eventually taking his life just as he is announced as winner for the long awaited
award. Irobi’sThe Other Side of the Mask reads very much like EsiabaIrobi’s undisguised desire
to win literary laurels and his eventual posthumous winning of the coveted NLNG Prize for
Literature. This fact not only presupposes that a text has an unconscious life i.e. the writer’s
personal life on which he can work, but that the process of translating this into literature or
performance is as accessible to the psychoanalytic critics as dreams are to the medical analyst.
According to Paul Ricoeur, “Symbols both disguise and reveal. Whilethey conceal the aims of
our instincts, they disclose the process of self-consciousness… they express the two sides of a
single symbolicfunction” (497).
Most Nigerian playwrights are practitioners of one of the above mentioned hermeneutic
attitudes. EsiabaIrobi reveals practical ways of solving problems using the imagination to
express self. Irobi perceives artistic vision from the African lens of its practical relevance to the
hero’s struggle for a place in a humanist society. Irobi had strong views about the political health
of Nigeria and this was influenced by his personal frustration and ideological belief that the
Nigerian state was a ship on the brink of wrecking but just listing before the eventual calamity.
In Ahmed Yerima’s NLNG winning drama, Hard Ground, Nimi, the protagonist of the piece is a
militant youngster engaged in guerrilla warfare against the establishment. Nimi faces serious
consequences for his past nefarious actions. Yerima captures the youth restiveness in the Niger
Delta area through the actions of the juvenile, Nimi, and his family. Nimi and the faceless youths
in the play serve as representatives for numerous Nigerian youths who have abandoned school
and are perishing in the prospect of an uneducated future.
Yerima’sHard Ground is an intense chronicle of the corruption, waste, pollution,
militancy and political subterfuge unraveling in the Niger Delta creeks and which have gained
international notoriety. It is a true to life presentation through the perspective of a fugitive
protagonist hounded by betrayal within his ranks and prime suspect of sabotage awaiting
judgment at the hands of the jungle supremo, the Don. The playwright in examining the
problems of youth militancy, god-fatherism, and criminal activities of oil bunkering, hostage
taking, blackmail and the attendant violence, manipulates a dramatic plot tethering on the lines of
Marxism, realism and idealist realism. His ideology of combative social vigilantism draws a
boundary between withdrawn acceptance of fate and subservient conformity with social
persecutors. He highlights this slur through an evocative diction, heightened imagery and
environmental composite verging on the morbid.
The play closes with Nimi’s assassination of the Don whose supposed visit to Papa’s
household to exonerate Nimi, turns into his demise. Nimi’s co-conspirator in the murderous act
is his mother, Mama and both characters discover to their eternal mortification that the Don is in
actuality the father of the household, Papa, the erstwhile perceived yellow belly. Irobi’s hero is
very decisive about his future and philosophical bearing while Yerima’s hero is marked by a
certain indecision, doubt and permissiveness.
MAMA: What about the future…your future?
NIMI: I don’t know…we never really think about it. All we know is our future is what
we want. But…our lives…That is in their hands of our God and he directs us on
what to do.(Yerima 12)
On the contrary, Irobi’s hero, Jamike, is psychologically articulated about his choice of action:
NJIMANZE: Jamike, control yourself…
JAMIKE: Prof., I am just a young man trying to chisel my way out of the enfolding
gloom. I am just a tortured soul trying to make meaning out of a meaningless life. I am a
life force (82).
Yerima’s adoption of the archetypal names of Mama and Papa is deliberate and operates as a
representation of the typical Niger Delta lazy alcohol guzzling father and persevering emotional
mother.Yerimaseems to be making a cogent case for upholding of the family fabric while
appearing to be concerned generally with militancy and betrayal of trust. What Yerima is saying
about unity appears segmented in approach and reductionist as against the real life unworkable
federated conundrum of the apparition called Nigeria. His decision to portray the Don as Nimi’s
messiah is enlightening albeit his projections of this political and criminal class as prime
exploiters of youths like Nimi and his dead colleagues.
These writersdual approach in analyzing a character’s historyrequiresfirstly, assessment
ofbehavior and character development from the angle of thenarrative and discursive modes of
construction. The secondmethod adopts the psychoanalytical model. The moment an action on
stage confirms its claim by referring to reality in the outside word, theatre loses its illusion
temporality and is reclaimed by life. This misnomer is reflective of the contemporary
disillusionment with certain avant-garde drama forms which have caused practitioners to provide
credentials authenticating their art. This journalistic and legal angle of proof by evidence and
definition of identity is the major problem facing the postmodern theatre. It is the purview of a
journalist to show documentary facts for his reportage and a lawyer’s requirement to show the
onus of proof, introduce witnesses and argue his case etc., but theatre needs not resort to such
evidencing or strict restriction. Life becomes a mirror which is held up to art as characters show
the audience their own livesYerima, in his Author’s Notes in Hard Ground.remarks that:
…to glorify man’s animalistic tendencies, man himself has created various ways of
expressing his emotions. In this entirely fictitious play, the only thing that is real is the
human mind. Its complexities and man’s ability to remain supremely wicked or good are
the centre of my rearranged reality.(6)
The drama of living through an aesthetic peephole is dependent on the writer’s opinions, world
view, imagery, and ideological posturing. According to Terry Eagleton:
if moralism holds that there is an autonomous ‘moral level’, at which the object is to be
judged, aestheticism holds that there is an autonomous ‘aesthetic level’ for examining
artifacts. The aesthetics is that which speaks of its historical conditions by remaining
silent-inheres in them by distance and denial. The work ‘shows’ rather than ‘state’ those
conditions in the nature of the productive relations it sets up to the ideological
significations which found it (176-177).
The hermeneutics of choice appraises the creative interpretive style of narrative research. The
comprehension of meaning involves understanding the writer’s peculiar positionand the problem
of explanation within his base materials, the dramatic textand beyond. As Walter Lippman says,
“above all, the reputation of the artist as one who must have wisdom is sustained by rather genial
fallacy: he finds expression for the feelings of the spectator, and the spectator rather quickly
assumes that the artist has found an explanation for the world (8). The ability of theatre to shape
a people’s consciousness recommends it as a necessary component in the struggle to achieve
social ideals. Theatre should not rely on external restrictive moral yardsticks to prevent it from
being at the forefront of opinion making and attitude shaping. Theatre makes life and theatre
critics and society in general should realize this reality and adopt a more empathic tone in their
moderation of the influence and components of theatre and literary creativity specifically.
The conception of the playwright as a prophet stems from the human tendency to recall guesses
made by committed playwrights when they come to pass. The writer’s wisdom and intellect are
enhanced as the society finds through expressions about his character an explanation about the
character’s future and the world he lives in. If playwrights write what they are passionate about, then a
biographical investigation of the writer’s background might turn up parallels in the play’s content with
the author’s own life. As much as playwrights look for new techniques to express their opinion about
society, they are influenced by the peculiar material of their society.
The writer’s hermeneutics of choice denotes the selective interpretive contemplation of
the merits of a syllogistic approach to characterization and subject treatment in the dramatization
process. Under this referral perspective, the writers under review i.e. Irobi and Yerima adopt a
somewhat cognitive therapy approach in periscoping their dramatic characters, their moral
burdens and their hostile societal space. These playwrights’ choice options in creating plausible
dramatic characters are strained as they hover between imagined multiple options before settling
for the preference that best conforms to their new humanist temperaments. This concern for the
character considers the internal dynamics of the central character, for example, Nimi, the
protagonist in Yerima’sHard Ground,
NIMI: (looks at the content of the tray) mama, I cannot eat. The dream numbs my taste
buds, and my mind is all confused.(26)
This ascribed option is buttressed by the subsequent violent actions of their protagonists who try
to shock their society into recognition of the society’s decadent humanity.Irobi’s hero puts it
JAMIKE: How on earth can we affirm life without death? What would life be without
death?We wear on our living faces, our death masks! (94)
The chosen routes of these two playwrights are complex and involve unabashed emotionality and
lamentation of the loss of man’s basic essence.
A restricted choice of expression is the hallmark of a tyrannical regime. This type of
regressive establishment is not really physical but psychological. It appears in the form of
expectations of social commitment, obeisance to moral codes; convenient poetic justice and
round character prescriptions (as if the world we live in is rounded in development). This sort of
delegated decision scioned by a corrupt society is what the two writers under review try to avoid
with the conscious knowledge that we live in an imperfect world and therefore the right
expectation is that imperfect characters should become progenies of this imperfect society.
Though the violent characters produced by the creative pens of these two writers sometimes
appear too aggressive and disquiet to the audience’s sense of comfort and ethical code, they
perform necessary functions in awakening the primordial consciousness of the audience.
Faced with an uncertain future and unsettled present, the writers under review have decided
to glance into the rear view mirror for answers. Social deductions can be contentious when the
logical premises are bogus whereas the inductive arguments of these two writers about the
rightful position of the youth in the society can be enlightening if the restrictive moral bars of the
adult society are adjusted in the spirit of democracy. The writers to this end dish out a conjectural
type of plot which mixes actual events with fictionalized idylls modeled on these writers’
Marxist ideologies. This abductive rationalizing while not presupposing a certain outcome
suggests a paradox conjoined with a revolutionary epilogue realizable through a collapse of
existing social norms.
By discovering direction in a chaotic status quo, Yerima and Irobi seem to be making a case
for a reinforcement of the society’s rational armory as it appears the Nigerian polity is tottering
on the brink of mental denial. The populace, from leadership to the lowest rung, only concerns
itself with matters of material enrichment in a hopeless society where the acquisition of wealth
can not determine the enjoyment of the same possession. People do not spend time
contemplating the decadent state of the nation, its death dance to damnation, nor question the
leadership on the collapsed economy of the motherland; neither do they rise up in arms and
occupy Aso Rock. The narrative psychology, which reflects this logic strives to reveal human
experience as a form of text construction which states that humans create their lives throughan
autobiographical process. Interpretation of the intended meanings of a text is a reductionist
process which demands the desire to understand and the inclination to react.
Mikhail Bakhtin reformulates the notion of artistic representation to avoid a naive faith in
"truth" and "reality." Human consciousness and artistic practice, Bakhtin argues, do not come
into contact with the "real" directly but rather through the medium of the surrounding ideological
world. As Shohat Elbe says:
Reality" is not self-evidently given and "truth" is not immediately "sizeable" by the camera.
We must distinguish, furthermore, between realism as a goal - Brecht's "laying bare the
causal network"' - and realism as a style or constellation of strategies aimed at producing an
illusionistic "reality effect." Realism as a goal is quite compatible with a style which is
reflexive and deconstructive (180).
AmechiAkwanya in his article, ‘The Criticism of African Literature’ analyzes writers’
interpretive approaches in relation to the ongoing colonization of the African mind and observes
that “the question of approaches had indeed been posed long before, but it was often mixed up in
the debate whether African writing was literature or only an aspect of the politics of
decolonization”(56). Julie Agbasiere remarks that:
Literature was conceived to be functional and writers have ever since then strived to
make their works useful to society… Social commitment means that writers get involved
in the efforts to make society a better place to live in. It demands that writers should
contribute to the realisation of the society's aspirations and to the solution of societal
problems. Social commitment is an issue which continues to generate interest among
writers and critics… This perception has affected their writing (71).
She makes a call for the autonomy of art and an examination of the relationship between
commitment and artistic application postulating that a writer's work has value once it is
functional. She poses the question whether art should be sacrificed to the writer's ideals and
social preoccupations.
BayoOgunjimi in describing the essential nature of a conscientious writer opines that the
socially responsible writer “depicts the uneven and lopsided structures of international and
national economic race and class dichotomies, the ideological upsurge and upheavals in the
continent, the incessant polarized religious ethnic and tribal disorders and the cataclysm
engendered by the fallacies of the so-called new democracies” (75). He cites Mongo Beti’s
definition of the great writer as a person that can question and identify the chains that really bind
him, and by what means. The writer’s choice of inventive and style of implication should be
representational, imagery filled and echo as a delegated voice of the silent majority as opposed to
the raucous misguided minority who misleadingly look as if they are in the majority.
Shohat Elbe notes that “the narrative and mimetic arts, to the extent that they represent
ethos (character) and ethnos (peoples) are considered representative not only of the human figure
but also of anthropomorphic vision. On another level, representation is also political, in that
political rule is not usually direct but representative. Marx said of the peasantry that ‘they do not
represent, themselves; they must be represented”(182). Great art lives outside the moral system,
and its audience, consciously or unconsciously, demands it. Howard Barker comments in his
treatise Theatre Without Consciencethus:
Let me for thetime return to the writer who thinks the purpose of his life and art is 'to
make people understand one another'. I must admit that for many years when people
asked me why I wrote, I resorted to such dismal platitudes myself, though with a deep
sense of bad faith…I wrote for myself. But that seemed unforgivable. Only more recently
did I understand that in writing for myself I also served others, and that, in not serving
myself, I could not serve others. The more self limiting an artist is, the less useful to his
fellow human beings; the more he dares, the more he explores, and the more immoral he
is, the better he serves. Then he or she becomes the enemy of collective lying (Brandt
John Gassner extends the argument about the writer’s poetic license to ply his craft without
apologies to any institution, moral codes, conventions or social stratosphere by pointing out that:
The first ruling idea of modern theatre, and the one that is still dominant and m6st
productive, although also conducive to some anarchy, is the idea of freedom. Its
emergence was associated with the revolt of romanticism against the rigors of neoclassicism. Under the influence of romanticism, the theatre became an open rather than a
closed, strictly conventionalized art. Plays will have to be judged, not by any truth of
character drawing or any ingenuity of plot, which they renounce, but by the quality of
their imagery, the depth of their intuition, the validity of their poetic imagination (7).
RomanusMuoneke is concerned with the proper identity of the African writer. He observes the
importance of the writer to any given society as an ideological demagogue and notes their ability
to offer refreshingly dissimilar perspectives. He concludes that “they arecapable of rendering
order, or, in reordering events in chaos, to give a semblance of understanding. They possess the
capacity to express intense feelings more than ordinary people, and their affections, sympathy,
and passions run deeper than we are normally accustomed to expecting”(1). Jeremy Hawthorn
concludes that:
By common consent then, authorial intention differs from other sorts of intention. The
writer often has no clear sense of what he or she wishes to effect in his or her readers in
the way that the framer of a law has. Literary intention matures and changes as a work is
written: anyone who has studied successive versions of a literary work in manuscript will
have realized that authors change their mind about what they are doing (or, perhaps, that
the work changes direction, and that the writer must abandon false starts and cul-desacs). Intentions have to be studied historically as well as perceived synchronically; what
McGann has argued of texts is true far more of intentions - they change and develop.
Writers' intentions are the opposite of simple. Firstly, they can vary from writer to writer
and work to work… Intention is not just what goes on in a writer's head. It is a constantprocess (74).
Contemporary dramatists like EsiabaIrobi and Ahmed Yerima, focus on characterization
to reveal the intricate textual fabric of the play’s world. Psychologists have developed a
personality test that tries to establish the position of the individual on the satisfier-maximizer
scale. A choice maximizer is one who always seeks the very best option from a choice set, and
may fret after he has made a choice in confusion about the appropriateness of the selection.
Satisfiers sometimes set high standards but contend themselves with a good choice, and place
less priority on making the best choice. These two playwrights can be placed on the satisfier
maximise analytical balance in the sense that they might set out to create radical protagonists and
revolutionary heroes that will cause a realignment of the society’s conscience but what the
writers might end up creating is an ideological character encumbered by the writers’ philosophy
towards the world.
Both writers could be accused of creating violent self-serving characters whose heroic
stature appear to be non-conformist with the general stock of heroism, but they don’t mind this
failing once the character passes the ideology to the audience. While Ahmed Yerima sculpts his
characters’ philosophical optimism on a certain spiritual transcendence, Irobi quickly dismantles
the God entity and places man’s fate squarely on his resolve and right to choice viz.:
NIMI: I did not ask anyone to rescue me. Now I shall be labeled a vulture. Oh god! Why
did they rescue me? I should have been allowed to be shot and die for the glory of
the land.(Yerima 9)
The idealistic leaning of Yerima’s hero is also paralleled in another EsiabaIrobi’s play,
Nwokediwhere the eponymous hero, Nwokedi seems to lengthen Jamike‘s philosophy thus:
NWOKEDI: Mother, I will not wait for God…
MRS NWOKEDI: Why, Nwokedi?
NWOKEDI: Because when man waits for God to act and God does not act, man takes
up the role of God and acts. That is why he created us in his own image. (Irobi 9)
A character becomes visible through what he says, what he thinks or what other people
say about him. He exists in what his actions under trying situations reveal his true nature to be.
There are simple and complex characters but generally when playwrights wish to tell a good
story, they create a central character through whose unique perspective we can penetrate the
play’s life and investigate other characters and actions. In choosing this unique personality as a
mouthpiece witness of his story, the writer gives him a mission, imbues him with pertinent
characteristics to fit into the role he has been given, and gives him the motivation for his mission.
In creating this peculiar individual with ideal qualities the playwright creates oppositional agents
to his goal advancement, and humanizes him by giving him an imperfect quality that would
make his situation more realistic and believable.
As Martin Esslin declares “if violence is used to heighten your sense of awareness of the
world in such a way that the shock that has been administered to you makes you more capable of
evaluating the reality of the situation you are in, then this villain has been rightly used and is
ethically defensible. If the violence deprives you of your autonomy, forces you to act in way that
you would not otherwise want to, it is illegitimate”(132). Richard Janaro advocates a new order
and approach to literary interpretation. This type of interpretation which is hermeneutic in nature
argues for a scientific approach to the serious business of interpretation.
As humans there is need for us to be humanists. Janaro makes a humanist pitch in this
regard stating that:
the time has come to narrow the gap. The humanist of today should be the educated
person of today, and this includes everyone. In addition to imparting the tremendous
amount of information all of us need to survive in today's world, education must make
each of us fully aware of what it means to be a functioning human being, creating for
others or appreciating what the creations of others mean for us. Humanism in the
broadest sense of the term must bring us all "closer together.
Symbols possess a quality of a plethora of possible interpretations that develop the complete
intentionality of their symbolic meaning.Theatre makes the audience believe and does not like a
lawyer solicit logical evidence to argue its case. The improper heroes depicted in EsiabaIrobi and
Ahmed Yerima’s works have certain values which are commonly accepted by the Nigerian
populace from the Northern region to the Niger Delta. These reconfigured values and ideals have
occasioned the reevaluation of heroes to understand how these social constructs are constantly
shaped and reshaped.
In Irobi’sThe Other Side of the Mask, Jamike, the central character of the play, lives an
outcast life due to his grievance with the society especially the art world which has refused to
confer him with the highest sculptural award for his sculptures. Jamike has a high sense of his
worth and greatness and cuts a dejected solitary figure in his desolate habiliments. His flawed
introjective character and excitable disposition to violence opens a sympathetic window into the
rejected artist’s mind. In Yerima’sHard Ground, the hero, Nimi, offers another powerful
message to the establishment which expects the writer to create characters that just carry out
demonstrations and peaceful agitations for their rights. Nimi’s assassination of the Don at the
close of the play is a powerful metaphor for the revolution that will definitely occur one day
when the masses become wise to their captive state and rise to throw off the yoke of bondage.
Remorseless murder is a hallmark of the abnormal heroes created by these twosome and they are
unabashed in their depictions.
The language of these writers’ works is mostly twisted with an ambiguous binary
meaning which signs are deduced according to a procedure of meaning-making requiring
initiation into the mode ofreading derived from that particular style of decoding.While both
writers have idealist youthful heroes preaching revolution, Irobi’s hero adopts a moralist Marxist
ground-standing in comparison to Yerima’s introspective indecisive hero. These two Nigerian
writers have emphasized individuals’ peculiar attributes and plied a humanist theory which
delineates a person’s inherent goodness and his natural proclivity to rise to higher levels of
functioning.Their plays do more than entertain; they provide commentary in implicit or explicit
terms, on the major existential happenings in our society.
Agbasiere, Julie. “African Literature and Social Commitment.”Major Themes in African
Literature.Ed. Damian Opata& Aloysius Ohaegbu.Nsukka: Apexpress Pub., 2000: 71-84.
Akwanya, Amaechi.
“The Criticism of African Literature.”Major Themes in African
Literature.Ed. Damian Opata& Aloysius Ohaegbu.Nsukka:Apexpress Pub., 2000: 55-70.
Barker, Howard. “Theatre Without a Conscience.”Modern Theories of Drama. Ed. George
Brandt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998.55-61.
Eagleton, Terry. Criticism and Ideology, London: Verso, 1978.
Esslin, Martin. Reflections, New York: Anchor Books, 1971.
Gassner, John. Directions in Modern Theatre. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1967.
Hawthorn, Jeremy. Unlocking the Text, London: Arnold Pub., 1987.
IrobiEsiaba. The Other Side of the Mask. Enugu: Abic Books, 2009.
Janaro, Richard and Thelma Altshuler.The Art of Being Human.2nd ed. New York: Harper and
Row Pub., 1984.
Lippmann,Walter. A Preface To Morals. New York: Times Inc., 1964.
Muoneke, Romanus O. Art, Rebellion and Redemption.New York: Peter Lang Pub., 1994.
Ogunjimi, Bayo.
“Literature and National Development.”Major Themes in African
Literature.Ed. Damian Opata& Aloysius Ohaegbu.Nsukka:Apexpress Pub., 2000: 85-99.
Ricoeur, Paul. Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation, trans. Denis Savage. New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1970.
Shohet, Ella and Robert Stam.Unthinking Eurocentrism. New York: Routledge, 1994.
Webster, Roger. Studying Literary Theory. 2nd ed. London: Arnold Pub. Co., 1996.
Yerima, Ahmed. Hard Ground. Ibadan: Kraft Books, 2005.
Department of Social Science Education
University of Nigeria Nsukka.
Department of Arts
University of Nigeria Nsukka.
3 Dept. of Political Science Education
University of Nigeria Nsukka.
This study sought to investigate the effect of simulation method on secondary school students’
achievement in Government. It is a quasi-experimental study of non equivalent group design.
Two research questions and two null hypotheses were formulated to guide the study. A sample of
120 students from two randomly selected secondary schools in Ayamelum Local Government
Area of Anambra State, Nigeria was used for the study. Government Achievement Test (GAT)
was developed, validated and used for data collection. The instrument (GAT) was trial-tested
using Kudder-Richardson (K-R20) which established a reliability index of 0.87 which warranted
its use for the study. Mean, standard deviation and Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) were used
for the data analysis. The results revealed that students performed significantly better in
Government when exposed to simulation method than conventional lecture method. It was also
found that male and female students’ achievement using simulation method, do not differ
significantly. It concluded that if simulation method is adopted in teaching Government, students
would learn practical skills and develop critical thinking ability that will help them survive in the
society. The study recommended among others that curriculum designers should recommend
simulation method as one of the interactive and participatory approaches to the study of
Government and that government teachers adopt it in their teaching.
To achieve the goals of any subject, there is need to adopt good teaching methods.
Teaching method is the approach and or strategy through which the objective of the instruction
or lesson is achieved. Accordingly, Eze (1998:8) opines that, “teaching methods broadly deal
with all aspects of what happens in a classroom during a teaching learning session and even
some times before and after it, including preparation for and remedial work after”. This suggests
that when teaching method is well packaged, it takes care of the curriculum questions of what to
teach (topic), how to teach it (planning, methods or approaches, skills or strategies); whom to
teach (the learner), where to teach and why. These help to sustain classroom interaction, carry
out evaluation and obtain feedback for purpose of decision making. Teaching method is the
procedure of instruction that is selected to help learners achieve the objectives or to internalize
the content and message of the pedagogy ( Onyemerekeya, 2003). Teaching method refers to any
approach adopted by the teacher towards planning and execution of lesson unit(s) for the
achievement of instructional objectives in classroom interaction. It is the ways and/or means of
communicating ideas, skills, norms, and values outlined on the objectives of a lesson to the
learners for attainment of educational objectives. The teaching methods may include lecture,
project, discussion, demonstration, discovery, dramatization and problem solving among others.
Method of teaching government implies the various ways, styles and techniques the
government teacher may apply in impartation of knowledge on Government to the students as to
foster internalization and understanding (Ojukwu, Mbaebie & Anyabolu, 2005). It refers to ways
and/ or means of imparting knowledge of Government concepts, principles and theories on
students of Government as a subject.
Government in this discourse is referred to as a discipline or an academic field of study.
That is Government as a reading course in the secondary schools, universities and colleges of
education (political science). Government as a discipline deals with the study of agencies,
political institutions and dynamics of the state (Anyaele, 1994). As a subject it covers the study
of basic concepts, principles in Government, institutions, the history of Nigerian government and
politics as well as globalization among others. The reasons for inclusion of Government in
secondary school curriculum as an elective subject cannot be over emphasized. Its study enables
students to understand political process of the country, have knowledge to participate actively in
the government of the country as administrative officers, personnel officers, develop spirit of
nationalism and patriotism and understand Nigeria in her relationship with other countries of the
World. Given the role of Government as a subject in citizenship and national development,
practical method should be adopted in its teaching and learning. Practical methods are guided
discovery, guided inquiry, guided expository, simulation and project-based methods.
(Onyemerekeya, 2003; Adedoyin, 1990 and Olaitan & Aguisiobo 1986).
The concern of this discourse however is simulation method. Stimulation is a method of
teaching that showcases real life situations in a play-like form to foster practical learning and
knowledge retention. Anu (2012) defines simulation as the imitation or representation of one act
or system by another. According to Obianwu (1999:169) simulation is, “representation of real
life with some of real elements for such reasons as safety, unavailability of equipment because of
expense and complexity of length of time involved”. Pertinent aspects of reality are included in
simulation as a simple way of presenting ideas and problems of life in the classroom. Simulation
can be seen as educational games that combine the features of game, competition, co-operation,
rule and players towards problem solving. Ezeudu, (2003) equally states that simulation allows
students to explore systems where reality is too expensive, complex, dangerous, fast or slow.
Ezeudu further stresses that it is a working representation of reality. It enriches existing
experiments and other classroom activities, to provide experiences which otherwise might be
impossible to achieve within the social classroom (Obianwu, 1999); it makes teaching and
learning lively, attention sustaining and interesting.
Simulation method helps in problem solving, participatory learning, makes learners
happy as they play life roles; grooms students in decision making process and facilitate learnerlearner interaction in the classroom setting. It may help students understand human behaviour in
the true-to-life settings in which professionals operate. Assuming simulation method is adopted
to teach Government contents (topics) like law making or policy formulation, political party and
party system, pressure groups, electoral processes, students will have real life experience of the
aforementioned topics through role play. This may help them sustain the knowledge acquired
instead of rote memorization that is envisaged in the teacher-centered approach to teaching like
the lecture method. It can accommodate a range of learners from novices to experts.
Constructivists’ theory explains the effect of simulation method on students’ achievement
in Government. This theory stipulates that learning is an active process and as such learners will
learn better if they construct their knowledge by themselves (Orji, 2013). Constructivists
recognize the learner’s ownership of the ideas which are to be negotiated in the classroom.
According to Eze (2007) the constructivists’ framework is not to change the learner’s ideas, but
to support and enable them to actively change their own ideas in the light of the available
evidence. The implication of this is that there is need for use of practical, exploratory and
interactive methods of teaching in senior secondary Government instruction to enhance creative
and/or productive learning where the teacher will be acting as a coach or guide not a transmitter
of intact knowledge.
Simulation method nevertheless, may be reasoned to have some weaknesses which may
include time consumption, leading students outside the immediate curriculum setting and being
difficult to evaluate. However, it is interactive and participatory approach to instruction as to
foster easy internalization of Government subject matter, practical learning, critical thinking and
develop manipulative skills and collaborative learning in students. The purpose of any method of
teaching is to effectively transmit, translate and transfer knowledge, skills, values and attitudes
from one group to another (Ezeudu, 2003). It promotes achievement of set objective(s) in
teaching and learning process.
Achievement is the hallmark of any teaching and learning endeavours. Wehmeier (2001)
sees it as a thing that somebody has done successfully using his/her efforts and skills. Students’
achievement is their own efforts and skills towards acquiring practical knowledge, skills,
attitudes, values, manipulative skills and decision making skills through interaction with their
teachers and the environment (methods, materials and contents etc). It has been argued that what
students learn depends not only on what they are taught but also on how they are taught (Asogwa
& Abdurrahman, 2009). They further add that serious attention be paid to the methods chosen for
presenting new ideas. The reason for the use of simulation against the conventional lecture
method in teaching Government may be explained by the Chinese proverb. Which says, tell me, I
forget; show me, I remember; but involve me, I understand (Anu, 2012).
The conventional lecture method of teaching Government seems to be teacher-centered
approach where the teacher tells and the learners engage in rote learning of Government
contents. This method does not give room for deep learning or students-student interaction or
instructor-student interaction, transfer of knowledge, understanding and refining their own
thought processes and seeing social processes and social interactions in action (Anu, 2012). The
use of the conventional lecture method in teaching Government makes the teacher the only active
participant in the classroom while the students remained passive all through the lesson (Asogwa
& Abdurrahman, 2009). There is therefore, need for paradigm shift in the method of teaching
Government using exploring teaching method, to enhance active participation of both male and
female students in Government instruction.
This study also wants to find out whether gender is a significant factor in the students’
achievement in Government. Gender according to Uzoegwu (2004) is varied socially and
culturally constructed roles, qualities and behaviour that are ascribed to men and women of
different societies. Similarly, Okolo & Ezegbe, (2012) note that it is a cultural construct which
relates to various beliefs and ideas about males and females held by members of a particular
society. There is common belief that gender as a variable plays some distinct role in people’s life
endeavours. This is also applicable in teaching and learning process. For example, Ezeudu
(2009) in a study titled “interaction of concept maps and gender on achievement of students in
selected Organic Chemistry concepts,” found out that males perform better than females. On the
contrary, some researchers in such related studies ( Offorma, 1990; Oluikpe, 2004 and Asogwa
& Abdurrahman, 2009) document that gender is not a significant factor in mean achievement of
students. However, since these studies are different from the subject matter of the present study,
the researchers deemed it necessary to find out whether students’ gender, is a factor in the
achievement of government students when exposed to simulation method.
Sequel to the above, this study sought to investigate the effect of simulation method on
students’ achievement in Government. The purpose of the study, therefore, is to find the effect of
simulation method on students’ achievement in government. Specifically, the study will compare
the achievement of students in Government taught with simulation method and those taught with
conventional lecture method and determine the effect of simulation method on gender
The findings of this study will be of great importance to Government teachers and
students. For the Government teachers, it will help them achieve the objective(s) of government
lesson. It will equally enhance students’ understanding of the subject, as it offers room for
students’ participation in the teaching and learning process.
To carry out the study, the following research questions and hypotheses guided the study.
Research questions
(1) What is the effect of simulation method on secondary school students’ achievement in
(2) What is the difference between the mean achievement scores of the male and female
students taught with simulation method?
Ho1: There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of students taught with
simulation method and those taught with conventional lecture method.
Ho2: There is no significant difference between the mean achievement scores of male and female
students taught with simulation method.
The study adopted a quasi-experimental study of non equivalent design. A pretest, posttest control group design was used for the study. Two groups of students were used. The first
group were taught with the simulation method, while the second group were taught using a
conventional lecture method.
Area of the study
The study was carried out in Ayamelum Local Government Area of Anambra State.
Population of the study
The population of the study comprised all the senior secondary one (SSI) students in
Ayamelum LGA of Anambra state who offered Government in the public secondary schools.
There are nine (9) government - owned (public) secondary schools in Ayamelum LGA with an
estimated population of six hundred and eight (608) SSI Government students in all.
Sample and sampling techniques
Two out of nine secondary schools in Ayamelum LGA were randomly selected for the
study. Two intact classes were formed from SSIA of both schools with a sample size of 120
students which was used for the study.
The following instruments were used for data collection for the study
Government lesson plan/note on the topic political parties and party system using the
simulation method;
Government lesson plan/note on the topic political parties and party system in line with
the conventional lecture method and
GAT – Government Achievement Test on the topic political parties and party system.
The GAT had a 30 item multiple choice test with four options (ABCD).
Validation of the instruments
Lesson plans/notes on the simulation method; conventional lecture method and
Government Achievement Test (GAT) were face validated by three specialists in the Department
of Social Science Education, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Corrections pointed out on the
lesson plans/notes were effected accordingly. During the validation exercise, some items on the
GAT were restructured, some new ones were added, while some were discarded. After the
correction, the number of items used for the study were reduced to 25.
Reliability of the instrument
The corrected instrument was trial tested on subjects other than that of the study to
determine the internal consistency and construct validity using Kudder-Richardson (K-R 20).
Reliability index of 0.87 was established which was adjudged to be high enough.
Method of data collection
This research was conducted during the third term of 2011/2012 academic session. The
two intact classes were made to cover same learning contents. Lesson plans were produced for
the simulation method group (experimental group) and conventional lecture method group
(control group). The treatment lasted for four weeks. The researcher used the permanent
Government teachers who were properly trained during the training programme to teach both the
experimental and control groups. The essence is to enable the students not to be affected by
teacher variables. Thereafter, the experimental group was subjected to the treatment after which
the post test was administered on both groups. The scores of the experimental group in both pretest and post-test were recorded and compared with the scores gotten by the control group in both
tests. Two weeks later, the same post-test was reshuffled and administered again on both groups
to assess the achievements of the students. The scores were recorded and compared.
Experimental condition
Experimental bias: - The teaching was done by permanent Government teachers of the
participating schools (intact classes – SSIA of both schools) in both experimental and
control groups.
Teacher variability: - All the teachers involved were trained and given similar
instructions during the training programme by the researchers. This is to avoid invalidity
that may arise as a result of teacher variability. The participating teachers were not given
the test instrument (GAT) until the time of administration.
Students/class interaction: - The research subjects (students in the intact classes) in both
groups were not informed of their involvement in the research process as the same lesson
content was taught to both groups. Assignments were not given to the students. This is to
prevent any kind of discussion or idea(s) exchange outside the classroom.
Initial group differences: - Intact classes were randomly assigned to treatment
conditions. Schools used were not those that use ability in assigning students to classes.
Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) was used in the analysis to reduce the effect of
initial group differences.
Effect of pretest, post test: - The experiment lasted 4 weeks. This is deemed a long
period enough as to avoid pre-test effect to post-test achievements.
Experimental procedure
The pretest was first administered before the commencement of treatment. The treatment
for the study is simulation method lesson plan (SMLP) based on party system and political
parties. The lesson plan incorporated, role play, competition, players (characters) as elements of
simulation to encourage practical teaching and easy assimilation of the subject matter. The
government topics (SSI topics) taught to both groups comprised party system (meaning) political
parties(definition) characteristics, types, functions, merits and demerits of political parties. Types
of party system, characteristics, merits and demerits of party system and factors that may aid the
electoral success of political parties in Nigeria.
The experimental group was taught 6 lessons with simulation method lesson plan
(SMLP) while the control group was taught the same 6 lessons with the conventional lecture
method lesson plan (CLMLP). Each lesson lasted for 35 minutes and the teaching of 2-lesson
plan a week lasted for one month. At the end of the treatment, a post-test was conducted to both
groups with the Government Achievement Test (GAT); the scores obtained from both groups
were compared to determine whether there was significant difference in the mean achievements
of the two groups and whether gender affects students’ achievement with the use of simulation
method. The pretest served as covariates to the post-test. Mean and standard deviation were used
to answer the research questions, while Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) was used to answer
the null hypotheses.
Method of data analysis
The research questions were answered using mean and standard deviation of the test
scores, while Analysis of Covariance (ANCOVA) was used to test the hypotheses at 0.05 level
of significance.
Research Question 1
What is the effect of simulation method on secondary school students’ achievement in
Table 1: Mean scores of students taught with simulation method and conventional lecture
Std. Deviation
Conventional lecture
Table 1 reveals that students taught with simulation method performed better than those taught
with conventional lecture method. The post-test mean score of the simulation method was 23.45
with standard deviation of 1.87 while that of conventional lecture method was 17.61 with
standard deviation of 5.04.
Research Question 2
What is the difference between the mean achievement scores of the male and female
students taught with both simulation and conventional lecture methods?
Table 2: Mean scores of males and females taught with both simulation and conventional lecture
Std. Deviation
Table 2 shows that males and females taught with the simulation method have almost the
same mean scores of23.27 and 23.80 and standard deviations of 2.17 and 1.00 respectively in
their post-test scores. However, males and females taught with lecture method have different
mean scores of 18.80 and 16.43 and standard deviations of 3.92 and 5.78 respectively in their
post-test scores.
Null hypothesis 1 (Ho1)
There is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of students taught with
simulation method and those taught with conventional lecture method.
Table 3: Summary of ANCOVA for students taught with simulation method and those taught
with conventional lecture method
Corrected model
Corrected Total
Significant (p<.05)
Type III Sum
of Squares
Table 3 above reveals that F.cal (71.25) is significant at level of .000. Since the value is less than
.05 the hypothesis was formulated, the null hypothesis is rejected in favour of the alternative
hypothesis. Hence, there is significant difference in the mean achievement scores of students
taught with simulation method (23.27 males and 23.80 females) and conventional lecture method
(18.80 male and 16.43) in favour of the simulation method.
Null hypothesis 2 (Ho2)
There is no significant difference between the mean achievement scores of male and
female students taught with simulation method
Table 4: Summary of ANCOVA for male and female students taught with simulation method.
Type III Sum Df
of Squares
Corrected model
Method* gender
Corrected Total
Not significant (p>.05)
A look at table 4 shows that F.cal (3.78) is significant at level of .054, which is greater
than .05 the hypothesis was formulated. Hence, the null hypothesis is accepted in disfavour of
the alternative. This implies that there is no significant difference in the mean achievement
scores of male and female students taught with simulation method.
Discussion of results
Table 1 shows that the mean achievement scores of students taught with simulation
method (23.45) was higher than the mean achievement scores of the students taught with the
conventional lecture method (17.62). This was further confirmed by the result in table 3, which
shows that the method of teaching was a significant factor on students’ achievement in
Government. Hence, students who were taught with simulation method performed better than
those taught with the conventional lecture method. This finding is in line with Asogwa &
Abdurrahman (2009) who state that the method of teaching used in Government could produce a
differential effect on students’ achievement. Kennedy & Wilson (2008:1) seem to reason in this
dimension when they aver that,
One way to teach students about their government and how laws, bills work is
to set up a work trial simulations. These trials can teach the children about the
branches of their government… Executive branch, the judicial branch, and the
legislative branch; Create or find a law suit or case for the class to rule on and
assign roles for the students; Assign students as jury, lawyers, judges,
reporters, witnesses and other roles; Have students practice depositions, pretrial preparations, evidence handling and more. Mock trials can help teach
students about the legal practice and how law bills are upheld within the court
of law.
This view was further supported by Blecha, (2012) who maintains that students taught with
simulation method learned a set of concepts in less time than students taught with a traditional
Table 2 shows that the mean achievement score of female students taught using
simulation method is slightly higher than that of their male counterparts (23.80 and 23.28)
respectively using the same method. This was in conformity with the result on table 4, which
indicates that gender is not a significant factor in students’ achievement in Government when
simulation method is used. This finding suggests that simulation is an effective method that can
be used in teaching both males and females in Government. This finding is in line with Asogwa
& Abdurahman (2009), Metu (2008), Nworgu (1985), Nworgu, 1986, & Ugwu, 1993 who found
interaction of gender and method on students’ achievement to be statistically significant.
However, it disagrees with Ezeudu (2009) who documents that concept maps, even though it
helped students to achieve highly, did not help both males and females to achieve equally. Thus,
the result of the study negates the seeming wrong belief among some females that Government is
a subject for the male and not that of females. Accordingly, there should be no gender
stereotypism in the pedagogy. Hence, males and females should be exposed to the same
Government concepts and principles for purpose of effect.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Interactive, participatory, and other practical - oriented methods of teaching seem to be
better approaches to teaching and learning mostly in this current era of knowledge economy.
When Government is taught with practical teaching approaches, students will be able to get in
terms with some abstract concepts and principles in Government for easy transfer of learning.
The teachers will no more be blamed for students’ poor practical knowledge of Government
concepts and principles which have been blamed on the use of the conventional lecture method.
Conventional lecture encourages rote memorization of concepts and principles of Government.
In line with the above findings, the following recommendations were made:
Simulation method should be adopted by the curriculum designers as a participatory
approach to teaching and learning of Government in secondary schools in Nigeria.
Teachers should be trained by the governments on the use of simulation method in the
teaching of Government. This if done would provide real life learning of Government
which seems to have some abstract concepts and principles.
The secondary school management should provide costumes and other relevant
materials for acting (role playing) some concepts and principles in Government to
guarantee practical learning for easy assimilation and subsequently better
achievement in Government as a subject.
Anu, M. (2012). Introduction to modeling and simulation. Retrieved on 3/08/12, from
Anyaele, J.U. (1994). Comprehensive Government for Senior Secondary Schools. Lagos: A
Adedoyin, F.A. (1990). Teaching strategies in population education. In NERDC (Ed),
perspectives in population Education: Selected readings in population education, 2.
Lagos: NERDC Press.
Asogwa, D. & Abdurrahman, A’ (2009). Effect of project based method on secondary school
students’ achievement in History. International Journal of Education Research (IJER),
University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 9(2), 46-52.
Blecha, B.J. (2012). Pedagogy in action. The SERC portal for educators. Retrieved on 4/08/12
from http://serc.carleton.edu/sp/library/simulations/index.html
Eze, D. (1998). Micro teaching through Standford into Stirling. Awka: Christen.
Eze, E.U. (2007). Effect of target task approach on students’ achievement and interest in senior
secondary physical chemistry. Unpublished Ph.D thesis, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Ezeudu, F.O. (2009). Interaction of concept maps and gender on achievement of students in
selected Organic Chemistry concepts. International Journal of Educational Research,
9(2), 38 – 45.
Ezeudu, S.A. (2003). Environmental education for sustainable development: A Nigerian
perspectives. Onitsha: Bel’s Books.
Kennedy, B & Wilson, G. (2008). Local government in action: A simulation. Toronto: University
of Toronto Press.
Metu, I.C. (2008). Effect of mind map as a note taking approach on achievement in senior
secondary Economics. Unpublished M.ED Thesis, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Nworgu, B.G. (1985). Expository and discovery methods of teaching secondary school
chemistry in T.O, Mgbodile, S.O., Ayodele, A, Akubue & G.O, Obioma (Eds), Issues in
Teacher Education and science curriculum in Nigeria – curriculum organisation of
Nigeria monograph series.
Nworgu, B.G. (1986). A Problem – centered laboratory investigation approach through Science
Practical in secondary schools. Pilot Study I (Biology) Unpublished Research paper.
Obianwu, E.A. (1999). The computer in education. In N.O, Nwankpa (Ed), Curriculum Studies:
An Introduction. Onitsha: Emba.
Offorma, G.C. (1990). Influence of resources on students’ spoken French. Journal of studies in
curriculum 1(1).
Onyemerekeya, C.C. (2003). Curriculum implementation. Owerri: Versatile.
Ojukwu, I. Mbaebie, J, & Anyabolu, U. (2005). Methods of teaching political Science. Onitsha:
Okolo, A .N & Ezegbe, B. N .( 2012). Gender role in African indigenous knowledge: Implication
for preservation of African cultural heritage. Ikenga International Journal of Institute of
African Studies, 12 (1), 156 – 168.
Olaitan, S.O. & Agusiobo, O.N. (1986). Principles of teaching practice. Ibadan spectrum books.
Oluikpe, E.N. (2004). Effect of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) methods on the
achievement of University of Nigeria education students in Expository writing.
Unpublished Ph.D thesis, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Orji, C.N. (2013). A comparative study of students’ achievement in English language in WAEC
and NECO from 2007-2011 in Nsukka education zone of Enugu State. Unpublished M.Ed
Project, University of Nigeria Nsukka
Ugwu, P.N. (1993). Process errors committed by students in providing some geometric
theorems. M.Ed Unpublished Thesis, university of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Uzoegwu, P.N. (2004). The effect of co-operative learning method on students’ achievements in
English essay writing. Unpublished Ph.D thesis, University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Wehmeier, S. (2001). Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary of current English. Oxford New
York: Oxford University press.
Chinedu Onuigbo
Department of English and Literary Studies.
University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Literary artists have, over the years, used literature to mirror the society in which they live.
These artists are not just concerned with man’s relationship with the environment in which he
lives. What happens to the wild life in the bush and the fishes of the sea and the sea in which
they live and what happens to the birds of the air and even the free air in which they fly are of
great concern to the artist especially as these ecological conditions affect man and the general
peace of the environments .This study examines the effect the environment has on Riverine
Poetry. In every aspect of life, you attribute certain qualities of a man, certain behavioral
patterns, and certain modes of perception to the environment. When related to literature, certain
innate qualities of literature of a place are affected by that environment. In other words, one can
just see the prevalent issue of environmental degradation, human right violation, abuse of power,
and how these factors affect the life and destiny of the people in the affected communities. This
study, therefore, examines riverine poetry and how the poets and the poems are affected by the
The culture and tradition of a people are always very evident in every aspect of their lives and
that is why ones environment influences one’s way of life and the general perception one has to
things. The influence of the environment permeates one’s thinking, attitude, perception,
relationships and of course the literature of the people. That is why some people see literature as
a mirror of the society. While reading any work of arts, one must encounter flashes of peoples’
life and history. It may manifest in the religion, economy, clothing or just the dominant issues
addressed in the literature of the people who live in a given community. If we take oral literature
for example, we see that most of the folktales, objects like thatched roofs, palm fruits, gong and
clan warriors are a regular occurrence.
In the same vein, the poetry of the Niger- Delta people which is also referred to as riverineoetry
is hugely influenced by the environment and the dominant issues that affect the Niger- Delta
people are always talked about. Many riverine poets have written extensively on some of these
issues like the worship of the river goddess, fishery, beauty of the river, environmental
degradation, water pollution, armed robbery, oil bunkering, human rights abuse, political neglect,
leadership abuse, bribery and corruption and militancy. Poets like Gabriel Okara, J.P. Clark,
Mike Osofisan, Tanure Ojaide, Odia Ofeimum, Jumoke Verissimo and others have, through their
poetry, brought to light these major issues that have affected the life, growth and death of the
Niger- delta citizens. These poets in their works demonstrate a deep passion for their people as
they seek to address these dominant issues.
Those who are affected by what happens in their environment have these issues imprinted in
their heads which is why even when they pick their pens and papers to write, they write riverine
poetry. Obu Udeozo agrees with this as he writes.
Having studied the works of the past masters of
African Literature in English, given my own heritage
and the strong voices of my parents, I have realized
that nobody can touch the limit of literary excellence
without carrying his culture along. The works of
NgugiWaThiongo and Bedekeremo Clark are startling
testaments of the conjoint resource fullness of the folk
imagination and literature genius (War and peace in
the end Time, Udeozo 17)
This work tries to take us closer to what happens in the Niger- delta, the struggle to manage
properly the environment while exploiting the natural resources of the people. In most of the
works, the beauty of the environment is highlighted while extolling the beauty of the rivers, seas
and the ocean and that is why it breaks their heart to see what has become of the once lush
Political history reminds us that the Niger Delta as a region predates Nigeria’s emergence as a
British colony. Britain’s Niger Delta Protectorate and the Niger Delta Coast Protectorate were
already well established by the mid 1880s and the late 1890s before the formation of southern
Nigeria in 1900. In the decades before Second World War, many Niger Delta communities had
their own local leaders who distinguished themselves in the service of their people while serving
the British masters. But it was only as a result of the Arthur Richards Reforms of 1946 that
regional representation became important in British colonial arrangements. The people’s
experiences with the treacherous British policies served them well in the leaders who emerged to
represent them in the late 1940s.
It was agitation by Ijaw Rivers Peoples League that led to the creation of River Province in 1947.
It was here and during this period that the Niger Delta Congress was founded by the young
Harlod Dappa- Biriye to fight for equality for the disadvantaged people of the Niger Delta. He
later represented the people in the London Conference of the Minorities and the report of the
Willinks Commission in 1958 described the Niger Delta as a “poor, backward and neglected
At Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the injustices against the Niger Delta People prompted Isaac
AdakaBoro, the young radical nationalist, an Ijaw born revolutionary and master campaigner of
resource control to champion a revolt against the oppressors of the people of the Niger Delta to
effect a change of the environment so that “man can be man”. On February 23, 1966, he landed
at Tontoubau a sacred forest in Kaiama town in the present Bayelsa State in the riverine areas of
the Niger Delta with one hundred and fifty-nine comrades to launch a guerrilla war against the
then Federal Military Government. Earlier in January 1966, Boro had proclaimed the Niger Delta
Peoples Republic with himself as Head of State. He engaged the Nigeria Police Force in a
bloody battle, but the Armed Forces of Nigeria went into the war and Boro and his men held up
the federal troops for a while before he was defeated on the 12th day. This rebellion has today
become known in political history of Nigeria as the Twelve-Day revolution.
By popular perception, the marginalization and balkanization of the peoples of the Niger Delta,
the exploitation of their environment and the resultant conflicts have their roots in the discovery
of oil as well as the exploitation, exploration and production activities by the oil multinationals.
Incidental to and indeed compounding this ecological devastation is the political marginalization
and total neglect of the people and especially the denial of their rights, including land rights. The
above political background as given by Akpobibibo (2001) in a forthnightly programme of the
Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, United Kingdom provides important
information that make for proper appreciation of the Niger Delta socio-political terrain and the
kind of poetry that flows from there.
One thing that we have tried to establish is that literature is very much influenced by the
environment and having had a background insight on some of these issues and problems
besetting the Niger Delta people, we will discuss the different themes which these works
A. Theme of Nostalgia
Many of the riverine poets always remember how the environment was before the discovery of
oil and other natural elements. They remember how green the grasses looked, how serene and
peaceful the waters and seas used to be and how the sea animals used to swim and go about their
daily businesses in peace which is no-longer the case. In Ojaides poetic imagination, we learnt
“My roots run deep into the Delta area. Its traditions, folklore, fauna and flora no
doubt, enriched my children of Iroko and Labyrinths of the Delta. This area of
constant rains, where we children thought we saw fish fall from the sky in hurricanes,
did not remain the same. By the 1960s the rivers had been dredged to take in
pontoons or even ships to enter our backyard. Shell-BP had started to pollute the
rivers and streams, and farmlands with oil and flaring gas. Forests had been cleared
by poachers and others to feed the African Timber Company in Sapele. Streams and
mashes dried up (…)” (Ojaide 1996:122).
He concludes by saying:
“The world into which I was born has changed drastically over the years. It has gone
without being replenished (…). But the major problem had to do with the discovery
of oil in the Delta. The oil boom became doom for inhabitants of the region”.
Here, he provokes, great nostalgic reflection on the lost beauty and natural wealth of the region
following the discovery and exploration of oil. The prevailing consciousness in this tradition is
one of deep hurt and irreparable loss. The injustice and insensitivity that the Nigerian nation has
visited on the people intensify the growing interrogation of the Nigerian experience in their
popular response. Ojaide projects the collective memory of the people by stressing the tragic loss
of the bond they once had with their environment. Ojaide’s recollection, with its inscription of
the contrast between the past and the violated present, captures the shared memory that is given
expression in various ways in the works of the Niger Delta poets.
In spite of his very short career as a poet, Ibiwari Ikiriko’s work is probably the most
representative of contemporary Niger Delta poetry in the sense that it primarily articulates a
regional consciousness. Ikiriko’s “|The Palm and the Crude” (2000:31) appropriates this
historical awareness. In constructing an economic history of Nigeria, it privileges the Niger Delta
as the source of wealth, suggesting that the transition the country underwent from an agrarian to
oil economy was based on the discovery and exploration of crude oil.
“In the beginning
Was the Palm
And the Palm
Was of us
And the Palm
Was by us
And the Palm
Was with
Then came the Crude
And the Crude
Was of us
But by them
And with them.”
But as:
“The Palm
Propelled the pacification process
And with us as proud partners Merchants and Missions
Rode triumphant unland To let in light
Birth as palm fruits
Births as palm fruits
In the sun”
The poet’s argument inevitably locates the source of the crisis in the master/servant relationship
which seems to have been normalized in the Nigerian political economy. This has seen the
exclusion of the oil-producing region from managing and utilizing the resources within the
“Then came the Crude
And the Crude
Wasted our waters
Soiled our soils
And lacerated our lot
And we, Aborigines
Of the riverside, bereft, stoic,
Wash our palms
With dry spittle
As legs move up to tie hands,
And sahelian
Dune boom with
Marine doom” (31-31)
Ikiriko: The Palm and the Crude (2000:31-32)
He just cries about the level to which the environment has come and weeps for the fact that there
is also no hope in sight.
Environmental Degradation
In addition to crying about how the lands, seas, vegetables, fish and animals used to be, is the cry
for how things are at present. The riverine poets always cry and weep for what has become of
their once habitable environment and the ruins it has become. Tenure Ojaide reveals in “When
green was lingua franca”, how the Niger Delta had become uninhabitable due largely to the
activities of oil companies and allied agencies of government that made no plan for the
environmental impact assessment of their activities. His nostalgic collection of the lost homely
and safe environment affirms the dislocation in the socioeconomic routines of the people,
ascribing the development to the conspiracy of multinational companies in the oil sector with an
uncaring government:
“Shell broke bond
with quakes and a hell
of flares. Stoking a hearth
under God’s own very behind!
Stop perjuring women for
Their industry, none of them
Drove God to the sky’s height;
It wasn’t the pestle’s thrust
That caused the eternal rift” (13)
Adiyi Bestman’s perception of the tragic shift in “Kiabara, Dive No More” is no less pathetic, he
“The land is drying out
Kiabara, can’t you see
for the fish are stiff
fly to distant horizons
call the gusts
to flush this desolate web of pain” (Bestman 1998:41)
The plight and degradation that the Niger Delta people have gone through have got to the stage
where they no longer believe in the government or any other agency to save them as they now
believe that it is only their original deities that can come to their rescue. Ikiriko in his poem
“Odo” writes thus:
How much tears can fill a basket of calamities?
What Marshal Plan can fill a basket of calamities?
What gestures can raise ruined relics to mansion?
O, a brazen demolition of our land and lives
Has replaced the foxy looting of our lot
As the tactics shift from marginalization to pacification
But as no tears can rend a calabash of community will,
So will Odi rise again?
Like the son on an Easter morning
And lighten this darkness wreath Delta” (:63-64).
In this light, we see that the Niger Delta environment is not what it used to be because the
environment has lost its glory, splendor and originality.
Political Exploitation:
Another thematic projection in the influence of the environment in the riverine poetry is that of
political exploitation. Most of the show that how the federal government has no interest in the
welfare of the Niger Delta people but instead has continued to exploit the natural resources God
has given to them. Most of these woks bring to light how the federal government has
collaborated with the multinational companies to loot and take advantage of these resources and
in the process leave the environment in a state of dissatisfaction. In a poem like “The Raped” by
Jumoke Verissimo, she likens the activities of the federal government and these multinational
companies to rape as she writes:
These days ages vulvas live in fear of poverty
weakened thighs seek or change
from violent thrusts on impotent will
vulvas of our lands have name contagious
the fear of unreached orgasms trails them
their once virgin thighs now over-raped,
plead for menopause (Verissimopg 2)
When talking about the once virgin thighs over-raped, she examines the blatant abuse of their
God-given natural resources. Going down, she talks about them pleading for menopause and the
use of that personification has its significance because we understand it to be a plea to those who
perpetrate the evil against them to stop because they have grown tired and faint.
Tenure Ojaide in his own works does not embellish words like some other writers because he
goes all out to call a spade a spade. In the poem “Smoke” from one of his anthologies, we hear
him saying:
There are traps and ambushes waiting there are liveries of
the general force, they were blood painted armour in battle
once foreigners came to take away what enriched us, they
cared not for our cries. They took our youth and sprintled
comfort over heads of hungry and helpless ones other
tidbits closed the mouths of chiefs and that started the
tribulation of mistrust (Ojaide 19).
From this, we know that it is very common to see this consciousness of Political exploitation in
most riverine works. Here we see the reference to the Chiefs as corrupt because the foreigners
came and took what enriched them, without caring about their cries. These Chiefs never talked
because they have been bribed.
It is always thought that writing is an art and the artistic genius is made obvious in
advanced art of imaginative literature. This paper argues with Onuigbo (2013) that literature
may not always be intellectually provoking but literature, fiction drama or poetry is most often
emotionally compelling. Anyone who is conversant with reverine poetry will agree that this
brand of poetry may not be really entertaining but it always has a firm grip on the human heart.
What one experiences in some of these poems is like Don Lee’s production of
Assassin’s poems, poems that shoot guns poems that wrestle
copes into alleys and take their guns, leaving them dead
Just as the Africa-American uses poetry to whip up emotions against the white power
structure, the riverine poets use poetry to project the hostility of the multinationals against the
environment and Niger Delta people. It needs to be said, however, that the relationship between
human action and environmental hazards is not limited to the Niger Delta. Ekpoh (2009)
indicated that the whole world is grappling with various kinds of environmental problems
ranging from global warming, ozone deflection wild fire to floods, water pollution and
deforestation. What is even more interesting is Nwoma’s (2003) ecocentric exposition as he
advances the obvious connection between ecocriticism and treatment of the forces of human
oppression. Emerging trends in ecofeminism forces a complex connection between ecocriticism
and ecofeminism: a connection in which women see no liberation for them and no solution to
ecological crisis in a society whose model of relationship is based on domination and unequal
partnership. Ecoriticism is a growing literary movement that did not start with riverine poetry
and will not end with it. Instead, it is a movement that examines man’s handling of nature
through the medium of literature. Just as Don Lee was producing assassin’s poems that shoot
guns, ecofeminism was producing what Nwoma (2013) calls “global ecological sisterhood” that
calls on all women to “link arms” against the oppression of natural environment and the
oppression of women. The emerging global ecological sisterhood sees the hatred of women and
the hatred of nature as the two sides of a coin that are complementary to produce an acceptable
With this background, one appreciates the different faces and phases of the environment in
riverine poetry.
The different faces of the Environment in Riverine Poetry
The environment is portrayed in different ways in the riverine poetry of the Niger Delta. The
environment is like the two sides of a coin which though one, could be viewed from differing
perspectives. The environment by some of these poets is viewed from the negritude movement
angle while others view it from the pan-African movement angle.
While the pan-African writers are more engaged in war of words, lashing out against the colonial
masters as a means of achieving freedom, the negritude writers take a narcissist stand of talking
about all the exploitations of the white over the black while extolling the qualities of the black
man. They are of the opinion that the white man behaves the way he does because of the inherent
inferiority complex found in him. The negritude writers would always say that black is superior
so that instead of crying “I am a human being like you white man”, he states I am better than
you”. The above illustration also holds sway and captures the different approaches that the
riverine writers take. One is a political movement and a forceful disapproval of the wrong things
perpetrated against the environment which is a common theme among most of the riverine
works.. The other extols the virtue of the environment, appreciating what they have regardless of
what the mindless oppressors do. They achieve this by either going back to time or by imagining
and projecting a brighter, greater and more glorious future where the environment still prevails
above what is being done against it and moves back to the glories of the past. There are,
however, a few poets who take this approach of extolling the virtues of the environment and one
of those is Oyinpreye Christopher Dorgu who wrote “A poem from Ijawland”. From the
beginning of the poem, we can see the environment in a different way and light from the ways
other present it. Here there is no lambasting the errors of the environment like the normal
riverine writer does but, instead from line one, we hear that:
Oh most gracious Izonebe, land of the beautiful morning
adorned with bounteous soils I think the sounds of rushing
waters and your serenity from day to night and night back
into day. The joy of our people, I eagerly await the day of
your liberation Oh Ijaw nation! I patiently wait solemnly.
(Dorgu pg 2)
The people are very appreciative of having been adorned by some of these beautiful natural
elements with bounteous soil underneath. Still going down, the poet channels his energy in
thinking of the rushing waters and green lofty mountains which he says are not always a
common sight in other places. In stanza two, he continues thus:
Oh thou beautiful Ijo, home of tradition of truth cultured
activities have all the children of your youth engaged,
you are similar to a virtuous wife,
for you are truly a mother of many.
In you the martime merchants amass stacks of ancient wealth
How we long for the day of your emancipation.
Oh land of the most precious ‘Black Gold’-crude oil
May your true day be independence come in no distant time.
Ise (Dorgu, pg 3)
In this stanza, the poet keeps extolling the environment by calling her a home of tradition and
truth. He also takes a look at the wonderful cultural part of the environment and likens the
environment to a virtuous wife. We should bear in mind that the person who talks about all these
does not do it because he is unaware of all the wrong doings in the society but because he has
knowledge of the fact that something is wrong. In the last line of stanza two, he talks about a day
of true independence coming soon just as the last line in stanza one talks about the day of
Having analyzed some riverine poems, the study shows that the environment is an important fact
that is always seen in the work of a writer. The environment is one factor that always appears in
the work of a writer, but in riverine works, we see it more in plays and poems than in other forms
of writing. As stated earlier, the environmental problems are very peculiar to them and they
consciously or subconsciously have them reflected in their works because when a house is on
fire, it is very difficult to conceal the danger because the smoke always moves upwards. Just as
we have also stated before, such environment problems peculiar to those in the riverine areas are
usually problems of land, water and air pollution. Water pollution, environmental degradation,
release of various harmful and toxic compounds into the air and fire outbreaks as a result of
gaseous compounds released into the air are common occurrences in literary discourse. In most
of the works, we see them pleading to those who are the perpetrators of these crimes, including
the federal government, the oil companies and even the traditional rulers who collect huge sums
of money in order to allow these crimes against both the environment and humanity.
Finally, we can see that the environment always goes hand in hand with the work and no matter
how concealed, there would always be fragmentation of the environmental issues of a particular
place where a work is produced.
Akpobibibo, Onchiku (2001) Environmental Conflict: the case of Niger Delta. A paper presented
at the forthnighty programme of the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford
United Kingdom.
Bestman, A. M. (1998) Textures of Dawn (Ile-Ife: Obafemi Awolowo University Press).
Clark, J. P. (1981) “Streamside Exchange”, A decade of Tongues: selected poems 1958-1968
(London: Longman Group Limited).
Ikiriko, 1. (2000) Oily Tears of the Delta (Lagos: Kraft Books).
Ojaide, T. (1986) Labyrinths of the Delta (New York: Greenfield Review Press).
______ (1996) Poetic Imagination in Black Africa: Essays on African Poetry (Durham: Carolina
Academic Press).
Bassey, M. “we thought it was oil, but it was blood”
http//www.nigerdeltancongress.com./articles/tackling the niger delta
Bodunde, C. Tanure Ojaide’s poetry and the delta landscape: “a study of delta blues and home
songs” in Okome, Onookome (ed). Bayreuth African Studies
Udeozo, O. (2008). Fab Education Books. Jos, Nigeria
Ukeje, C. (2008). Oil and violent conflicts in the Niger Delta. Ileife: Obafemi Awolowo
University Press
Verissimo, J. (2005) “The Raped” htt//ww.africanwriters.com/authors
Nwoma, R (2003) An Ecocentrical study of climate change in Achebes Things Full Apart. A Ph.
D Proposal presented to the Department of English and Literary Studies, University of
Nigeria, Nsukka.
Department of Theatre and Film Studies,
University of Nigeria, Nsukka
[email protected]
The controversy over how appropriately the Nigerian dramatist can convey his cultural
experience and narrative to his audience through the conduit of an imported language burdened
with its alien set of conventions, syntax and structure has engaged many Nigerian anthropological
and literary scholars for some time now. How a particular society perceives a character presented
by the narrator depends largely on how a parallel line connecting that character to the peculiar
qualities, personalities or situation in that society can be well drawn by the folk dramatist.
Language and communication are essential features of drama and in the retelling of these folk
stories, performers indirectly become language teachers to their audience, and assist them to relearn it. The functional theory of folk theatre which makes it a source of vital information about
the culture of the Nigeria society, and trainer of enhanced language skills, has been ignored.
Presently, folktales are fast disappearing from the life of the average Nigerian family as people
face new modes and foreign languages of entertainment. People have lost the enduring lessons of
our folktale tradition. Government has disregarded the need to pass on indigenous language
inherited from the ancestors to their offspring. Indigenous language needs to evolve to take on the
challenge of foreign languages. The article examines the measures to be adopted to breach this
language divide and salvage this situation.
Before you, mother Idoto
Naked I stand
Before your watery presence, a prodigal
Leaning on an oil bean
Lost on your legend (Donatus Nwoga 801)
In every society where drama exists, there have been antecedents in the form of rituals, songs,
festivals or folklores. The folklore which serves as a basis for the folk theatre is usually transmitted
orally from generation to generation but can be diffused through culture and converted to written
literature. Folk theatre plots evolve from folklores altered by the narrator in the course of
enactment. Dramas, Nigerian dramas inclusive, have certain elements in common. All of them are
concerned with telling a story in simple or complicated, obscure or explicit manner arranged in a
plot reflecting elements of characterization, language, songs, dance, setting, episodes, and events
fashioned in an arranged sequence to impact maximally in the strongest possible way on an
audience. The concept of aesthetic distance is broken in folk theatre performances which rather
aspire for as much intimate proximity as possible with the audience. Austin Anigala describes the
storyteller in traditional African performance as “a raconteur or narrator who tells stories
artistically created or by those drawn from the reservoir of folktales within a given community”
(Sam Ukala, 129).
The above poem by Christopher Okigbo captioned, ‘Mother Idoto’, parallels the evocative
imagery African folk theatre can elicit in the minds of its ‘initiated’ audience. Folkism, as a critical
literary tool imports a tendency to base plays on African history and culture and compose them to
suit the aesthetic laws of folk theatre. It is primarily fashioned to project moral issues. Nigeria has
a rich heritage of folktales which are usually recounted by the elderly to children in the forecourt at
The controversy over how appropriately the Nigerian dramatist can convey this cultural
experience and narrative to his local audience through the conduit of an imported language
burdened with its alien set of conventions, syntax and structure is an issue that has concerned many
Nigerian anthropological, linguistic and literary scholars. It is important to identify ways to
improve the use of language in dramatic narratives especially folk theatre which is ethnic in nature.
Training of dramatists and performers in indigenous language use is essential as the importance of
cultural awareness can not be overstressed in constructing a community’s identity. Native language
is a prerequisite for individual identity and authenticity. What is required is the adaption of these
ethnic languages to modern linguistic forms that will make them more attractive to creative artists.
Indeed many Nigeria playwrights have made efforts towards the dislocation of language or
at least the introduction of novelty in its application with an aim towards revealing the underlying
surface meanings and motivations of folk theatre characters. According to John McGrath, language
is a set of symbols used in a common and uniform way by a number of people who are thus able to
manipulate these symbols for the purpose of communication. How a particular society will
perceive a character or role presented by the folk dramatist is determined largely by how a parallel
line connecting that character to the peculiar qualities, personalities or situation in that society can
be well drawn by the interpreters of the dramatic piece for, in this case the Nigerian audience.
The use of the dramatic medium as a means of documentation and propagation of
ideologies with an aim towards controlling the conscience of man in the society has been noted by
several Nigerian scholars notably Femi Osofisan, J.P. Clark, Ola Rotimi, Wole Soyinka etc. Each
particular society creates its own peculiar heroes and morals. The major challenge for the folk
theater and indigenous language used in its staging has been the massive onslaught of the western
theatre which has popularized, western slangs, dressing, provocative sexual themes and pervasive
characters to the disadvantage of our local theatre which faces audience distaste of its indigenous
elements. Akin Euba recognizing the imminent denigration of our indigenous arts and culture
laments that “the arts and general culture of Europe are powerfully beamed to Africa and there are
inadequate channels whereby Africans could beam back and with equal force their own
interpretation of African arts and culture” (8). As Sam Ukala states in his University of Hull, UK,
1994 lecture: “the African Folktale is not Prose; It exists only in performance before a live
audience. It therefore entails dramatic phraseology, pleasant to speak and to hear… (171)
Alvin Kernan, reflecting on the essential nature of theatre states that: “though we tend to
think of the theatre as being necessary and common, a part of culture, as an architecture style or a
religion, we must seek in the historical circumstances of the people involved, some unique factor
that led them to express themselves fully and greatly in drama (3). Language is an essential tool of
the folk theatre performer’s art and how skillfully he manipulates this verbal means of
communication is what will determine the success of his performance. In recent times, the ethnic
language or oral tradition of these folk dramas has been largely abandoned and the English
language adopted as a replacement. This faux pas is largely occasioned by the intention to market
the play beyond its local setting to a wider audience. This largely undocumented severance has
robbed these dramas which rightfully serve as culturing agents for progenies of a heritage minded
In every society where drama exists, there have been antecedents. These antecedents can be
in the form of rituals, songs festivals or folklores. These vibrant theatre forms invariably lend to
the establishment of a unique cultural identity of the host society they exist in. A folktale according
to the Encarta Encyclopaedia “is a term for the verbal, spiritual and material aspects of any culture
transmitted orally by observation, or imitation”. The word ‘folklore’, was coined in 1846 by the
Englishman, William John Thomas, to replace the term ‘popular antiquities’. The opening of an
African folktale performance is expected to arouse the audience and introduce the subject matter
and characters of the story. Sam Ukala defines folkism “as the tendency to base literary plays in
the history, culture and concerns of the folk (people in general) and to compose and perform them
in accordance with African conventions for composing and performing the folktale (285).
According to him:
the African folktale may be defined as any traditional narrative which is purely fictional
or based on factual history which has however been so embellished and distorted that it
cannot be faithfully subjected to any empirical proof of verification. By this definition,
the epic, legend, myth, novella, marchen, saga, sage, animal tale, table anecdote, and
the hero tale are folktales (171).
People sharing a particular culture may have in common an occupation, language, ethnicity or
geographical location. This body of material is preserved and passed on from generation to
generation with constant variations made to the folklore due to influence of memory, immediate
need, or intention of narrator and degree of narrator’s tale is then conveyed to the audience in a
language which might be indigenous or western, or modified to suit the taste of the specific
There is a fascinating relationship between a society’s indigenous language and its ethnic
identity. The cultural language of a society plays a prominent part in both revealing a person’s
ethnicity and helping to form it. Virtually all the popular drama performances on the private and
national media are presented in foreign languages, notably English. This malaise is marked by
scriptwriters and producers obvious thorough non-mastery of native languages or the lazy excuse
that ‘the larger audience would not understand the performance’ in such a local linguistic mode.
This ailment is most evident in the South eastern part of the country as the South western part still
retains their love and appreciation of the Yoruba dialect and artistic value. The formal study of
folklores began about 300 years ago. One of the earliest books which focused on the subject was
Treatise on Superstitions written in 1679 by the French satirist, Jean Baptiste Thiers. However, in
the early nineteenth century, great interest in folktales was created in the publication of household
tales by the German philologists, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Their works stimulated writers of
other nations to publish and retell similar materials of their own peoples.
In Nigeria, literature writers in the prose genre have popularized the folk art in works of life
like The Palm Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola, Omenuko by Pita Nwana, to name but a few. In
the theatre, such works by Odunke Artist who wrote the Igbo play, Ojaadili, Akpakaland written
by Sam Ukala, and The Dragon’s Funeral by Emeka Nwabueze have embellished the lure and
permanence of folk theatre in the annals of our nation’s history. These works by Nigerian writers
have been written in English or indigenous language with a sole aim of conveying a desired
message to the audience. In Igbo folk telling for example, language can be conveyed through non
oral means to reduce the risk of a message intended for the audience being too complex and the
listener inadvertently misunderstanding the message. Since the narrator is face to face with the
audience he takes the opportunity to utilize the intimate and immediacy attribute of the folk
theatre, get a feedback from the audience and clarify what the audience does not understand.
The folk theatre is a form of art that utilizes the oral medium to capture the culture,
emotions, and aspirations of the Nigerian community. It emphasizes a narrative dramatization and
manifests in different ways which include, but are not limited to, moonlight folktales, festival
songs, masquerade performances, proverbs, sect incantations etc. The folk theatre performance
demands a considerable dexterity, imagination, training, artistic grasp of audience, practice and
public relations management. As Allwell Ohukaogu and Onyerionwu state in their book 21st
century Nigerian Literature:
The Nigerian society has always been a storytelling one. In all the ethnic groups that
make up the Nigerian nation, and among all her peoples, in spite of how culturally
varied, tales of different volumes, shapes, subject matter, audience orientation and
performative patterns have occupied a special position in the traditional literature of
the Nigerian people. (71)
A folk tale is in this sense a traditional narrative popularly regarded as historically factual but
actually a mixture of fact and fiction.
From an African perspective, what a modem novelist, short story writer or playwright does
today is not too different from what bards and court clowns of traditional African societies did in
the past, and this is why Nigerian Playwrights like Sam Ukala, Hubert Ogunde, Duro Ladipo, J.P.
Clark etc. have written plays that are sometimes a retelling of folk stories which many Nigerians
are already aware of, for example Sam Ukala’s The Slave Wife. Folklore materials may be
classified into four areas;
Ideas and Beliefs, which might reflect magic, sorcery or divination artistry.
Traditions, which might include festivals, rituals etc.
Folk sayings, proverbs, riddles etc. and,
Narratives which contain music and ballads.
From the review of the folk theatre repertoire it can be adduced that the subject matter of folklore
is usually a hero with historic personage. Folk theatre dramas are usually culled from folklores
which are altered by the narrator in the course of enactment. The folklore which serves as a basis
for the folk theatre is usually transmitted orally from generation to generation but can be diffused
through culture and converted to written literature.
In a folk theatre performance, the staging is usually informal, utilizing a theatre in the
round arena with scanty scenery, lighting or elaborate costuming, except in some cases involving
miming of animals in which instance the narrator might utilize selective realism in the use of
props, and acting style. As Isidore Okpewho states:
By now it should be clear that in a typical African oral narrative performance, the
audience is a force to be reckoned with and that to a large extent he is a lucky performer
who can count on the empathy and co-operation of an audience of this kind. Without this
prop to the narrator’s efforts, the performance is quite likely to be a rather dull affair not
only for the audience but more especially for the narrator himself. (69)
The above statement therefore stipulates that the narrator must be a crowd psychologist and
connoisseur of the audience’s tastes which he can manipulate and engineer to his own designs. As
Meki Nzewi opines that: “the audience has already been identified as active participants at their
own level in the design and plotting of the scenario, its dramatic locations and dramatic interaction.
A few instances of their structural relevance to both the development of the drama and the
extempore elaboration of the artistic spectrum of the sequences will be illuminating (448).
The folk theatrician doesn’t see art as life or the duplication of life but believes that in art it
is not the outward appearance but the idea that should be revealed by a right utilization of natural
forms. The Romantic nature of the folk theatre prescribes that it must be anti realist in its approach
as Edwin Duerr explains thus:
A strictly historical production of one of the so called historical plays by Schiller or
Shakespeare does not by any means interpret it because neither Schiller nor Shakespeare
intended to reproduce mere history but took a historical subject as a means to express
their own ideas on life and history. They gave their own interpretations of historical
characters which they often placed in un-historical circumstances (368)
The popularity of the children theatre series: NTA’s Story Land, anchored by Jimi Solanke and
Tales by Moonlight anchored by Mrs Ezeora presents an enduring legacy which the influence the
folk theatre has exerted in the cultural appreciation of the Nigerian society yet the above
mentioned shows were mostly composed in English language with indigenous language only
appearing during the chorus sequences. It is pertinent to observe that these indigenous languages
appear during choral recitation segments when they are used to echo the moral of the story and
reinforce the message. As Onukaogu observes: “Nigerian oral societies had prose forms with
enough artistic balance and imaginative depth which helped develop the written forms of today.
While the modern short story can be linked to the folktale, the fable or the fairy tale, the novel can
be linked to the epic” (73).
Drama being the most presentational of literary genres, utilizes its performance nature to
reach the audience. Because every member of the audience is part of the culture which produced
the art and the artist, he/she is aware of the direction the artist is going and can adjudge whether
the artist has got it right or wrong. This is what gives the folk theatre its immediate audience
feedback feature.
Language is a principal means used by human beings to communicate with each other.
Language is primarily spoken but can be transferred to other media such as writing. It can manifest
in folktales in visual forms different from the aural sort in its symbolizations. Language has always
been an essential feature of drama as Robert Edmund Jones recalls in this account of the birth of
Ook and Pow and Glub and little Zowie and all the rest are sitting close together around
the fire… They have killed a lion today. Suddenly the leader jumps to his feet. ‘I killed
the lion! I did it! I followed him! He sprang at me! I struck him with my spear! You
Ook, you stand up and be the lion. Ook gets up. He hangs the lion’s skin over his
shoulders, he drops on his hands and knees and growls. He isn’t the real lion! We know
that. And yet in some mysterious way, Ook is the lion. Ook is an actor. He will always
be different from the rest of us… for he can summon spirits. (46-48)
Language can be used to discuss a wide range of topics. It varies from geographical location to
ethnic delineation, and the language acquisition varies from society to society, family to family, by
genetic or social division. The language development process analyses the advent of verbal
communication in the animal kingdom or the life of a child. As Richard Schechner states:
The phenomena called either/all ‘drama; ‘theatre; performance occur among all the
world’s peoples and date back as far as historians, and anthropologists can go.
Evidence indicates that dancing, singing, wearing masks and/or costumes, impersonating other humans, animals or supernatural, acting out stories… are coexistent with the human condition (68)
The proper language that will describe the experience of the African in his culture has been a
source of concern for African literary scholars for some time now. To this end, playwrights and
performers have used the English language in a manner that conveys meaning without distorting
the uniqueness of our cultural situation, or the intelligibility of language. Such adaptations have
made use of informal English language, or pidgin, interspersed with indigenous language and
symbolic acting to enhance audience understanding. There has been a preponderance of
imaginative and creative expressions in a language that is discernibly Nigerian culture flavored.
In the retelling of these folk stories, folk theatre performers have indirectly become
language teachers to their audience, helping them relearn their language through choral chants, as
well as becoming custodians of the peoples heritage in their possession of these indigenous
language that are fast becoming extinct. Language being a form of ritualized behaviour extends
across the entire range of human action. The folk theatre art through the use of language may then
be considered a specific coordinator of play and ritual. As Isidore Okpewho says, “in my
translations of heroic narratives I have myself collected…I have not hesitated to feel that there is a
poetic aura, indeed a touch of elevation surrounding the tales which are clearly marked by a certain
sense of remove from contemporary reality” (114).
EKWEDIKE: Akuko a oburukwa m gbapuru gi afo a! (twice)
(This story if I ever mis-tell you)
WOMEN: (chorusing) Nda!
EKWEDIKE: Ndikwa m n’bo(twice)
(May I fall into the pit)
WOMEN: Nda! (twice)
EKWEDIKE: M’obughi m gbapuru gi afo a (twice)
(But if I don’t mis-tell you!)
WOMEN: Nda (twice)
EKWEDIKE: M fekwa m n’bo(twice)
(May I cross over the pit)
WOMEN: Nda! (twice)
EKWEDIKE: Akuko lee! (Story time is here)
WOMEN: (chorusing) Akuko obodo lee
Agu lee, ejije a wu nke nta
O jiri ekete kuru mmiri
(The story of our own)
(The drama is light)
(If I fetch water with a basket)
Ndikwam n’bo
(May I fal into the pit)
(The Dragon’s Funeral, 8-9)
The folk theatre performance usually opens with a chant by the narrator which is replied by the
audience as recorded in the above plays of Sam Ukala’s Akpakaland and Emeka Nwabueze’s
Dragon’s funeral. The closing of the narrative is signaled by the narrator’s affirmation of morals in
the tale and response of the audience to the introductory chant or audience’s applause. The artist in
teaching or singing about moral vices in his performance contributes his own quota to the
development of his society.
The theatre as Gordon Craig views it “should not be a place to exhibit scenery, it should be
a place in which the entire beauty of life can unfold in the inner beauty and meaning of life
(Kenneth MacGowan, 437). The folk theatre has quite extensive romantic features in its poetic
language, exotic imagery of setting and unconcern for proper detailing of character. As John
Gassner rightly notes,
“the first idea of modern theatre and the one that is still dominant and most productive
although also conducive to some anarchy, is the idea of freedom. Under the influence
of romanticism, the theatre became an open rather then a closed, strictly conventionalized art. Romanticism introduced the principles of flexibility, adaptation of form to
content, and intellectual and artistic independence” (7).
Any country serious about its development must develop its literature and cultural traditions. This
national style must go hand in hand with receptiveness to the lessons of foreign literature so as to
broaden its vision and overcome existing shortcomings. That folk or indigenous theatre in Nigeria
has experienced massive problems from western theatre which has led it alarmingly close to the
edge of the precipice of decline is a fact noted by dramatists like Ahmed Yerima who says in an
interview he granted Ezechi Onyerionwu which was published in Sunday Vanguard of January 4,
2009 “the decline in the theatre going tendency in Nigeria is certainly one of the challenges we are
facing ... I think the challenge of the home movie, the relative safely of watching the movie at
home and then the lack of security all over the country in terms of leaving home at certain periods
of the day and getting back home safely, have all contributed to the challenge” (47-49).
The folk theatre has, inadvertently, contributed to its own demise in contemporary times by
its inability to evolve native language to reach its original target audience, and address through its
themes pressing topical issues like corruption, H.I.V, human trafficking etc. It indulges in fantasy
narratives of fables and unrealistic heroic personages. A cross section of the Nigeria public doesn’t
seem to take this type of theatre because of its prescriptive moral tone. The functional theory of
folk theatre which makes it a school for the young, a source of vital information about the culture
of the Nigeria society, and trainer of enhanced language skills, has been largely ignored in
preference of the highly sophisticated western theatre and fashionable foreign language.
As Nigeria works on the reform agenda to make life worth while, its people must build the
agenda and inculcate a sense of cultural renaissance that will draw from the wisdom and synergy
of folktales to produce well wounded citizens. The participatory democracy of folk theatre
provides a shining example to government how best it can work with its citizens/audience to create
an imaginative performance. As Emeka Otagburagu rightly says, “no folktale is without a lesson.
Today folktales are fast disappearing from the life of the average Nigerian family as people face
the new mode of entertainment... People have lost the enduring lessons in our folktale
tradition”(5). The time to arrest this ugly trend is now, so that our native language will not be lost
to the foreign winds of change. Folk theatre is a very unique way to improve communication
which is integral in any communal setting. Cultural and linguistic competency is essential for the
advancement of any nation. Our society is gradually pushing aside the need to pass on our native
language and this is a dangerous trend that must be checked. It is worthwhile to review the
comment of W.H. Low: “the wisdom of the Roman republic in their veneration for customs was
perhaps the cause of their long continuance and of the virtues of which they set the world so many
examples (401)
Asagba, Austin
Sam Ukala: His Works at Sixty. Ibadan: Kraft Books,2007.
Coffin, Tristam P. “Folktales”.Microsoft Student Encarta 2008(DVD) Redmond, Microsoft
Duerr, Edwin. The Length and Depth of Acting. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston Inc,1965.
Euba, Akin “Cultural Relations between Black Africans and Western Europe”in New Culture.
.Demas Nwoko ed. Ibadan:New Culture Studio, 1983.
Gassner, John. Directions in Modern Theatre and Drama. New York: Holt, Rinehart and
Kernan, Alvin. The Modern American Theatre. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall,1967.
Low,W.H. and G. E. Hollingworth. Matriculation English Course. London: University Tutorial
Press, 1950
Nwabueze, Emeka. The Dragon’s Funeral. Enugu: Abic books Ltd., 2005
Nwoga, Donatus. West African Verse. Essex: Longman Publishers,1985
Okpewho, Isidore. The Oral Performance in Africa. Ibadan: Spectrum Books,1990
Onukaogu, Allwell and Ezechi Onyerionwu 21st Century Nigerian Literature, an Introductory
Text. Ibadan: Kraft Books,2009.
Otagburuagu,Emeka J. Udaram and Other Stories. Enugu: Benak Publishers,2007
Performance Theory. New York: Routledge Publishers,1988
Ukala, Sam.
African Theatre: Beast of No Gender? 13th Inaugural Lecture of Delta State
University, Abraka, Nigeria, 2006
From Folk to Popular Literary Theatre: a Study in Theory and Practice.
Ph.D . Diss. University of Ibadan, 1986.
Department of History and Diplomatic Studies,
Federal University Wukari, Taraba State, Nigeria.
A modest acquaintance with the history of colonialism in Nigeria will
show that from the onset it had provoked resistance from the citizens.
Colonialism nullified dissent and political freedom hence it aroused
attack from not just the politicians but also trade unionists who
remained steadfast and unbowed all through the period it lasted. The
various labour crises during our period of study, though economic in
outlook had some political undertone; a rejection of the colonial
system .The Trade Union Ordinance was one of the measures employed
by the colonial authorities to whittle labour from de-colonization
process. Labour leaders were also incarcerated to intimidate them
from joining forces with the nationalist movement. Although there is a
growing literature on labour movement, it does not seem to have
sufficiently addressed labour’s role towards the attainment of
independence. This paper intends not only to interrogate such a role
but to also put it in historical perspective so as to fill the noticed gap.
Since the topic cuts across other disciplines such as political science,
economics, sociology, public administration etc, the paper used inter –
disciplinary approach for self-enrichment. It affirms that there was a
synergy between nationalists and labour which gave rise to
independence in 1960. It also avers that while the 1945 General Strike
sowed the seed of labour independence struggle the blood of the
colliery workers stain in 1949 watered it into fruition .From 1945
through 1960 witnessed a combative nationalism and aggressive
labour activism which wrestled power from the colonial rulers on
October 1, 1960.
Labour unionism, as it is known today in Nigeria, was not evidenced before 1912.
However, there were isolated organisations or guilds of craftsmen in various empires and
kingdoms that were later to coalesce into the Nigerian nation. With the colonization of Nigeria
in 1900, the colonial rulers introduced far-reaching innovations that would encourage the
emergence of a functional labour force in the country. The monetization of the economy created
the irresistible need for wage employment amongst the citizens who initially did not to make
careers out of the ‘Whiteman’s job’ – oru oyibo. The introduction of capitalist monopoly firms
and the tax policy of the Colonial Government with emphasis on raw cash dragged Nigerians to
wage labour. Members of the emergent labour force were forced to form unions so as to
protect , promote and defend their collective interests in the face of unbridled exploitation by
their expatriate employers. In the opinion of S.O. Osoba, ‘‘one of the major manifestations of
the disruptive and destabilising influences of colonial rule was the emergence of some form
of working class movement nurtured on grievances and discontent’’1. It is possible that Nigeria
workers were drawn and incorporated into the political economy essentially not for their benefits
but for those of the metropolitan government. This created a class of men who owned neither
property nor means of production and therefore relied on the sale of their labour power for
survival. This created a scenario where the government was seen to represent the oppressors –
the capitalists, and labour the oppressed. By and large, this appears to afford a striking
confirmation that both bourgeois and the state were bound by common interest of exploiting the
working class which inspires the resistance option of the latter. The paper will hopefully enrich
our store of knowledge of the contributions of labour in partnership with the nationalists in
dismantling, colonial role in Nigeria.
It may be pertinent to start by defining labour so as to establish a firm grasp of the
discourse of this paper. The term labour union has deservedly elicited divergent definitions as no
one applies to all societies across time and space. For instance, Collins Modern Encyclopaedia
has defined it as ‘‘an association of employees in a particular trade, formed principally for
purpose of collective bargaining over terms of employment and conditions of work’’2.
R.B.Davison appears to agree with this when he states that ‘‘trade unions are organisations of
workers designed to improve the working conditions of their members’’3. Emeka Wogu , the
current Minister of Labour and Productivity defines the term as “workers who supply their
mental, physical and other innate abilities in exchange for wages and other benefits’’. 4 In the
Nigerian context, these definitions appear narrow just as that of F.Adewunmi which opines that
‘‘trade unionism is an investment in the strength of the collectivity as against the weakness ,
if not the vulnerability of the individual’’5. To this paper, labour is an umbrella body of working
class people formed to protect, promote, defend and extend socio - economic and political
interests of its membership and those of the larger society.
The role of labour in the political process the world over has been a subject of debate
between the Marxists and the non-Marxists who view such from different ideological prisms.
The former believe that labour possesses an enormous political potential to remain apolitical as
suggested by the latter which sees the role of labour as not only non-political but productive both
in time and space. This is contrary to the view that man is more productive in an atmosphere of
political freedom. Owing to labour’s strategic location in Nigeria’s economy, the colonial
administration wanted it shielded from the ‘dissonant’ voices of the nationalists. However, it was
difficult to confine labour unions’ activism to economic realm only because the colonial
government’s attitude towards them was more political than economic. Furthermore, the
economic woes of labour membership were believed to be a direct consequence of the political
domination of Nigeria by the colonial rulers. Aristotle’s assertion that ‘man is a political animal’
would appear to have incensed the political consciousness of the workers all the more. Labour’s
involvement in the anti-colonial struggles to end the system’s racial prejudice, deprivations and
domination is, therefore, justifiable. This is because there existed organic linkage between
labour’s welfare and political freedom hence it synergized with the nationalists to bring
colonialism to a richly deserved end in 1960.
The Colonial Government seems to have viewed the formation of labour unions in
Nigeria with considerable disapproval as their activities were likely to destabilize the
system. The enactment of the Trade Union Ordinance of 1938 which legalised the multiplicity of
mushroom trade unions was probably to play one union off against another. It can further be
asserted that ‘‘the ordinance was to enhance the separation of trade union activities from politics
of nationalism and Pan-Africanism’’6. It can, therefore, be said that the ordinance was no more
than a counterplot to dissuade labour from using its mass appeal in support of the nationalist
However, the post-Second World War economic hardship and the exploitative tendencies
of the colonial government seemed to have stimulated the growing consciousness about unity
among the three existing labour fronts –the Nigeria Civil Service Union (NCSU), the Nigeria
Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Railway Workers’ Union (RWU). It should be recalled that
the NCSU, an offshoot of the Southern Nigeria Civil Service Union founded by Henry Libertin
1912, came into being in 1914 following the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern
Protectorates , while the NUT and the RWU were formed in 1931 and 1932, respectively.
Having developed some degree of consciousness, visible efforts were made by the labour leaders
to forge one formidable
central labour front to co-ordinate the activities of the movement. It
was in the Trade Union Congress formed by 1942 that the NSCU, NUT and RWU sunk their
Hitherto, the NUT having drawn its membership from mission school seemed
opposed to the material things of this world and was therefore less militant and less-vibrant. This
new position of the NUT was all the more surprising because teachers had earlier been
“anaesthetised into accepting that it was godliness working without caring for gain and the
greatest good of a labourer was storing up rewards only in heaven”7.
In what appears to be a reaction to this development, Osoba persuasively argued that
‘‘a number of factions combined from the beginning of the 1940s to change drastically the
tenor and tempo of trade union activity from the timid, almost laissez-faire passivity of the
earlier decades to the combative uncompressing style of the 1940s onwards’’8 .Put differently,
the attitude of both the colonial government and the expatriate firms to the Nigerian worker
would seem to have stirred up the revolt instinct in the latter. According to E.E. Urieghara, ‘‘the
worker had to
face , and so
reacted and fought against
not only unjust
unemployment conditions but also against foreign rule, foreign employers and sometimes racial
discrimination’’9. It has further been argued that “the interest of organised labour in the decolonization politics was rather predicated on the belief that the expulsion of foreign rule was a
necessity since workers had come to view their low wages , poor working conditions and
indignities at the hand of white employers both public and private , as arising directly from the
colonial situation’’10.
The nature of role of labour in the Nigeria is predicated on the historical experience and
political culture. Its colonial experience would seem to have greatly influenced labour activism
in Nigeria. The colonial authorities in Nigeria as elsewhere, saw labour not just as an instrument
but also an object of exploitation. Such a development appears to have created a mutual feeling
of separation and distrust between the two groups of people. W.Oyemakinde, probably in
reaction to these frosty government –labour relations observed that ‘‘the former reads subversion
into the conduct of the latter and the former is suspected of economic expolitation’’11
The post World war years provided a litmus test for the government –labour interface.
The war unleashed spiral inflation as a result of which the real wages of workers fell. This
development not only emphasized the distinction between the white employers and the black
employees but also appeared to have sharpened the combative instinct of the
latter. The
Nigerian workers’ demand for enhanced wages and salaries euphemistically referred to as the
cost of living allowance (COLA) provided the casus belli for the 1945 strike. While the Colonial
Government reviewed upwards the pay packet of white employees, it treated ‘‘the COLA
demand as a Lagos agitation and not a Nigerian problem’’12. With the government failure to
address the COLA demand, the RWU under the leadership of a young radical, daring apprentice
turner M.A.O.Imoudu successfully spearheaded a nation-wide strike on June 21, 1945.
The 45 -day strike paralysed the economy and also marked the beginning of the end of
the structures of the colonial government. In other words, the strike gave a far- reaching flip to
political activism of the nationalists. It has been argued that it ‘‘had a collateral impact on the
anti-colonial struggles of the forties and fifties. The subsequent trial and conviction of the
leaders of the strike invested them with a halo of martyrdom, turning them into heroes in the
popular mind and providing further rallying point for nationalist struggles of the period’’13. The
struggle to actualise the COLA can be said to have fed into the popular agitation of the
nationalist politicians as well as general discontent against the colonial authorities. E. Isichei, in
her own contribution, argues that “… the General Strike of 1945 gave force to the demands of
the nationalist movement”14. It may, therefore, be permissible to assert that the 1945 labour
strike played a vital role in the mobilization and awakening of combative consciousness of
Nigerians against colonial rule.
The resounding success of the strike would appear to have reinforced the general belief
that concerted pressure was capable of dismantling colonial rule in Nigeria. This development
engendered some sort of alliance between labour and the nationalist political parties which had
come to link mass sufferings and deprivations with the colonial system of exploitation. Reacting
to this, T.Fashoyin observed that ‘‘the relationship between political parties and workers’ union
during the colonial period was considerable’’15. The overt support of the West African Pilot and
the Daily Comet –the two media organs of the nationalist politicians to the workers’ cause all
the more strengthened their anti-colonial posture. It is not unlikely that this development drew
some radical and militant unionists like Imoudu and Gogo Chu Nzeribe into the membership of
the National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC).
On the other hand, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the leaders of the Action Group (AG) is
said to have cut his political teeth in the Trade Union Movement where he served as the
secretary/editor of The Nigerian Workers, the official media outfit of the Trade Union Congress16
The influence of the more leftist parties-the NCNC, the AG, and the Northern Elements
Progressive Union (NEPU) on labour appears overwhelming that ‘‘...most of the member unions
had decided to secede from the TUC if the Congress should sever its connection with the
NCNC’’17. It may, therefore, be plausible to observe that ‘‘this unprecedented mass rebellion
(the General Strike) with unflinching solidarity accentuated the struggle for independence as the
TUCN stood a ready instrument for nationalist movements’’18. It can further be said that the
strike derogated the sacredness of the colonial authorities hereby opening the floodgate of
subsequent activities which weakened the fabric of British rule in Nigeria.
The success of the General Strike of 1945 would appear to have sent a clear signal to the
Colonial Government that workers’ industrial agitations were assuming increasing political
dimensions. In reaction, the colonial administrators came to view any labour’s threat of strike
in furtherance of conditions of employment with suspect . To the colonial government, strikes
were politically motivated to destabilise and dislodge the administration; hence instruments of
violence were often resorted to browbeat the strikers. The colliery workers had been reeling
under harrowing pains of exploitation occasioned by the post- Second World War spiral
inflationary trend. The unheeded miners’ demand for upward review of their emolument left
them with the option of strike. Akpala Agwu has persuasively argued that “workers at the
colliery had learnt to use strikes in buttressing their demands as far back as in the 1920s prior to
the official enactment of the Trade Union Ordinance of 1938’’19.
The emergence of Okwudili Ojiyi and Russell Bracegirdles as the leader and the manager
of the Coal Workers’ Union and the Coal Industry, respectively, seems to have sharpened the
labour-management conflict in the sector. It is to be noted that Ojiyi’s rising profile and richness
of thought as the miners’ leader had become worrisome to the Colliery Management which
sought to deflate same in the interest of the continued exploitation of human and natural
resources of the country. In this regard, the Management used ubiquitous labour policies such as
sackings, black-listing, lock-outs not just to hold down strikes but also to discredit union
representatives. The wanton exploitation perpetrated by the colliery management irked also the
nationalists whose support for the Nigerian workers was perspicuous. It has been noted that ‘‘in
1949 the NCNC demanded for a five shillings minimum wage for the Nigerian workers, a
request which endeared it to the workers’’20.
In furtherance of the demand for better working and living standards, the coal miners
embarked on ‘a sit –down strike’. It has to be pointed out that within the colonialists’ circle,
there was a growing suspicion that strikes in the colonies were no more industrial disputes but
political agitations. However, it would be wrong to believe that, although the miners’ strike was
not instigated by the nationalists, they (miners) were unaware of the ferment of nationalist ideas.
To the British, the use of naked force was not only urgent but also desirable to separate the two.
According to Isichei, “on 18 November 1949, decades of injustice and bad labour relations
reached a bloody finale in what is euphemistically called the Enugu Colliery Shooting incident
when 21 miners were killed and 51 were wounded’’21. Not unnaturally, the shooting incident
attracted condemnation from all the strata of the society. The entire Nigerian populace was
outraged and there followed “a nation-wide furore over this dastardly act perpetrated by the
colonial authorities in Enugu....’’22.
The import of this incident lay not so much in the reforms for the industrial sector
occasioned by it but in the political impact. The whole issue was no longer being seen from
labour perspective but an act perpetrated because of the political domination of Nigeria by
Britain. In consequence, R. Sklar has persuasively argued that ‘‘ no previous event evoked a
manifestation of national consciousness comparable to the indignation generated by this
tragedy.’’23. It has also been noted that ‘‘ tragic as the events at Enugu were, there is a lesson
to be learnt from them which if learnt by the government and the people will not leave that
tragedy as a mere waste of life or a bitter memory’’24. It may be reasonable to assert that that
event revolted the minds of many nationalists and workers and gave impetus to the accelerated
tempo of anti-colonial movement. At this point in time, the shooting incident which was
targeted at nipping the perceived labour unrest in the bud turned out to inspire a political
campaign against colonial rule in general.
The whole episode appears to represent a symbol of Nigerian heroism and opposition
which encouraged labour and nationalist militancy of the 1940s and 1950s. Nduka Eze, one of
the Zikists and a radical labour official, would seem to have captured the mood of the nation in
his persuasive explanation of the situation. He asserted, that ‘‘the radicals and the moderates, the
revolutionaries and the stooges, the bourgeoisie and the workers sank their differences,
remember the word ‘Nigeria’ and rose in revolt against evil and inhumanity’’25. The publicity
given to the incident aroused international condemnation of the dastardly violation of labour
rights in Nigeria.
In Britain, the ruling Labour Party was openly embarrassed and had to face severe
criticisms of both the USA and the Soviet Union which mounted serious pressure on Britain to
quickly dissolve its empire in Africa. Given this, development both ‘‘politicians and nationalists
found a new justification for their
demand for an early termination of the British rule in
Nigeria’’26. It is, therefore, hardly open to doubt that the shooting incident not only vitiated the
already bad labour relations in the colliery but equally destroyed the very goal it was set to
In the face of both local and international criticisms, the colonial authorities were forced
to inaugurate the W. J. Fitzergerald Commission of Enquiry to investigate the labour crisis in the
colliery. It is not surprising that the outcome of the enquiry was no less unfortunate than the
event that gave rise to it .This is because, the result was no more than a formal vindication of the
colliery management. This result notwithstanding, it can be asserted that the use of brute force
against defenceless and helpless workers who, as it were, were using their legitimate instrument
to hanker for better employment conditions showed that the police had the authority of the
colonial rulers.
Frightened by the political impact of labour-nationalist alliance, the colonial rulers took
other measures to hold down the tempo and tenor of independence struggles, for instance, the
subsequent development in the area of the Nigerian Constitution seem to have been directed
to douse
and trim the labour involvement in the
process of the country. The
Macpherson Constitution of 1951 was all in an effort to regionalise both political parties and
labour. Furthermore, the regionalisation policy would appear to have been targeted not just
against the nationalists but also intended to weaken the operational capability of labour whose
leadership was drawn from across the regional lines. In spite of all the British manoeuvres,
events moved rapidly to their logical outcome as “on July 2, 1960, the British Parliament passed
the Nigerian Independence Act of 1960”27. Following this, colonialism was finally dismantled on
October 1, 1960, when Nigeria became an independent and sovereign nation.
The discriminatory attitude of the colonial authorities to Nigerian workers with respect to
their welfare viz-a-viz their white counterparts sharpened the formers combative instinct which
resulted in the 1945 General Strike. The strike, it is interesting to observe, gave a far-reaching
flip to the nationalists’ clamour for independence. It galvanized and conscientized both the
nationalists and citizenry about the exploitation and deprivation occasioned by the colonial
The use of instruments of violence to browbeat labour into docility and submission
backfired no exemplified by the colliery shooting of 1949 nor did sackings, black – listing, lock
– out and never would. The reaction of the colonial government to the miners’ strike was
political hence it drew condemnation not just from the miners but also the politicians as well as
the international community.
The Macpherson Constitution of 1951 which regionalized the country was perhaps the
last effort by the colonial rulers to cling to power in Nigeria. This notwithstanding, their days had
been numbered as the British Parliament gave its nod to Nigeria’s independence a few years
later. Given this, labour’s role in dismantling colonialism can, therefore, be hardly exaggerated.
When in 1912, the first notable labour union -the Southern Nigerian Civil Service UnionSNCSU, was formed, it was but an effete elitist union dominated and controlled by high profile
non-nationals who were pro- establishment, non-combative and non-militant. The 1938 Trade
Union Ordinance intended to regulate and censor labour militancy backfired as it rekindled
the spirit of vibrancy and militancy especially the RWU. The WWII brought about the
revolutionary transformation of both the labour and the nationalist movements in Nigeria. The
dislocation caused by the transition from a war time to a peace time economy and the dashed
aspirations heightened labour militancy. The attendant strike of 1945 led to some sort of
inspiration to the political leaders. It has been argued that “emerging labour union struggles
with the general political struggles has helped labour and opposition groups to exact certain
gains along with general political progress.’’28
It can be said that the nationalist consciousness of Nigeria was stirred up and sustained by
workers especially the Railway men who were more or less itinerant workers. From the Railway
stations, the anti-colonial ferment permeated into the hinterland. The colliery shooting incident,
just like the 1945 strike, set in motion a mighty voice of dissent that not only pervaded the
nationalist movement but did a great harm to colonial rule in Nigeria. According to Gogo Chu
Nzeribe, a one time General Secretary of the Labour Unity Front ‘‘the only real action for
independence came from the trade union movement ’’ 29. It may , therefore, be plausible to assert
that the two events , more than anything else, enormously eroded the foundation of colonialism
in Nigeria and gave impetus to the emergence of radical nationalism which earned the
country independence on October 1,1960.
It is clear from the findings of this paper that one of the areas of disagreement between
labour and colonial government is located in the discrimination of the former by the latter.
Labour should not be shielded from taking active part in the politics of land given the experience
of the colonial era when both the nationalists and labour activists pool their energies, resources
and wit to wrestle power from the colonial rulers. Governance is quite a serious matter to be left
in the hands of politicians whose sense of patriotism is sometimes questionable. Labour because
of its mass appeal can be seen to represent a force to work with rather than suppressed.
The colonial government had the tendency to see itself not just as an employer of labour
but a state wielding the big stick. Because the government had a misconception of its role, it
resorted to coercive instruments, intimidation and other obnoxious policies to short change
labour instead of addressing its grievances.
It is hoped that the work would stir labour into taking a critical self-examination and prod
it to further positive political activism which would serve as a stimulus to future labour activists.
Labour and polities critically examined can provide succinctly the inter-relationship
between the two in Nigeria’s quest for nationhood. Nigeria’s political leadership should partner
with labour for the growth and development of the country rather than sidelining it in the
political process. This is all the more necessary because labour in not just a viable tool for the
implementation of government policy plans but also the vanguard of the agitation for democratic
rule and good governance in Nigeria. It is in this way that participation which is the hallmark of
democracy can be entrenched.
In recent years, the Ministers of Health and Works have had to be drawn from experts in
the field. The same should apply to the Ministry of Employment, Labour and Productivity as a
sure way of facilitating the state – labour relations management which is important for political
It is suggested that occasional interactive fora be organised by the government. The
boardroom dialogue will certainly afford the government an insight into the problems of labour
and create fora for the accommodation of the interests of the party with superior logic.
1. S.O. Osoba, ‘‘The Development of Trade Unionism in Colonial and pre-colonial
Nigeria’’ in I.A.Akinjogbin, et al (eds) Topics on Nigeria Economic and Social History,
(Ile-Ife:Unife Press Ltd ,1980)p.187.
2. Collins Modern Encyclopedia in Colour ;(London:William Collins,1969)p.187.
3. As quoted in E.O.Egboh, ‘‘The Early Years of Trade Unionism in Nigeria ’’in Africa
Quarterly, April/June,1968 8(1) p.61.
4. E.Wogu, Labour and National Development in Nigeria,11th Eni-Njoku Memorial
Lecture, University of Nigeria, Nsukka held on July 20,2012,p21.
5. As quoted in O.D Amuchaezi et al, The Judiciary, Politics &Constitutional Democracy
in Nigeria,(1999-2007),(Enugu:Snaap Press Ltd,2008)p.266.
6. R.K.Attahir Labour and Politics: ‘‘Nigerian Proletarian Experience in Democratic
Dispensation’’ in O.Omoruyi et al (eds) Democratisation in Africa:Nigeria Perspectives,
Vol.2.(Benin City:Hima &Hima Ltd,1994)p.132.
7. O. Osanyintolu, Report presented to NUT’s 47th Conference held at the Auditorium of the
University of Benin, Benin City, 18 – 21 March, 1984, p. 13.
8. Osoba... p.196.
9. E.E.Urieghara, Trade Union Law in Nigeria,(Benin city:Ethiope Publishing Corportaion ,
10. F.Adewunmi, “Organised Labour and the Democratisation Process in Nigeria’’ in
O.Omoruyi et al (eds) Democratisation in Africa ....p.166 (see also E. Toyo, “Labour
Movement and Advanced to Democracy in Nigeria” in O.E. Uya (ed) Civil Society and
the Consolidation of Democracy in Nigeria; Ibadan: Daydis Ltd, 2008) p. 157
11. W.Oyemakinde, The Nigerian General Strike of 1945’’ in the Journal of Historical
Society of Nigeria, Vol.VII No 4, 1975, p.693.
12. W. Ananaba, The Trade Union Movement in Nigeria ,(Benin City:Ethiope Publishing
Corporation, 1966) p.47
13. Amuchaezi et al....pp265-6’
14. E. Isichei, History of West Africa since 1800, (London: Macmillan Education Ltd, 1978)
p. 318
15. T.Fashoyin, ‘‘The Origin and Growth of Trade Unionism’’ in G.O.Ogunremi et al (eds)
Economic History of West Africa;(Lagos: First Academic Publishers,1996)p.201
16. See Osoba.... p.199.
17. As quoted in Ananaba....p.91
18. As quoted in D.G. Omotor, ‘‘Labour Crisis and the Nigerian Economy’’ in
A.B.Agbadudu (ed) Benin Journal of Social Sciences, Vol.12,Dec.2003, p.40.
19. A.Agwu, ‘‘The Background
of the Enugu Colliery Shooting Incident in 1949’’ in
Journal of Historical Society of Nigeria, Vol .3, No 2, 1965, p.348
20. Attahir,....p.134
21. E.Isichai, A History of Igbo People,( London :Macmillian Press, 1974)p.204.
22. Osoba....p.202.
23. R.Sklar, Nigerian Political Parties Power in an Emergent African Nation, (Enugu:NOK
Publishers,1963) p.77 (see also Toyo….pp 159-60)
24. See also E.Toyo, p159.
25. As
26. Ananaba....p.72
27. M Crowther, The Story of Nigeria, (London: Faber and Faber Ltd, 1978) pp 298-99).
28. M.Y.Mangvwat ‘‘The Development of Wage Labour in Nigeria, 1900-1986’’ in M.Y
Mangvwat (ed) A History of Labour in Nigeria, (Jos: Jos University Press Ltd,1998)p.90
29. As quoted in Adewunmi....p.167.
Slow Emergence of Female Playwrights in Nigeria: A Critical Overview.
Dr. Ngozi Udengwu
Dept of Theatre and Film Studies
University of Nigeria, Nsukka
[email protected]
This paper is motivated by the apparent paucity of female playwrights in Nigeria.
For more than three decades studies in dramatic literature, especially as it relates to
women, revolved around only two female playwrights – Zulu Sofola and Tess
The concern of this paper, therefore, is to discover if indeed there are only
two female playwrights in Nigeria, why it has to take so long for female playwrights
to emerge, what motivated their emergence, how their emergence impacted
dramatic literature and criticism.
The paper, consequently, is divided into three main sections each designed
to address a set of the questions that drive this investigation. First part of the work is
titled “Paucity of Female Playwrights” and the objective is to query the slow
emergence of women in the field of playwriting, coming as they did, behind men
writing in the same genre and women who are writing in other genres of literature.
The statistics furnished by G. I. Achufusi is used to authenticate claims. The second
part, titled “Poor Image of Women”, looks at how the negative image of women in
plays written by men has generated a lot of debate by the gender- sensitive critics,
and acted as motive for the emergence of female playwrights. The third part, titled
“Image of women in Women’s Writing” accesses the work of the emergent female
playwrights to ascertain how far they differ or comply with the existing image of
women in men’s writing.
Keywords: Emergent female playwrights, dramatic literature, gender-sensitive critics,
women’s studies.
Paucity of Female Playwrights
To say there is great paucity of female writers in Nigeria is to state an obvious fact. Of the three
major literary genres – drama, fiction and poetry, the statement applies even more to drama than
any of the other two. Achufusi reveals that the statistics of female literary writers in Africa is 158
for poets, 50 novelists and a paltry 27 for dramatists. The statistics was drawn in 1985 but the ratio
of women writing in the three genres of literature remains largely the same especially in Nigeria
where discussions on female playwrights hardly go beyond Zulu Sofola (1935-1995) and Tess
Onwueme (1955-till date). Pondering over this situation, Molara Ogundipe-Leslie wonders why
women choose to write fiction and not plays:
Could it be that being a playwright implies production: working in a theatre, after
hours, at all hours, in the company of men? Such a profession would be a source of
insecurity for some husbands. [1987:10]
Writers all over the world have commented on the paucity of female writing in general and
Playwriting in particular and some have suggested reasons for it. These reasons are complex
ranging from social and political conditions of women in the society to economic and
educational/professional empowerment of women. Gender politics is responsible for women’s near
absence from literary creativity. The situation is more clearly defined in the Western world where
the tradition of patriarchy made no attempt to conceal its objection to female creativity. Deirdre
David records a remark addressed to Charlotte Brontë by Robert Southey in 1837. Southey is
quoted as saying that:
Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life, and it ought not to be. The more
she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure will she have for it, even as an
accomplishment and a recreation. To those duties you have not been called, and
when you are, you will be less eager for celebrity. [1987:vii]
This summarizes the condition that made it almost impossible for women in that society to
participate in literary production. The women were already weighed down by their domestic roles,
roles that Charlotte Brontë describes as, “dark and dreary” but which Southey sees as “proper
duties”. It must be pointed out that the situation has hardly changed for women in Africa today.
Domestic chores are still largely a woman’s sole responsibility, except, perhaps for the upper class
women who have well trained domestic workers handling different aspects of the work –
drycleaners, gardeners, cooks, baby-sitters and nannies, drivers and the rest of them. The vast
majority of women are still saddled by domestic work.
This traditionally assigned role of the woman, as a wife, mother, and a housekeeper is so old
that it has come to be regarded as her natural role, primordially assigned by God Himself. The
implication of such cosmic connection is that any woman who fails to do these duties will answer to
the supernatural being. The fear of this supernatural being, who is always portrayed as wrathful and
unpredictable – be it the alien God of the Hebrews or the Arabians, or the thunder God of the
African pantheon – will definitely force any mortal to comply with the orders. And in complying, a
woman loses the chance to make any meaningful contribution in the mainstream of affairs, which in
turn leads to her loss of relevance in the society. It is, therefore, not surprising that most women
who make it at the mainstream do so at the expense of a stable home, unless of course they have
supportive husbands. Thus successful women are often associated with broken homes or
spinsterhood. This is because their ambition to achieve some recognition in life interferes with their
traditional roles as mothers, wives, and domestic workers. The women who try to straddle the two
opposing tasks often end up not succeeding in any of them. Thus, the fact that most female writers
produce their work in this condition may be responsible for the shallowness and formlessness
associated with most women’s writing, which male critics denounce. Indeed, some women writers
who were committed to their writing were often mistaken for men when they distinguished
themselves. For instance, the publishers of Deirdre David once addressed her as ‘Mr’. [1987: 225]
The experience of Mary Evans, who had to adopt the pseudonym “George Eliot’, in order to
be published, also proves that the problem was not that women could not produce powerful works
but that they were simply not welcome in the literary world which was then monopolized by men.
The female writer, Harriet Martineau, also published three articles under the pseudonym
‘Disciphulus’. [p.28] This deliberate assumption of a male identity is not only an evidence of the
gender bias against women writers in that period, but also an indication that these women’s work
measured up to the acceptable standard.
It is important to mention this in order to show how serious the situation was in the
Victorian era. David’s book is an assessment of three particular women – Harriet Martineau,
Elizabeth Barret Browning and George Eliot – who defied the patriarchal injunction against female
authorship and who in spite of the rejection they suffered in the hands of the patriarchy, succeeded
in making their marks as literary giants.
The absence of women in anthologies and reviews of creative works all over the world and
the unfavourable critical responses to women’s writing, in the past, have motivated the
establishment of books and journals, now too numerous to count, dedicated to a feminist study of
women’s works. Trevor Griffiths and Margaret Llewellyn-Jones edited one of such books, the
purpose of which, they explain, was to
…record, celebrate and interrogate the nature of the achievement of women theatre
writers and to begin to redress the balance because the standard works in British
theatre pay scant attention to women’s writing. [1993: ix]
Griffith and Llewellyn-Jones reveal that women’s invisibility in the theatre in Britain and Ireland is
due to the fact that their theatre work “often takes place in the ‘fringe’ venues outside the
mainstream (male) theatrical tradition” [1993:3]. Their book titled British and Irish Women
Dramatists Since 1958: A Critical Handbook, therefore, is aimed at discovering the works of
women, which were in the danger of slipping into oblivion, as well as analyze and reappraise the
ones that had been given inadequate treatment.
Llewellyn-Jones informs us that between 1969 and 1978, women’s theatre contribution took
the form of collaborative efforts in which subjects were drawn from street happenings and personal
experiences of the women. While Llewellyn calls this “innovative”, Michael Billington calls it
“lamentable” because he complains that the work of the women were “myopically concerned with
problems of being a woman.”
Trevor Griffiths, reflecting on the mainstream women playwrights in the 1980s reveals that
within this period, in spite of unfavourable economic conditions, there was an increase in the
number of women’s plays staged at the established theatre houses. The austere nature of women’s
theatre made it most suitable for production in times of economic downturn.
In her own contribution to the celebration of women playwrights, Susan Croft compiles a
long list of plays by women. The idea, she explains, is to reveal that women’s plays have been
ignored for obvious reasons, and that for black women in Britain, they are doubly doomed to
literary obscurity because of both racial and gender reasons.
Here in Africa the condition of near absence of female writing has been largely blamed on
the educational gap between men and women – an explanation which Maryse Conde finds very
difficult to accept, at least not completely. In an age when educated women have become a common
sight and a good number of them have achieved political recognition, it is difficult to accept
educational imbalance, any more, as being responsible for the dearth of female writing. The issue
cannot be education per se, she argues, but rather the quality of the education women are exposed
to. Referring us to Mongo Beti’s The Poor Christ of Bomba, Conde invites us to appraise the quality
of the education provided for women and she queries,
Isn’t it rather the very complexity of her condition, which forces the African woman
to remain silent since she feels unable to come to terms with it? [1972:133]
The late education of women, and the quality as well as the content of the education considered
proper for them, therefore, are partly responsible for the slow emergence of female playwrights in
Nigeria. At the turn of twenty-first century, however, none of these excuses can be defended, any
Among the three literary genres, drama is the most adventurous because of the sociocultural and communal nature of it. Drama, as a melting pot of all arts, demands keen observation of
the socio- ideological trends in the wider society. But a woman’s roles as home maker, mother and
wife help to limit her view of the society. Her awareness of the society being largely limited to
family relationships, these naturally form the bulk of her writing, whereas critics do not view
domestic themes as serious themes. Thus women’s peripheral position reduces their capability to
signify as credible vehicles for the representation of the society. It also, invariably, affects their
mastery of dramatic technique. Again, unlike poems and novels that can move quietly from the
privacy of the writer’s table to a publishing house and then to the reader, a play must go through the
rigours of a performance. It will be something else but a play if it is not performed. The women
studied in this paper have produced all their plays at least once. It takes the bold and adventurous to
put a play on stage and for a woman it is even more so. Working with the cast and crew, majority of
who are often males, and whose sense of sexual superiority is still intact, is a great challenge. Ayo
Akinwale narrates how the first female playwright in Nigeria, Zulu Sofola’s husband used to wait
through her rehearsals in order to take her home very late in the night. Even a supportive husband
will find it difficult to cope with such a situation for a long time. Perhaps this is why women find it
more convenient to write poems and novels than to write plays. Insufficient exposure to sociopolitical dynamics, delayed formal education, as well as highly restricted educational exposure,
sheer sexual suppression, not to mention a poor financial condition, may all be factors against
female creativity, but the most universal and more enduring factor seems to be her traditional role as
a home maker, a situation in which she is expected to spend almost her entire life responding to the
demands of others, with no time or opportunity for her to define and satisfy her own needs. Men
have, thus, dominated and are still dominating mainstream literary production, with the
representation of the society becoming the exclusive preserve of men, and life being thus viewed
mostly from the male point of view. In that view, women are often misrepresented, hence the
uncomplimentary and unconstructive image of women in works of literature and the subservient
role of women in the society.
The obstacles against women’s literary activities, notwithstanding, there are more female
playwrights in Nigeria than theatre scholarship reveals. Stella Oyedepo, about the most prolific
dramatist in Nigeria, started producing plays about the same time as Tess Onwueme, but Nigerian
scholars and critics chose to ignore her for whatever reason. According to a PhD thesis submitted in
the Department of Theatre Arts of the University of Ibadan, in 2005, by this writer, more women
have been discovered who have produced appreciable number of plays and whose plays are worth
study at all levels of education. These women are still alive and writing and they include Tracie
Utoh-Ezeajugh, Onyeka Onyekuba-Iwuchukwu, Chinyere Okafor, Irene Salami-Agunloye, etc.
Many writers – male and female alike – have criticized the poor condition of women in the
society and the poor image of women in literature.
Poor Image of Women in Literature
Women came into literature in two capacities, first as characters – objects of creative
imagination and desire – and then as writers and creators of meaning. A critical study of female
characters in male writing shows a misrepresentation of women either because, being men, they do
not understand women experiences or they do not care to present a truthful image of women. The
image of women in men’s work, especially the older generation of male writers, has remained static
and uncomplimentary, in total contradiction to the changing role of women in the present sociopolitical structure, giving cause for feminist protestation.
Iris Berger, in her study of female spirit mediums in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and
Northwestern Tanzania, states that in Burundi women are believed to be clumsy, emotional and
prone to jealousy and these characteristics do not only differentiate them from men but also render
them inferior to men. The little strength women have is suitable only for menial tasks. The
superiority of men over women in that region is further illustrated in the act of procreation in which
the woman is described as the “passive earth” [1976:161] while the man is the sower of the seed.
This belief obviously stems from an archaic attitude to sex in which women were forbidden to enjoy
sex or express their sexuality. And to further ensure that they did not, women were taken through
the inhuman act of female circumcision. The irony is that women in such cultural setting grow up
with the conviction that it is wrong to enjoy sex and it is natural for a woman to suffer pain during
love making and childbirth. They thus act as willing accomplices to their own dehumanization.
Sandra Richards describes Baraka’s plays as “almost overwhelmingly male-dominated and
woman hating” and she considers this a major pitfall in Amiri Baraka’s dramaturgy, for, in the place
of the more realistic images of “positive, self-centred beings forging independent lives and working
for the common good of both women and men”, Baraka, a leading black playwright of 1964-1974,
insists on the awesome stereotype image of:
…the evil white woman who is aggressively independent of everyone; the neurotic
black woman who consciously wills her own destruction; and the black or white
woman who is a paragon of political virtue. [1982:234]
In conclusion, Richards declares that “Baraka’s portrayal of women is instructive of what writers
must not continue to do”[p.240].
Through negative portrayals in literature men reveal their desire to suppress women. The
question that readily comes to mind is why would they want to do that? Is it possible that men see
women as a threat to their own existence? Is this a pointer to a pristine feminine power, which men
are in constant fight to wrench from them? Whatever the answer to these questions may be, the fact
remains that women have been represented in male narratives mostly in negative light. And though
some writers, notably Western historians and anthropologists, such as Judith Van Allen and some
Nigerian writers notably Kamene Okonjo, would want us to believe that the oppression of women
was the effect of Western influence, some indigenous cultural studies have proved, through an
examination of ancient cultural beliefs and practices embedded in our myths, folklore, proverbs and
oral literature, that the poor image of women began from the most ancient days, and represents the
actual condition of women in the society. It is a heritage of our own past.
Oyesakin [Adefioye Oyesaki:1981] reveals a contradictory image of women in Yoruba
literary accounts. Women are seen as embodiment of both sweetness and death. It is not mentioned
which of the two embodiments outweighs the other, or whether there is a stable balance, but the
article dwells more on the negative image. According to the account, the femininity of the woman
makes her both attractive and irresistible to man but there is danger in associating with her which is
the reason why Ifa warns men to be wary of her. The Yoruba traditional oral poetry, as revealed by
Oyesakin [1997:6] in yet another of his articles, is full of derogatory remarks about women. Women
are seen as responsible for all the ills of the society. They are noted for moral bankruptcy, loose
tongue, gossip, flippancy, rumour mongering, hypocrisy, treachery, and many more. Oyesakin feels
that the Yoruba society is not fair to the women because all these negative attributes women are
accused of were nurtured by the society itself. To illustrate this point the writer reasons that men are
partially to blame for the inquisitiveness of women, which compliments men’s secretive nature.
Again, the polygamous marriage system favoured by men can be said to be responsible for
women’s infidelity.
The inquisitiveness of women seems to be the female character trait which is most feared by
men. We are meant to know that men cherish their little secrets as much as they cherish their lives,
hence the statement that “The day a woman knows the secret of a cult, that cult is destroyed”. This
statement is echoed in the works of all the scholars who have written on masquerade theatre.
Because of this belief, whose veracity is in doubt, women are banned from the masquerade cult, a
very important spiritual and the highest political institution in Igbo and Yoruba lands.
Still in his critique of the accusations levelled against womanhood, Oyesakin goes on to
posit that the possible reason why women are accused of avarice in Yoruba land is because they are
traditionally entrusted with the responsibility of processing and selling their husbands’ farm
products. If his reasoning is correct then it has proved that these allegations against women are mere
figment of male imagination, which goes to corroborate Azuonye’s claim that these are just “akuko
ifo” (tales of the imagination) and should not be regarded as “akuko ala” (true tales). [1992: 2]
In analyzing what he refers to as “the earliest formulations of womanist and matriarchal
responsibility within the power structure of the society” in Yorubaland, Layiwola recalls the myth
of origin of the great Egungun cult. The secret of the Egungun was revealed, first, to a woman, Odu,
by the supreme deity. The woman, allegedly, became power drunk with it, which made her
subordinate, Obarisa to trick her and seize the power from her, with the permission of the supreme
deity. It is important to note that Odu was alleged to have lost her political power to powerdrunkenness and not to flippancy, and she did not destroy or desecrate the cult contrary to Ifa
allegations. Having thus seized the power of the Egungun, men edged out the women, leaving them
in charge of peripheral duties and never again allowing them near the inner circle where important
decisions are taken. Thus women lost the right to take part in policy making in the society. The loss
of such political power amounts to loss of citizenship, critically speaking. This precisely is the
status of a slave or a criminal in a society.
If Egungun is the highest policy making body in Yoruba land and women are banned from
it, then Gèlèdé, which is a women’s masquerade cult, is necessary to establish a balance. But
Gèlèdé does not have the authority, however, to make laws for the society. The point to make here
is that women were banned from power politics in Nigeria and this naturally leads to a poor
knowledge of very important aspects of the society.
Layiwola’s account of Yoruba folklore can be seen to concur with Azuonye’s account of
that of the Igbo. Both accounts reveal the pristine supremacy of the matriarchy and how men in
each society seized power from the women. Since both are folkloric accounts of the gender situation
in the ancient traditional Yoruba and Igbo societies, they are the ‘akuko ala’ (the true tales) and not
‘Akuko ifo’ (tales of the imagination) of Azuonye’s categorization. The Igbo myth, as narrated by
Azuonye shows that Ala, the Earth Goddess, was the supreme deity of the Igbo people, most
powerful and most popular. The Sky God, perhaps out of jealousy, most likely, in the absence of
any other explanation, contested and seized power from the Goddess thereby establishing
patriarchal supremacy. Actually, the supreme position of Ala had been threatened twice, at least,
before the arrival of the colonial masters. The Nri hegemony, which ruled Igboland at a point in
time, adopted the idea of a complex supreme deity that combined both quality and function of male
and female. But when Nri was replaced by Aro patriarchy, an all-powerful male deity, Chukwu, was
instituted. The Nri and Aro religio- political order were not popular however and their reign was
short-lived because the populace still regarded Ala as their supreme deity. Later, however, the
arrival of the European explorers prepared the ground for the suppression and marginalization of
Ala. The colonial intruders’ emphasis on material aspects of life, ignoring the spiritual aspects,
watered the ground for the entrenchment of the Hebrew god of wrath and war. The materialistic
emphasis of the colonizers found ready allies in the male physical strength, and material possession
became the determining factor for superiority. That was how, with men being in control of material
aspect of the society, they naturally assumed superiority over women.
Azuonye’s account clears the air about the apparent contradiction in the perception of
women in the society. They are both objects of awe and contempt. Men desire and fear them at the
same time. The negative image of women therefore becomes an evidence of male propaganda
against the authority of the woman and, carefully and persuasively presented, it naturally influenced
the society’s view of and attitude towards women. This establishes the fact that literature can
change the society and that women too must use literature to correct the society’s opinion of the
female gender.
Using an Igbo proverb, “onye mma egbugi nwanyi egbuo” (if one is not killed by a deity, he
will be killed by a woman) to analyze Igbo attitude towards women, Opata submits that,
The proverb then is a dispositional statement arising from the male progeny and
expressive of man’s fear of and dread for woman, of the mysteriously tremendous
nature of woman, and of his discomfiture the perceived intractable dualism he
ascribes to woman. [1992:108]
The contempt against women was bred by men’s fear of them, and Opata says this should not be
seen as male chauvinism but a celebration of male powerlessness.
The persistence of such negative images of women in modern literary portrayals points to
either an uncritical adoption of moribund ideas and beliefs or a wilful act of callousness on the part
of modern literary writers, seen by gender-sensitive critics, as part of male conscious effort to keep
the female under perpetual control. From the beginning of literary history in Nigeria, the changing
role of women has often been ignored by mainstream writers. The result is that the image of female
characters in the literary text often contradicts the image of women in real life. The contradiction is
strengthened by the fact that though women of today have proved their capacity to contribute to the
mainstream of the society, writers still favour the silent, docile and passive character of the
traditional woman. Nnadozie Inyama observes that the image of, what he calls, the ‘rebel girl’ that
dominated oral literature still persists in the works of modern elites notably male writers. After a
study of four literary works - Amos Tutuola’s Palmwine Drinkard, Cyprian Ekwensi’s Jagua Nana,
Ama ata Aidoo’s Anowa and Efua Sutherland’s New Life in Kyerefaso - the writer discovers that
while the theme is critically reproduced and deconstructed in the works of the women, the men
seem to uphold the traditional verdict that the rebel girl must be doomed to a terrible end. However,
in sharp opposition to the traditional treatment of the theme, and its ratification by male writers, the
non-conforming female is made a big success in Sutherland’s work, signaling a feminist rewriting
of traditional oral literature. Though the rebel girl, Anowa, fails in Aidoo’s play, so does the
husband that betrays her. This is a clear feminist angle to a traditional theme, a lesson in social
Until Osofisan started what can be termed his defence of the oppressed, the status of female
characters in Nigerian literature remained that of traditional domestic workers or doomed
independent seekers. In her traditional subservient position, a woman is the ideal woman, the
perfect woman, docile and dependent. In their chauvinistic way, the male writers will simply not
have her any other way. Thus when they are forced to come face to face with the reality of an
independent and assertive modern woman, they are shocked out of their wits and in that state of
shock and confusion, they give a distorted description of the New Woman. Whatever may be their
reason, the fact remains that some modern male writers still portray talented women as evil.
Analyzing the condition of the talented women in African literature, Juliet Okonkwo
declares that as long as it is men’s world, talented women have no chance of rising to eminence,
however hard they try. This is because men in their chauvinistic nature will always safeguard their
political power over women. While agreeing that women should fight against male domination, she
however, is of the opinion that it is only education that can help women to win this war. Only
complete education, not half, can liberate women from the shackles of male domination. The fate of
Efuru and Anowa, two female characters from the works of two African female writers – Flora
Nwapa and Ama Ata Aidoo – prompted Okonkwo’s suggestion. Efuru and Anowa are two female
characters who dare to reject the false image of women in their society by exploring their true
talents. They discover themselves as intelligent and economically independent human beings, which
essentially means that they do not need anybody to think for them and to provide for them, rather
they are the ones to provide for others. Rather than being a blessing, however, their independence
becomes a curse to them. Their society does not accept a woman in any other capacity than as a
wife and a mother, or a housekeeper, completely dependent and subservient to a man, prone to
exploitation, subjugation and oppression. Though Okonkwo strongly believes that education will
enable women overcome their inferiority complex, the experience of Anowa and Efuru, however
shows that a woman may be liberated from economic bondage to a man, but she may still have to
battle with the guilt of childlessness. A childless woman, literate or illiterate, cuts a very poor image
of womanhood in the societies in which these two plays are set. The heroines themselves know that
their joy will not be complete without a child of their own, because in the African society, the
ability of women to bear children gives them the edge over men and men respect them for this. This
is why they often refer to women as “our mothers”, when they want to show that respect. A woman
who is a mother receives more respect than the one who is not. Today’s woman does much more
than childbearing, but she is still defined by her traditional role as though her achievements do not
Also prompted by the fate of these two female characters who are destroyed by the
patriarchal society for their intellectual and economic independence, Maryse Conde blames the fate
of Anowa and Efuru on semi-literacy. This is because though both characters are opposed to the
traditional norms of their society, which they succeed in proving wrong through their intellectual
and economic independence, they are still attached to tradition, thereby failing to sustain the
personality they have carved out for themselves. They allow themselves to be daunted by the
traditional belief that a childless woman is useless to the society. Conde’s argument is that the
illiterate societies in which the two female characters find themselves do not offer any other
opportunity for a woman to prove her relevance, apart from childbirth. With a good formal
education, however, says Conde the two women would have been able to find alternative ways of
proving their relevance. Irked by the thought that gifted women such as Flora Nwapa and Ama Ata
Aidoo could create female characters doomed to fail in the same phallocentric manner as men
writers do, Conde goes on to say:
Flora and Ama Ata’s intelligence and sensitivity persuade them that the African
woman has an important role to play in the future of Africa and that in the past it was
the same. But for all this faith there remains a doubt on the value of their world
nurtured by the daily sight of their complex and contradictory society torn between
different ideals and poisoned by self-distrust. [1986:139]
Conde sees subtle protest in the works of these two female writers. The protest is directed towards
their society which is structured in a way as to make it difficult for a woman to grow. Chidi Ikonne
describes this type of society, which rubs the life out of Anowa and Efuru, as a society in which “A
woman’s life counts for nothing as long as the prestige of the man and the integrity of the family –
that cornerstone of the patriarchy – over which he presides are intact.” [1986:69] He points out that
the female genital mutilation, which Efuru is made to go through, has no other function than to
castrate the women in order to reduce female sexual power over male weakness. To add to Ikonne’s
assertion one can look at this ritual of castration not only as having reductive physical effect on the
women but a spiritual one, leading the heroine to lose hope in life.
Stressing further the importance of literature as an effective weapon for women’s struggle
against socio-political subjugation, and illustrating with some women who have used this weapon
effectively, Ogbuehi, C. U. declares:
Literature offers freedom to women to write and influence situations that are
detrimental to their well-being. Literature empowers women to speak fearlessly to
fictional husbands, fathers, brothers, sons and dictators. [1999:45]
She cites examples of women who have used literature to achieve recognition for themselves in
particular and women in general, including George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) and Currer Bell
(Charlotte Brontё). A third woman whom Ogbuehi mentions, and who achieved prominence
through her writing is Harriet Beecher Stowe who was accorded great respect by President
Abraham Lincoln of The United States of America because of her powerful writing, especially
Uncle Tom’s Cabin – which was her contribution to the campaign against slave trade. In Africa
Ogbuehi mentions Micere Mugo, a feminist and academic, formerly of the University of Kenya but
now on exile. For her Ph.D project, Mugo investigated the activities of the high-ranking female
soldiers of the Mau Mau Freedom Fighters. Before her study, Kenyan history had no record of these
women. Another female, Nawal El Saadawi, also uses her writing to criticize her Arab society that
oppresses the women. Her ambition to achieve something in life earned her rejection by her country
and her various husbands. As the story goes, her first husband asked her to choose between him and
Medicine (she is a medical doctor – a psychiatrist by profession) and she chose medicine. Her
second husband asked her to choose between him and writing and she chose writing. Her present
husband happens to be a writer himself. The Egyptian Government gave her the sack after her book
Sex and Health was published. Also, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt once jailed her because of her
The experiences of these women appear to explain why writing is thought, by some writers,
not to be the business for women. The persecution of writers is as old as writing itself and for
women it is even more so. A writer cannot shut his or her eyes to social problems and the
perpetrators of those problems, who most often are the people in authority. On the other hand, a
woman writer cannot pretend about the gender imbalance in the society. She, therefore, becomes a
double target. The authorities persecute her and the society rejects her. Thus she stands to be
imprisoned or to lose a stable home as in the case of Saadawi; be exiled as in the case of Micere
Mugo or suffer sheer discrimination as in the case of Mary Evans and Currer Bell. Writing therefore
constitutes a double hazard for a woman. She has a bigger price to pay than her male counterpart.
Ogbuehi urges women to emulate the examples of these women to empower themselves
with literary writing in order to achieve the following - reverse the wrong and false image of
women; rescue female writers from male critics who appear bent on destroying women writers
through malicious criticism; deconstruct our proverbs with a view to creating new ones that project
a positive image of women. They should also embark on book projects with the aim of producing
for children and youth textbooks that do not encourage sexism. Obviously, at the time of her
writing, Ogbuehi was not aware that such a project already exists in Kenya, with Wanjira Muthoni
as a co-initiator. Explaining in an interview with Susan Arndt, [1999:2] Wanjira says the project,
which is titled “Literary Road to Empowerment” is aimed at changing the way young people view
themselves and each other, and the long run objective is to eliminate sexual stereotyping among
future adults.
The works of major literary writers in Nigeria, who are mostly male and among whom are
the icons of Nigerian literary profession, including Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Cyprian
Ekwensi, Elechi Amadi, J.P. Clark, John Munonye and Christopher Okigbo, have received much
indictment from gender-sensitive critics, especially Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi (1988)
Nnaemeka Obioma (1996), Catherine Bicknell (1996), Rose Acholonu (1996), Nwachukwu Agbada
(1997), Okome Onokoome (1997), on account of their negative portrayal of women or complete
neglect of women in their works.
Rose Acholonu acknowledges the advancement of
Achebe’s ideology as it concerns, on
one hand, the socio-political condition of our country, and the status of women on the other. In
appreciation of the role of the two female characters in Anthills of the Savannah – Beatrice and
Elewa – Acholonu declares that;
Achebe’s women have definitely evolved in the course of time, from the outsiders
they tend to be in the traditionally set works, to their present near-centre position as
possible insiders. [1996:320]
These two women are more individuated than their counterparts in Achebe’s earlier novels.
Acholonu however, wishes women would be given a place in the art of governance.
Obioma Nnaemeka has an opposing view about Achebe’s heroines in the Anthills for she
insists that rather than elevate women, Achebe continues in his systematic subjugation of women.
She reveals that language is the greatest agent of subjugation of women in all Achebe’s novels. The
critic writes of Beatrice,
All her academic accomplishments notwithstanding, Beatrice, in her utterances
leaves the reader with the impression that she received her “walloping honours
degree” not in English but in Eroticism…
We hardly saw Beatrice function in her capacity as senior assistant secretary in the
Ministry of Finance. We saw her function primarily as the girl-friend of Chris, the
companion of Ikem and a play thing in the hands of HE. [1996:292]
She goes on to analyze Beatrice as “the most questionable feminist character” in a work of
literature. She complains of Beatrice’s “condescending attitude” and “unprovoked belligerence”
towards other female characters, her “uselessness as a feminist” and she declares that “The tragedy
of Beatrice is that she is silenced and written out of the text at a critical moment in the play.”
[1996:293] Nnaemeka is here declaring a feminist stance on the treatment of female characters.
Female characters must be shown as individuals of their own right and not to be depicted in the agelong stereotype position as appendages to men.
Catherine Bicknell observed that Igbo women enjoy greater prominence in the society than
they do in Achebe’s novels. She refers us to Kamene Okonjo and Judith Van Allen’s sociological
account of the power enjoyed by Igbo women. She agrees with Nnaemeka that Beatrice character
should have been developed along the line of her academic and career achievements. Bicknell
observes that:
At the end of the novel, the women are still conceived, to a large extent in the
symbolic terms of priestess and mother and the question of what role women
will play in the future is left open. [1996:277]
Also exploring the use of speech as indicator of power relation between men and women in
Achebe’s novels, Grace Okereke submits that through speech the subservient and inferior position
of women are evidenced in Achebe’s novels. She states that it is only in domestic sphere that
women speak with any level of authority, when they tell their children stories or settle quarrels
among them. She goes on to reveal that women hardly use proverbs and that their speech depicts the
limits of their knowledge about society. With regards to Achebe’s traditional and modern novels,
the critic recognizes as Acholonu does, that Achebe has improved in his portrayal of women by
portraying full-grown and outspoken female characters like Beatrice.
Femi Osofisan, one of Africa’s leading and most popular playwrights, has so far been the
only one who has received commendation from gender-sensitive critics on the image of women in
his plays. Tess Onwueme finds Osofisan’s portrayal of women as a refreshing experience in drama.
She praises the playwright for his nonconformist transformation of the usually static and negative
images of women in dramatic writing. She notes specifically that Osofisan’s use of young and
progressive women is most appropriate to achieving his purpose of social change and social
reconstruction. She finds out that Osofisan’s image of women is in constant advancement. From
Once Upon Four Robbers, his heroines are becoming more independent, forceful, enlightened and
socially conscious.
It has to be pointed out here that Onwueme’s own heroines possess the characteristics of
being young, progressive and conscious, which may go to show that Onwueme did not just study
Osofisan, she is also influenced by him.
Still on Osofisan, Eldred Ibibiem Green absolves the playwright of all the accusations which
Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi levels against Nigerian male writers who present a negative and
diminished image of women. With reference to Osofisan’s women in Morountodun and Other
Plays Green points out that Osofisan is different from many Nigerian and African writers in the way
he systematically avoids the usual passive female characters that have become the favorite of male
writing. On the account of this tendency for Osofisan to present dynamic female characters, Green
decides to categorise him as a feminist. This is arguable because one does not become a feminist
just by writing about women as we have seen in Nnaemeka and Bicknell’s arguments. Osofisan is a
social critic and in his fight for social justice his sympathy goes to the neglected people in the
society and women happen to be among this group. The condition of women is not a main focus in
Osofisan’s plays as we see in, say, Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. The defence which the
playwright puts up for Angola who is an armed robber is not different from that which he puts up
for Alhaja the prostitute. What these characters have in common is that they are victims of sociopolitical double standards. Onwueme is a social critic too, but her feminist vision is seen in the way
she empowers her heroines with physical and mental capability to enable them fight against selected
socio-cultural practices that are oppressive to women.
What we have done above is to assess women’s opinion on the unconstructive image of
women in literature. We have found out that women are opposed to such portrayals which they
believe to be a purposeful act of male writers to discredit women. The puzzling question is why the
fictional image of women has remained unchanged in spite of the achievements women have made
in every sphere of human endeavour. Whatever the answer to this may be, the fact remains that the
negative image of women still persists in modern literary writing and gender-sensitive critics find it
unacceptable because it is a proof of the sexual intimidation and oppression, which the modern
women are fighting against.
With sufficient academic attainment, women have begun to write. The content and form of
their writing is of great importance because of their apparent deviation from any previously known
pattern. Equally important is the degree of acceptability of women’s writing to the critics who are
used to men’s style of writing, a style that has been variously described as groin-centred, male–
centred, chauvinistic, phallocentric and phallic. [1987:7]
The Image of Women in Women’s Writing
Deirdre LaPin traces the development of women in African literature from the traditional
oral period to the modern literary tradition. Citing examples from different parts of Africa – Xhosa,
Kikuyu, Yoruba and Hausa – the writer reveals that as performers in the oral tradition, women
“exercised their prerogatives as oral artists to control audience attitudes towards their sex”.
[1987:106] In the transitional period when the oral tales were set to print, female writers, for
instance Flora Nwapa, seem to adopt male view of women, a situation which the writer says is
understandable because “Old tales furnished a starting point for re-thinking the woman’s role.”
[p.109] By creating nonconforming heroines, however, this first generation of female writers
prepared the ground for the advent of feminist rebellion. Within the modern dispensation, women
are seeking a new place for themselves in the society and as writers they use their work to secure
that new place for women.
In the light of a gross misinterpretation of women and womanhood in the works of
American and African writers, Molara Ogundipe-Leslie states that female writers’ commitment
should start with rediscovering what woman really is as opposed to what she is made out to be, and
by deconstructing existing knowledge to supply the missing women’s perspectives. The writer
declares that female writers,
should be committed in three ways: as a writer, as a woman and as a third world
person; and her biological womanhood is implicated in all these. [1987:10]
The writer is surprised to find that some women shy away from being identified as feminists, the
possible reason being that, in spite of their commitment to the cause of women, they are themselves
thoroughly browbeaten by men.
Katherine Frank traces the beginning of feminist writing in Europe from Henrik Ibsen’s
(1879) A Doll’s House when “our heroine slams the door on her domestic prison”. The female
character since then has been on the quest for self-discovery. Frank then sets out to examine the
situation in Africa believing that,
With its peculiarly Western orientation toward individualism and self-fulfilment and
its simultaneous exploration of patriarchal oppression and the female struggle for
freedom, one might gather that this feminist scenario would hold little relevance for
African novel. [1987:14]
With that conviction Frank chooses five novels by four African Women – Mariama Bar’s So Long a
Letter, Flora Nwapa’s Once is Enough, Buchi Emecheta’s Double Yoke and Destination Biafra and
Ama Ata Aidoo’s Our Sister Kill Joy. Frank discovers that not only is feminist novel alive in Africa
but it is even more radical and more militant than in the West. The surprising thing is that in spite of
the education and independence of the heroines of these novels, they end up lonely and sad, thereby
fulfilling the strongly held belief that,
A woman may gain the whole world, but she would have lost her soul if she doesn’t
become a male’s extension or some body’s mother. [1987:17]
The writer is as surprised as Ogundipe-Leslie that in spite of the militant tone of these female
novelists they, especially Buchi Emecheta, deny that they are feminists. The cause of such selfdenial is to be found in the complexity of the African woman’s life, the writer concludes.
This tendency in some women writers to destroy their heroines even after empowering them
with all it takes to surmount the obstacles that have impeded the advancement of the female gender
is counter-productive to female struggle. It can be seen as a mirror technique aimed at pricking the
conscience of the society for a possible rethinking. But that also amounts to begging for the rights
of women instead of asserting it. The image of self-reliant women in the work of female writers is
representative of the changing role and status of women in this modern time. It is a truthful
portrayal of women, but making these women come to harm is out of tune and detrimental to the
struggle for social reconstruction, because it clearly discourages female emancipation thereby
ratifying the subjugation of women. Presumably the personal experiences of these women will
persuade them to illustrate how difficult it is for women to make it to the mainstream. But they
should not lose sight of their commitment as female writers who are not just writing about their life
experiences but are using those experiences as a motivational force to sue for a social rethinking.
The statistics quoted at the beginning shows that of all the three main genres of literature, drama
is the list traversed by female writers. The foregoing is an overview of the advent of women in
the creative field of playwriting in Nigeria, from being objects of meaning in male writing to
becoming creators of meaning. The paper attributes the slow emergence of female playwrights in
Nigeria to two major factors – late education of women and the public nature of drama. It also
discovers that the population of women in the field of playwriting in Nigeria is a far cry from
that of the men, and behind those of women writing in other genres of literature, particularly the
novel. The paper took a look at the various calls on women writers to correct the
uncomplimentary image of women through their writing, and discovers that of the two pioneer
female playwrights, only Tess Onwueme heeded that call, while Zulu Sofola’a plays seem to
ratify the traditional role of women.
Today we have, besides the two pioneers mentioned above, others such as Stella
Oyedepo, Tracie Utoh-Ezeajugh, Irene Salami-Agunloye, Chinyere Okafor, Onyeka OnyekubaIwuchukwu, Julie Okoh, Charity Angya, Catherine Acholonu, Osita Ezenwanebe, Bunmi
Adeoye, Foluke Ogunleye, Akachi Ezigbo and the rest.
It is also discovered that uncomplimentary image of women in literature attracted a lot of
criticism from gender sensitive critics, who seem to reach a consensus that only women can
counter this negative image of women in literature. With quality education of women, therefore,
the way was paved for women to venture into the literary field with the task of redeeming their
image. However, it is observed that women writers, initially, were not quite able to rescue the
female gender as expected as the image of doomed assertive women continued even in plays
written by women. The difference is that though the heroines are brought to their knees but so,
also, are the agents of their oppression and suppression.
Acholonu, Rose. 1996. Outsiders or Insiders?: Women in the Anthills of the
Savannah. In Eagle on Iroko. Ed. Edith Ihekweazu, Ibadan: Heinemann Educational
Books (Nigeria) Plc. 309-321.
Achufusi, G.I. 2000. The African Woman Yesterday Today and Tomorrow. A
Public Lecture organised by the National Association of University Women (NAUW),
University of Nigeria Nsukka branch.
Akinwale, Ayo. 1999. Zulu Sofola: Offstage and at Home. In Zulu Sofola: Her
Life and Her Works. Ed. Mary Kolawole. Ibadan: Caltop Publications Nigeria Limited. 8
– 20.
Allen Van, Judith. 1967. ‘Aba Riot’ or Igbo Women’s War? Ideology,
Stratification and the Invisibility of Women. In Women in Africa. Eds. Nancy Hafkin and
Edna Bay. California: Sanford University Press. 59 – 85.
Arndt, Susan. 1998. Of Womanism, Bearded Women. An Interview with
Chikwenye Okonjo and Wanjira Muthoni. In ANA Review, Oct. – Dec. P 2,6.
Azuonye, Chukwuma. 1992. Power, Marginality and Woman Being in Igbo
Oral Narratives. Power and Powerlessness of Women in West African Orality. Eds.
Grandquist and Inyama. Sweden: University of Umeâ.1-31.
Berger, Iris. 1976. Rebels or Status Seekers? Women as Spirit Mediums in East
Africa. Women in Africa: Study in Social and Economic Change. Eds. Nancy Hafkins and
Edna Bay Stanford: California. 158-182.
Bicknell, Catherine.1996. Achebe’s Women: Mothers, Priestesses and Young
Urban Professionals. In Eagle on Iroko. Ed. Edith Ihekweazu. Ibadan: Heinemann
Educational Books. 265 – 279.
Conde, Maryse. 1972. Three Female Writers in Modern Africa: Flora Nwapa,
Ama Ata Aidoo and Grace Ogot. Presence Africiane 82.2: 132-143.
Deirdre, David. 1987. Intellectual Women and Victorian Patriarchy. London:
Macmillan Press Limited.
Frank, Katherine. 1987. Women Without Men: The Feminist Novel in Africa.
In Women in African Literature Today. Ed. Eldred Jones. London: James Currey Limited.
14 – 33.
Green, Eldred Ibibiem. 1994. Femi Osofisan’s Women in Morountodun and
other Plays. In Feminism in African Literture. Ed. Helen Chukwuma. Enugu: New
Generation Books. 241 – 247.
Ikonne, Chidi. 1986. The Society and Woman’s Quest for Selfhood in Flora
Nwapa’s Early Novels. Drama Review. 68-78.
Inyama Nnadozie. 1992. The Rebel-Girl in African Literature: Variations in
Folklore Theme. In Power and Powerlessness of Women in African Orality. Eds.
Granguist and Inyama. Sweden: University of Umea. 109 – 121.
Kamene, Okonjo. 1976. The Dual Sex Political System in Operation: Igbo
Women and Community Politics in Midwestern Nigeria. Women in Africa. Eds. Nancy
Hafkin and Edna Bay. California: Stanford University Press. 45-58.
Lapin, Deirdre. 1987. Women in African Literature. African Women South of
the Sahara. Eds. Margaret Jean Hay and Sharon Stitcher. London and New York:
Longman. 102-118.
Layiwola, Dele. 1987. Womanism in Nigerian Folklore and Drama. In African
Notes Vol. xi, Number 1: 27 – 32.
Nnaemeka, Obioma. 1996. Chinua Achebe: Women, Language and
Border(Lines) Lands. Eagle on the Iroko. Ed. Edith Ihekweazu. Ibadan: Heinemann
Educational Publishers. 280-297.
Ogbuehi, C. U. 1999. Women, Literature and Empowerment. In Nsukka Journal
of the Humanities Number 10, (June). 42 – 53.
Ogundipe-Leslie, Molara. 1987. The Female Writer and her Commitment.
Women in African Literature Today. Ed. Eldred Jones. London: James Currey. 5-13.
Okereke, Grace.1996. Speech as an Index of Women’s Self Concept in Chinua
Achebe’s Novels. Eagle on Iroko. Ed. Edith Ihekweazu. Ibadan; Heinemann Educational
Books (Nig.) Plc. 297-310.
Okonkwo, Juliet. 1975. Talented Women in African Literature. Africa
Quarterly Volume XV, Numbers 1&2: 36-47.
Onwueme, Tess.1994. Daughters of Eve as Guardian Angels: Feminist Creed
According to Femi Osofisan. Feminism in Africa: Essays on Criticism (ed. Helen
Chukwuma. Enugu: New Generations Books. 228-240.
Opata, Damian. 1992. Igbo Attitude to Women: A Study of a Proverb. Power
and Powerlessness of Women in West African Orality. Eds. Raoul Granquist and
Nnadozie Inyama. Sweden: Umeâ University Press. 95-108.
Oyesakin, Adefioye. 1981. The Image of Women in Ifa Literary Corpus.
Nigeria Magazine 134-142. 16-23.
Richards, Sandra. 1982. Negative Forces and Positive Non-Entities: Images of
Women in the Dramas of Amiri Baraka. In Theatre Journal Vol. 34, No. 2 (May). 233 –
Trevor, Griffiths and Margaret Llewellyn-Jones. Eds. 1993. British and Irish
Women Dramatists Since 1958: A Critical Handbook. Philadelphia: Open University
Ibenekwu, Ikpechukwuka E.
[email protected]
Institute of African Studies,
University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Nigeria after over 50 years of nationhood is still bedevilled with issues bordering on citizenship
and indigene ship. The seriousness of this matter is highlighted by reactions from sections of the
people that trail the composition of each set of federal executives. Often we have complaints
from people that some persons nominated for federal appointments are not indigenes of the states
their names appeared against. Some crises like the lingering Jos crisis are also traceable to
indigene- settler issues. The paper adopts a content analysis of the 1999 constitutional provisions
and its practice to examine the phenomena of citizenship, indigene ship and federal character. It
is evident that the constitutional stress on indigene ship and federal character are the drivers of
the agitations and some of the crisis in the land. It is hence suggested that the 1999 Nigerian
constitution be amended to recognize citizenship and residency as basis for political
Key words; Citizen, Settler, Indigene, Constitution and Federal Character
Just like in many other societies the world over, the indigenes-settlers’ question has been
a recurrent issue. This can be attested to by the distinction between autochthonous people and
migrant groups in ancient kingdoms and primordial communities. During that period, hybrid
people and culture emerged from the fusion of autochthonous and migrant groups. The reverse,
however, seems to be the case in recent times following the manipulation of the indigene-citizen
issue either for individual or group gains.
Be that as it may, defining who an indigene of a particular area is could be a herculean
task especially with regards to the mass movement of people over time and across cultures and
space (Adesoji and Alao, 2009:151). Some people thus come to identify themselves as the
indigenes of a given area based on their association with people of different areas which is a byproduct of their settlement and seeming dominance of their cultures or even as a consequence of
their ability to conquer and possess a supposed virgin area. An instance can be cited with the
Jukun’s attitude and disposition to the Tiv in Wukari divisions of the present-day Taraba State.
The Jukun saw them as the indigenes of the region having been firmly established there by the
17th century. Their contention therefore is that while other groups in the region like the Tiv as
well as the Hausa-Fulani have other places to go to, the Jukun have only Wukari as home
(Ajibola, 2010:55).
It should be noted that the notion or the perception that the indigeneship of a particular
society, group or region confers certain rights, which others should not enjoy by virtue of being
settlers or migrants or strangers. Such rights included but are not limited to unhindered access to
education and employment opportunities, land, political participations or even right to produce
the chief or head of a community (Ishaya, 2006:4). This notion perhaps informed the Jukun’s
attitude and disposition to the Tiv in Wukari divisions of the present-day Taraba State. The
Jukun saw them as the indigenes of the region having been firmly established there by the 17th
century. Their contention therefore is that while other groups in the region like the Tiv as well as
the Hausa-Fulani have other places to go to, the Jukun have only Wukari as home.
On the other hand, settlers’ groups in different parts of the country have consistently
maintained the stance that having settled in a place for a long period, it is not proper to refer to
them as settlers, but rather as indigenes (Anang, 2007:22). Their contention is that while their
kiths and kins could be located elsewhere, they could not really trace their root appropriately
neither could they fit properly into the old society they or their forbears left several years ago. To
worsen matters, there have been raised in the new locations, some generations of people from
their lineage who have come to see where they were born and raised as their homes. For
instance, the prolong crises between the Tiv and other ethnic groups particularly the Azara in
present-day Nassarawa State could be explained from this perspective. Whereas other groups in
the region considered the Tiv as non- indigenes, the Tiv who constitute a strong numerical force
in the areas considered themselves indigenes of the areas particularly on account of their long
residence (Ali & Egwu, 2003:113-115).
The relationship between the Hausa-Fulani settlers on one hand and the indigenous
population of present Plateau State better illustrate the position that the practice in Nigeria
depicts a situation whereby a settler remains a settler irrespective of the number of years one has
stayed a place. As far as the Berom, Amo, Buji, Anaguta, Jere, Jarawa and Afizere are
concerned, they are the indisputable indigenes of the state (Jos and its surrounding villages)
whereas the Hausa-Fulani are settlers or strangers who migrated into the region for various
reasons ranging from commerce and employment to desire for fortune (Adesoji and Alao,
2009:159). In particular, tin mining was seen as a major factor for the influx of the settlers albeit
with the active encouragement of the colonial government. Oyewose (2006:65) contends that
even after mining was no longer lucrative, the Hausa/Fulani embarked on dry season farming
which blossomed so lucratively that it attracted more of them to the region. However for the
Hausa-Fulani, the contention is that they had produced the rulership in Jos since 1902 up to 1947
and are therefore not strangers or settlers. Specifically, thus the Hausa-Fulani desire to have an
emir appointed in Jos and to have the Gbong Gwon institution abolished. Besides, they aspired to
political leadership position and succeeded a few time (Jibo et al, 2001). But not surprisingly,
crises arising from a clash of interests occurred in the state at different time between 1994 and
These indigene-citizen clashes that have been simmering for long has persisted leading to
questions over the rights and privileges of the ordinary Nigerian. Lately, the government has
taken to appointing cabinet members under the portfolio of states that they are argued not to
come from. The question of representation by ‘non-indigenes’ does not seem to have gone down
well with the affected states. This paper therefore, aims to interrogate the distinction between
indigenes and citizens as well as the rights and privileges attached to it in the context of federal
Statement of Problem
At the root of the indigene-settler-citizen debate is the issue of rights and/or privileges. It is
interesting to note that successive Nigerian Constitutions since political independence had
emphasized the issues of citizenship and fundamental human rights. Chapter III of the 1999
Constitution especially identifies who a citizen is and how one can become a citizen. Specifically
Sections 25 to 27 identify how citizenship can be attained in Nigerian. These include by birth,
registration and naturalization (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999). Similarly, Chapter IV of the
Constitution dwells extensively on the Fundamental Rights of Nigerians irrespective of their
ethnicity, location or place of birth (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999). Suffice it to say that
these provisions were meant to act as safeguard against or to provide redress for violations of
one’s citizenship rights. It would seem however that these provisions did not envisage or perhaps
display a total ignorance of situations whereby the enjoyment of citizenship rights according to
Adesoji & Alao, (2009) will be handicapped or prevented by extraneous considerations such as
indigeneity or ethnicity. Even in situations whereby there are clear provisions on the fundamental
rights that Nigerians can enjoy, the situation does not vary in any way. For instance Section 42 of
Chapter IV of the Constitution provides for the right to freedom from discriminations.
Specifically it states that, a citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of
origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not:
be subjected to disabilities or restriction to which citizen of Nigeria of other communities,
ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions, political opinions are not made subject or
be accorded any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizen of Nigeria of other
communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religious or political opinions (Federal
Republic of Nigeria, 1999).
It has been argued by Bamidele & Ikubaje (2004:65) that:
The problem of citizenship in Nigeria today largely
stem from the discriminations and exclusion meted out
to people on the basis of ethnic, regional, religious and
gender identities. This is because those who see
themselves are “natives” or “indigenes” exclude those
considered as “strangers” from the enjoyment of certain
rights and benefit that they ought to enjoy as Nigerians
upon the fulfilment of certain civic duties, such as the
payment of tax.
It is believed in some quarters that the 1979 Constitution from which the 1999 Constitution was
replicated, laid the foundation for the indigene ship problems. This is because it expressly
provides that in order to enjoy access to positions and opportunities on the basis of “federal
character” one needs to be an “indigene” of the state or local government concerned. Being an
indigene involves showing evidence of belonging, through one’s parents or grandparents to a
community indigenous to a State or Local Government, which in effect suggests the membership
of a local ethnic and linguistic community Jibo et al,( 2001). Thus, the inability to prove such
membership of a group of people will result in one being seen as a “stranger” who cannot enjoy
all the rights and privileges of indigenes and/or natives (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1979;
Bamidele & Ikubaje, 2004:76).
Similarly Section 147 of the 1999 Constitution states that the president shall appoint at
least one Minister from each state, who shall be an indigene of such state. Therefore, it should be
quickly pointed that the motive behind the incorporation of these provisions into the Constitution
ostensibly is to strengthen the Federal Character principle.
Specifically Chapter 2 Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of
Nigeria explains the rationale behind the provision, thus:
The composition of the government of the federation or
any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall
be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal
character of Nigeria’s and the need to promote national
unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby
ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons
from a few states or from a few ethnic or other
sectional groups in that government or in any of its
The Federal Character Principle was meant to promote unity in diversity while encouraging
accommodation at the federal level particularly in terms of appointments. However, recent
developments indicate that some personalities are appointed to represent states where they
neither hail from nor are residing in. This situation has led to situations whereby some states
have more representations in the federal cabinet while others do not. It is on this grounds that
questions arise as to who an indigene is, who a citizen is and on what basis are federal
appointments made in the present dispensation. It is on the basis of the foregoing that the
following research questions are raised: Is it constitutional for one born or domiciled in a state
other than his parents’ state of origin to represent the state s/he is domiciled in? Is the practice of
women representing their states of origin rather than their state of marriage in tandem with the
Federal Character Principle? Does Nigeria not require a review of the citizenship and indigene
ship provisions as is presently contained in the 1999 constitution?
Theoretical Framework
The paper would rely on Aristotle and Rousseau’s Republican citizenship theory also known as civic self-rule. The
theory includes equalizing practices such as the rotation of offices, open discussion between office-holders and
citizens and the ability of all citizens to actively participate in government and in their own rule.
The paper it is hoped would not only throw more light on these issues but would also try to proffer solutions to the
issues with a view to contributing to knowledge and national development
Constitutional ambiguities, Indigene-ship and Citizenship
The language in which the constitution is written betrays the patriarchal tradition of our
society. In a sense, it is necessary to divest the constitution of its masculinity and make it gender
sensitive by recognizing that not only men live in Nigeria (Uja, 2006). The pronoun “he” appears
in the 1999 Constitution 235 times and the word woman was used only two times (Sections 26
(2) (a) and 29 (4) (b)).
Section 26 of the 1999 Constitution defines who a Nigerian citizen is and how same may
be acquired by naturalization and by registration. The Constitution makes no provision for the
process by which non-Nigerian men married to Nigerian women and who are so desirous, may
become Nigerian citizens. The silence here, in the opinion of Ogili (2009:1), has continued to
wreck untold hardship on the stability of many marriages.
Furthermore, Section 29(4) (b) of the 1999 Constitution provides for the renunciation of
citizenship and thus allows an under aged woman to revoke her citizenship even when she has
not attained the age of majority or the constitutional voting age. There is a continued ambiguity
about the “origin” of a woman who marries a man from all other ethnic or geographical area to
hers (Nnamdi, 2010). The reality of most women in this category is that they lack any definitive
claim to the area they left or that to which they married into. In some instances women have been
denied their rights to appointive or political positions due to the fact that they can no longer
claim their original place of origin or that or their husbands (Eke, 2011). These facts indicate that
the Nigerian 1999 constitution is skewed against women.
Section 14(3) entrenched the Federal Character Principle while being silent on the
principle of equality and non discrimination that should have been the basis for composition of
the government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs. The
Commission (which is by no means independent and gender balanced even in its composition)
aims to ensure ethnic balance in power and in the access to national resources (Ayo, 2010). This
state of affair is contradictory to a constitution that postulates equity and social justice.
Even though women constitute about half of the projected national population of Nigeria,
this numerical strength has never found a corresponding expression or representation in Nigeria’s
public life (Tucker, 2006). The problem extends beyond the usual position that “there are no
suitable women to fill vacancies or even token appointments to “gender balance” a string of
appointments. The fundamental issue remains that there are institutional reasons obstructing the
possibility of full public advancement of women. As noted earlier, Nigeria is a male dominated
society and women are subordinate, whether they are rich or poor, based in the urban or rural
area, educated or un-educated. Women are faced with discrimination and oppression from
males. Domestic violence has been reported by Verma (2005) as a matter of significant concern
to the society at large.
Quite a countable number of women have been elected to the Federal and State
legislatures or have become business executives. An account of women’s involvement in the
various legislatures is contained in an article by Effah (2006). Women in Nigeria have been
politically active at the grassroots level for many years. Historically, the most famous example is
the Aba women’s riot of 1929 (Oyewole, 2003). Faced with the possibility of a tax on their
produce, the women organized a violent demonstration across the ancient city of Aba. The extent
of the spread of communication in those days was remarkable considering there were no
telephones or letters, only dangerous rivers and bush tracks. The women, armed with household
utensils, such as kitchen knives, confronted the authorities. Chiefs and Europeans were attacked
indiscriminately. The riot was not quelled till fifty women were shot in a show of force by police
(Ehusani, 2005). This riot was entirely organized by women (Coleman, 1971). There have been a
number of recent examples of women involved in grassroots political action. Community
women’s organizations have organized protests in the oil producing region of the Niger Delta
(Ikelegbe, 2005). The Ijaw and Itsekiri women took on the oil companies. The Itsekiri women
occupied four Chevron Texaco pipeline flow stations (Wamala, 2002). In another instance of
demonstrations in July 2002, large numbers of Ijaw and Itseki women, protested the exclusion of
their sons from employment in the oil companies. In Cross River State women resisted the
alienation of forest by logging, which was threatening their forest dependent livelihood (Johnson,
Whatever the case, there is need for a constitutional entrenchment of the rights and
privileges of women especially as it has to do with the issue of political appointments based on
state of origin.
The Federal Character Commission (FCC) and the Promotion of the Indigene ship
It will be necessary to first of all look at the policy of federal character as contained in the
Third Schedule (Part 1) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria. This is a Federal Government policy
that seeks proportional representation of all states, ethnic or interest groups in Nigeria in
appointments to offices, promotions, and employment in government (Rinyom, 2009). Section 8
(1a, b, c) provides that in giving effect to the provisions of section 14(3) and (4) of this
Constitution, the Commission shall have the power to:
Work out an equitable formula subject to the approval of the National Assembly for the
distribution of all cadres of posts in the public service of the Federation and of the States,
the armed forces of the Federation, the Nigeria Police Force and other government
security agencies, government owned companies and parastatals of the states;
Promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principles of proportional sharing of
all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government;
Take such legal measures, including the prosecution of the head or staff of any Ministry
or government body or agency which fails to comply with any federal character principle
or formula prescribed or adopted by the Commission;
There is no denying the fact that the FCC’s sharing formula has as its cardinal concept, indigene
ship, as its pivotal principle (Rinyom, 2009; Tucker, 2006; Aniekwu, 1999). In Obasanjo’s
cabinet, all states of the federation were requested to nominate indigenes qualified to be
appointed as ministers and ambassadors. This measure was meant to be a panacea to the most
abused word in the Nigerian political vocabulary – marginalization. The argument has been that
each people, as defined by state boundaries, are entitled to benefit from the national cake and
should therefore be adequately represented (Wamala, 2002, Ehusani, 2005). The expectation,
therefore, was that “a son of the soil” shall be mandated by the people of a given state to be their
representative. The people also should possess the capacity to accept or reject anyone for any
given number of reasons ranging from a mistrust of his capability to represent them on the basis
of political affiliation, social and cultural background or even economic circumstances (Effa,
2006). Invariably, except for a few isolated cases where the consent of the people are not sought
as in situations of promotions in the civil service, nominees to such federal appointments have
been “indigenes” (as we know the term to mean in Nigeria) of their states. Ehusani (2005:13)
sums this scenario up when he asserted that:
Consequently, no Igbo man has so far been nominated to
represent Lagos State for a ministerial appointment even
though some Igbo families have been in Lagos for over a
hundred years. And no Yoruba man has been nominated to
represent Kano for an ambassadorial appointment even though
some Yoruba families have been in Kano for decades on end,
and in the same vein, no Hausa man has been nominated to
head the Niger Delta Development Commission even though
some Hausa families have been in the delta region for nearly a
hundred years. These are things supposedly reserved for
indigenes for which questions as to those qualified to be
nominated are answered without being voiced or questioned.
In order to ensure that the candidates for appointments, nominations for political offices,
employments and even admissions into federal institutions are bona fide indigenes of the states
they profess to come from, all states have “Indigene Forms” (not Citizen Forms) as proof of
indigeneship of the state. These forms are administered at the local government levels for which
the names and tribes of one’s parents are to be filled in, and one’s village/ward head is to append
his signature affirming that one is a bona fide indigene of the locality one professes to come from
(Ewan, 2010). These are documents which are not only accepted at the Federal Government
level, but demanded as pre-requisites for employments, appointments, promotions and
admissions, all in the bid to create, maintain and sustain a “Federal Character” (Ehusani, 2005).
The constitution provides for a Federal Character Commission which thrives on the principle of
indigeneship. In as much as the federal character principle tends to promote equitable
representation, it indirectly lays credence to an unvoiced policy of exclusion of non-indigenes of
a particular area in the political affairs of such a place on grounds of non-indigeneship.
Recent Trends in the Indigene-Citizen Debate
As pointed out earlier, states were mandated to nominate qualified ‘indigenes’ to hold a
political appointment for the state. This trend was adhered to during the tenure of Obasanjo and
there was hardly any case of representation by a supposedly non-indigene. This trend began to
change in the tenure of Goodluck Jonathan. For instance, Olusegun Aganga is an indigene of
Delta State but is representing Lagos State in the Federal Cabinet; Josephine Anenih hails from
Anambra State, married to Edo State and is representing Anambra State in the Federal Cabinet;
Deziani Allison-Madueke is a Bayelsa State indigene by birth, married to an Enugu State
indigene and represents Bayelsa in the Federal Cabinet; N. Oduah Orgionyonwe is not an
Anambra State indigene but is representing the State in the Federal Cabinet; and, Justice Mary
Odili is from Imo State by birth, married to Rivers State but representing Anambra State in the
Judicial Council.
These representations are raising dust among indigenes of states like Anambra and Lagos
who felt that representation by non-indigenes is a form of marginalization by the Federal
Government. The case of Lagos State is a good example. Adefaka (2011) reports that the
President’s choice of Dr. Olusegun Aganga for the slot of Lagos State in his emerging cabinet
has been met with stringent opposition by stakeholders in the Centre of Excellence as they say
the former Finance Minister, as a non-indigene of Lagos State, cannot be ‘sincerely’ accepted as
representing Lagos in the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
Prominent among the agitators is Major-General Tajudeen Olanrewaju, a former
Commander Corps of Artillery, former General Officer Commanding, 3rd Armoured Division of the
Deputy Defence Adviser
in Moscow,
Communications of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and, above all, a prince from Lagos State.
General Olanrewaju is angry that, in spite of the many relentless efforts by Lagos people
including himself to give President Jonathan the bulk victory he got from the former Federal
Capital Territory in the last presidential election, he could decide to play dangerous politics with
the destiny of Lagos State people when it came to who should be their eye in the Federal cabinet
under his chairmanship.
Recently President Jonathan submitted names of ministerial nominees to the Senate for
screening; at least one from each state of the federation with Olusegun Aganga, a non-Lagosian,
but bred in Lagos nominated to represent Lagos State. But Lagosians, according to
General Olanrewaju, will not take it easy with the President should they be “pushed to the
Atlantic” as he said they were consistently being deprived of the rights to having a say in the
running of the nation “we all call our own”.
In a move believed to be corroborating the General Olanrewaju position, the three Action
Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Senators in the Senate opposed Aganga's confirmation during the screen
and the opposition by the CAN’s senior legislators were reportedly approved by the Senate. In
spite of everything, the former Finance Minister eventually scaled through and was cleared as
minister-designate. General Olanrewaju therefore kicked and he is not alone in the clamour that
Jonathan should do things properly in this regard and revisit the issue of ministerial slot of Lagos
State at the FEC.
A retired judge, Justice Ishola Oluwa, faulted the nomination, in the first instance, of the
former Minister of Finance, Olusegun Aganga as the Lagos state representative. His reason is
that Aganga hails from Edo and not Lagos State. What is the point here is that, as it stands now,
Lagos State has no representatives in the Federal Executive Council. This is because Aganga, our
nominee, is from Sabongida Ora in Edo State, so he cannot represent Lagos State, the 93-yearold Justice Oluwa submitted.
Clarifying his position, General Olanrewaju said his grouse was not against the person
of OlusegunAganga but against the process leading to his nomination adding that history will
never forgive them if Lagos State stakeholders fail to rise against the injustice.
“I have nothing against President Jonathan nor Aganga, but the President has to do the right
thing. He is doing the right thing for his own people as President. I am not President but I have
been minister in this country and I think when people like us don’t stand up to this challenge,
posterity will never forgive us. I am appealing to the President to do something quickly and
urgently about it. “Even the President of the Senate, David Mark, should have seen the
unconstitutionality in it and shouldn’t have allowed Aganga’s clearance. General Olanrewaju, a
radical politician, quoted Abraham Lincoln, former American President as saying, “In a nation
state, the smallest population must be given the pride of place and must also be given some sense
of belonging”. He noted because the popular Lincoln's position earned him the nickname of an
‘Emancipator’ and urged President Jonathan to borrow a leave from such a noble stand by
making himself an Emancipator for Lagos people in this matter. “Because we Lagosians are
facing the minority problem the Niger Delta people once faced. But now they are in the
mainstream and that is what we want”. The General said: “The trouble in the Aganga being taken
for Lagos slot in the cabinet is that, he is not a Lagos indigene. It is as simple as that! Can the
Federal Government do it to Kano people? Can they do it to Akwa Ibom or Bayelsa people? Oh,
doing it to Lagos people is unfair! It’s unfair! Enough is just enough! It’s as simple as that! “We
knew what happened to the minority people of Bayelsa; they fought for their own independence
and they are now enjoying it. Yes we know we don’t form the majority of the population but we
have decided to be part of this nation. I am not just a mouthed Lagosian be clear that I am an
Awori and a prince from Lagos State and I have the rights to complain’’, he concluded.
In the same vein, Ohabuenyi (2011) lamented the ‘plight’ of Anambra State with regards
to federal appointments. According to him, “it is not enough for the federal government to
consistently use females to fill Amambra slot at the federal level. They have now resorted to
using non-indigenes to fill the State’s slots. What link does Justice Mary Odili have with
Anambra State? What link does Orgionyonwe have with Anambra State? These are ploys by the
federal government to deny the state federal appointments. They believe we are not aware of this
ploy but they should know that if this trend continues, it will precipitate into violence of unequal
proportion some day’. This outburst by Ohabuenyi is just one out of several others. Indeed, the
previous practice of having indigenes represent their respective states appear to have taken root
in the Nigerian polity. The latest case is Chief Justice of Nigeria, Aloma Mukhtar’s refusal to
swear in Ifeoma Jumbo-Ofo as a judge of the Appeal Court representing Abia state, which is her
state of marriage where as she was born in Anambra state.
The Way Forward
The utility of the constitution of any country (especially in a democracy) lies in its ability to
address most, if not all the contentious issues in such a polity. The Nigerian 1999 Constitution is
not an exception. Most people have blamed the various discrepancies inherent in the constitution
on the fact that the constitution was doctored by the military and passed down to a civilian
regime. However, this does not mean that Nigerians are under any obligation to continue living
by a constitution that appears to be skewed.
On the issue of indigeneship and citizenship, the Nigerian Constitution is quite clear on
citizenship. However, people tend to confuse citizenship with indigeneship. If any of a person’s
grand-parents or parents is a Nigerian, that person is automatically a Nigerian. Asuquo (2010:5)
seems to trace the domestication of certain towns to the colonial masters. According to him:
The indegeneship question is causing all the bloodshed
in Jos and other places where there have been mass migrations
over the years. Kaduna was an open field on the Banks of the
River Kaduna. It was Lord Lugard who established it and
made it his capital of Northern Nigeria. Kano on the other
hand has been there for over 2000 years. Umuahia, the town
where the Ahia bird sings was also like Kaduna created by the
British colonial masters. Ibadan was a field and warriors from
all over Yorubaland founded it. Ile-Ife used to have a policy
before the Ife-Modakeke war that any Yoruba from anywhere
in the world is welcome back home.
Since the 1999 constitution that is presently in force is silent on who an indigene is, it is
suggested that any review of the constitution should take measures to address the question of
who is and what makes an indigene. This paper starts by specifying that any Nigerian resident in
a particular part of the country for a specified number of years can lay claim to the political and
social rights accruable to people in that community. Residency is thus recommended as a
replacement for indigene ship in the Nigerian constitution. This is necessary because during such
period of residence, the person must have forged friendship circles, inter-married with people
from the place, adopted the people’s ways of life as well as contributed to the economic
development of the place through the payment of tax and other pecuniary levies. In fact, there is
every tendency that children born to such a person will speak the language of that particular
place, go to school and develop a sense of belonging to that place.
Take the United States for instance, every State in the USA has its specific requirement
for residency and once you are a resident of a State, you can run for any office in the State. You
must have verifiable proof that you were born in the USA to run for the presidency. It is that
straight forward in the USA. Yes. An Austrian-born man was the governor of the State of
California up till only a few months ago, while an American-born Indian man is the current
governor of the State of Louisiana. He is qualified by birth to run for the presidency of the USA
(Uduak, 2009). Nigeria is not that structured (yet). Maybe in no distant time from now Nigerians
will be emphasizing citizenship more than tribal identity or indegeneship.
Similarly, the constitution should take steps to settle the issue of which state a woman can
be qualified to represent – is it her state of birth or her state of marriage or both. Women should
represent states where they are married to except in cases whereby they are separated from their
husbands, returned to their parents and have adopted their maiden names. This will go a long
way towards addressing the cries of marginalization often accompanying the appointment of
women to political positions.
This paper examined the Nigerian 1999 constitution and the issues of indigeneship and
citizenship. It was revealed that the constitution is quite silent on the issue of indigeneship even
though unfolding events indicate that the practice of denial of political rights of non-indigenes
are rampant and is almost becoming a norm. One can hardly come across any bio-data document
in Nigeria without a column for ‘state of origin’, ‘local government of origin’ etc. Most states
have been known to deny non-indigenes scholarships and other pecuniary benefits on account of
their state of origin.
The paper also highlighted the fact that the appointment of non-indigenes, especially
women to represent a particular state in the federal cabinet has heightened the cries of
marginalization in many quarters. These complaints take root from the usual practices whereby
states were asked to nominate ‘qualified indigenes to represent them at the federal level’.
The paper holds that rather than the use of indegeneship, that Nigerian citizenship and
residency for a minimum given period as the requirement for rights and privileges that can be
enjoyed by any Nigerian in any part of Nigeria.
Adefaka , B, (2011), ‘Why non-Lagosian can’t represent Lagos – Gen.Olanrewaju’. PM News,
Sunday, July 10, 2011.
Adesoji, A.O. and Alao, A. (2009), ‘Indigeneship and Citizenship in Nigeria: Myth and Reality’.
The Journal of Pan African Studies, Vol.2, No.9.
Ajibola, K. (2010 ) ‘Ethnicity and Conflict Management: A Case Study of OPC Movement in
Nigeria in Ethno-Net Africa Publications. Retrieved on 22/07/2011 from
Aniekwu, B.N. (1999), ‘Legislative Policies Relating to Abortion and Reproductive Rights of
Women in Nigeria- A Case for Reform’. Research Seminar-1999, Benin City, Nigeria,
Women’s health and Action Research Centre.
Asuquo, A. (2010), ‘Nigeria: Matters
Ayo, R. (2010), ‘Women under the Nigerian Constitution’. Retrieved on 13/06/2010 from
Coleman, J. S. (1971), Nigeria: Background to Nationalism. Berkeley: University of California
Effah, A.S.A. (2006), “Women in the Development of Nigeria Since Pre-colonial Times’.
culled from GUARDIAN, July 4, 2005
Eke, D. (2011), ‘Between Indigenes and Citizens in Nigeria: A Critical Appraisal’. Unpublished
M.Sc Thesis submitted to the Department of Political Science, University of Ilorin.
Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Lagos: Federal Government Press, 1999.
“First Female legislator takes office in Ebonyi State, Nigeria”. Retrieved on 10/06/2011 from
Ikelegbe A. (2005), ‘Engendering Civil Society: oil, women groups and resource conflicts in the
Niger Delta region in Nigeria’. The Journal of Modern Africa Studies, Cambridge, June
2005, Vol.43.
Ishaya, J. (2006), ‘Indigene – Citizen Controversy: Federalism in Jeopardy’. Retrieved on
22/07/2011 from http://www.naija_now.com.
Johnson, C. O. (2003), “Nigeria: Illegal logging & forest women’s resistance”, Review of African
Political Economy. March 2003, Vol.30.
Nnamdi, O. (2010), ‘Our Constitution is due for a Review’. Retrieved on 13/06/2010 from
Ogili, J. (2009), ‘Contentious Issues in Nigeria’s Federalism. Unpublished M.Sc Thesis submitted
to the Department of Political Science, University of Benin.
Ohabuenyi, J. O. (2011), ‘Representation in the Federal Cabinet: Whither Anambra State?’
Retrieved on 13/06/2010 from http://www.gamji.com.
Oyewole, K. (2003), ‘The Case Against Federal Character Principle’. Unilag Journal of Public
Affairs, Vol. 2(21).
Pereira, C. (), ‘Understanding Women’s Experiences of Citizenship in Nigeria: From
Rinyom, J.D. (2009), ‘Indigeneship, Citizenship and the Lost Nigerianship: An Unpopular Essay
(Part 1)’. http://www.gamji.com/article3000/NEWS3785.htm
Tucker, W. (2006), ‘Contemporary Issues in Nigeria: The Status of Women’. Retrieved on
22/07/2011 from http://www.socsci.flinders.edu.au/global/africa/billtucker/index.htm
Uduak, A. (2009), ‘The Plight of the Nigerian Woman’. Journal of Gender Equality, Vol.1(1).
Uja, S.K. (2006), ‘Why Constitutional Measures should be adopted in Solving the CitizenIndigene Question’. Retrieved on 13/06/2010 from http://www.dawodu.com.
Verma, P. (2005), ‘Nigeria: half of women experience domestic violence’. Off Our Backs
Wamala, I. (2006), ‘Nigeria Protests: Nigerian Women Take On the Oil Companies’. Women &
Environment International Magazine, Toronto: Fall 2002.
The Nigerian Press and the Struggle for Democracy: Not yet Uhuru
Department of Mass Communication
University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Of all the different types of government so far experimented by the countries of the world –
fascism, totalitarianism, monarchy, diarchy, aristocracy, oligarchy etc – democracy has proved
to be the best form. Under democracy, the inalienable rights and essential freedoms natural to
man as human are realizable. These include; the right to freedom of worship; right to freedom of
speech; right to life; right to freedom of association and right to the dignity of the human person
and so on. It is perhaps for this reason, among others, that the Nigerian press has continued to
struggle for democracy to ensure these freedoms.
For this, the vested interests, the oppressors of the poor saw the watch dogs as a pleasant
whipping boy, tormenting, persecuting and using all sorts of draconian legislations and extra –
judicial methods to suppress legitimate agitations. Thank goodness, the freedom of information
bill has been passed into law.
But despite all the indignities, the press has soldiered on. However, since 1999 when Nigeria
appeared to have freed herself from the military strangle-hold, there seems to be a temptation to
relax in the false hope that we have arrived the promised democratic land. But the ugly
experience of the 2003 and 2007 elections provide a pointer that it is not yet Uhuru. There is the
need to stress eternal vigilance as we have only substituted black imperialism for white
imperialism. This paper examines the liberation struggle of the Nigerian press towards political
emancipation from oppressors and urges a coordinated political mobilization of the electorate to
stand up for genuine participatory democracy.
The successful practice of democracy has proved on intractable problem in Nigeria. For this, the
Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) recently concluded that “Democracy has failed in Nigeria.”
Describing Nigeria as a failed state, the association noted that “it was common knowledge that
across Nigeria, public trust in democracy was being challenged due to the perception that
democracy has failed to improve life.” It asserted, that “Democratic institutions such as
parliaments, executive branches and political parties are seen as ineffective in representing the
people. Popular discontent with lack of economic and social development cannot be divorced
completely from recent upheavals” (The Nigerian Tribune Tuesday 18 August, 2009:8)
In another breath, Peter Lewis, director of the African studies Programme at John
Hopkins University remarked that confidence in the new Nigerian democracy has crashed.
According to him Nigerians expected a democratic dividend in 1999. They expected more
economic opportunity and better governance. Quoting from Machiavelli’s book, the Discouses,
Asobie (2000:7) observed that “there is a positive connection between democracy and
development, between political freedom/liberty and domestic as well as international peace and
stability.” For Machiavelli, Athens in Greece and Rome in Italy were ideal states because of their
love of liberty, and the manner in which democratic governance furthered the cause of
development. His words:
It is wonderful to think of the greatness which Athens attained within the
space of a hundred years after having freed herself from the tyranny of
Pisistratus, and still more wonderful is it to reflect upon the greatness which
Rome achieved after she was rid of her kings. The cause of this is manifest,
for its is not individual prosperity, but the general good that makes cities
great and certainly the general good is regarded nowhere but in
Hence, democracy is the only form of government that has the potential of lifting people
from poverty, ignorance, hunger and disease by guaranteeing each person the freedom to realize
his ambition without man-made encumbrances. Aristole, the Greek philosopher, after analyzing
the different forms of government namely oligarchy, monoarchy, and aristocracy, finally settled
for democracy as the best form of government. According to him, taken together and compared
with the few, the government of the many is stronger, richer and better. (Blum 2000:25).
It is for these advantages inherent in democratic form of government that the Nigerian
press has been unrelenting in fighting other forms of government in Nigeria, namely colonialism
and military dictatorships.
Zuma, (citied in Ogunsiji 1989:13) explained that the pre-independence press in Nigeria
saw colonialism as totally the opposite of what was right and just. According to him, the press
saw colonialism as “politically oppressive, economically exploitative, socially discriminating
and culturally polluting, if not entirely destructive” adding that “the press did not however feel
shy to fight for justice.” That was, why Aniagalu (1993:2) asserts that the pre-independence
press in Nigeria, mainly the newspapers in Lagos and the Zik Group of Newspapers,
concentrated on the fight to achieve independence for Nigeria from the British colonial masters.
According to him, the press focused on accusations against the British colonialist of exploitation,
of discrimination and oppression. The press stooped at nothing to put the heat on the British in
those accusations.”
Hence, in the face of the unbearable assault mounted by the Nigerian press and
progressive unions, the British saw that the game was up and commenced series of constitutional
amendments that eventually culminated in grating independence to Nigeria. These include the
1922 Clifford constitution that structured Nigeria into three regions namely, the North, the East
and the West and introduced regional unicameral legislature in the East and the West and a
bicameral arrangement in the North made up of House of Assembly and a House of Chiefs.
The Lyttleton constitution of 1954 gave a federal system of government to Nigeria;
providing a premier for each region. The 1960 Sir James Robertson’s constitution gave
independence to Nigeria while the 1963 constitution abolished the Bristish Monarch as the Head
of State, and established the office of the president as the Head of state and commence-in-chief
of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
According to Aniagalu (1993) so hot was the Nigerian Press against the Bristish that the
Rt. Hon. Anthony Edem, the Prime Minister then sarcastically referred to the Nigeria press as
“The Broad Sheets of West Africa.”
There was evidence, says Okonkwo (1968) that the colonial governors were rankled by
the criticism spearheaded by the Nigerian press and they sought ways to retaliate. For instance,
Lord Luggard complained about newspapers pouring out their columns of venomous abuse often
bordering on sedition or libel. Consequently, the seditious Offence Ordiance of 1909 was
promulgated in Nigeria to tame the press.
However, despite the dogged commitment of the Nigerian press to wrest power from the
colonial master and enthrone indigenous government and democracy, experience so far shows
that the Nigerian politician did not appreciate the value of democracy. Their selfish quest for
power led to military intervention in the nation’s body politic. And with the excesses associated
with military dictatorship, the press was again forced to fight to restore democracy which cost
many journalists their lives.
Now that democracy has been restored in Nigeria since 1999, experience shows that the
way and manner Nigerian politicians have performed so far, especially as regards election into
public offices, there is palpable fear that we are not yet done with military intervention into
Nigerian politics unless there is a change of attitude before it is late. For instance, Roberts,
(2000:61) defined democracy as “A form of rule in which either members of a society acts as
policy-making authority (direct democracy) or are represented by a smaller number to make
policy in their behalf (representative democracy). According to him:
The growth in size of the populations of cities, and states, the
distances they cover, and the vast, complex and continuous stream
of issues requiring governmental consideration, decision and action,
plus the inability of a population to devote much time to political
participation. Set limits to the extension of direct democracy; where
popular participation was regarded as desirable, it had to be through
the election or representatives and perhaps through the use of
occasional referenda and plebiscites.
To him, democracy implies certain operational principles for its realization. Participation
must be equal and every vote in a democracy should count for the same as every other vote. But
are these empirical characteristics of democracy observed in Nigeria?
A careful observation of elections as the most important aspect of democracy, especially
the 2003 and 2007 elections, shows that democracy has not taken root in Nigeria. Election, says
Nnoli (1990:41) is an important element of modern representative government. It is so closely
tied to growth and development of democratic political order that it is now held to be the single
most important indicator of the presence or absence of democratic government. A negation of
election, he observed, is a negation of democracy.
In the 2003 and 2007 elections for example, elections were neither free nor fair, nor did
the votes of the electorate determine who represented the people in what office. Elekwa (2008:9)
lamented that the 2007 general elections in Nigeria “were chronicles of shame and deceit of the
population.” He observed that the Nigerian populace as electoral outcomes did not largely reflect
the wishes and aspirations of the people. He concluded that the 2007 elections were marred by
wide-spread violence and general insecurity right from voter, registration, party primaries to
political campaign and the elections proper. The European Union Observer Mission (EUOM)
that observed the April 2007 elections in Nigeria summarized the popular perception thus:
The 2007 state and federal election fell far short of the basic
international and regional standards for democratic elections.
They were married by poor organization, lack of essential
transparency, widespread irregularities, significant evidence of
frauds, particularly during result collation process, voter’s
disenfranchisement at different stages of the process, lack of equal
conditions for contestants and numerous incidents of violence. As
a result, the elections have not lived up to the hopes and
expectations of the Nigerian people and the process cannot be
considered to have been credible (Akitowele, 2007:2)
The Newswatch edition of October 5, 2009 while describing the 2003 general elections
as embarrassing and scandalous, it simply labeled that of 2007 as “the worst election ever in
Nigeria’s history”. In his work titled. This madness called election 2003, Odey, (2003:52) wrote:
....of all the political tragedies that have been visited upon this
country, what happened on April 12 and 19, 2003 is the worst
because it made people lose hope in democracy as they lost in
military dictatorship. There is much bitterness in the land as a
result of the election malpractice.”
The Insider Weekly (April 28, 2003:23) described the alleged well-planned rigging
strategy employed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in collaboration with the Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC) as “Scientific rigging”.
According to the magazine, the strategy included, but not limited to:
1. Electoral officers not showing up in some polling station yet election results were
declared for such stations;
2. Lack of privacy for the voter to cast his vote;
3. INEC officials coming very late for the polls by which times many voters had left in
4. Intimidation of voters through violence and bribery;
5. Recruitment of party members as electoral officers;
6. Disappearance of unfilled result sheets that later surfaced with figures;
7. Exchange of fake ballot boxes with genuine ones fully thumb printed.
Hence Ike (2009:9) after observing how democracy is practised in Nigeria as typified by the
2003 and 2007 general elections concluded that Nigeria was still toddling and has not made any
significant growth because the electoral system, the major plank on which democracy can stand
is faulty.
Even, the 2011 elections acclaimed to be free and fair has had its own share of
irregularities especially in terms of violence, multiple and under age voting. According to the
Daily Sun (Tuesday, May 10, 2010) report:
More condemnations have continued to trail the killing of some
National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) members in the post-election
violence that erupted in over five states in the North. At the last
count, about seven members were confirmed dead in Bauchi by the
state police command, with fears of higher figures in Kano and
Borno States where officials have declined official comment on
death toll.
Also, the post-election analysis report, according to the INEC Chairman, showed that
less than 50% of eligible voters participated in the 2011 elections. It is on the strength of the
above scenario that a wake-up call is made on the Nigerian media to pick up the gunlet for
public enlightment and political mobilization to develop more, the participant political culture in
the Nigerian electorate come 2015. This is because there is still a high degree of political apathy
and skepticism engendered by long years of intimidation both by the military and politicians in
their do-or-die brand of politics. This is not democracy hence we have yet a long way to go.
Theoretical framework
This study finds the agenda setting theory of mass media congruent with the objectives.
Developed by McCombs and Shaw (1972) the theory arose as an end point of the 1968 study of
American election. Its thrust is on “how” the mass media can influence political process,
especially voting behaviour. It was discovered that the mass media besides setting agenda for
campaigns also dictated the issues on which many electorates based their voting decisions
Also, Griffin (1991:340) opined that the agenda-stting theory is a proof that the media
serve as a sign post to the electorate during elections. According to him:
McComb and Shaw have established plausible cases that some
people look to print and broadcast news during, election campaigns
for clues to guide them on deciding which issues are important.
In his own view, Nwodu (2003:53) listed a number of ways in which the media impact on
the electorates.
These include:a) Providing an objective focus on a candidates antecedents primarily to reinforce or expose
what is respectively good and bad about the candidate’s image.
b) Creating necessary awareness about a candidate and his/her campaign.
c) Guide the electorate’s voting decisions by shaping their opinions through sound
interpretation and analysis of political matters.
d) Educating the electorate on the overall electoral process and procedures as well as
informing them adequately about the election dates, venues and other relevant
information about the election.
For Agee, Ault and Emery (1982) the basic idea of agenda-setting-the ability of the media to
influence the salience of events in the public mind-was a part of Walter Lippmann’s description
of “the pictures in our heads.” In 1963, wrote the scholars, political scientist Benrad Cohen
declared in his book, The press and foreign policy that “The press may not be successful much of
the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what
to think about.”
In a similar vein Theodore White (1972) noted in Agee et al (1982) that: The power of
the press is a primordial one. It sets the agenda of public discussion…” According to him, “No
major act of the American Congress, no foreign adventure, no act of diplomacy, and no great
social reform can succeed in the United States unless the press prepares the public mind. And
when the press seizes a great issue to thrust onto the agenda of talk, it moves action on its own.”
The agenda-setting press here, it is suggested, will be highly comprehensive. Fortunately,
in Ukaegbu v Attorney-General of Imo state (1983) (cited in Nwokolo (2007) The Supreme
Court gave a broad interpretation of section 36 (2) of the 1979 (now section 39(2) 1999
constitution) whereby the press now includes “any intervening means, instrument or agency”
such as “schools” rather that the mass media alone.
Hence, schools could be one of the instruments for developing and mobilizing towards a
participant political culture among young Nigerians for now and for the future. The colonial
masters appreciated the role of the school as training ground for the propagation of any
redeeming social endeavour. In order words, the use of the western type media namely,
newspapers and magazines etc. need to be complemented and supported in view of their inherent
weaknesses. These shortcomings, noted y Dissayanake (2006:41) includes the fact that they are:
a) Linear and one-way rather than circular and two-way:
b) Lay heavy emphasis on the communicator as opposed to the receivers;
c) Ignore the context which, in point of fact, provides us with the bulk of meaning of
d) Give pride of place to manipulation over mutuality and reciprocity;
e) Perceive individuals as atomistic entities as opposed to interacting elements in a
collectivistic or communalistic system; and
f) Treat communication in mechanical rather than organic terms.
Also, the advocates for democracy and other concerned citizens should be the arrow-head in the
mobilization process in the tradition of the Zikst movement. This will enable the permeation of
the ruralities and the illiterate section of the population. And in view of the shortcomings of the
western type media listed above, there is need to integrate the traditional modes of
communication in the mobilization enterprise. This has proved effective in different parts of the
worls. Ugboajah (1985) observed that the use of rituals in ora-media for social solidarity in cases
of emergency is not limited to Africa. Gandi, and Mao, he noted, had littlee access to the modern
media in mobilizing the masses for their revolution in India and China. They relied on credible
secular symbols, and channels that were deeply integrated into the life of the masses and
participatory exposure to their messages.
Also, Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers, said Ugboajah, demonstrated the impact of
indigenous networks in mobilizing popular support in which case they relied on solid
institutional infrastructure and activated highly information conductive symbols of Oramedia. He
noted that, Khomeini’s 90,000 mosques under the guidance of 20,000 mullahs (priests) provided
a solid infrastructure for a revolutionary communication network, a model, he said, could have
been adapted to a successful “Green Revolution’ in Nigeria. Hence, a broad spectrum of well
respected opinion leaders and traditional rulers in the community, the church, schools, women,
youth and other non-governmental organizations will be required in this struggle towards
genuine democracy in Nigeria.
This is going to be a long drawn battle for freedom. Media influence is cumulative and
long-term. As observed by Center and Jackson (2007:206) “A single news report, even if
covered by media across the country, or an item in a single medium even if it’s the evening
news, usually causes little if any behavior or attitude change. But when many media cover a
subject over the years perhaps expressing a viewpoint on the topic, whole generations can be
influenced.” Credible, free and fair election is the basic ingredient of participatory democracy
and it is not obtained on a platter of gold. The earlier the agenda for this noble task is set, the
better for Nigeria and the rebranding campaign. The Nigerian press has done it before, it can do
it again. The memories of the struggles with the colonial masters and the military are still fresh in
our minds. We must al stand up and fight for our rights against internal colonization. As said
earlier, eternal vigilance remains the price of liberty.
The Nigerian press and the struggle for political emancipation from the colonial masters.
An off-shoot of imperialism, colonism has proved to be one of the worst forms of
government in the world. Colonialism, says Roberts (2000:35) refers to “The practice of
occupying by force or by peaceful means, territory which is relatively underdeveloped for the
purposes of establishing settlers from the parent state using the territory mainly for economic,
but secondarily perhaps for political or strategic advantage of the colonizing power.” Hence,
colonialism is naturally exploitative, selfish and retrogressive to the victims or objects of the unGodly order. To facilitate their predatory exploits, colonial powers always come up with
obnoxious laws that are dehumanizing and subjugatory in letters and spirits. The aim is destroy
the sprit of resistance and maintain groove of silence and peace of the graveyard among the
colonized. Infact, the whole period of colonial rule in Nigeria was replete with obnoxious
policies and ordinances to which the Nigerian press reacted adequately.
In a public lecture Azikiwe (1978) summarized the point thus:
The Nigeian experience portrays how some colonial Governors
succeeded in castrating the Nigerian Press. The roles played by
Freeman, Macgregor, Glover, Egerton and Lugard are clear
examples. But history turned tables on them by the glorious
martyrdom suffered by Benjamin, Johnson, Davies, Jackson,
Macaulay, Ernest Ikoli, Yekini Tinubu, Increase Coker, Chike Obi,
Patrick Agbu and other Nigerian Journalists.
A few examples of attempts to castrate the Nigerian press by the colonial overlords through
obnoxious laws will elucidate our point. In a pamphlet titled “Governor Egerton and the
Railway-Letter No. 1” Herbert Macaulay charged Governor Egerton with maladministration for
disregarding the serious allegations of scandals in the railway because the person involved was
his friend. In a swift reaction, the governor pushed through the seditious offences ordinance of
1909 to strengthen the government against “publications and speeches designed to inflame an
excitable and ignorant populace.” (Okonkwo, 1978).
As explained by Nwabueze (1973:146) “the law of sedition…had to be more rigorously
enforced than in Britain in order to guard against the possibility that the relatively small,
politically articulate section of the population might exploit the natural resentment against
colonialism to incite the populace to disaffection.” Sedition laws, says Okonkwo (2003),
throughout history have inhibited openness and therefore incompatible with democracy. Thus
Harry Kalven Jr. in his comment “The New York Times Case: A Note on the Central Meaning of
the First Amendment” posited that the presence or absence in the law of the concept of seditious
libel defines the society. “if it makes seditious libel and offence, it is not a free society no matter
what its other characteristics.”
On another occasion, Thomas Horatius Jackson published two articles in his Lagos
Weekly Record captioned: “The Dangers of the Judicial system in Nigeria” and “A Great
Constitutional Issue” respectively. In the Publications, Jackson referred to the decision of the
Acting Chief Justice in a case and other similar decisions earlier alleging that judges of the then
Supreme Court were too anxious to return judgments favourable to the Executive. Said the
publications, the judges “would not and dare not give a decision unfavourable to government,
and have been impelled to invent plausible arguments in order to be able to record decisions
compatible with the wishes of the Executive.” For this, the publisher was summarily punished
for contempt of court and sent to prison for two months and also ordered to pay the cost of the
But despite the affront the press did not relent in attacking and pouring venoms on the
evils of colonial rule. For example in 1894, the newspapers condemned the expedition against
chief Nana of Benin River which led to his trial and deportation to the Gold Coast now Ghana.
The Record (8 Sept., 1894) observed that “to the Africans eager for the perpetration of his race,
the hunting down of native chiefs and their being made fugitives in their homeland by civilized
nations armed with modern warfare, can only draw the severest of censures.”
Earlier, The Weekly Times (11 Oct., 1840) had condemned what the British did to King
Jaja of Opobo and emphasized the incompatibility of the action with the honour and dignity of
the British Government. The Record equally condemned those who championed the “smash up”
of Benin as “wild brained. It added that such a policy of retaliation detracted from the Christian
principles that were supposed to “actuate and influence civilized governments.” (See the Record
of 23 January, 1897). Infact, the local press matched force with force. According to Perham
(1960:597) the Nigeria Press christened Lord Lugard, one of the colonial Governors editorially
with a series of cognomens: “Napoleon of Nigeria.” “Thou art the man” “One man rule” and
“Unadulterated Autocracy.” The Times of Nigeria (24th March, 1914) published a litany of evils
of Lugard and other colonial officials thus:
From a prancing proconsul who must have his way and does not
care one iota for the safety of the innocent people under his charge;
From a born and bred-in-law chief Justice, who mercilessly drafts
our oppressive ordinances in order to maintain the prestige of
autocratic officals, to the detriment of 16 millions of souls;
From a set of ‘influential’ Englishmen, who live only to suggest and
support drastic measures to deprive the poor natives of his right;
From a colonial secretary, who having been influenced by ‘the man
on the spot’ deliberately deafens his ears and shuts his eyes to the
moans and groans of an oppressed people;
And from Negrophobism, colour prejudice, oppression and deceit;
“Good Lord, deliver us
In view of this ferocious and sustained attacks by the Nigerian Press, the colonial governors
sought ways to stifle it first by discontinuing an earlier subsidy arrangement. But this rather
drove the press to be even much harder in attacking the government. In reaction, the colonial
government then decided to enact the first newspaper ordinances of 1917. According to Omu
(1978:175) “The policies and persons of the governors were attacked unceasingly and a regime
of hostile propaganda was established and this widened the gulf between the administration and
the people.” Justifying the introduction of the newspaper ordinance designed to gag the press,
Ralph Moore, the colonial high Commissioner said he deprecated the vigour and influene of the
Lagos Press. He called the attention of the secretary of state to the fact that education was
spreading throughout the territory and that the educated and semi-educated elements would no
doubt be guided in their views and opinions by the local press.
The Record declaimed against the law which it described as “inequitable and vicious in
principle.” It said the legislation was a tyrannical measure designed to fetter the press and stifle
public opinion and that it lacked warrant and wisdom and opposed to reason and equity (See
Record 3 May, 1902). Omu (1978:18) noted that the Newspaper Ordinance was capable of
hindering the growth of the newspaper press in many ways. For instance, the bond of £250 as
required by the ordinance made the newspaper business a relatively expensive venture. Also, the
demand for sureties created fresh problems for newspaper owners as it was not always easy for
proprietors to get sureties. People in high places were reluctant to openly identify themselves
with the critics of government. However, despite these obstacles, the Nigerian press continued
the struggle until the colonial hegemons yielded showing that the pen is mightier than the sword.
A special tribute therefore, goes to those early Nigerian presse. Some of them involved in the
struggle for freedom and democracy include: The Lagos Observer, The West African Pilot, The
Times of Nigeria. The Lagos Times. The Lagos Weekly Record, Lagos Standard, The Gold
Coast Colony Advertiser etc. Through these newspaper aided by various associations, the work
of mobilization
for nationalism was begun, paving the way for smooth transition to the
formation of political parties in Nigeria. Hence, Okonkwo (1978:167) observed that through the
newspaper, Nigerians became associated with the struggle for rights, freedom from and
opposition to colonial domination, and later military oligarchy, and now, internal colonization
and oppression by self-appointed politicians.
The Nigerian press and military dictatorship
Just as the Nigerian press rather than accept the situation as it was, became totally
involved and committed to sensitizing the educated Nigerians of the injustice called colonialism,
so also did they discover evils of military dictatorship and the negative effect on national
development and then took up the gunlet again. For hardly had the dust of independence
jubilation of wining and dancing in 1960 settled when our untrained politicians started messing
up the polity through corruption and inter-ethic rivalry. By 1965, the failures of our politicians,
accentuated by political violence, killings, kidnaps and rigging of elections gave the nation’s
young officers the opportunity to strike in a military coup d’etat.
However, despite the fact that the military had genuine reason to strike, allegedly to stem
the tide of corruption and other socio- political vices, they not only overstayed their welcome,
but proved to be worse in committing the offences they claimed prompted their intervention.
Ezima (1999.:17) observed rightly that “they alleged that civilians took 10 percent kick back. By
the time Abacha dropped dead in offices in 1998, the military were taking 100percent of the
funds earmarked for development. They alleged that external debt was increasing. By the time
Babangida stepped aside, Nigeria owed $30 billion dollars, 20 times more than civilians owed.”
He concluded that under the military, Nigeria became a large prison in which innocent citizens
were inmates and the soldiers were the warders. The prevalent attitude was that “might is right”.
For instance, in 1969 under Gowon’s regime, one Andrew Obeya, the secretary to the
Benue / plateau State government almost snatched Hanatu, the wife of a Jos factory worker, but
for the intervention of the late legal icon, Gani Fawehinmi. Although this should normally have
been a private tussle between two citizens, the state government, under the military Governor got
involved on behalf of its official. (Newswatch, September 21, 2009).
Also, it was under the Murtala/Obasanjo regime that we had the N2.8 billion case. The
introduction of counter trade by the Muhammad Buhari regime nearly dragged Nigeria back to
the primitive age of trade by barter. And as shocking as Babangida’s profligacy was, the regime
of General Sani Abacha took kleptomania to higher heights. The serving military officers in
government dispensed economic patronage to those close to them while those outside of them
were starved out of business. This brought so much increase in the rate of violent robberies.
Although cases were made against civil politicians who corruptly enriched themselves, soldiers
turned out to be committing more astounding crimes. The worst victims were the press, the
human rights and political activists. The murder of Ken Saro Wiwa, Kudirat Abiola and Dele
Giwa are still fresh in our minds.
It was in the light of these prevailing circumstance that the press knew that the enemy
within was even more deadly than the colonial masters that they had just forced out some few
years back. Infact, there was the general belief in the Nigerian military regimes that unrestricted
circulation of newspapers could constitute a danger to their government, hence, like the colonial
overlord, they promulgated all kinds of decrees to gag the press. These decrees, however, did not
stop the press from commenting on many wrong doings under the military. The Gowon era
provides a good example of open confrontation between the press and military rulers. This
eventually contributed to the fall of Gowon in 1975. According to Panter-Brick (1970:8) “The
press played a vital role in preparing the ground for removing Gowon’s government through
reporting views of the government opposers and showing its own dissatisfaction. This was
especially the time of the New Nigerian (before its nationalization by the Federal Government)
in spite of the fact that it was owned by government of six Northern States.”
To gag the press, the first major step taken by the Murtala/Obasanjo regime was the
acquisition of 60 percent shares in the Daily Times and the total take-over of the New Nigerian
by August 30, 1975. The government also went further to promulgate the Public Officers
Protection Against False Accusation Decree Number 11 of 1976, which took a retroactive effect
from July, 1975.
Also, to muzzle the press and protect itself from public criticism, the Buhari regime
promulgated the obnoxious Degree Number 4 of 1984, known as Public Offence Protection
against False Accusation. Olayiwola (1991) noted that the Babangida regime also promulgated
decrees to curb political communication and gag the press. Journalists were imprisoned,
newspaper/magazines were proscribed, university teachers were sacked, social critics were
arrested and jailed, students were massacred and a press council was established. The murder of
Dele Giwa by a parcel bomb, and the proscription of Newswatch for six months for publishing
Cookey Political Bureau report were among the atrocities perpetrated by the military all aimed at
crippling the press while the looting of the national treasury and violation of human rights lasted.
But despite the indignities, the military was shown the way out in 1999 the same way the
colonial hegemons were forced out following unbearable press onslaught. It follows that since
the colonial days, through the military to date the Nigerian press has had no rest. It has been
from one repressive regime to another. But there is no rest and there should be no rest for one
surrounded by enemies. According to Dusen (2003), during the 2003 elections in Nigeria,
polling stations were “sacked by hired thugs. There were thefts of ballots boxes, kidnapping of
polling station workers, swapping out of polling workers on Election Day with party loyalist…
this is democracy at work in Nigeria. Murder and money, violence and fraud.” Lewis (2005)
noted that of the 12 African countries surveyed in 2005, only Zimbabwe which has been
described as an “outpost of tyranny” had a lower score than Nigeria.
Amucheazu (1999:205) captured the situation when he distinguished between civil rule
and democratic governance. According to him “we must go beyond civil rule to real
participatory democracy before we can really talk about political development and attendant
social transformation, which is our goal.” He observed that some state Governments alienated
the citizenry by their dictatorship and irresponsibility between 1979 -83 so much that military
coup of December 1983 was once again received warmly with a sigh of relief. But ever since,
matters have become worse by the day, there is danger. Hence the press should make the stitch
in time to save us the nine!
Recommendations and conclusion
If we recall the past, we know that during the colonial period, the press served as a
medium of sustained public debate and political protest, an uncompromising advocate of
administrative and political reforms, and a seething critic of the excesses of the colonial order.
By its political activities, the press not only stimulated the emergence of nationalist movement,
served as vehicles for changing political consciousness, but also played a prominent role as
recruiters and mobilizes to political movement.
Omu (1968) and Duyile 91987) agreed that the press was among the major weapons used by the
nationalist leadership to gain and consolidate political power and government control.
The Nigerian press also played a pivotal role in civil rule in Nigeria following series of
military dictatorships. But from all indications, all is not yet well. There is need for a
reorientation towards a participant political culture.
The Political Bureau report of 1987 captured the need for political education for easy
mobilization, hence the establishment of the National Orientation Agency. Due to high level of
illiteracy, poverty, frequent power outage, there is need to complement the role of the press with
the advocacy of the orientation agency. They can physically address people in the market, in the
church in collaboration with church leaders who can also be co-opted, community leaders in
their monthly meetings, town unions, university communities and other tertiary institutions.
As observed by Klapper (1960) when mass communication functions as an agent of
change one of two conditions is likely to exist: either: (a) the mediating factors will be found to
be inoperative and the effect of the media will be found to be direct; or (b) the mediating factors
which normally favour reinforcement will be found to be themselves impelling toward charge.
The various social groups and institutions listed above constitute the mediating factors
that inhibit or facilitate the effects of communication. Hence, when contacted face-to-face,
together with message from the press, the audience effect, we hope, will be monumental, more
so as almost everybody is disenchanted with the low level of political participation in Nigeria.
The press can play this crucial leadership role. It has done it before, it can do it again.
Agee, W et al (1982) Introduction to mass communication. New York Harper and Row
Akeredolu. O. (2009) “Democracy has failed in Nigeria” in The Nigerian Tribune, Tuesday 18,
Aniagolu, A. (1993) “The Press, the law and the Nigerian society: A synopsis” A paper
presented at the Nigerian Institute of Communication, a division of the Star printing and
publishing company limited, Enugu by the Hon. Justice A. Aniagolu (Rtd) on
Wednesday, 21st April, 1993.
Amuchezi E. (1999) “Moving Nigeria to greatness: Some thoughts.” A publication of the
National Orientation Agency (NAO), Abia State.
Asobie, H. (2007) “Reinventing the study of international relations: From state and state power
to man and social forces” a 21st inaugural lecture of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Published by the University of Nigeria Press Limited
Blum T. (2000) Theories of the political system. London: Longman Group Limitied.
Newswatch, September 21, 2009
Dissayanake, W. (2006) “Development communication: The interplay of knowledge, culture and
power in Development communication in action, Muoemeka Andrew (Ed) New York:
University Press of American Inc.
Duyile, D. (1978) Makers of Nigerian press. Lagos: Song Communications
Klapper, J. (1960). The effects of mass communication New York: Free Press. Newswatch,
October 5, 2009
Nigerian Tribune, Tuesday 18 August, 2009.
Nwokolo, P.N (2008) Developing participant political culture through political education: A
challenge to the Nigerian mass media in Review of Education, Institute of Education
Journal, University of Nigeria, Nsukka Vol. 19 No. 1 May, 2008.
Ogunsiji, M.A. (1989) Introduction to print journalism. Lagos: Nelson Publishers Limited.
Okonkwo, R.C. (1978) “Nigeria’s sedition laws – The effect on free speech,” in Journalish
Quarterly vol. 53.
Omu, F. (1987) Press and politics in Nigeria, 1880 – 1937. London: Longman Group Limited.
Perham, M. (1960) Lugard: The years of authority. London: Longman Group Limited.
Roberts, K. (2000) A dictionary of political analysis. London: Longman Group Limited.
Soyinka W. (2009) “Lets march on Aso Rock” in the Nation, Sunday Sept., 27, 2009.
Nwokolo, P.N. (2007) “The role of the press in promoting judicial activism for the sustenance of
Nigeria’s fledging democracy” in international Journal of communication, Number Six,
May 2007.
Ugboajah, F. (1958) “Oramedia in Africa” In Mass communication, culture and society. London:
Hanszell Publishers.
Susan Nwakaego Orajaka1
Jeff Unaegbu2
1. Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
2. Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
[email protected]
This paper explores the origins and history of minstrelsy through to Igbo minstrelsy in the
world. Then it settles down to ferret out the nature of Igbo minstrelsy today, given that the
advent of western music and the effects of colonization have turned it around to no ends. The
purpose of getting at the heart of its nature is to provide salvific paradigms for its resurrection
from the doldrums of oblivion. With the heavy western popular music of Nigeria today, the study
becomes very expedient as a drive towards preserving an aspect of Igbo culture which brings to
the fore the art of pathfinding, social criticism and valve for public opinion, especially against
leaders who are not attuned to taking advice from those they govern. The method of data
collection is secondary documentary evidence, with a view to bringing out articles which have
investigated through field research the minstrelsy of the past, knowing that such investigations
today would be marred by confabulations and social changes. Recommendations are given for
the restoration of Igbo minstrelsy to its popular position, and then a conditional forecast is made
in the last sentence of the conclusion.
Key words: Minstrel, pathfinder, social change, Challenges
Minstrelsy is found globally. And minstrels have appeared in societies as singers,
musicians, or reciters of poems, with the characteristic of itinerancy for performances. Normally,
they compel awe and respect in such performances. In former times, the skills of the minstrels
were seen as divine. The minstrels themselves were considered sacred. And they were invited by
kings and “loaded with honours and awards” (Chappell, 1855-59:1).
The word minstrel was initially attributed to medieval European bards who performed
songs that narrated stories of distant places and events, true or imaginary. Sometimes, the tales
would be an enhancement from the ideas of other people. Frequently they were retained by
royalty and high society as servants, entertaining the lords and courtiers with their skills. As the
courts became more sophisticated, minstrels were eventually replaced at court by the
troubadours, and many became wandering minstrels, performing in the streets and became wellliked until the middle of the Renaissance, despite a decline beginning in the late 15th century.
Minstrelsy fed into later traditions of travelling entertainers, which continued to be moderately
strong into the early 20th century, and which has some continuity down to today's buskers or
street musicians. The term minstrel derives from Old French ménestrel (also menesterel,
menestral), which is a derivative from Italian ministrello (also menestrello), from Middle Latin
ministralis "retainer," an adjective form of Latin minister, "attendant" from minus, "lesser". In
Anglo-Saxon England before the Norman Conquest, the professional poet was known as a scop
("shaper" or "maker"), who composed his own poems, and sang them to the accompaniment of a
harp. In a rank much beneath the scop, were the gleemen, who had no settled abode, but roamed
about from place to place, earning what they could from their performances. Late in the 13th
century, the term minstrel began to be used to designate a performer who amused his lord with
music and song. (“Minstrel,” 2012).
In a complex way involving invasions, wars, conquests, etc., two categories of composers
originated. Poets like Chaucer and John Gower appeared in one category wherein music was not
a part. Minstrels, on the other hand, swarmed at feasts and festivals in great numbers with harps,
fiddles, bagpipes, flutes, flageolets, citterns, and kettledrums. As early as 1321, the minstrels of
Paris were formed into a guild. A guild of royal minstrels was organized in England in 1469.
Minstrels were required to either join the guild or to abstain from practicing their craft. Some
minstrels were retained by lords as jesters who, in some cases, also practiced the art of juggling.
Some were women, or women who followed minstrels in their travels. Minstrels throughout
Europe also employed trained animals, such as bears. Minstrels in Europe died out slowly,
having gone nearly extinct by about 1700, though isolated individuals working in the tradition
existed even into the early 19th century (“Minstrel,” 2012).
In Igboland, there is a form of traditional music which is generally regarded as Igbo
minstrelsy. Enekwe, Udechukwu and Okafọ (2002:386) citing Beckerman (1970:14) reveal:
Although this type of performance is inevitably peculiar to the Igbo in many essential
details, it embodies the basic characteristics of minstrelsy as a universal, musical
phenomenon. These include entertainment, education, dramatic imitation, and
presentational activity- that form of performance which aims to appeal to the sense of
wonder and admiration of the audience by sheer artistic skill, such as acrobatics, dance
The origins of the Igbo minstrelsy may be adduced from two fronts: one, early modern
influence of soli and patronage, and two, spirit-manifest tradition. The first instance may have
begun at the turn of the twentieth century, that is, from the early 1900s shortly after the last
British expeditions on Igbo villages and gradual migration of Igbo people to urban colonial
places in the then Nigeria. The change in lifestyle from teamwork in farming to individual jobs
that emphasized personal skills lent ideas to music. Musical troupes increasingly evolved from
individual-effacing ensembles to those that emphasized soloists who dominate the foreground,
leaving the rest of the ensemble in the background. Solo musicians began to travel from place to
place seeking for patronage and singing in festivals etc. Then Igbo chiefs and kings began to
acquire minstrels. An example was Chief Ozo Ejike of Aguobu-Owa, who had a favourite
minstrel, Ugwuozo wa Ozo Mgbachi (alias Eze bu n’Eke), “for whom he found a wife, paid
taxes and granted other favours. He even lent him to the Paramount Chief, Onyeama of Eke”
(Okafor, 2005:117). The second front of origins is the masking tradition. Individuals behind
spirit masks enjoyed anonymity when they poured diatribes on erring members of a community.
“One can argue that in the remote past, nobody in Igboland could sing with the confidence and
authority of minstrels outside of the mask” (Enekwe, Udechukwu and Okafọ, 2002:387). As Igbo
culture became more expressive and modern civil law provided some level of protection, some
individuals were encouraged to openly make such criticisms. An example is the Ogene Anuka
group of Agulu Otu (Omambala LGA) which was part of a masquerade but later performed
without the mask. (Okafor, 1980:74). The largest concentration of minstrels in Igboland may
well be in Omambala LGA. It is worthy to note also that many of the Omambala minstrels were
influenced by masquerades. The minstrels, in turn, influenced other minstrels outside Omambala.
Okonkwo Asaa (Seven-Seven) and Emeka Morocco Maduka (both from Njikoka LGA) must
have been so influenced (Enekwe, Udechukwu and Okafọ, 2002:387)
The Igbo minstrel is supposedly a resourceful, knowledgeable and ambidextrous person
who holds his audience spellbound and through his songs, moral words are issued and warnings
and advices are given. This stance in minstrelsy is ubiquitous in many traditional minstrels in
Igbo land. There are various types of minstrels in Igbo land corresponding to the type of
instruments they use. The Igbo minstrel may go by the name Onye egwu ubo, onye egwu une or
onye egwu ekpili and many more. The first name means one who produces music or song using
ubo, which is a thumb piano or mbira. The first type is one who does so using ekpili rattles. The
second type is one who does so using a musical bow or une. The Igbo minstrel, therefore, is
defined according to the instrument he or she emphasizes. Having established that then, it will be
appropriate to list some traditional musical instruments commonly used by the Igbo minstrels.
They include, amongst others, the kuku or water pot drum, known as udu in Igbo land; the
membranophones or instruments made from the membranes or skin of animals such as drum or
igba or nkwa; the aerophones or wind instruments hollowed out from wood or from natural
hollows such as flute or oja, animal horns or opu and gourds or opu-eke; the chordophones or
string instruments such as the musical bow or une, zither or ubo akwara; and lastly, the
idiophones which are the log xylophone (known in Ohafia as mgbeleke, ngedegwu or igenyi, in
Ngwo, Nkanu and Mgbo-Ishielu as ubo maa, in Afigbo as akwari, in Nenwe as ikwilikwo, in
Isele-Uku as agogo, in Idemmili as ikwe-mgbo, in Ngwa as mbarimba, in Owerri as ngelenge, in
Maku as oge, in Mgbowo as ikiri and in Ekwuluobia as ekere-mgba ), the slit drums known as
ikolo etc, the clapperless bells or ogene, and the rattles of chaplet beads, basket, metal and berry
or ekpili (Okafor, 2005:162). Ekpili rattles appear to be the most used instruments by Igbo
minstrels. Many broken shells of ekpili or berries are strung together with a string in a bunch and
shaken to produce idiophonic sounds. The Igbo minstrel was and is still enamored of this
instrument. Okafor (2005:163) narrates:
Ekpili rattles are light and easy to carry. One can pocket them or enclose them in one’s
fist just as one goes along, and, when one sings, uses them to punctuate, stress and keep
time. Most Igbo minstrels, I have studied, have underscored the importance of ekpili in
minstrelsy. Some of them stated that it was the instrument that was initially associated
with minstrelsy music and was used extensively by most of the exponents of Igbo
minstrelsy, who neither used the guitar nor the membrane drum in their singing.
The Igbo minstrel is therefore blessed with an ensemble of musical instrument. Over the
years, there have arisen great minstrels from Igbo land. A minute list would include Chief
Akunwafor Ezigbo Obiligbo of Nteje, who plays the ubo also known as onye-egwu ubo,
Okonkwo Asaa (Seven-Seven) also known as onye egwu ekpili, Okechukwu Nwatu (onye egwu
une), Ugwuozo wa Ozo Mgbachi (alias eze bu n’eke from Aguobu-owa), Odezulu Ikweze (from
Aguobu Iwollo), Okona of Aguobu-Owa, Aniako Nwume of Mgbagbu-Owa (who plays the
ekpili rattles), Chigbo Nwubenyi (alias Njaba from Olo), Nwoye Azodo of Okuzu, Okavo
Ameke (alias Okavo Nwa Anaku), Nzekwesi of Umuleri, the spirit-manifest minstrel, oku na
agba achala, Pius Chigbo (Eleven Eleven), Ajaana (son of Chief Obiligbo), Herbert Udemba,
Israel Njemanze, Ozoemena Nwa Nsugbe, Afamefuna Okoye, Patrick Okwuniazor, Pericomo
Okoye of Arondizuogu, Gentleman Mike Ejeagha of Imezi-Owa, Ekwegbalu Anyanwu, Emeka
Morocco Maduka, Afam Ogbuotobo, Festus Ugwuanyaegbulam Amadi (alias area scatter) and
so many more. (Okafor, 2005:41, 400) (Enekwe, Udechukwu and Okafọ, 2002:387, 396, 397).
The opportunity of reverence for the minstrel enabled him to advice the society and to
speak to the high and mighty who are supposedly the influence points of the society. When their
advice is taken, their power grows, and invariably, they control the society, however subtle. This
paper understudies the nature of the Igbo minstrel in the past, with regard to their power as
pathfinders for the society. It further explores the limited and fast fading control they now
possess in view of changes and challenges foisted by globalization and intense acculturation all
over the globe.
Igbo minstrels were revered and their songs were taken seriously in the past. They were
regarded as poets. This expectancy made them develop admirable cogency in eloquence and
knowledge of words and proverbs. Concepts were reinvented and peddled in music.
Nevertheless, there was an abhorrence of overused expressions. Proverbs were re-rendered in
new ways. These new ways demanded being an aficionado of many strands of the Igbo culture,
especially the Igbo language. Singing was the mainstay of the minstrel’s job. A good voice was
the beacon that attracted audiences who listened not only to be entertained but, most importantly,
to gain new views, receive new instructions and garner new wisdom. Igbo minstrels relied more
on their voice than their instruments. And where the instruments were used, they would be easy
to handle or play. The instruments were “subordinate to the voice” (Okafor, 1980:52). All facets
of living were sung even to the depths of philosophy. The facets included the challenge of
poverty, the bitterness of barrenness, the felicity in a marriage, the eminence of an individual, the
reality of death and dying etc. The minstrel acted like a counselor, instructing and giving
suggestions about ways to solve a problem. The situation in a given performance moment
informed the minstrel on how to proceed. In a funeral, the minstrel displayed sorrow and
sympathized with the bereaved as well as explored the nature of death and dying. In order to
retain the interest of his audience, the minstrel continually invented new ways of singing the
same song. Very interestingly, the minstrel was a historian, relaying lengthy oral tradition from
the past. They were wonderful biographers, punctuating their descriptive biographies with
pleasant phrases and hyperbolic statements that, most often, pamper the ego of and elicited
pleasure from the biographee. Most importantly, the minstrel was an important social critic. In
the art of criticisms, the minstrel acted as the megaphone of the society. Public opinion was
given vent through his songs. The minstrel praised kings and rulers and in the commendation,
infused bitter criticisms. Wise discerning leaders took the advice and everyone went home
happy. An instance could be found in Okafor (2005:118) where Ugwuozo wa Ozo Mgbachi sang
to Chief Onyeama, the most powerful ruler in Enugwu, thus:
Onyeama, wa Eze; uboshi njo n’mma : Onyeama [No one knows], King, day of evil and good
A pun is played with the king’s name, Onyeama, which means “no one knows”, at the
same time, the sentence appeared to be addressed to Onyeama. Thus, it could mean, “No one
knows the day of evil or good” or “King Onyeama, Day of evil and good”. The king who
understood the drift did not counter the minstrel, but silently pondered on the feedback coming
from public opinion of him through the mouth of the minstrel.
Okafor (2005:118) reported that Ozo Mgbachi sang to Chief Agana of Olo thus:
Agana wa ochi-agha
Agana, the war-leader
Agana nkoghe
Agana, the proud
Agana, aghanakwa olu ji
Agana, don’t leave behind farm work
Ghu shi n’ubo na-aga
Because you hear music.
The admonition is obvious. The ruler learns that duties took precedence over perkiness.
And he becomes aware that the society might have noticed some level of unseriousness in him
and wanted him to be vigilant and serious.
A minstrel group, Obeama Mbaise, advised the then administrator of the East Central
State, Ukpabi Asika, to “consider whether things are in order” after the Nigerian Civil war when
Federal troops were still roaming about the east and causing untold embarrassments to the
Achebe and Udechukwu (1982:19) reports:
Asika gewekwela nti
Asika, listen attentively
Anyi agachaala ni oku ha evughara The fruits of our fishing, they have carried away
Ngwongwo no n’ulo ha evughara
The property in our houses they have carried away
Owu otu anyi ji awu otu?
Is this how to be one?
Asika, lee
Asika, pray
Lewekwele me o dichaala mma
Consider whether things are in order
The minstrel conveyed the values of the society. His words determined what was right or
wrong in the daily lives of persons in a given community. To Okafor (2005:123):
Ridicule in song is dreaded by village folk, and hence, the minstrel is an important
mechanism for social control. He is supposed to be aloof, and without sentiment. He
stands up, and sings about the woman who abandons her children, the young man who
errs from accepted norms, the girl who indulges in sexual laxity or practices abortion; or
he may criticize her for wearing a style of dress of which the community does not
approve. The minstrel is the conscience of the people; their judge of right and wrong.
Moreover, his gift of poetry and music may cause his words to outlive himself.
Sometimes, because of his truthful stance, however, the minstrel was hunted down and
killed, though this happened rarely. (Okafor, 2005:118).
Minstrelsy in Igboland was revered. People took them seriously. But with time, the
regard for minstrels began to ebb. There was need for change. It became expedient to remove the
trappings of a near-beggar from the image of the minstrel. The electronic media and western
popular music took a heavy toll off minstrelsy as it was practiced in the past. New minstrels
began to make hybridizations to adjust to new trends.
Globally, minstrelsy is changing along with society. On a closer look, it is the cultures of
societies that are directly being transmogrified. Minstrelsy, which is part of ethnomusical culture,
is not left out of the moving pictures. And an aspect of culture is like a state of water, say ice, in
a large barrel of water of other different states, including hot and lukewarm. The ice melts
gradually to become like its surroundings. The more ideas and people move around like
molecules in water, the more a culture acquires new ways and jettisons old ones, especially in
modern times.
Undiluted Igbo minstrelsy may have flowered in the colonial era, but the same colonial
era contaminated it. The colonial era fostered discordance in values in communities. It gave rise
to “layering of strands of discourse on traditional music as against its honest, firm and moral
principles that were united as one whole that kept the cultural integrity of the people intact”
(Agawu, 2003:20) (Keke and Obiekwe, 2012). There arose, therefrom, the challenge of laxity in
ethics and morals. Traditional rulers were no longer as influential as they were in the past
because of colonial corruption. The issue of the families of former warrant chiefs evolving into
royal Igwe families brought discomfort in many Igbo towns, who often felt that the royalty had
to rotate amongst the villages that confederated to form a given town. Towns whose extant
kingship institutions survived long from pre-contact times were more accepting of dynasties in
families long known for such leadership. Material wealth became more valuable and influenced
decisions and directions in villages. Minstrels naturally sought patronage in wealthy people. The
role of criticism became denuded. The disconnection in urban areas ensured that criticisms in
songs were not taken as serious as they used to in close-knit villages, despite the fact that such
songs went through great distances because of the then new electronic media. “Because of the
impact of western culture, the Igbo who live in urban centers no longer have the opportunity of
telling and listening to … folk tales” (Okafor, 2005:329). Foreign western music was injected
into churches, schools, bands etc. Traditional music was termed obsolete. Popular music
overtook the stage. It was a hybrid that arose from the introduction of foreign music. Young
people were carried away by popular music. Many popular musicians arose, acquiring the
national identity status and overshadowing the humble minstrelsy in rural areas. Music forms
arose. Nigeria began to admire people like Sir Victor Uwaifo, Rex Jim Lawson, Eddie Okonta,
Dr. Victor Olaiya, Zeal Onyia, Cliff Richard, Jimmy Cliff, Fats Domino, Jim Reeves, Victor
Sylvester etc. Soon, there was juju advocated by King Sunny Ade, Chief Commander Ebenezer
Obey, Sir Shina Peters etc. And Highlife carried by Oliver de Coque, Muddy Ibe, Bright
Chimezie, Adolph Ahanotu, Chief Stephen Osadebe etc. Afro-beat boasted Fela Anikulapo Kuti
etc. There was need for Igbo minstrelsy to reposition itself and compete favourably with popular
Therefore, minstrelsy in Igboland took a new form. The defining point, roughly from the
1940’s, was to mass produce the songs in electronic media, especially on LP records and
cartridges. The early electronic media minstrels included Emeka Morocco Maduka, Gentleman
Mike Ejeagha, Pericomo Okoye, Prophet Afam Ogbuotobo, Nelson Ejinduaka, Nmanwu Egbe la
Ugo cultural troupe, Rose Nzuruike and her Obiwuruotu traditional dance group, Chief
Ozoemene Okeke and his Ikpachi Ogene of Nri, Gold Wokocha, Godwin Ugwu, Omaba Ntuebi
Ndibe Nwoke and his Nkakwu Masquerade club of Inyi in Oji River LGA, Aboh Women
cultural dance group, Israel Anyanwu and his Ukom group etc. (Ojiako, 1994).
The changes in the musical scene were explosive. Former ragtag performers were
becoming instant millionaires because of the mass production of a single performance in LP
records and cassettes. The minstrels themselves were becoming affluent. The contemporary
minstrels like Paddy Okwuniazor tried to fill this lacuna by singing folk tales in the then
Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), now Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN),
Enugu. The challenge from popular music led Igbo minstrels like Mike Ejeagha to emerge with
akuko n’egwu popular minstrel strand of minstrelsy. Emerging from playing in the 1950’s
ensemble of his boss, Patrick Okwuniazor, Ejeagha of Imezi-Owa took off on his own to pay the
akuko n’egwu. Okafor (2005:400) narrates:
The foundation of this style can be traced to the traditional narration of folk tales, some
of which were punctuated with music and song. Many of these Igbo folk tales have
children as audience and were designed to serve as character building instruments. He
continues to attract appreciative audiences with his relaxed and pleasant Igbo rural music.
His lyrics are full of proverbs and folk tales and he appears often on radio and
television… His chorus singers play the petite slit drum (ekwe) and the shaker (oyo)….
By his choice of words and idioms and the enlargement or variation of existing tales, it is
clear that he is addressing a different audience, perhaps the middle class young Igbo man
or woman striving to make a living through the prevalent network of social intercourse,
economic fluctuations and achievement objectives.
Ejeagha brought in the path finding role of the minstrel into the post-independence music
scene. In one of his songs, anyi fulu ozu ene or “we’ve seen the carcass of an antelope”, he warns
the big man who isolates himself from former friends, saying that “ebi sina ife ya ji pusie aka we
rapulu umu-nnia onu ya bu ka fa fu ebe faga ejide ya ka” (the porcupine said why it left only its
neck bare after covering its body with spikes was for its kin to find where to hold it”. Mike
Ejeagha was not alone in creating the popular minstrelsy. Ekwegbalu Anyanwu, Emeka
Morocco, Okonkwo Asaa “Seven-Seven” (who died in 1978) etc, were also some of the
advocates of popular minstrelsy which evolved from the rural Igbo minstrelsy. Averagely, many
were primary school leavers. They used sound amplifiers, microphones, electric guitars and in
some cases, large orchestras. Several instruments outside Igbo land were used too for exoticness.
They then reached out to wider audiences than their predecessors did (Enekwe, Udechukwu and
Okafọ, 2002:396). By the 1990s, they were at their peak and began to ebb by the 2000 because
of a new flush of young musicians and young audience response to them from the early 2000.
There is, today, again, an ebb in Igbo minstrelsy because of the popular music of young people
which is in the front burner. There is a greater emphasis on the music of indigenous Nigerian
musicians who are leading in today’s popular music that is heavily western. The musicians
include Innocent Ugah Idibia (aka 2face Idibia), Dapo Daniel Oyebanjo (D’Banj), Michael
Collins Ajereh (Don Jazzy), Naetochukwu Chikwe (Naeto C), Jude Lemfani Abaga (MI- Mr.
Incredible), TY Bello, David Adeleke (DAVIDO), Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun (WIZKID), Chukie
Edozien (LYNXX), Paul Play Dairo, Olumide Ayeni (Ghost) and Wale Davies (Tec), Olu
Maintain etc.
The Igbo minstrelsy is at its ebb due to the avalanche of younger artistes in the Nigerian
music industry who are themselves cut off from their roots. There has to be, then,
One, a renewal of interest in Igbo culture, before talented artistes can be inspired to use
the information they have garnered about Igbo culture in their songs.
Two, concerted efforts by the governments to establish Igbo music education in the
curricula across government schools and tertiary institutions.
Three, competitions should be instituted to promote Igbo minstrelsy by young musicians.
The value of awards would attract talents across Igbo land.
Four, festivals in which minstrels would be invited have to be created so that from here a
great interest in Igbo culture may be rekindled.
Five, hybridization process can be done, whereby newer forms of western music in
Nigeria can be combined with Igbo minstrelsy, even rap may have to come in, since culture is
not static and so far as the information is passed across, it does not matter much how it is passed
across in this ultra modern times.
In conclusion, every aspect of Igbo culture is undergoing great changes due to emphasis
on eclecticism in global culture. Information is passed across all over the world in such a way
that suggests that nowhere is isolated anymore. Therefore, there should be a conscious effort by
governments and non-governmental bodies concerned with Igbo culture to project, preserve,
promote and export the culture through popular minstrelsy to the world. If it catches fire out
there globally, then its tide may well come again. Yes.
Achebe, C. and Udechukwu O. (ed. 1982). Aka weta: Egwu aguluagu Egwu edeluede. Nsukka:
Agawu, K. (2003). Representing African Music: Postcolonial notes, Queries, Positions. New
York: Taylor and Francis.
Beckerman, B. (1970). Dynamics of Drama. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Chappell, W. (1855-59). Popular Music of the Olden Times, Vol. 1., London: Gramer, Beale and
Enekwe, O.O., Udechukwu, O. and Okafọ, R.C. (2002). “Minstrelsy in Igboland”, in Ofomata,
GEK (ed.) A Survey of the Igbo Nation. Onitsha: Africana First Publishers Limited.
Keke, M.T.O. & Obiekwe, C.N. (2012). “The Integrity of Traditional Music in the Nigerian
Society”, in Onyeji, Christian (ed.) Nsukka Journal of Musical Arts Research (Volume
1). Nsukka: Department of Music, UNN.
Minstrel. (2012). Wikipedia Online Encyclopaedia. Web material retrieved October 23, 2012
from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/minstrel.html
Ojiako, C.J. (1994). “Pericomo Okoye: A Traditional Musician in Igbo Culture, Nigeria”,
Unpublished BA Project, UNN.
Okafor, R.C. (1980). “Igbo Minstrels” Unpublished PhD Thesis, The Queen’s University of
Okafor, R.C. (2005). Music in Nigerian Society. Enugu: New Generation Books.
Managing the Potentials of Artists with Special Needs, for Sustainable
Development in Nigeria.
Charles U. Adora, Ph.D
Department of Theatre Arts, Kogi State University
P.M.B 1008 Anyigba Kogi State, Nigeria.
E-mail: [email protected]
+2348062999662, +2348075497533
This article discusses the need to maximize the potentials of artists with special needs for
sustainable development in Nigeria. The qualitative research design was adopted and interviews
were applied. The findings show that though some artists live with severe, mild or moderate
disabilities, they are resourceful. They have the ability to perform artistic and inartistic activities.
Regrettably, Nigerian governments, the management of arts institutions and civic bodies have
not usefully engaged or explored the capabilities of the artists with disabilities into the nation’s
work force. This paper concludes that one of the ways to manage the potentials of artists with
disabilities, and improve their lives is for the government, civic bodies and arts administrators to
provide them full and productive employment, and work. Alternatively, they should be provided
with infrastructure to enable them establish, manage and own artistic business ventures towards
self- reliance and self- sufficiency.
Keywords: Managing, Potentials, Disabilities, Artists, Sustainable, Development.
There is a great deal to man….so a great deal can be made out of
him. He does not have to stay the way he is now, nor does he have
to be seen only as he is now, but as he might become… (Bertolt
Brecht, Cited in Iji, 1991, 13)
Globally, the concern to address the plight of the world’s poor in all nations reached a crescendo
in the 21st century. In September, 2010, the world leaders gathered at the United Nations
Headquarters in New York, and vowed to halt global poverty and hunger among other things to
meet the Millennium Development Goals deadline, all by 2015 (Aloja, Ukwuoma and
Akanda,2010: 1). Arguably, there exists a special population with disabilities in Nigeria,
comprising the blind, physical and health impaired, hearing impaired, and intellectually disabled
to mention some. This special population constitutes the poorest of the poor in Nigeria.
Significantly, they are faced with a legion of challenges ranging from poverty, unemployment,
unequal opportunities and discrimination to stigmatization. Among this special population are
those persons who are gifted and talented in the arts, especially, the performing arts, yet they are
ignored by the government and society. They are spread in the nooks and crannies of Nigeria. A
quick glance at some of the arts institutions in Nigeria shows that arts administrators, directors,
and producers have focused attention on maximizing the human, technical and financial
potentials of the able-bodied persons, ignoring the persons with disabilities, in the management
of the arts institution.
This paper presupposes that artists with disabilities are endowed with the capacity to
perform theatrical activities contrary to our expectations if given equal opportunities to excel like
their counterparts without some impairment. To this end, Brecht’s dramatic world (as stated at
the beginning of this paper) becomes particularly applicable to this study. It is thus germane to
figure out ways to usefully engage artists with special needs so as to alleviate their poverty, and
improve their standard of living.
Who are the Persons with Special Education Needs or Disabilities?
The persons with special needs constitute a special population who are limited in their
ability to perform physical activities which normal persons of equivalent age and sex can
perform. These include the blind, physical and health impaired, hearing impaired, intellectually
disabled to mention some (Abone, 2008: 86; Okeke, 2001: 21-301). Adams (2008, Dec 2) avers
that a person with special needs is one whose impairment substantially impairs his/her ability to
perform at a normal level. Without any doubt, this special population is found in our towns,
villages, ghettos, slums, refugee camps and streets.
Historically, their social status have often been abused or stigmatized. Some people
regard persons with disabilities as unwanted individuals, outcast, morons, and idiots. They are
seen as misfit and useless in the society ( Abone 2008: 90). Others look at them as aggressive,
disobedient, witches and wizards, cursed as a punishment by the gods or ancestors ( Okeke
2001:21-301). Akaye(2010 : 1), a blind, laments over the stigmatization of the persons with
disabilities and argues that “the society believes that it is only the able bodied who are normal.
God is the maker of every one. The persons with special needs are marginalized because they see
them as abnormal beings. We want an affirmative action to correct the imbalance”. What is
more, they are deliberately discriminated against, unemployed and neglected, snubbed by peers
and the government. They suffer from unemployment, poverty, hunger, unequal opportunities,
insecurity, social discrimination and status loss (Okeke 2010: 94, Abone 2008: 85). To this end,
Akaye (2010, 1) succinctly suggest: We want the Federal Government to have an affirmative
action towards this set of special creatures. When you look at all the ministries, there is no
access for these people … the more we bring these people inside the system, the more people
know that they exist in our society. David Mathew, a blind, and Principal of the Christian
Mission in Maryland (CMML) Special School, Iyale, Dekina Local Government Area, Kogi
State, Nigeria, defines the social status of the persons with disabilities when he states:
I know what we have suffered and are still suffering in the hands of
members of the society. They make us see ourselves as nothing;
clear evidence is where they have situated this school, on a hill
very far from the main town and among bushes. That is to say that
we are secluded people to them. Imagine that stigma, it will tend to
give these children a misconception of their personality, or who
they can ever be (Personal Interview, Oct 24, 2010).
Like the able-bodied, the persons with special needs are desirous of education so as to enable
them work and contribute in building our society. Without any doubt, the Federal and State
Governments of Nigeria have considered the educational, vocational, social and spiritual needs
of the persons with disabilities by swiftly designing vocational and rehabilitation programmes
and services to assist them to become independent, self reliant, self confident and self sufficient
members of the society. To this end, numerous special educational institutions have been
established in some states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. For instance, the Abia State
Government has established at Umuhia a special education centre for the blind. In Adamawa
State, the government has also established a special education centre at Yola. (Okeke 2010: 255266). Others include the Wesley School for the Deaf in Surulere, Lagos State. In Kogi State, the
Christian Mission in Maryland (CMML) is a special school for persons with disabilities in Iyale.
Interestingly, the special education centres are designed to train their students
academically and vocationally in the acquisition of skills for self-reliance and gainful
employment, life adjustment and meaningful contribution to national development (Okeke 2010:
253). It has been observed that, after graduation from these special educational centres, the
persons with disabilities have not been usefully and gainfully employed into the national work
force in both private and public sectors in Nigeria. Some are self- employed and are practicing
their trade as praise singers, instrumentalists, composers, dancers, and entertainers. They are
mostly found on the streets, and around the precincts of the restaurants, mosques, churches,
hotels, government guest houses, and residents of wealthy politicians and businessmen
performing to the delight of guests and passers-bye. Others are found at the market places and
motor parks. We can thus refer to them as performing artists.
It needs to be stressed that what these artists need is not pity or to be constantly reminded
obliquely that they are different from the able-bodied. Rather, what they deserve is
understanding, respect and dignity. It should be understood that every person, whether normal or
handicapped, has certain capabilities or abilities, needs and interest. Despite the disabilities
which tend to limit their physical activities, they are desirous to work hard to achieve those goals
which seem so easily for the ablebodied. Many artists with disabilities have excelled more than
the able bodied in the performing arts, globally. These include, David Blunkett, Andrea Brocelli,
Stevie Wonder, Amadou Bagayoko Mariam, Ray Charles, and Francisco Goya, to mention some
(DFID 2007: 38-39). It becomes imperative for us to think of ways to redirect the potentials of
the artists with disabilities for their benefits and the development of the arts institutions in
Research Methodology
Research Design
The needed data for this study were obtained using the qualitative and descriptive
research design. The qualitative oriented involved the field work and took the researcher into the
field using the personal interview and experiment as data collection procedures to appraise the
capabilities of the persons with disabilities and the extend to which they are engaged in artistic
endeavors in arts organizations in Nigeria The descriptive design was also considered
appropriate for this study because it enabled the author to describe the observable, dependable
information and data obtained from the population of study.
Research Area
The study was carried out in the following arts institutions namely; Kogi State Arts
Council, Lokoja; Imo State Arts Council, Owerri, and Nigerian Television Authority (NTA),
Lokoja. The choice of these arts institutions is unique. They demonstrate similar principles and
practice of arts management and administration, specifically, the application of human, technical
and financial resource management towards the attainment of its organizational goals. Besides,
the main aims of these organizations are the production of artistic goods and services for
consumption. These arts institutions are non-profit oriented. Besides, they engage in the
promotion, preservation and presentation of culture through music, drama, dance, mine,
pantomime, organizing cultural festivals, galleries, film, and folklore, to mention these few.
The study was also carried out in the CMML. This educational and vocational institution
caters for boys and girls with disabilities, namely, visual impairment, hearing impaired, physical
impaired cripples, intellectual and multiple handicaps drawn from different Local Government
Areas of Kogi State, and its surrounding states. The school provides vocational, educational and
social needs for the pupils so as to enable them become independent, self confident and self
reliant in future. This school is therefore an ideal laboratory to conduct an artistic experiment
aimed at arriving at a dependable conclusion to the study.
Population of Study
The population of study therefore consisted of the students of CMML,Iyale, Dekina
Local Government Area, Kogi State, Nigeria. Significantly, the population consisted of twenty
(20) students with various form of disabilities and who are members of the school’s choir
musical group as well as fine arts club respectively.
Research Sample
Significantly, the study performed two experiments using two groups of cast comprising
twenty (20) students with disabilities comprising four persons with hearing impairment, four
persons with visual impairment, four persons with physical and health impairment, four persons
with intellectual disabilities and four persons with multiple impairment. All are drawn from
members of CMML choir band and fine arts club respectively. The rationale for choosing four
students from each category is informed by our desire to ascertain whether the persons with
special needs in categories of disabilities can perform artistic and inartistic activities if giving
equal opportunities like the able-bodied persons. The first cast of ten (10) students with
disabilities was members of the school choir musical band, and is exposed to performing arts of
singing, music, dancing, instrumentation, and composing lyrics. The second cast of ten (10)
students with disabilities was members of the fine art’s club of the school. The research sample
also consisted of the Head of Department, Social Development Unit, Imo State Council for Arts
and Culture; Head of Department, Performing Arts Unit, Kogi State Council for Arts and
Culture; and the Director of Operations, Nigeria Television Authority, Lokoja, all in Nigeria.
This study considered them as interviewees. Their choose was inform by our research interest
wish is to find out whether some of the artists with special needs who have been exposed to
performing arts activities have been usefully and gainfully employed by the management of the
arts institutions in Nigeria.
The first experiment involving the 1st cast of 10 students with disabilities took place in
the CMML School’s chapel where the choir musical band set was used to conduct the
experiment. In the process, we placed the members of the group on musical drills and provided
them with contemporary and traditional musical instruments. This group consisting of two
persons with hearing impairment, three persons with visual impairment, three persons with
physical and health impairment, and two persons with multiple disabilities and who have been
exposed to the performing arts of composing lyrics, music, singing, dancing, and instrumentation
was given the opportunity to compose, sing, play the musical instruments, and dance without our
assistance. This experiment lasted for 6 hours; from 12 noon to 6pm.The second experiment
consisting of another 10 students with disabilities was considered. This group which consisted of
three persons with hearing impairment, two persons with visual impairment, three persons with
physical and health impairment, and two persons wit multiple impairment and who had been
exposed to fine arts, graphic arts, carving, plastic arts, and visual arts were instructed to do
anything meaningful that they could sell for money. This experiment was also conducted within
6 hours; from 12 noon to 6pm on the same day.
The data and information generated from the personal interview and experiments were
analyzed using descriptive and tabular techniques of data analysis. Table 1 shows the response
categories of data and information gathered from the personal interviews with some of the
executives of the arts institutions.
Table 1: Showing the Statistic of Able-bodied and Physically Challenged Artists in Arts
Institutions in Nigeria
Arts Institutions
Total Staff
Able No
Challenged Artists
Kogi State Council for Arts and
Culture, Lokoja, Kogi State
Imo State Council for Arts and
Culture, Imo State, Nigeria
Nigerian Television Authority,
Lokoja Nigeia
Sources; Field work, 2010
As can be deduced from table 1, it is obvious that in Kogi State Council for Arts and
Culture, the total staff strength is 109. Whereas, the total number of ablebodied staff employed is
one hundred and seven (107), only one is person has some disabilities. In Imo State council for
Arts and Culture, the total staff strength is four hundred and seventy. Significantly, four hundred
and sixty five employees are able-bodied, while 5 employees are persons with disabilities. In the
Nigeria Television Authority, Lokoja, the total number of staff is seventy. All are able-bodied.
The analysis shows that there a wide gap between the employment ratio of the able-bodied to the
artists with disabilities. In Imo State Council for Arts and Culture, one of the respondents argues
that besides academic qualifications, physical fitness is among the criteria for recruitment of
potential artists into the services of the arts councils in Nigeria. He posits that the management of
arts councils normally demands for a medical report of physical fitness for employment. This
places the artists with disabilities in a disadvantaged position. This is among the reasons why
many artists with disabilities are discouraged from seeking employment in private or public arts
institutions in Nigeria. Also in the Nigerian Television Authority, another respondent argues that
there are abundant areas of specialization and job opportunities in the arts institutions for the
artists with disabilities to explore. The interviewee
thinks they can serve as managers,
administrative officers, actors, musicians, composers, sound designers, and computer elites. They
can also serve as video camera operators, or directors of photography, costume designers, makeup artist, movie producers, dancers, and instrumentalists. They could also serve as graphic artists,
script writers, film editors, singers, stenographers, light designers, box office staff and attendants
in the arts institutions depending on their degree of disability.
Besides, the interviewee’s responses further show that even when artists with special
needs are employed, they are not given fair opportunities to perform like their able-bodied
counterparts in the arts institutions studied. Again, one of the interviewee argues that during
stage performances, artists with disabilities are not allowed to play major roles except when the
director wants to stimulate the audience to laughter principally to raise money for the performers.
He further that argues even when they are employed, the management of the arts institutions
studied do not provide them with special aids or working tools like wheel chairs and hearing aids
for their work.
Research findings also indicate that there are no adequate legal backings to the
employment of artists with special needs. The interviewees agreed that there is no specific
provision under the Labour Act, Cap 1 for the employment of persons with disabilities.
According to them, section 17 (3) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution provides that the state shall
direct its policy towards ensuring that all ‘citizens without discrimination on any group
whatsoever have the opportunity for securing adequate means of live hood as well adequate
opportunity to secure suitable employment”. The interviewees further reason that that the
constitution guarantees the artist with disability the right of employment provided he or she is
not incapacitated and can perform the duty expected or required of the occupier of such office.
Besides, the Nigerian National Film Policy (2000) directs that ‘in order to give a positive
orientation to locally produced films, the state should encourage the use of film potentials to
counter prejudices and misconceptions’, especially, against children with disability in general
and the persons with disability in particular( Abone, 2008: 90). He further posits that section
4.1.4 (b) of the policy stipulates that the state shall through appropriate legislation encourage the
adoption of themes which shall emphasizes the desirable, rather than the negative aspect of our
present social existence, including, belief in the capacity of our people (especially the persons
with disability) to overcome extreme adverse conditions of nature and socio-cultural
arrangement. However, one of the respondents argues that these legal provisions do not
specifically authorize the employer of labour to integrate or usefully engage persons or artists
with disabilities into the nation’s work force. He posits that there is need for the Federal
Government of Nigeria to promulgate and implement a law that would break down the barriers
that keep people with disability from achieving gainful employment. According to him, the
Americans with Disabilities Act, Equal Opportunity Act, and Disability Discriminatory Act
(1995) in United States become particularly applicable in this regards. He also argues that
Nigeria needs a commission to cater for the rights and employment of persons with disabilities
like the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, Disability Right Commission (DRC) and
Equality Opportunities Commission (EOC) in United States
The result of the experiments conducted at the CMML shows that some persons with
disabilities are gifted and talented in performing and fine arts. Specifically, we identified some
blinds that possessed talents and skills in drumming and singing. We also identified some deaf
who are skillful in craft and painting. This study believes that they are many persons in the
CMML who could be very skillful in the performing arts after graduation, and could be useful in
the production and sale of artistic goods and services in our arts institutions if their potentials are
adequately maximized.
It is instructive that the responses from the personal interviews demonstrate the wide gap
between the employment ratio of the able-bodied and the artists with special needs in the arts
institutions studied. Thus implies that the management of the arts institutions studied are inclined
to engage the able-bodied artists while ignoring the potentials of the artists with disabilities. Yet,
the experiments conducted with the pupils of CMML show that some persons with severe
disabilities are gifted and talented in performing artistic and inartistic activities. The study further
observed that the Labor and Constitutional Laws does not adequately guarantee the useful
engagement of the physically challenged persons, specifically, artists, into the services of the arts
institutions in Nigeria. We are aware that the law is very important in the employment relations
in any organization. All in all, we believe that there is ability in disability as long as one’s mental
reasoning is functioning well.
To empower these people, the following recommendations are offered.
(a) There is need for the three tiers of government in Nigeria and the private sector to
integrate or employ the gifted and talented artists with special needs into the work
force of the arts institutions in Nigeria.
(b) There is a abiding need for the government of Nigeria to amend the
labour and constitutional laws to create a common platform on the basis of equal
employment opportunities, and some form of affirmative action which should take
care of their special circumstances
(c) In addition to this motivational realignment, there is need to provide them
mobility and information aids, and performance enhancement aids to enable them
perform their duties efficiently and effectively.
(d) If employed or integrated into the workforce of the arts institutions, there is the need
for a systematic and continuous education, training and retraining of the artists for
capacity building and manpower development. Such training should be made
regularly, and as a matter of rights, and not a privilege.
(e) There is a need to provide physically challenged artists with incentives and
wherewithal to enable them establish and manage their own artistic businesses. This
policy framework, if systematized, should markedly help them to be more
industrious, competitive and productive in diverse fields of arts and human pursuits.
In this study, we have examined the artists with special needs as people living with severe
disabilities but have the ability to perform artistic and inartistic activities which have been denied
them. We believe that the key to self reliance and self- sufficiency of artists with disability is to
usefully engage them in services of the arts institutions, private and public. Alternatively, we
must provide them with wherewithal and adequate finance that would enable them to manage
and own artistic businesses towards self reliance and self- sufficiency. If the foregoing
suggestions are implemented, society would be on the right path to adequately addressing the
plight of the artists with special needs for sustainability.
Adam, J. (2008) Nigeria: Country Unfair to the Physically Challenged.
Daily Indpendence, 2 (3) Reviewed from
Abone, C. (2008) The Film Medium: A Potential Instrument for Improving the
Lives of the Physically Challenged in Nigeria. The Creative Artist: Journal of
Theatre and Media Studies 2 (1) 85-81.
Adavi, A (20th November, 2010) Personal Interview.
Akayi, D (2010,) Nigeria is not Fair to the Physically Impaired. (P.1).
Retrieved from http://www.compassiewspaper.com
Anonymous.Crippled, Handicapped, Disabled, Retarded, Deaf and dumb, Impaired: Can
We Toss those Aside? Retrieved 11/12/2010 from www opionions. Com/rifonReviewed
Disabled world (1999) Paralympic Games for Disabled. Para. 1-8. Retrieved From
Directorate for International Development (2007) Education Blues. Developments.
DFID. UK. Issue 39, 38-41.
Emehibe S. (23rd Nov 2010) Personal Interview.
Emmanuel O.(Oct 20, 2010) Personal Interview
Federal Mistry of Justice (2004) Labour Act Capli. Law of the Federation. Lagos:
Nigeria Lexisacxis Butlerworth Ltd.
Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of
Nigeria Lagos, Federal Government Press.
Federal Republic of Nigeria. (2000) National Film Policy. Lagos: Federal Government
Haughton, M (2008) Physically challenged people. Retrieved 8th Nov, 2008 From
http://articlebase.com/disabilities-article/physically-challenged people-634141.html.
Iji, M E. (1991) Underestanding Brecht and Soyinka. Lagos Kraft Books
Iji, M E. (2001) Towards Greater Dividends Developmental Imperatives
Calabar. BAAJ International Company.
Kanshik, R (1999) Access Danied: Can We Over Come Disabling Attitudes?
International (UNESCO) 5 (3) 48-52.
Okeke, A. B (2001) Essentials of Special Education Nsukka. Afro-orbis publishin
Co. Ltd.
Oloja, M, Ukwuoma, B. & Laniu A. (2010). World Leaders
at Summit, Vowed to Halt Poverty, Others. The Guardian, P1.
Is your organization private or government owned?
In your opinion, who are the artists with special needs?
Does the law guarantee the employment of the artists with special needs?
what is the staff strength of your organization?
How many of them are artists with special needs?
What are the available areas of specialization which the artists with disabilities
could fit in, in your organization?
What are the facilitates put in place to enhance good working conditions for the
artists with special needs in your organization?
Are the artists with special needs in the organization given a fair chance to
Compete favorably with their able-bodied counterparts?
In your own view, what do you think is the way out towards redirecting the
abilities of the Artists with special needs in the arts institutions.?
Okechukwu, Franca O.
Department of Home Science Nutrition and Dietetics
University of Nigeria Nsukka
There is a fast growing prevalence of children with special needs in the world today. Brief
introduction of the topic was given. The concepts of special needs children, Indigenous
knowledge were discussed. Different types of special needs found in children were looked at ,
many types were discovered and they are different for different individuals. Need for early
interventions were discussed. Types of special education for special needs children were
discussed, to include: segregation, Integration/mainstreaming and inclusion education. Strategies
for teaching special needs students were discussed. The paper also looked at some challenges
faced by special needs children at school and ways forwards. Ways families with special needs
children could cope were discussed. Finally recommendations for improvement and conclusions
were made
Over the past 20 years the number of students with special needs has been steadily
increasing at a fast rate (office of special education programme 2000). Recent world Health
organization estimates indicate that at least 642 million individuals in the world are affected by
some degree of hearing loss of this sizable population, 278 millions have hearing loss that is
defined as disabling, 80% of those with a disabling hearing loss come from low and middle
income countries. Low income communities have the least access to infant and child health
services that could otherwise prevent many types of hearing loss (Audra and Stephen 2012). The
provision of hearing aids in childhood can have remarkable effects on the social and intellectual
development of a child, as well as the child’s ability to benefit from regular education, but only 1
in 40 special needs children has access to a hearing aid (Audra and Stephen 2012). More than
15% of school age kids about 10 million children had a developmental disability in 2006-2008,
three or four children in a typical elementary school classroom have development disabilities
(Liz. 2012). Some of these increases may be as a result of the rise in premature birth, which
leaves some babies with lasting impairments (Chioma 2011).
The term children with special needs or disabilities refers to exceptional children who
have physical, mental, behavioral or sensory characteristics that differ from majority of children
such that they require special education and related services to develop their full potential
(Burden 2000).Today, approximately one of six students in schools across the world cannot
benefit fully from the traditional educational program because they have a disability that impairs
their ability to participate in classroom activities (Audra and Stephen 2012).
Over the past 2 or 3 decades some Christian missionaries took up the challenge and
began to educate the special needs children, though with a lot of difficulties since the disabilities
are different with individuals. The missionaries built centers for special needs children and
youths. People from the localities were employed and indeginous knowledge came into play and
the challenges were reduced since the environment language, material etc. were familiar to the
Special Needs Children
Children with special needs are those who need modification in curriculum and instruction in
order to help them maximize their potential (Salvin 1997). According to him, modification of
curriculum and instruction are necessary as a result of their disabilities. Stainback (2006) view
children with special needs as those exceptional children differently challenged who may be
physically, socially, or intellectually different, either below or above average who require
individual planned and systematically monitored arrangements of physical setting. The term
children with special needs or disabilities refers to exceptional children who have physical,
mental,behavioural or sensory characteristics that differ from majority of children such that they
require special education and related services to develop their full potential. According to Burden
(2000) these are children with impairments e.g. visual, hearing or physical which restrict them
from full and equal participation in society.
In traditional African society the birth of a child with any form of disability brings a lot
of emotional stress to family member as a result of the stigma attached to such a condition.
Traditionally, disability was regarded to be work of mythical gods or presence of the evil and
witchcraft (Sello, Levitz and Camper 1997). Some parents believed that disability is a
punishment from the ancestors for having transgressed the spiritual or moral values of society.
The assumption of traditional African philosophies is that the birth of a child with disability is a
bad omen or an act bewitchment Salvin 1997).
According to Chioma(2011) special needs children include, but are not limited to, those with
medical/health issues, Autism spectrum, disorders, developmental, delays, speech/feeding issues,
blind/visually impaired, deaf/hearing impaired, physical disabilities, chronic diseases, behavioral
or mental health issues, premature birth, sensory issues and learning disabilities.
Indigenous knowledge
Indigenous knowledge (I K) emanate from local experience of a community, it is generated
over a period of time. I K is cultural in nature because it is embedded in the practice of a
community; it has contributed immensely to the harmonious living of indigenous people in their
environment. I K is tied to historic reality and is special to a particular culture or society (Bates,
Chiba, Juba and Nakashima 2009), the skills and innovations of a particular indigenous people
are represented by that and also encapsulates the collective wisdom and resourcefulness of that
There are other terms used to describe I K like local knowledge, folk knowledge,
ethnoecology and traditional environmental knowledge (TEK). I K whether natural or cultural. Is
the knowledge of a particular environment as expressed or used by a community. I K is rooted in
a particular place, it is empirical in nature because it is essentially derived from people of the
community, some are gender based others hereditary. I K is a set rules that guide local members
of a particular community to meet their needs for Health, Food, Shelter, Savings, Education,
Spirituality, infact their general wellbeing (Chioma 2011).
Indigenous knowledge has been defined by various people and groups. United Nations
Environmental Programme (2011) has defined I K as the knowledge that an indigenous (local)
community accumulates over generations of living in a particular environment. Stainback (2006)
defined I K as knowledge, innovation, and practices of indigenous and local communities around
the world, developed form, experiences over centuries, it is adapted to the local culture and
environment transmitted through oral tradition from generation to generation.
I K is owned by the community often in the form of stories, folklore, proverbs, cultural
values, norms, beliefs, rituals, local languages and agricultural practices (Chioma 2011).
Types of Special Needs/Developmental Disabilities Found In Children
Special needs manifests in different forms: the blind, lame, deaf, and dumb; there are
those with speech problems and other with neurological problems. These special needs can be
classified as mental retardation, learning disability, communication disorders children with
emotional and behavioral disorders; sensory, physical and health impairment and students who
are gifted and talented (Stephanie 2010).
Children with mental retardation
Mental retardation refers to substantial limitation in present functioning. It is
characterized by significantly subaverage intellectual function, existing concurrently with related
limitation in two or more of the following applicable adaptive skill areas: communication, selfcare, home living, social skills, community use, self-directions, health and safety, functional
academics, leisure and work. Mental retardation manifests before the age of (18) (Swan1993).
Among the many causes of mental retardation are genetic inheritances, chromosomal
abnormalities such as Down syndrome, rubella and syphilis, fetal chemical dependency
syndromes caused by a mother’s abuse of alcohol or cocaine during pregnancy, birth accidents,
child hood diseases, accidents and toxic contamination from the environment such as lead
poisoning (Oluremi 2012).
Learning Disability
Another type of special need found in the school children and also evident in Nigerian
children is learning disability. These children tend to have lower self-esteem than able bodied
children ( Salvin 1997). According to Goodman (1990) children with learning disability may not
be able to control their behavior.
Communication Disorders
Communication disorder is one of the commonest disabilities. About 1 in every 40
students has a communication disorder that requires special education services (Slavin, 1997).
The two types of communication disorder are speech and language disorder.
Emotional and Behavioral Disorder
A student with emotional and behavioural disorder is characterized by such disorder as
conduct disorder, aggressive behavior withdrawn and immature behaviour, hyperactivity and
Sensory, Physical and Health Impairment
Sensory impairments refer to problem with the ability to see or hear or other wise receive
information through the body’s senses, such as vision loss and hearing loss. Physical disorder
includes conditions such as cerebral palsy, spinal bifida, spinal cord injury. Health disorder
includes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) seizure disorders, diabetes, cystic
fibrosis, sickle cell anemia. The damage can be produced by any number of factors like oxygen
deprivation, such as poisoning, cerebral bleeding or direct injury (United Cerebral Palsy
Association 1993).
Gifted and Talented Children
Children who are gifted and talented can also be described as exceptional students. These
children have outstanding talents that the general education classroom teacher is unable to meet
their unique needs without help. (Oluremi 2012).
Early intervention
Many children with special needs get services and therapies they need through the school
system, but if a child is younger than school age, such child can still find assistance in the school
or the community.
Early intervention applies to children of school age or younger who are discovered to have or be
at risk of developing a handicapping condition or other special needs that may affect their
development. Early interventions include the provision of service to such children and their
families for the purpose of lessening the effects of the disability condition. Early intervention can
be removal or preventive in nature remedying existing developmental problems or preventing
their occurrence.
Early intervention may focus on the child alone or on the child and the family together. It
could be center based, home-based, hospital-based, or a combination. Services range form
identification that is, hospital or school screening and referral service to diagnostic and direct
intervention programs. Early intervention may begin at any time between birth and school age;
however, there are many reasons for it to begin as early as possible.
There are three reasons for early intervention with an exceptional child: to enhance the
child’s development, to provide support and assistance to the family; and to maximize the child’s
/ family’s benefit to society. (Burden 2000).
Child development research has established that the rate of human learning and
development is most rapid in the preschool years. If the most teachable moments or stages of
greatest readiness are not taken advantage of a child may have difficulty leaning a particular skill
at a later time. Ammaarah (2010) have noted that “only through early identification and
appropriate programming can children with special needs develop their potentials”.
The family of the young exceptional child often feels disappointment, social isolation
added stress, frustration, and helplessness. The stress may affect the family well being and
interfere with the child’s development. Such families experience increased instances of divorce
and suicide. Early intervention can result in parents having improved attitudes about themselves
and their child.(Burden 2000)
Over 50 years of research, shows evidence both quantitative and qualitative that early
intervention increased developmental and educational gains for the child, improves the
functioning of the family, and reaps long-term benefits for society (Carly 2010). The available
data emphasize the long-term cost effectiveness of early intervention. There are significant
examples of long-term cost effectiveness of early intervention. There are significant examples of
long-term cost savings that result from early intervention programs.
A 3-year follow-up in Tennessee showed that for every dollar spent on early treatment,
$7.0 in saving was realized within 36 months. This savings resulted from deferral or
special class placement and institutionalization of severe behavior disordered children
(Good man 1990).
A recent evaluation of Colorado’s state-wide early intervention services reports a coast
savings of $4.00 for every dollar spent within a 3-year period (Swan, Morgan and Janet
Special education and methods of provision (knowledge Acquisition)
Mba (1995) disclosed that in Nigeria as in many developing countries of Africa, special
education for the physically handicapped children began through the efforts of Christian
Missionaries. In view of a great variety of individual needs education faces a wide range of
cultural and social backgrounds of the groups making up the society. Sometimes cultural and
social background can influence negatively and lead to marginalization and social exclusion of
people from meaningful participation in life of their communities. Such exclusion in its turn,
reduce people’s prospects to learn, grow and develop (UNESCO, 2005).
The educational (knowledge acquisition) programme for children and youths with special
needs all over the world, and Nigeria have undergone series of changes in the last three decades
.according to Mba (1995) education for special needs children started with;
Segregation is a system of education where special needs children were educated in
special classrooms in schools away from their able-bodied counterparts (Olukotun, 2004,
Stainback, 2006). As a result of the short comings of segregation, the federal government of
Nigeria in the National policy on education (2004) adapted integration as replacement for
segregation, since the special needs children are eventually expected to live in the same society
with their able bodied counterparts. The government decided that they should be educated in an
environment not only friendly and conducive, but also devoid of any kind of discrimination no
matter the state of the special need.
Integration/Mainstreaming Stephane(2010) defined mainstreaming/ integration as
placement of the special needs children into a regular classroom along with students who
are their actual ages. Mainstreaming calls for flexibility in the school curriculum, learning
environment and equipment. Flexibility means that the society should be able to provide
alternatives that will benefit a child maximally after placement in school. It also means
that all built premises and buildings be adapted to suit the exceptional children. Such
modification include elevators at least one entrance without stairs for wheel chair pupil’s
, special toilet rooms, resource rooms, easily opened doors, hearing aids, magnifying
classes, and so on. (Oluremi 2012).
“Integration/Mainstreaming”. Inclusive education goes further than salient integration
principles. It demands that no one is introduced into any specialized programmes. All
children undergo the same programme at the same time (Oluremi 2012) .
Strategies for teaching students with special needs.
Several strategies have been shown to be effective in teaching students with special
needs. Research has found that most of these strategies benefit all students (Marzano 2001) some
effective instructional strategies for students with special needs include:
Assistive Technology. Specialized keyboards, mouse alternatives, screen readers and
voice recognition software can help many students with special needs use technology
more effectively. Many educational software programs – such as talking dictionaries and
talking word processing applications – offer opportunities for students with special needs
to improve writing skills.
Prior Knowledge: Linking new knowledge to previous understanding is particularly
important with students who have special needs.
Explicit modeling: Activities such as note taking, making connections among ideas,
asking questions, project planning, and time – management may not come naturally to
students with special needs. Teachers can break down these types of activities into
smaller steps and think out loud to model each step.
Feed back: Students with special needs often have difficulty monitoring their own
progress. Providing effective feed back can help students develop the reflective and met
cognitive thinking skill they need to evaluate their own work.
Graphic organizers: Organizing information is often a problem for students with special
needs. Students with learning disabilities are often visual learners who respond well to
graphic representations of information multimedia such as pictures, charts, graphs, audio,
and video can also help, as can kinesthetic activities, such as manipulative, role- playing,
and dramatic performance.
Cooperative learning. When students with special need work on projects in cooperative
groups, they are exposed to the learning strategies of their peer and all students learn
from each other.
Assessments. While students, with special needs should become proficient readers and
writers they should not be limited to these methods when showing what they have
learned. Models, dramatic performances, drawings, and similar activities allow students
to demonstrate the content they have learned in ways that address their strengths.
Some challenges faced by special needs children in school
Children, like adults can learn best when they are comfortable. Adaptive Design works to
ensure that children with disabilities have comfortable seating option at school and in the home.
For children with attention and focus difficulties, special education teachers say lap cozies are a
low-tech way to increase classroom clam.
Opening a locker is another developmental milestone that evades many children who
straggle with fine-motor, limb differences, and visual skills. Master love offers a solution in a
revolutionary love that opens using directional movements (up down, left, and right), instead of
the traditional numerical dial. http://www.adapiredesign.org.
Electronic pens may be useful for many students working to improve their reading and
comprehension skills. It is a portable “reading assurance” to children who need support sounding
out wards and completing phrases. The pen spells out words, offers definitions, and recognizes a
wide range of fonts and text sizes.
Play attention is a computer – based program intended to increase focus and decrease
impulsivity in children and adults. Using a wired helmet and an interactive game, children can
train their brain through a sense of exercises and exercises and consistent interaction with the
program. Play attention is used in schools, psychologist’s offices, and homes. It benefits children
with ADHD, autism, traumatic brain injuries and other special needs.
Challenges and Coping with the Special Needs of a Child in Household
Married couples who desire to have children of their own do not always get what they
wished and prayed for. While some are able to have normal kids, the others are not as lucky as
their child or children have special needs. The challenge for couples with special children is
greater, but this is not for them to easily give up.
For parents who had normal children in the previous years, it is understandable for them
to feel a little regret, anger and frustration. There can also be some sort of denial in the initial
phase. The level of frustration is usually greater for couples who expect from the start of
conception, a normal baby. For these people, it is initially hard to accept the fact that their child
lags in development or has an illness with no immediate cure. One thing is certain about raising
children with special needs. It’s an emotional roller coaster. The ups and downs are different for
everyone, but the general contours of the experience are the same (Marian, 2012) it can be
According to Chioma (2011) many parents and primary caregivers of children with
special needs are faced with unexpected challenges and emotions such as:
Grief, Anger, Guilt, Feeling of Isolation, Low self Esteem Fear, Feeling overwhelmed,
feeling detached, discrimination and so on.
According to Sylod and Charles(2011) an emerging issue among the problems associated
with caring for special needs children is that it requires a lot of financial support for their
rehabilitation. This was causing a lot of financial strain in the families. They also said
that in homes where housemaids were employed, children with disabilities did not
receive proper care, especially when their parents would have gone out to work. The
child is sometimes left alone without food and proper care. Children with mobility
problems were the most affected and more frustrated (Sylod and Charles 2011).
Moral support and guidance are what parents in this situation needs and family therapists
is one of the proper authorities that can help them handle the issue well through counseling
session (Kalyan 2010). No matter how hard it is to accept the reality, married couples should
open their minds and communicate their thoughts and feelings to professionals for their advice.
Couples should discuss in detail about their fears and other anxieties during counseling
with family therapist. A counselor needs to know about what they are feeling in order to come up
with the right steps or guidelines towards managing their situation in the best way that they can.
It is a big help for parents to have a positive attitude and not just easily be disappoint with
their situation. Avoid blaming your partner or the child for the difficult situation, because it will
only create further tension and cause more emotional stress to the child.
Praise is another important thing to give to a special child. By providing the positive
words to your child, you are giving inspiration as well to them. Avoid focusing always and their
negative acts but rather teach them the right way to act and do things. It’s been proven many
times in various researches that when kids are inspired, improvements in their behaviour and
mental skill development are not far behind (Kalyan 2010).
So parent, be patient with your special child. Guide and raise them according to the best
moral values that you know and never hesitate to seek help of a family therapist when necessary.
The following recommendations were made to enable children/people with special needs
find a good place in the society.
Parents of special needs children should seek for early identification and intervention, to
ensure that the sensitive infancy stages of development is properly guided by experts.
Parents should use encouragement, praise, love, positive words etc. to help the child
instead of shouting and blames.
Government, Ngo’s and churches should assist in rendering care services, funding special
needs programme, counseling and praying for such children and families.
Schools, at all level should have modified programs to accommodate the special needs
children through indigenous means
Government and Ngo’s should encourage the children and families by making available
jobs, as soon as they leave schools.
Special needs children are not curses, but gifts which challenge us to respond with
enormous energy and dedication. It is a big help for parents to have positive attitude and not
easily feel disappointed with the situation. Avoidance of blame for your partner or the child for
the difficult situation, which will early create further tension and cause more emotional stress to
the child, is a way forward. Families of special needs children should embark on early
intervention to help in remedying existing developmental problems or preventing their
occurrence. Early intervention is very important in enhancing knowledge acquisition and
treatments of the special needs child and should be adopted by families of such children.
Amaarah P. (2010) Early Intervention. Ontario: Kids Ability Center for childhood Development.
Audra, R. and Stephen P. (2012) World wide Hearing care for Developing Countries WWH.
Bates, P; Chiba, M.; Kube, S. and Nakashima D. (2009). Learning and Knowing Indigenous
Societies Today. Paris: UNESCO.
Burden A. (2000). Inclusive Education Back to the future with Commitment and Common sense
– case studies, Educare 29 (1&2) 28 – 39
Carly M. (2010) Special Need Schools. http://www.knowhoweducation.com
Chioma, M. (2011). Indigenous knowledge and Information Sharing. Awka: Proceeding of the
49th Annual Conference of the Nigerian Library Association.
Goodman, I. (1990) Time and Learning in Special Education Classrooms Nigeria: Brookers
Publishing Company.
Kalyan, K. (2010) Coping with the Special needs of your child. http://enuearticles.com
Liz. S. (2012) Children with Developmental Disability. USA: Gannett Company.
Manan W. (2012) Facing the Challenges of Raising Children with Special Needs.
Education.com. Inc.
Marzano, E. (2011) Strategies for students with Special Needs. (Intel) Teach with Technology:
Facilitating and Differentiating Projects.
Mba P.O (1995) Fundamentals of Special Education and Vocational Rehabilitation Ibadan:
Olukotun, J.O. (2004) Inclusive Education for Children with Special Needs: A Component of the
Universal Baric Education (UBE) Programme. Journal of Special Education (1) 39.
Oluremi, F.D. (2012) Special Schools And Mainstreaming Programme in Nigeria And lessons
for 21st Century. Nigeria: Ife – Psychologia.
Swan W.W., Morgan, and Janet (1993). “The Local Interagency Coordination Council”.
Bultmore: Paul H. Brookers Pub. Co.
Sello, T.M. Levitz, A and Kemper, G.D (1997). The attitudes of Xhosa Parents towards the
education of Cerebral Children. Educare 26 (1 and 2) 68 – 75.
Slavin, R.E. (1997) Educational Psychology. Theory and Practice Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Stainback, S.B. (2006) “Inclusive” Microsoft ® Ericanta ® (D), Redmand, WA: Microsoft
Stephanie, T. (2010) Special Needs: Types of Development Disabilities. USA: Sara Malburg.
Sylod, C. and Charles, M. (2011) Educating Children with Special Needs in the African context.
Do Teachers and Parents Subscribe to a common Paradigm? Academic Research
International Journal Vol. (1) 3 Pp 103.
UNESCO (2003). Over Coming Exclusion Through Inclusive Approaches in Education
United Nations
Knowledge in
Dr. Felix Egwuda-Ugbeda
Department of Theatre & Film Studies, UNN
The Igala worldview emphasizes life, death and life after death. The Igala hold
firmly that the dead are not dead. They live in an immortal world where they advocate
for the living. The Igala believe that the dead who are now the ancestors can reincarnate
and are born again as babies, or may return to the world as masked spirits or incarnate
beings. The Akwubaliba incarnate being is one of numerous incarnate beings in
Igalaland. In Igala culture, incarnate beings are sacred and sacrosanct. They serve
several functions one of which is social control. The Akwubaliba which means locust are
young masked spirits or incarnate beings between the ages of ten to thirteen years. The
Akwubaliba incarnate beings may number up to two hundred or more. Their appearance
usually sends mothers and barren women into different types of psychological and
emotional states. The essence of this paper is to explore the reasons for these two groups
of women’s emotional and psychological states during the outing of these young
incarnate beings and the impact of such emotional and psychological states on the
In Igala, incarnate beings or masked spirits phenomenon is held in a high esteem.
The Igala culture attaches strong spiritual essence to incarnate beings or masked spirits,
as it is believed that they are the ancestral spirits that have come on a visit to their living
offsprings in order to entertain sensitize, conscientize and admonish the living. In Igala
worldview the incarnate being is sacrosanct. Sargent expresses that:
… the Igala masquerades (incarnate beings or masked spirits) are
euphemistic expressions of the cult of the ancestors and physical
representation of collective or individual ancestral figures … these
masquerades reflect the cultural, ethnographic and political reality of the
Igala nation state. (17)
Also, describing the two classes of incarnate beings in Igala culture, Boston enunciates
In Igala masquerading … there is a contrast between the portrayal of
benign and attractive female spirits and that of fierce masculine spirits
who epitomize the nation of aggression and uncontrollable power. (24)
In discussing the Igala views about the incarnate being entity, Miachi stresses that:
… incarnate beings are an important part and parcel of Igala thought
and belief such that every sphere of Igala life, whether it is politics,
religion, economy, or social activities, is influenced by incarnate beings
and vice versa … that all incarnate beings belong to the Ata in the Ata’s
position as the representative of the ancestors (198).
Miachi, goes further quoting Ata Igala as saying that:
Our incarnate beings are efficacious. They have coercive spiritual
powers over the living and they can make or mar their present or future
life. They have all the power of the dead which they are, and we give to
them the regard and respect that we give to our living or dead elders,
and, indeed, more. (198-199)
The secrecy of incarnate being is never divulged to women, children and uninitiated. In
fact, any form of disrespect to the great ancestral spirits is sacrilegious and the
consequences could be disastrous. In this vein, Illah asserts that:
Masquerade is one of the atavistic modes because it is believed to
involve the return of an ancestral collectivity to partake with the living,
apart from reincarnation through which the symbolic balance necessary
for the regulation of social ethos is maintained between the living and
the dead. Within this framework, every member of the living is a
potential median agent in the sense that he must die and join the
ancestors. (54)
The performances of incarnate beings in Africa vary from place to place, season to
season and from one occasion to the other, but they have a lot in common in both their
spiritual and social manifestations. In analyzing such sacred and social activities of
incarnate beings performance among the Igbo, Nwabueze opines that:
In the ancient Igbo society, the masquerade performances were intended
to accomplish result. The intention of the natives was to communicate
their wishes to the ancestors in order to change the state of things. The
Igbo believed in the efficacy and impartiality of the masquerade. By
involving the masquerade as a final judge, the ancestors were
symbolized in the masquerade (60)
Among the Igala and perhaps their related ethnic groups in Nigeria, incarnate beings
perform several distinctive functions that range from the social to the spiritual functions.
Such functions as enunciated by Sargent are:
 Masquerades are a mechanism for social control and are effective in the
elimination or control of aberrant or unacceptable behaviour
 Masquerades can be source of historical evidence … and are a
mechanism of social identification and a reflection of ethnic origins
 Masquerades can be a technique for establishing political legitimacy and
are a mechanism whereby devotion and loyalty are generated within a
diverse population.
 Masquerades are a culturally significant institution which defined
relationships of the individual or clan to state lineage and family.
 Masquerades are symbolic representation of national, clan and lineage
afflictions as well as the ancestors of a specific group or grouping and
can also be owned by specific age-sets which cut across descent group
 Masquerades are a representation of religious beliefs and the basic
physical characterization of ancestor worship. (36)
In Igala culture incarnate beings perform several functions such as rites and rituals,
settling cases that are beyond the intervention of the elders and kings, blessing a
particular community or the entire Igala society, prophesying, dealing with witchcrafts,
settling in cases of aberrations, and laying curses on some social misfits. It is also a
source of entertainment. And, while the presence of incarnate beings brings joy and
happiness to some group of persons in the society, it can also constitute a source of
sadness and sorrow to others. Speaking on the functions of incarnate beings in Igala
cosmology, Boston stresses that:
In Igala country, masquerades are used to dramatize the relationship
that exists between the ancestor’s world and the world of the living
…. In Igala, masquerades appear at funeral ceremonies for the final
rites of burial called Aku. They also appear at annual ancestor’s
festivals, Okula and Egwu (18).
In Igala culture, there are different types of incarnate beings such as Ekwe the royal
incarnate being, Egwuafia, Egwu-gbom-gbom, Abule, Ochonono, Obajadaka, Epe,
Inyelekpe, Agbanabo, Ikekeku Ahuma, Jamadeka, Odumado, Ichawula, Ablifada,
Akwubaliba, etc. Some of these incarnate beings perform thaumaturgy, wonders and
feats. The group of the incarnate beings that perform thaumaturgy, wonders and feats are
feared, honoured and revered by the Igala society. There is a second level of incarnate
beings which function at the level of social control. Among such incarnate beings are;
Abule, Epe, Atawa ekeji, etc. Any other incarnate beings are simply meant to entertain.
Akwubaliba incarnate being belongs to the category of entertainment.
In Igala, incarnate beings appear at different occasions depending on the function
of the occasion and the particular incarnate beings. Such occasions in question are:
festivals, both royal and general, ritual performance, performance of rites, burial of male
adult, social occasions such as coronation, political gathering, welcoming of a great man,
In Igala, there are many festivals; some are royal such as Inkpi, Ocho,
Oganyiganyi, Egwu and Ogbadu. Most festivals are celebrated at community, village
and clan levels. The particular festival which involves the appearance of Akwubaliba
incarnate being is the Eka Uwo. Eka Uwo is only celebrated by communities in Ibaji
local government of Kogi State. Ibaji is a riverine area of Igalaland. The local
government is made up of fifty two communities. It lies at the extreme south of the
Igalaland. The local government is bounded in the north by Idah local government area,
in the south by Anambra State, in the East by Enugu State and in the west by Edo State.
The major festivals that feature in Ibaji are, Abo Okocho, that is the festival meant to
honour farming implements particularly hoes after the yam cultivation, Uchu erote, this is
a new yam festival. No fresh yam is eaten before this festival, Eka oloji, this festival
comes up after all the harvests, and it is celebrated during the rainy season – indeed, a
care-free season, then, Eka uwo which is celebrated at the heart of dry season or at the
beginning of rainy season when cultivations are still going on.
Eka Uwo features many incarnate beings which include the Akwubaliba. The
festival lasts for five days and Akwubaliba will only appear on the fifth day. Akwubaliba
means locust in English. Locust usually appear in a large number, sometimes in millions,
and whatever crop the descend upon will be consumed to the stalk. In the case of
Akwubaliba as an incarnate being, they do not consume anything, but the metaphor is that
these young incarnate beings whose ages are between ten to twelve appear in their
hundreds. They do not beat with canes as they do not even carry canes. They do not
belong to the thaumaturgic entity as they are simply out to entertain. They do not
function as a social control as they do not come out to perform the duty of Abule the night
incarnate being which satirizes the members of the society. Like Obajadaka and
Ablifada incarnate beings, Akwubaliba can be classified as general incarnate being.
According to Sargent:
The classification of general masquerades (incarnate beings)
suggests that they are outside the central collection, and are not
representative of any dynastic period of particular population … they
can be described as commoner masked figures recognized by the
entire Igala population, but with a specific historical background that
identifies the masquerades with certain figures and groups in the
corpus of the Igala formation (34).
The objective of Akwubaliba performance is to bring joy, peace, an love to mothers,
fathers and the entire community. There is no intention of hurting any person or a group
of persons. The development at the end of every outing of the Akwubaliba is as a result
of human frivolity.
The outing of Akwubaliba incarnate beings starts with special preparation. The
incarnate beings are expected to be out in the evening around 4pm. All other incarnate
beings are ordered to leave the arena for their special abode in order to create enough
space for the young incarnate beings also, so that the young incarnate beings should not
be harassed or intimidated. This is in consonance with the Igala saying that; Egwu kitu
Egwule ki mu egwu je, meaning, the greater incarnate beings have the capacity to devour
the lesser ones. The issue is that the Akwubaliba are young incarnate beings, there is a
tendency for them to take to their heels out of fear on sighting the bigger incarnate
beings, forgetting that they are also incarnate beings.
In preparation for their outing, young boys and men with their canes will parade
the length and breadth of the community with the following songs:
Akwubaliba, Ijomili, Ijomili Kocho Ijomili
Akwubaliba, Ijomili, Ijomili kocho Ijomili
Uchekibo ma de olupu ma diye
Uchekibo di be oko ma diye
Uchekibo ma do woli ma diye
Iye, Iye, Iye cho mi nwu mi mo
Iye, Iye, Iye du enwu nwu mi je
Ijomili, Ijomili Kocho Ijomili
Ene ki ma noma kina ghe ju mo mi
Ijomili, Ijomili Kocho ijomili
Ijomili is an onomatopoeic description of their sizes and population.
Some of them are calling their mothers in their compound
Some of them are calling their mothers in the backyard.
Mother, mother, give me water to drink
Mother, mother, give me food to eat
Whosoever is barren may be agonized
The fertile women who are able to beget children should rejoice.
After the singers have paraded the length and breadth of the community three to
four times, there is a massive pouring out or an oodle of the young incarnate beings. It is
usually a great spectacle to behold. The young incarnate beings in their hundreds will
spread all over the community, running, jumping and dancing. The spectators are held in
bewilderment. The women then will turn out in their great number with their cheering
and jubilation. There is joy and jubilation all over the community. The young incarnate
beings are made to form a single line formation and are made to parade the entire
community as the young men and women continue with their songs.
After the parade, they are arranged into two line formation while they match to the
community performance arena. In the arena, they move out in pairs to execute some
dance steps. This will continue to the last Akwubaliba.
The singers which comprise the young men and women continue with their songs
unabated while the dances are going on.
After the last two Akwubaliba have performed, they once again spread out as they
run the length and the breadth of the community. In the process, the entire community is
agog with jubilations and goodwill. The Akwubaliba will finally move back to their
spiritual abode waiting till the next year.
The appearance of the young incarnate beings in their numbers emphasizes joy,
happiness, jubilation and goodwill. The entire community is held spellbound with the
spectacle created by the young Akwubaliba. Elders are seen pouring libation, reciting
incantations and chanting for the ancestors to preserve the lives of the young ones. The
larger the number of the incarnate beings, the greater happiness from the community as
this may be an indication of population explosion among children. Definitely, it is the
sucker that must replace the old banana tree when it is finally cut down. Some women
are seen singing and dancing in supplication and fanfare while others are seen in pensive
mood, perhaps in agony. For the next two to three weeks, the atmosphere continues to be
cheering and cheerful. Children and youths are elated and proud.
To say that the entire community is elated at the outing of Akwubaliba is a
hyperbolical statement. Some frivolous barren women in the community usually find the
entire activity repulsive and repugnant. To them, nature has been unkind to them. The
joy expressed by the larger community emphasizes the sorrow and sadness of these
women. The expression of joy by some other women perhaps is an aberration to the
existence of the barren women as they feel subjugated by nature.
After all these manifestations, the last options to this class of people are anger,
hatred, malevolence, malice which tend to manifest in witchcraft and mischief. The
anger from these frivolous women will first of all be exercised on their husbands, then to
the immediate neighbours and to the community at large.
Where does the “bad blood” filter from? Part of the lyrics says that those barren
women who are bitter about not being blessed with the fruit of the wombs should take
solace from God. The other part says those who are blessed with children should rejoice
and jubilate with all supplications. With the song, the minority barren women are
reminded of their inability to give birth. The song seems to puncture the “bile” of the
baren women as it seems they have been pronounced incongruous and inconsequential.
Perhaps, the society never thought of the latent meaning of the song as the song is
rendered by the inexperienced youths. The society may not contradict itself as there is an
adage that, it is providence that shapes our ends, and that, it is God that gives children not
through anybody’s personal effort.
If the lyrics should be removed from the body of the performances, should the
barren women have accepted the Akwubaliba incarnate being performance with fanfare,
pageantry and euphoria associated with the performance? Let’s see then the euphoria that
welcomes the appearance of the Akwubaliba incarnate beings. As they fan out in their
numbers, most women become ecstatic as they plunge their whole being into
uncontrollable jubilation. They shout, sing, ululate, chant and dance and suddenly there
are whispers among them as mothers tend to be identifying the incarnate beings how they
walk, run and dance like their sons. The whispers are solely between women as it is
sacrilegious for men to hear such blasphemy. It is at the process of identification that the
barren women are also touched as they have no one to associate with any of the incarnate
Africans are endowed with performances, which in most cases unite the people
and create goodwill, sense of belonging, socialization process and unity. Performances in
most cases unite both the mortal and the immortal as the mortal use the performances as
supplication, thanksgiving, honour and acknowledgement to the supernatural powers and
as a gesture, the supernatural powers supply the living with all their needs. But in some
cases, performances with all their fanfare and jubilations could become a paradox. In
essence, while some people are engrossed with joy and goodwill, others may be laden
with sorrow and anger. But the Igala believe that the unborn child in its spirit essence
does not assume the womb of angry and wicked woman. The Igala believe that the
essence of this life is to share and share alike. In essence one person’s burden is
everybody’s burden and one person’s achievement is everybody’s achievement.
The manifest function of Akwubaliba performance is a moment of joy, happiness,
jubilation and entertainment, paradoxically, the latent function carries sorrow and anger
among some insignificant population of the community.
Boston, J.S. Ikenga Figures among the North-West Igbo and the Igala. Ethnographical in
Association with Federal Department of Antiquities, Nigeria, 1977.
--- “Medicines and Fetishes in Igala,” Africa: London Journal of the International
African Institute. Vol. XII pp. 200-203, 1971.
Illah, F.S. “The Performing Arts of the Masquerades and its changing status in Igala”.
M.A. Dissertation of English and Drama sub-unit, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria,
Miachi, Tom, A. The Incarnate being Phenomenon in African Culture: Anthropological
Perspectives on the Igala of North-Central Nigeria. Ibadan: Kraft Books Limited,
Nwabueze, E. Visions and Revisions. Enugu: ABIC Publishers, 2003.
Sargent R.A. “Igala Masks, Dynastic History and Face of the Nation”, West African
Masks and Cultural System. ANN. Vol. 126, 1988.
Ben Okey Opara, PhD
General Studies Department
Federal College of Education, Pankshin
E-mail: [email protected]
GSM: 08065484060
The need for peaceful co-existence and social stability has never been more urgent in Nigeria
than it is today. This is why ways of achieving them should be, and in fact they actually are, in
the front burner of government agenda at all levels of governance in Nigeria. In line with this
concern, this paper takes a look at the ways language can be used to foster, promote and sustain
ethno-religious tolerance as a means of ensuring social stability in Nigeria. The task in the paper
involves highlighting the features and functions of language as a peculiar human possession,
conceptualizing ethnic and religious tolerance to put them in the perspective of this paper, and
outlining how language use can help bring about peaceful ethno-religious co-existence. The
paper concludes that language use can make or mar social relations and that toleration is
indispensable for a healthy co-existence in a multi-ethnic society. Recommendations are given
on how to ensure proper exploitation of language features and functions for peaceful coexistence and social stability. The core of the recommendations is that deliberate steps should be
taken to promote mutual understanding of one another’s culture, language and religion.
Nigeria is in a state of chaos and anarchy occasioned by primordial religious sentiments
and ethno-religious intolerance. These have thrown the nation into global notoriety far outstripping the pariah status the country acquired in the wake of the “June 12” saga. Every
Nigerian is reeling under the weight of the present chaos. There is a massive sense of insecurity
and social instability resulting in the displacement of people from their usual places of residence
within the country. President Jonathan (Terradaily, July 6, 2010) captures this situation in an
address during the Army Day celebration when he said:
We must remember that some of the greatest dangers to our
democracy and freedom are shrouded in the perils of ethnicity
and religious intolerance….These evils threaten our very existence
as one sovereign indivisible nation.
This is an apt description of the state of Nigeria as a few other reports will highlight.
Crises in Plateau State of Nigeria between 2010 and April, 2012 have claimed hundreds
of lives. The crises are seen along ethnic and religious divides. Plateau is in the eye of the storm
probably because it lies in the “middle-belt” between the predominantly Muslim north and the
mainly Christian south. But the crises are not restricted to Plateau State. It is estimated that over
10,000 people have died in other religious and ethnic clashes since the return in 1999 of
democracy to Nigeria whose over 150 million population is divided almost equally between
Christians and Muslims (Terradaily, 6 July, 2010). If this is the picture up to July 2010, the
current menace and horrendous acts of the Boko Haram sect have thrown the nation into
unparalleled state of anxiety, instability and senseless loss of lives.
Obviously, the task of keeping Nigeria one must revolve around ways of putting a stop to
ethnic and religious violence in Nigeria. Several approaches can be adopted but the view in this
paper is that language and language use can be urgently deployed to arrest and correct the
attitudes of Nigerians towards the ethnic and religious diversities inherent in Nigerian society.
In this regard, this paper examines the peculiarities of language, the concept of ethnoreligious tolerance, the place of language use in enhancing peaceful co-existence and the
implications of language and language use for social stability in Nigeria.
Peculiarities of Language
Language is a peculiar human possession. This is why Palmer (1983) describes man as
the only homo loquens among the Homo sapiens. Language is the expression of thoughts or
emotions by means of words, spoken or written. Possession of language and using it well gives
one the power to handle the world of people, ideas and things (Opara & Torkaa, 2010).The New
Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol.7 (2007, p.147) captures the social nature of language by defining
language as “a system of conventional spoken or written symbols by means of which human
beings, as members of a social group and participants in its culture communicate”. This portrays
language as being used by humans to express themselves and to manipulate objects in the
environment (Wikipedia, 2011)
Language use evokes a complex of reactions in the speaker or writer and in the listener or
reader. The reaction to language can be physical (the sound waves), chemical (body chemistry),
physiological (movement of nerves, impulses and body muscles), psychological (reaction to
stimuli), general culture (the situation of the speaker in respect to the cultural system of his
society), linguistic (the language being spoken), and semantic (the meaning)(Opara & Torkaa,
2010). These events and the reactions they evoke in the language users significantly influence
the achievement of communication goals which in social interaction can be beneficial or
harmful, constructive or destructive.
Language, as noted earlier, is crucial to the creation of society and no human society can
exist without language. In this regard, Achebe (1975) avers that the value of language is
facilitating the affairs and transactions of society. Simply put, language enables the speakers to
pass on their messages quickly and exactly. But language can be abused just like any other
human creation. Achebe further notes that “language can be turned from its original purpose into
something useless or even deadly”p34. This position agrees with George Orwell’s (1954)
assertion that language can be used not only for expressing thought but also for concealing
thought or even preventing thought.
In the instance where language is used for concealing or preventing thought, the language
has deviated from its natural purpose which is the expression of thought. Once again, Achebe
warns: “Beware of interfering with its purpose; for when language is seriously interfered with,
when it is disjointed from truth, be it from mere incompetence or worse, from malice, horrors
can descend again on mankind”p34. Of course, the first reign of horror among mankind was
when there was no language and man used the crudest means possible to express his feelings and
apprehensions in the absence of language-based communication.
Formally characterized, the features of language, as given in Wisniewski (2007), include
the following:
Displacement: This is the ability of language to speak about what is happening at the time and
place of talking as well as speaking about the past, future and unreal situations.
Arbitrariness: There is no natural connection between a word and what it refers to in the
language. In order words, the meaning of a word cannot be deciphered by looking at it.
Productivity: Also called creativity or open-endedness, productivity means the potential of
infinity of expressions and utterances in a language using a finite set of words.
Cultural Transmission: Though the ability to speak is natural and genetically programmed, the
actual language an individual develops is culture specific; it is determined by the environment in
which the language is developed.
Duality: Language operates with two levels of linguistic organization:
(a) Minimal units which are the alphabet and phonemes for writing and speech and which do
not have meanings on their own.
(b) Combination of units to arrive at meanings in the language.
The levels operate together to produce an infinite number of words and utterances from a finite
set of letters and sounds.
Prevarication: This is the tendency to make utterances knowing full well that they are false with
the intention to mislead the receiver of the information.
Reflexiveness: This is using language to talk about language. It is also called metalanguage. It
enables the use of language to talk about abstract and non-existent things.
Learnability: Though the mother tongue is naturally acquired, any other language can be learned
by a normal human being.
Reciprocity: Speakers can equally become receivers in language use situations.
Specialization: Linguistic signals serve only for communication. They do not have any other
Transitoriness: The signal of spoken language fades quickly; however, written language is
Non-directional: Any person close enough to the interaction can pick up or hear the message.
Most of these features are peculiar to human language, but some like reciprocity, specialization,
transitoriness and non-directionality are shared with other animals.
Several functions have been ascribed to language as a social phenomenon. Opara &
Maikano (2004) outline the functions of language as instrumental (using language to get things
done), regulatory (using language to control the behavior of others), interactional (using
language to create interaction with others), personal (using language to express personal feelings
and meanings), heuristic (using language to discover things), imaginative (using language to
create a world of the imagination),and representative (using language to pass information). It is
self-evident here that language is integral to human existence.
Jakobson’s (1960) enumeration and explication of the functions of language in Herbert
(2011) ties the functions to the six elements or factors of a communication context _ a context,
an addresser, an addressee, a contact between an addresser and an addressee, a common code,
and a message. Each of the functions operates on a factor or element of communication. The
functions identified by Jakobson are referential (context), emotive (addresser), conative
(addressee), phatic (to establish, prolong or discontinue communication), metalingual (to
establish mutual agreement on the code) and poetic (focusing on the message for its own sake).
The features and functions of language outlined here contribute to the impact of language on
ethno-religious co-existence.
The Concepts of Ethnic, Ethnicity, Religion and Tolerance: An Overview
“Ethnic” as an adjective means “of, relating to, or characteristic of a sizable group of
people who manifest a common and distinctive racial, national, religious, linguistic or cultural
heritage” (Wikipedia, the free online dictionary).Also, ethnic can be seen as relating to the
classification of mankind into groups on the basis of racial characteristics. As a noun, ethnic is a
member of a particular ethic group especially one who maintains the language or customs of the
group. From ethnic is derived the word “ethnicity”.
Ethnicity itself is a social identity formation that rests upon culturally specific practices
and a unique set of symbols and cosmology (Olu-Adeyemi 2006).Ethnicity embodies a belief in
common origins; a broadly agreed common history provides an inheritance of symbols, heroes,
events, values and hierarchies, and confirms social identities of both insiders and outsiders.
While ethnic is an accident of birth, ethnicity is a consciousness of the ethnic background and a
firm stand on its tenets and beliefs along with the resolve to pursue its causes. Several questions
arise from this: Is ethnicity helpful in a multi-ethnic society? Can ethnicity promote national
integration? Does ethnicity not compartmentalize society? Is ethnicity as a consciousness not the
breeding pond for intolerance?
“Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that
establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and sometimes to moral values
(Wikipedia, 2011).Religions are usually characterized by the possession of narratives, symbols,
traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of
life or the universe. It is also the case that religions derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a
preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature.
Religion can be faith or belief system; but it differs from these because it has a public
aspect. Most religions have organized behavior including clerical hierarchies, a definition of
what constitutes adherence or membership, congregational laity, regular meetings or service for
purpose of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places or scripture. Religious practice may
also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals,
feasts, trance, initiations, funerary services, meditation, music, art, dance, public service or other
aspects of human culture (Wikipedia, 2011). Although scholars of religion disagree on the
classification of religion, it is obvious that despite the international or trans-cultural nature of
some religions and the ethnic-specific nature of others, all religions, whatever their philosophical
origin, are ethnic because they come from a particular culture.
Religion has the capacity to evoke great personal commitment and passion from
adherents leading to love, caring, respect and support for others with similar faith. However,
religion can lead people to hate followers of other religions and social minorities. The hatred
engendered by religion can lead to actions of harassment, conflict, oppression, murder, terrorism
and genocide.
“Toleration” and “Tolerance” are derived from the words tolerate (verb) and tolerant
(adjective).Wikipedia (May, 2011) provides a detailed explanation of the concepts. Toleration is
the practice of deliberately allowing or permitting a thing of which one disapproves. But one can
meaningfully talk of tolerating, i.e. permitting or allowing, only when one is in a position to
disallow. Related meanings of toleration include bearing or enduring, to nourish, sustain or
preserve. Toleration is also forbearance and the permission given by the adherents of a dominant
religion for other religions to exist, even though the latter are looked on with disapproval as
inferior, mistaken or harmful. Tolerance, as distinct from toleration, is an attitude of mind that
implies non-judgmental acceptance of differing life styles or beliefs whereas toleration signifies
putting up with something that one disapproves of (Wikipedia, 2011).
Most references to toleration and tolerance involve a situation of minority and dissenting
viewpoints in relation to a dominant religion. Of recent, however, toleration is being applied to
political and ethnic groups and to social minorities. Even the concept of human rights also
includes the principle of legally enforced toleration.
Tolerance is the major ingredient that holds multi-cultural, multi-religious and multiethnic societies together. From antiquity, we see instances of tolerance in the proclamation of the
Persian King, Cyrus the Great, who released the Jews from captivity to return to their homes to
worship their God. Also, the Roman Empire encouraged conquered people to continue to
worship their own gods (Wikipedia online, 2011). Several other instances of toleration abound
culminating in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted Article 18 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and
religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief,
and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public,
or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice,
worship and observance.
(United Nations, 1948, Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Tolerance is not without consequences. In exchange for toleration or tolerance, the
minority social group or religion must come to grips with the criticisms and insults from the
dominant group. If discrimination and deprivation are added to the criticisms and insult, what
Ted Gurr in Salawu (2010) describes in his theory of conflict plays out. Using a combination of
relative deprivation and group mobilization approaches, Gurr outlines three levels of actions that
lead to violence in minority-majority relations. The first is discrimination against an ethnic or
religious minority which causes the minority to form grievances. The second is that the
grievances lead to mobilization of the ethnic or religious minority group for political action.
Thirdly, the mobilized minority is empowered to engage in political action including protest and
rebellion (Salawu, 2010).
Language Use and Ethno- Religious Co-Existence
The converse of tolerance is intolerance. The two tendencies are present in the human
person. This is captured in this story:
A man told his grandson: “A terrible fight is going on inside me_
a fight between two wolves. One is evil, and represents hate, anger, arrogance,
intolerance, and superiority. The other is good, and
represents joy, peace, love, tolerance, understanding, humility,
kindness, empathy, generosity, and compassion. This same fight is
going on inside you, inside every other person too.” The grandson
asked, “Which wolf will win?” The old man replied simply, “The one
you feed (Targay, 2012).
The essence of this story here is that the evil and good in every person can be “fed” or nourished.
The food can come through language which is naturally entwined with the human mind.
One of the features of language noted earlier is prevarication—the ability to make
sentences conscious that they are false and with the intention to deceive or mislead the receiver
of the information (Wisniewski, 2007).Another feature is displacement which enables the
language user to talk about present, past and future situations or events. These are the capacities
of language that can turn it into a weapon for good or for bad. Language can be used for the
purposes of persuasion, in which case it is called rhetoric; or “used deliberately with no concern
for truth or fact in order to create a particular and biased impression” in which situation it is
termed propaganda ((Opara &Torkaa, 2010, p146).
Furthermore, the impact of negative language use and the worry it causes well meaning
citizens the world over can be seen in the words of Toni Morrison at her Nobel Lecture on 7th
December, 1993:
Oppressive language does more than represent violence. It is violence.
It does more than represent the limits of knowledge, it limits knowledge.
It must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood,
laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability
and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the
bottomed-out mind. Sexist language, racist language, theistic language—all
are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new
knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.
But language use does not necessarily need to be oppressive, racist or propagandist.
Positive language use can exploit the functions of language to draw people’s attention to positive
virtues like the need for peaceful co-existence, convince them of the worthwhileness of such
actions, and get them to act in favour of the identified virtues. This embodies the phatic,
conative, referential and emotive functions of language. Positively used, language should
engender peaceful relationships by encouraging tolerance and unity.
Language is part of the culture of a group. As Cohen (2011, p28-29) rightly notes
“Languages do not exist in isolation as an abstract system of signs but within unique, organic
habitats, complex ecologies and interactions”. He further insists that language and culture are
inseparable as language reflects culture and culture is reproduced in language. Through language
all forms of human activities are carried out. Language is capable of destroying or minimizing
relationships within the culture it operates in. The way every language is sufficient for all the
communication needs of the people that use it is the way the culture of the people is the totality
of their way of life. Therefore, the mingling of cultures and languages should be an expansion of
wholesome ways of life and an enrichment of the linguistic resources by the processes of
assimilation and adaptation of linguistic forms and norms from one language to the other. This
process is bound to engender healthy bilingualism and multilingualism in the citizens of the
multiethnic community. It will also foster integrative-motivated language learning because of the
desire to identify with the speakers and culture of the other language group.
Peaceful co-existence will hold sway in the situation described above. It will make the
idea of toleration or tolerance irrelevant in the community because in toleration there are still
unvoiced suspicion, criticism, denigration and discrimination against the tolerated group. Rather,
what will subsist is a sort of fellow-feeling where everybody is everyone’s brother or sister
irrespective of language, religion or ethnicity. Walzer (1997, p17) captured such a situation in
the Hellenist City of Alexandria founded in 331 BC. The city contained a large number of Jewish
communities which lived in peace with equivalently sized Greek and Egyptian populations. In
Walzer’s words, the city provided “a useful example of what we might think of as the imperial
version of multiculturalism”. In the City there was no question of toleration; there was absolute
mutual and peaceful co-existence.
Implications of Language and Language Use for Social Stability and Conflict Prevention
It has been noted that language is deeply entrenched in human culture. This is to say that
language and society are intertwined. Language is a tool for interpersonal interaction necessary
for incorporating the individual into existing social structures and also harnessing the potential of
the individual towards the aims and aspirations of the society. In other words, language ropes the
individual into a society and also enables him to contribute to the sustenance and integration of
that society (Opara, 2012, p156). Apart from its use to communicate and share information,
language has the socio-cultural functions of signifying group identity, social stratification, social
grooming, and entertainment. The implication of language use is that it can make or mar society;
it can facilitate or hamper social integration. That is why people who can use language well are
respected in society. Igwe and Green (1967) in Achebe (1975, p31) note: “A speaker who could
use language effectively and had a good command of idioms and proverbs was respected by his
fellows and was often a leader in the community.” The respect and leadership accorded such a
person will be enduring if the person uses the gift of language for good causes.
Conflict situations are inevitable in human society as long as there are struggles over
values, power and scarce resources, and the groups that are concerned try to outwit or outgain the
other. Such conflicts must be prevented, resolved or managed if the society is to survive and
make meaningful progress. This will only be possible if there is peaceful co-existence facilitated
by language, effective communication and healthy language use.
Communal life is based on a set of shared meanings which enables the members of the
community to make coherent sense of the world. The shared meanings constitute what the
community has in common and underlie all communication, interaction and organized activity
(Cohen, 2011). The language of the community is the repository of the community’s
communality. Despite a common language, a community may still be divided by “religion,
culture and nonverbal behavior” (Cohen, 2011, p28). But it is strongly canvassed that language
can give a clue to how a community understands and handles conflict since the common
language constitutes their shared meanings. This makes language very instrumental to coexistence as it provides grounds for common understanding which makes communication easy.
The ease of communication is necessary where issues or differences have to be discussed and
As mentioned earlier, communication and understanding are needed to reconcile
differences that are bound to arise in multi-ethnic settings. Cultural differences and language
barriers can obstruct understanding. Where communication is not understood or is misunderstood
ill-feelings generated can easily lead to conflicts, aggravate intolerance and destabilize social
cohesion, especially in multi-ethnic and multi-religious settings (Akin, 2003). Hence, there is
always need for reconciliation. In the words of Cohen (2011, p27), “As a complex,
interconnected chain of nonverbal and verbal messages and moves, conciliation can advance
only when there is synchronized and consecutive understanding at every stage of the process. For
information to be comprehensibly exchanged and issues at stake to be discussed, the parties must
be able to draw on a shared store of meanings; before they can meaningfully discuss substance
they must arrive at a meta-understanding of form and process”. A common language and an open
channel of communication are the factors for reconciliation highlighted by here Cohen.
Language use can make or mar social relations. It therefore becomes imperative for
language used in social interactions to be politically correct. Politically correct language refers to
language use that reflects acceptable attitudes. The use of politically correct language is
absolutely necessary to retain balance, peace and stability required for cohesion and integration
within the society (Opara, 2012).
There is a strong relationship between language use and conflict. Inappropriate language
can cause as well as escalate conflicts which mar social cohesion. Bacal & Associates (2013)
observe that learning to use language more effectively is a critical skill in reducing unnecessary
conflicts and managing conflicts. The group further notes that inflammatory statements and
personal attacks are two of the most common causes of conflict escalation. When people attack
people verbally, those attacked are likely to get especially defensive or angry more than they
would have had their opponents kept their statements impersonal and focused on the problem
(jump.cgi.htm, 2013).
The place of language and language use in disrupting and also ensuring harmonious
ethno-religious co-existence can be illustrated with the situations in some Nigerian communities
and in Sierra Leone. Sub-nationalities and regions in Nigeria are held together by indigenous
lingua franca: Hausa in the North, Yoruba in the West and Igbo in the East. However, cleavages,
especially in the North, emerged with the concept of “middle belt” which de-emphasizes the
homogeneity of the North and escalates ethnic consciousness. Deliberate steps are now being
taken to promote ethnic loyalty which often revolves around the language of the ethnic group.
Where the Hausa language had helped to foster unity and tolerance as a common language
among the northerners, the recourse to ethnic cleavages and the “indigene” syndrome it promotes
is largely responsible for the recurrent crises and intolerance in the north of Nigeria today. The
other regions, East and West, where the Igbo language and the Yoruba language respectively
have continued to enjoy common acceptability are relatively at ease without tensions as to who is
from where in the region. So, it can be said that language has helped to foster unity and tolerance
in the ethnic groups.
In Sierra Leone, negative metaphoric language use following the 29th April 1992 coup led to
the crisis that engulfed the nation. Bangura (2006.p445) notes that a plethora of bloody
metaphors invoking images of Darwinian jungles and guerrilla warfare threw the state into a
theater of war, “a brutal battle for survival devoid of rules, trust, or courtesies in which mercy
and mutual considerations are share folly”. Basically, then, the crisis following the military coup
was not caused by clash of ideas but by ill-language. This is like the Jos crisis of September
2011. The spark off of the crisis was climaxed by harsh exchange of words and propaganda
between Muslim and Christian youths circulated in leaflets and posters all around Jos (Kevin,
Toleration in ethnic and religious affairs has been identified as key to unity and national
development. In the view of Fashola (2012), ethnic and religious tolerance in Nigeria is the only
way to realize the desired national development as nothing can be achieved in an atmosphere of
chaos. Intolerance, which breeds chaos, is mostly caused by immoderate and foul language. It is
language that is used to “feed the good or bad wolf” in every human being. As Targay (2012)
observes, language use characterized by false and biased information can fuel ethno-religious
intolerance. Furthermore, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (2012) assert:
Intolerance breeds injustice, injustice invariably leads to rebellion and
retaliation, and these will lead to escalation on the part of both (sides)
making reconciliation almost impossible. It appears that during times of
stress, despair and frustration, people become increasingly irrational, and
they do things which they never think they are capable of. And so we see
hideous brutality perpetrated by the most gentle people.
It is germane to the discussion here to reiterate the concern expressed by President
Jonathan: “We must remember that some of the greatest dangers to our democracy and freedom
are shrouded in the perils of ethnicity and religious intolerance. These evils threaten our very
existence as one sovereign and indivisible nation.” (Terradaily, 6 July, 2010) This is still the
situation as it is in Nigeria today.
The exploration of the features and functions of language in human affairs has shown that
language use or misuse can promote peaceful co-existence or sow seeds of discord among the
members of multi-ethnic and multi-religious societies. Toleration as a virtue is indispensable if
pluralistic societies are to continue to exist as one and achieve meaningful development. The
major ingredients required for toleration are the use of moderate and politically correct language,
and the understanding of the cultures of the ethnic groups that live as a single society.
The following positions are adopted in this paper to serve as recommendations towards
exploiting the resources in language and culture for ethnic and religious tolerance to ensure
social stability and conflict prevention in Nigeria.
The languages and cultures of co-existing ethnic groups should be learned in the primary
and secondary schools in the concerned society. This will promote cultural integration, and can
be studied in one of the branches of anthropology.
Indigenous language learning should be anchored on integrative motivation. By this,
language learning should be motivated by the desire to identify with and probably take part in the
culture of the people that own the language.
Deliberate steps should be taken to de-emphasize cleavages and ethnicity within society.
The concept of “indigene” and the demand for “indigene certificates” should be completely
abolished from public life (school admission, employment into the civil service or armed forces,
Annual cultural carnivals should be held in every multiethnic society where the cultural
and linguistic diversities can be exhibited for appreciation.
Inter-ethnic and inter-religious dialogues should be a regular feature of multiethnic
communities. Such dialogues should address topical issues that threaten mutual co-existence.
The dialogues can also focus on the conscious removal of derogatory and inciting language
among the people, in the church and in the mosque.
There should be censorship of foul and inflammatory language use in public places,
regardless of freedom of speech. A mobile or special court should be established to try offenders
on the spot or within the shortest possible time. This measure will ensure the use of moderate
language by all opinion, ethnic and religious leaders in society.
Programmes in the mass media, especially the electronic media, aimed at moderation in
language use should be aired regularly in national and local stations. The programmes can be
sponsored by ethnic and religious groups or by the stations themselves.
There should be the promotion of school exchange programmes in reasonable volume at
secondary school level. This can be complemented with acculturation visits for students studying
indigenous languages other than their own mother tongue or first language at secondary school
Achebe, C. (1975). Morning yet on creation day: Essays. London: Heinemann
Akin, J. (2003). “Interpersonal/Small scale communication” In G.Burgess and H.
Burgess (eds) Beyond Intractability. University of Colorado: Conflict Information
Bacal & Associates (2013) Conflict and language. http:/conflict 911.com/resources/
Bangura, A.(2006). Metaphors of the banditry in Sierra Leon: A treatise on ethics. In
S. G. Best (ed) Introduction to peace and conflict studies in West Africa. Ibadan:
Spectrum Books Ltd, PP444-456
Cohen, R.(2011).Language and conflict resolution: the limits of English. International
Studies Review Vol.3 No. 1 p25-51
Fashola, B.R .(2012). National security: Fashola advocates ethnic, religious
Tolerance. www.facebook.com/note.php?note-id
Halliday, E.A.K.(1975). Varieties of English. London: Longman
Herbert, L. (2011). The functions of language .In Louis Herbert (dir.).SIGNO
[Online].Rimouski (Quebec).http://www.signosemio.com
Igwe, G.E. & Green, M.M. (1967). Igbo language course. Nigeria: OUP
Jakobson, R. (1960). Linguistics and poetics. In Sebeok,T (ed).Style in language
Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press, pp350-377
Jump.cgi.htm (2013). Language in conflict http:/languageinconflict.org/about-lic.htm
Kevin, K.K. (2006) Conflicts and crises in Nigerian tertiary institutions: Management and
prevention. Jos: Seeye Prints
Olu-Adeyemi, L. (2006). Ethno-religious conflict and the travails of national
Integration in Nigeria’s fourth republic. www.dawodu.com/adeyemi
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (2012).Religiously based civil
unrest and warfare. www.religioustolerance.org>spirituality>peace
Opara, B.O.(2012). Language and politics: An appraisal of some peculiarities of political
language and the implications for national integration. NATECEP Journal of English
and Communication Studies vol.8 p156-161
Opara, B.O. & Maikano, P.(2004).Effective science and technology education:
The role of communicative competence The conference: a journal of contemporary
educational thoughts 1 (1) 16-22
Opara, B.O.& Torkaa, J.Y.(2010). Language in conflict resolution: the case of
politically correct language usage. In Adeniji, L.A.A., Adeyemo, S.A. & Adeniji, D.R. (eds)
.Resolving conflicts in Nigeria: The role of religion, education, language and general studies.
Ibadan: Jilat Publishing company pp143-150
Orwell, G.(1954). Politics and the English language: Essays. New York: Doubleday
Palmer, F.R.(1983).Grammar. London: Longman
Salawu, R. (2010).Ethno-religious conflicts in Nigeria: Causal analysis and
proposals for new management strategies. European Journal of Social
Sciences 13 (3) 345-353
Targay, K. (2012).Azerbaijan can export ethnic and religious tolerance. News.Az
Tuesday 31 January, 2012. www.news.az/article. society/53788
Terradaily (6 July, 2010). Religious intolerance threatens Nigerian democracy:
Jonathan. www.terradaily.com
United Nations (1948). The universal declaration of human rights.
Walzer, M. (1997). On toleration. New Haven: Yale University Press
Wisniewski, K. )2007). Features of language. Http://www.wumaczenia-angiel
Ski Info/linguistic/features.htm
1. Department of Social Science Education University of Nigeria, Nsukka
2. Department of Arts and Social Science Education Ebonyi State, University
3. Department of Arts Education University of Nigeria, Nsukka
The premise of this paper is that there is an urgent need for political education in Nigeria on
account that Nigerian democracy is expected to accelerate national development. The reason for
this submission is that Nigerian democracy has failed to meet the expectations of the masses. A
number of indicators x-ray the lapses of the Nigerian democracy. They are: inability to provide
the masses with good leadership, ethnicity, corruption, election crises and inadequate logistics,
enthronement of mediocrity at the expense of meritocracy, violation of fundamental human rights
of the citizens and other rape of democracy tendencies. To address these problems, the role of
political education for political re-orientation of the citizens cannot be over-emphasized. The
paper found that inadequate political education remains the bane of Nigerian democracy. That
adequate political education to the citizenry will enable them have knowledge of the fundamental
human rights. This will help them respect one another; shun ethnicity, corruption, favouritism
and other acts capable of opposing democratic governance. The study recommended that
government at all levels should organize political enlightenment programmes for the citizens
towards the sustainable democracy for national development in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, democracy and national development aspiration need to be sustained through
political education of the citizens. Political education according to Akude (1991:166) is, “a
process of mental liberation which breaks down apathy and the culture of silence of the vast
majority of Nigerians, and empowers them to participate effectively and meaningfully in the
process of nation building”. This simply means that if political education is properly conducted,
it will enable citizens to play their parts towards the development of the nation, as well as
possessing the information essential for intellectual reflection on issues of the day. It is this kind
of orientation that would make people think of what to do for their country and not what the
country would do for them. Political education in its ramifications would help Nigerian citizens
to participate positively in Nigerian democracy towards national development.
Democracy is a system of government that allows the citizens the periodic opportunity to
elect their leaders as to provide social services to the people or face impeachment or recall if they
fall short of the expectations of the citizens. Nwokolo (2010), sees democracy as a political
system which supplies regular constitutional opportunities for changing the governing officials,
and social mechanism which permits the largest possible part of the population to influence
major decisions by choosing among contenders for political office. On the contrary, democracy
in Nigeria seems to be a practice where the opinions of few wealthy or influential individuals are
taken on major issues affecting the country. However, Asobie (2007) explains that democracy in
Nigeria, is practiced mostly by those who are not exposed to or who have no knowledge of the
science of politics, nor being trained in either the academic discipline or the practical
Situation like this in a democratic system demands urgent solution. Hence the need for
political education for the politicians and the citizens in general. Without practical or ideal
democracy, there may be no political stability, and national security, and perhaps no social and
economic development. It is only ideal democracy that can pave ground for national
development. National development is entrenched on such basic tenets of ideal democracy such
as sovereignty of the people, respect for human life, respect for the rule of law, equality and
liberty of the individuals (Held, 1993 and Enemuo, 2005).
The citizens of Nigeria need good political education to understand the principles and
practice of democracy, if the goal of national development will not remain a mirage. National
development is the qualitative and quantitative advancement in all sectors of the economy. It is
overall improvement in the political, economic and socio-cultural spheres of life of the people of
the country. Ogbuka (1991:82) sees national development as, “the progressive change from
lower to higher level of growth, performance and achievement both quantitatively and
qualitatively on wider political community rather than individual or sectional scale”. This
implies that national development may not be realized in a democracy where most citizens do
not know their rights, cannot respect the rights and human dignity of others, practice thuggery
and cannot think rationally. Similarly, Awolowo-Browne (2011) noted with regret that, Nigeria
is plagued by a number of bad cultures. In Nigeria today, there exist problems of ethnic
sentiments, tribalism, spates of bombing and terrorist attacks by a group of agitators called the
Boko Harams, politics of rancour and elimination of political opponents and myriad of others.
This unhealthy situation calls for political education so that the citizens of the country would
learn to avoid unhealthy practices in the polity.
This paper therefore, addressed the role of political education needed to strengthen
Nigerian democracy. The successive parts of this paper are arranged into the following subheadings:
 Conceptual Overview of Political Education and Nigerian Democracy
 Need for Political Education in Multi-Socio-Cultural Groups
 Problems Facing Political Education in Nigeria
 Role of Political Education in Sustenance of Nigerian Democracy
 Implications of Political Education for National Development
 Conclusion and recommendations.
Conceptual Overview
Political Education and Nigerian Democracy
Political education could be broadly referred to as a process of getting the citizenry fully
socialized into the prevailing political culture of the country (Akude, 1991). It is the orientation
given to people in the family, churches, mosque, schools and media such as magazines,
newspapers, television, scholarly articles in journals and books of readings, towards equipping
them with knowledge, skills, norms, values and judgements that will make them function
effectively in their body polity. It is a process through which an individual is taught the political
norms, values, and aspirations of the society to be useful member of the society. Political
education is akin to political socialization and citizenship education since all of them perform
similar role of educating the citizens on their rights and rights of others in the society (Ibezim,
Political education is also geared towards educating the citizens about their history,
political development, rights and responsibilities, educating masses on participation in public
affairs. It is also geared towards educating citizens to identify with the Nigerian nation and to
reject manipulations or acts which threaten the identity, integrity and sovereignty of the nation.
Notably, political education improves democracy and practical democracy improves
national development. For example, Ghana, a country in Africa is well respected now all – over
the World because of its democratic practices some of which include free and fair elections,
respect for people’s lives and property, economic buoyancy, political stability and cultural reorientation (Acha, 2011). Nigeria should borrow a leaf from Ghana, for Ghana is in Africa and
was once colonized by the British.
Right from independence Nigerian democracy has been in a state of flux. It (Nigerian
Democracy) could be mirrored through the activities of our so called nationalist leaders who
were busy manipulating the populace to fight political battles against themselves. In-fact
opposing the ruling class was negatively evaluated and was seen as dissention and so must be
punished. Nigeria is such a State where democracy has class character and where inequality
prevails. The political culture of the people tends towards monetization of election, politicization
of ethnicity and sectionalism. No true democracy can survive in environment where anarchy,
sectionalism, tribalism, disloyalty among others have become the order of the day. True
democracy can only be meaningful on the plat-form of peace, security, unity and tranquillity,
hence they are vital ingredients of democracy. It is therefore, believed that functional political
education will solve the problems of democracy in Nigeria and as such moves the nation to the
next phase of development.
The question now is who should be given the political education for the strengthening of
Nigerian democracy towards national development? The obvious answer is that both, young and
adults, educated and illiterates, leaders and followers in Nigeria need political education.
Need for Political Education in Multi-Cultural Groups
Nigeria is a country that is made up of people of different ethnic orientations, origins
and culture. There are over 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria and more than 400 languages in the
country. Nigeria is believed to be a creation of the colonial masters where people of diverse
cultures, norms, traditions, aspirations, and/ or orientations are brought together. Nigeria was
gotten from the colonial amorphous amalgamation of previously independent and discrete
political and cultural units into a single State without due consideration of the integration of the
political entity (Omojuwa, 1998). To worsen the situation, the colonialists sowed the seed of
division in Nigeria by identifying each ethnic group as tribe and worst still making each tribe feel
that it is different from other tribes. Acknowledging the word tribe as a means of disintegration
as well as causing division among the people of Africa, Paden and Soja (1970) succinctly note in
the following lines:
The term ‘tribe’ and ‘tribalism’ have pejorative connotations for many
indigenous Africans (as has primitive) but more specifically these
terms have not proved to be very effective concept for analytical
purpose… ‘Tribe’ and ‘tribalism’ have also lacked cross cultural
applicability. What is called a tribe in Africa is often called a nation or
nationality in Europe and North America.
As a result, there is always feeling of differences among the various ethnic groups. This feeling
was sowed, nurtured and developed by the colonial masters to see that these groups never come
together to fight a common goal. Consequently, arson, ethnic loyalty, thuggery, intimidation,
elimination of opponents etc. became institutionalized political culture. That was why at
independence, the first problem the leaders encountered was how to integrate the ethnic
nationalities so that they feel they are one entity. The tribe orientation which was given the
Africans that sowed the seed of ethnic sentiments in most African States, Nigeria not an
exception is a colonial coinage to destabilize them. Logical deduction from the above scenario
shows that there is the need for political education in multi-socio-cultural groups like Nigeria.
Political education may be one of the tools that could reduce tribalism, nepotism, favouritism and
other vices that threaten the Nigerian democracy thereby affecting national development.
Problems Facing Political Education in Nigeria
Nigerian governments have been making efforts to ensure that the citizens have the needed
political education for the sustenance of Nigerian democracy for national development. They
have introduced into the curriculum subjects like Social Studies, Civic Education, Government
as a subject, as well as Citizenship education to ensure that citizens at all levels of the
educational system receive political education. They have established agencies like the Mass
Mobilization for Self-Reliance, Social Justice and Economic Recovery (MAMSER), National
Orientation Agency (NOA), and a host of others. However, the above attempts did not achieve
the political education need of the citizens of the country. The reason for the above contention is
that myriad of factors which are political and religious in nature, that affect Nigerian unity need
to be part of political education in Nigeria. In the words of Elebo (1996) there are many factors
that influence ethnicity in Nigeria; these factors were responsible for the national disintegration
which contributed to most of the problems in this country. They are religious, social and political
factors. Religion is a divisive factor in the social relations which alienates peoples’ reasoning. A
look at what happens today between the Christians and Muslims reveals that the religion does
not allow people to reason. Muslims value their religion so much that they take western
education as a sin. This is the basis for Boko Harams as the Muslim faithful advocated.
Anywhere in the northern part of the country where a Christian is the leader, the Muslims will
not like to accord him the legitimacy he deserves.
Social factors are challenges to political education. The Igbo pattern of social life
idealized egalitarians, selfish and anarchic pursuit with due respect to age and tradition; the
Yorubas are very diplomatic; the Hausa pattern idealized disciplined behaviour and they place
premium on winning the social and political favours and friendship of others particularly those of
higher social and political status (Elebo, 1990). These differences in social values affect political
education in Nigeria.
Political factors on the other hand, pose some difficulties in the political education of the
citizenry. Political history in Nigeria reveals a spate of personality clashes. A case in point is
what existed between Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe in the National Youth Movement
(NYM) in the 1940s; leadership tussles between Ernest Ikoli and Samuel Akinsanya and myriad
of others.
Omojuwa (1998) outlines four problems of political education. They include the diverse
nature of Nigeria as a State, lack of super-ordinating national loyalty, the definition of Nigeria
citizenship which emphasizes indigenity, and statism. Nigeria is a mistake of Lugard for the
elements that make up the country are of different cultural backgrounds and aspirations and the
ideas of State creation and citizenship have encouraged division more than unity and this makes
Nigerian citizens have dual loyalty to Nigerian State.
In line with the above assertion, Osaghae (1987:72) opines, “while the State provides that
all citizens are equal and should be treated equally, the centrifugal forces of ethnicity, religion,
statism and regionalism among others produce discriminatory practices in the sub-units of the
State which negates the constitutional provision by treating citizens unequally”. Other challenges
to political education are poverty, greed, corruption and illiteracy.
Role of Political Education in Sustenance of Nigerian Democracy
Many phenomena in Nigeria polity make political education of the citizenry a needed
project to be embarked upon. In the words of Ikeji, Otisi, and Utulu (2011), factors like citizen’s
apathy and marginalization in the public process, dysfunctional electioneering, jettisoning of
public accountability principle, enthronement and maintaining of oppressive, unpopular and
illegitimate regimes, undermining of the rights and obligations of the citizenry are the monsters
that ravage the Nigerian democracy thereby affecting national development. Similarly, Ogbuka
(1991) posits that Nigerian democracy accepts periodic elections although these elections are
often marked by crises and logistics inadequacies which affect political participation of the
Judging from the above views, the only balm and/ or solution to the picture of our dear
country painted above is political education. Ewemie (2000) and Anwulorah (2009:290)
highlight what should be the main role of political education as follows:
Political education can curb among others, the seventeen ills common in a
politically turbulent nation including: illness and hunger, starvation, inflation,
uncertainty, oppression, high levies/taxes, victimization, corruption, robbery,
murder, fear, arson, suffering of the masses, tribalism, educational depression,
retrenchment and unemployment.
Ewemie and Anwulorah seem to have listed all the challenges facing Nigerian democracy which
clog on the wheel of national development and affirm that political education is the solution. In a
related exposition, Edebor (2008) mentions the prevailing illness which political education is set
to exterminate to include: ethnic rivalry, misappropriation of public funds, political thuggery,
relative intolerance and insincerity among leaders as well as followers. Education is more of an
adaptive and supportive institution, prompted to adapt to new curriculum to meet new needs
arising from social changes in society (Ogunyiriofo, 2001:89). Ottaway (1963) maintains that
educational change tends to follow social change and that education is one of the last functions
of society to adapt to new social needs. The social needs of Nigerians in the face of spates of
election rigging, militancy, bombing, abduction of foreign oil workers, Boko Harams, and other
practices that connote rape of democracy in Nigeria today is the political education of the
Political education according to Akude (1991) helps to maintain political stability.
However, the lamentable reality is the inability of the electorates to remove their dehumanized
leaders through free and fair means (that is the ballot box) (Acha, 2011). This situation exists
because most citizens do not have enough political education. All those that work as thugs, the
highly placed electoral officials that abet electoral malpractices and those politicians that induce
them lack political education and may not know with ease the impact of their actions on Nigerian
democracy and national development.
Implications of Political Education for National Development
 Adequate political education to Nigerian citizens will enhance the knowledge of their
inalienable human rights. It will also help them to know when their rights are violated by
others. This invariably would help to spell out corruption and its indices. This if done will
sustain democracy and accelerate national development.
 It will liberate Nigerians from the shackles of ethnicity, make Nigerians know that we are
one and indivisible Nigeria, and as well learn to be loyal to the country and not the
tribe(s). It will equally help Nigerians know that the word ‘tribe’ is not of African origin
but one of the instruments that the colonial/imperial masters used to sow seed of division
among Africans as to be able to rule them (divide and rule ideology).
 Political education when properly given to Nigerian citizens would enable them
understand democracy and its principles, as to know when it is raped and who raped it
and the necessary action(s) to be taken to forestall it (democracy) towards national
development. Good political education would make Nigerians vote wisely during
elections as to solve the seeming leadership problem of Nigeria that affects the national
development aspiration of the country.
 Political education will also make Nigerians to embrace religious tolerance. It is an eye
opener that would let Nigerians know that religion should be placed aside in treating
issues of national concern. It will as well let Nigerians learn that no book of God (Bible
or Koran) advocates man inhumanity to man.
 Nigerian leaders would learn through political education that they are servants to the
masses and not lords and that they are pointers to follow. They would also learn that they
are primary role models on national values. They would borrow a leaf from the biblical
Jesus Christ who was an epitome of a good leader. Political education would enable our
leaders to use the national resources for the development of the nation not siphoning it to
their foreign accounts for development of foreign countries. It would equally make
Nigerian citizens to clamour for peace of the country, eschew dual loyalty and maintain
spirit of oneness.
Based on the foregoing, the following recommendations are proffered:
1) Government at all levels should organize political enlightenment programmes for those who are not
privileged to have western education of any kind where they will be taught the importance of unity in
diversity, peace, patriotism, respect for fundamental human rights, rule of law and equality of all
citizens. This if done would improve Nigerian democracy which will in turn affect national
2) The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be adequately funded by the federal
government to re-invigorate it to give more political education to the masses.
3) Federal government should make every first one hour of the working hours of the civil and public
servants on the last Thursdays of the month to be for political education. Here, a resource person will
be brought to enlighten them on their political rights and obligations, the need for unity and evil
effects of tribalism, statism and favouritism on the Nigerian democracy and national development.
4) Federal government should organize seminars for political re-orientation of highly placed individuals
in the country - business and political magnates, Governors of all the States of the federation,
Ministers, Commissioners, Heads of military, police and paramilitary agencies, academics, local
government chairmen and councilors for the needed paradigm shift towards overhauling the Nigerian
democracy for national development.
The role of political education in sustenance of Nigerian democracy and forestalling of
national development cannot be over-emphasized. Education is an agent of change and political
education in Nigeria context cannot be an exception. It is the political education that contributed to the
development of the west.
Conversely, Nigerian citizens today need political re-orientation. The leaders, the led, including
the religious leaders need political re-orientation at this material time when bribery and corruption,
militancy, Boko Harams, religious squabbles, rape of democracy, leadership failures, and myriad of
political, economic and socio-cultural challenges ravage the country. Political education with its
concomitant peaceful political, economic and socio-cultural atmosphere is the need of every multisocio-cultural group like Nigeria.
Acha, F.N. (2011). Challenges of 2011 Nigeria Elections. Enugu: Snaap Press.
Akude, I. (1991). The Role of Social Studies Education in Promoting Political Education in
Nigeria. Journal of Social issues, 1(1), 164-170.
Anwulorah, O.P. (2009). Citizenship Education: A Veritable Tool for Achievement of Seven
Point Agenda. In I. Ojukwu and P.O. Anwulorah (eds), Readings in Political and Social
Issues in Nigeria; Problems and Prospects. Onitsha Base 5 Pubs.
Asobie , A. (2007). Re-inventing the Study of International Relations: From State and State
Power to Man and Social Forces. An Inaugural Lecture of the University of Nigeria
Nsukka. University of Nigeria: Senate Ceremonial Committee.
Awolowo-Browne, F .(2011). Bloody Democracy: 520 killed-police; Daily Sun of Thursday june
2, p.6 vol, 6 no.2094.
Edebor, S.E .(2008). Citizenship Political Education: Challenges for the 21st Century. Journal of
Resource Development, 10(1), 112-116.
Elebo, I. (1996). Concept of Ethnicity . In N. Ojiakor, and G. C, Unachukwu, (eds) Issues in
Contemporary Nigeria Development. Awka: NUEL CENT Pubs.
Enemuo, F.C .(2005). Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law. In R. Anifowose, and F,
Enemuo, (eds) Elements of Politics. Lagos: Sam Iroanusi Pubs.
Ewemie, B. (2000). Essentials of Citizenship Education in Nigeria. Benin: Josseg
Held, D .(1993). Prospects of Democracy: North, South, East, West. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Ibezim, E.O .(2001). Citizenship Education. In S.I, Ajaegbo and E.O. Ibezim (eds), Citizenship
Education in Nigeria: An interdisciplinary Approach. Onitsha: West and Solomon Pubs.
Ikeji, C.C, Otisi, A and Utulu, .(2011). Social Order, Education and Democracy in Nigeria: Some
Ikwumelu, S.N. (1991). National Development in Nigeria: A Humano – centric Approach.
Journal of Social Issues, 1(1), 81-90.
Nwokolo, P.N. (2010). Media Images of Nigerian Democratic Elections and their Influence on
the Nigeria electorate (2003 and 2007), Review of Education, 1(2), 19-33.
Ogbuka, C.J. (1991). Social Scientists and National Development. Journal of Social Issues, 1(1),
Ogunyiriofo, O. (2001). Sociology and Educational Process. Onitsha: Pallin Pubs.
Okpala, J and Adeyemi, M.B. (2006). Education for Self-Reliance in Africa. In J. Okpala and
M.B. Adeyemi (eds), Fundamental of Social Studies for Universities. Nsukka: Prize
Omojuwa, K.A. (1998). National Building in a Multi-Ethnic State: A Critical Appraisal of State
of Origin; as an Integrative Device in Nigeria. In M. Odih and I. Elebo (eds). Enugu:
John Jacob’s Classic Pubs.
Ottaway, A.K.C. (1963). Education and Society: An Introduction to the Sociology of Education.
London: Rontledge and Kegan Paul.
Paden, J.N. and Soja, E.W. (1970). The African Experience Volume/Essays. Evanston Illioroise:
North Western University.
PHONE: 08039158282.
E-Mail: [email protected]
It has been observed that most artistic ideas in wood, clay, and metals in Igboland are
expressed through traditional mural painting symbols which convey important lexical messages.
According to Willis(1987) “the Igbo woman’s perception of all aspects of life and nature and
most notably ideas and objects which are held to be particularly important and representative of
Igbo culture are translated into visual vocabulary which provides important reference material
for designers, art historians, engineers and ethnographers alike”. This paper, therefore, seeks to
bring to limelight , how the culture of Nsukka people and Igbo in general is expressed through
the study of their traditional architectural wall paintings rendered in thorough naturally made
indelible ink of “Uli” (black indigo), “Nzu”(natural clay), “Ufie”(red ochre gotten from plants),
charcoal and other natural dyes in the form of leaves. These motifs touch on all aspects of Igbo
life and serves as ethnographic evidence for studying the cultural history of the area in the
absence of direct core archaeological evidence.
The method applied in the course of carrying out this research is ethnographic method.
This involves the collection of oral information from the extant members of the community that
are knowledgeable in the topic of research. Primary secondary sources of information were used.
The primary source of data came from oral tradition collected, while the secondary source came
from documented literature on the topic of research. Pictures were also used for clarity sake.
A mural is any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other
large permanent surface. A particularly distinguishing characteristic of mural painting is that the
architectural elements of a given space are harmoniously incorporated into the picture
(Wikipedia free encyclopedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/mural). The study of man’s existence
cannot be investigated or studied without the indispensible association of man’s existence to art.
All art is of course an integral part of the social structure. The past study of man is, limited to the
period of availability of documentation, records or evidential documentation of fossils as can be
seen in the study of archaeology. The earliest historical documentation of man’s activities can be
traced to the wall painting or murals. This as well can be referred to as traditional architectural
designs/motifs. This art form is the main object of discussion in this paper. The wall or mural
paintings as practiced by the early man were recorded to have been executed about 30,000 years
ago, when the caveman of Altamira caves in Spain produced paintings of animals and hunting
scenes using natural dyes as Mena (Serberling, 1959). This can as well be referred to as parietal
art or mural.
Presently and in resent time, more discoveries on past mural art practice of ethnocultural scholars and groups were made in different parts of Africa. Worthy of mention are the
wall paintings of the Igbo and the Hausa wall reliefs, in Nigeria. At present however, wall or
mural painting/art is practiced by professional artists in the form of commissions in public and
private buildings. The mural painting of the walls of the Department of Archaeology and
Tourism, University of Nigeria Nsukka museum (kitchen section) is a case at hand (plate:1).
Plate: 1 Mural painting on the walls of Archaeology Museum University of Nigeria Nsukka
As observed earlier, mural painting had existed for centuries but presently, it appears to have
taken a new form and dimension which has peculiar characteristics. Mural painting /motif has
the capacity of attracting equal of more significance than other forms of art rendered on other
In our study area, the beauty and neatness of a man’s compound is determined by the
carvings on the panel doors and the mural paintings on the walls. While the mural painting is a
prerogative job of the women, the men do the carvings on the panel doors. Although mural
paintings are only found on the walls, women use Uli motif on their bodies for both aesthetic and
medicinal purposes such as the curing of measles and chicken box on children and adults. Mural
painting in our study area involves the use of natural dyes like Uli(black indigo) , Ufie Oha(red
ochre) (Pterocarpus sayauxii), Nzu(natural clay), Alulu leaves(Lonchocarpus cyanenscens), and
charcoal to make geometric designs ranging from natural, animal to other abstract symbols and
motifs. They are highly symbolic and touch on all the spheres of the people’s culture. Lexically,
they are of great importance as they convey vocal messages. In some cases, mural paintings are
used are interwoven with the “Nsigbidi” sign language found among the eastern and western
Igbo’s in the olden days. This type of sign language is mainly associated with certain cults
ranging from societal to masquerade cults like the “Ekpe’ masquerade cult.
Many areas of art are practiced in Nsukka area. They include architecture, sculpture,
mural painting, and textile arts. Their architecture manifests in huts made of mud walls and
thatched roofs. However, as a result of change brought about by the western influence, some
aspects of this culture are fast disappearing. Most affected is the traditional architecture whose
walls are adorned with the mural paintings. The traditional architectural walls/buildings have
almost completely given way to the western architectural style. This invariably affects the
continuous existence of the traditional mural painting.
Geographical Location and Economy of the Study Areas:
Nsukka area as used here refers to all the areas formally under Old Nsukka Division. The area is
made up of four county councils namely, Igbo-Etiti, Igbo-Eze, Isi-Uzo and Uzo-Uwani. The area
presently has been split into seven local government areas which include Igbo- Etiti, Igbo-Eze
North, Igbo-Eze South, Isi-Uzo, Nsukka urban, Uzo-Uwani and Udenu (Fig:1).
These county councils are held together through some socio-cultural, economic and political ties.
These occur in form of intermarriages, festivals and trade contacts. Others include masquerade
institutions, Ozo, mkpozi and Nze title institutions.
Geographically, the area is bound to the North, North-West and East by Benue state,
North-West and West by Kogi state, Anambra River, Ezeagu, Udi and Nkanu L.G.Areas (Fig: 2).
Fig: 2 Nsukka Areas after G.E.K Ofomata 1978
With modifications by the author, 2009.
The area lies between latitude 5o 50’ and 7o oo”. The town itself is on latitude 60 51”
(Iyang, 1978). Two main seasons prevail. Thus, we have the rainy and dry seasons as is the case
with most parts of eastern Nigeria. The vegetation belongs to the derived savannah environment
(Iyang, 1978).
Economically, the people depend mostly on subsistence agriculture for their livelihood
Fig 2: Nsukka area after G. E. K. Ofomata 1978 with modifications by the author, 2009
producing crops like yams (Dioscorea spp), Cocoyam (Xanthosoma spp), Cassava (Manihot
esculantum) and engages very well in the production of palm produce like palm oil, palm kernel
and palm wine. They rear animals like goats, sheep, cows and chickens/fowls which they depict
in their wall mural paintings. They also engage in hunting, harvesting of honey bees, crafts
production and trading. Religiously, the people prior to the coming of western culture practiced
the African traditional religion (ATR). Politically, they were democratic and egalitarian and
authority came from elders with the family as the unit base.
Traditional Mural Painting and Archaeology:
Artists and others in related disciplines have looked at traditional mural paintings from
many perspectives and at the end arrived at the same conclusion. According to Oguibe (1986),
“in simple technical terms, a mural is a painting executed on a wall which serves as a support.
Traditionalists and fundamentalists would stick to the simple basic definition of a mural wall
painting. In recent times, however, the word has been stretched to accommodate such agencies as
changing architectural patterns, painting materials, borderlines between the graphic and plastic
arts durability, nature of wall surface and idiosyncrasies of artistic and art scholars”. Africa,
according to Rapport (1969), is symbolic in nature and they tried to represent most aspects of
their culture in signs and symbols. A typical example is the dexterity with which African women
adorns the wall of their compound yearly, using beautiful motifs ranging from natural to animal
and abstract objects. As earlier mentioned, mural painting generally is an age long tradition in
the history of man. This started with the cave and rock paintings. The Stone Age man that
occupied the caves had little or no tool at hand until the close of the Pleistocene when the Homo
habilis produced the simple pebble tools which includes the choppers, spheroids and the
polyhedrals. With this, he was able to adapt to the environment he found himself. Still, man was
afraid of other animals that roam the earth. For him to engage them in a fight during hunting
expeditions he has to draw these animals in the faces of the rocks and caves and there, have a
sort of mock-battle with them. He would take a vantage position and punch different parts of the
animal with his bows and arrows before engaging the animal in a real fight. In the same manner,
man at this stage painted and inscribed those plants and animals within his environment
especially those that must have served him one purpose or the other ranging from dietary to
medicinal purposes. Through this means, rock art/cave arts and paintings would have been said
to have started. The earliest preserved paintings according to Oguibe(1980) were wall paintings
in caves by primordial man. Some of these high skilled paintings are preserved in caves in
Altamera and cave lanes in Spain in Niaux and Lascawa in southern France. These caves are
dated to between 20,000 and 10,000BC. As a result of lack of recorded history on the early Igbo
cultures and traditions, no one can say emphatically when traditional mural painting started in
this part of the world. However, it could be asserted here that as far as traditional architecture
cannot be completed without some motifs on them, and for the fact that the Igbo man made use
of traditional architecture centuries before the arrival of the white man, traditional mural painting
in this vicinity must have been a thing of the remote past. Moreover, ‘Uli’ and ‘Ufie’ decoration
amongst Igbo women could be looked at as the takeoff point of mural painting amongst the
From the foregoing, it could be said that the Nsukka people attach the same value to both
the Uli aesthetics and the mural wall painting. Most of the designs made on the body are found
on the walls. In the words of Ejiogu (1971), “body decorations and wall paintings are two aspects
of our traditional art common in all Igbo speaking towns and villages of east central state of
Nigeria”. According to him, body decoration was the forerunner of traditional mural painting. In
the other way round, traditional mural painting stems from body decoration. Body decoration
was and is still a popular art among the people of Nsukka in particular and Igboland in general. It
is an exclusive reserve for women as is the case with traditional mural painting.
The genesis of mural painting as earlier mentioned is as old as the beginning of
traditional architecture starting from the time that he vacated the caves due to certain reasons like
the flow of ice into the caves to the construction of wind breaks and finally enclosed shelters.
Also, the caves must have been abandoned due to the increase in population. Man while
occupying the caves made some drawings and paintings inside the caves. Most of these paintings
were for religious and very few of them for aesthetic and historical purposes. In Nsukka, when
traditional architecture was developed and propelled by the concern to protect their huts followed
by religious and ritualistic zeal and aesthetic concern, the people started to engage in traditional
mural painting under their traditional architecture. These traditional architectural buildings have
walls made of mud and thatched roofs. No knowledge of when and how this art in Nsukka
started was kept. According to one of my informants, Ozioko Ezugwu Asadu, “as far as I can
remember, this art was there when I was young. I could remember accompanying my mother to
Obu-Umu-Azoke to decorate the walls before the ‘Egba-Onwa-Ishi’ (the sixth month festival).
Since then, this art has continued to exist but with less attention till today. Its’ survival is due to
the fact that it is handed over from mother to daughter in most of the communities within
Nsukka’. Generally speaking, mural painting is a tradition handed over from mother to daughter
from generation to generation and it signifies certain patterns and motifs.
The rational for using mural paintings on the architectural mud walls are: protection of
the walls from leaching during rainy seasons and also during the harsh hamattan weather. These
two seasons always have devastating effects on the surfaces of the mud walls especially the
external part of the walls. Most often, each year after the harvest season, most women in Nsukka
gather to restore and paint their dwellings which have been washed clean by the relentless rain of
the wet season. With their hands as brushes and the walls as their canvas, the women dexterously
set about creating an art whose composition, technique and treatment of colour is as dynamic as
that of any western painting, enhancing an otherwise harsh environment. The art form here is
purely an indigenous magical form of creativity from mud used to build wall to natural pigments
and plants gathered to make colours like cam wood ‘Abosi’(Baphia nitida), ‘Uli’ plant
seeds(Rotmania whiitfuldii, Rotmania cuspida, and Rotmania urcelliformis) and ‘Alulu’ Inigo
leaves(Conchocarpus cyanescens). Other materials used include ground leaves of ‘Ukpunkulu’
(Mucuna sloanei), bark from the roots of ‘Agaru’ and ‘Uriede’(Cassia alata) (Okigbo,1980).
Also included among the materials used in traditional mural painting are the ‘Odo’ yellow
pigment and the ’Eja- Ogwurugwu. In doing this, they make use of very sticky earthly materials
mainly clay of various colours. Probably, in the process of doing this, they discovered that it
adds beauty to their dwellings. This discovery gave rise to the second factor which has now
become the most important factor. That is, beauty and aesthetics which are not only found on the
mud walls, but also on the bodies of Nsukka women using ‘Uli’ designs.
The third factor for embarking on mural painting in Nsukka area could be found in the
realms of preservation of the mud walls using traditional architectural methods. This method
helps in expelling termites from both mud walls and the thatched roof. In most cases, grog
produced during palm oil processing is used for rubbing both the wall and the floors of these
mud buildings. The offensive smell from the grog help a lot in keeping away termites which is
one of the most destructive agents to traditional architectural buildings (Itanyi,2007:173).
Apart from the above mentioned points on the importance of mural painting to the
Nsukka people, mural painting generally is of great archaeological importance. As earlier
mentioned, the art is as old as cave paintings and engravings. Man at the earliest stage occupied
the caves. Most of the organic components of man’s environment were depicted on the walls of
the caves and rocks. For man to go out for hunting, he has to draw a picture of the animals
around him and engage them in a mock fighting before engaging the animal in a real fight. In the
same manner, most of the roots and leaves gathered by man were also drawn inside the caves for
remembrance purposes. Through the study of these caves and rock paintings, archaeologists were
able to reconstruct the past activities of man including his subsistence economy.
Looking at our study area, most of the motifs of their mural painting were animals and
inanimate objects. Others were just abstract geometric designs which convey some meanings
dialectically. All these objects represented in the mud walls tell much about the environment in
which the people of Nsukka area and environs found themselves. Animals like lizard,
fowl/chicken, goat, cow, pig, and bird motifs give information on their compound environment.
This shows the animals very close to them. Snake motif gives information on the dangerous
animals like vipers ‘Echieteka’ popularly known among the students of University of Nigeria,
Nsukka as ‘Nsukka snake’. Apart from this, the motifs on domestic animals tell much about the
people’s dietary life. Other inanimate objects as would be seen from (Fig. 7) depicts aspects of
their socio-religious and cultural life.
Thus, in the absence of direct core archaeological evidence for the reconstruction of the
cultural history of the study area, mural painting on the faces of the walls like ‘Uli’ painting on
the bodies of their women has a great role to play.
Tools Used For Mural Painting:
Like in modern painting, traditional mural painting requires some tools and techniques
which in most cases are not bought from the market, but produced by the artists. They are
manufactured locally and may be disposed off after first use as they are readily available within
the environment. Such tools include smooth stone, coconut shells, local brushes and clay pot.
The smooth stones are used to grind some materials like charcoal and leaves. It is also used for
smoothening the wall surface before mural painting is done (Fig. 3). Archaeologically, the
presence of this grinding stone in our study area is indicative of producing and usage of late
Stone Age tools in the area. The coconut shell is used to smoothen the walls surface before
colours are applied on them (Fig.4). Brushes got from oil palm fiber are used in applying colours
to the walls. At times, they are fashioned by cutting a withering banana (Musa sapientum) leave
and beating one end flat. It is locally called ‘Nsute’ (Fig: 5). The clay pot serve as storage vessel
while the pot shards, especially the open mouthed ones are used as pallets (Fig: 6).
Techniques Employed In Mural Painting:
In traditional mural painting, techniques vary from one artist to the other. This is as a
result of the theme or effect the artist wants to achieve at the end. Some artists start by covering
the whole surface of both inside and outside with brownish red soil after which coconut shell and
smooth stone are used to smoothen the wall. This first coating is what is today called priming in
modern painting. Gradually, bold designs are broken into intricate designs having motifs in
common with body decoration. Earthly materials like ‘Nzu’ (white chalk) and other clayish
materials were usually prepared into slimy concoctions and applied on the walls with bare hand.
Some Motifs of Nsukka Mural Painting:
Like any other painting, traditional mural painting is executed with colours, motifs and
techniques. These colours, motifs, techniques and designs say something about the culture and
environment of the people under study. According to (Aniakor, 2002:279)”the use of painted
murals to adorn woman’s house attests to the decorative resourcefulness of the female members
as well as their aesthetic and social well-being. They also contribute to the notions of building
aesthetics”. He further delineated some abstracts/geometric decorative motifs used in Igbo art
and mural paintings. This ranges from triangles, squares, to clock-wise and anti-clock-wise,
spiral, concentric, and non-concentric cycles. All so included are concave and convex lines
(Aniakor, 2002:302). It studies in detail the ethnography of the people. As earlier stated, the
motifs they use are things that they come in contact with in their everyday life. Most often, these
subjects used as motifs are not depicted in their realistic form. They are rendered in semi-abstract
or stylized form. As a result of the relationship between traditional mural painting and body
decoration, the technique employed usually tally with the ‘Uli’ lineal technique of body
decoration. The simplification of these forms to lines and silhouette is a way of creating beauty
or improving their aesthetic quality, albeit in a rugged way. To this end, Jefferson (1974) has this
to say, “Much of what we know about craftsmanship result from simple urge to improve the
appearance of things to achieve design pleasing to the eye, to enrich both utilitarian and religious
objects with familiar patterns and symbols meaningful to the artist and his people. The motifs
used are drawn from plants, animals, house hold materials including cooking utensils”. Most of
the patterns drawn to the evidence are purely abstract.
Some of the motifs found in mural painting in Nsukka area and their relevancies include;
OMUNE (Banana) Musa sapientum: This is plant common in our study area. Both the fruit and
the leaves are of great economic importance to the people. While the fruits are consumed, the
leaves are used for wrapping edible food items. The stem can be cut down during acute water
scarcity and water squeezed out from it (Fig: 7).
NGWERE-ULO (House Lizard): They usually represented because they are ubiquitous in the
compound and are seen basking themselves in the morning and evening suns. This could be the
reason why the traditional muralists employ this motif to help reflect their environment (Fig: 8).
NGU (Metal Pin): This is a slim metal pin used in bringing out cooked yams from the hot pot. It
is one of the motifs that were transferred from body decoration to traditional mural painting
without any alteration because of its lineal form. This motif refers to the place of yam in Igbo
cosmology in general and informs the dietary aspect of their life (Fig: 9).
AZU (Fish): Apart from the Ebonyi River, there are no rivers within the upper escarpment of
Nsukka area big enough for fishes to live still, fish plays very important role to the people of
Nsukka. It is used for cooking on daily bases and constitutes almost their only source of nonfood protein outside meat from hunters and domestic animals. Thus, fish is very popular among
the people and that is why their muralists use it as motif in their traditional paintings (Fig: 10).
FOWLS AND CHICKENS (Okuku or Okuko): The people of our study area being subsistence
farmers do engage in free range poultry farming. In fact, every home does engage in this venture.
As a result of the close contact between the people and these domestic animals, they were
depicted on their walls in colours. Some of these animals and at times young trees and pregnant
women are drawn as metaphoric expression of the future (Fig: 11).
UGWU (Hill): Hills are depicted in the mural painting because Nsukka area is noted for its hilly
landscape. The area lies in most cases within dry valleys and surrounded by hills. Thus, Nsukka
traditional muralists represented their environment, especially the relief very much in their
paintings (Fig: 12).
There are other representations of supernatural things in the people’s traditional mural
painting that in most cases expresses both their socio-religious and cultural inclinations.
Among them are the Stars (Kpakpando), Moon (Onwa), and Sun (Anyanwu) (Figs: 13,
14, and 15). Unfriendly and dangerous animals like snakes are also represented (Fig: 16).
Some indigenous plant crops like ‘Ukwa’ – Bread fruit (Treculia africana) are also being
represented (Fig: 17). These show that the people of our study area to a large extent still
practice mural art.
From the ongoing work, it is evident that traditional mural painting just like the ‘Uli’
motif is an age long tradition in Nsukka area in particular and Igboland in general. It is an art
which is as old as the period of human occupation of the caves. It served not only aesthetic, but
also religious and magical purposes amongst the people. The interaction between the Nsukka
people and their immediate surrounding/environment was depicted in their mural painting
motifs. Besides, the mural painting motifs amongst Nsukka people convey a lot of lexical
meanings within the study area.
Traditional mural painting within Nsukka still exists, but at a reduced rate. One of the
factors that limit the existence of this art is the influence of modernity. Today, traditional
architectural buildings have been replaced by corrugated iron sheeted houses with cement blocks
and brick walls. In addition, the advent of Christianity has nearly eroded African traditional
religion as most shrine houses where this art was depicted are demolished and their adherents
converted to Christianity.
However, in the face of all these odds, traditional mural painting still exist on the walls of
art galleries, museums and other resort and amusement parks throughout the country. It is
therefore our contention through this paper that, in the face of the various socio-religious,
political, economic, and cultural roles which this art plays, all efforts should be made towards
conserving it. It is a very important aspect of our indigenous technology and hence an important
aspect of our cultural patrimony. We therefore advocate for its total revival and conservation
through more emphasis on its teaching in our primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions in the
country. Art is creation and a gift that came directly from God. We should not allow our art to
elude us; rather, we should use all possible means to protect it.
Aniakor,C.C.(2002) “Igbo Architecture” In. G.E.K.Ofomata (ed) A Survey of the Igbo Nation.
Onitsha, Nigeria. Africana First Publishers Limited. P.279.
Aniakor,C.C.(2002) “Art in the Culture of Igboland”. In. G.E.K.Ofomata (ed) A Survey of the
Igbo Nation. Onitsha, Nigeria. Africana First Publishers limites. p.302.
Elizabeth, A. Wills (1987) “A Lexicon of Uli Motif”. Nsukka Journal of the Humanities (NJH);
No. 1.
Ejiogu, Ngozi (1971) “Body Decoration and Mural painting in Oraifite and Aguleri; their growth
and adaptation”, An Unpublished B.A. Project,Department of Fine and Applied Arts,
Nsukka, University of Nigeria.
Frank, Seiberling (1959) Look into Art. New York: Holt, Renehart and Winston Inc.
Inyang, P.E.B (1928) “The Climate of Nsukka and its Environment,” The Nsukka Environment.
G.E.K.Ofomata, Enugu, Nigeria: Fourth Dimension Publishers and Co.Ltd.
Itanyi,E.I(2007) “Traditional Methods of Palm Oil Processing in Igboland”. Ikenga International
Journal of African Studies, vol.9, Number 1&2, Nsukka: Ifedimma Communications.
Jefferson, Louis (1974) Decorative Art of Africa, London: Collins.
Oguibe, Oluchukwu (1986) “Art and Community: A Study of Murals in two Nigerian Cities
(Lagos and Kaduna)”, An Unpublished B.A. Project, Department of Fine and Applied
Art, Nsukka, University of Nigeria.
Okigbo, B.N. (1980) Ahiajioku, Lecture Series ,Cultural Division, Owerri: Ministry of
Information, Culture, Youths, and Sports.
Rpport, A. (1969) House of Forms and Culture, England Cliffs, N.J. Prentices. Hall Inc.
Uli, Beier. (1963) African Mud Sculpture,London: Cambridge University Press. Wikipedia, free
The Igbo-Ukwu and Nri Factors Reconsidered
Dr. Nwankwo T. Nwaezeigwe
Phone No:
Senior Research Fellow
Institute of African Studies
University of Nigeria,
[email protected],
[email protected]
Since the works of such colonial scholars as Arthur Glyn Leonard, Northcote W. Thomas,
Armory Talbot and M.D.W. Jeffreys, followed by the epic archaeological excavations at IgboUkwu and the subsequent works of M.A. Onwuejeogwu, the questions of which sub-group
represent the original settlers of Igbo land as well as constitute the original bearers of Igbo
culture have continued to revolve around the orbit of controversy.
Until the discovery and subsequent excavation of the Igbo-Ukwu archaeological sites, these
issues had revolved around the Nri, also known as the Umunri, following the accounts of the
colonial writers whose works were more ethnographically sensational than historical in objective
and method. Although the Umunri thesis of Igbo origins and culture was originally applied in the
interpretation of the Igbo-Ukwu sites, further historical researches proved the contrary.
It was this emerging evidence which revealed that, originally the Umunri were not of Igbo but of
Igala extraction which consequently questioned the authenticity of the Umunri claims of
primordial rights and privileges under the aegis of Igbo history and culture. It was on the basis of
this twisted historical evidence the Igbo-Ukwu, from whose soil the artefacts were excavated,
began the lay claims to the same primordial rights originally centered on the Umunri, thus giving
rise to a stream of controversy on which the other sub-groups have either become co-contestants
or biased arbiters. The present work therefore looks at this stream of controversy through
telescopic approach of a historian of Igbo extraction.
The history of a people is like the stream of life from which the character, form and structure of
their identity, their backwardness and progress are drawn. It affords a people the platform on
which to predict their future. Thus, just as every stream has a source, so every group of people
has a beginning of a particular event of history, the course of a stream, the course of the history
that event and the mouth of a river being like the end of the era of that particular event.
No nation or people who toys with the knowledge of their past expects a future built on a
strong foundation of unity, identity, pride and sustainable development. In other words, the past
is what gives the present the legitimacy of existence, and the present the platform to launch into
the future. The carpenter hammering his wood is a graphic example of the importance of history
as an impetus to human development. He has to pull his hammer backwards in order to push the
nail into the wood, and the extent to which he pulls the hammer backwards often determines the
force with which the nail is driven into the wood
Every group of people who desires progress must therefore look back into their past, their
source, their course, and their successes and failures at a particular epoch, in other to inspire
progress. The evidence is obvious with the cases of the world’s most developed nations - the
United States of America, Britain and other European nations, Japan, China, South Korea and
India. Every scientific and technological advancement made by these people was based on the
foundation of their pasts and studied with a pride of identity and cultural exclusiveness.
The question then is, to what extent have the Igbo shown commitment to the knowledge
of and preservation of their historical heritage as compared to their Edo, Hausa, Fulani and
Yoruba counterparts in the Nigerian project. Ironically while the Edo and Yoruba who had
contacts with Europe and Christianity many decades before the Igbo, are elevating their
historical and cultural heritages, particularly their deities, traditional music, sports, feasts and
festivals to international status, the Igbo are busy destroying their time-honoured sacred grooves,
like the case of the people of Awka-Etiti, raining curses on their deities, divesting the ritual
sacredness of Ozo title-taking initiation process, de-solemnizing the emotional spirituality of
their life-cycle - the rituals of birth, marriage, death and mourning, in the name of trying to be
holier than the Pope in the business of Christianity.
Christianity must be married to a people’s historical and cultural settlings, and not the
vice versa. The way a man presents his identify to his visitor determines the visitor’s conception
of his personality. The Edo and Yoruba confronted the invading Christian missionaries with a
strong conception of pride in their past and cultures and they were treated with exclusive respect,
protected rights and privileges. The Igbo on the other hand presented themselves as a people with
nothing valuable to offer to the invading Christian Missionaries as a compliment to the new
ideas, hence they were treated as a people whose past and culture have no spiritual value, and it
has remained so to the present day.
However, it is not yet late. The Igbo could begin at this stage to make amends – a stage of
the twilight of their cultural heritage, a stage where it does not matter for both the educated and
non-educated Igbo man to speak fluently in his dialect, write artfully in Igbo language and
communicate with his family in Igbo. In this regard, one may be tempted to acknowledge the
Anambra State edict on Igbo language usage as an important step towards that cultural Uhuru.
But that is not enough. The Government and her sister-south East States should move a step
further to introduce the history of the Igbo including their culture and folklore as compulsory
subjects in both primary and secondary schools, notwithstanding the debilitating 6-3-3-4
educational system. This is because the wisdom of any man begins with the knowledge of self,
and the knowledge of self can only begin with the knowledge of one’s root, the cemen fondu of
his past, which is his history.
For the Igbo, there is a past which is anchored on a root. Call it the tap-root of their
history, if you wish. That root is the source, the beginning or the genesis, whichever term one
wishes to adopt. One does not need to ask who the Igbo are, because everybody now knows that
the Igbo are the Igbo. In other words, they are what God has created them to be. But how they
came to settle in their present geo-cultural homeland is what has bordered most people, both the
historians and non-historians.
In recent times quite a number of writings on the subject of Igbo origins have emerged on the
scene of historical scholarship, most of them by non-scholars and non-historian scholars. They
wear the garb of history but are in their forms, structures and analyses unhistorical, lacking in
depth, proven sources, critical analyses and unbiased judgment. They fundamentally aim at
elevating one group in the course of Igbo history and cultural evolution at the expense of the
others and, against the rules of historical writings, which subsequently gravitates into a riotous
contest of primacy in the body history and cultural evolution of the Igbo.
Thus, instead of teaming up to develop a unifying ground for the study and understanding
of the Igbo past, these people engage on building false historical castles on a foundation of
mythological fallacies and fables engrained in prejudices and uncanny sentiments. The works of
the likes of Michael Angulu Onwuejeogwu, an Ibusa-born anthropologist of Nri extraction2,
Emmanuel Ifesieh of Oraeri,3 I.C.K. Anadi also of Oraeri;4 and B.I.O Odinanwa of Ikenga-Nri;5
the Enuguwu-Agidi-born S.O.N. Okafor;6 C.M. Ezekwugo of Nnokwa, then of the philosophy of
life fame;7 and of recent, Ambrose Nnalue Okonkwo of Agukwu-Nri;8 F.C. Idigo of Aguleri;9
Charles Ujah of Arochkwu,10 Hyacinth Ugwu Ezema of Edem-Nsukka;11 and the most
sensational of all, Cathrine Acholonu-Ulumba;12 are all guilty of building the castle of Igbo
history and culture on a foundation of false historical precepts, fabricated myths and fables, and
unproven sources. To state the obvious, the Nri-Eri hegemonic concept on which these people
built their thoughts on Igbo history and culture, and which has inundated the cultural and
historical terrains of Igbo land is built on a shifting-sand of sensational falsehood, outright
fabrications, and what could be referred to as mytho-biblical fallacy.
The claim that the Nri, Umunri and the Umu-Eri, whichever category one chooses to
assign them, are the fountain-head of the Igbo in terms of both culture and historic origins, is a
mendacious fabrication. The claim that they also are the anchor of Igbo-Jewish historical
connections is a sensational fallacy. Above all, their often claim that the artifacts connected with
the Igbo-Ukwu archaeological excavations are of Nri origins, and the land on which the
excavations took place are historic Oraeri land, cannot be sustained by the circumstances of the
origins, migration and settlement of the present Oraeri town.
The first premise which no doubt hinges on the origins of the Igbo, vis-à-vis the Umunri
claims to be the original inhabitants of the present Igbo geo-cultural area, forms the bases on
which the other premises can either be sustained or debunked. In approaching this, we begin by
asking the question “Who are the Nri and where did they originate from”?. This is because, if
somebody claims to be your leader, that person must be asked to state the basis of the claim. In
other words, what are the bases of the claim that Nri bu Isi Igbo i.e that the Nri are the fountainhead of the Igbo culture group.
In concept, the term “Nri” is a title-name which is accorded to whoever assumes the Eze
–Nri title (Nri Priest-Kingship). Thus, you have such past Eze-Nri as Tabausi Udene bearing the
title-name Nri Jiofo II, Enwelani bearing Nri Enwelani. The term “Agukwu”-Nri” was therefore
coined in reference to the abode of most past Eze-Nri in difference to the other half of the town
known as Akamkpisi. However, it is worthy of note that “Nri” as the name of the present
amalgamated communities of Agukwu and Akamkpisi, took effect only in 1940, precisely on
December, 30th, during the Annual General Meeting of Nri Co-operative Society (NCS).13
This action to adopt Nri as their official name did not go down well with other Umunri
towns, such as Enugu-Ukwu, Enugwu-Agidi and Nawfia. In his reaction, Chief S.O.N. Okafor of
Enugwu-Agidi stated quite emotionally thus:
It is important to mention for the historians to note that Nri is not a
name of a particular town in Umunri clan. I consider it in this wise, that
Enugwu-Agidi, Enugwu-Ukwu, Nawfia and Agukwu town could if
decided be called Enugwu-Agidi Nri, Enugwu Ukwu Nri, Nawfia Nri, as
Agukwu town has abandoned her name Agukwu and registered Nri.
May be, this is just a way of changing the history of Umunri or there is
political motive behind the change14.
In apparent reaction to the above tirade, the late Eze Nri, Nri Jiofo II, Tabansi Udene stated thus
in what could be described as a move to spite the other Umunri communities and disable any
stake they might have in the Nri hegemony project:
Nri is the land occupied by the two male sons of Menri (later simply
called Nri) namely Ifikwuanim (father of Agukwu) and Namoke (father
of Akamikpisi). Their sister left behind at Nkpume Onyili-enyi (mighty
stone) later renamed Enugwu-Ukwu (hill top) had children the fathers
of Enugwu-Ukwu, Nawfia and Enuggwu-Agidi:15
It should however be recalled that way back in 1930, the renowned colonial anthropologist who
carried out extensive study on the Umunri, Dr. M.D.U. Jeffrey’s, when equally confronted with
the problem of what the term “Nri” actually stood for, stated ipso facto:
Whether Ndri is a proper name, or a common name, or was originally a
title, cannot now be ascertained. Today, it appears to be a title. An
Agukwu native with some education was asked his opinion on the
meaning of Ndri, and he replied: “the king at Aguku is called Ndri: He
alone has the privilege of being called by this name. It is really a title of
address just as in Egypt the king was called pharaoh and in Persia,
xerxes. You may say Eze-Ndri if you like, but Ndri is the correct title by
which to address him and he alone may thus be addressed.16
There is no doubt that the above account on the meaning of the term “Nri” made through
Jeffreys in his words, “ an Aguku native with some education”, seems to have resolved the
contest over both the meaning and usage of the word. But most instructive in the whole body of
the foregoing accounts, and which will be of vital importance to the next stage of our discourse,
is the issue of the putative origin of Enugwu-Ukwu, Enugwu-Agidi and Nawfia, as raised by Nri
Jiofo II Eze-Nri Tabansi Udene.
Eze-Nri Tabansi Udene had said that the founder of Enugwu-Ukwu, Enugwu-Agidi and
Nawfia was a woman, the only sister of Ifikwuanim and Namoke, although he did not state the
name of the woman. The questions that follows in situ are, first, who could have been the
husband the said woman; because definitely, she should have been married to a man to have
procreated the three communities? Second, what could have been the man’s name? Third, was
the man living in that Nkume-Onyili-enyi location on the arrival of the two men, or was he
brought from some where else to marry and settle with their sister there? In the view of the
present writer, the answer to the above questions can only be deduced from the facts that revolve
around the origins of the Umunri. In other words, who are the Umunri.
The Umunri, from ethnographic investigations today consists of all the group of
communities that trace their origins from Menri, the putative second son of Eri: They include
today the towns of Nri, Enugwu-Ukwu, Enugwu-Agidi, Nawfia, Nnokwa, Oraeri, and other
outer settlements as Ogboli quarters, Ibusa, Umuakpanshi village in Umutei quarters, Illah, a
number of quarters in Ogwashi-ukwu and quite a number of other petty communities swallowed
by other large indigenous Igbo communities.
One remarkable character of these communities is their lack of the ingredients of
antiquity of settlement in the accounts of their tradition of origins, migration and settlement. In
other words, for a settlement to be described as being of ancient beginnings there must exist in
her tradition of origins, an undiluted myth borne out of amnesia, a blurred migration account,
and above all, an undisputed rights and privileges over the communities instruments of divinity,
viz:- Ofo, Eze-Ani (Priesthood of the earth-force deity), primacy in customary rights and
privileges, and most importantly, primacy of settlement.
We take for example the myth of Awka tradition of origins, which clearly suggests that
the present town of Awka is an ancient town in the present Igbo geo-cultural area. Amanke
Okafor had recited this account thus in quite an erudite manner:
The Oka people believe, up to this day, that in all Igbo land they are the
most ancient nation, and that no other nation surpasses them in antiquity.
They believe that others took the names of their gods from them, as well as
the names of the days of their week-Eke, Oye, Avbo and Nkwo. Whether
their claims can be made out, is for future researchers to settle. Suffice it to
say that Oka as a town is very long in history. When the Onitshas came, the
Okas were there. When the Nris came they were there… when Oka history
began, that is, when account began to be given of their activities, these
Ifiteana people were living in Oka town as three distinct groups, under the
names of Urueri, Amanyiana, and Okpo, respectively. They had emerged by
them from Primitive conditions, and had become a civilized and
technological society. Who they were, where they came from (if they came
from somewhere), who their ancestors were, are not known. Oka simply
said of themselves that they were of Ifiteana stock-Ebe Anyi (Our stock). At
the beginning of their known history, the Ifiteani people had their existence
in what is presently Oka town, whose boundaries have not changed over the
The above account of the Awka myth of origin is remarkable in the sense that the Ifiteani
are recognized and revered as the autochthonous settlers, the original people met on the land by
the others. This account is not exclusive to Awka alone. Quite a number of similar ancient Igbo
communities fall within this category, which could be defined as the category of primary settlers
of Igboland. Those communities who Joined Ifiteani people from somewhere without clear
knowledge of where they came from belong to the category of secondary setters. While those
who later come after Awka has developed into a full independent community constitute the
tertiary settlers. An example of the tertiary category of settlement in Awka is the Umudioka
village of Agulu quarters, which, according to Professor O.N Njoju was founded by one Ichida,
a skilful carver and Ichi expert from Umudioka village in Neni town.18 On the other hand, the
Umudioka village in Neni from where the said Ichida migrated, according to a local historian
from Neni, migrated from the present Umudioka town in Dunukofia clan, which is now
constituted into an administrative Local Government Area. As P.C Muodeme succinctly put it:
In the South-central part of Neni town spreads out another village
known as Umuidioka. The founder of this village migrated from
Umudioka in Idemili Local Government Area.19
In other words the Umudioka village in Neni town forms part of category two settlers. While the
main Umudioka town falls within the primary category like Awka town.
Going by the foregoing body of premise, what category of settlers could the Umunri be placed,
in the context of the body traditions of Igbo Origins, migration and settlement. To answer this
question one has to move a bit backwards in time and strike a deal of balance of origins between
the wider Umueri sub-group, of which Aguleri, the Umunri, Igbariam, Amanuke and the
Umuiguedo, on the one hand, and the other Igbo-sub-groups within the vicinities of the
settlements on the other.
Today, Aguleri claims to be, not just the head - town of the Umueri group of towns, but
of most striking, that of the entire Igbo nation. The question is, how could this claim stand on its
feet and for how long, in the face of monumental historical and ethnographic body of evidence
that speak the contrary? Ethnographically, and historically, the town of Aguleri is made up of
three major quarters of distinct origins. They include in the order of seniority, Ivite, Ikenga,
which constitutes the villages of Igbezunu and Umunkete, and Ugwu na Adegbe, also known as
Enugwu and Ezi villages.
Here, the Okpu Village of Ivite quarters represents the aboriginal or what we earlier
defined as the primary settlers, and this Ivite claims that they were already there when Eri and
other groups came to join them. Eri, definitely an Igala warrior, is said to have founded the
present Igbezunu village of Ikenga quarters, while the other half, Umunkete was founded by the
followers of Onoja Oboni, another Igala warrior who invaded Aguleri many years after Eri.
Similarly, the Umuezeora kindred claims to have migrated from what they referred to as Idu-Ime
which translated could mean the old Bini kingdom.
In categorizing these settlements, it becomes obvious that while the Okpu Ivite maintains
the category of primary settlers, other constituent villages of Ivite quarters, Igbezunu, and
Umuezeora kindred of Enugwu village constitute the secondary settlers and, Umunkete the
tertiary settlers. Beyond the issue of settler categories however, the question of the ethnographic
identity of Eri forms the fundamental course of arriving at the truth of the matter. In other words,
if Eri is connected with the founding of Igbezunu village, and the same village is characterized as
Igala in Aguleri tradition, then it becomes obvious that Eri was never of an aboriginal Igbo
identity but of Igala extraction. The positions of many Aguleri and non-Aguleri writers are
obvious on the matter.
The Aguleri-born M.C.M. Idigo settled this matter of Igala home-base of Eri Thus:
The Aguleri people originated from Igara (sic) and migrated to their
present abode about three or four centuries ago. The leader Eri, a
warrior, took his people on a war expedition, and after long travel and
many fights, established his camp at Eri-aka, near odanduli stream, a
place which lies between. Ifite and Igbezunu Aguleri. Eri with his
solders went out regularly from his settlement to Urada, Nnadi and
other surrounding towns on war raids and captured many of the
inhabitants. These were the Ibo-speaking people and by mixing, with
them, and inter-marriage, the immigrants adopted the language.20
In 1960, that was five years after the publication of Idigo’s treatise, the European anthropologist
who carried extensive research on the Igala kingdom, the Nsukka and Anambra river valley
communities of Igbo land, J.S. Boston, re-echoed the same position asserted by M.C.M Idigo.
Thus, J.S. Boston to noted:
The northern Umunri villages say that the clan was founded by a man
called Eri who came to the Anambra area from Igala country, and
settled at Aguleri…Eri’s son, Nri left his father’s home to found the
town that bears his name, and other sons found the remaining towns in
this group 21.
Strikingly enough not even Professor Michael Onwuejeogwu in his infinite sentimental
attachment to the project of Nri Kingdom and hegemony could deny the obvious fact of Eri’s
origin from Igala land. In his clear words, Onwuejeogwu stated:
According to the myth, Eri on arriving Aguleri met an autochthonous
group who had no living memory of their origins…. Autochthony
which is the claim of origin from the spot of present habitation by a
maximal lineage generally named Umudiana (Children of the earth is
found in many ancient Igbo towns such as the Umudiana in Nri town
who claim they were there during migration to the present town called
Nri. The Umudiana also claim “Amnesia which means they recall
nothing of their origin. 22
By the above revelation, Onwuejeogwu had not only confirmed the historical fallacy of Eri
primacy with respect to Aguleri origins, migration and settlement, but provided an inkling of
what will be expected in respect of the Umunri. But before then, a stop-over at Igboariam
(Igbariam) is a pertinent step towards the core-centre of the claimed foundation-headship of Igbo
Onogu, the putative third son of Eri was said to have founded Igboaniam. But this is not
true. The truth is that when Onogu, whether a son or follower of Eri, which ever applies, moved
from Aguleri to Igboariam, he met an indigenous Igbo owners of the land called the Nudu.
Today Igboariam remains divided on ethno-historical lines between the Igala elements
represented by Onogu, and Igbo elements represented by the Nudu.23
From the foregoing account, it is clear that Eri migration from Igala and subsequent
settlement at Aguleri stands for the secondary settlers category, while the migrations of the
Onogu, Amanuke and Umunri groups constitute the tertiary settlement category. On the other
hand, the issue of Umu-Iguedo, those communities said to have sprung up from the only
daughter of Eri called Iguedo and which includes Awkuzu, Ogbunike, Umuleri or Umueri as
they presently call themselves, does not appear to be much relevant in the thrust of the present
study. This is because it is acknowledged by the same Eri tradition that Iguedo was married into
existing Igbo communities, thus debunking the claim of Eri primacy of settlement. In other
words, there were already existing and flourishing Igbo communities at the time of Eri’s arrival,
which afforded his daughter the opportunity to be married among their hosts.
Having gone so far in respect of the origin and identity of Eri, one can now proceed to
look at the situation in the present Nri town. By ethno- historical classification, Nri town is made
up of two major sub- communities namely, Agukwu and Akamkpisi. Each of the two sections
has three quarters each. For Agukwu, we have Obeagu, Uruoji and Agbadana. While in
Akamkpisi we have Uruofolo, Ekwenanyika and Diodo. The settlement is also characterized by
three distinct groups with distinct origins. These include the aboriginal Igbo settlers represented
by the Umudiana village in Ekwenanyika quarters and Umunsepe village of Diodo Quarters; the
Umunri group consisting the rest, except the Umuochogu village in obeagu quarters of Agukwu,
which traces its origins from the neighbouring Nimo settlement.
For the Umunri group, the first set of people to join the aboriginal groups were the
Akamkpisi, who were said have first, settled at Achalla-Isuana, that is the present Achalla town,
after leaving Aguleri, before shifting further to their present abode. The decision to leave
Achalla arose out of a disagreement over the marriage of one of their leaders to an Achalla
woman called Odomma.
The pro- group were later nicknamed Di-Odo mma (Odomma’s husband’s) group, which is
represented today by Diodo quarters. On the other hand, the Agukwu group joined the other
marriage groupss later after having settled and lived at Ugbene from where they derived their
name, Agukwu-Ugbene, which is a reference to the area of their original settlement at Ugbene.
From all indications therefore, the Umunri group of the present Nri town belong to the category
of tertiary settlers. It is also evident that all the cultural vocations, rights and privileges the Nri
claim today to exercise over and above the entire Igbo, name them –Ikpu-alu (cleansing of
abominations) ritual roles in ozo tilte institution, and Igu-Aro were original Igbo institutions
being performed by the Umudiana before the arrival of the Umunri group from Achalla and
Ugbene respectively.
The priesthood of the Idemili deity was also in the hands of the Umunsekpe people before the
arrival of these people. In fact, it was in recognition of the primacy of settlement of the
Umudiana people that the Umunri gave them the Igala title-name of Adama, which in Igala
Language and tradition means first-born or what the Igbo call Okpala. Even the institution of
Eze-Nri, came into existence through the institutional inspiration of the aboriginal Igbo settlers,
the Umudiana, who originally used the kingship as a means of servicing their rituo-economic
needs. In this respect the Eze-Nri was initially appointed by the Umudiana to over-see the
activities of the Nri ritual agents, who in turn made returns to the Umudiana (Adama). This fief
relationship is born by the saying, efesie Nri, Nri efee Adama (After homage has been paid to the
Nri, the Nri in turn pays homage to the Adama). In other words, the practice of Ikpu-Alu was of
Igbo origin which was in part later bequeathed to the immigrant Nri group. Even the Igu-Aro
ceremony in both tradition and practice is the preserve of the Umudiana group. Eze-Nri himself
was in both tradition and practice an institutional ritual pawn to the Umudiana both living and
dead, hence the saying, “Adama na-eri Nri ekpe (Adama the inheritor of the Nri)
It is of further importance to note also that this same Umudiana (Adama )group of Igbo
aborigines are found in Adazi-Nnukwu, the southern neighbouring community to Nri. AdaziNnukwu, which historically belongs to Okotu clan, of which Adazi-Ani and Adazi-Enu are the
other members, is today made up of three distinct groups – the autochthonous or aboriginal
group represented by the Umudiana (Adama) village of Nnukwu quarters, the Adazi group
represented by the larger part of Nnukwu and the entire Amolu quarters, and the Abba group
represented by Amata quarters.
In fact, not only does the Umudiana (Adama) village share common boundary with that
of Nri town, her people are recognized by the other two groups as the owners of the land. This is
because they were already settled in that location when Nnukwu, the youngest and most robust
son of Okotu left Adazi-Enu to join them. Both Umudiana and Nnukwu groups were also already
settled in the same location when a group of hunters from Abba in the present Njikoka Local
Government Area of Anambra State came to hunt at the vicinities of Ezu – Idemili or what is
popularly called Agulu Lake. They subsequently settled with them, hence they adopted the name,
Amata, which was derived from Amanta, meaning Hunters” settlement. It was based on this
primacy of settlement that the other two groups resolved to adopt “Adama” as the title of their
king. The Adama of Adazi-Nnukwu also shares with their Nri counterpart the same if not greater
ritual roles pertaining to Ikpu-Alu, Ichi-Ozo and other related rights and privileges.25,
Having so-far established that the Nri people, the present dominant inhabitants of Nri
town, as in the case of Aguleri and Igbariam, are not of aboriginal Igbo stock, but rather belong
to the category of tertiary settlers of Igboland, the claim of their fountain-headship of the Igbo
culture complex becomes void in history, delusive in concept and bankrupt in the sacraments of
Igbo belief system. The concept of Nri bu isi Igbo (The Nri are the fountain-head of the Igbo)
does not therefore stand the test of ethno-historical facts on ground.
But if the Nri were to
claim this position by virtue of their historical association with the Umudiana-Adama, as in the
case of Adazi-Nnukwu, it should have been considered as a relative fact, although which could
have equally been questioned accordingly. But the irony of this claim of primacy is that even the
tertiary immigrant Nri themselves, using their superior economic and intellectual endowments
now claim the contrary over the aborigines of the land. This emerging claim is unprovenly
summed up in the recent mytho-historical book by the Nri-born Ambrose Nnalue Okonkwo thus:
The people from Umudiama are also called Adama. They are the people
that are responsible for removing abomination (Nkpu alu) in Nri town.
Their mother came from Agukwu Nri, a daughter of a king and that is
the reason we from Agukwu call them Adama meaning “Umunwa di
Whether to the Agukwu people Adama means nwadiana as stated by Okonkwo, or first-born, as
earlier stated by the present author, is immaterial at this stage of our inquiry. The fact that
Ambrose Okonkwo acknowledges the right of the Adama to Ikpu-alu shows that the Nri
themselves agreed they are not the original custodians of Ikpu-alu. Ambrose Okonkwo also
confirms this fact of the Igala origins of the Nri when he again wrote, “the son of the first Nri
was the first Atah of Igala until his death”.27 This also further disables the claim of antiquity of
Nri settlement in Igbo geo-cultural area, because the origin of the Igala kingship, particularly the
Atah title only began with the conquest of the Igala kingdom in early 16th century by a Benin
Prince named Aji Atah, who subsequently adopted the title of Atah. This dynasty was later
overthrown by the Jukun dynasty that sits on the Igala thrown today. This again brings us to the
question of dating the so-called Nri kingdom and hegemony to 9th century A.D. by
Onwuejeogwu, which by extension tries to link the Nri concept with the Igbo-Ukwu
archaeological finds. If this is the case, what them becomes of the claims of the Oraeri that the
excavated archaeological artifacts from Igbo-Ukwu ancestrally belonged to them.
Basing his augment on Thurstan Shaw’s interim report on Igbo-Ukwu archaeological
excavations, the Oraeri-born Roman Catholic Clergy and academic Rev. Fr. Professor Emmanuel
llfesie wrote:-
Another historical reason is the apparent Igbo-Ukwu archaeological
site. In fact, it belonged to Ora-Eri people and was formerly inhabited
by them but were conquered in war and driven away by Igbo-Ukwu
people…It is a historical fact, proved by archaeological finds that what
were dug out from the site belonged to Nri culture.28
Sensational though this Oraeri position could seem to sound, it does not in any way
collaborate with the foregoing facts surrounding the origin, migration and settlement traditions of
the Eri group. In fact, if Nri people fall within the category of tertiary settlers, Oraeri falls within
what could be described as later settler category. Even the issue of Nri culture could not even
arise, because what the Nri regard today as their culture is in fact elements of aboriginal Igbo
culture which they got in contact with only after they had joined the aboriginal Umudiana. Thus,
like the other Umueri settlements, Oraeri originated from Igala land. This fact is clearly
supported by the unity of regalia between the Atah of Igala and the Eze- Nri of Oraeri,
exemplified by the nwatu-ona – the lion-faced bronze insignia of office hung over their necks
respectively. Any suggested remote link between Oraeri and the Igbo-Ukwu archaeological facts
cannot therefore be sustained. This is strongly supported by the circumstantial tradition of Oraeri
origin, migration and settlement in their present abode.
The origin of Oraeri was intrinsically linked with the crisis of kingship in Diodo Akamkpisi, Nri, which consequently led to the subsequent appropriation of the Eze-Nri stool by
the four quarters of Agukwu-Nri up till date. Both Avo, the progenitor of the present Oraeri and
Nnokwa-Ike, the progenitor of the present Nnokwa town were banished with their mother over a
case of abomination concerning a slaughtered cow. Their mother who hailed from Adazi—Enu
consequently fled to her people for protection. She was given a peace of land at the present
Nnokwa town to settle with her two sons. Both brothers however parted ways on their mother’s
death when Avo was said to have collected the nwata ona, the Eze-Nri insignia of office and fled
to the eastern border of Adazi-Enu where he subsequently settled. Thus, in effect both Oraeri and
Nnokwa occupied their present places of abode only by the fact of their maternal connection
with Adazi-Enu.29
In other words, if Eri according to Idigo, migrated to Igboland between three and four
hundred years ago, which translated in historical periodization could not have exceeded the 15th
century A.D., the question of dating the so-called Nri kingdom and hegemony to the relative
period of the Igbo-Ukwu archaeological finds could not arise in any form.
One is not however saying with historical certainty that the said artifacts belonged to the
ancestors of the present Igbo-Ukwu people. But in the same vein, one cannot deny the fact that
Igbo-Ukwu settlement belongs to the category of the aboriginal settlers like the case of Awka.
Igob-Ukwu tradition of origins, migration and settlement merely claims that one Igbo, the
founder of the settlement migrated from somewhere in the company of his brother, Amaekwulu,
who subsequently founded another settlement which could not be remembered or located. IgboUkwu tradition like that of Awka, Okpu-Ivite, the Umudiana of both Nri and Adazi-Nnukwu, as
well as the Nudu of Igbariam is therefore strongly infected with amnesia, which often occurs as a
consequence of long continuous settlement.
Whether the artifacts beneath the present Igbo-Ukwu town were used by their ancestors
or not, is immaterial at this point of our inquiry. The commanding fact is that, unlike the Oraeri
and their Nri and Umunri kinsmen who are engaged in a perennial conflict of identity between
their Igala origin and their Igbo identitsy, the Igbo-Ukwu are primordially of Igbo origins, and
the unearthed artifacts works of the primeval Igbo society, of which the ancestors of the likes of
the Igbo-Ukwu, Awka, Okpu-Ivite-Aguleri, Nudu of Igbariam, Adama-Umudiana of Nri and
Adazi-Nnukwu might have been part of. In the same token, could it also be an irony or
circumstance of history that it was in a town originally named “Igbo”, then “Igbo-Nkwo” and
now Igbo-Ukwu, that the most remarkable evidence of the antiquity of Igbo socio-economic,
political and technological advancement was reveled.
It is the position of this paper that the history of the Igbo cannot be effectively and critically
reconstructed by the art of vain-glorious fabrication of non-existent facts, mutilation of the
scanty available evidence and politicization of the question of Igbo Origins. This is the bane of
Igbo historical research. The past is the anchor of the present from which lunch into the future. If
the anchor is built with faulty materials, definitely the platform cannot be sustained for too long,
in which case the strength and confidence with which one hacks his way into the future becomes
equally uncertain.
The historian has laid the framework on which the onerous search into the riddle of Igbo
origins could be discovered. These are anchored on what is called the three theories of Igbo
origins. This includes the autochthony theory, which claims that the Igbo people did not originate
from anywhere but here in Igbo Land. This theory is supported by the evidence of antiquity of
settlement as evidenced by the traditions of the Awka, Igbo-Ukwu, Okpu-Ivite, NuduIgboariami, and the Umudiana of Adazi-Nnukwu and Nri respectively. It is further supported by
archaeological evidence, such as the Igbo-Ukwu excavation by Thurstan Shaw and those done by
D.D. Hartle across the Length and breadth of Northern Igbo land.30 The geological study of fossil
remains of human activities and forms like the one done by Adebisi M. Sowunmi of the
University of Ibadan is also a contributory evidence to the study of a people’s antiquity of
The secondary theory is what is referred to as the Niger-Benue confluence theory. This
theory is based on the linguistic affinity of a group of ethnic groups whom linguistics classified
as the Kwa sub-family of the Niger-Congo language family of Africa. Working in concert with
what are called glottochronology and lexico-statistics, this theory explains that as far back as five
thousand years ago, the Igbo, Yoruba, Edo, Idoma, Igala, Igbira, Igede, and Bassa, among others
were a group of people speaking one common language around the vicinity of the present
Lokoja. From there, they were said to have dispersed, and as they dispersed, separated by
distance, they began to develop distinct dialects, which in time metamorphosed into full blown
distinct languages. The proven evidence in support of this theory is found in the occurrence of a
number of common words with the same meaning among these languages.
Finally the third theory is the popular claim of Igbo-Jewish origins. It posits that the Igbo
might have originated from the Jewish nation, given the remarkable similarities between certain
elements of Jewish culture, and those of the Igbo. However, this theory appears to be most
abused by what could be described as the mad rush into junk historical writings in the bid to
claim Jewish identity. It baffles the present writer that the Nri, including the Eri group led by
Aguleri, even the Aro, should be the vanguard of Igbo-Jewish origins, when they themselves
have a crisis of Igbo identity complex.
Be that as it may, the three theories have their respective evidence of sustainability as
historical platforms for resolving the riddles of Igbo origins. But beyond the subject of their
historical utility, they, if properly applied, could be effective instruments of building sustainable
unity and pride among the Igbo in the case of autochthony theory, drumming up support for
wider Igbo economic and political projects among the various ethnic groups connected with the
second theory, and at the international level, the third providing the Igbo with international
This paper therefore concludes with the clarion – call: let the Igbo revisit the issue of
their past without prejudice to either what the Pope in Rome or the Archbishop in Canterbury
would say. Because their present identity can only be sustained by the evidence of their past,
which gives them the relevance of existence in the present political project called Nigeria. The
editorial words of the Lagos Times issue of July, 2 1882 are instructive:
We respect and reverence the country of Wilberforce and Buxton
and of most of our Missionaries, but we are not English men, we
care Africans and have no wish to be other than Africans.32
1. Anambra State Government of Nigeria (2009)Language Usage Enforcement Law,
Awka: Government Printer.
2. Onwuejeogwu, Michael A. (1981) An. Igbo Civilization: Nri kingdom and Hegemory 911
AD to present, London: Ethiope
Publishing Corporation.
3. Ifesieh, Emmanuel I. (1989) Religion At the Grassroots: Studies in Igbo
Enugu: SNAAP Press.
4. Anadi, I.C.K. (1972) The Kingdom they Knew Not, Enugu:
Ochumba Press.
5. Odinanwa, B.I.O. (1987) The Foundation of Nri kingdom and
Hegemony: being an
authenticated statement on the early days of Nri Kingdom, Onitsha: Enimor.
6. Okafor, S.O N. (n.y.) The History of Umunri Clan in East of the Niger in East Central
State, Nigeria and its Enlightenment
Yaba-Lagos: Famaron.
7. Ezekwugo, C.M (1986) Ora-Eri-Nnokwa Nri Dynasty, Enugu: Lejon Printers.
8. Okonkwo, Ambrose Nnalue (2007) Nri kingdom: Igbo- a lost Jewish Race, Lagos:
9. Idigo, F.C. (2006) Hebrew Exiles of Nri Kingdom, n.p.np.
10. Ujah, Charles (2006)The Origin Of Ibos –a Linguistic and Cultural Angle, Lagos: Ezboh
Communications Ltd.
Ezema, Hyacinth Ugwu (2011) Origin of the Igbo: a treatise
Great Ap Express Publisher Ltd.
12. Acholoun-Ohumba, Catherine (2009) They Lived before Adam: prehistoric Origins of
the Igbo– (they -never been- ruled the since 1.6 million BC, Abuja: ACARC Publication.
Nri Co-Operative Society (NCS), (1940) “Minutes of General
Meeting” December 30.
Okafor, The History of Umunri Clan in East of the
Niger East Central State Nigerian and its Enlightenment, 3.
Eze-Nri Tabansi, Udene (1971) Igu-Aro Onitsha: Tabansi Publishing Co.
M.D.W. Jefferys (1956) “Umundri Tradition of Origin” African Studies, Vol.15, 124.
Amanke Okafor ( 1993)the Awka People National Library of Nigerian,
Division, Legal Deposit no.98, 35.
Legal Deposit
Onwuka N. Njoku (1988) “Awka and Early Iron Technology in Igbo land: myths,
probabilities and reality” Odu SNo 33, Jan. 1988, 134.
P.C. Muodeme, History of Neni, Onitsha: np. 1985, 128.
20 . Idigo The History of Aguleri , 5.
21. J.S. Boston,(1960) “Notes on Contact Between the Igala and the Igbo” Journal of
the Historical Society of Nigeria, vol.2, Vo.1, 55.
22. Onwuejeogwu,(1987) Ahiajok Lecture 1987: Evolutionary Trends in the History of
the Development of the Igbo Civilization in the Culture Theatre of Igboland in
Southern Nigeria Owerri: Culture Division, Imo State Ministry of Information and
Culture, 2.
Joseph E. Ajakor,(1984) “ Some Aspects of the History of Igbariam Town from the Early
Beginnings Up to 1924” B.A. Project Report, Department of History, University of Nigeria,
Nsukka, June, 3-5.
Odinanwa, The Foundation of Nri Kingdom, 13.
N.T. Nwaezeigwe,(2007) The Igbo and their Nri Neighbours, Enugu: Snaap Press, 152.
Ambrose N. Okonkwo, Nri kingdom: Igbo - a Lost Jewish
Race, 56.
Okonkwo, Nri Kingdom: Igbo-a Lost Jewish Race, 19.
Emmanuel I. Ifesieh, Religion at the Grass Roots, 70.
Dorathy Okeke, (1991)“Worship in African Traditional Religion: a case study of Oraeri
in Aguata L.G.A. Anambra State” (Diploma Project Report, Department of Religion, University
of Nigeria, Nsukka, 7.
D.D Hartle,(1967) “Archaeology in Eastern Nigeria” Nigerian
Magazine , No. 93, 136-137.
Adebisi M. Sowunmi,(1991) “Human Ecology in South central
Nigeria: an appraisal”, Seminar on Two Decades of Igbo-Ukwu, Institute of African
Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 9th -11th January.
E.A Ayandele, (1966) The Missionary Impact on Modern Nigeria 1842-1914, London:
Longman, 240.
Nwankwo, Elochukwu
Anozie, Okechukwu
1. Department of Archaeology and Tourism,
University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria
[email protected]
[email protected]
Phone Number: 08037558675
2. Department of Archaeology and Tourism,
University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria
Phone Number: 07030909506
Tourism is an economic activity of global significance. Its value has drawn attention to it from
both public and private sectors. Tourism planning is essentially the deployment of tourism
chattels and their development into a marketable state and should incorporate considerations of
implementation i.e. how the plan is to be achieved. The topical issue in tourism looks widely at
its sustainability which is achieving eminence growth in a manner that does not deplete the
natural and built environments, but preserves the cultural history and heritage of the host
community. This is sacrosanct since the problem of tourism in this part of the world has always
been meager tourism development planning that is devoid of quality impact studies on features
under study. As a result, funding on tourism projects and stakeholders support is always
discouraged. Ndiowu is a virgin tourist destination and replete with various cultural and natural
attractions. This paper examines sustainable tourism planning and the planning process in
relation to the study area. It also provided a survey of the resources, both the attractions,
accommodation and other facilities that could aid in proper tourism promotion of Ndiowu
community. It went further to analyze various impacts of the tourism plan, the development plan
in phases and its carrying capacity for sustainable tourism planning of Ndiowu Community.
Keywords: tourism, sustainability and tourism planning.
“Tourism is a global phenomenon that has experienced rapid growth in the post-1945
period, particularly in the developed countries of the world” (Page and Connell, 2006: 1)
Unfortunately, it is still a troubling fact that at this level of world’s development, only most of
the countries of Europe and America with few from Africa and Asia have perceived tourism as a
way of achieving national growth and development. National development in the sense that,
tourism contributes to national growth in many ramifications. This was observed by Agbonlabor
and Ukhurebor (2006) when they noted that,
“in this twenty first century, almost every developing country
of the world is adopting one development strategy or the other
in order to achieve the transformation of its economic structure
or attain national development…one of such development
strategies adopted to enhance national development is the
development and promotion of the tourism economic sector”.
Although previous governments in Nigeria had tried to give tourism a place through
formulation of different tourism policies, development of some sites etc (Okpoko and Okoko,
2002), yet tourism is yet to claim its position in the national development of the country. Most of
the tourism potentials in Nigeria are still lying fallow in various nooks and crannies of the nation.
In most cases, some of these local communities where these resorts are located are not aware of
their existence or their relevance to both communal and national development (Oladele, 1996;
Andah, 1990). Attempts were made to develop the varied tourism potentials but most of the
plans failed either at the planning, implementation or post implementation stages. This is because
of the non-systematic and unsustainable nature of the plans. Bhatia (2006) noted that the
underlying approach now applied to tourism planning as well as to other types of development, is
that of achieving sustainable development. This approach implies that the natural, cultural and
other resources of tourism are conserved for continuous use in the future, while still bringing
benefits to the present society. So it is either the planners did not consider environmental
sustainability or that the planning did not have good environmental studies. Fadipe (2007) in his
opinion on the local tourism planning stated that “local planning is interrelated with the national
planning and in fact hinges on national policy particularly on tourism”. He further added that
local planning is directed towards specific standards for projects like recreation parks, resorts,
theme parks, tourism estates etc. In the view of Page and Connell (2006), involving local
communities in managing tourism is one of the precepts of sustainable tourism development.
Hence local people often have knowledge of their home environment which can assist in
planning tourism development. Oladele (1996) was of the view that in order to ensure
sustainable tourism planning of any area there should be adequate conservation strategy, research
and training for tourism staff, local people participation, public awareness, campaign for survival
of renewable resources, need for effective transportation system, development and maintenance
of infrastructure, directional signs and notices to tourist destinations and finally picnic tables and
benches at the destination areas of tourism. Page (2003) gave an insight to the essence of quality
planning when developing tourist destinations by stating that during planning, many of the issues
are scoped out and identified and the proposal will identify what might be expected to occur. In
addition he stated that for a much longer venture such as building of a new tourist attraction, or
modification and expansion involving the investment of large capital sums, a feasibility study is
normally undertaken so as to minimize rate of economic waste. Furthermore, to ensure an
efficient tourism planning process of a resort area, Inskeep (1991) noted that, ideally the resort
site will have been selected, it’s general type, size and character determined, a conceptual plan
prepared and a pre-feasibility analysis conducted to indicate its likely viability in the national,
regional or sub-regional plan. He went further to say that the regional plan will have to include
the survey and evaluation of tourist attractions in the area under study, the environmental,
economic and socio-cultural considerations, the market analysis and general projection of type
and number of accommodation units and other tourist facilities, services and infrastructure
required, including transportation access to the resort area and selection of the site (Inskeep,
However, Ndiowu has abundant cultural and natural attractions that have been abused,
neglected and abandoned for years without quality or sustainable tourism planning by either the
public or the private sector. The government through various government agencies i.e. Nigerian
Tourism Development Commission (NTDC), State Tourism Board (STB), Tourism Committees,
etc, have not deemed it necessary to consider development of these sites. This attitude towards
these enormous tourism potentials in Ndiowu community would not only slow down the
anticipated level of tourism development in Nigeria, but may lead to the destruction and decay of
these attractions. However, this scenario has put up varying questions on sustainable tourism
planning of a destination in Nigeria which forms the basis of this research on the sustainable
tourism planning of Ndiowu with the aim of taking an inventory of tourism potentials in the
community, consider the viabilities of these potentials in the tourist market, have a systematic
and sustainable tourism planning process that will preserve both the cultural and traditional
landscape of the community and finally have a quality impact assessment of the proposed project
in the area.
This study adopted ethnographic method of data collection. Interviews were conducted
on key informants to get useful information about the community and tourist resorts in the
community. Twenty-six (26) interviewees were involved in this section. The interview which did
not last more than one hour was conducted separately among the interviewees at their various
convenient dates and time. There was also the use of consultations which involved the
consultation of some elders i.e. the Chief of the Community (Chief O.O. Udeh ‘Ezediora Nma 1
of Ndiowu’) and some other possible stakeholders. Their opinions on how best to give Ndiowu
community a befitting tourism planning and development was sorted from their wealth of
experience. They also gave relevant advice to the study. Another vital primary source used in the
study was field visitations and observations. Most of the natural attractions listed in the planning
process were all visited and there tourism potentials observed. Documentary sources were
equally used as secondary sources of data.
The Study Area
Geographically, Ndiowu is located in Orumba North local government area of Anambra
state, Nigeria. The town lies on latitude 6003N and 5009N, and longitude 7008E and 7006E. The
community is surrounded by many towns, but most prominent among them are Amaokpala and
Oko to the south and Ajali and Ufuma to the east. Furthermore, the community is surrounded by
two prominent rivers in the local government, the River Otalu and Aghommiri River. The town
is blessed with so many spring waters. And also a close examination of the topography of the
town indicates that the town is situated on a hill. Also, Ndiowu community is about 40km away
from Awka, the Anambra state capital (Nwankwo, 2002).
Sustainable Tourism Planning
“Planning however is a process of identifying objectives and defining the evaluation
method of achieving them. It is the development of strategy and procedures for effective
realization of set objectives” (Fadipe, 2007: 130,131). Fadipe (2007) further defined tourism
planning as that “which encompasses a land use plan capable of integrating other uses of land in
an area such as provision of recreational amenities, housing, roads, visitor accommodation,
which will enhance visitor experience while protecting the host community and the
environment”. Tourism planning can also be seen as “those general planning concepts that have
proven to be effective in meeting the challenges facing modern development process, but
adapted to the particular characteristics of tourism” (Inskeep, 1991: 28). Tourism planning is
explained to be all the attempts, strategies and policies aimed at bringing together all the
variables in tourism to a place of co-existence. These variables include the government, private
sector, local community, the environment, tourists, tourist potentials, tourism motivators, etc.
The synthesis for efficient and viable strategies to harmonize these variables for improved
tourism growth and sustenance of an area is termed tourism planning. The harmonization of
these variables would equally bring equitable or expected tourism development in an area.
Tourism planning needs to be viably articulated and focused if it is to achieve its targeted
objectives or goals at the end. And the process of segmenting tourism planning of an area into
linkable stages is referred to as tourism planning process (Fig. I). However, sustainable tourism
development entails “meeting the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and
enhancing opportunity for the future. Sustainable tourism development is envisaged as leading to
management of all resources in such a way that we can fulfill economic, social and aesthetic
needs while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity
and life support systems” (Inskeep, 1991: 481). Finally, sustainable tourism planning is aimed at
ensuring a long term existence and viability of tourism projects in any given tourist destination
like that of Ndiowu, taking cognizance of impacts of the project in the area and bringing out
alternative measures to mitigate, reduce or eradicate some of the negative impacts to ensure
sustainability of the tourism project in the area.
Planning Process
Study Preparations
Tourist attractions
Accommodation facilities
Other tourist facilities
Land availability and use
Community relationship
Economic structure
Socio-cultural characteristics
Relevant legislations/regulations
Market evaluation
Market analysis
Impact analysis
Development Planning
To be phased into different phases for easy
Carrying Capacity
To be articulately studied and decided.
Fig I. Contents and functions of different stages in the sustainable tourism planning
Study Preparations
This is giving the planning process an over whelming awareness so as to attract
recognition and conviction from the government, local community and some other relevant
stakeholders. It is also the identification and integration of stakeholders in the planning process
so as to get their recognition, approval and support. In the case of Ndiowu, the local community,
the government through concerned government agencies i.e. Nigerian Tourism Development
Commission, Anambra State Tourism Board, Orumba North Tourism Committee, etc, the private
sector, NGOs and some other individual stakeholders, will be integrated. The recognition and
integration of these stakeholders in the planning and also unalloyed support from them, would
give Ndiowu a sustainable tourism planning and development.
In the opinion of Cooper, Fletcher, Fyall, Gilbert, and Wanhil (1993) “This is the data
collection section, where information is gathered from both primary and secondary sources”. It
also looks at the potentials of Ndiowu as a proposed tourist destination. The surveys are further
segmented as thus:
Tourist Attractions;
Ndiowu has a variety of tourist attractions which are grouped under cultural and natural
attractions. While the cultural attractions include; Ikeji festival, New Yam festival, Okponsi
festival, Oral traditions and assorted objects with cultural significance which are found in various
places of traditional worship, the Palace of the community Chief and homes of the Akajiofors,
and other minor festivals; the natural attractions include many spring waters like Iyi-Ikpa, IyiOcha, Iyi-Ogwe, and Osukutukutu water fall. Others include the Otalu River, and Aghommiri
River. The town also has a scenic topographic setting by situating at the top of a hill.
Accommodation Facilities;
Due to the rural nature of the community, it has only one established accommodation unit
(the Alpacino Hotel). They have other minor accommodation units like school dormitories,
hospitals, rental houses, etc. Other known hotels like Rozanda Hotel Amaokpala, Imperial
Hotels Amaokpala, Chalk Valley Hotel Okoh, Lincoln Hotel Oko, and Orthon Palace Hotel
Ekwulobia. Most of these hotels are less than one kilometer away from Ndiowu community.
Other tourist facilities in the town;
Other tourist facilities in the town include good road, good transport system, a well
developed map, hospitals, electricity, good drinking water, comfortable places of worship, super
market shops, the traditional “Orie market” for the purchase of local items as souvenirs etc.
Land availability and use:
Ndiowu community has a large land mass with over 60% of the total land still lying
unused for reasonable developmental project. While most of the unused land space was left for
grazing and as grooves, the remaining ones are used for agriculture, settlement and other
domestic activities. The communal, village and clans’ land are under the caretaker of the Chief
of the community, village heads and family heads (The Akajiofor’s) respectively. But that not
withstanding, all land within the geographical boundary of Nigeria is still subject to the Nigerian
Land Use Act of 1978 which subjects every land in Nigerian to the custodian and ownership of
the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Accessibility of the Community;
Ndiowu community has good roads linking them with other communities in Anambra
state. The recently reconstructed Oko-Ndiowu-Umunze road is a very good booster to the choice
of Ndiowu as a tourist destination. Since Anambra state has no airport, international tourists or
domestic tourists who may wish to go by air, would have to stop at the Akanu-Ibiam Airport,
Enugu, take a forty minutes drive to Awka, the Anambra state capital, and continued a further
thirty minutes drive down to Ndiowu town, on a well paved road. Then in the community, the
location of some of the spring waters are not motorable but could be trekked. There are also good
roads but not tarred, linking the nine villages of the community, which are equally motorable.
Also the custom and tradition of the people do not forbid tourists from enjoying any of the tourist
attractions of the community, only that visitors are not allowed to put on the masquerade during
the Ikeji festival without proper pre-festival initiation to the masquerade cult.
Community Relationship;
Since the people of the community are the major primary stakeholders, it is advisable to
have an integrated and people oriented project implementation. The people should be actively
involved in the development process of the project if sustainability is to be guaranteed (Inskeep,
1991; Umeh and Uchebgu, 1997). They would be actively involved through the following ways;
a) Participate solely in the masking of the masquerade during the Ikeji festival since their
customs and traditions forbids visitors from masking the masquerade during the Ikeji
b) Play a leading role in the organization of the Ikeji and Okponsi festivals.
c) Cleaning and clearing of those spring waters and other tourist sites.
d) The security of lives and properties of tourists shall be manned by a joint security
network of the community vigilante group and the Police Force.
e) Planning and organization of integrated festival periods to be done by a joint committee
of tourism professionals and the relevant elders from the community.
f) During infrastructural establishments in the community like road construction, hotel
constructions, etc, most of the manual labour would be supplied by the local community.
They would also have high chances of getting skilled jobs in those hotels based on their
skill acquisition.
Economic Structure;
Since Ndiowu is a rural community, their economic structure may not be attractive. A
higher percentage of the people are farmers, others involve in some economic activities like
palm-wine taping, garri processing, palm oil processing. Also some operate miniature shops
along the streets of the community. There is also a small traditional “Orie” market where they
exchange their farm products for money every four days. So it is obvious that their economic
structure is communally based.
Socio Cultural Characteristics;
A Socio-cultural characteristic of the people is not far from what is obtainable from some
other communities in Igbo land. For instance, they have good traditional leadership system,
socio-cultural groups, kinship system, cultural festivals, dos and don’ts (taboos), traditional
values and norms, and some other cultural traits that unite the community (Orji, 1999). The most
important fact is that none of their socio-cultural characteristics is hostile to visitors rather
hospitable. They appreciate and respect visitors as reflected in some individual names they give
to their children, i.e. ‘Obigaeli’ which means ‘the visitor will enjoy himself’.
Relevant Legislation and Regulation;
The proposed project will be inline with the Nigerian Tourism and Cultural Policies. For
instance section 7.1 to 7.1.4 of the Nigerian Cultural Policy states that the mobility of people is a
major factor of cultural growth and development in Nigeria, The Nigerian Tourism Policy, Act
of 1990 has a part of it as the promotion of tourism based rural enterprises, to accelerate ruralurban integration to generate employment, etc. Also the unwritten laws guiding the community
dwellers will in no way pose a hindrance to the success of the tourism project in the area.
In this subsection of the study, concentration will be on making relevant analysis of some
variables towards ensuring a successful sustainable tourism planning and development in
Ndiowu community;
Asset Evaluation;
This entails examining the existing assets and how they can be developed with their
likely constraints. These assets would be grouped as thus; cultural festivals, natural attractions
and the infrastructural base of the community.
a) Cultural festival: The Ikeji festival is the most decorated festival in the community and
one of the greatest annual festivals in Igbo land. It is generally celebrated between the
months of February and April of every year among various communities involved.
During this festival, the masquerades are indomitable, frightful and boastful. “The
wordings of the ‘Ike-ji’ masquerades songs which include threats of death, annihilation
by unnatural means and total destruction of enemies and opponents could send any
chicken hearted man to his grave before the ‘D’ day for the general assembly of all the
masquerades” (Orji, 1999: 63). However Ikeji festival is a cultural display of
masquerades in Ndiowu community. During the said days, over 500 beautiful and good
dancing masquerades are paraded in the community by the community inhabitants. The
same is applicable to the ‘Okponsi’ festival which comes a week before the ‘Ikeji’. These
two festivals in consultation with their custodians might be merged together and fixed for
in a unique period of any year or be allowed to exist according to the tradition. There
should be a committee who will have the responsibility of organizing the event and
controlling the masquerades, arranging for a point of gathering to have cultural dance
display. Such unique points should be located at the heart of the town, or the community
square called ‘Ebe-Agwu’. In order to encourage these masquerades, there should be
prizes for the best behaved, most beautiful, neatest, best dancer, most consistent, etc.
However before the said day, the historical and interesting oral tradition of the people
should be documented and packaged as souvenirs so that they could be sold to tourists
and other visitors who came around during the days of the integrated festival. Also the
same should be done to new yam festival which comes up in August to September of
every year. But it is pertinent to note at this juncture that these two major festivals i.e.
New yam and Ikeji festivals, should not be managed together so as not to hamper the
carrying capacity limit of the tourist destination.
b) Natural Attractions: The most attractive natural attraction of the community is the
‘Osukutukutu’ water fall and the numerous springs in the community. During the period
of the festival, the road leading to these springs should be cleared and the environment of
the spring well cleaned and decorated with flowers and other aesthetic materials. There
may be ice cream joints within the environment and also mini shops for selling local
dishes and traditional palm wine. These will be done so that before the celebration for the
festival in each of the days (mostly in the evenings) tourists could go down to those
springs for relaxation since the weather condition of the area is always cool with fresh
c) Infrastructural base of the community: The community has only one mini-hotel with
about fifteen rooms, which means additional one hundred and twenty-five rooms capacity
of hotel(s) should be put up. This would be enough for a start considering the fact that
there are about three other hotels in Amaokpala, the neighbouring community. Even the
dormitories of some schools in the community could be of help in as much as the event
will not clash with the post primary school calendar. These dormitories would help to
accommodate the low income segment of the tourists. Also the road that link up all the
villages in the community even the road that led into the community are not tarred. Some
of the roads need to be tarred to ease tourists’ movement in the community. However, on
the health sector, the community has two primary health centres that should be well
equipped with competent medical personnel, drugs and other medical equipments.
Market Analysis:
“Market analysis attempts to determine whether or not the proposed development is
appropriate, the market that are likely to be attracted by this development and the price level and
tariff structure that should be adopted” (Cooper, Fletcher, Fyall, Gilbert, and Wanhil, 1993). It is
also a truism that when fixing prices for tourism products, the price should be at the equilibrium
with the quality of the product, that is not being too low or two high, to avoid downgrading the
quality expectancy of the product or scaring away of potential tourists. At the entrance of the
arena to watch the masquerades display, tourists should be meant to pay N500 (five hundred
naira) single and N1000 (one thousand naira) for families. There should not be entry fees to the
springs rather the price of those local dishes, ice creams and palm wine should be commensurate
when measured with the quality of the product and also the sellers of these commodities should
pay little commission to the community tourism committee to help in the upkeep of the
environment. The shuttle buses conveying tourists from one point to another in the community
may be collecting N50.00 (fifty naira) per tourist while the prices for chartered taxis should be
well bargained by the tourists. However, on the accommodation sector, out of the projected 200
(hundred) rooms, about 150 (one hundred and fifty) rooms should be placed within the range of
N3, 500 (three thousand five hundred naira) to N5, 000 (five thousand naira) per night. The
students’ hostels if made available should cost between N200 (two hundred naira) to N300 (three
hundred naira) per bed space. While other rented houses might not collect more than N500.00
(five hundred naira) per night. This is believed will make options available for different classes
of tourists.
Impact Analysis:
This is looking at various impacts the tourism development of Ndiowu community would
have on the socio-cultural, economic, environmental, political, etc, aspects of the community.
Both positive and negative impacts will be closely examined with mitigating measures to reduce
the negative impacts or eradicative measures to terminate negative impacts.
a) Positive impacts
Economically, the development will boost the economic base of the community by
improving their income level through job creation and effective marketing of their various goods
and services. Socially, it will enhance inter-human relationship in the community, improve the
social standard of the community through marketing and infrastructural developments, bring
relative increase in their population, boost the security network of the community and finally
project the social values of the people to the wider world through proper tourism promotion.
Culturally, tourism development of Ndiowu community would help to project the rich cultural
values of the community, help to abolish some negative aspects of their culture and improve on
the positive aspects. It may also expose the people to the awareness of other people’s cultures
and at the same time projecting and marketing the rich cultural values of the community through
enlistment in the National Festivals’. Environmentally, tourism development in Ndiowu town
would help in the general environmental cleanliness of the community, beautification of the area,
infrastructural development, cleaning and proper care of the community’s natural resources. And
also quality environmental policy of the area via tourism planning would bring efficient
management and protection of architecture and landscape of the community. Finally, on the
socio-political institution of the community, the development would improve the political aspects
of the community through making and enforcement of laws, bringing quality security of lives
and properties in the community and finally attracting the attention of the government to the
community for the provision of basic amenities like pipe-born water, electricity, road
construction, hospitals, schools, etc. It would also brighten the political values of the community
which will necessitate adequate consideration in government’s policy formulations.
b) Negative impacts;
Economically, the development might not have much negative impact except high cost of
living, decline from agriculture. This could be checked by way of providing agricultural
incentives like loans, fertilizer, tractors, etc, to the community so as to motivate their interest on
agriculture. On the aspect of high cost of living, the government can use the Price Regulatory
Board as an agent of price stabilization in the community. Socially, it might bring over
population, over crowding, social ills like crime, espionage activities, prostitution, depletion of
social standard of the community, porosity of security and safety of the people (Fadipe, 2007).
Although, most of these are the general social problem of tourism in virtually all the tourist
destinations in the world, but that of Ndiowu can be mitigated to a sizeable limit. To check over
population and crowding, there should be need for efficient examination of carrying capacity of
the area which could be done through the separation of the Ikeji festival from the New Yam
festival, putting them in different periods of the year. Also depending on the number of
masquerades, they might not have a unique value for their displays rather three or four venues in
the community to reduce over concentration and over crowding to one village or point in the
community. There is also need to boost the security network of the community during the period
with a joint security network of the police and community’s vigilante group. Finally, handbills,
tourism compass, fliers, pre festival orientations, etc, can be used to orientate tourists on the
social aspects of the community before and on their arrival for the festival. Culturally, it might
introduce bad cultures to the community and also bring a total neglect to the customs and
traditions of the people. The ‘dos and dent’s’ of the community might be tampered. In an attempt
to mitigate these impacts, as said earlier, there is need for the pre-festival cultural orientation of
tourists about the community to arouse consciousness on the community’s cultural values
Tab 1: Illustration of possible impacts and their control measures.
Economic Impacts;
 High cost of living.
Agricultural decline.
Social Impacts;
 Over population
 Over crowding
Social ills, i.e. crime, espionage activities,
prostitution, etc.
Porosity of security.
Depletion of the social standard of the community
Use of price Regulatory Boards and Pricing
Use of agricultural incentives.
Effective carrying capacity policies.
Separation of the two major festivals to different
periods of the year.
Proper monitoring of tourists’ activities in the
Provision of adequate joint-security network.
Use of tourist guides, hand bills, pre-festival
orientations, etc.
Cultural Impacts;
 Infliction of negative cultures.
 Neglect on the culture and tradition of the people.
Basic cultural orientation for all the stakeholders.
Basic instructions and guides on the tolerance and
respect for ones culture.
Environmental Impacts;
 Depletion on the flora and fauna of the community.
 Pollution.
 Over crowding at the natural sites.
Quality environmental monitoring policy.
Quality environmental monitoring policy.
Avoidance of concentration at a point.
Environmentally, there might be total depletion on the flora and fauna of the community
via development projects, air pollution through the use of many automobiles, over crowding at
the sites of those natural sites, etc. There should be quality, vibrant and feasible environmental
policy in the community by the government through the tourism development committee of the
community. The committee will also work out a frame work to control the visits of tourists to
those natural sites, so as to reduce the problem of over crowding at those sites. Finally, having
seen both the positive and negative impacts of the proposed tourism development in the
community, one would understand that the consideration of the above listed mitigating measures
on each of the negative impacts would go a long way in sustaining the project in the community.
Development Planning Process:
The project would be under-taking in phases to yield maximum result and equally help to
determine the viability of the programme at every stage of the project execution with feedbacks
so as to ascertain whether to withdraw or continue with the project execution.
a) Phase 1 – The first part of the programme is the drafting of the proposal after which the
stakeholders would be identified and convinced on the relevance and benefits of making Ndiowu
a tourist destination. The stakeholders include; the local community, government agencies as
mentioned earlier, N.G.Os and other individual stakeholders, who are going to be affected either
directly or indirectly by the proposed project (Umeh and Uchegbu, 1997). After they must have
been convinced, roles should be defined and assigned to them. The project could be either
terminated or suspended to the future if at this point they failed to be convinced. This phase is
projected to be completed in four months.
b) Phase II - In this phase of the development plan which comes after there must have been
positive results and the viability of the project confirmed in the first phase, there should be
surveys or feasibility analysis of tourist characteristics, accommodation facilities, tourist
attractions and other tourist facilities, land availability and use, economic structure, environment,
socio-cultural characteristics, investment and available capital and also relevant legislation and
regulations, of the community. After this, the qualitative analysis of anticipated economic
impacts, social impacts, cultural impacts, political impacts, environmental impacts, etc, of the
proposed project on the community would be considered. There should be consideration on
source of fund which may come from the government for road construction, provision of medical
facilities, electricity provision, etc, and also from the private sector for hotel construction and
setting up of mini-shops at those natural tourist sites. By and large, it is expected that the major
funding would come from the government through the various government tourism agencies and
ministries like Ministries of Works, Health and Education. If by the end of this phase which is
projected to last for about one year, the results of the survey is not substantial or that the impacts
are not commensurate with expected benefits or there is no positive response from the public and
private sectors on capital investment, the development process might be hauled or suspended or
more time given to achieve the desired result.
c) Phase III – Assuming the first two phases goes as planned, the next and longest phase which
will take up to two or three years would be infrastructural provision like good roads, medical
facilities, accommodation facilities, pipe borne water and electrification. This phase would take
longer period due to its demand. This is where infrastructural development as mentioned earlier
will take place. There should be close monitoring at this phase to ensure that there is no wasteful
use of the limited resources. The project could be allowed to continue if the project monitoring
proves feasible, but on the contrary suspended if not found successful and reorganised.
d) Phase IV - This is setting up of the destination planning committee who will have the
responsibility of organizing and packaging the festival and other tourist attractions in the
community, recruitment and training of personnel to enhance quality product and service
delivery. They will also adopt necessary marketing strategies towards ensuring quality marketing
of Ndiowu town as a tourist destination. The committee in consultation with the elders of the
community will look for an appropriate period to permanently fix the events so as to maximize
the utility of tourism potentials of the community as a tourist attraction. This phase is expected to
last for one or two years. However, the development plan would be phased into four phases with
projected duration at approximately five years. This is aimed at ensuring sustainable tourism
Carrying Capacity:
This was defined by Cooper, Fletcher, Fyall, Gilbert, and Wanhil, (1993) “… as that level
of tourist presence which creates impacts on the host community, environment and economy that
are acceptable to both tourists and hosts and sustainable over future time periods”. However in
the case of Ndiowu community, to ensure that the limited carrying capacity of the area is not
tampered with, the following control measures should be taken;
a) The two major festivals; Ikeji and New Yam festivals, should not be celebrated
simultaneously. They should be arranged for March and August respectively.
b) The four days for the Ikeji festival is to be celebrated, it should be distributed among four
major villages in the community in this way, Day 1 Ubaha village, Day II Obinagu
village Day III Agbata and finally the Day IV which is the grand finale should be
celebrated at the community’s square, Ebe-Nso at Enungbom village.
c) Numerous springs in the community should also be developed so as to reduce over
crowding at one point.
d) The price of tourism products should not be too cheap so as not to attract all kinds of
people and at the same time not too expensive to scare away potential tourists.
e) There should be quality control of tourist traffic during the festival by the security
f) The community tourism committee should take note of these measures so as not to
hamper the limited carrying capacity of developing tourist destination.
These carrying capacity control of the community is necessary since as a rural
community, Ndiowu town has a limited land space, few established accommodation units and
minimal infrastructural base. It is expedient to consider these factors so as to ensure that the
carrying capacity of the community is not depleted since its depletion will hamper the
sustainability of tourism projects in the area.
This paper has succeeded in taking inventory of tourism potentials in Ndiowu community
of Anambra State of Nigeria. It also discussed the tourism viabilities of the said potentials,
outlining various impacts and control measures towards ensuring sustainable tourism
development of the area. It also considered various steps that are necessary for sustainable
tourism development of those tourism potentials and the community at large. This is pertinent
because amongst the major problems of tourism development in this part of the world is dearth
of sustainable planning and relevant consultations in the proposed tourism destination. Tourism
planning is said to be successful only if it meets the demands of tourists and the aspiration of the
local population. Facilities provided at the tourist destination must not only be designed for the
use of tourists alone, hence tourists themselves can be skeptical and such facilities may be
destroyed by the local residents. While tourism development must be compatible with other
activities in the destination, it is important to note that in planning for developments, local
residents must be first considered before the tourist. This is because they own the larger
percentage of the entire resources (Fadipe: 2007).
Agbonlahor, J.N. and Ukhurebor, A.R. (2006). “Tourism and National Development” In Pat U.
Okpoko (ed), Issues in Tourism Planning and Development. Nsukka: Afro-Orbis
publishing company Ltd.
Andah, B. W. (1990) “Tourism as Cultural Resources: Introductory Comments” In Bassey W.
Andah (ed), Cultural Resource Management: An African Dimension. Ibadan: Wisdom
Publishers Ltd.
Bhatia, A.K. (2006). The Business of Tourism, Concepts and Strategies. New Delhi: Sterling
Publishers Private Limited.
Cooper, C., Fletcher, J. Gilbert, D. and Wanhil, S (1993). Tourism: Principles and Practice.
London: Pitman publishing.
Cooper, C., Fletcher, J., Fyall, A., Gilbert, D. and Wanhil, S (2005). Tourism: Principles and
Practice. England: Pearson Educational Limited.
Ekechukwu, L.C. (1990). “Encouraging National Development through the Promotion of
Tourism: the Place of Archaeology” In Bassey W. Andah (ed), Cultural Resource
Management: An African Dimension. Ibadan: Wisdom Publishers Ltd.
Fadipe, A.S. (2007). Basic Principles and Practice of Tourism. Lagos: Media Ace Publishers.
Frey, B. S. (1985) Umwettoekonomic, V&R, Gottingen. Germany.
Holloway, C. J. (1989) The Business Tourism (Third Edition). London: Pitman Publishing, a
Division of Longman Group UK Ltd.
Igbo, E.U.M. and Okpoko, P.U (2006). “Theoretical Considerations in Tourism Planning” In Pat
U. Okpoko (ed), Issues in Tourism Planning and Development. Nsukka: Afro Orbis
Inskeep, E. (1991). Tourism Planning: An Integrated and Sustainable Development Approach.
Canada: John Willey & Sons, Inc.
Miiller, H. & Flugel, M. (1999) Tourism and Okologie, Forsdungsiatitact Füi Freigeit and
Tourismus (fif) an der University at Bern, Benr.
Nkom, S. A. (1995) “The Modernization Approach to Rural Development: A Theoretical
Synthesis and Critique” In C. O. Nwanunobi, C. C. Ukaegbu and E. U. M. Igbo (eds),
Innovative Approaches to Rural Development in Nigeria. Enugu: Auto Century
Nwankwo, E. (2002). “The Influence of Religion on the Development of Modern Ndiowu
Town”. An Unpublished Diploma Project submitted to the Department of Religion,
University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Nwankwo, E. (2005). “Influence of Urbanization on the Traditional Settlement Pattern of
Ndiowu Community: Archaeological Implications of the Study”. A Research Paper,
submitted to the Department of Archaeology and Tourism, University of Nigerian,
Nwankwo E. (2006). “The Study of Ajalli Cave as a Tourist Attraction in Ajalli Town Orumba
North local Government Area of Anambra state” An unpublished B.A. Project submitted
to the Department of Archaeology and Tourism, University of Nigeria Nsukka.
Ogundele, S.O. (2001). “Tourism Development in Nigeria: A Grassroots Perspective” In David
Aremu (ed), Cultural and Eco-tourism Development in Nigeria. The Role of the Three
Tiers of the Government and the Private Sector. Ibadan: Hope publications.
Okonkwo, E.E. (2004). “Conservation Areas and Tourism Development: a Case Study of Obudu
Cattle Ranch and Sukur Kingdom” An Unpublished M.A. Dissertation Submitted to the
Department of Archaeology and Tourism, University of Nigeria Nsukka.
Okpoko, A.I. and Okpoko, P.U. (2002). Tourism in Nigeria. Nsukka: Afro-Orbis publishers
Oladele, F. (1996). Understanding Tourism in Nigeria. Ibadan: Jis Printing Press.
Oladele, F. (2001). “The Economic Implications of Developing Tourism in the Three Tiers of the
Government in Nigeria” in David Aremu (ed), Cultural and Eco-tourism Development in
Nigeria: The Role of the Three Tiers of the Government and the Private Sector. Ibadan:
Hope publications.
Orji, M.O. (1999). The History and culture of the Igbo People: Before the Advent of the White
Man. Nkpor: Jet publishers.
Page, S.J. (2003). Tourism Management: Managing for Change. UK: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Page, S. J. and Connell, J. (2006) Tourism: A Modern Synthesis. London: Thomson Learning.
Rue, L.W. and Byars, L.L. (1986). Management: Theory and Application. 4th Edition. Irwin,
Homewood, Alabama.
Scheyvens, R. (2007) “Exploring the Tourism-Poverty Nexus”, Current Issues in Tourism,
10(2&3), 231-254.
Smith, V. (1998) “Privatization in the Third World: Small-scale Tourism Enterprises” In W.
Theobald (ed), Global Tourism. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Umeh, L. C. and Uchegbu, S. N. (1997) Principles and Procedures of Environmental
Assessment (EIA). Lagos: Amazing Grace Printing and Publishing
The New Contributory Pension Scheme in Nigeria: Investment Returns and
Pensioners Benefits in Federal Universities in South-Eastern Nigeria
Nwagwu, Ejikeme Jombo, Ph.D
Department of Political Science
University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Pension scheme administration in Nigeria, before the introduction of the new contributory
scheme, was fraught with numerous problems associated with weak administration, lack of
regulatory and supervisory agency, mismanagement of pension funds, absence of database on
pensioners profiles, insufficient budgetary allocation and untimely release of funds which
culminated in huge arrears of pension rights. Pensioners in the old scheme were subjected to
untold hardship after meritorious service to the nation. The introduction of the new contributory
pension scheme and investment of consolidated pension funds to generate returns accruable to
pensioners as additional pension benefits have ushered in hope to hitherto hapless retirees and
potential pensioners in Nigeria. The study is predicated on the agency theory as its theoretical
framework. The methodology adopted primary and secondary sources of data generation. T-test
is used to test the hypothesis. The article investigates the contractual relationship between the
principals and agents in the pension business and to ascertain whether the agent is working to
protect and serve the interest of the principal as regards to actual declaration of exact investment
returns and payment of investment returns to enhance pension benefits of pensioners under the
scheme. The result of the study reveals that investment of consolidated funds in the new
contributory pension scheme generates additional pension benefits to retirees and the
contributory workers in service. Creation of awareness about the provisions of the Act among the
workforce and periodic review of the Act to reflect socio-economic realities of the nation are
recommended to make the scheme functionally meaningful to its beneficiaries.
Key Words: Pension Funds, Investment Returns, Enhancement, Pension Benefits.
The administration of pension scheme in Nigeria has been a perennial problem in the
public service. Successive governments of the country had been burdened with numerous
problems associated with the pension systems operated in both the public and private sectors.
The Nigeria pension schemes were marred with defects. Pension administration in Nigeria has
suffered epileptic release of funds to address numerous cases of unsettled pension benefits
associated with the old pension scheme (Olurankinse and Adetula, 2010). The defined pension
benefit (pay-as-you-go) scheme operated in the public sector was characterized by insufficient
funding, discrimination in coverage, demographic shifts and weak administration; while those in
the private sector had low compliance ratio. Invariably, the scheme in the public sector became
unsustainable and further compounded by unregulated increase in salaries that resulted in huge
pension liabilities, mismanagement of pension funds, misappropriation of pension funds, and
corrupt practices of all sorts (http://www.faqs.org/periodicals/201009/2087472371.html).
Carmichael and Palacios (2004) argue that given the widely held belief that providing for
the retired generation is, at least in part, a responsibility of government, it is not surprising that
the different models of mandated retirement income provision and public pension schemes have
by far longest history of low sustainability. The post-second world war period witnessed
increased acceptance of pay-as-you-go financing, with little concern expressed over poor rates of
return on pension fund investments.
As populations have aged in recent decades and the
liabilities of public pension schemes have exploded, many governments have shifted the focus of
their attention to private pensions, both voluntary and publicly mandated, as a means of reducing
their future liabilities and mitigating increasingly obvious intergenerational transfers.
There are varying views from different ideological perspectives on the on-going debate
on the new contributory pension scheme. For instance, Ibe (2005:84) observes that the
contributory pension scheme is funded in the sense that the contributions and the returns from
the investment of such funds provide the resources for meeting the pension obligations. On the
contrary, the defined pension benefits scheme is unfunded because the pension obligations are
met from the general current revenue, taxation in the case of the government and this is the
reason why it is referred to as a “pay-as-you-go” system. Payment of pension obligations in the
unfunded pension scheme thus depends largely on general productivity and tax revenue growth
in the economy as well as a host of demographic features of the economy. In the funded pension
system, payment of pension
obligations would encounter problems if there were earnings
problems with pension investments due to management problems and adverse movements in
macroeconomic variables. Pensioners under both schemes face risks as to what the future value
of their benefits would be, with pensioners under a publicly managed system facing largely
political risks and the privately managed contributory pension scheme facing investment risks.
While the risks are spread through a market mechanism in the contributory pension scheme, in
the defined pension benefits scheme, it is through the legislative mechanism which modifies the
benefit plan in the future.
Aminu (2006:38) argues that there is no doubt that pension systems are a critical tool in
reducing poverty among the elderly.
But an aging population, poor administration, early
retirement, and unaffordable benefits have strained both pension balances and overall public
finances, lending urgency to the call for pension reform. He notes that as it is in most developing
economies, payment of pensions have posed a big challenge to Nigerian Government in terms of
identification of pensioners, determination of entitlements, reconciliation of amounts paid,
reconciliation of arrears and determination of the government’s overall pension liability for
budgeting and planning purposes. Aminu (2006) further observes that the previous pension
scheme failed because there was no serious attempt to make the pension scheme work. The old
scheme was not mandatory for the private sector. It was left at the discretion of the various
employers to determine compliance. The pension scheme was strictly based on affordability and
level of social responsibility. The mandatory pension scheme was a public driven initiative
characterized by very weak enforcement of the rules and regulations. Besides, organizations
were easily tempted to encroach upon the staff pension funds to address what the employer may
regard as “temporary financial squeeze”. The old pension scheme was unsustainable due to
dearth of resources and inadequate budgetary allocations which informed government failure in
meeting the obligatory pension promises.
The need to reform the defined pension scheme became inevitable because of the
deficiencies associated with the scheme. The foregoing scenario necessitated a shift from the
existing practice to a more sustainably defined contributory pension scheme. This culminated in
the establishment of the Pension Reform Act of 2004 by the former President Olusegun
Obasanjo’s administration. The Act provides for a contributory pension scheme for the public
service of the federation, employees of the federal capital territory and employees of any private
sector organization with up to five (5) or more employees. The introduction of the new scheme
has generated intellectual discourse amongst scholars on the investment returns and enhancement
of pensioners’ benefits and sincerity of purpose on management of accrued returns. Carmichael
and Palacios (2004) note that the risk that a government will fail to deliver its promises is more
explicit in government-managed mandatory contributory schemes. Makele (2008) queries how
and why should employees be compelled to make contributions to be invested without provisions
for clients to know about the detailed returns on investment and interest rate accruable to
contributors’ investment. Rather, Section 47(f) of the Act provides that “the Pension Fund
Custodian shall undertake statistical analysis on the investments and returns on investments with
respect to pension funds in its custody and provide data and information to the pension fund
administrator and the National Pension Commission”. The Act does not make any provisions
with regard to the responsibility of the Pension Fund Custodians to render account on
investments to the employee-contributors through their respective Pension Fund Administrators
in-charge of their individual retirement savings account. The success of this mandatory privately
managed pension scheme shall be largely determined by the return on investment achieved on
accumulated savings as well as the ease with which these funds can be accessed throughout the
retirement life of each of the scheme members (Henshaw, 2006).
The objective of this article is to analyze how the cordial relationship between principals
and agents in the contractual ventures leads to enhancement of pension benefits in Nigeria. In
this relationship, the principal delegates or hires an agent to perform services and then delegate
decision-making authority to the agent to keep custody of the fund and assets and to invest as he
considers fit on behalf of the principal. This article attempts to establish whether the goals of the
principal and agent are not in conflict or that the principal and the agent reconcile different
tolerances for risk. The relationships between the duo are not necessarily harmonious. This study
is concerned with the conflict of interest between agents and principals whereby the agents,
taking advantage of their expertise, skill and knowledge of the act, pursue personal interest rather
than that which will serve and protect the interest of the principals, with the belief that the
principal will not understand the agents behaviour. An agent is more likely to adopt the goals of
the principal and thus behave in the interest of the principal when the agent is aware of a
mechanism in place that allows the principal to verify the behaviour of the agent. The agent is
more likely to comply with goals of the principal to sustain and respect the letters of the
contractual agreement and serve the interest of the principal. Although behaviour never occur as
it is preferred by the principal because it does not pay to make it perfect. However, to checkmate
the excesses of the agent, society creates institutions that attend to these imperfections by
managing or buffering the anticipated risks. The institutions are legally created to instruct and
(http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-an-agency-theory.htm). Therefore, the main thrust of this
article is to determine whether the investment of the contributory pension funds has generated
additional pension benefits to pensioners in federal universities in South-Eastern Nigeria.
Conceptual Clarification
Pension: Eche (2011:1) defines pension as a periodical payment and/or a lump sum reward on
a contractual legally enforceable agreement between an employer and an employee or any other
sum payable gratuitously by the government, employer of labour or a company to its employee
in consideration of past services rendered upon cessation of employment. He stresses that
pension is critical to how a worker will live after retirement. It is therefore the right of the
worker on how his pension works, what changes that may be made by his employer, how secure
is the fund. Pension is simply the amount set aside either by an employer or the employee or both
to ensure that at retirement, there is something to fall back on as income. It ensures that at old
age they will not be stranded financially. Pension is a plan for the rainy days after retirement,
and an arrangement to provide people with income when they are no longer earning regular
income from employment. It is also a tax deferred savings vehicle that allows for the tax-free
accumulation of fund for later use as a retirement income. Pension is a regularly paid gratuity,
paid regularly as benefit due to a person in consideration of past services; notably to one who
retired from service on account of retirement age, disability or similar cause; especially, a regular
stipend paid by a government to retired public officer and/or disabled soldiers, typically in the
form of a guaranteed annuity. A pension created by an employer for the benefit of an employee
is commonly referred to as an occupational or employer pension; while a pension fund is a
general term used to describe an investment fund built up during working life and used at
The data for this research were primarily obtained from the primary and secondary data
sources, that is, questionnaire and interviews were used for primary source; while qualitative
method was used for documentary evidence. Structured questionnaire was used to elicit
information from the respondents. Fixed response questionnaire was used because it facilitates
data analysis and the estimation of validity and reliability indices for the instrument. Descriptive
survey design was adopted for the study. Survey methods through questionnaires and
interviews; and documentary studies constituted the major data gathering techniques in this
study. In analyzing the data generated for the study, the researcher applied t-test. Nworgu
(1991:227) illustrates that t-test is used in testing hypothesis to establish the significance of the
difference between mean when sample size is small. The t-test (which is a small sample test)
can also be used for larger samples. For the researcher to find the critical p-value, he must
determine the degree of freedom in addition to such other consideration as the level of
Burnham et al (2004:114) state that descriptive statistics is a range of basic statistical
tools for describing data. The main appeal of descriptive statistics is that it is a powerful and
economical way of measuring, analyzing and presenting political participation, and social and
political attitudes generally. Asika (1991:135) observes that most nonparametric statistics are
used with minimum assumptions. Their use is not restricted and their chance of being used
improperly is minimal. Some measurement scales (i.e. nominal and ordinal scales) are weaker
than others.
But nonparametric statistics can be effectively used even when the data are
measured on weak measurement scales. The focus of the study is on pensioners and workers in
federal universities in South-Eastern Nigeria.
Theoretical Framework
The theoretical framework adopted for this article is agency theory. Agency theory in a
formal sense originated in the early 1970s, but the concepts behind it have a long and varied
history. Among the influences are property-rights theories, organization economics, contract
law, and political philosophy, including the works of Locke and Hobbes. Some noteworthy
scholars involved in agency theory’s formative period in the 1970s included Armen Alchian,
Harold Demsetz, Michael C. Jensen, William Meckling, and S.A. Ross. The concept of agency
theory originated from the works of Adolf Augustus Berle and Gardiner Coit Means, Stephen
Ross and Barry Mitnick some of who were discussing the issues of the agent and principal as
early as 1932. Ross was responsible for the origin of the economic theory of agency and Mitnick
originated the institutional theory of agency, though the basic concepts underlying these
approaches are similar as they are conceived as complementary in their uses of similar concepts
under different assumptions.
Berle and Means explored the concepts of agency and their applications toward the
development of large corporations. They saw how the interests of the directors and managers of
a given firm differ from those of the owner of the firm, and used the concepts of agency and
principal to explain the origins of those conflicts. Michael C. Jensen and William Meckling
shaped the work of Berle and Means in the context of the risk-sharing research, popular in the
1960s and 1970s to develop agency theory as a formal concept. Jensen and Meckling formed a
school of thought arguing that corporations are structured to minimize the costs of getting agents
to follow the direction and interests of the principals. Indeed, Ross introduced the study of
agency in terms of problems of compensation contracting. In essence, agency was seen as an
incentives problem. Mitnick introduced the now common insight that institutions form around
agency, and evolved to deal with agency, in response to the essential imperfection of agency
relationships. The theory stresses that behaviour never occurs as it is preferred by the principal
because it does not pay to make it perfect. However, society creates institutions that attend to
these imperfections, managing or buffering them, adapting to them, or becoming chronically
distorted by them. These institutions are legally created to instruct and manage agents, and to
deal with the inevitable imperfections of control (http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-an-agencytheory.htm).
Simon’s (1945) work straddled both economics and public administration; and in
political science, Clark and Wilson (1961) developed an incentives model of organizations. The
key concepts of agency theory were developed by scholars in economics and political science
and incorporated into the agency approach. Besides, agent-principal was employed in a number
of works across the social sciences, well before an explicit theory of agency was proposed. In
political science, Pitkin (1967) and Tussman (1960) used agent-principal language in works on
political philosophy; and Swanson (1971) described collective society using such terms in
sociology. In the early 1970s, agency theory was not known in political science and sociology
before Mitnick. Susan Shapiro introduced agency concepts to sociology in 1987. Agency theory
was first introduced to political science by Moe in 1984. Eisenhardt introduced the theory to
management in 1989. In all cases, these scholars acknowledged Mitnick’s works. Mitnick
introduced the study of delegation as the creation of agents in government. His book on
Corporate Political Agency in 1993 included the applications of agency theory and basic theory
about agency relationships developed in the context of corporate political activity.
Agency theory explains the relationship between principals, such as shareholders and
agents. In this relationship, the principal delegates or hires an agent to perform work. The theory
attempts to deal with two specific problems; firstly, that the goals of the principal and agent are
not in conflict (agency problem), and secondly, that the principal and agent reconcile different
tolerances for risk. Agency theory suggests that the firm can be viewed as a nexus of contracts
(loosely defined) between resource holders. An agency relationship arises whenever one or more
individuals called principals, (in this sense the contributory employees) hire one or more other
individuals called agents, (here also the pension fund administrators and the pension fund
custodians) to perform some service and then delegate decision-making authority to the agents to
keep custody of the fund and assets and to invest as he considers fit on behalf of the principal.
The primary agency relationships in business are those between stockholders and managers; and
between debt holders and stockholders. These relationships are not necessarily harmonious;
indeed, agency theory is concerned with so-called agency conflicts, or conflicts of interest
between agents and principals whereby the agents, taking advantage of their expertise, skill and
knowledge of the act, pursue personal interest rather than that which will serve and protect the
interest of the principals, with the belief that the principal will not understand the agents
behaviour. The theory argues that this has implications for, among other things, corporate
governance and business ethics. When agency occurs it also tends to give rise to agency costs,
which are expenses incurred in order to sustain an effective agency relationship (e.g. offering
management performance bonuses to encourage managers to act in the shareholders’ interests).
Accordingly, agency theory has emerged as a dominant model in the financial economics
literature, and is widely discussed in business ethics texts. Research on agency theory has had
several findings to support this argument. The most notable result holds that an agent is more
likely to adopt the goals of the principal, and thus behave in the interest of the principal, when
the contract is outcome-based. Also, when the agent is aware of a mechanism in place that
allows the principal to verify the behaviour of the agent, he is more likely to comply with the
goals of the principal to sustain and respect the letters of the contractual agreement.
The agency theory framework analysis was applied to the study and it explained
explicitly the relationship between the principal and the agent in a contractual venture. The
application of operational guidelines and regulatory policies issued (from time to time) by the
National Pension Commission to the licensed pension fund administrators and pension fund
custodians translated to enhancement of pensioners benefits. The regulatory policies, guidelines,
rules and regulations issued by PenCom predominantly serve to protect the interest of the
principal. The application of this theory to the study also showed that the agent had been
working to serve primarily the interest of the principal in terms of investment returns. Although
accountability and transparency is in camera; and the level of weak protection of the principal’s
interest in investments and payment of accrued investment returns with undisclosed formula to
legitimate recipients as the hallmark of pension fund administration as illustrated. This gave an
insight of agent’s capability to secure the consolidated funds bond through maintenance of
“retirement savings account” to sustain higher borrowing capacity of investors as well as higher
investment returns. Therefore, it is imperative to study and evaluate the administration of
investment returns and enhancement of pensioners benefits in the new contributory pension
scheme using the theory of principal-agent tools as the appropriate theoretical framework.
Investment of Pension Funds and Enhancement of Pension Benefits to Pensioners
The Pension Reform Act 2004 was promulgated to assist individuals by ensuring that
they save to cater for their livelihood during old age, when the body would not be fit to work
and thereby reducing old age poverty. Enhancement of pension benefits through pension fund
investment returns is one of the ingredients of the new pension package which the old pension
scheme does not possess. Unlike the old pension scheme, the new contributory pension fund
investment returns ensures availability of funds, sustainability of the scheme and it increases
credit balance of pensioners retirement savings account (RSA) and elongates the period
pensioners receive pension benefits promptly and regularly.
Data Presentation on the Hypothesis
The hypothesis for this study is “the investment of the contributory pension funds has
generated additional pension benefits to pensioners in federal universities in South-Eastern
Nigeria”. After administration and collation of the questionnaires, the researcher observed that
out of 365 questionnaires administered to pensioners and employees under the new contributory
pension scheme in federal universities in South-Eastern Nigeria, 345 questionnaires were duly
completed and returned . Out of 103 questionnaires administered to employees of Pension Funds
Administrators and Pension Funds Custodians, 81 questionnaires were duly completed and
returned. The 10 questionnaires administered to employees of the National Pension Commission
were duly completed and
The data generated on the hypothesis are illustrated
hereunder to indicate the level of frequency of response and its significance percentage on each
variable so as to establish the mean and standard deviation. The mean value enabled the
researcher to take decision on whether the respondents agreed or disagreed on any particular
Data Elicited from Retirees and Contributory Workers (Group I)
In the table below, the remarks “agreed” and “disagreed” are based on the mean of the
responses for each item. An item is deemed agreed if the mean value is 2.5 and above. However,
an item is deemed disagreed if the mean value is less than 2.5. The following illustrate the data
elicited from university retirees under the new contributory pension scheme and the contributory
workers in federal universities in South-Eastern Nigeria:
Figure 1
Level of agreement indicated by pensioners and contributory workers on the statement that the
investment of the contributory pension funds has generated additional pension benefits to
pensioners in federal universities in South-Eastern Nigeria
Mean STD Remarks
1.99 .930 Disagreed
interest (5.9%) (24.7%) (37.8%) (31.6%)
their investments.
Interest accrued to
2.26 .946 Disagreed
is (9.1%) (33.5%) (26.0%) (31.4%)
retirement savings
account .
Pensioners receive
1.79 .852 Disagreed
bonus shares from (3.6%) (17.2%) (45.4%) (33.8%)
The initial 25%
2.46 .943 Disagreed
bulk withdrawal (11.8%) (42.8%) (20.1%) (25.4%)
Savings Account
on attainment of
50 years after six
improved package
to retirees.
2.17 .928 Disagreed
(5.9%) (35.2%) (29.9%) (29.0%)
forms part of tax
expenses and it is
pension benefit to
bond (8.0%) (41.0%)
redemption funds
is an additional
pension benefit to
pension benefit in (13.7%) (25.4%)
pension scheme is
higher than what
was obtainable in
the old defined
pension benefits
scheme due to
retirement savings.
The programmed
of (39.9%) (31.1%)
monthly defined
does not last for
life in favour of
those retirees who
might outlive the
estimated life span
of pensioners.
Payment of 5% of
employee’s annual (9.9%) (45.5%)
emolument as life
premium by the
employer is a
additional income
to pensioners.
Source: Generated by the researcher (2013).
1.010 Agreed
As indicated in the above table, the respondents disagreed on items number 1 - 7 and 9,
while they agreed on item number 8 in responding to the hypothesis that “the investment of the
contributory pension funds has generated additional pension benefits to pensioners in federal
universities in South-Eastern Nigeria”. The response reflected the face-value of the
monthly/quarterly statement of account of retirement savings account holders. The interview
conducted revealed with abundant concrete evidence that the returns on investment is being
credited to employees’ and retirees’ retirement savings account (RSA); but such credit entry does
not reflect explicitly as “investment returns” on their monthly pension benefits nor quarterly
statement of account, since such additional income is being credited to their RSA to increase
their credit balance and equally elongate the period a pensioner would enjoy the pension
benefits. For instance, during the interview it was disclosed with documentary evidence that
UBA Pensions Custodians Limited declared N162.715 million pension fund investment returns
in 2006; N233.650 million in 2007; N157.108 million in 2008 and N243.368 million in 2009. In
the same vein, Stanbic IBTC declared N310.364 million pension fund investment returns in 2010
and N419.218 million in 2011 respectively. The contradiction between the pensioners/workers
questionnaire responses and the interview responses arose due to lack of knowledge because the
beneficiaries and potential retirees are not properly sensitized and/or adequately educated to
possess sufficient knowledge on how the new pension scheme operates and what they stand to
gain as benefits.
The researcher observed from available evidence that there is a wide
communication lacuna between the workforce, pensioners, the pension fund administrators and
the National Pension Commission. However, the respondents agreed that the programmed
payment of monthly defined contributory pension scheme does not last for life and payment of
5% of employee’s annual emolument for three years as life insurance premium by the employer
is payable at the death of the employee while in active service. Once the employee retires from
active service the life insurance premium ceases to exist automatically. Therefore, the life
insurance policy does not serve as additional pension benefit to this category of workers and
Data Elicited from Pension Fund Administrator and Pension Fund Custodian (Group II)
In the table below, the remarks “agreed” and “disagreed” are based on the mean of the
responses for each item. An item is deemed agreed if the mean value is 2.5 and above. However,
an item is deemed disagreed if the mean value is less than 2.5. The following illustrate the data
elicited from the pension fund administrators and pension fund custodians:
Figure 2
Level of agreement indicated by Pension Fund Administrators and Pension Fund Custodians on
the statement that the investment of the contributory pension funds has generated additional
pension benefits to pensioners in federal universities in South-Eastern Nigeria
Mea STD Remark
3.61 .767 Agreed
paid (72.4%)
from their
to 54(69.2% 19(24.4%
3.58 .765 Agreed
Pension Fund
s monthly or
account .
bonus shares
The initial 25%
from the RSA
on attainment
of 50 years
months waiting
period is an
under the new
scheme forms
part of tax
The retirement
benefits bond
funds is an
pension benefit
to retirees.
The monthly
higher than
obtainable in
scheme due
to the fund’s
payment of
benefits does
not last for
life in favour
retirees who
outlive the
life span of
Payment of
of (21.1%)
years as life
premium by
the employer
is a source
of additional
Source: Generated by the researcher (2013).
The figure 2 above corroborates the analysis under figure 1 that the investment of the
contributory pension funds has generated additional pension benefits to pensioners and the
contributory workers in federal universities in South-Eastern Nigeria. This is also in agreement
with the responses generated through the interview of key players in pension industry (Pension
Fund Administrators and Pension Fund Custodians) which revealed that returns on investments
is proportionately credited to the retirement savings account of every beneficiary based on the
credit balance of the retirement savings account at the point of any investment. According to the
respondents, the retirement benefits bond redemption funds serves as an additional pension
benefit to retirees because it is tax free. Respondents agreed that the monthly pension benefit in
the new scheme is higher than what was obtainable in the old pension scheme. Although the
benefit in the new scheme does not last for life. Therefore, those pensioner who might outlive
the estimated life span would be stripped of economic power and social relevance at weak-oldage and dumped into servitude state except where one opted to purchase insurance annuity for
life. This analysis strengthens and validates the factual findings under figure 1.
Data Elicited from National Pension Commission Employees (Group III)
In the table below, the remarks “agreed” and “disagreed” are based on the mean of the
responses for each item. An item is deemed agreed if the mean value is 2.5 and above. However,
an item is deemed disagreed if the mean value is less than 2.5. The following illustrate the data
elicited from employees of National Pension Commission in the new contributory pension
scheme in federal universities in South-Eastern Nigeria:
Figure 3
Level of agreement indicated by employees of National Pension Commission on the statement
that the investment of the contributory pension funds has generated additional pension benefits to
pensioners in federal universities in South-Eastern Nigeria
Mean STD Remarks
Pensioners are paid
3.70 .483 Agreed
interest accruing from (70.0%) (30.0%)
their investments.
Interest to pensioners’
4.00 .000 Agreed
contribution reflects (100%)
in Pension Fund
monthly or quarterly
statement of account
on retirement savings
account .
3.17 1.169 Agreed
bonus shares from (50.0%) (33.3%) (16.7%)
The initial 25% bulk
3.00 1.414 Agreed
withdrawal from the (50.0%) (25.0%) (25.0%)
RSA on attainment of
50 years after six
period is an improved
package to retirees.
2.70 1.160 Agreed
new (30.0%) (30.0%) (20.0%) (20.0%)
forms part of tax
deductible expenses
as additional pension
benefits to retirees.
2.57 1.272 Agreed
bond (28.6%) (28.6%) (14.3%) (28.6%)
redemption funds is
an additional pension
benefit to retirees.
The monthly pension
2.67 .707 Agreed
benefit in the new
(77.8%) (11.1%) (11.1%)
contributory pension
scheme is higher than
what was obtainable
in the old defined
scheme due to the
fund’s investment.
payment of monthly (20.0%) (50.0%) (20.0%) (10.0%)
defined contributory
pension benefits does
not last for life in
retirees who might
outlive the estimated
Payment of 5% of
annual (50.0%)
(16.7%) (33.3%)
emolument for three
years as life insurance
by the
employer is a source
of additional income
to pensioners.
Source: Generated by the researcher (2013).
1.059 Agreed
1.329 Agreed
The above table shows that the respondents agreed on all the items in responding to the
hypothesis that “the investment of the contributory pension funds has generated additional
pension benefits to pensioners in federal universities in South-Eastern Nigeria”. Such returns on
investment is additional pension benefits. All retirement savings account (RSA) holders are
credited with the returns on investment based on the credit balance of the RSA at the point of any
investment. Respondents agreed that the payment of 5% of employee’s annual emolument for
three years as life insurance premium by the employer is a source of additional income to
survivors of workers who died in active service. The insurance premium ceases to exist as soon
as one retires from active service. They also agreed that pensioners receive bonus shares from
investments like any other share holder of other corporate organizations. The bonus shares are
issued in the corporate name of the Pension Fund Administrator. The Administrator holds the
shares on trust on behalf of its clients. Respondents agreed that returns on investments is being
reflected in pension fund administrator’s monthly or quarterly statement of account on retirement
savings account of each client, even though it does not reflect explicitly as “returns on
investments”. Lack of knowledge of the new pension scheme on the part of the pension fund
administrator’s clients is the major challenge. The people need to be sufficiently educated on
how the new scheme operates. This will persuade their clients to appreciate the scheme.
This aspect analyzed the data generated through the test of the hypothesis. There are three
categories of respondents in this study identified as groups 1 - 3. T-test was used to test the
hypothesis. The probability-value of the t-test determined the result under remarks. The main
objective of analyzing the data is to establish whether or not the hypothesis has been validated.
The analysis illustrated the t-test of the hypothesis and the result of the hypothesis tested is
summarized under the table.
Test of Hypothesis
Figure 4
Hypothesis Tested
3 3 4
2 3 3
The hypothesis of this study is stated as “the investment of the contributory pension
funds has generated additional pension benefits to pensioners in federal universities in SouthEastern Nigeria”.
Group 1: This hypothesis is accepted since the p-value of the t-test is 0.000, which is
less than 0.05.
(b) Group 2: This hypothesis is accepted because the p-value of the t-test is .000, which is
less than 0.05.
Group 3: The outcome of the responses indicates that there is a unanimous agreement
amongst the respondents on all the variables. There is nothing to compare in this case.
Therefore, t-test was not conducted and no p-value (probability value) result for the
hypothesis in Group 3. The hypothesis is accepted.
Discussion on Research Findings
The issues raised in the questionnaires and interviews conducted on the subject are the
thesis of this sub-heading. The objective of this discussion is to highlight those indicators that
validated the hypothesis and align them with the provisions of the Act as it relates to the
activities of Pension Fund Administrators and Pension Fund Custodians in the new contributory
pension scheme. The discussion also focused on the role of the National Pension Commission in
its statutory duty of supervising and regulating the functions of these operators to conform with
the provisions of the Act. The questionnaires underscored most disturbing issues pensioners and
contributory workers have been complaining about. The discussions centred mostly on the
findings based on the main indicators as contained in the hypothesis that guided the work, as
well as the findings during the interviews conducted.
The interactive sessions and the result derived from the analysis of the data generated on
the hypothesis revealed that retirees, contributory workers, pension fund administrators, pension
fund custodians, and the National Pension Commission agreed that pensioners in federal
universities in South-Eastern Nigeria are being paid returns on investments; and such returns is
reflected in Pension Funds Administrator’s monthly or quarterly statement of account on
individual retirement savings account. Some respondents disagreed that pensioners are being
paid returns on investment as there is no clear indication of such entries in the RSA statement of
account. Investment of pension fund was not practicable in the old scheme because it was
unfunded and no accumulated pension fund for investment. The ARM Pension Managers (PFA)
Limited confirmed that returns is earned from investments and the Pension Fund Administrators
credit to each contributor’s retirement savings account a percentage of the returns based on the
RSA credit balance at the point of investment. The returns increase the credit balance of
retirement savings account of each contributory worker or retiree but no explicit entries tagged
“returns on investments” in the RSA. The beneficiaries of investment returns do not receive
increased monthly or quarterly pension. Rather, such returns is used to elongate the number of
years the retiree will receive monthly or quarterly pension benefits. For example, a pensioner
who has been scheduled to receive monthly or quarterly pension benefits for twenty years, due to
investment returns credited to his or her RSA, may be rescheduled to receive his/her
monthly/quarterly pension benefits for twenty-five years or more. Workers are encouraged to
embark on additional voluntary contribution (AVC) to further increase their retirement savings
account credit balance and earn improved and elongated pension benefit, instead of hoping on
investment returns alone for improved pension benefits.
The Diamond Pension Fund Custodian Limited identified two kinds of pension
contributions to include inactive contribution and active contribution. The inactive contribution
is the retiree’s credit balance that diminishes every month or quarterly through payment of
pension benefits. No further contribution is made into the account except the meagre investment
returns. The active contribution is the worker’s and employer’s monthly contributions that
increase the credit balance of RSA of every contributory worker on monthly basis. The former
generates less investment returns, while the later generates increased investment returns. It was
also revealed that contributors receive bonus shares from investment just like any other share
holder of corporate organizations. The funds is pooled together under one corporate body as an
entity. The difference is that bonus shares is allocated to the Pension Fund Administrator
through the Pension Fund Custodian (the investor) on behalf of the contributors. Such shares are
also being held on trust on behalf of the Pension Fund Contributors by Pension Fund
Administrators; while investment returns on shares is being credited to retirement savings
account of every contributory employee and retiree on receipt of such additional income. This is
a great difference between the old unfunded defined pension scheme and the new reformed
contributory scheme because pay-as-you-go scheme had no provision for consolidated funds and
investment rather pension liabilities are being addressed through insufficient annual budget
On the initial 25% bulk withdrawal from the retirement savings account on attainment of
fifty years after six months waiting period, pensioners, contributory workers, pension fund
administrators and custodians, and National Pension Commission agreed that it is an improved
pension benefit but the researcher observed that it is less than the 300% terminal emolument
being paid as gratuity if the retiree is keyed into the old scheme. The six months waiting period
applies to an employee who temporarily lost his job and who might within the waiting period
secure another job. If he fails to secure another job within the period, he would be enlisted for
pension benefits unlike the old pension scheme where one is enlisted for pension benefits in the
month preceding his or her retirement. ARM Pension Managers (PFA) Limited explained that it
schedules a zero percent bulk withdrawal, whereby the retiree would opt not to make any
withdrawal whatsoever from his retirement savings account on retirement. The pensioner will
enjoy elongated retirement savings account (RSA) schedule and improved monthly pension
benefits more than a retiree who opted for initial 25% bulk withdrawal from his or her RSA on
retirement, and subsequently receives less monthly pension benefit. The Sigma Pensions Limited
gave credence to this point as it stated that its organization schedules pensioners for zero percent
bulk withdrawal if the client concerned so opted. This was also confirmed by Premium Pension
Limited as it stated that the organization schedules its clients for zero bulk withdrawal at the
instance of the pensioner/s.
Respondents also agreed that tax deductible expenses and bond redemption funds are
additional pension benefits since they are tax-free. It was pointed out that payment of 5% of
employee’s annual emolument for three years as life insurance premium by the employer is a
source of income to the next of kin (not the pensioner) at the death of any employee in active
service, since it is payable upon the death of the retirement savings account holder whilst in
active service. Once the employee retires, there is no such benefit in his favour. Respondents
agreed that the programmed payment of monthly pension benefits does not last for life in favour
of those who might outlive the estimated life span unlike the old scheme where pension benefits
last for a retiree’s lifetime. This is an area where the old pension system favoured retired
workers because every retiree under the old dispensation is being paid pension benefits for life.
The major lapse in this arrangement is that payment of pension benefits is irregular due to
untimely release of insufficient budget allocations for pension deficit. In contrast, the new
contributory pension scheme ensures prompt and regular payment of pension benefits to
beneficiaries and contributory nature of the scheme makes funds available to settle pensioners’
bills as at when due. Besides, investment of the accumulated pension fund yields returns and
increases credit balance of pensioners’ benefits.
From the foregoing, it has been established that the investment of the contributory
pension funds has generated additional pension benefits to pensioners in federal universities in
South-Eastern Nigeria.
The investment of the consolidated pension fund in the new contributory pension scheme
has ensured enhancement of pensioners benefits in federal universities in South-Eastern Nigeria
through investment returns. The independent management of the scheme with the creation of the
regulatory and supervisory agency to monitor the activities of these licensed pension fund
administrators and custodians guarantees that the consolidated pension fund is safe and capable
of generating additional pension benefits to enhance pensioners rights. The National Pension
Commission’s operational rules and guidelines and other regulatory policy instruments provided
in the Act serve as inbuilt security mechanism to guard against corruption and mismanagement
of investment returns which is a novel in the history of pension industry in Nigeria. The
investment ventures in the pension industry, as at the time of this study, is a success story.
Efforts should be made to sustain the tempo and move the industry to higher pedestals.
The pension fund administrators and custodians are carrying out their activities in a
closed system away from the public. Most of their clients do not know what they (pension fund
administrators) are doing and what is expected of them (the clients) to do. The Agents should
maintain open-door policy and liaise with employers of labour and National Pension
Commission to create adequate awareness programmes through organization of conferences,
workshops and seminars about their activities and what the new contributory pension scheme is
all about for the benefit of their numerous clients. The licensed pension fund operators should be
accessible and tolerant to their numerous clients if the scheme is meant to succeed. This may
bridge the wide gap between them and their clients and explain most of the questions being
raised by some stakeholders. In all modesty, there should be a public declaration of investment
returns and a standard and acceptable formula on how the targeted beneficiaries should know the
ratio being adopted in the redistribution of the returns. The idea of pension fund administrators
and pension fund custodians to invest, harness returns, and decide who gets what and how is
unacceptable in business ventures of contemporary world. There should be a forum in the nature
of annual general meeting where stakeholders would meet to decide on such sensitive issues like
investment returns and sharing formula. Periodic review of the Act to reflect the socio-economic
realities of the nation is recommended to make the scheme functionally meaningful to its
Adegbayi, A. (2006). Pension Industry Development in Nigeria: The Thrust of the Pension
Reform Act 2004. Lagos: Leadway Assurance Co. Ltd
Aminu, A. (2006). “New Pension Reform: The Gains, the Pains.” ThisDay, 12/04, p.38.
Armstrong, E. (2005). “Integrity, Transparency and Accountability in Public Administration:
Recent Trends, Regional and International Developments and Emerging Issues”.
Retrieved (25/05/2011) from
Asika, Nnamdi (1999). Research Methodology in the Behavioural Sciences. Lagos: Longman
Nigeria Plc.
Balogun, A. (2006). Understanding the New Pension Reform Act 2004. A paper presented at the
Certified Institute of Nigeria: Membership Compulsory Continuous Professional Education
held at Chelsea Hotel, Abuja.
Burnham, P., Gilland, K., Grant, W., and Layton-Henry (2004). Research Methods in Politics.
New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
Carmichael, J. and Palacios, R.J. (2004). “A Framework for Public Pension Fund Management”
in A.R. Musalem and R.J. Palacios (eds.) Public Pension Fund Management: Governance,
Accountability and Investment Policies. Washington, D.C.: The International Bank for
Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank.
David, E.P. (1993). The Structure, Regulation and Performance of Pension Funds in Nine
Industrial Countries. Policy Research Working Paper 1229. World Bank.
Eche, P. (2011). “An Overview of the Various Pension Schemes in Nigeria and the Social Impact
on the Beneficiaries” http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/pseche-784875 (Accessed
___Encyclopedia of Business (2011). “Agency Theory”.
http://www.enoes.com.biz-encyclopedia/agency-Theory (Accessed 28/10/2010).
Ezekiel, O.C. (2003). The Nature and Administration of Pension Schemes in Nigeria: The
Compendium of Insurance Business in Nigeria. Lagos: CBS Consulting Publication.
____ FRN (1979). Pension Reform Act. Lagos: Government Press.
____ FRN National Assembly (2004). Pension Reform Act. Abuja: Government Press.
Henshaw, E.T. (2006). “Role of the Financial Markets in the Nigerian Pension Reform”
(Accessed 15/12/2012).
Ibe, A.C. (2005). “The Opportunities and Challenges of the New Pension Scheme for Financial
Institutions in Nigeria”. Union Digest, Vol.9, Nos. 3 and 4.
Makele, A. (2008). “Pension Reform in Nigeria”
http://www.gamji.com/articles5000/NEWS5468.htm (Accessed 18/12/2012).
Mitnick, B.M. (2005). “Origin of the Theory of Agency: An Account of One of the Theory’s
___“National Pension Commission (PenCom)” Accessed (15/12/2010) from
Nworgu, B.G. (2006). Educational Research: Basic Issues and Methodology. Ibadan: Wisdom
Publishers Limited.
Olurankinse, F. and Adetula, G.A. (2010). “Functional Analysis of Pension Scheme Reforms in
Nigeria from 1946 to 2006” http://www.faqs.org/periodicals/201009/2087472371.html
(Retrieved: 30/12/2012).
___”Pensioners Plight: Used, Abused and Dumped – The Plight of Pensioners in Nigeria”
Accessed (25/5/2011) from http://www.kyaritijani.com/node/32
___”Retirement” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/file:2005pop_65+,PNG (Accessed 19/3/2011)
Sanni, O. (2005). “Nigerian Pension Reform Act: Legal and Insurance Perspectives”. Journal of
the Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria, Vol. 6, No. 4.
___”What Is an Agency Theory?” http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-an-agency-theory.htm
(Accessed 15/03/2011).
Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Nigeria Nsukka
E-mail:[email protected]
Phone: 08034942063
Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Nigeria Nsukka
E-mail: [email protected], [email protected]
Phone: 08035526236
Governance has been seen as the way decisions are arrived at, implemented, and justified and
used to manage public resources and affairs at local, state, national, organizational and global
levels of human societies. This paper sets out to look at the contributions of art towards
criticizing negative aspects of governance in Nigeria. It shows how art, especially painting, was
used as a tool for exposing the negative sides of governance in Nigeria. For this, the issue of
whether art is tangible enough to play the important role of interrogating bad aspects of
governance in Nigeria was looked at. More so, the vision of the artists, themes that deal with and
address the negative aspects of governance in Nigeria, and photographs of works were relied on
in this study to show how relevant they are in exposing bad governance in Nigeria. Furthermore,
this study has revealed that art is a veritable tool for interrogating, and exposing those bad sides
of governance in Nigeria, and recommended that every profession in like manner should make
their own contributions towards challenging bad governance in Nigeria, as no people can
successfully fight bad governance and achieve sustainable progress if they do not first of all rise
up to its true situation -calling things their real names.
Keywords: Art, Critique and Bad Governance
Art is a means of expression and actually a veritable tool for with which the artist
interrogates reality, calling a spade a spade on the basis of his/her imagery and symbolic form.
These imageries and symbolic forms can be visually perceived as a piece of sculpture executed
in fiberglass, a painting on canvas, a ceramic piece, soft textile sculpture or wall hanging
(tapestry), a stained glass window and a bronze head.
In Nigeria for instance, many artists have been using art since the early sixties, to
interrogate bad governance. Artists like Akinola Lasekan, Chike Aniakor, Obiora Udechukwu,
El Anatsui, Gani Odutokun, Jerry Buhari, Chika Okeke, Krydz Ikwuemesi, Ozioma Onuzulike,
Olu Oguibe, Chijioke Onuorah, Ndidi Dike, Eva Obodo, S.M. Onyeanu, Tayo Adenaike, and
other artists in Nigeria and in the Diaspora, have contributed immensely towards using art to
dare, interrogate and criticize bad governance in Nigeria.
What then do we mean by bad governance? The answer to this question requires a
prismatic view of what constitutes good governance. Good governance according Ani (2011) is
“a situation in which the masses have access to social amenities such as good drinking water,
healthcare, good roads, security, and employment opportunities, good and affordable education”
(p.61). Taking cognizance of these factors enumerated above, the question becomes, how far
have the masses experienced good governance in Nigeria? The history of Nigeria as a sovereign
nation has been eventful and equally traumatic. The tragic consequences of the Nigerian civil
war of 1967 to 1970 as well as the incursion of the military into the act of governance from 1965
to 1999 were major setbacks to the development of the Nigerian nation state and more so, on the
collective psyche of the Nigerian people. Democratically elected governments have also not
lived up to expectations as money laundering, corruption, looting, embezzlement, and many
other vices still bestride the Nigerian landscape. Ikwuemesi (2012) notes:
It is true that some of the vices ravaging Nigeria are not isolated cases,
but most often things take an astronomical turn in the country. This
explains why corruption has become so embedded in the system; bad
governance is an accepted style in statecraft; materialism has become
the dominant life style; architecture has transformed from a social art
into the very expression of materialism itself and perhaps the dogged
pursuit of ignorance and hedonism (pp. xix-xx)
In response to these existential problems, artists have risen up to the task of addressing
these menaces through their art. This is evident in their choice of themes as will be examined
Interrogating negative aspects of governance in Nigeria through art
Artists have very important and significant roles to play in nation building. As the
vanguard and custodian of civilization, their works become a vehicle for social commentary and
a potent tool for the redress of socio-political and economic problems. Aniakor (1989) vividly
captures this creative posture when he states that “the artist’s works become the voice of reason
charged with the responsibility to name the un-nameable and in the process, prevent the world
from going to sleep” (p.6).
Let us take a look at those instances where artists have used works of art to criticize bad
governance in Nigeria. For example, when Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was struggling against
imperialism, the artistic contributions of Akinola Lasekan were instructive. According to
Ikejiani-Clark (2004) “his paintings were as politically instrumental as his cartoons in the West
African Pilot were devastating to imperialism”(p.8). Lasekan’s works touched all aspects of
colonial rule and experiences, racial injustices, nationalism, corruption, quality education,
illiteracy, unity, and discrimination, among other issues. His cartoons were very incisive,
uncompromising, emotionally effective and of socio-political relevance.
The underlying themes of most works of art also provide a direct or indirect interrogation
of societal ills. The messages they convey to the viewing audience assume visual reality through
the creative deployment of compositional elements facilitated by the domestication and mastery
of media. Themes accompanying works of art like And the Beast had the Face of One I know , a
pen and ink drawing by Olu Oguibe; The Journey (mixed media painting) by George Odoh;
Hangman also dies (wood panel sculpture) by Chijioke Onuorah; Civil servants crying on pay
day by Ozioma Onuzulike; Politician addresses a rally (pen and ink drawing) by Krydz
Ikwuemesi; And they peep to see the ruins: Failure of leadership (oil on canvas) by Martins
Okoro; Chike Aniakor’s, Allegory of power (pen, ink, wash and watercolour); Fallen rider
(Charcoal drawing) by Gani Odutokun; Obiora Udechukwu’s The Road, the general and the
noose (ink, wash, pencil and watercolor) and The chameleon (soft etching) also by Udechukwu,
among others, criticize the negative aspects of governance in Nigeria. After all, the formalism of
an art work is largely dependent on the mode of presentation of its meaning – its theme.
A well thought out theme is of great relevance in art creation. If it comments on the
disruptions in the political, social and economic components of the environment, then, the role of
art as a mediator of experiences is ultimately fulfilled. Okeke (1992) stresses:
Art is a weapon for changing and building the society into that which
only our subtlest emotion can contrive. It is not mere decoration. It is
aesthetic and functional. It should raise questions, address issues, and
console the dejected… berate and castigate the bad… (as cited in
Oloidi, 2002, p.250).
It has also been pointed out that art is for creating awareness. It also catalyzes discussions on a
topic as well as contributing to an already engaged debate. (K. Ene-Orji, Personal
communication, June 11, 2013). For the artist, Krydz Ikwuemesi, the interrogatory stance taken
by some works of art has to do with ones background and attitude. He believes that art should
not be created for its own sake considering the fact that so many unfinished processes and so
many conflicts characterize living in Africa. He further asserts that art “has to say something, it
has to address something, it has to be hinged on issues and my experiences as a member of
society” (K. Ikwuemesi, personal communication, June 11, 2013).
In the light of the relationship between art and society, these questions insist: Should the
artist point out societal ills? Is it given to the artist to interrogate the negative aspects of
governance? What kind of reality is art constructing? Does art serve as a visual marker in the
creative rhythm of time? A good number of Nigerian artists create works of art that assume an
interrogative stance. Their works question, lament and make comments about the negative
aspects of governance in Nigeria. They have also become increasingly concerned with the social
conditions in Nigeria and these are reflected in art works created in diverse media. The
domination of the Nigerian peoples by her leaders, as well as the plight of the citizenry, has also
received creative attention. Art is used to portray the ills of the society like economic roguery,
political banditry, social decapitation and greed, especially that of leaders in different spheres of
governance. For example, And they peep to see the ruins: Failure of leadership, a painting by
Martins Okoro, executed in oil on canvas in 2004, addresses the chaos wrought by incompetent
leadership. Kingsley Ene-Orji (2008) is right when he essays:
“Art has always been employed in leadership… the modern
and contemporary artists have used it to rein in leaders.
Today’s artist employs satire, irony or even frontal critique
to tell the truth” (p.6)
Contemporary Nigerian art in its aesthetic and conceptual trappings carries messages that
unmask and expose the contradictions of the social order. This is understandable in view of the
statement that:
“The artist becomes an integral part of his environment and by the
virtue of his creative posture, deconstructs and reconstructs at both
personal and collective levels, the internalized experiences that impact
on his day to day existence. (Odoh, 2012, p.154)
Oguibe (1988) also reaffirms this by noting:
The aspiration of all great art is to exhume the essence, to capture and
preserve for history the collective schizophrenia of a generation, to
touch on the greater truth. And there is no truth in escape. Truth is the
taste of bitterleaf. Truth is the chill of the harmattan…My art is fuelled
by a seething anger…I yearn for the ultimate eloquence, the living
voice of thunder…there must be some hidden essence, the supreme
tongue. I yearn for that tongue. Unbind me (as cited in Oloidi, 2002,
Through the various instruments of artistic languages, Nigerian artists have challenged as well as
exposed the socio-economic and political dilemma of underdevelopment, social transformation,
and problems of human dignity, misery, poverty and inequality. Since art is a function of the
environment, the dominance of works critically engaging socio-political and economic issues of
governance in Nigeria is to be expected. In the exhibition titled Whirlwinds across the Nation
held in 1992, the artist, Chika Okeke, reacted to issues bordering on the socio-economic and
political realities in Nigeria. Okeke becomes the eyes and mouthpiece of Nigerian citizens, using
brushes and a palette of colours as media of inquiry and commentary.
The works of Nigerian artists are tools for engaging issues of governance. They silently
provide a potent communicative propagandist and ideological weapon in governance. For
example, Obiora Udechukwu’s acrylics painting titled Basket Mouth (Plate 1) created in 1993,
“depicts the artist as a “madman” whose acerbic criticism is meant to be injurious to none other
than the tyrant” (Agbayi, 2002, p.7). Oppressor (Plate 2), a mixed media painting by Nsikak
Essien, shows a colossal figure sitting atop defenseless masses. In the art exhibition with the
theme Onye Ndidi, Udechukwu (1985) laments that “we seem to be caught in a new cult of easy
money, embezzlement of public funds, exploitation of the weak and extortion. A nation that
cannot feed her people is in trouble, and that is putting it mildly” (as cited in Ottenberg, 1997,
p.133). Kunle Filani, in his oil painting The Cake in Niger Delta (Plate 3), executed in 2003,
aptly captures and draws attention to the crisis in the Niger Delta. It also portrays the insatiable
urge of political office holders to partake in the sharing of the “national Cake”, “a quest that
engenders widespread corruption and oppression” (Agbayi, 2003, p.6).
Plate 1
Obiora Udechukwu
Basket Mouth, 1993, Acrylics
Plate 2
Nsikak Essien
Oppressor, 1987, mixed media
Photo source: Homage to Asele
(Exhibition catalogue)
Photo source: Aka ‘87 (Exhibition catalogue)
Plate 3
Kunle Filani
The Cake in Niger Delta,
2003, oil on canvas
Plate 4
Chike Aniakor
Falcon descent on the people,
2003, pen, ink and watercolour
Photo source: Homage to Asele (Exhibition
Photo source: Simon Ottenberg (1997) New Traditions
from Nigeria: Seven Artists of the Nsukka Group
The apparent disconnect between leaders and the led informs Tony Umunna’s work titled
The People and Destiny (glazed ceramics). The work captures the lean faces of the people and
raises question on the nation’s destination and the relationship between the people and
politicians. Writing on “Art in the Service of Politics: Politics in the Service of Art” IkejianiClark (2004) notes that “contemporary Nigerian art such as Nsukka prints, harbour messages
with tremendous and profound implications” (p.8). An example is Expectation by Ndidi Dike
which depicts hardship prevalent in today’s society. The work also underscores hopelessness
occasioned by bad governance. C.C. Okorie’s work titled War in its mystical and colouful
splendor makes philosophical inquiry into the “dog eats dog” poise of Nigeria’s political turf. So
also is Bad Belle Ancestors by Chijioke Onuorah, another artist of the Nsukka Art School. The
work addresses the typical scenario in Nigeria politics whereby political actors employ devious
strategies in the face of unfavourable political fortunes (Ibid).
The artist and art historian, Chike Aniakor, in recent years has become increasingly
concerned with social condition in Nigeria. This is clearly evident in the work titled Falcon
Descent on the people (Plate 4) which ponders on the domineering stance of Nigerian leaders
and the plight of the citizenry. Executed in ink and watercolour, it depicts the bad leader as a
predatory falcon hovering over a group of defenseless people with the intent to devour them. Olu
Oguibe, in his ink drawing titled And the Beast had the Face of One I Know, skillfully and
conspicuously depicts the photograph of a Nigerian Head of State as a beast who, from his seat
of power, unleashes terror on defenseless and helpless Nigerians. In the lyrics of one of the songs
by the Afro-beat musician, Fela Anikulapo’ Kuti, the then Head of State was “Baba, if you put
am ngida, na you sabi”. Another of Oguibe’s work, We are all Lizards Sprawling in the Sun
(Plate 5), produced in 1989, depicts a central image of a lizard inscribed with crossed swords,
staff and a general’s insignia, and surrounded by five smaller lizards. Here, the artist alludes to
the hopelessness of ordinary Nigerians in the face of tyranny. (Ottenberg, 1997, p.230).
Gani Odutokun’s Fallen Rider (Plate 6) produced in1992, depicts a man lying on the
ground having been thrown down by his horse. This piece teaches a moral and bitter lesson on
the impermanence of circumstances in this case, the rise and fall from power of oppressive
leadership. The rider represents the leader while the horse, the masses. The rider (the leader) is
looking up to the horse to save him while the horse (the people) forsakes him because of his
unscrupulous attitude. This work is the artist’s way of criticizing the bad aspect of governance in
Nigeria. Through art, Gani Odutokun, now late, having died in a tragic road accident in 1995,
fought for the cause of the common man as can be gleaned from the politically charged thematic
thrusts of his works such as Oppressor, For the Oppressed, Dry Earth, and Face of Man. Gani
Odutokun is no doubt an artist whose paintings have directly criticized leadership in a corrupt
Nigerian society as his empirical paintings bear testimonies to this submission.
Plate 5
Olu Oguibe
We are all Lizards Sprawling in the Sun, 1989,
Gouache on basket
Photo source: Simon Ottenberg (1997) New traditions
from Nigeria: seven artists of the Nsukka group
Plate 6
Gani Odutokun
Fallen Rider, 1992, charcoal
Photo source: Gani Odutokun: A legend
of Nigerian art (exhibition catalogue)
The eminent scholar and artist, Dele Jegede, in his paintings, focuses on themes which
express the difficulties surrounding day to day existence in Nigeria. His, is the lamentation of a
decadent system. In his exhibition titled EKO RE E, the artist emphasizes the chaotic nature of
the nation as well as exposing the penchant for discriminatory application of principles. The
paintings featured in the exhibition, mostly critique the various social and economic
implementation programs initiated by the government and its effects on the populace. Indeed,
they are visual metaphors that seek to intercede between social extremes while also accentuating
the various contradictions and degradation inflicted upon the collective psyche of Nigerians by a
few political miscreants (Aguwa, 1999, p.16). This conscious interest in socio-political and
economic experiences is in line with the admonition that
Though an artist is creatively and conceptually free to express himself,
it is just fair that he should market his art, even if occasionally
consoling those who either physically, socially or politically, seem to
be permanently trapped in the deep valley of misery (Oloidi, 2002,
Aligning with this remark, Onuzulike (2013) speaks about the social vision that frames his art
practice. He notes:
From my point of view and from my own practice, I have actually
tried to speak up for example, against man’s inhumanity to man, social
conflicts, wars, attendant results of wars as well as the hands that are
setting the fires of these wars.
(O. Onuzulike, personal
communication, June 11, 2013)
From individual and collective artistic standpoints, existential issues will continue to furnish
artists with ideas through which experiences can be mediated and represented in order to agitate
and rouse the mind from a state of indifference to that of enlightenment and may be, initiate
responses to issues raised by these works of art.
In this paper, the contributions of art in criticizing bad governance in Nigeria were
examined. It also x-rays how themes accompanying works of art convey meanings that question
bad governance in Nigeria. The meanings and essence of art as a mirror of society is more than
reinforced. As a relevant tool for national development, it enables us to “reflect, rethink, and in
the process, repackage experiences through creating channels by which works of art feed the
imagination, sensitize our emotions and returns to us, life’s drumbeats we have already begun to
take for granted ( Aniakor, 1990, p.3). Art provides a competent voice with which to interrogate
the complex situations of the Nigerian condition as caused by bad governance.
All in all, the task of nation building is not the prerogative of artists, but a task
that every well meaning Nigerian should embark on, irrespective of professional affiliation.
Enebe (2012) also offers admonition:
The present day Nigerian society with its economic and political
constraints would be rather better if more hardworking Nigerians can
help the nation to increase its productivity. Nigeria has abundant
human and natural resources but it needs a crop of hardworking
people to set it on the path of progress. Nigerians should all have the
innate desire to contribute positively to the development of the nation
All aspects of bad governance that retrogress the development of Nigeria, should be critically
interrogated and criticized in order for the nation to move forward. Through these criticisms, the
good aspects of governance will become enthroned and Nigeria will be a much more comfortable
place to live in. The issue of governance in Nigeria has been a tale of dashed hopes and it will be
utterly insensitive for Nigerians to pretend that all is well. Speak and be heard!
Agbayi, E. (2003). “Homage to Asele and art in Nigeria: a contemplative discourse. Homage to
Asele, (exhibition catalogue). Lagos: Pendulum Art Gallery.
Aguwa, I. (1999). Artist’s view of military in politics, (Unpublished MFA Project Report),
University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria.
Ani, C.K.C. (2011). The philosophical underpinnings of good governance and millennium
development challenges in Africa. Journal of Good Governance in Africa, Vol. 2 (No1),
Nsukka: Institute of African Studies.
Aniakor, C.C. (1989). Aka: the conquests of an artistic vision. Aka ‘89 (exhibition catalogue).
Enugu: Cecta Nigeria
… (1999). The role of art in nation building: a historical perspective. Songs of Gold, (exhibition
catalogue) Lagos: National Gallery of Art.
… (1990). The relevance and meanings of art. Achebe Celebration (exhibition catalogue)
Nsukka: Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Nigeria.
Enebe, G. (2012). The emerging Nigerian nation and moral and socio-political degeneration: a
historical insight. Ikwuemesi, K. (ed.) Astride Memory and Desire: Peoples, Cultures and
Development in Nigeria. Enugu: ABIC Books
Ene-Orji, K. (2008). Art and leadership. Art and Governance in Africa (exhibition catalogue).
Nsukka: Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Nigeria.
Ikejiani-Clark, M. (2004). Art in the service of politics: politics in the service of art. Oloidi, O.
(Ed.) Modern Nigerian Art in Historical Perspectives, Enugu: Art Historical Association
of Nigeria.
Ikwuemesi, K. (Ed.) (2012). Astride Memory and Desire: Peoples, Cultures and Development in
Nigeria. Enugu: ABIC Books
Odoh, G. (2012). Resistance art in service of humanity: a review of works of contemporary
Nigerian artists. Okoro, N. et al (Eds.). International Journal of Communication, (No.
13B, August, 2012), 154-167. Enugu: Communication Studies Forum
Oloidi, O. (2002). Ilé Ọlà Ùlì: Nsukka art as fount and factor in modern Nigerian art. Ottenberg,
S. (Ed.) The Nsukka Artists and Nigerian Contemporary Art. Seattle and London:
University of Washington Press
Ottenberg, S. (1997). New Traditions from Nsukka: Seven Artists of the Nsukka Group,
Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution.
Nwoke, Mary Basil Ph.D
Department of Psychology
University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Postal code 41000, Nsukka
E-mail [email protected]
This study investigated the impact of violent conflict on the emotional adjustment of children in
Nigeria. Two groups of participants were involved. The first group was sixteen children from
Co- educational Secondary School in Nsukka, Enugu State (8 boys and 8 girls). Twelve of these
were (12-14) years, with a mean age of 13 years while the other four were two boys and two
girls, age (14-16) years, with a mean age of 15 years. This group provided the preliminary
information on their emotional feelings of violent conflict. The second group was 200 secondary
school students from Co-educational(Urban)Secondary School in Enugu, randomly sampled on
equal gender sample from junior secondary three (JSS 3, age 13-15) years and senior secondary
three (SSS 3, age 16-18) years with mean age of 14 years and 17 years respectively. The results
showed that there was significant relationship between violent conflict and emotional adjustment
of children r=.88 P<.001.
Key words: violent conflict. emotional adjustment. childhood
Observation of what is happening in Nigeria today in terms of insecurity of life hovering
all over the place creates a lot of emotional turbulence in people. The rampant cases of
ethnic group clashes, religious upheaval, political bickering, human trafficking, kidnapping,
armed robbery, raping, killing and the most recent Boko Haram sect incessant bombing
activities show that the security system in the country is highly porous. These social evils
rearing their heads high in the country can be so debilitating on the emotional state of the
individuals especially children who are emotionally easily disturbed.
Nwoke (2010)
observed that all the antisocial behaviours, dehumanization and the like are impinging
heavily on the emotional domain and the subsequent adjustment of youngsters who by the
virtue of their developmental stage are facing a lot of emotional storm and stress.
It has been variously observed that the body and face play important roles in understanding
children’s emotions which can be pleasant or unpleasant. For example children panic and are
restless when they are subjected to stressful situations (Harris, 1989, Chauhan, 1991, Nwoke,
2007a). Harris (1989) explained emotion as a feeling that involves a mixture of psychological
arousal, for example a fast heartbeat and an overt behaviour such as a smile or a grimace of face.
Buss and Plomin (1984) posited that children’s or infants’ temperament falls into three basic
categories, namely: active, easy and difficult temperament, and emotionality is the tendency to
display any type of temperament. It reflects the arousal of a person’s sympathetic nervous
system which is further expressed in actions or behaviours.
Nweze (1996) indicated that life experiences are known to form the individual’s social and
emotional adaptation which includes the personality development and adjustment of children
who are more prone to emotional storm and stress. Santrock (2006, 2007) also observed that
differences in children’s social and emotional life experiences are indeed a function of the
interaction between the individuals and their social environments. These imply that whatever the
nature the environment always impacts on the emotional adjustment of the child. If it is
peaceful, it gives peace and healthy interpersonal relationship with neighbours. A feeling of
comfort and leads to the sense of security. If the environment is hostile, with violent conflict, it
portends insecurity, which creates emotional turbulence in the individuals and especially
children. In the violent conflict ridden zones, people especially children feel insecure, they are
emotionally distressed, full of anxiety and are tensed-up with fears of the unknown events.
Nigeria is a country with multi-ethnic groups, multi-religious and diversified cultural
backgrounds. It is a nation imbued with the potentials for greatness. The country is highly
endowed with both human and material resources. Nigeria is peopled by highly prolific and
resourceful individuals who have shown some knack for speedy actualization of the goals of
nationhood. Nigeria has the prospect of maintaining an enviable socio-political legacy that can
stand the test of time. But unfortunately, the one problem that has continued to rear its ugly head
and persistently threatening to tear the vision of this great nation into shreds is the gory spates, of
intra-ethnic-socio-religious violent conflict.
Socio-religious violent conflict and politically
motivated killings are presently plaguing the country (Iwu, 2011/2012). Since the enthronement
of the current democratic process in 1999, the nation has witnessed catalogues of senseless intraethnic-religious killings and brutal assassinations of a good number of high profile Nigerians
over trivial political differences. Some of those who were killed were innocent victims and those
who wanted to identify their efforts to extricate vintages of social injustice in the country.
Review of related literature
Adejumobi (2005) revealed that apart from the fact that the nation underwent a civil war
between 1967 and 1970; in the last two decades, there has been the resurgence of identity based
violent conflicts mostly of ethno-religious dimensions. These conflicts have seen communities,
ethnic groups, clans and tribes take up arms against each other. A surprising thing about these
conflicts is that they span across almost the entire breath of the country embracing the different
geo-political zones. Often it is a gory scene that these conflicts assume both rural and urban
dimensions; thereby creating tensions and mental agony in many individuals. Of course children
are not drafted out of these scenes. For instance in the southern part of the country, there is the
Ife-Modakeke, Ijaw-Ilaje, Umuneri-Aguleri violent conflicts. In the Northern part of the country
there is Tiv-Jukun, Zangon-Kataf, Chamba-Kute violent conflicts amongst others. In addition to
these are the religious based crises spurred by the introduction of sharia, a panel code in some
states of Northern Nigeria. This in effect ignited debilitating crisis in places like Zamfara,
Kaduna, Kano, Bauchi and Jos. In such violent conflicts, many families got displaced and most
of the children see their parents or siblings killed in such violent conflicts. What a gory scene?
Adejumobi (2005) also observed that in some states in the north, Muslims now occupy
one area and the Christians occupy another. Momo (2001) succinctly described the situation in
Northern Nigeria as the creation of Mecca for the Muslims in Kaduna North, and Jerusalem for
Christians in Kaduna South; and in Kano it is the creation of American city for the Christians
and Afghanistan city for the Muslims. It is observed that these crises became more acute as
boundaries between ethnic groups and religious identities tend to overlap, children are not
isolated from the scenes, they are parts and parcel of the crises. Children from these areas are
subjected to the emotional agony and are psychologically traumatized as they witness the gory
situations and internalize such bitter events and woes. Such children wallow in the sea of
emotional turbulence, confusion, abject misery, mistrust, hostility and insecurity. Children from
such zones have learned aggression and are prone to aggressive- crime behaviours of fighting,
killing, destroying, burning, setting places and buildings ablaze. (Nwosu,2000, Santrock,2007,
Nwoke, 2010).
Abudul (2002) indicated that the scale of human tragedy that often accompanied violent
conflict in Nigeria is monumental. It was observed that in recent times as many as thousands of
people have lost their lives in communal, ethnic and religious conflicts. With these followed
unprecedented loss of property, social displacement and violation of human rights. Abudul
(2002) cited an example with religious riot in Kaduna State in February, 2000, where 1,400
people were reported killed, over 1,944 buildings comprising hotels, business centres, and
residences were destroyed and more than 70,000 people were displaced with their hapless
children. In the Tiv-Jukun communal conflict of November, 2001, it was estimated that more
than 2,000 people were killed and property worth 50 million naira destroyed and the rights of
over 50,000 people were violated as they fled from their various home stead. It is observed that
in the major cities of Nigeria like Kano and Lagos which are mostly cosmopolitan, new
dimensions of ethnic-based urban violent conflicts abound. There are new types of ethnic militia
to protect their ethnic group and localities and drive out ‘non-indigene Nigerians’. The logic of
inclusion and exclusion is based on ethnic identity. It therefore implies that the lives and rights of
the ‘non-indigenes Nigerians’ (Nigerians who took refuge to another part of the country) are at
In recent times violent conflicts in the Northern States like Bauchi, Jos, Maiduguri, Kano
and Kaduna have claimed numerous lives of adults, youths and children; and uncountable
children are left roaming about the streets, without hope, without home, and without security.
Such children may not understand any other language than that of war, rancour, hostility, strife
and violent conflict. One wonders what the future of Nigeria would be with this sort of hostile
cohabitations and violent conflicts. The effects of the acts are disastrous and debilitating on
humanity, especially on youngsters who are more emotionally stricken. Nwoke (2010) posited
that whatever types of behaviour the individual child is greeted with is what he /she makes his/
her pattern of life and behaviour.
Nwoke (2010) succinctly explained that the way things are happening in Nigeria looks queer and
tends to put the country in dilemma. There is disorder, bickering and rancor. The dichotomy
prevalent in the country is a reflection of adults’ life and the characteristic ways of handling
social issues which the young generation is copying. If Nigerian adults use derogatory words on
others and initiate violent conflicts in the country, then the young ones will declare hot war.
This is because whatever language character presented to the youngster, such becomes his/her
point of reference
Observation shows that since Nigeria gained her independence, there has not been genuine
peace. The nation has been moving from one form of violence to another, inter-ethnic conflict,
political bickering and instability, religious upheavals, oil and gas wealth tussle in the Niger
Delta region. The country had lived in rancour over its identity despite of the years of managing
to live together; this is portrayed in the incessant ferocity of crisis that claimed thousand of lives.
These various violent conflicts have led to bloodshed, destruction of property, insecurity and
instability in the country. Some Nigerians have left the country because of routine type of violent
conflict in the country and the security of life has become so porous (Erinsho, 2004).
Nwoke (2009) noted that in the state of anarchy or violent conflicts many people are
often declared missing. Some of the missing people are captured by the stronger force, and are
used for rituals. Some others are sold to human hawkers who later hawked them to any part of
the world which is involved in human trafficking. Children from these violent conflict-ridden
zones are not isolated from the conflict scenes and most often the children are the worst hit
group. It is important to note that children in the violent conflict ridden zones may have been
affected cognitively, emotionally, psychologically, socially, morally as well as in their
interpersonal relationships with neighbours and society at large. If the children become affected,
it may take time for them to understand any other language, or social behavioural pattern than
that of violent conflict, rancour and strife in their life.
There are so many health hazards associated with violent conflict. For instance, many people
especially children die of malnutrition and unquantifiable diseases, resulting from psychological
trauma, fear and anxiety. IRIN’s (2001) report stated that the health condition of most of the
children of the internally displaced people in Gombe State was pathetic and they got
malnourished due to irregular and poor feeding. The children are developing fever and diarrhea
at the camp.( IRIN,24 July,2001). Inweregbu (2007) observed that most of the children develop
fever and diarrhea and die, because in most violent conflict situations health facilities are
disrupted. With the problem of ill-health such children remain in endemic agony and misery.
“For instance, Red Cross report, in Medicare , at Uikpam Camp (2001).
Nigeria children in armed conflict situations face the double tragedy of denied education and
vulnerability to life threatening diseases. Women and children in particular are susceptible to
worries at the difficult conditions which they had to endure, A nurse from the main hospital in
Makurdi, the Benue State Capital drafted to provide emergency medicare for victims in Uikpam
Camp. She laments:
…. ‘’those arriving were suffering everything from exhaustion and
dehydration to machete cuts. The situation is desperate. People are just fleeing. We met some of
them with an ambulance but there were just too many. Some women had just given birth and
fled, abandoning their babies. One woman had died in childbirth on the road’’
Ibeanu (1999) found that tribal conflicts and internal population displacement make people
feel exiled and strange wherever they find themselves. Neil (2005) and Inweregbu (2007)
observed that during armed conflicts, children get trapped into various circumstances. Often
times they live in areas where they may be required or forced to participate in low-intensity
warfare for many years, their families may be displaced and may lose their possessions and
lands, they may be separated from caregivers or remain with them, wallowing in the hollow
hands of abject poverty. Such children may be abducted by armed groups; they may be sexually
exploited and tortured. Such children may witness death, killing and injuries of their parents,
other family members, friends and neighbours. One could imagine the emotional distress of
children with such awful and traumatic experiences.
Some of the major security problems identified in Nigeria and elsewhere to include:
political and electioneering conflicts, socio-economic agitations, ethno-religious crisis, ethnic
militias, boundary disputes, cultism, criminality and organized crimes. These problems,
individually or collectively constitute threats to the peace, security and development of the
country. Be this as it may, the prevalence of these security problems can have debilitating impact
on the emotional adjustment of children. Usually there is an aftermath effect or post traumatic
stress disorder of violent conflict on children. Aftermath effect or post traumatic stress disorder
is a configuration of symptoms experienced after a violent traumatic even t(Iwu, 2011/2012).
Cunningham and Cunningham (1997) classified this as anxiety disorder, which may be acute or
chronic in nature and it can be for short or long term duration.
Hicks, Lalonde, and Pepler (1993) reported that individuals (children or adolescents)
suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may exhibit symptoms of confused and
disordered memory about issues or events. They may engage in repetitive play themes that depict
trauma, or personality change. Such individuals may initiate violent behaviour that may
culminate to disaster. These symptoms may vary across age groups. For instance, preschoolers
generally manifest very high anxiety, social withdrawal and regressive behaviours. Symptoms in
school age children may include flash backs, exaggerated startle responses, poor concentration,
sleep disturbance. They may complain physical discomfort and conduct behaviour problems.
Symptoms in adolescents may include acting out an aggressive behaviour, delinquency,
nightmare trauma and guilt over one’s own survival. So children exposed to violent conflict
always have a history of agonizing and traumatic stress experiences
Purpose of the study
The purpose of this study therefore was to investigate the impact of violent conflict on the
emotional adjustment of children in Nigeria. By way of definition children meant in this study
embraces people from age 1 to 18 years. Violent conflict, involves all physical or armed
combats that can upset the emotional state of the observer, especially that of the youngsters. It
was hypothesized in this study that, there would be relationship between violent conflict and
children’s emotional adjustment. That younger children would report to be more emotionally
upset than the older children. Also that female children would be more emotionally disturbed
than male children
Two groups of participants were used in this study. The first group consists of sixteen children,
eight males and eight females, age (12 – 16) years with a mean of 14 years. This group was
sampled from Co- educational Secondary School in Nsukka, using snowballing technique. This
group was necessary because it provided firsthand information on children’s opinion concerning
how they feel about violent conflicts. The second group was two hundred male and female
students from Co-educational (Urban) Secondary School in Enugu. One hundred students, fifty
males and fifty females from junior secondary three (JSS III, age (13 – 15) years with a mean
age of 14 years; and one hundred students, fifty males and fifty females from senior secondary
three (SSS III, age (16 – 18) years, with a mean age of 17 years. In all two hundred and sixteen
(216) students volunteered to participate in the study.
Emotional Adjustment Scale (EAS), a 21- item instrument developed and validated by the
researcher, was used in the study to assess children’s emotional adjustment on violent conflict.
The instrument was given to six experts in Social Science and Education to judge for face and
content validities. Six (100 %) of them endorsed the instrument as having face and content
validities. Items presented statements to which the participants responded on 3 point of True
(3),likely (2) and False (1). The scores range between 21 –63 points, with a mean score of 31.5
points. If a participant scored above 31.5 points, he/she sees the impact of violent conflict if it is
below 31.5 points; he/she does not see how violent conflict could impact on the emotional
adjustment of children.
Since the instrument for this study was new, it was necessary to determine the internal
consistency of the items and this was done by item analysis. Twenty (21) items of the original 30
items had internal correlation. Further analyses using the split - half method yielded coefficients
reliability ranging from 0.36 to 0.87. The alpha coefficient reliability was .90; which indicates
that (EAS) is a reliable instrument for measuring emotional adjustment of children in Nigeria.
The researcher visited the Co- educational Secondary School and disclosed the purpose of her
research to the School authority, who then allowed her to interact and interview the students.
The researcher with the help of research assistants, using snow balling technique selected the
sixteen participants who volunteered themselves for the study and provided the first hand
information. The researcher structured the information obtained into a research questionnaire.
With the help of research assistants the scale was administered to the second group of
participants made up of 200 students from Co- educational Secondary School in Enugu . The
participants were randomly sampled from the two target classes junior secondary three and
senior secondary three, and they freely participated in the in the study.
The design employed was Cross-sectional survey design. Pearson product moment
correlation coefficient was used in analyzing the data to test the first hypothesis. In addition, a 2
x 2 Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was used with two levels of gender (males and females) and
two age levels (JSS 3 and SSS 3) to analyze the data and to test the second and third hypotheses.
Table 1 Mean and standard deviation of scores of respondents by age
JSS 3(13-15)
58. 8
SS3 (16-18)
The results in Table 1 showed that the younger children slightly scored higher than the older
children on the scale of emotional adjustment of children in Nigeria, with M = 58.8 SD =7.8 for
JSS3 and M =50. 2 SD=5.54 for SSS3. The result seems to suggest that younger children can be
more emotionally affected in times of violent conflict.
Table 2 Mean and standard deviation scores on responses according to gender
57. 7
6 .6
The results in table 2 showed that the females slightly scored higher than the male children on
the scale of emotional adjustment of children in Nigeria with M= 57.7 SD =6. 6 for females and
M = 53.5 SD =5.4 for males. The results buttress the fact that females can be more emotional
than males in times of violent conflict.
The Pearson product Moment comparing the responses yielded a significant positive relationship
r=88 p< .001 (2 tailed). Thus the expectation of significant positive correlation between violent
conflict and emotional adjustment of children was confirmed
Table 3 Summary table of a 2x2 (ANOVA) of mean scores on EAS for group comparison
Source of variation
1310. 2
Age x Gender
1310 .2
151. 03
23. 3
. 918 **
A two way analysis of variance (ANOVA) performed on the data revealed that there were
significant impact of both age and gender, F(1,197) = 28.5 P < .0001 and F(1,197) = 23.31 P <
.0001 respectively. Age x gender interaction was not significant, F (1,197) = 0.013 P < .918.
The results seem to suggest that both males and females, junior and senior perceive the
relationship between violent conflict and children’s emotional adjustment.
There was a significant relationship between violent conflict and emotional adjustment of
children. The first hypothesis of this study which predicted that there would be a significant
relationship between violent conflict and children’s emotional adjustment was confirmed r = 88
P < .001. The findings of this present study support Inweregbu (2007) who observed that
conflicts of all kinds can easily upset children emotionally. Often simple parental
misunderstanding can easily cause children to shed tears and become sad. The second hypothesis
stated that younger children would report to be more emotionally upset than the older children.
The finding of this study upholds that both the younger and older children perceived that violent
conflict can easily upset the emotional state of children; F (1,197) = 28.5 P < .0001. The finding
of this present study supported Nwoke (2007) who observed that unpleasant experiences like
violent conflict can create unpleasant emotions in people especially children. The finding of this
present study also buttressed Chauhan (1991) who observed that unpleasant experiences can
escalate psychological trauma and depression in people and children are not exempted.
The third hypothesis stated that female children will be emotionally more upset than male
children. The findings of this present study showed that both male and female children see
violent conflict as a source of emotional stress F (1.197) = 23.31 P < .0001. This finding,
supported Nwosu (2000, Nwoke, 2007a, 2007b) which observed that violent conflict like armed
robbery, or killing could put human beings of whatever age or gender into emotional turbulence.
By implication, the present finding showed that every human being of varying age and gender
undergoes the psychological traumatic stress experienced in violent conflict of whatever nature.
Children exposed to multiple traumas, like shelling,, armed robbery, kidnapping, bereavement of
parents, victimized/ abused, or who had witnessed violent actions often showed more post
traumatic stress disorder of ranging degrees. Also it is evident that children who had experienced
separation from parents and are displaced exhibited more depressive symptoms than those who
remained with their parents. For example Neil (2005, Santrock 2007, Inweregbu, 2007,
Nwoke,2010) reiterated that post traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) can be more pronounced in
children in terms of severity of exposure, number of times and the proximity of experienced
violent conflicts.
While the finding of this present study is informative, certain limitations must be taken into
consideration. One major limitation of the work is the sample size which may not be a true
representation of the population of children in Nigeria. Also the sampling population came from
one state in Nigeria, Enugu State. A longitudinal study of children who have had direct
experience of violent -conflict would have made a lot of difference.
It is as bitter as it is painful to note that conflicts of all forms usually are initiated by
adult members of the society, but it is the children and the adolescents who suffer the resultant
traumatic outcomes across cultures, ethnic groups or races. They experience the negative
consequences of violent conflict in their lives, their human rights are disrupted and their future
hope dashed in hot conflicts. Violent conflict is an ill wind that does no good to anybody; it
escalates unpleasant emotions of people and causes a lot of mental agony and psychological
traumatic stress to children.
All well meaning adults in the society and the three tiers of
government in Nigeria should gear their efforts in peaceful decision making for the good of
youngsters in general and their quality of life. For continuity to stand there is need to note that
today’s child is tomorrow’s adult and leader, therefore children’s rights, lives and goals must be
respected and secured. If Nigerian children are destroyed through violent conflicts, the country is
then a finished nation.
Since this is the case, the best option is for people to co-habit in peace,
settle their difference through peaceful negotiation without involving the youngsters, through
conflict of any kind.
Abudul, H. (2002). Ethno-religious crisis in Kaduna. Impact on women and children in E.
Alamika and F. Okoye (Eds), Ethno-religious conflict and democracy in Nigeria:
Challenges. Kaduna: Human Right Monitor.
Adejumobi, S. (2005). Identity, citizenships and conflicts: The African experience. In W. A.
Farole & C. Ukeje (Eds), The crisis of the state and regionalism in West Africa.. Dakar:
Council for the development of social science research in Africa (CODESRIA).
Buss, A. H., & Plomin, R. (1984). A temperature theory of personality development. New York:
Wiley Inter Science.
Chauhan, S. (1991). Advanced educational psychology revised edition. New Delhi India: Vikas
Publishing House PVT Ltd.
Cunningham, M., & Cunningham, U. D. (1997). Patterns of symptomology and patterns of
torture and traumatic experiences in resettled refugees. Australian and New Zealand
Journal of Psychiatry, 31 (94), 555 – 565.
Erinosho, I. (2004). Editorial comments no longer at ease security of life and property in
Nigeria. The Nigerian Social Scientist. 7(1), 1-12.
Harris, P. L. (1989). Children and Emoiton. London: Basil Black Well.
Hicks, R. Lalonde, R. N., & Pepler, D. (1993). Psychosocial considerations in the mental health
of immigrant and refugee children. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health
12(2), 71 – 87.
Ibeanu, O. O. (1999). Exiles in their own home conflicts and internal population displacement in
Nigeria: Journal of Refugee Studies 12 (2) 11 – 22.
Inweregbu, A. O. (2007). Children in war. A review of the effects of armed conflict on children.
Unpublished seminar paper, Department of Psychology, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Integrated Regional Information Networks (2001). IRIN Update 1024 of Events in West Africa.
Iwu, L. (2011/2012). Political violence and state of insecurity in Nigeria: Challenges and
prospects. The Thinker, 4, 40 – 42.
Momo, A. (2001). Even birds have home: Explaining the pathologies of the citizenship question
in Nigeria. Empowerment and action. Research centre (EMPARN) Annual Lecture Series
No. 7.
Neil, J. (2005). The effects of armed conflicts on children in Colombia. Available at
www.usofficeroncolombia.org. Retrieved on 12/12/11.
Nweze, A. A. (1996). The Nigeria family impact of adolescent social and emotional adaptation.
Presented at the international society for the study of behavioural development. African
regional workshop. Lusaka.
Nwoke, M. B. (2007a). Perception on the relationship between poverty and emotional adjustment
of street children. Ife Psychologia: An International Journal of Psychology in Africa,
15(4), 82 – 102.
Nwoke, M. B. (2007b). Impact of home type on the antisocial behaviour of secondary school
students. International Journal on Gender and Behaviour Issues 5(2), 1248 – 1259.
Nwoke, M. B. (2009). Factors sustaining human trafficking in the contemporary society:
Psychological implications. Ife Psychologia: An International Journal of Psychology in
Africa, 17 (1), 161 – 175.
Nwoke, M. B. (2010). Impact of xenophobic conflict on personality development of children in
Nigeria. In A. A. Olowu (Eds.), Xenophobia. A Contemporary issues in Psychology (2nd
edition). Retrieved from www.ifepsychologia.org.
Nwosu, J. (2000). Week of senseless killing in Lagos. Sunday Campion, Vol. 1113, No. 43.
Santrock, J. N. (2006). Life span development. Texas: Brown and Benchmark.
Santrock, J. W. (2007). A tropical approach to life span development. Texas: Tata McGrawHill Publishing Company Ltd.
Department of English and Literary Studies
University of Nigeria
The style of the man is the man and a skillful merger of, theme and style makes for the
excellence of a literary style. Nwabueze appreciates the truth in this fact and, therefore, weaves a
story that violates every known conversational principle but projects a pragmatic force that
speaks more powerfully than ordinary words of the play, A Parliament of Vultures. This paper,
therefore, explores the provisions of implicature in pragmatics to show how it is that Nwabueze
uses ordinary words and sentences of English to send messages that have no direct relationship
with the formal additive value of the linguistic medium of transmission. By this, the paper shows
that language is an adaptable instrument for a fictional representation of events in real life.
Knowledge is just an ornament in prosperity and that is probably why many people thirst to
know and understand the world around them. The artist constructs his own idea about this world,
and history provides part of this knowledge but that which derives from the past. Literature is
make-belief but it provides part of this knowledge that is always in season and therefore current
for all times. The politician splits the universe into two halves: “me and not me”. They joggle
with the resources of the nation to acquire what they can to become what they can. In-fact, the
whole world and not just Nigeria is in a crossroad of Socio-political development. Social
thinkers project development along the lines of industrial growth but the political elites express
development in terms of what McMicheal (2000:278) describes as the endless accumulation of
wealth as a rational economic activity.
Nwabueze’s reference to the political tensions in Nigeria jars us with its vibrant language. An
artist who is ablaze with guts and knowledge will never be content to stand aside and watch the
socio-political tensions and contradictions. The Nigerian political scene is a stage and in A
Parliament of Vulture, the parliamentarians are at the center where each man, in his time, plays
many parts, sometimes in the process of building up and at the other times in the process of
pulling down.
Generations which depend on these self-seeking politicians may face their children with covered
faces but the playwright tries to save his own by creating fun out of a serious situation and in this
way, expose the stench which emanates from the anus of the rotten politician. Nwabueze as an
artist, has something for posterity, and in his condemnation of the predatory leadership in
Nigeria, he formulates a discursive agenda that exploits the theater as an enlightenment forum
and of course, a dress rehearsal of the socio-political realities.
Nwabueze’s A Parliament of Vultures reflects the tensions and ideals in the heart of a concerned
artist. The twin affliction of political corruption and social insensitivity are his focus in the play
and the audience is caught in the play by events of different dynamic qualities which pull us here
or push us there and at the end, leave us emotionally drained. Our reaction or response is caused
not just by the language and the playwright’s manipulation of what one may call theatrical
dynamics. As Sporre (2001:19) said, art is a powerful means of expression and we cannot really
recognize or understand how it affects us without using language. For this reason it is important
that we become literate in the language of the arts. Language, therefore, acts as the stimulant of
our senses through which the playwright sets the time, place and atmosphere. Nwabueze as a
craftsman creates events and actions in a masterful technique that underlines the rich and
complex reality of the Nigerian politics.
Of all arts, theatre comes closest to personalizing the love, refection, disappointment, betrayal,
joy and suffering that we experience in our daily lives. This is because theater uses live people
acting out situations that often look and sound like real life and in this way, help us find the
character pieces in ourselves. Although drama is only an attempt to reveal a vision of human life
through time and space, it gives us flesh and blood human beings involved in human actions that
are sometimes strange and unprecedented. Yet theatre is ordinary make- believe.
Arts generally and not just literary art, involves communication and sharing. The humanizing
experience in arts shows that the artist needs people with whom he can share his experience and
to whom he can convey his perception of human reality. In this communication and sharing,
literary art may function as enjoyment, political and social tool, therapy or artifact (p.16) and no
one function is more important than the other nor are they mutually exclusive. As enjoyment,
plays and concerts can provide important escape from everyday care and can treat us to pleasant
times or social occasion. In the same way, works of art can he used as therapy for healing
individuals with illness. Psychodrama for instance provides a vent for mentally ill patients to act
out their illness .Works of art in a much broader sense also act as healing agent for society in
general by creating awareness of the failing and excesses of society. Serious as a work of arts
may be, it may create laughter at some points and we know that laughter caused by comedy
releases endorphins (chemicals produced by the brain) which strengthen the immune system.
Artists can create situation that bring about political change to modify the behaviour of the
people. In ancient Rome, for instance, the authorities use music and drama to keep masses of
unemployed youths occupied in order to quell urban unrest.
Roman playwrights used public platforms to attack incompetent and corrupt officials. The Greek
playwright, Aristophanes, in The Bird employs comedy to challenge the ideas of the leaders of
ancient Athenian society and in Lysistrata, he creates a story in which all the women go on a sex
strike until Athens is rid of war and war mongers.
From what we have seen so far, artists can create situations that bring about political change to
modify the behaviour of the people and in doing this, language remains the rich and adaptable
instrument for the presentations. In literature, the choice of words and sentences is entirely the
author’s but the situation that informs his choice, he shares with the readers. There is something
about this situation that places the reader in some disadvantage: while the author is aware of the
situation, the reader is not, yet the ability of the reader to place the context makes for proper
interpretation of the text. The author’s language is very important because according to
….(1986:13), “it creates a grid of meaning which encourages a slanted perspective of what is
presented” in line with the relevant beliefs the author has been socialized into holding in his
literary world. Nwabueze picks his words meticulously to carry the burden of his experience but
there is not much yet by the way of critical analysis of the structure of language as the author’s
unique way of carrying the burden of his experience. Since a proper interpretation of A
Parliament of Vultures can best be done when the context is brought into focus,
grammaticalization of the author’s reference to the events and people in the text through the
Theory of lmplicature becomes an appropriate interpretive scheme that involves both the formal
features of language and the relationship between these features and the decisive context of
situation. This paper, therefore, exploits the provisions of pragmatics to project Nwabueze’s
construction of Nigerian political experience, in carefully selected words so as to entertain,
instruct and inform (Kah Jick 1999:56).
Implicature in Text Interpretation
For every text, there is always a speaker and writer “speaking” to a people. Although the speaker
or writer does not know the listeners and readers, he is believed to share certain experiences with
them. These listeners or readers, who are familiar with the author’s socio-political or literary
world, are expected to make some linguistic, social, political, cultural or political allowances in
order to operate properly within the given scenario. This is an important principle that governs
language in use and this principle has tested applications in the theory of pragmatics. The theory
of pragmatics begins with Austin’s Speech Acts which provides the original thesis of “how to do
things with words”. Although this paper is primarily concerned with the theory of implicature in
text interpretation, side comments must be made of Speech Acts especially in reaction to the
extreme claim of Logical Positivism that unless a sentence can he tested for its truth or falsity,
that sentence is, strictly speaking, meaningless. This bogus claim cannot stand the test of time
since language is a social phenomenon which is used to act, to ask question, to give orders, to
pronounce judgment and to baptize. The following sentences are important illustrations.
(1) “I name this baby John” (by a priest a church)
(2) “1 do” (in answer to the question, do you take this man as thy wedded husband... until
death do thee part)
(3) “1 sentence you to five years” (by a judge)
These sentences are not truth-evaluable statement and nobody has the right or power to say
“that’s no true” after they have been uttered. Such sentences which are referred to as
performative utterances are, however, subject to some Felicity Conditions which must be met for
the acts to be taken as performed. For instance, the act must be completely performed under
conventional procedure and by the right people. These conditions should be strictly observed for
if a priest, for any reason, names a baby as “Judas” instead of “John”, there is what Austin calls
misfire and the act is not achieved.
It is important to debunk the principle of truth evaluation of sentences in order to create a
comfortable spring board for the application of implicature in text interpretation. Otherwise, it
will be difficult to arrive at what is not said from what is said since the whole notion of
implicature hinges on this kind of projected deduction. The concept of implicature as it is used in
this paper derives from the original Gricean (1975) thesis of conversational implicature which
shows that the intention of a speaker in every talk-exchange is dependent on specific context
identifiable from the speaker’s operational world. The Gricean theory specifies that every
meaningful communication is based on certain co operative principle with four constitutive
maxims. These maxims are summarized as the maxim of quality which requires that participants
make their contributions true while the maxim of quantity demands that they be as informative as
necessary. The maxim of relation says ‘be relevant’ hut the maxim of manner demands that
participants “be perspicuous” to avoid obscurity and ambiguity. These maxims are important
guides which are, however, easily and consciously broken with the assumption that the hearer
will certainly be able to work out the intention of the speaker. This intention is the actual
message technically referred to as the Conversational Implicature. The illustrations below are
necessary to show how this theory can be applied in the interpretation of non-literary text.
Oyeleye and Ayodele (1990:81) examined some Vanguard and The Guardian newspaper
cartoons to show how the discourse structure enhances the pragmatic force in the conversational
implicature. A cartoon entitled Generous Foe has the following dialogue between A and B.
A: Mind if1 smoke?
B: Why not? As a matter of fact, I can get you 10 packets.
A: I see. You work in a company that manufactures cigarettes?
B: No: I work in a company that manufactures caskets.
The first excitement comes from the incongruity in the title. The fact that one is dealing with a
foe who is surprisingly generous violates the maxim of relation. A sudden shift from smoking
and cigarette production to casket manufacture breaks the conversational principle and provides
a vacuum which is to be filled through the power of implicature. Although there is no connection
between the Generous Foe and the content of the cartoon and although there is no direct
relationship between cigarette smoking and casket manufacturing, the conversational implicature
of the above mismatch is the smoking from the medical point of view which the participants in
the talk exchange know, causes death through lung cancer. And anyone who offers 10 packets of
cigarette to another person is not really a friend but a generous foe since cigarette smoking is
dangerous to health. The intended message, therefore, is that speaker B manufacture caskets for
burying the dead and would, as a matter of business, do everything to encourage more death,
smoking being one way to facilitate that.
Textual Analysis
This section of the paper has two operational objectives. First, the section applies the principle of
implicature as a new standard of relevance in the interpretation of A Parliament of Vultures.
Secondly, the section shows how this method of analysis improves our power of understanding
and interpretation of drama. It may be necessary to state that the theory of pragmatics and the
specific application of implicature have a tested application in the novel in Leech and Short
(1981:297) and in the interpretation of poetry in Onuigbo (2005).
It is important to state also that descriptive procedures and critical perspectives in appreciation of
literary texts must be carefully pursued since every critical principle is more or less an
interpretive guide and not a prescriptive rule. The interpretation provided in this paper cannot
therefore, he seen as literal truth but as a fictional shorthand representation of the author’s
intention and propositions in A Parliament of Vultures. This analysis characterizes some of the
linguistic elements which the playwright constructs to present the texture and implicature of the
actions and utterances in the play. The play has a common focus on political tension-resulting
from the unusual desire and pursuit of wealth by the parliamentarians. In examining this theme,
one appreciates the author’s contrived verbal patterns as important contextualization cues in the
analysis. At the end of this enterprise, “mnemonic irrelevances” resulting from subjective
generalizations in the interpretation of the text would have been reduced to the barest minimum.
Above all, an alternative training in interpretive technique would have been provided for the
appreciation of drama.
The attraction in this study begins with the title of the play. It is a parliament of vultures. The
vultures are known to gather where there are carcasses and such a gathering of predatory birds
can never be described as a parliamentary assembly. The author therefore, violates every known
principle of acceptable conversational rules. Ordinarily, the parliament is the legislative body of
a country which is made up of a group of people who make or change the laws of a country. And
these people are politicians who, in their day to day activities, provoke feelings of expectations
that will never square up with the realities of the day. On the other hand, the vultures are
predatory birds that devour dead bodies. The image of the vulture provokes a feeling of filth and
evil. It is really the mismatch between “vulture and parliament” that violates the co-operative
maxims in implicature and, therefore, stirs up imaginations of a chain of processes and results
that are likely to be embodied in the play.
The talk between madam Omeaku and Mr. Brown dictates the tone of events to follow in the
parliament and the possible political dividends that will flow out for the masses. According to
Mrs. Omeaku “what matters is the position you get in parliament. That’s what determines your
financial security”. And Mr. Brown intimates that “we brought Dr. Parkers back from America
for a purpose”: we felt he should have enough connections to help us put money in foreign
banks.” Situation One initiates the reader through a path of unfaithful relationship that run
through the play. Mrs. Onwaku has “a bushman for a husband” in her own judgment (p3), the
parliament is not just a legislative body but essentially an institution that provides “financial
security” (p3), Mr. Brown negotiated the right figures for the election of Dr. Parkers and Mrs.
Omeaku into the parliament. According to him also, Reverend Jossy is not really a minister of
God but “we called him reverend during the campaign because we thought that the title would
purchase us some credibility from the voters”. And Prof. “was a factory worker in London. We
asked him to take that title in order to make our party look intellectual... He doesn’t have a
certificate” (p4). Again, Mr. Omeaku thought he “can invoke the powers of a husband” to stop
his wife from continuing in politics but is a “husband for mouth” who doesn’t know that “it takes
more than a heavy wind to uproot an Iroko”. ln other words, madam Omeaku is an Iroko.
The implicature of the above comments has a Strong pragmatic force that provides an elaborate
background for the proper interpretation of unfolding events in the play. Since implicature
according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2005:1) presents “something meant,
implied or suggested distinct from what is said”, it is important to start our analysis with these
comments to see how Nwabueze has used the resources of language to project messages that do
not necessarily have direct relationships with the additive value of the words in the sentences.
The author breaks the co-operative maxim of quality and relation with the assumption that the
reader will be able to work out the intended implicature.
When we apply the theory of implicature in the analysis of the text, we discover that the author
has broken the conversational maxims in various ways. Mrs. Omeaku breaks the maxim of
quality a number of times by saying what is literally untrue: that she has “a bush man for a
husband” and in deed, a “husband for mouth.” The implicative force of the-statement indicates
the depth of Mrs.’ Omeaku’s bitterness and resentment towards the man who is really her
husband. Mr. Omeaku does not live in the bush and he is the biological father of Nkechi. ‘the
fact that he could “make his wife pregnant establishes his potency. In other words, he is not a
husband for mouth but a husband indeed. Yet, as we examine this background of their
matrimonial relationship, we see that he is after all “a chicken-hearted man.” A husband that can
be pushed down by his wife even after all the poise to challenge her is really a chicken-hearted
husband for mouth.
Again, it is out of tone with established electoral practice to negotiate the right figure for the
election of Dr. Parkers and Mrs. Brown. The success or failure of a candidate depends on the
number of votes the candidate attracts and not on the power of negotiation of a political
godfather. Since it is not proper to negotiate the right figures”, the expression violates the
maxims of quality and quantity because it does not provide enough information. The reader,
therefore, asks a number of questions that could be reasoned out to provide the author’s intention
and the message which it implicates which is simply that even though both Dr. Parkers and Mrs.
Omeaku failed in the election, the results were manipulated in their favour. In the same way, the
use of the verb purchase predicts a tangible noun as the object to be purchased but the choice of
“some credibility as the object of purchased violates the co-occurrence rule and the cooperative
principle. In other words, when Brown declares that the title “reverend” attached to Jossy “would
purchase us some credibility from the voters, he was saying what is literally untrue but politically
true. One needs, therefore, to invoke the Nigerian political landscape to understand the truth in
the expression. From the above illustrations, the playwright demonstrates the power of language
in the operations of human activities. And the reader should appreciate the place of language as
that instrument with a great power of implicature.
The “politics of bitter-leaf soup and the Canadian masquerade’ (p. 22) makes no meaning unless
the special context of use is invoked. Madam Omeaku runs a restaurant known for a delicacy in
bitter-leaf soup and this delicacy has been a special attraction to many people including members
of parliament. These members arc apparently positively disposed to madam Omeaku to be
elected as a member of parliament in preference to Barr. Umeh who has a Canadian wife. In
terms of excellence, Barr. Umeh is preferred to madam Omeaku but because Madam Omeaku
has many of the members in her grip through her bitter-leaf soup, she is elected. Otobo therefore,
describes the context as “a campaign of bitter-leaf and the Canadian masquerade.” This
description does not represent the situation in literal terms since the contest is simply that
between Madam Omeaku and Barr. Umeh. However, when the social background on which
these contestants stand is considered, the whole Contest seems to .he politics of bitter- leaf soup
and the Canadian masquerade. This apparently represents the general condition that affects many
national issues and to Dr. Parkers, therefore, this is simply a generation of vultures (p. 24). In the
real sense, this is a generation of people who are helplessly entangled in the web of unreason.
The people are human beings but since they behave like vultures, which always gather over
carcasses, Dr. Parkers describes this generation as a generation of vultures. This reference breaks
every known conversational maxim but when the pragmatic conventions are imposed, the
author’s intention would become clear and the behavioural pattern of the actors confirms the
reference to vultures as a relevant characterization of these people.
The actual message of the play cannot be clearly manifested from the raw linguistic code but
there is a general tone of rascality among the members of parliament. Dr. Parkers and Mr. Otobo
seem to be the sanitizing agents but it is doubtful if two people can positively affect a -generation
of vipers. In one of the parliamentary sessions, the house, in spite of the objections from Dr.
Parkers and Mr. Otobo decides to swear in members of the assembly, using the ancestral symbol
instead of the bible. The chief of protocol sets Oghunabani on the table before the chairman (p.
37). There is the need at this point to re-examine the recurring metaphor of vulture. In the first
place, the parliament is made up of a generation of people and not of vultures. The Nigerian
political landscape has continued to generate comments that are really out of tone with
acceptable political expressions. And one continues to wonder why the playwright and even
some members of the house have chosen such expressions. As the reader places these
expressions against the relevant socio-political background, he understands the intention of the
author to capture the incongruity in the procedure and results in the house. An illiterate roadside
food seller has been elected into the parliament through unconventional process and she
maneuvers her way to the exalted position of the parliamentary, secretary. The house votes a
colossal sum of 3.5 billion naira for parliamentary party and Mr. Otobe and Dr. Parkers who
question these excesses are framed and detained. Within a short period, Madam Omeaku
acquires a fifty-acre estate, completes three buildings in Commercial Avenue and purchases
three different models of the Mercedes because according to her, “God has buttered my bread”
(p. 68).
A Parliament of Vultures is really the play of the season when hypocrites infest the political
scene and assault both the mental and spiritual sensibility of people. Critics have tried in many
ways to interpret what the playwright intends but the theory, of implicature as applied in this
paper offers a unique analytical procedure that projects the author’s literary world for a proper
interpretation of his message. At the end, we can say with great conviction that the theatre
actually presents a dress-rehearsal of the socio-political and spiritual realities of the author’s
There is no doubt that language is a rich and adaptable instrument. This instrument is a veritable
weapon of offence and defense and at the same time a wondrous tool which can be used to say
more than what is linguistically encoded. Although Grice postulated what is popularly known as
cooperative principle which participants in a talk exchange must follow, these rules are often
intentionally broken with the assumption that the hearer will always work out the intended
message which is the implicature. Politicians will always provoke feelings of expectations that
will never square up with the realities of the day. Literary artists will always create situations and
events that can be effectively interpreted only when the literary world of the authors is involved.
Cartoonist also have the capacity to stretch their sense of humour to a level that can only be
appreciated when the situational imperatives are invoked.
Language has a great power of implicature and it is only by applying adequate socio-cultural
contexts on the formal linguistic medium that effective communication can be achieved. And this
marks the distinction between a formal linguistic analysis of a text and a pragmatic analysis of
the same text with emphasis on implicature. That politicians raise expectations that never square
up with the realities of the day is a universal truth. But that people generally, and not just
politicians cannot take in too much reality so they can run down the convenient road of denial is
quite clear. Unfortunately too, that road is a crowded highway which most men tread. And artists
most often have to travel this way also to find their characters.
Austin, J. L. (1962). How To Do Things with Words. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Fowler, R. (1986). Linguistic Criticism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Grrice, H. I’. (1975) Logic and Conversation in Gole, P. and Morgan J. L. (eds) Syntax and
Speech Acts. New York: Academic Press.
Kah Jick “Francis B. Nyunnya: Searching for the Art of Fiction” Okike 42: 52-64. 19
Leech, G. N. and Short M. H. (1981). Style in Fiction: A Linguistic Guide to English Fictional
Prose. London: Longman.
McMichael’, P. (2000). Development of Social Change: A Global Perspective. California: Pine
Forge Press.
Nwabueze E. (2000). A Parliament of Vultures. Enugu: Abic Publishers.
Onuigbo, Sam (2005). An Exploration of the Theory of Implicature in Ebele Eko’s Bridges of
Gold. An Unpublished Ph.D. Thesis, Department of English, University of Nigeria,
Oyeleye, L. and Ayodele, A. (1990) “Aspects of Discourse Structure in Newspaper Cartoons: A
Semantico-Pragmatic Analysis. African Notes Vol. 14 Nos 1 & 2:81-89.
Spore, D. J. (2001). Reality Through Arts. London: Prentice Hall.
Strafford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) 2005 (Internet).
Department of Educational Foundations
University of Nigeria, Nsukka
This paper focuses attention on the administrative issues and problems of planning education in
Nigeria, with special reference to the planners themselves, that is the Federal Government and
state administrators. One of the major problems is that all too often, recommendations don’t
come from school administrators, teachers and other school personnel. This, no doubt may have
constituted problems in planning and implementation of education in Nigeria and equally led to
the failure of most of the formulated educational policies. The status quo of administrative
planning of education in Nigeria should be revisited considering its developmental nature against
our youths who are the future of the country. For effective administrative planning the country ‘s
economy should be looked into and considered before schools in Nigeria start production of
graduates into the labour market, to avoid producing more number of graduates the economy can
The three major tiers of Nigeria’s educational system, primary, secondary and tertiary
tiers, are uniform, respectively, nationwide, despite minor local variations. Pupils and students
are expected to reach the same level of development by the time they graduate from any of the
tiers of education.
The Federal Government of Nigeria plays a co-ordinating role with particular regards
administratively to broad direction of educational policies and planning at all levels of education.
In order words, the essence of education is to plan and administratively integrate the young ones
into the norms of their own society. In this regard, every society has some basic needs, one of
which is production of individuals who can integrate into the norms of the society and thus help
develop the society. Therefore, planning in education is the process of forecasting the type of
education, the content of the education, and the process and procedures to be adopted,
andadministratively implemented in order to use education achieve the pre-stated objectives of
the society.
At this period of global economic mell-down, resulting in severe economic depression
and inflation, Nigeria cannot afford to waste her resources in terms of human or material. If
education is not planned and administratively implemented, there may be tendency of either over
production or under production of human resources in different sectors of the economy, or on the
other hand it may lead to financial problem on either over expenditure or under expenditure. To
minimize this wastage therefore, there is need to plan for effective administration in educational
Administrative implementation simply refers to the process of performing a task on
activity or objective. It is the fulfillment of ones intent or purpose. It is the stage when the
preparations made earlier, the plans, designs and analyses proposed are tested and effectively
administered to see how real they reflect. It is also the stage where the policy content and the
impact factor on people could be substantially altered or even negated by the political and
administrative process.
In Nigeria, planning and implementation of educational activities are, generally the functions of
administrative bodies such as National Universities Commission (NUC), Ministry of Education,
etc. Some of the functions have been found to be carried out incompletely and ineffectively.
Several factors in Nigeria are responsible for ineffective planning and implementations of
educational objectives.
Education as the functional significant of people’s ability to read and write has made
literacy one of the fundamental requirements of modem civilization. In fact, contemporary
scholars have posited a threshold of sixty percent literacy level among citizens as a necessary
requirement for a sustainable national economic growth. No less stressed in this regard were
thesocio-political benefits of literacy which were portrayed as pre-conditions for effective
working of political democracy regardless of ideological differences.
According to Ozigi (1979), education is the aggregate of all the process by means of
which develops abilities, attitudes and other forms of behaviour of positive and sometimes
negative values in the society in which that individual lives. The idea of acquiring knowledge
through informal training, transmission of what is worthwhile to people could equip them for
future positive actions. Such active participation could improve the life of the community
generally. Education is also the process by which the community seeks to open its life to all the
individuals within it, so that they can take part in their personal and national development.
Okafor (1984) defined education also as a process of acculturation through which the individual
is helped to attain the development of his potentialities, and their maximum activation when
necessary, according to right reasons and to achieve thereby his perfect self-fulfillment.
Planning is the backbone of every aspect of life. Agabi (in Peretomode, 1995; p 56)
defined planning as “the process of determining in advance, what is to be done, including
classification of goals, establishment of policies, mapping out of programmes and campaigns and
determining specific methods or procedures and fixing day to day schedules”. Effective planning
could be realized through administrative initiations and implementation of programmes. It could
equally be as a prepared set of decisions for future actions directed at achieving goals through
optimal means. Such means could involve activities foretelling the future and preparing for them.
Educational Planning
Bosah (in Uwazurike, 1991) stated that educational planning is the “process of preparing
a set of decisions for future action pertaining to education”. According to him, it is the
application of rational and systematic analysis to the process of educational development, with
the aim of making education more effective and efficient in responding to the needs and goals of
its students and society.
Eze (1983) expressed his view on educational planning as the application to education
itself of rational scientific analysis to examining one’s alternatives, choosing wisely among them,
then proceeding systematically to implement the process made. Educational planning according
to Fayo (in Edem, 1982) described it as the activities involved in foretelling the future and
preparing for them.
Purposes of Educational Planning
Educational planning helps decision makers at all levels to reach a better and well
informed decision. This is because, through educational planning adequate data are collected on
the particular level that is supposed to be planned for and on basis of the availability of such
Therefore, educational planning helps to promote speedy and effective administration.
Also, with educational planning it becomes easy to evaluate the progress made in the educational
Types of Educational Planning
Agabi (in Peretomode, 1995) stated that there are various types of educational planning,
that depends on the classificatory approach adopted. Most popular approaches according to him
include those by time horison, scope, time dynamism, level of government involvement,
manager level, etc.
Using time horison classification, educational planning can either be a short term,
medium term or long term planning. It is generally recognized that the implementation of short
term planning does not go beyond one fiscal year medium term planning activities and
recognized as falling between two to five or even ten years according to Agabi (1995).
Educational planning of a long term perspective falls between ten and twenty five years or even
beyond, he said.
There are two levels of educational planning based on the scope of the plan. These,
according to Agabi (1995) are micro-level planning and macro-level planning. Microlevelplanning is any planning activity that is carried out at the local goverliment or the
institutional level, while macro-level planning on the other hand, involves policy making and
broad target setting at the state, regional, national or even international level.
Education and Economic Planning
Planning in education is very important in that it helps to determine the extent to which
the local and national economy can carry the system of education. It is through planning that the
extent to which the policy on education can be implemented. It is a system through which
educational policy or system of education can be cut to the size of the nation’s economy.
Basic Principles of Educational Planning
For, solution to the above hindrances and achievement of fundament objectives of
planning education, Agabi (in Peretomode, 1995) suggested that the following principles should
be adopted: the principle of participatory planning, principle of integration, principle of
specialization and principle of administrative harmonization.
• For the principle of participatory planning, it demands that the educational planning
process must involve adequate participation of interest groups.
• The principle of integration, this requires that educational planning process should be
properly integrated with the overall national development plan.
• The principle of specialization demands that educational planning is a specialized task
and should therefore be handled by those with training competence to do so.
• Finally, the principle of administrative harmonization is very central to the successful
implementation of well formulated education plan.
Approaches to Educational Planning
Educational planning is essentially an exercise in decision making, based on this, three
basic approaches have been developed to guide on what type of education to be provided for a
given society, these include: the social demand approach, manpower requirement approach and
cost-benefit approach.
• The social demand approach has been described as regarding education as a birth right of
every citizen.
• The manpower requirement approach recognizes only areas of shortage of manpower in
the economy and plans to train and provide such required skilled manpower.
• The cost benefit approach holds the view that, for an individual or government to be able
to make a wise decision concerning investment, it must calculate the cost of such a
project and the benefits to be derived from it.
Merits of the Approaches
The implementation of social demand increases the level of literacy and enhances the
achievement of quality of educational opportunities. The manpower reduces the level of
educated unemployables. The cost benefits provide information about the links between
education, the labour market and the economic consequences of alternative policies.
Demerits of the three Approaches
Social demand is insensitive to the usual resource constraints for providing high quality
and a variety of education, a typical example is the case of UBE to a large segment of the
population such as manpower approach that completely ignores other levels or types of
education that are not involved in the training of job specific skills. The cost benefit is more
interested in the investment aspects of education as against the consumption aspect.
Stages in Educational Planning
1. Planning Process: According to Uwazurike and Ozuzu (1995), the normal and expected
phases in the Nigeria educational planning are as follows:
• The pre-independence period
• The Ashby report and the launching of the first National Development Plan which ended
in January, 1970.
• The second National Development Plan of 1970 – 1974.
• The third National Development Plan of 1975 – 1980.
Meanwhile, the above process led to introduction of Universal Primary Education
(U.P.E.) in 1976 and later 6-3-3-4 system of education.
2. Policy Evolution: Education policies are evolved and formulated in every community in
order to improve the standard of living of the such community. For example, the establishment
of Universal Basic Education (U.B.E.) in some states in Nigeria is to alleviate the problems of
indigent students and parents in this hard time.
The New National Policies on education was also evolved after a long drawn seminars
and conferences on the relevance of the previous educational system in the realization of the
developmental dreams of Nigeria.
3. FormulationofPolicy: Human needs problems were identified for solution to existing
problems contributed to policy formulation and implementation by educational administrators at
various units of government, ministries, departments and parastatals. They raise issues of
importance concerning education in the conferences and workshops organized for them by their
employers. They brought their knowledge, expertise and experiences in the development of
courses of action. They also helped in modification of the existing laws.
4. Data Collection: According to Adeyemi (in Uwazurike, 1995) qualitative and
quantitative data are desirable in educational process. Such data form the basis for making wellinformed decisions on the quantity, quality and variety of materials, resources in-put, etc and the
need to effectively kick-start and sustain a programme. For example, before free education
policy can be implemented, there has to be information as regard the existing resources situation,
enrolment, manpower, facilities, finance etc, so as to detect the area of inadequacy.
Problems of Planning Education
1. Improper Policy
Educational policies in Nigeria are more or less dictated even to the planners themselves.
On the other hand, the ministries of education at the Federal and State levels hardly
involveschool administrators, teachers and other school personnel in the planning of policies. So,
the implementation of educational policies is always problematic.
Over the years, the various Nigerian governments have administered the schools in terms
of policy making, financing and staffing, we need no soothsayer to tell us that the issues on
administrative problems of disciplines in educational sectors have always hinged on some points.
Nigerians, like the government have refused to follow the right means to apply the natural ways
of curing or preventing the ‘problematic educational planning’.
It should be a cardinal educational objective to develop an approapriate discipline right
from the early youths school days. Effective educational planning is not easy to achieve in view
of the complexity of the phenomenon. In this respect, Anambra State Government (in Bontroux,
1981), a French Philosopher who says that the task of the educator is a strange one for he has to
act on the mind and conscience in such a way as to render them capable of thinking and judging
of themselves to determine initiative, arouse spontaneity, and fashion human beings into
Teacher-pupil participation will be on a much more equal partnership with the Nigerian
Government. This will contribute to the government’s achievements of good implementation of
Educational goals. Here the government planning with the teacher what they will try to do, that is
objective formulation; how they will go about it, that is methodology and how they will
measure their success or achievement, that is evaluation. This will further make both the teacher
and students become deeply involved in their own learning for the future of the country, Nigeria.
According to Wheeler (1967), one important point gathered from review of literature and
from research is that in initial stages of planning, the teacher’s effort is much greater, but that
with practice and time, teacher-pupils planning will be on a much more equal partnership.
For educational planning to be effectively achieved, it requires the cooperative effort of
the parents, the government and entire youths. There is an adage that says charity begins at home
so does discipline. If a youth comes from a broken home or a home infested by pugnacity
anddisorder, he is already educated in acts of indiscipline and planlessness. If the government
does not play her constitutional role in an educational system of the country vis-à-vis by not
paying the teachers, retrenching the educationally trained manpower; laying off the school
guards at the gate, and not providing the necessary facilities in the schools that make for
effective discipline in educational system, then why must planlessness and indiscipline in
educational sector not take hold of such a school system. If a major proportion of education staff
is made up of untrained officers because they are indigenes of the area of the state, what do we
expect? Where the staff or officers are drunks, sex maniacs, drug addicts and talkative, certainly
their products like educational planning cannot be different from what they are.
2. Nigerian Practical Aspect
With reference to Nigerian government economy and education sector, we should never
forget that poor educational planning results to poor economy. The world economy has since
become knowledge-based. Do we think Nigerian economy can improve without education?
When two elephants fight the grasses suffer. This is in reference to Nigerian Government and her
Educational Sector, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
It is very unfortunate and obnoxious that the most valuable asset to the players of the
world economy has no value in Nigeria. Teachers are treated like lepers while the products of
their endeavours, the so called leaders or rulers swim in vast ocean of wealth and affluence as
their children are all abroad or at costly private universities in Nigeria.
Nigerian leaders should not fail to consider the impending doom in abandoning the
youths of this country to enforced idleness. She should not ignore the consequences of
educational staff on our polity and integrity. Nigerian government should not nurture crime
among their teeming youths. She should not wake up from her slumber only when her youths
must have invented crimes of higher dimensions other than militant groups, kidnapping and
hostage taking. All these problems emanates from improper planning and administration of our
educational system.
3. Poor Funding
Britain increased her funding for education and research by thirty percent a few years
back for the progress of her country and her youths. Yes! If we say education is expensive should
we try ignorance? Militant-groups in Nigeria who terrorize every where and kidnaps big and
small human being, as an example. It then means Nigerian Government as a result of failure in
educational planning and administration is today accepting ignorance as a better alternative to
improving salary structures and other conditions of service of staff in tertiary institutions in her
This trend constitutes problems in planning and implementation of education in Nigeria,
and this problem led to the failure of most of the educational policies formulated. For example,
the Universal Primary Education (UPE) and the educational 6-3-3-4 system in Nigeria.
For the solution of this problem of educational planning in Nigeria, education in the
Nigerian’s yearly budget should be made the highest or be increased. But if contrary is the case,
why do Nigeria always sing the song of joining the big league of the world like rebranding the
economy while we look the other way when our children do not go to school or go without
4. Unemployed Youths
In most developing countries including Nigeria, people see education or school as an end
itself and not a means to an end. This means that people see education as the quickest way of
securing employment and the only escape route away from the village life to urban environment.
As a result of planlessness and unco-ordinated administrative activities between the government,
schools of all levels and the labour market, these schools tend to train the wrong caliber of
individual for the labour force. This notwithstanding, it may be disheartening to note that the
carrying capacity of the economy of the country is usually not fully considered before the
schools start to produce graduates into the labour market. This explains why, over the years,
more graduates are produce than the economy can carry with the result that there are many
unemployed educated ones roaming about the streets.
The field of Educational Administration in Nigeria is a realm of study and almost as old
as education. The word “administration” may be associated with the running of the family,
educational institutions, health institutions, etc. Administration according to Ukeje (1992: p 71)
is “the activity that maintains an organization and concerns itself with the directions of the
activities of people working within the organization in their reciprocal relations to the end that
the organizations purposes may be attained”. Adebayo (1992) in his view, sees administration as
the organization and direction of persons in order to accomplish a specific end, also when two
men cooperate to tell a stone that neither could work alone, the rudiments of administration have
In other words, Educational Administration according to Agwara (2004) is the process
that is concerned with the using of principles, methods and practices to establish, develop and
execute the goals, polices, plans and procedures, necessary to achieve the objectives of
education. All these however imply usage of human and material resources in a manner that
would enable educational objective to be achieved.
The administrator who makes the decision may be the Head, or Co-ordinator or
Supervisor. Such an individual has certain assumptions for himself, the office and others. He has
certain benefits according to Eresimadu (1987), for himself, his school or organization with
values which influence him. He also possesses some personal idiosyncrasies which were
developed probably during socialization, process in childhood days or during growth in the
organization. These constitute forces within the individual which influence the extent to the kind
of administrative decision he makes.
Problems of Administration
As regards to administrative problems in educational planning, staff, students and principals’
indiscipline behaviour are major points to mention. The staff, students and the school
administrators or principals deviate from the educational accepted mode of conduct, like
deliberate defiance of authority, anti-social acts, immorality, negligence of duty by staff and
students; maladministration, lack of proper communication, lack of trust in staff, lack of
appreciation of the opinions and contributions of staff and students by the school
administratorsor principles. Such indiscipline, according to Ezegbe (1995), denotes some form of
disorder which arises from a negation of the established rules, regulations, laid down procedures
and patterns of normal behaviour in the conduct of human activities. All these at the end, affect
the educational planning and administration in Nigeria.
In order to effectively tackle the complex problems of planning education in Nigeria
administratively, an integrated approach must be adopted in planning and development. The task
is not for teachers alone, including learners at tertiary level. All classes of people and
professionals in all works of life must join hands to build the country and contribute to its
educational development.
Irrespective of religious and ethnic learning, as a nation, should believe and practice
certain codes of behaviour. It sounds funny for educators, politicians, youths etc to eulogies
social justice, moral integrity, sanctity of life, as the precepts of social contract, only to default in
them when faced situations demanding moral decisions.
In this paper, based on field experiences and research findings on problems of planning
education in Nigeria, a number of recommendations were made to address such problems
through the use of a well established education data bank, at all levels of government. This will
avoid the traditional practice of educational planning and implementation without data and
genuine commitment by all concerned in education business towards the planning and
implementation of education policies. The professionally trained educational planners and
administrators equipped with modern techniques of educational management and accountability
should be in-charge of planning education in Nigeria. The following are recommended:
• Nigerians must be committed to her educational planning and administration on certain
ways of life of her people and be seen to practice same both in body politic and in
societies. No amount of lip-service to the proclaimed ideals of 1984 War
AgainstIndiscipline (WAI) will convince the nation of her sincerity without her positive
• The researcher here appeals to Nigerian leaders in public life to live up the expectations
of making education planning and administration effective and urge her to use all the
resources of the government to effect social reform in her educational planning system as
a whole and stop feigning the economic and social redeemers, as this has become the
stock-in-trade slogan in this country.
• Nigerians as professionals in the field must equally recognize their potentials to effect
change and reform. It is almost becoming conventional that whenever there is a national
crisis like Government and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and “no work
no pay” syndrome, the schools not only get the blame .but invariably the nation turns
round to it for the solution of the same problems. Schools are compelled today to assume
greater responsibility for social reform and hence the constant call by almost every
government for a change in curriculum planning content of schools “to suit their needs
and aspirations”. Therefore, teachers and government must accept a good measure of
responsibility for the economic growth in Nigeria.
• The Nigerian government should allow the spirit of unity and discipline to reign in
schools planning and administration by owning up and fulfilling all her statutory
professional obligations to the teachers by way of paying their enhanced salaries
promptly, providing teaching and learning equipment, providing the infrastructures etc. It
is the opinion of the researcher that it is a serious mark of uncooperativeness and
indiscipline on the part of government if she fails in this primary obligation to her
• The funds needed for the implementation of plans and programmes for education and
training must be regarded as an essential pre-investment for the general development of
the country.
(ASG) Anambra State Government (1981).White Paper on the Teaching of Moral/Religious
Instruction (p. 10).
Adebayo, A. (1992). Principles of Public Administration in Nigeria. Lagos: Macmillan
Publications p.1.
Agabi, O.G. (1995). Educational Planning Overview, in Peretomode, V.F. (ed) Introduction to
Educational Planning and Supervision (pp. 119-128 and 145-154) Lagos: Joja Press Ltd.
Agwara, I.C. (2004). Administration of General Studies Programme of University of Nigeria,
Nsukka.CIDJAP Press. Enugu. Nigeria.
Bosah, H.O.N. and Ozuzu, C.N. (1991).Approach and Methodology of Planning in Nigeria. In
C.N. Uwazurike (ed). Educational Planning and National Development. (pp. 12-24, 2934 and 277-286) Awka: Meks Publishers.
Eresimadu, F.N.J. (1987). Some Administrative Concern of Urban Primary School Heads in
Nigeria: Awka. Journal of Education (2) 5-11.
Eze, C.O. (1993). Nature and Content of Development Programmes in Nigerian University. An
Unpublished M.Ed. Dissertation (p. 74).
Ezegbe, M.O. (1995). Curbing Indiscipline in Nigerian Secondary Social Studies Education.In
Arinze, F.O.M. (ed.) Readings in Nigerian Secondary School Education.
Onitsha:Hombill Publishing Co. Ltd.
Fayo, (in Edem, D.A. 1982).Introduction to Educational Administration in Nigeria.
Ibadan:Spectrum Books Ltd. (p. 15).
Nwana, O.C. (in Wheeler, D.K. 1985). Curriculum Process. Seven Oaks, U.S: and Stoughton
Nwankwo, J.I. (1982). Educational Administration: Theory and Practice: New Delhi: Vikas
Publishing Company (p. 26).
Ogbonnaya, N.J. (2001). Policy Making for Public Education Concept, Issues, and Practices,
Department of Educational Foundations, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Okafor, F.C. (1984). Philosophy of Education and Third WorldPerspective. Lawrenceville,
Virginia: Brunswick Publishing Co.
Ozigi, A.O.A. (1979). Handbook of School Administration and Management, Lagos. Macmillan,
Peretomode, V.T. (1996). Educational Administration: Applied Concepts and Theoretical
Perspectives. Lagos: Joja Educational Research and Publications Limited.
Thompson, A.R. (1981). Education and Development in Africa. London: Macmillan Press Ltd.
Ukeje, B.O. (1992). Educational Administration, Enugu: Nigeria, Fourth Dimension Company.
Uwazurike, C.N. (1991) (eds). Educational Planning and National Development: A Nigerian
Perspective. Awka: Meks Link Publishers Nigeria.
Wheeler, D.K. (1980). Curriculum Process. London: Hodder& Stoughton.
Dr. Nwankwo T. Nwaezeigwe
Senior Research Follow,
University of Nigeria, Nsukka
[email protected]
Phone: 234-8033242598
The Aro sub- culture group of the Nigeria no doubt played important role in pre-colonial period
as oracular agents woven in slave trade. They were mainly slave merchants whose oracle played
the role of a spiritual conduit through which its unsuspecting client were sold into slavery. In
other words, this dreaded oracle, Ibinu-Ukpabi, also known as the long juju, which is situated at
Arochukwu played the dastardly role of sending those who appeared before it but could not pay
themselves through for freedom into slavery.
Ironically, during the hey-days of the British colonial activities, the activities of the aro became
elevated by the simple omission of historical facts to the status of an Igbo civilization. By this
simple act of omission, the Aro soon assumed the status of a superior socio-political cast among
the Igbo. This obvious misrepresentation was to lead to a stream of intellectual controversy
among Igbo scholars and local political partisans.
This resulting controversy which was originally rooted in C.G. Seligman’s hamitic hypothesis,
was expounded by a notable colonial anthropologist - - H.F. Mathews and later appropriated by
succeeding Igbo scholars of Aro school of thought. It borders on the claim of indigenous precolonial imperialism over the rest Igbo group by the Aro.
The present work explores the facts, myths and probabilities of this concept of a racially superior
branch of the Igbo culture group as represented by the Nri and Aro. In the process of exploring
the evidence, a number of dependent historical and hypothetical question were raised. This is
primary query which will most probably strike the mind in the context of primeval Igbo origins
and identity? In other words, were the ancestor of the present Aro of original Igbo stock or did
they originate from another stock other than the Igbo? What was the nature of their hegemony
over the rest of Igbo people if any? What were and still are the fundamental elements of the Aro
native customs and culture, vis- vis the main- stream Igbo sub-group? What was the marital
power base upon which the said Aro hegemony relied? And above all, from the foregoing
questions, is the concept of Aro okgibo a fact of history or an attempt to over-bloat an image that
has not just gone out of relevance in the present state of Igbo cultural and historical studies but is
presently facing fundamental moral and identity question?
Reacting to the African colonial predicament, the renowned pan- Africanist J.E CaselyHayford once stated in 1923:
Before even the British came into relations with
our people we were a developed people, having our own institutions
having Our ideas of government (Rodney, 1972).
Going by the above statement, there is no gainsaying the fact that black African, and
indeed Igboland had well-structured society culturally, economically, politically, religiously,
socially and technologically long before the emergency of European colonialism.
Politically, the Igbo no doubt might have lacked large –scale organizations in the
structure of kingdom and empires. However their socio-political system operated within the
frame work of what could in the present times be described as a democracy and republicanism.
In other words, the Igbo system lacked authoritarian and monarchical tendencies common then
among a number of indigenous people of Africa. Against these obvious characteristic identity of
Black Africa landed the hammer of hamitic hypothesis, a notion that attempted to link every act
of civilization in black African to the white-skinned hamitic race from the middle east.
It should be recalled that Professor C.G Seligman had in 1930 released his infamous
hamitic hypothesis in his book. Races of Africa, which strongly
questioned Black Africa’s
ability to both conceptualize and develop novel idea and civilization. This hamitic hypothesis
was to later become the racial barometer with which European colonial administrations and
researcher used to justify their continued exploitation and domination of black Africa. As
Seligman put it:
Apart from relatively late Semitic influence whether
Phoenician ( Carthagenian and strictly limited, or
Arab Muhammedan) and widely diffused the civilizations
of Africa are the hamites, its history - the records of these
people and of their interaction with the two other African
stocks - the negro and the bushman, whether this influence
was exerted by highly civilized Egyptians or by such wider
pastoralists as are represented at the present day by the Beja
and Somali. (Seligman, 1966:61)
The summary of this hypothesis is clear. Black Africa, of which the Igbo form a part, had no
credible evidence of self-invention and the accompanying civilization. Every aspect of the Black
Africa’s past including the Igbo deemed advanced or sophisticated was the act of external
influence, mainly the white- skinned hamitic race. It was therefore not surprising that succeeding
European scholars and colonial researchers adopted the hypothesis in their varying
interpretations of the history, culture and civilization of black Africa.
Among the Igbo of Nigeria, this hypothesis was centered around the Nri, otherwise
known as the Umunri, and the Aro sub-groups. This subsequently gave arise among the Igbo to a
situation in which the Umunri began to see themselves as the fountain-head of Igbo origins,
history, culture and civilization. While the Aro in the same token began to see themselves as a
people of superior intelligence over the rest Igbo sub-groups, giving rise to the concept of AroOkigbo - the Aro as the source of Igbo strength.
Whether these conceptions would pass the litmus test of historical evidence will be determine by
the following sections. However, the present paper is only concerned with Aro of the historical
Cross- River Igbo sub-culture.
The Aro no doubt exerted considerable influence on some Igbo communities with whom
they came into contact during the pre-colonial era of slave trade. This influence was centered
mainly on slave trade in which their long juju oracle, otherwise known as Ubinu-Ukpabi played a
major role. The said Aro influence was therefore fundamentally commercial in both form and
character and since never extended at any time to the point political domination.
Although pre-colonial Igboland was dotted with other groups with similar commercial
activities, such as the Nri as earlier mentioned, the Awka, Nkwere and Abiriba itinerant
blacksmiths, as well as such oracular agents as the Umunneoha with their Igwe ka-Ala oracle, the
Ozuzu people with their kamalu oracle, and the Awka with their Agbala oracle, which was coexported with their blacksmithing trade. Equally significant during this commercial era were the
Umudioka Ichi insignia scarification agents who were also vast in various acts of artistic trades
like wood and ivory carving, as well as teeth-cutting. The Isu legitimate long-distance traders
who far pre-dated the Aro in commercial activities continued with their non-human articles even
after the abolition of slave trade. Thus it could be right to state that the commercial life of precolonial Igboland was not entirely at the mercy of the Aro oracular-commercial agents, as each
group not only guarded its area of specialization jealously, but protected its zone of influence
against the others’ unwarranted intrusion.
The Aro were however able to exert more influence than the others it could appear,
merely because of both the inhuman nature of their trading activities and the resulting adverse
effects on the overall demographic and socio-political setting of their areas of operation. This
was also aided by their practice of establishing commercial out- posts which not only maintained
continuous contact with their home-base, but operated within a web of well-coordinated network
that saw to the effective manipulation of the assumed invisible spiritual power of their UbinuUkpabi. However as time went on, it became obvious that where this oracular exertion failed,
the Aro often restored to the use of mercenaries to disrupt unsuspecting Igbo communities,
which readily created human commodity for them in form of captives in such wars.
In doing this, the Aro, because they were not habitually war-like people resorted to the
Abam/Edda/Ohafia head-hunters as their martial back-up. In fact, although the influence of the
Aro as strong slave merchants was generally acknowledged, this was only within the ambit of
such commercial activities. Such influence did not in any form therefore translate into any kind
of political or religious dominance. It was in fact this situation that gave the colonial policymakers, who were in quest of designing a unifying political framework for the administration of
Igboland in the manner of such established monarchies as Benin, Yoruba and, Hausa-Fulani the
impression of a culturally and militarily superior and more civilized Nri and Aro people in
difference to the other Igbo groups. In other words, the colonial anthropologists and District
Officers employed to carry out investigations into the nature of Igbo political culture vis-à-vis its
suitability for indirect rule system, thus already came with a mind-set of where to focus their
attention as well as on what their conclusion would be.
The knighted Imperial adventurer Sir H.R Palmer, in propounding his concept of Aro
hegemony based on these pre-colonial assumptions, as seen through the spectacle of the
infamous hemitic hypothesis wrote thus in his report:
…the only reason why the Igbo are more advanced
people, a people of distinctly higher grade than the
Ibibio and Ejaw is because, firstly because of the
Aro teaching and secondly of a large admixture in
certain areas particularly the Abakiliki and Enugu
Region of Aro blood (Afigbo:1986,152)
However, the two facts Sir Palmer did not know are, first that the Aro as a group were not
only a marginal minority in both Abakliki and Enugu sub-culture areas, but that the said zones
are not enough indices
in terms of geographical spread and structure of indigenous Igbo
development for assessing the proper level of Igbo advancement; and secondly, that the said Aro
he claimed to be of superior ethnic stock than the rest Igbo sub-culture groups have more Ibibio
and Akpa bloods in their veins than that of the Igbo. This makes Palmer’s hypothesis even more
questionable, being that the question of Aro identity vis-a-vis the depth of their Igbo extraction
has remained over time the major point of controversy in the study of Igbo history and culture.
Be that as it may, the thesis of this paper in all holds tenaciously that the claim of
hegemony, whether cultural, social, martial, commercial, political or religious by the Aro as
advanced by some writers, is a mere intellectual edifice built on a shifting sandy-soil of historical
mirage. It cannot withstand the storms of critical historical facts, and thus, is more of a vainglorious attempt to veneer the morally haunted past of the Aro as human merchants. But the
major consequence of Palmer’s adoption of the hermitic hypothesis in his interpretation of the
Aro roles in Igbo history, is the creation of the conception of the Aro-okigbo, a term which in its
strictest cultural and linguistic senses defines the Aro as a superior Igbo specie. In other words,
to the Aro, the rest Igbo sub-groups are defined as second-class citizens in terms of intelligence
quotient. This presumptive attitude of the Aro in difference to the rest Igbo culture groups has
persisted even till date and stands as one of the fundamental inhibitions against a defined
ideological focus of the Igbo in resolving the Nigeria nationality question.
If one may ask, who are the Aro in the context of Igbo history, culture and civilization?
In other words, what characteristic roles did the Aro play in pre-colonial Igbo history, cultural,
political and economical developments, that qualifies them to be branded Aro-okigbo?
advancing an answer to the above question, one must first establish the origins of the Aro as a
sub-culture group of the Igbo ethnic nationality.
Historically, the original home of the Aro sub-group is the present Arochukwu settlement
which is situated within the Cross River basin, or what may be historically defined as the Cross
River Igbo group. It was originally an all-Ibibio border settlement at the southeastern-most tip of
the Igbo borderland. Oral traditions among the people are in agreement that the town assumed its
present character when the Igbo slaves revolted against their Ibibio masters through the help of
the war-like Akpa of the upper Cross River basin. This subsequently resulted in the formation of
the present character of the settlement constituting the three groups of different ethnic
extractions, namely, the original Ibibio settlers, the descendants of ex-Igbo slaves turned masters,
and those of their Akpa mercenaries.
G.H Jones (1937:102) puts it straight thus:
The Aro themselves say, and always have said, that their
clan originated from a revolt of an Igbo slave or group
of slaves who called in Akpa mercenaries from further up the
Cross river. The revolt was successful and the Igbo, the
Akpa and what remained of the Ibibio amalgamated to found
the present clan. Today this consist of 19 villages, 6 of which
Claim an Akpa, 5 were descended from Igbo elements who came
in later either freely or as captives. The seniority was originally
with the Akpa, but almost immediately passed to the ancestor
of an Igbo village, a certain Okenachi and from that time the clan
appears to have become an Igbo one.
In affirming the above account, the people of Amanagwu village in Arochukwu, in a
petition to the District Officer dated September 4,1945, questioned the traditional right of the
Eze-Aro, Chief Oji (Arodive,1956) to claim the headship of Arochukwu. In that petition they
It is contented by your humble petitioners, and by
The Ibom-Isis, that the three Aro elements, viz: Ezeagwu,
Okenachi and Ibom Isi are separate, distinct and equal in status.
But it was the Aro-born anthropologist, Professor Felicia Ekejuba that fully confirmed
Jones’ thesis of Aro origins. According to her (Ekejuba 1972, 13):
Before mid-seventeenth century, the population of
the area now known as Arochukwu was made up of
groups of varied ancestry know as Losi, Nkalaku, Iwerri,
Ohadu. These like their Igbo and Ibibio neighbours were
Subsistence farmers and did not travel beyond the boundary.
The ethnic composition and economy of these autochthonous groups were
changed consider ablyby what is known in Aro historiography as ‘Aha
Ibibe’ (the Ibibio war)… The war resulted from a succession dispute
between the autochthones of Arochukwu territory who were medley of
unrelated tribes of Igbo and Ibibio groups. While the intermittent clashes
lasted between the opposing group, the Akpa, whom the Aro and non-Aro
traditions claim had been raiding the Cross river basin invaded the area.
They took advantage of their superior arms and their military organization
to over-awe the area and scatter most of the original groups. Some of the
autochthones surrendered and settled side by side with the invaders with
whom they were incorporated politically to constitute the Aro political
It is therefore indicative that the Aro originally were not of full Igbo ancestry, being an
admixture of Ibibio, Akpa and Igbo ethnic groups. However, in spite of the diversified nature of
their origins, the Aro are now classified as Igbo, even when two of the original founding groupsthe Akpa and Ibibio were non-Igbo. But it however remains to note that because of the obvious
non-Igbo identity of the Aro, the more than any other Igbo sub-culture group bordering Ibibio
tertiary exhibit very strong affinity with the Ibibio culture group. For instance, all the five top
grades of their secret titled-society bear grades with unqualified resemblance to those of the
Ibibio culture group. These include, Ekong, Iquot, Obom, Ekpe and Akang (Arodiv, 1927).
Arochukwu, it would therefore appear, when defined in historical and cultural terms, is
characterized by interweaving Ibibio, Akpa and Igbo elements, in which the Igbo appear to
dominate linguistically, the Ibibio exhibiting considerable presence in ethno-cultural aspects,
while the mercenary character of the Akpa instilled on them the recurring mentality of
dependence on mercenary activities. In other words, Arochukwu is built on a world of three
distinct peoples- the Ibibio, Akpa and Igbo. Thus, apart from the fact that the people are
commonly bilingual, speaking Ibibio and Igbo with remarkable fluency, their ideas, thoughts and
general aspirations have always run contrary to the fundamental ideological basis of Igbo
However, before going further to enumerate instances of obvious Aro display of contraIgbo attitudes, it will be better to first take a look at the origin and character of the said Aro
hegemony over the Igbo during the pre-colonial period. Evidence abound supporting the claim
that the foundation of Arochukwu and the subsequent establishment of satellite Aro settlements
in some parts of Igboland occurred during the late 17th century AD. A recent Aro-sponsored
website (Wikipedia 2008:1) puts the date at 1690, thus supporting the earlier periodization by
Professor Ekejuba: In describing the character of Aro influence, Ekejuba (1972:14) went further
to state:
The Aro confederacy (1690-1902) was a slave trading
political union orchestrated by the Igbo sub-group,
the Aro people, centered in Arochukwu in present
day southeastern Nigerian. Their influence and
presence was (sic) distributed across Eastern
Nigerian into parts of present day Cameroon and
Equatorial Guinea. The Arochukwu kingdom was
an economical, political and a (sic) oracular center
as it was home of the powerful long juju oracle, the
Aro king Eze Aro, and highest priest.
The Aro influence or hegemony whichever applies, was therefore based on slave-trading
economy. The Aro primacy in the inhuman trade in Igboland could be understandable. Its
foundation being the consequence of a revolt of erstwhile slave against their erstwhile slaving
masters the Ibibio, a sort of economic coup d’etat that metamorphosed into a political union, the
inhabitants were bound to appropriate the roles of their previous masters. Moreover, lying astride
two distinct culture groups with fluidity of identity, and advantageously situated on the Enyong
River, a major tributary to the Cross River, their opportunity to act as middlemen to their
Efik/Ibibio kinsmen was therefore not difficult.
On the extent and dimension of this influence, Ekejuba (1972, 14) wrote:
By the end of eighteenth century the traffic had reached its peak
following the establishment of many other trade settlements and opening
up of other trade routes through which commercial, cultural and religious
contact were established and maintained. During this peak period the
influence of the Aro had spread to the great extent that political stability
and the order necessary for successful trade were maintained with the aid
of specialist warrior groups whom the Aro deployed to flow of trade. The
organization of the Ibinu-Ukpabi oracle had been perfected and its own
quota of slaves recruited through its agents.
Although Ekejuba fell short of mentioning the identity of those warriors claimed
have been deployed by the Aro against the Igbo communities that attempted to obstruct their
trade, the fact remains however that the Aro as a group lacked the warrior instinct and prowess
which were then the source of power for the risky business of slave trade. But as Jones
(1937:103) rightly put it.
They were also fortunate in having as neighbours war- like
cannibals whose tribal sport was head-hunting, who also were
prepared to jeopardize their amateur status by following Aro
guides and raiding more densely populated and less war like
areas if suitably paid for it.
G.I Jones was no doubt referring to the Ohafia, Abrirba, Item, Edda, Abam
and related groups, whose culture of initiation to adulthood required the cutting of human heads.
Although many people have attempted to ascribe to these people to Aro mercenaries, it does not
appear to be so. It is obvious that the practice of head-hunting among the Igbo in general long
predated Aro engagement in slave trade. In fact, the Aro merely seized the opportunity of their
proximity to these groups to engage them as security insurance agents. In effect therefore, these
people were the de facto power behind the Aro ability to expand with little molestation.
The other source of Aro influence, the Ibinu Ukpabi oracle (long juju) was situated in
Arochukwu, and formed part of the oracular-complex of Igboland. The others include, as
mentioned previously, the Agbala of Awka, Kamalu of Ozuzu, and Igwe-ka-Ala of Umunnoha.
The long Juju of Arochukwu acted principally as a conduit for abducing unsuspecting free Igbo
citizens into slavery under the cover of an unbiased adjudicator.
Operating in the manner of present-day advance-free fraud, popularly called 419, the Aro
people living in Arochukwu tactfully colluded with their kinsmen living among the other Igbo
sub-groups in the name of settling disputes, to kidnap innocent people and extort enormous
wealth from them. But in reality, the so called powers ascribed to Ubinu- Ukpabi, a generic
Akpa deity referred by the Ibibio as Ibiri-Tam, was a farce, and most Igbo sub-groups who were
equally learned in the act of oracular trade strongly resisted the Aro machination in this regard.
Hence the frequent use of their head-hunting neighbours to attack such communities as a means
of securing safe-passage for their human traffic.
On the limit of aro influence, Jones (1937:103) once again wrote:
The Efiks controlled the trade of the lower Cross River
and Akunakuna the rest; the Aro monopoly extended
only to the hinterland, and did not cover even the whole
of this, for the area of the onitsha-Awka , Isu and Oru
sub-tribes, many of whom were also traders, lay outside
it. Aro trade therefore, did not reach the Niger, but centered
only on the Cross River.
The present writer agrees with Jones on the extent of Aro influence and thus sees as total
vainglorious fabrication the claim that Aro influence extended to the Niger Delta States and even
Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon, as claimed by Professor Ekejuba.
But it remains to properly define the historical roles of the Aro in the context of Igbo
history, cultural development and civilization. From every angle any one attempts to look at it,
the roles of the Aro in the body of Igbo history, were antithesis to the positive development of
pre-colonial Igbo society. A people that still take pride as the descendants of the notorious
inhuman slave traders can only but be defined as unrepentant agents of retrogression in moral
The loss encountered by Black Africa in general and, the Igbo in particular in this
infamous trade remains monumental. The number of Africans carted away to Europe and the
Americans could not easily be estimated. What started with the abduction of ten Africans in 1442
A D on the Coast of Guinea was by between 1733 and 1766 AD to become a colossal human
traffic of about 92,000 innocent Africans annually; with the British taking the lead with 60,000,
the French 23,000, while the other European nations notably the Portuguese, Spaniards and the
Dutch shared from the rest (Bandinel 1963, 63).
The above statistics presented by James Bandinel although frightening in relation to the
estimated population of Black Africa at those periods, yet it stands debatable when viewed in the
context of the tortuous process of making a free citizen of Black Africa a slave in Europe and the
Americas. A better picture of the true situation of the period seems to have been painted by the
African-American historian John Hope Franklin. As he rightly puts it: (Franklin 1967, 57).
When one considers that numbers must have been killed
while resisting the middle passage and the millions that
were successfully brought to the Americas, the aggregate
approaches staggering proportions. These figures: five,
ten, or fifteen million, are themselves a testimonial to the
fabulous profits that must have been made by those who prosecuted it, to
the tremendous demand being made by new
world settlers for labours.
Well painted. If one may say concerning the picture of the Trans- Atlantic experience.
But then, what about the hinterland passage, the one perpetrated by the likes of the Aro slave
traders? Can one rightly qualify in terms of cost, the extent of destruction of the lives and
property of the Igbo of the time, as well as the mental agony that was inflicted on the Igbo
personality in the course of the raids, capture and transportation of slaves to the Atlantic coast?
When therefore it is remembered that the Aro were responsible for these dastardly acts,
then one may be tempted to describe Aro influence as evil, their hegemony and the concept of
Aro-Okigbo a fabulous misrepresentation of Aro identity, roles and character in the body of Igbo
history, culture and civilization. In fact Professor Ekejuba’s claim that the so-called Aro slaving
activities gave Igboland a considerable measure of political stability was not just out of point but
untenable in the context of the nature and character of slave trade. The Aro therefore have
nothing glorious to celebrate about their past in the context of their origins, roles and character in
the overall development of Igbo culture, economy, religion, socio-political institutions, and
One very important position of the present paper, given the false claims of primacy by the
Aro over and above the rest Igbo sub-culture groups, is that there is a strong need at this time to
carry out a massive re-engineering of the reconstruction process of the Igbo past. This reengineering must be centered on the true facts of history guided by historical evidence, and not
on untenable fabrications guided by either clannish or sub-cultural sentiment. As pope Leo XIII
put it:
It is the first law of history that it dares say nothing which
is false nor fear to utter anything that is true, in order that
there may be suspicion either of partially or hostility
(Garagham 1946:43).
Otherwise one does not seem to understand why, over the years the Aro should continue to
show-case historical fallacies and untenable claims of primacy among the Igbo, by show-casing
bloated ego of a non-existent historical heritage. If one may ask, beyond their roles as slave
merchants, and of course the oracular but mischievous roles of their Ibinu Ukpabi, what other
influence was associated with their past to warrant the title of Aro-okigbo? Militarily, the Aro
confrontation with the invading British Colonial army clearly lacked the marked intrepidity of
the average Igbo sub-group. Asiegbu (1984:260) was clear on this when he wrote:
Farmed for their shrewdness and diplomacy, the Aros militarily
had disappointed the promises and expectations of effective
armed resistance in the final encounter with the British in
1901-1902 much to the great surprise of even the invaders
themselves. But across the Niger to the west, a group of other
Igbo community in the Asaba hinterland was to surprise the
British invaders by organizing perhaps one of the longest and
stiffest anti-British campaigns in Igboland between about 1896
and 1911.
The question arising thereof from the above comparative picture is which among the two
groups – the Aro or the West-Niger Igbo is better qualified to go by the title: Okigbo? Posing a
moral question to Aro activities, one finds it ridiculous that at a period when descendants of
major European slave merchants and nations are showing remorse for the atrocities of the slave
trade and slavery against Black Africa, the descendants of one the African agents of the same
evil trade would be celebrating their forefathers’ escapades in the evil trade. Thus bearing this in
mind, one is apt to assert that the concept of Aro-okigbo is merely rooted in a historical
experience that is morally corrupt and bankrupt, economically destructive, politically void, and
mentally debilitating. It is like celebrating the triumph of the evil of slave trade and slavery over
the Igbo people.
It is based on this that one finds it difficult to understand the moral and pan-Igbo basis of
the term: Aro-okigbo when applied in the sense that the Aro do today, bearing in mind that for
the many centuries of transatlantic slave trade, Africa in general and Igboland in particular lost
millions of resourceful men, women and children. And what were the major consequences of
this? It institutionalized centuries of underdevelopment in socio-economic, cultural, religious,
political and even intellectual spheres of Black Africa .
On the whole, one could but only state that it is unfortunate that a sub-group that claims
to be truly Igbo, whose ancestors participated in this gruesome episode could pride themselves as
Aro-Okigbo, thereby extolling the negative virtues of their fore-fathers in bringing about untold
desolation of Igbo society of the time, through enslavements, unwarranted killings and
dislocation of the socio-political, economic and demographic settings which arose from frequent
armed raids. The inability to locate Olaudah Equiano’s home town of Ekassa today in Igboland
is a hard-testimony of the extent of the negative roles played by the Aro.
It therefore follows that whatever atrocities the Europeans might have committed by
engaging on the Atlantic slave trade, the Aro has a major share. consequently, one can
effectively state that whenever the issue of reparation to black Africa in respect of the slave trade
is mentioned, such people as the Aro should be included in the burden sharing, being themselves
the primary interior agents of the inhuman trade in Igboland.
In concluding this paper, one is apt to state categorically that the concept of Aro
hegemony or Aro-Okigbo does not have a place of honour worthy of mention in the body of
Igbo history, culture and civilization. Aro influence was in the main negative in morals,
destructive in economic, political and social terms, and above all repugnant to true pan-Igbo
personality and aspirations. In effect, what is required of the Igbo sub-culture groups presently
concerning the past dehumanizing roles of Aro slave traders is to initiate the process of
demanding for reparations from the present Aro-descendants.
N.A.E/AD.6.35, ARODIV 20/1/15. “Anthropological papers on Aro origin”
Discussion and the basis of the widespread Aro influence, 1927”, (intelligence report on
the Aro clan, Arochukwu District, Calabar Province.)
N.A./AD.635/vol.ii/Aro sub-tribe/ ARODIV 3/1/56, “Amanagwu Arochukwu to
District officer, Arochukwu” (petition dated 4th September)
N.A.E. EP8760. CSEI, 1/85/4595. Awka Divisional Intelligence Report, by M.D.W Jeffery’s,
Ekejuba, Felicia I (1972) “The Aro System of Trade in the Nineteenth Century” Ikenga vol. xx,
No 1.
Jeffery’s, M.D.W. (1935)“The Divine Umundri king” Africa vol. viii, 346-354
----------------- (1951) “The Winged Solar Disk or Ibo Itshi Facial Scarification” Africa vol. xx21,
No. 193-111
Jones, G.I (1939) “Who Are The Aro?” The Nigerian Field vol. No3,July.
Njoku, O.N. (1988) “ Awka and Early Iron Technology in Igboland: myths, probabilities
and realities” Odu No.33 January 133-148.
Wikipedia, (2012) “Aro Confederacy” www/http.en.wikipedia,org
Afigbo, A.E. (1987) The Igbo and their Neigbours, Ibadan: OUP.
Asiegbu, Johnson U.J. (1984) Nigeria and its British Invaders, 1851-1920, Enugu: Nok.
Bandinel, James (1968) Some Account of the Trade in Slaves from Africa as Connected with
Europe and America, London: Frank Cass.
Chinweizu, (1978) The West and the Rest of Us, Lagos: Nok Publishers.
Franklin, John Hope (1967) From Slavery to Freedom: a History of Negro Americans, New
York: Afred B. Knopf.
Garraghan, G.I. (1946) A Guide to Historical Methods, New York: Fordhan University Press,
Idigbo, M.C.M. (1955) The History of Aguleri, Yaba-Lagos: Nicholas Printing and Publishing
Ifesieh, E.I (1989) Religion at the Grassroots (Studies in Igbo Religion) Enugu: SNAAP Press.
Leonard, A.G. (1968) The lower Niger and its Tribes London: Frank Cass.
Odinanwa, B.I.O.(1987) The Foundations of Nri kingdom and Hegemony: Being an
Authenticated Statement on the Early Days of Nri kingdom, Onitsha: Enimor press,
Onwuejegwu, M.A. (1981) An Igbo Civilization: Nri kingdom and Hegemony
London: Ethiope Publishing Corperation,1981.
------------------ (1980) An Outline of Igbo civilization Nri kingdom and Hegemony Onitsha:
Tabansi press 1980
------------------- (1987) Ahiajoku Lecture 1987: Evolutionary Trends in the history of the
Development of the Igbo Civilization in the Culture Theatre of Igboland in Southern Nigeria.
Owerri: Culture Division, Ministry of Youth and Culture 1987.
Rodney, Walter (1972) How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, London, Bogle-L’Ouverture.
Seligman, C.G. (1966)The Races of Africa London: OUP.
Thomas, Northcote W. (1913) Anthropological Report on the Ibo- Speaking Peoples Southern
Nigeria, part 1, law and custom Southern Nigerian, London: Harrison and Sons.
The Principles of International Humanitarian Laws and the Nigerian Civil War: A
Review of Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo’s Roses and Bullets
Barr. Dr. F.O. Orabueze, Prof. (Mrs) Tina Okoye and Dr. (Mrs). Ifeyinwa Ogbazi
The Nigerian Civil War which was fought between the federal military government and
the Biafran rebels between July, 1969 and January, 1970 has generated a plethora of literature.
Critical evaluation of these literary works has taken different perspectives. However, this essay
takes a legalistic method that uses Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo’s very recent novel, Roses and
Bullets, to address the compliance or non -compliance of the war to the principles of
international humanitarian law. It examines the fate of combatants, wounded, sick and dead
soldiers in the world of the novel. It equally scrutinizes the life of the civilian population,
particularly the women, children and refugees, who are caught in the conflict. The role of the
medical personnel and international humanitarian bodies are examined as well as the punishment
meted out to the perpetrators of abduction, rape, torture, cruel and inhuman treatment that violate
the laws of the nations.
Where, after all, do universal rights begin? In small places, close to home, so
close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are
the world of the individual person: the neighbourhood he lives in; the school or
college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the
places, where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity,
equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they
have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them
close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world (Eleanor
Roosevelt quoted in Ezeilo 2008).
Prior to the time of recorded history, and the documentation of the rights of man, man has preyed
on other men. And recognizing that “power and brute force need mediation” (Chukwuma 2012),
one of the greatest philosophers suggested:
And the rule of law, it is argued, is preferable to that of any individual. On the
same principle, even if it be better for certain individuals to govern, they should
be made only guardians and ministers of the law.... Therefore, he who bids the
law rule may be deemed to bid God and Reason alone rule, but he who bids man
rule adds an element of the beast: for desire is a wild beast and passion perverts
the minds of rulers, even when they are the best of men. The law is reason
unaffected by desire (Aristotle Politics).
Man, therefore, having recognized the essentiality of the rule of law over the rule of man, strives
to protect these rights in order to ensure that what Okey Ndibe describes in his examination of
the spirit of history in Chinua Achebe trilogy as, “Things fall apart; an order passes; a
dispensation dies; chaos ascends; terror triumphs” (293), will never happen again as in the two
world wars. And as Eleanor Roosevelt suggests, these rights ought to be made fundamental
rights which must be protected by the comity of nations in small places close to home – school,
college, factory, and farm. But most importantly, the violations of these rights ought to be
penalized in places that have been turned into theatres of war, where “the ‘gun’ is a sign of
power” (Udumuchu 2012). The war situation gives rise to what Charles Nnolim describes in his
critical appraisal of Aniebo’s The Journey Within as “ Fellow man thus becomes a mere toy, not
at the hands of the gods but at the hands of fellow men in a position of authority. The army as an
establishment has thus usurped the powers of the gods and acts like the Olympians in the matter
of fellow man’s destiny” (Approaches to the African Novel 140).
The situations, where men dwarf other men, and suppress and brutalize them play itself
out in the novel under study. Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo’s Roses and Bullets is, undoubtedly, a
work of literature, which “may appear to be describing the world, and sometimes actually does
so, but its real function is performative: it uses language within certain conventions in order to
bring about certain effects on the reader” (Eagleton 2009). It is not just any type of literature like
the romance, but it is a literature of war, which Ernest Emenyonu observes, “has enriched
contemporary African literature both in the quantity and quality of output” (2008 xiv). As a war
fiction, it presents the horrors of war with its accruing benefits because:
In the process of mirroring society and criticizing its pitfalls, the war literature
also serves as a compass for social re-definition. A didactic function emerges in
the process, especially in the portrayal of death, devastation, avoidable mistakes
and sufferings engendered by the war (Nwahunanya 1997).
The devastation of the Nigerian Civil War is the major theme explored in the novel, which has its
setting in some Nigerian cities and villages. The events in the story are situated within the threeyear-old genocidal civil war. This war and other wars are still raging in some parts of the
continent that Chimalum Nwankwo refers to them as Africa’s index, which “ could guide the
insightful reader towards the foundations of Africa’s perennial or still unfolding tragedies”
(2008: 13). And one may rightfully like to know the perennial and unfolding tragedies, which
Roses and Bullets depict. Undoubtedly, the novel x-rays the tragedies of armed conflict, the
human and material carnage, as a result of its violence. Violence, which Salami-Boukari says,
“... in all its forms, whether physical or mental, battery, and abuse in all its forms, whether
economic, emotional, or verbal abuse, including sexual assault and rape endanger not only
women’s well-being, but have a direct impact on the stability and life of the family as a whole”
(African Literature: Gender Discourse, Religious Values and the African Worldview 2012). It
necessarily follows that by extension, the nation engaged in armed conflict and the whole world
bear the brunt of the devastation.
Bearing the effects of wars on mankind, this critical discourse will therefore desist from
Roses and Bullets from a befogged feminist binocular vision for its “thematic
preoccupation is the exploration of the specific subject of the dehumanizing status of women”
(Awodiya 242) or is it interested in feminism’s advocacy of the enthronement of women’s
fundamental human rights, agitation of parity between men and women “in the belief that
women have been persistently discriminated against by virtue of their gender” (Ojaruega
2011/2012). It would also amount to viewing the issue of derogations of human rights raised in
the novel, if they are seen in the narrow compass of “women’s situation in societies which have
undergone a war of national liberation and socialist reconstruction” (Davis 564) or the
reductionism of only show-casing the “ unspeakable exploration of women– some of whom are
raped, some of whom are abducted and used as sex slaves and some of whom have to sell their
bodies to survive”
(Eustace Palmer 2008). The evaluation of the novel must transcend such
feminist reading to get at the full meaning of the text, which Pierre Macherey posits is the “ the
relation between the implicit and explicit…. And what is important in the work is what it does
not say” (A Theory Of Literary Production 1978). And what the novel does not say but is implied
is that it is to be deciphered as an allegorical narrative that “represents the metaphor by which a
process of learning, for both the protagonist and the reader, is examined” (Amachree 85). It is
only through such a close reading that the war that affects the fictive characters in their fictive
world can acquire a global canvass. It is only through this that the meaning of “Much of Africa’s
women’s literature has been concerned about change, overtly or covertly...” (Kolawale 153)
becomes glaring. However, the change must not be motivated by the impulse to scrap the status
quo or to interrogate patriarchy or to overrun the rigid tradition that “discriminates against
African women, who are seen as perpetual children and second-class citizens” (Azodo 1997). It
is through the journey motif of the principal characters that undergo the crucibles of a civil war,
devastating experiences of the protagonist, Ginikanwa Ezeuko, that the metaphor of war can be
properly articulated. It is only through the excruciating experiences that Chinua Achebe situates
the war in a metaphor of psychosis in his “The Madman” in Girls at War, which has been
interpreted as:
... a metaphor for the Nigerian-Biafran conflict. For who can say which side was
the real mad man in that conflict? The Igbo (Biafrans), who were the victims of
the genocide and treated as aliens in their own country, were depicted “mad” for
daring to secede from the Nigerian union. But in pursuing the Biafrans, Nigeria
often appeared to be in a mad chase after victory only to resume a unified country
again, whole but scarred from that chase (Patricia Emenyonu 2012).
The thrust of this critical discourse, therefore, is to examine Roses and Bullets within the
macrocosm of the indelible imprints of the civil war on the fictive characters that inhabit the
world of the novel. It would scrutinize within its ambit – the fate of the combatant and non –
combatant soldiers, the fate of the civilian population, the role of the medical personnel and
humanitarian bodies and the seemingly lack of punishment for the perpetrators of the crimes of
genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. All these issues would be viewed within the
back-drop of the multiplicity of laws that protect individual’s human rights laws, which Christof
Heyns and Magnus Killander believe, “Both domestic law and international law can potentially
protect human rights. Domestic or national protection is obviously the most important; it is the
first line of defence” (350). The civil war created a violent disruption in the fictive setting;
particularly in Biafra, that there seems to be a state of anarchy where the operation of the law has
been temporarily suspended; therefore, the domestic law never offered any protection to any of
the characters. The whole enclave where the novel is set shows a glaring absence of the rule of
law but jungle justice. However, one questions the non-implementation of the plethora of
international humanitarian laws that purport to ameliorate the effects of war in conflict situations
as depicted in Roses and Bullets. And this multiplicity of laws will be examined presently.
Some Provisions of International Humanitarian Laws
Before Albert Einstein’s bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to determine the victor and the
vanquished of the Second World War, witnesses to the horrors of the war had met in San
Francisco, United States of America, on 26th June, 1945, with the intention of saving “the
succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold
sorrow to mankind” (Charter of the United Nations). And to ensure that the provisions of this
Charter has universal application, its article 2(6) provides that “The organization shall ensure that
states which are not members of the United Nations act in accordance with these Principles so
far as may be necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security”. It further
provides that members of the organization ought to ensure that the fundamental human rights
enshrined in this chanter are implemented in “territories whose peoples have not yet attained a
full measure of self-government” (article 73) and in territories, which are “hereinafter referred to
as trust territories” (article 75). In order to ensure that perpetrators of scourges of war did not go
scot-free, it established the International Court of Justice in its article 92 with the mandate that it
“shall be the principal judicial organ of the United nations”.
It is the same Charter of the United Nations formulated by the five permanent members
of the United Nations – Republic of China, France, and the Union of the Soviet Socialist
Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of
America – that gave birth to the United Nations Organization, whose most important purpose
and principle is provided in article 1 (1) of the Charter as:
To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective
collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for
the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring
about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and
international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations
which might lead to a breach of the peace.
The United Nations have tried to protect the rights of the individual and to maintain the equality
of states. It has adopted several international human rights instruments which are called The
International Bill of Human Rights. These include, Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
1948, which provides in its article 3 that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of
person”; article 4, “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and slave trade shall be
prohibited in all its forms”; articles 5, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman
or degrading treatment or punishment”, article 8, everyone has the right to an effective remedy
by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the
constitution or by law, and article 9, “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or
exile”. The comity of nations recognizing that human rights as provided in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights cannot be achieved without providing for the enjoyment of civil
and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are
created for them to enjoy their economic, social and cultural rights adopted in 1976 International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights. One very important provision of the two covenants which is lacking in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights is that they explicitly provide in their respective articles
1 (1) that “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right, they freely
determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural
development”. The civil war in the world of Roses and Bullets is to be seen as falling under this
provision, where Biafrans who felt marginalized and massacred in the northern cities and
elsewhere decided to secede from the union and determine their own political status and pursue
their economic, social and cultural developments. However, the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights also provided like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights all the
fundamental human rights in articles 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9 stated earlier.
International humanitarian laws which are anterior and posterior to these declaration and
covenants exist, and they are all aimed specifically to the protection of lives and prosperity in
countries that are theatres of either civil or international wars. For example, as far back as 22 nd
August, 1864, long before the devastating First and Second World Wars, there was the
Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field. This
convention has a very narrow scope as it provided only for the wounded or sick combatants in
the field and the protection of the personnel who examined and treated them. There was also the
Geneva Convention for the Relief of the Wounded and Sick in Armies in the Field of July 27,
1929. Having witnessed the horrors of World War II which was based on the superiority of races
in which more than six million Jews were annihilated, in a diplomatic conference held in Geneva
from 21st - April to 12th August, 1949, the representatives of governments revised the 1929
Geneva Convention and replaced it with the First Geneva Convention (1949). Unlike the few
provisions of the first two conventions of the previous international humanitarian laws, this one
has a wider scope in its sixty-four articles. The provisions of this convention “shall be
implemented in peacetime” as well as to “all cases of declared war or of any other armed
conflict” (article 2). The law sought to protect persons taking no active part in hostilities, that is,
the civilian population, dead or wounded and sick soldiers, prisoners of war, medical personnel,
members of the International Committee of the Red Cross and other impartial humanitarian
body. Among the civilian population which it sought to protect, it stated, “Women shall be
treated with all consideration due to their sex” (article 12). It specifically prohibited in article 3
violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel
treatment and torture;
taking of hostages;
outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;
the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without pervious
judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court.
There is no doubt that this First Genera Convention, 1949 for all intents and purposes, was
aimed at avoiding the scourges of war, torture, rape, cruel and degrading treatment, and
particularly, the crime of genocide. After the adoption of this convention, the world witnessed
the massacre of millions of people in several armed conflicts across the globe, particularly, the
extermination of the Igbo in the three-year-old war, which provided the historical material for
Roses and Bullets, the massacre of the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo after the fall of Yugoslavia
and the Rwandan genocide which claimed the lives of almost a million people within months,
while the world looked on. These exterminations are possible as long as article 63 of First
General Convention 1949 provides that “Each of the High Contacting Parties shall be at liberty
to denounce the present convention”.
The community of states having realized the inadequacies of the previous international
humanitarian laws are mindful that millions of children, women and men have been victims of
unimaginable atrocities in times of armed conflicts, and having realized that these crimes
threaten the peace, security and the well-being of the world which the Charter of the United
Nations seeks to protect, affirming that these crimes go unpunished and determined “to put an
end to the impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes and thus contribute to the prevention of
such crimes” (Preamble The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court). The Statute
established The International Criminal Court in 2002. The court has jurisdiction over the crime
of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. The statute,
therefore, interprets genocide as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in
whole or part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. These acts are provided in article 6:
killing members of the group;
causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its
destruction in whole or in part;
imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The same statute also provides in its article 3 (7) for Crimes Against Humanity which includes
murder, extermination, enslavement, imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical
liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law, torture, rape and sexual slavery,
persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity, enforced disappearance of persons and
other inhumane acts of similar character, intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury
to body or to mental or physical health. In article 8 of the Statute, it is provided that “war crimes”
means grave breaches of the Geneva Convention of 12th August, 1949. In its Article 8 (2) (b), the
statute provides what constitute war crimes in cases of armed conflict not of an international
character, like the civil war in the fictive setting of Roses and Bullets. It particularly states:
Violence to life and, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment
and torture;
Committing outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and
degrading treatment;
The passing of sentences and carrying out executions without previous judgments
pronounced by a regularly constituted court.
In its article 8 (2) (c), the statute further provides that the following acts also constitute war
crimes: intentionally directing attacks on civilian population or against individual civilians not
taking direct part in hostilities; intentionally directing attacks against buildings, material, medical
units and transport, using the distinctive emblems of the Geneva Conventions in conformity with
international law; intentionally directing attacks against personnel, installations, material, units
or vehicles involved in humanitarian assistance, intentionally directing attacks against buildings
dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historical monuments,
hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected; pillaging towns or cites, even
when taken by assault; committing rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution and forced
pregnancy; conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen years into armed forces or
groups, killing or wounding treacherously a combatant adversary and destroying or seizing the
property of an adversary unless such destruction is necessitated by the imperative of the conflict.
Apart from these international humanitarian laws, there are also others that seek to
particularly protect women and children in times of war. Being aware that women and children
belong to the vulnerable group who suffer greatly in periods of emergency and armed conflict in
the struggle for peace, self-determination, national liberation and independence, and the suffering
of this group in many areas of the world, the General Assembly of the United Nations in
December, 1974, passed the resolution for the proclamation of Declaration on the Protection of
Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict. This Declaration particularly prohibits
attacks and bombings of the civilian population; inflicting incalculable suffering, especially on
women and children and all forms of repression and cruel and in human treatment of women and
children, including imprisonment and torture, shooting, mass arrests, collective punishment,
destruction of dwellings; and women and children belonging to the civilian population and
finding themselves in circumstances of emergency during armed conflict shall not be deprived of
shelter, food, medical aid or other inalienable rights.
Again for the protection of the women particularly, the General Assembly also
proclaimed on 20th December, 1993 the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against
Women. In its article one, the Declaration defines ‘violence’ against women as “any act of
gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological
harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of
liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”. Therefore, violence against women
includes physical, sexual and psychological violence which may occur at the family, communal
levels or condoned by the state.
Moreover, the comity of nations realizing that children are also very sensitive and
vulnerable groups that need special protection like women during armed conflicts also make
provisions for their protection in Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1990. Its article 1
specifies that a “child means every human being below the age of eighteen years, unless under
the law applicable to the child majority is attained earlier”. In its article 38 (1), it enjoins state
parties to observe and respect the international humanitarian laws applicable to armed conflict
that affect the child. It further states in the same section 38:
State Parties shall take feasible measures to ensure that persons who have
not attained the age of fifteen years do not take a direct part in hostilities.
State Parties shall refrain from recruiting any person who has not attained
the age of fifteen years into their armed forces. In recruiting among those
persons who have attained the age of fifteen years but who have not
attained the age of eighteen years, State Parties shall endeavour to give
priority to those who are oldest.
In accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law
to protect the civilian population in armed conflicts, State Parties shall
take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who
are affected by an armed conflict.
And to further prohibit the incidence of recruiting children into armed forces, Worst Forms of
Child Labour Convention, 1999, was adopted by International Labour Organization. The
organization’s international instrument also reiterates that a child is any person under the age of
eighteen years. In its article 3(a), it states that the “worst forms of child labour” consists of:
All forms of slavery or practice similar to slavery, such as the sale and trafficking
of children, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour,
including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.
The General Assembly of the United Nations still desirous to stem the involvement of childsoldiers in armed conflicts, particularity in civil wars, adopted the Optional Protocol to the
Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict in 2000.
This law enjoins State Parties to “raise the minimum age for the voluntary recruitment of persons
into their national forces … for persons under the age of 18 years are entitled to special
protection” (article 3(1)). And in the same article 3 (3), it further provides stringent conditions
under which persons under the age of eighteen years may be allowed. They include:
Such recruitment is genuinely voluntary;
Such recruitment is carried out with the informed consent of the person’s
parents or legal guardians;
Such persons are fully informed of the duties involved in such military
Such persons provide reliable proof of age prior to acceptance into
national military service.
Besides, in 1984, the General Assembly also adopted the Convention Against Torture and Other
Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in its desire to stop torture, cruel and
inhuman treatment throughout the world. In its article 1, it defines ‘torture’ as “any act causes
severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, which is intentionally inflicted on a person
It provides particularly in its article 2:
No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a
threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency,
may be invoked as a justification of torture.
An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked
as a justification of torture.
Having reviewed the plethora of international humanitarian laws which enjoin state parties to
domesticate the laws and implement the sanctions, where applicable, the next step is a textual
analysis of Roses and Bullets to determine whether the civil war in the world of the novel
complies with the provisions of these laws or otherwise. In other words, what is the fate of the
fictive characters – combatants, civilian population, child solders, medical personnel, refugees or
internally displaced persons and members of the international humanitarian body – that inhabit
the fictive setting of the war fiction?
Violations of the Principles of International Humanitarian Law in Roses and Bullets
The Fate of the Soldiers
Roses and Bullets is a historical novel that takes its material from the Nigerian-Biafran civil war
of 1967 to 1970, which violates the principles of international humanitarian law in times of
armed conflict. The savagery of the war, particularly the human loss, is underscored by Ginika’s
grandmother’s indirect companion, which has an undertone of a genocidal war, “Where are you
fighting? These people who are fighting us, are they human beings. They are pursing us and
killing us like chickens” (352). The five-hundred-and-eighteen-paged novel, which is structured
in five parts, and has its setting in cities and villages in Nigeria, explores the themes and brutality
of wars, friendship, love, betrayal and the problems of childrearing. It tells the story of
Ginikanwa Ezeuko, whose father tries to bring up as a virtuous woman. She is in a higher school
as an adolescent when the war starts, but her education is disrupted by the war. As the war rages
on, she marries her heartthrob, Eloka Odunze, who is a university undergraduate before the war.
Almost immediately after her wedding, Eloka joins the army and leaves her in the care of his
parents and younger sister. She is raped by a Biafran soldier, and she gets pregnant and later has
a malformed baby. At the end of the war, she is gang-raped by soldiers from the federal army.
They abduct, torture, detain, break her ankle and rape her until she is rescued by her British
teacher, who rehabilitates her and ensures she gets justice.
The experiences of the protagonist, Ginika, particularly her rape, are a metaphor for the
devastation of war as her body becomes a site of encounter between the two warring factions.
The first part of the novel, which is entitled “The Beginning” presents Ginika’s rebellion against
the iron-fisted authority of her father, Ubaka Ezeuko. Her rebellion parallels Biafra’s selfdetermination against the Nigerian confederacy, because of the massacre of its people in the
northern cities and in Lagos. According to the narrator:
Then she [Ginika] saw what those who had come before her saw – an open
carriage filled with human debris. Ginika saw severed hands and legs chopped,
lying like pieces of wood on the floor of the carriage; there were dead bodies that
were whole but with deep gashes in different places – the neck, chest and belly.
Some of the bodies seemed to be covered with rust, but Ginika knew it was not
rust but discoloured blood (166).
The survivors of the pogrom are not better than the dead, for Ginika also sees at the Railway
Quarters, “dazed people with head injuries and machete cuts all over their bodies; a few of them
had tourniquets on their bandaged arms” (166). The madness and carnage which will overtake
the fictive world is set against the background of some children who play in the grass, and they
“looked so charmingly happy; free as birds released from a cage and allowed to take wind” (17).
The free world of the bird is also reflected in Mbano, where the birds’ beautiful song wakes up
Ginika, and “you couldn’t help listening to their singing. You couldn’t help having your fancy
tickled. Above all, you couldn’t help enjoying it ….One of them looked so beautiful and
adorable that each time she looked at it, tears filled her eyes” (34).
With the use of flash back in the second part, “Before the Beginning”, the narrator tells
the story of her traumatic experiences when her mother dies and her father remarries a stepmother who stops at nothing to divide the family. In the third part, “The Middle”, the narrator
reconnects the reader with the war that has already begun in the first part. The savagery and the
brutality of the war – the disease, the starvation and the sexual abuses – are presented. Part four,
which is entitled “The End”, unfolds the end of the war between the two sides of the armed
conflict, but the war continues for Ginika as she is abandoned by Eloka who is back from the war
front. It completes the cycle of her rejection which is initially started by her parents-in-law, her
father and step-mother. It is also the beginning of another battle – the indignities heaped on
Biafran men, the women and the feminization of Biafran by the victorious federal troops. The
fifth part which is “After the End” actually ends the story and Ginika’s trauma as she is rescued
and rehabilitated as a new life, a new hope, and a new beginning awaits her.
The civil war that rages in the fictive world of Roses and Bullets violates some principles
of humanitarian law, like the prohibition of the recruitment of child-soldiers and the treatment of
wounded, sick and dead soldiers. For example, Biafran youths support the secession of Biafra
because of the pogrom in the north; therefore, they voluntarily join the army and anybody who
holds a contrary opinion is seen as an enemy. Mr Amadi is almost lynched by an irate mob
because he dares to argue “insistently that fighting a war was not in the best interest of Biafra,
that Ojukwu and other leaders should stop the war” (50). The volunteers are particularly young
undergraduates who join the Biafran army for various reasons. Etim Usoro joins the war to avoid
boredom and he also admires the Biafran war-lord whose mannerism he imitates. Nwakire joins
the war to avoid his step-mother’s petulance. Monday, Lizzy’s houseboy and an illiterate
carpenter, joins the army because he admires Nwakire’s military uniform and his regal carriage.
Uncle Ray also goes into the army because he feels it is his duty to defend the newly independent
Biafra. Eloka takes his time to join the war because he understands the devastation of war, and as
an only son, his influential and wealthy father shields him.
However, as the war drags on and many of the ill-equipped, ill-trained Biafran soldiers
are slaughtered in the battlefields, young men stop enrolling voluntarily into the army. Families
are now expected to donate young men, who will fight the war. Men in positions of power
sacrifice their poor relations, which are sent into the army to fight. Eloka queries his mother:
So Leonard is not important and does not have the prospect of becoming
somebody to reckon with because he is not at the university? He is expendable,
but I am not. He’s the one that can afford to get killed, not me (193)?
The families who have several sons volunteer to give one to fight on the side of Biafra; however,
Philomena’s two brothers are both in the army.
As the war drags on, it dawns on the youths that war is not a romantic adventure. The
lines of donors and volunteers dry up; conscientious objectors to the war like Osondu hide in the
houses like the cowardly Michael. The soldiers and military police are forced to go into the
villages and refugee camps to conscript middle-aged men, the only sons of their families,
ancestral masks who are no longer seen as sacred and even child-soldiers. The only people who
are exempted from conscription among the male population are the very young and elderly
people, sick men, dim-witted and severely disabled men.
Through Udo, who is one of the multi-focal points of view in the novel, Akachi AdimoraEzeigbo presents the evil of using child-soldiers in armed conflict. He is conscripted in the
barracks with other child-soldiers whom he describe, as “captives”. The fact that he is an only
son and his father has been killed in the Jos pogrom is not material to the soldiers who caught
him. He never volunteers to go; his mother’s consent is never sought; he is never told the nature
of his job as specified by international humanitarian law. He is simply armed and pushed into the
war front to experience the horrors of war. The omniscient narrator describes the savagery of the
war through his experience at the war front:
Then the bedlam erupted as shells began to rain down in the trenches, as if the
machines and guns were guided by an unseen power. Each shell that exploded
took lives with it. Cries of men rose and commingled with the sound of explosion.
As Udo lay trembling and calling on his mother, a solid but wet object fell on his
back and rolled down beside him. With the gentlest of movements, he stretched
his hand and touched it. He gave a stifled cry – it was a human head severed at the
neck which still nestled in the steel helmet…. Then he lost consciousness (438).
When the war ends, he loses his innocence and the horrendous experience of the war matures
him. And that is why Nwakire tells Ginika, “Too young? A young man who was in the army and
saw so much evil? I don’t think he is too much to be told” (477).
The war in the fictive setting of the novel not only involves the recruitment of childsoldiers, but also depicts the abandonment of wounded, sick and dead soldiers, which is against
the principles of modern warfare. The wounded Biafran soldiers are abandoned by their
colleagues. The narrator describes Udo’s situation when he regains consciousness, “Everywhere
was quiet. Where were the men in the trench with him? They had abandoned him while they
retreated…” (438). The jungle is silent and he walks in the forest for three days, all alone, for
even animals, presumably, have fled their natural habitat because of the madness of men. Udo
notices that “Even animals seemed to have fled, for he saw none in his way, except a few bush
rats and squirrels” (439). Besides, Captain Osisioma would have been left in the battlefield to
bleed to death or to be killed or taken as a prisoner of war by the federal soldiers, if not for the
singular bravery of Lieutenant Eloka Odunze. His heroism at going back to the front and
bringing back the wounded officer earns him promotion. However, it seems that it is not a
pleasant experience being captured by the Nigerian soldiers. When Udo regains consciousness,
he is “afraid to get up in case there were vandals lurking in the surrounding bushes” (438). It
seems, therefore, that Udo’s fear is confirmed by a superior officer, Captain Osisioma, who
prefers to kill himself with his “cyanide-tipped needle” (380) to falling “into the hands of the
vandals” (380).
Furthermore, it seems that the Biafran soldiers at the warfronts receive treatment while
the hospitals still have drugs. Dr. Ubaka Ezeuko stays at home, when there are no more drugs to
dispense. As the war rages in the enclave of Biafra, Udo’s pretensions at being shell-shocked
vividly depicts the lack of care for the sick soldiers, particularly those that are neurotic as a result
of the war. Udo tries to get home without being sent back to the battleground as a deserted
soldier, he feigns to be shell-shocked. From his fellow soldiers, all he can get is a ride in an army
truck and a sympathetic comment:
The boy is not up to sixteen years and he is a soldier. This war is evil; it has
turned children into adults overnight. He is luckier than many others suffering
from shell-shock – at least he has a home to return to and perhaps a mother to care
for him (441).
To the civilian population at the relief centre, he can only get a burst of laughter and a woman’s
pitying statement, “See how young the boy is and they sent him to fight in the war front. Now he
is mad. He is only a child …. He is mad at his age” (449). From the man who distributes relief
materials at the centre, he gets a threat, “If you don’t go away now, I will call the two military
police in my boss’s office. They will carry you to the warfront today” (449).
The dead soldiers do not fair better than their sick and wounded combatants. In fact,
nobody keeps the record of dead soldiers. Nobody knows the where about of Uncle Ray when
their battalion is cut off by the Nigerian army. No one also knows whether he is dead or alive for
years until he comes back ten days after the war. The people only depend on rumour as no
records are kept about the wounded, prisoners of war and dead soldiers. As Ginika rebuffs Sule’s
unrequited love with the information that her husband will soon come back, he queries her
confidently, “Are you sure he did not die in the war? Why is he not back” (474)? And Adiele
tells Eloka, when he enquires about Leonard’s welfare, “But we have not seen him for over six
months and we don’t know whether he is alive or dead. Our eyes stare at the gate all the time,
hoping he will come home for a visit” (347).
The Fate of the Civilian Population
The novel not only beams its search-light on soldiers, but also the devastation of the
civilian population in an armed conflict that operated outside the ambit of international
humanitarian law. It presents in its fictive world the appropriation and destruction of civilian
property or infrastructures not justified by the exigencies of the war. Roses and Bullets has a
symbolic title, which operates on two levels of meaning: personal and communal tragedies in
times of war. The rose flower which Eloka gives to Ginikanwa at the time of courting
symbolizes love, life and beauty and can only survive in peace-time, when it is cared for.
However, in time of war which is symbolized by the bullet, the rose lacks care and it wilts and
dies. Just as the friction from Eloka and Ginika’s love-making crushes the bunch of rose flowers
and its red fluid stains the purity of the white sheet on the bed, so will the civil war waste the
youths of the Biafran and Nigerian forces. This is seen in the wisdom of old Adiele’s statement,
“There must be a way to replace the thousands who die every day. The world has broken to
pieces and scattered on our heads” (Roses and Bullets 347). At the personal level, Eloka loses
everything that makes life worth living prior to the war – his love, his education, his rose garden,
his rabbits, his wife and his life. At the communal level, Biafra and Nigeria will be a wasteland
in terms of loss of its youths, who are epitomized by Eloka and Nwakire’s death. Most
importantly, the community loses its innocence as disputes will be settled after the war through
the barrels of the gun. Again, the imagery of wasteland can be glimpsed in the death of Ginika’s
malformed baby immediately after birth. The malformed baby becomes a metaphor for futile
engagements during and after the war. This is a war Udo, Eloka, Nwakire agree that “What a
tragedy the war was! What an anticlimax to him and those who fought with commitment for a
cause they believed in and died for” (479).
What make the war tragic is not only the experiences of the soldiers but also civilians.
Before the war, both soldiers from the South-eastern region in the Nigerian army together with
their civilians are massacred in pogroms in northern cities and Lagos. Udo’s father who is a
trader is killed in Jos. During the war, both sides committed war crimes in order to win the war at
all cost. The federal government, for instance, uses starvation as an instrument of warfare. It
changes its currency and blockaded the territory which results in the scarcity of essential
commodities like sugar, salt, dresses; shoes and food items. The situation gets to a point where
the people eat everything and anything as food. Udo tells Ginika how his widowed mother
survives with his sisters because, “Things are not easy for them. Mama can hardly find enough
food for my sisters and herself. Her main food now is the cassava husk which she soaks in water
and dries before grinding it to make fufu or mixing it with vegetable to make achicha.
Sometimes, I take my food to my sisters” (287). The narrator describes the sick girl in Ama-oyi
refugee camp, who suffers from kwashiorkor thus, “Her eyes were like umi, shallow wells filled
with muddy water. Her head had a few tufts of hair which ironically had the colour of gold. With
her jutting wrinkled forehead, sallow skin, sunken cheeks and emaciated body, she looked more
like a wizened old woman than a child of ten years that she was” (301). Apart from sickness,
sudden death can also occur as a result of the starvation of the civilian population. This is
brought home to the reader through the tragic death of two beautiful and healthy children. The
narrator says, “Mgboli bought cassava in Orie Market and thinking it was the type you just boil
and eat, she cooked it and fed it to her children yesterday. Unfortunately, it was the poisonous
variety and the poor children died before dawn” (331).
In this God-forsaken war, the lowly-ranked soldiers like Leonard, whom the father tells
Eloka comes home well but, “He did not look well at all; he looked starved when we saw him”
(347), Adiele observes to Eloka who is an officer, “You look well. Soldiering suits you” (347).
Also among the civilians, the privileged and stealing classes like Chief Odunze’s family
members are not malnourished. Again, the dogs of war that profit from the war are alright. Eloka
warns the fat and chubby army contractor, “The beans are full of weevils in spite of the
exorbitant price you charge; the palm oil is not fresh…. It is complaints all the time about your
supplies (420). The civilian population that is caged within the shrunken territories of Biafra will
either starve or make an attempt to trade beyond enemy lines. Ginika has to join the team – five
men and fifteen women – for the “adventure she knew was fraught with danger, but was
determined to get involved in if her aunt’s children and her grandmother were to survive, to
escape from the clutches of Kwashiorkor” (450). The outcome of the journey is disastrous for the
unarmed civilians for not only the few female survivors come back empty-handed, but “Twelve
of them were missing – one man and eleven women ….Ginika couldn’t believe her eyes and her
ears. What did it mean – that Eunice and others were shot in the ambush and were lying dead in
the forest...? She wept for Eunice – another flower had withered in the land, another promising
shoot, like Njide” (458).
Moreover, the war in the fictive world of the novel violates the provisions of international
humanitarian law when soldiers from both sides appropriate civilian properties and
infrastructures. Adim joins the war on two grounds, to avoid conscription and:
…the army had commandeered his 403 Peugeot estate car which he had used as
taxi and he decided to become a driver in the army so that he could drive his car
himself, because he could not bear to have another person do it. Now he was
Captain Eloka’s driver but if the car were assigned to another officer, he would
drive the new officer and would still be close to his car (392).
Adim is lucky to be close to his car in Biafra, other civilians are not that luck, for when the
Nigerian army vanquished its Biafran counterpart and enters its territory, “What some of the
victorious soldiers did in some towns and villages, seizing and raping women and confiscating
people’s property with impunity” (479). Ama-Oyi Primary School which served as a school
before the war serves as a refugee camp during the war, and after the war, it is a military base.
As the refugees vacate it, “…the teachers’ quarters are occupied by officers – the commanding
officer lived in the headmaster’s house – while all the classrooms and the hall were converted to
quarters for the other ranks” (467-468).
Apart from appropriation of civilian properties, civilian infrastructures like hospitals,
buildings, markets and roads are shelled and bombed. Also cities, towns and villages in Biafra
are targeted. The village of Umuoku is bombarded with shells, and the villagers are fleeing from
the catastrophe, “Eloka shuddered when he heard the sound of bombs exploding as the plane
strafed the road” (416). After the air raid, the horror of the war is seen in “the woman’s body
jerked twice and lay still” (417), for she bleeds profusely from a deep wound around her neck for
she “must have been hit by shrapnel from the air raid” (417). Apart from the air raid that kills
Boma’s mother, Afor Umuru is also bombed. The commission of war crimes in the armed
conflict is brought home to the reader in the bombing of Orie Market at Ama-Oyi. The remote
village before it becomes the theatre of war is seen to be a safe haven for refugees. Despite its
remoteness, the villagers relocate the market in a “part of the thick forest called Oke-Ohia, Great
Forest” (209), but military planes targeted it:
The explosions rocked the ground, assaulted the air again and again. Ginika heard
anguished cries around her and held on to the tree. For a moment, she ventured to
look up, and saw two jets turning directly overhead; they shone like silver, in the
sun. In that instant, she saw one of them release some objects she could not
identify; the objects fell from the rear end of the plane like the droppings of a
goat. Could these be rockets or cannon balls (Roses and Bullets 211).
The air raid leaves both physical and emotional or psychological carnage on the people. Ginika,
who is a witness to the air raid observes, “There were howls here and groans there. All she
wanted was to get away from the gory scene. Further away, she saw limbs ripped off from their
owners, and other body parts lying around as if they were for sale. Some of the bodies were
trapped by chairs and stools people had brought from the market” (212). The emotional and
psychological traumas are unparalleled for the survivors. Udo “seemed dazed, semi-conscious”
(211); Ginika loses her appetite for food and suffers from insomnia; however, the raid has
neurotic effect on Mrs Ndefo, “who stayed in her room all day, ready to run into the bunker at
the slightest noise. Her fear had become so obsessive that she only came out of her room at night
and left the preparation of meals solely to her housemaid and Amaka” (218).
The historical war depicted in the setting of Roses and Bullets violates principles of
humanitarian laws in its savagery. It is a war in which another war fiction indicts the world in its
haunting mantra, “The World Was Silent When We Died” (Half of a Yellow Sun 2006). It is a
war which another critical discourse says, “reveals that foreigners from Britain, France and
Eastern Europe encourage the rift in the civil war to safeguard personal interests” (Orife 2011). It
is a war which one will agree partly with Isaac Madukwe that it “stirs up primordial sentiments
among the people” (2012:16). However, one will readily disagree with him that the British
colonial rule through it polices in Nigeria stirs these sentiments “where such have not existed
before now” (16). It is submitted that the novelist never indicts the British, it is the same
primordial instincts of Africans that fired and sustained slavery prior to colonization that is also
at work in a war that ought to be called by its true name: genocide.
Roses and Bullets as a war fiction written by a female writer reflects Barbara Rigney’s
argument that “Literature, particularly literature by women, cannot be evaluated apart from the
historical, economic, political, psychological and sociological conditions which produce it” (74).
The novel deals with the ravages of war in a broader context and in a narrower one, the
devastation women undergo in places that are theatres of war. A reader will naturally find the
first two chapters of the novel boring, believing that it deals with such feminist stuff, “where
women can only play the second fiddle” (Ezejiofor 2011). The reader may also suspect she will
be regaled with such over-flogged themes as “African women have been conditioned from birth
to look at the essence of their fulfillment within the realms of marriage and motherhood” (Ohale
131). However, from the third chapter, the reader is held in suspense to the end as the story
unfolds the ravages of war in its fictive setting.
The novel showcases the story of Ginikanwa Ezeuko, who at the beginning of the war is
a teenager in higher school, and holds the burning desire to obtain a university degree in
journalism before her marriage. At the outset of the war, she contributes to the war effort with
the other women by preparing snacks for Biafran soldiers fighting at the Nsukka warfront. When
she relocates to Mbano, she joins the special constables who are trained to man the numerous
checkpoints that dot the precincts of Biafra. She also joins the Mammy Water group, and
becomes one of the principal actors in the play to boost the morale of Biafran soldiers. She gets
married against her father’s and brother’s advice as the war drags on. Because she cannot
conceive to perpetuate the Odunze lineage whose only son is in the war, her mother-in-law
decides to use her as her family’s beast of burden. Out of frustration, she decides to go to a dance
on Janet’s invitation at a military base at Nkwerre. She is raped by a young Biafran officer,
Lieutenant Ugoro; she conceives and bears a malformed child that dies immediately after birth.
Meanwhile, she is sent out by her parents-in-law from her matrimonial home for what they
perceived as immoral and a “win-the-war wife – a harlot” (485) attitude. She is rejected during
and after the war by her angry father and unsympathetic step-mother. Eloka, who comes back
two weeks after the war with heavily pregnant, Boma cannot forgive her because the “story his
parents told him which Ozioma confirmed earlier in the story was like a concrete barrier
separating them” (487). Her brother who also returns from the war cannot bear the sister’s
suffering; he goes to Eloka’s house, kills him and returns to his father’s house and also kills
himself when he learns that federal soldiers have abducted her. At the end of the story, Miss
Miriam Taylor and others rehabilitated her.
One thing is clear in this novel as it is through Ginika, who is a symbolic character in
Roses and Bullets that Adimora-Ezeigbo explores the dilemma of women, whom the men see as
the booties of war in every armed conflict situation. In his examination of Nawal El Saadawi’s
trop of proverbial veil, Simone James says, “Like money, women are regarded as propertied
possessions to have and to hold, and further to exchange as deemed necessary by male holder, or
possessors ….like money that is devalued, women undergo devaluation that parallels sterility or
sterilization” (44). This opinion is borne out by Eloka’s recollection of the value of women
during the war:
He remembered Captain Akudo who was addicted to sex with teenagers. To him
women are beautiful objects to be ravished and thrown away. “They taste
differently when they are quite young”, he had said, with a careless laugh. He had
been disgusted and kept away from Captain Akudo and his debauchery. And there
was also Lieutenant Nandu who saw sex as delectable food which he must eat at
least once a day to remain alive and sane. Many others had equally indulged
excessively in the act without talking about it like these two. He knew also that
women flocked to military camps and made themselves available to officers; so it
was not always the officers seduced them. Where did his wife belong in all this?
Was she drugged and sexually abused, as she claimed (489-490)?
Eloka’s reflection has thrown into light the two crucial circumstances a woman can be a sexobject in a war situation – either she is raped or she gives herself away to a man with the
intention of deriving a material benefit from the relationship. In the case of rape, she never gives
her consent, but in the second, she consents. Janet Nsoh and Nwoyibo Moneke, two female
refugees at Ama-Oyi Primary School, are representatives of the second while Ginikanwa Ezeuko
represents the first group. The two women are mistresses to powerful men in Biafra, and by
virtue of that fact, they belong to the privileged class of refugees in Ama-Oyi. Janet reveals to
Ginika her strategy for survival:
Just three and they help me in different ways. The squadron in the air force base
in Ekwulobia gives me soap, cream and hair thread from Lisbon; the Captain in II
Div in Nnewi gives me money to purchase what I need; and there’s the major at
Nkwere whom I love most and whose company makes the war bearable. If he
asks me to marry him, I will (318-319).
However, the major never proposes, probably he sees her also as a win-the-war wife. Janet does
not mourn her disappointment, but leaves with the last plane that brings relief materials into
Biafra, to try her fortune elsewhere. In her letter to Ginika which is brought by her husband, she
tells her, “She is in America where she ended up after escaping in the last relief plane that flew
out of Biafra at the end of the war. She met a young Igbo man there and married him” (576). It is
also through being a mistress to Chief Odunze that Nwoyibo Moneke and her two children are
able to be part of the refugees that “had deserted as soon as they heard the war had ended” (467).
Nwoyibo is able to maintain her “glassy dark skin and a nose as straight and pointed as that of a
maiden mask” (308) through her sexual relationship with Eloka’s father. Through this symbiotic
relationship, which is only hurtful to Akunnaya, “the refugee woman’s skin glowed and her face
was without wrinkles, not even around her eyes or at corners of the mouth” (309). Her two
children never suffer kwashiorkor or die from eating poisonous food. It is also through this
survival strategy that Inno, who is not considered worthy to be conscripted into the Biafran army,
because he was “halfwit with two fingers missing from his right hand” (299) is able to get a
“pretty girlfriend and that it was the gift of food that attracted the girl” (306).
It is through Ginika’s repeated rape that the novelist is able to hammer on the
consequences of defective childrearing. Her father is a disciplined man who has to examine her
vagina “to make sure she has not been violated” (155) by the boys she went to a dance with at
Ugiri. Her strict upbringing is enough outside the context of a war; however, in wartime, the
security around her crumbles and her lack of street-wisdom like Janet becomes her undoing. If
she has had the street-wisdom of Janet, a girl of her age and without parents, whose “brazen
behaviour and calculating disposition” in which she exploited every situation to her advantage,
she would have not been raped. If she has Janet’s street wisdom which she uses to survive three
different refugee camps, she would not have taken the drink when Lieutenant Ugoro explained
that “ there was no soft drink left and he had bought her gin and lime like her friend” (374).
Street-wisdom would have dictated to her to stop taking the drink when “She saw the man’s face
light up, but looked away quickly. She told herself it was not much, so it shouldn’t get her
drunk” (374). Her restrictive upbringing drives away street-wisdom which should have
forewarned her that her marriage has ended with Eloka and she has nothing to stay behind for in
Ama-Oyi when the war ended. Street-wisdom, which she lacks, would have thought her to
choose either of two options: follow Janet to fly out of the country and begin a new life when she
suggested that to her or marry Sergeant Sule Ibrahim, a disciplined army officer who does not
fool around with women like others, a man who is dedicated to her so much that he was not
interested in her past life and a die-hard lover who is ready to subject himself to the pain and risk
of circumcision in order to be found worthy of her. Because of her lack of street-wisdom, she
clings to a marriage that is doomed and dead, and at the end, she is abducted, gang-raped,
detained, tortured, and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment as Sergeant Bala and some
of his colleagues find her responsible for Sule Ibrahim’s death after circumcision. Like in every
cloud where there is a silver lining, she is rehabilitated by Miss Miriam Taylor and others.
Therefore, the journey motif in this highly allegorical narrative represents the metaphor through
which the protagonist, Ginikanwa Ezeuko and the reader learn that war is not a romantic
adventure, but it involves unparalleled brutality and savagery. Roses and Bullets teaches the
devastation of war, particularly on young naïve and untutored women as they lose their
Ginika sat at the departure wing of the airport in Lagos. She was glad that she was
returning home after being away for nearly six months. She was her old self
again, she thought, except she was wiser and more mature. She had been a school
girl when the war began, but three years after, she was a woman with enough
experience to last her a lifetime. She had experienced grief and she had known
loss, but she would not allow that to harden her… the naïve girl of nineteen had
turned into a patient and confident woman of twenty-two (511).
The novelist leaves no stone unturned to present the deplorable state of refugees in the
genocidal war in the fictive setting of Roses and Bullets. Akinyele has observed that there is a
“growing awareness that the refugee phenomenon is connected with wars and political upheaval”
(168). And the United Nations High Commission for Refugees has declared, “Refugees are the
ultimate symptom of social disintegration…. Looked at globally, they are the barometer of
current state of human civilization” (quoted in Akinyele 168). Prior to this declaration, the
comity of nations had tried to protect human civilization from descending into a Hobbesian state.
In its Geneva Convention of August 12, 1949, it provided therein and further restated them in
article 8(2)(iii) of The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 1998 that “willfully
causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health” constitutes war crimes. Article 6(c) of
the same statute states, “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring
about its physical destruction in whole or in part” is a crime of genocide. It is also a crime
against humanity when “other inhuman acts of similar character intentionally causing great
suffering, or serious injury to the body or to mental or physical health” (article 7(k)) of the
The savagery of the war in the novel violates the provisions of the statute. The refugees
are subjected to inhuman treatment, and they are also deliberately subjected to mental and
physical injuries by the federal government. The first set of refugees to be seen in the fictive
world of the novel, according to The Pilot, a newspaper, “…are some of the people who
managed to escape, they are returning to the East. Most of the people they are killing are Igbo. If
the coup was an act of revenge, as the plotters claim, why are ordinary people being killed? Why
are they killing innocent civilians who knew nothing about the January coups” (Roses and
Bullets 151). Because of the pogrom which targeted the easterner – both soldiers and civilians –
“Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu declared Eastern Nigeria a sovereign state. The new nation
was called the Republic of Biafra” (169). This declaration is an act of self-determination of
people who are oppressed, and it is recognized by Charter of the United Nations and The
International Bill of Rights. This act of self-determination culminates in a brutal civil war by
unequalled armies. According to Eloka who takes a comparative view of the two forces:
They had everything – small arms, large guns, heavy artillery, armored vehicles
and tanks. They had jet fighters and bombers; they had food and drinks galore for
the fighting men; they had uniforms, boots, and helmets for the soldiers. On the
contrary, Biafran forces lacked all these (419).
Biafra held out for almost three years because of the courage of both civilians and soldiers, who
are engaged in a war that determines the existence of the group. The federal troops in its
determination to win the war at all costs shell the cities, towns and villages of Biafra. Civilian
infrastructures – schools, markets, relief centers, roads and cities, towns and villages – are
destroyed. Displaced persons move out of them to areas of relative safety. As man’s folly results
in chaos, lower animals seem to be wiser and watch its consequences. As Eloka bids his rabbits
farewell before Port Harcourt falls, he notices, “A big rabbit sat on its haunches, staring at him,
virtually saying goodbye in its own way, apparently sensing his master undertaking a journey”
(69). It is not only Eloka that undertakes the journey in war-torn Biafra – some ended in war
fronts, others in refugee camps and some ended in death. However, as the refugees flee their
homes and work-places, families are torn apart. A traumatized father tells Ginika, “I don’t know
where she, her two brothers and my wife are now. We ran in different directions when the enemy
entered the town” (300). The refugees are not only uprooted from their environment, most of
them lose their property. Rose Oko’s opinion is that:
Refugees are people like you and I. But unlike you and I, they are a people
without a home, without any property, except sometimes the clothes on their
backs, a future that is unknown and seen to have no hope. They are a people that
are stigmatized, often seen as inferior in the community in which they find
themselves (quoted in Akinyele 168).
This opinion is a truism that applies to the status of refugees or displaced persons in the novel.
Mrs Carol Ndefo, the wife of Dr Ndefo, flees from Enugu to Onitsha and from there to Ama-Oyi.
Because her husband is close to Dr Ubaka Ezeuko, he gives them part of his house to live in.
Ubaka sees them as “visitors”, but to his quarrelsome wife, they are a nuisance as she says, the
Ndefos’ children are “rude, forward and lazy” (251). As if the air raids in Ama-Oyi, the diabetes,
the monotonous food are not enough problems for Mrs Ndefo, Lizzy’s abuses contribute to her
neurosis. Ginika observes her abnormal condition, “Mrs Ndefo stood outside her door, as if she
would scurry back into the room where she burrowed all day, like a squirrel” (251-252). After
her father’s apology for the wife’s erratic behaviour, she insists, “She turned and entered her
prison, as Ginika referred to Mrs Ndefo’s room whenever she discussed the family with Eloka”
(253). It is not only Mrs Ndefo and her children who are divested of their rights; others go
through the same trauma. Nwoyibo Moneke is not as lucky as Mrs Ndefo to only be verbally
abused, she is beaten up for daring to be Chief Odunze’s mistress. Janet tells Ginika what
happens at the camp when her mother-in-law comes with Michael, “They gave her a black eye
and tore her dress…. Her blouse was torn and her wrappa wrenched off her waist and left her
with just panties” (335). The fate of the male refugees are not better than the female ones: the
healthy ones among them are conscripted into the army as they have nowhere to hide unlike the
There are other “displaced persons who had been refugees” (Roses and Bullets 475) who
are not as lucky as the Ndefos. Those ones like Janet Nsoh and Nwoyibo Moneke and the others
stay in designated refugee camps. Janet, for example, has been in three different refugee camps
in three difference places in almost three years of the war. The camp in Ama-Oyi is not different
from the one in Ngbo, which forces Eloka to keep Boma in his house because of the “smell, the
exposure and the lack of privacy he saw there were dehumanizing, to say the least” (421).
Despite the horrid situation in the camps, there is also the existence of a privileged class. Janet
tells Ginika the criteria for being a member of this group:
Looking at those houses, pointing; Wealthier and more influential refugees live in
those. They were formerly teachers’ quarters, but are now occupied by ‘lucky
people’. Pointing to another building, she continued, I live in one of the rooms in
that long building. Can you see the house over there? That used to be the
headmaster’s quarters, I was told, but it is now occupied by a rich businessman
from Awka. You may wonder how somebody like me managed to get a room
there to myself.… An air force officer who is my friend helped me (304).
Nwoyibo's position as a lover to the refugee camp's council chairman assures her one of the
rooms. Without money or powerful connections, the ordinary refugees occupy the school’s
classrooms and assembly hall.
This privilege does not stop at accommodation but extends to the sharing of relief materials.
At the top of the management of the camp is the Ama-Oyi Local Council, which the people
jocularly call Chop-and-go Council or oloakara kansul because they believe the “members of the
council embezzle funds meant for executing the war and steal relief materials meant for the
refugees" (239). This is a fact as Mr Odunze, who is the chairman, never lacks much throughout
the period of the war. Below the council are the camp supervisors like Mr Asiobi and Janet. They
also shortchange the refugees for when Ginika is being introduced to them, one of the women
said in her hearing, "One more person to steal our stock fish and corn meal" (300). The refugees
do not have enough relief materials for "they are not always available" (303), and “it was over
three weeks since the last supply" (306). This crisis situation is caused by the federal
government's total blockade of Biafra, the change in its currency, the ambush and the massacre
of unarmed Biafran civilians who dare to trade across enemy lines, the near impossibility of
flying relief materials without the planes being bombed or the runways being strafed, and the
worry that "enemy planes would strike if people gather in front of the store" (287) to collect
relief from the humanitarian bodies like Caritas and WCC. With starvation staring them in the
face, they device the means to survive the war, Mrs Ndefo who belongs to the privileged
Biafrans by virtue of being a white American and her husband, a medical doctor, flies out of
Biafra with her children. Janet and Nwoyibo use sex as a survival strategy. The men do menial
jobs; steal fruits and crops from the natives. Old Adiele reports to Eloka the state of things in
People, especially the refugees, steal anything they see. If I leave the bunch for
another day, it will disappear.... The other day, I saw a stranger up that udara tree,
harvesting the fruit. I shouted at him. You know it is an abomination in Ama-Oyi
to harvest udara in that manner. Our people wait for the udara to fall down,
before picking it up (347-348).
It is through Ginika's employment as an assistant warden at the camp that the narrator describes
the frightening situation of the sick refugees, including the children. Apart from the use of childsoldiers, who are described as captives, the war wasted a lot of them who are not old enough to
be recruited. And this is why Julie Agbesiere sees them as victims, when she states, "Important
as the child is in the traditional society, it is observed that he lives in an environment where his
very existence is at times threatened. This child finds himself a victim of societal beliefs and
prejudices, of inter-communal clashes and wars, of parental excesses and repression and of infant
mortality" (67). In Ama-Oyi Primary School, the ordinary refugees occupy the classrooms and
the assembly hall. Ndulue who lost everything – his family and property – stays with the other
refugees. He is presumed to be healthy, even though he is "emaciated and weak" (300), but it is
obvious to a discerning reader that he is sick and suffers from a very severe depression as his
"eyes remained dead, grey and hopeless" (ibid) even when Ginika is talking with him. He is as
sick as Matthew, but while his own is psychological, Matthew's is physical, and both men died
and are buried the same day in the same grave.
The second group of sick people is the children who are kept in one of the rooms the wardens
call House of Horror. This is where the malnourished children, about twenty of them in the
room, are in "various stages of dehumanization. She knew some of them would be dead before
long" (301). It is in this room that she sees the ten-year-old girl who is wizened like an old
woman. She is too weak that she cannot sit up without help, and she defecates on herself.
Another room is occupied by very sick men. This room is designated as Room Without Hope. It
is a darkened room with an unpleasant odour. All the occupants of this room "lay motionless, as
if they were already dead" (303). Except Matthew, who is ironically a young man, who despite
his terrible situation, is mentally alert and sings all the time. Matthew is described as lying on
"his back, his rigid head facing up" (302) and his eyes sunken and opaque. His wasted body is
described as a "veritable bag of bones, all flesh had vacated his body, turning him into a living
skeleton" (303). And because of the long period he stayed in this position, his back and buttocks
are covered with sores. These sick refugees who are willfully and deliberately subjected to
conditions of life calculated to bring physical and mental destruction because of lack of food,
lack of drugs and the absence of their relations, live in deplorable and inhuman conditions, as
Janet tells Ginika, "Every week, somebody dies in this camp" (303).
The Role of the Medical Personnel, Chaplains and other Humanitarian Body in Roses and
All the Geneva Conventions – 1864, 1929 and 1949 – have consistently granted protection to
medical personnel, chaplains and other humanitarian body like the Red Cross that provide their
services for the members of the armed forces. Their buildings and equipment should not be seen
as military targets. This protection exists in so far as the persons, their equipment and buildings
are not used for military purposes. The Rome Statute of International Criminal Court in its article
8 (2) (iii) declares that it is a war crime if any person or group "intentionally directs attacks
against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a humanitarian assistance
or peacekeeping mission in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, as long as they
are entitled to the protection given to civilians or civilian objects under the international law of
armed conflict". This provision is to protect civilian workers who are attached to armed forces.
The civil war in Roses and Bullets is fought outside the provision of this law that the Biafran
soldiers and civilians – the dead, the wounded, the sick, the malnourished and the healthy –
experience the grinding mills of the war.
The members of the medical personnel are represented by Doctors Ufo Ndefo and Ubaka
Ezeuko, both of them are trained abroad before the war. Both are working in government
hospitals before the war; both are dedicated and hardworking. At the outset of the war, Ubaka
cannot drive to Enugu from Mbano to bring back his daughter, so he gives Ufo a letter to deliver,
instructing her to come back home. However, Ufo cannot do that because "an emergency case in
hospital detained me and I had to send a driver to deliver the letter" (206). As a dutiful father and
a wise man who understands the nature of war, he drives down to Enugu to bring back his
daughter. He neither waits for Uncle Ray nor eats the food his sister-in-law offers to him. He
explains to her, "I am in a hurry. I must return to the hospital at once. We have an emergency on
our hands" (203). He has a hectic schedule as the medical director of a government hospital at
Mbano. The day after he comes back from Enugu, he tells Ginika, "I need to eat well this
morning; we have a marathon session of surgery today. My first comes up at nine o'clock. Five
cases of hernia and one of appendicitis...". When the war drags on, the two doctors are posted to
hospitals very close to the war fronts. Ubaka is transferred to a hospital in Alaoma within so
short a time that he sends Udo to tell Ginika that "he would not be able to come as he told you"
(203). Ginika is distressed at the suddenness of his transfer and queries, "They just break families
and move people at this uncertain time" (203). Dr Ndefo consoles her with, "I am also in a
hospital near the front in Nnewi. This is why my family is here" (206). In other words, by this
transfer they are now medical personnel transferred to Biafran troops fighting at the war fronts,
who are supposed to treat wounded soldiers like Captain Osisioma and shell-shocked soldiers, if
they are brought to the hospital. By virtue of this position, they enjoy the perquisites of their
office like having rations of fuel to drive their cars. But on the other side of the spectrum are the
sick civilians like Mrs. Carol Ndefo, the sick people at the refugee camps, those who are sick at
home and the pregnant women. These are left without medical doctors and drugs. Ndulue whose
"eyes were glazed with boredom and grief " (300), the ten-year-old girl with "jutting wrinkled
forehead, sallow skin, sunken cheeks and emaciated body" (301), who share the same room with
twenty other children in the same state, Matthew with his "bony arm and scraggy leg" (303) and
his inmates with the same "state of half-life" (303) and the "two of the healthiest and liveliest of
the kids" (331) who died after eating poisonous cassava are left to die. They may have workers
from the Red Cross who prepare belated special meals for them or women who are paid to
change their dresses and clean them up; yet, they wait for death without the services of medical
personnel and drugs.
At Umuoku during an air raid, Boma's mother, an elderly woman hit by shrapnel,
"seemed dead or almost dead" (416), "bleeding profusely from a deep wound around her neck"
(417) has no first-aid administered to her before she dies. For those who are pregnant, medical
doctors and drugs are not available for them throughout the nine months of gestation. How can
the pregnant woman give birth to replace the thousands that die in this war, if Eloka was not sure
"there was a hospital or some other place she would register and be attended to" (422)? Ginika is
lucky Chito procures the services of "Madam Mgboji, the midwife at Ama-Oyi Maternity Home"
(339) to examine her, confirm that she is pregnant and to deliver for her a malnourished baby
that is blighted from birth like the blighted society he is born into.
Those who are sick at home do not fare better than the others. Chito's mother's "legs were
glossy, as if lubricated with palm oil and her feet were slightly swollen" (461) and Nonso has the
tell-tale of kwashiorkor, but she cannot buy food or drugs for them because she "has sold every
available thing she had – her jewelry, her abada and Intorica wrappa. They had nothing to sell"
(463). The very few lucky ones like Mrs. Carol Ndefo get the Head of State's permission to fly
outside Biafra to get medical treatment. The majority without influence and wealth stay in warridden Biafra to wait for death. With the blockade and lack of drugs, the medical doctors are laid
off and their condition is not better than the Biafran civilians, who would have been their
patients, if not for the savagery of the war that defy humanitarian laws. This is obvious in Dr.
Ubaka Ezeuko who has lost his job and stays gloomily at home. The narrator says, "He looked so
ordinary in rumpled shirt and baggy trousers – a far cry from spruced up, immaculately dressed
doctor she knew in her childhood” (321-322).
The chaplains are another group of people who execute their duties diligently,
uninhibited by the war. They are not conscripted into the army despite the desperation of the
soldiers to recruit men into the army. They go about freely to solemnize marriages as the war
situation is a "season of wedding" (282). However, they make concessions for the influential
people as the pastor of St. Marks Church weds Eloka and Ginika in Chief Odunze's house to
avoid the bridegroom being conscripted. However, the poor bridegroom who weds in the church
is "conscripted into the army as he and his wife were walking home after their wedding in the
church" (283), and he is an only son. It is also a "reverend father in charge of St. Peter's Catholic
Church" (332) who performs the burial rites of Matthew, Ndulue and Mgboli's two children
before they are buried in a mass grave in the premises of the refugee camp.
Humanitarian organizations, World Council of Churches and Caritas are recognized by
the humanitarian law and they are there in the fictive war-torn setting of Roses and Bullets to
provide services for the war victims: soldiers and civilians. Njide is a brave young girl who joins
the National Red Cross as her contribution in the win-the-war effort. In order to provide services
to the troops at the war front, they follow them behind. Unfortunately, she was hit by a bullet and
the "Red Cross brought her home very early this morning and buried her in a simple ceremony"
(365). The humanitarian organization is also offering its help to ensure that children survive the
war. They send children with severe cases of kwashiorkor to Gabon with some of their girls, and
for those at the refugee camps, "The Red Cross set up a kitchen for them where special meals are
prepared for them" (300). Eunice's job as a cook with five other girls at the Air Force Base in
Ekwulobia is also protected by the law. However, it is as risky as those of the Red Cross who
follow soldiers to the war front. This is because military bases are legitimate targets of air raids
during armed conflict. She tells Ginika her reason for being at home, "The air base was bombed
and the mess is one of the buildings affected, so we were asked to go home until the
commanding officer sends for us" (289). Though she survived the bombing of the military base,
she is one of those civilians ambushed and killed when they traded across enemy lines.
Other humanitarian bodies like Caritas and WCC set up relief centers in Biafra to distribute
relief materials like corn meal, stockfish, egg yolk, clothes and others. At times they stay up to
three weeks without getting anything. Some of the people like Uncle Chima find the egg yolk
distasteful, and the centres discriminate against the war victims who are not members of their
faith. Besides, Ginika tells Udo that the relief workers operate the policy of sex for relief
materials for the women:
We hardly have anything to eat these days. I went to the WCC centre a number
of times but stopped when I couldn't get anything. The man in charge wanted
to have sex with me before giving me anything and I refused.... Yes, that is the
way it is now – you get what you want with what you have. I heard that even
some Roman Catholic priests slept with girls before they gave them relief
materials (446).
In the distribution of the materials, which excludes the most essential goods among them –
drugs – the code is the survival of the fittest. The narrator depicts the inhuman treatment meted
out on the war victims thus, "From afar they heard the buzzing sound made by the throng that
besiege the centre. Ginika shuddered when she saw the attendants flogging the desperate neatlydressed as well as shabbily-clad beggars who jostled one another on the winding queue" (448).
Immediately the war ends, "some people in Ama-Oyi had broken into Caritas store and were
carting away relief materials" (465). The looting signifies the end of material deprivation and the
humiliation that goes with its provision. And the devastation of war in Biafra is seen in the
treatment of Ginika at Igbobi National Orthopedic Hospital, because of lack of functional
hospitals, descript medical equipment, non-existent drugs and inefficient and ineffective medical
Punishment for the Violators of the Provisions of International Humanitarian Laws
Roses and Bullets presents a brutal and savage civil war, which in its execution, individuals,
armies and government perpetrate crimes that are against humanitarian laws. The fictive world of
Biafra operates the law of the jungle, where there is no semblance of any legal system. Criminals
like Chief Odunze and his council members and the wardens at the refugee centers who steal the
relief materials are never tried in court. There is no mechanism of law to try those who assault
others like Akunnaya and Michael who beat up Nwoyibo Moneke, and the relief centre
attendants, who flog the war victims who besiege the centers for relief materials. It seems that
the only interest of the military government and the military officers is the successful execution
of the war and not the administration of justice within its territory. In pursuit of this goal,
Lieutenant Ugoro who rapes Ginika goes scot-free despite Major Okon's consolatory statement
to distraught Ginika, "Let me assure you that the matter will be investigated" (376). Udo, a childsoldier, who is aggrieved with Boma and nurses the grudge of "beating the pregnancy out of her
and I will do it" (431) knows like Major Okon that "Oga cannot court-martial me unless I
commit an offence against the military law. Anything I do to that girl cannot be against military
law" (431). Since rape and assault on civilians are not against military law, killing of people,
including child-soldiers, who try to escape conscription, is not also an offence to be courtmartialed in Biafra. The corporal who conscripted Udo and the other captives threatens them:
No nonsense from any of you....If you try any tricks, we shoot you. We don't
want to do that because our bullets are for vandals and not our people. But if you
try to run away, we see you as an enemy and shoot you dead. We don't shoot to
wound or main you, we shoot to kill. So, he warned (436).
This may seem only like a threat to frighten the conscripted child-soldiers from escaping, but
the narrator suggests that those who resist their property being appropriated for military use may
be killed. This is done through the presentation of one of the rooms in the house at Ngbo where
Eloka Odunze lives as an officer commanding a battalion:
The walls were stained and Udo had often wondered what the stain was.
Was it blood or human excreta? It looked dirty brown. He wondered who
occupied the room before Uzo. Who had lived in the house before his oga.
Who was the owner and where was he now since the army had
commandeered the house (429-430).
It is not only the civilian population of Biafra that is subjected to crimes, which violate the
principles of humanitarian laws, the soldiers also suffer the same fate. There is no record of
prisoners of war, no record of dead soldiers who are left in the war fronts to get despoiled or
eaten by vultures. Udo who regains consciousness in the deserted war front "raised his head and
saw the mess around – the head in the steel helmet, pieces of human flesh.... It was a terrible
sight to see dead bodies lying about the holes dug by exploding shells, but there was no
movement anywhere" (438-439). There is no punishment for soldiers who abandon their
colleagues in the battle-fields.
It seems that in the world of Roses and Bullets, the greatest perpetrators of crimes of genocide,
crimes against humanity and war crimes are the Federal Government of Nigeria and its army.
There is no punishment for the soldiers who staged a counter-coup and massacred both soldiers
and civilians of Igbo ethnic group who live in the northern cities and Lagos. The pogrom ought
to be punished by the federal military government as an act of ethnic cleansing of the Igbo, but
no one is brought to trial. During the war, the federal government and its army take every
measure to ensure that the seceded region is brought back to the union. They use the blockade of
the Biafran territory and the change in the Nigerian currency to starve the Biafran population and
to leave them in a state of half-life when they are sick. The comity of nations would have tried
the leaders of the country and the army for the violations of humanitarian laws in the execution
of the war. There is no trial and punishment for the bombing and shelling of the cities, towns and
villages in Biafra, and the targeting of civilian infrastructures like markets and personal property.
There is equally no trial and punishment for those soldiers who ambushed and massacred
unarmed and starved civilians who trade across enemy lines in Ugwuoba. The victorious soldiers
who entered the territory at the end of the war to abduct women, rape them, confiscate people's
property, torture and subject them to cruel treatment like Uncle Ray who "lay on the ground
where she had seen one of the men kick him" (492) for trying to protect Ginika from being
abducted by Sergeant Bala. There is also no punishment for those who subject civilians like Mrs.
Carol Ndefo and Ndulue to mental injury. Mrs. Ndefo suffers from neurosis while Ndulue suffers
from severe depression. In the whole array of crimes committed against Biafran soldiers and
civilians that contravened the provisions of humanitarian laws, it is only Sergeant Bala, who is
tried and for a very minor offence of abduction, leaving off other offences like detention, rape,
torture, inhuman and cruel treatment which cause grievous bodily and mental injuries to his
victim: Ginika. However, the others who aided his crimes, that is, the other junior soldiers with
him are left off the hook which should not have been so as the laws specify that none can depend
on the fact that he committed the crime as a result of instructions from a superior officer to avail
him from punishment. And Sergeant Bala would have escaped punishment like other millions of
offenders if not:
That teacher of yours is wonderful. She saved your life by coming to Ama-Oyi to
look for you when she did. Her supervening presence compelled that
Commanding Officer to investigate your abduction by that horrible sergeant. And
she saved your leg too ̶ I was afraid it would be amputated. We learnt the
sergeant was dismissed from the army (517).
Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo depicts in Roses and Bullets a civil war that draws its materials from
the actual war between Biafra and Nigeria. The savagery of the war gives rise to offences that
violate the provisions of international humanitarian laws. For instance, the use of child-soldiers,
the treatment of wounded, dead and sick soldiers, the rape of women, the shelling and bombing
of civilians and civilian targets; the cruel treatment, torture and violence inflicted on the civilian
population, the pogrom or ethnic cleansing of the Igbo and the willful and deliberate killing of
the civilian population of Biafra, are the crimes that have been provided for by the comity of
nations in the three Geneva Conventions of 1864, 1929 and 1949, before the historical civil war
was fought. It seems no punishment is meted out to the perpetrators of the crimes, probably
because the world kept silent or the novelist is not interested in the punishment but in the
catalogue of devastation of wars. Roses and Bullets, therefore, presents an allegory of war as a
wasteland, where nothing grows as:
Eloka got up and walked out of the compound. He headed for his rose garden
which had turned into a wilderness. He stared at the tangle of weeds, thorns and
roses. Eloka sighed. He had lost everything that made life worth living, he thought
However, if Adimora-Ezeigbo has shown interest in the prosecution and punishment of crimes
of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as provided in the three Geneva
Conventions and recently in The Rome Statute of International Criminal Court, the court-martial
of Sergeant Bala for a minor offence of abduction is inadequate. She should have reflected such
big trials of perpetrators of war crimes like that of Ferdinand Nachimona for Rwandan genocide,
Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav dictator, who ordered the massacre of ethnic Albanians in
Kosovo, the trial and sentencing of Charles Ghankay Taylor in the Hague on 30th May, 2012. It
is not only recent crimes against humanitarian laws that are punished, some have taken decades
like the extradition and trial of Michael Seifert, the eighty-five-year-old "Beast of Bolzano", who
was recently convicted for the murder and torture of prisoners in a Nazi transient camp in
Northern Italy between June 1944 to April 1945. He was found guilty by a military tribunal in
Vienna in 2000 and sentenced to life imprisonment. His appeal against his sentence was rejected
in 2002 (web 2012).
With these punishments meted out on the perpetrators of these crimes, the writer who
incorporates the crimes and punishments is raising the consciousness of the readers not to sleep
over their rights, and also warning future violators that by their actions and words, they are firing
an inferno that will consume them later.
Works Cited
Adichie, Chimamanda N. Half of a Yellow Sun. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. Print.
Agbasiere, Julie. “The Child-Victim in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart”. Emerging
Perspectives on Chinua Achebe 1. Ed. Ernest N. Emenyonu. Trenton, NJ: Africa World
Press, 2004. 67-74. Print.
Akinyele, R. T. “Conflict Resolution and Management in Contemporary Africa: Refugees
and Internally Displaced Persons Reconsidered". The Essentials of African Studies.
(1998): 165-176. Print.
Aristotle. Politics. Ed. & trans. E. Barker. New York: Galaxy Books: 1946. Print.
Amachree, Igbolima. “Individuals at the Cultural Margins: A New Examination and Social
Interpretation of Mariama Bâ and Her Novels. African Literatures at the Millennium 13.
Eds. Arthur D. Drayton, Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka and Peter Ukpokodu. Trenton, NJ:
Africa World Press, 2007. 81-94. Print.
Awodiya, Muyiwa. “Uncelebrated Heroes and Heroines of Nigerian Drama”. African
Literatures at the Millennium 13. Eds. Arthur D. Drayton, Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka and
Peter Ukpokodu. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2007. 221-242.
Azodo, Ada U. “Issues in African Feminism: A syllabus". Woman's Studies Quarterly
xxv. 3 & 4 (1997): 201-207. Print.
Chukwuma, Helen. “Preface". Achebe's Woman: Imagism and Power. Ed. Helen
Chukwuma. Trenton, NJ:Africa World Press, 2012. xiii-xix. Print.
Davis, Carole Boyce. “Some Notes on African Feminism". African Literature: An
Anthology of Criticism and Theory. Eds. Tejumola Olaniyan and Ato Quayson. Oxford:
Blackwell, 2007. 561-569. Print.
Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 2009. Print.
Emenyonu, Ernest N. “Editorial Article". War in African Literature Today 26 (2008):
xiv – xix. Print.
Emenyonu, Patricia. “Girls at War: Achebe's Short Stories". Achebe's Women: Imagism
and Power. Ed. Helen Chukwuma. Trenton, NJ: African World Press, 2012. 259-273.
Ezeilo, Joy N (ed). Human Rights Documents Relevant to Women and Children's Rights
in Nigeria. Lagos: Women Aid Collective, 2008. Print.
Ezejiofor, Austin O. “Patriarchy, Marriage and Rights of Widows in Nigeria”. Unizik
Journal of Arts and Humanities. 12.1 (2011): 139-157. Print.
Heyns, Christof and Mangus Killander."Emerging Issues in Human Rights and Human
Rights Education in Africa". Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies in West Africa.
Ed. Shedrack Gaya Best. Ibadan: Spectrum Books Ltd., 2007.350-364. Print.
James, Simon. “Unveiling the Mind: Nawal El Saadawi's Politics of Location and
Identity”. Emerging Perspectives on Nawal El Saadawi. Eds. Ernest N. Emenyonu and
Maureen N. Eke. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2012. 35-48. Print.
Macherey, Pierre. A Theory of Literary Production. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul,
1978. Print.
Madukwe, Isaac C. "Awakening the Values of Nation-Building through the Instrument
of Political History in Nigeria”. Journal of Liberal Studies 15.1 (2012): 14-22. Print.
Milosevic, Slobodan http://www.google.com/gwt/x?hl=en&u=http://www.worldjewishcongress.
org/en/main/s. (09/09/2012). Web.
Ndibe, Okey. “The Spirit of History in Chinua Achebe's Trilogy". Emerging Perspectives
on Chinua Achebe 2. Eds. Ernest Emenyonu and Iniobong I. Uko. Trenton, NJ:
Africa World Press, 2004. 281-312. Print.
Nnolim, Charles. Approaches to the African Novel. Owerri: Ihem Davis Press Ltd, 1999. Print.
Nwahunanya, Chinyere (ed). A Harvest From Tragedy: Critical Perspectives on Nigerian
Civil War Literature. Owerri: Springfield Publishers, 1997. Print.
Nwankwo, Chimalum. "The Muted Index of War in African Literature and Society. War
in African Literature Today 26. (2008): 1-14. Print.
Ohale, Christina. “The Evolution of the African Female Character: The Progressive
Imagery of African Womanhood”. Journal of African Literature Association 2.1
(2008): 130-141. Print.
Ojaruego, Enajite. “Feminist Perspectives and Intra-gender Conflict in Tess Onweme's Tell it to
Women”. Journal of African Literature Association 6.2 (2011/2012): 197-206. Print.
Orife, Beatrice. “Some Feminist Responses to the Niger Delta in Fiction: A Study of
Selected Novels of Kaine Agary, Bina Nengi-Ilagha, Buchi Emecheta and Gracy Osifo”.
From Boom to Doom: Protest and Conflict Resolution in the Literature of the Niger
Delta. Ed. Chinyere Nwahunanya. Owerri: Springfield Publishers, 2011. 169-178. Print.
Palmer, Eustace. Of War and Women, Oppression and Optimism. Trenton, NJ: Africa
World Press, 2008. Print.
Rigney, Barbara. The Voices of Toni Morrison. Columbus: Ohio State University, 1991. Print.
Salami-Boukari, Safoura. African Literature: Gender Discourse, Religious Values and
the African Worldview. New York: African Heritage Press, 2012. Print.
Udumuchu, Onyemachi. “Violence Against Achebe's Women: Okonkwo and The Gun
that Never Shot". Achebe's Women: Imagism and Power. Ed. Helen Chukwuma. Trenton,
NJ: African World Press, 2012. 259-273. Print.
Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of Condition of the Wounded in Arms in the Field,
Geneva Convention for the Relief of the Wounded and Sick Armies in the Field, 1929.
Charter of the United Nations, 1945.
First Geneva Convention, 1949.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966.
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966.
Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict, 1970.
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, 1984.
Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989.
The Rome Statute of International Criminal Court, 1998.
Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, 1993.
Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999.
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in
Armed Conflict, 2000.
Iwundu, I.E,1 Ejim, E.S.2and Ezeigbo, J. C.1
Institute of African Studies,
University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Department of Religion and Cultural Studies,
University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Game theory is the formal study of the rational and consistent expectation that participants can
have about each other’s choices, especially when the actions of several agents are
interdependent. In Nigeria, there is the application of game theory in several activities which had
negated the principles of unity, faith, brotherhood, rules, law, order and development. There are
implicit and explicit implications of these on religious and political activities in a nation with
diverse language, culture, ethnic politics and religion. The study was limited to zero-sum game
with the aim of examining the religious and political implications of the zero-sum game in
Nigeria. The data was gathered through secondary sources which includes but not limited to
books, journals, newspapers and network news sources. It was analysed using content analysis.
The study found that religion has a strong history of influence over political activities in Nigeria;
Christians, Muslims, politicians and bureaucrats are actively involved in game theory practice
against each other manifesting in various forms, including: incitement, distortion of fact about
the other, blocking each other’s chances, hatred and blackmailing as well as destruction of lives
and property. The practice has not only reduced the level of development but has also made the
truth of our heroes-past to be in vain, with poor judicial proceedings, lack of one nation,
brotherhood and peace. The Nigerian leaders and stakeholders in religion and politics should
engage in zero-sum game and non zero-sum game in order to produce results that would radiate
peace, tranquility and development.
Game theory has become one of the most powerful analytical tools in the study of politics
and religion in this contemporary world, particularly, in the emerging economies. From its
earliest applications in electoral and legislative behaviour, game theoretic models have
proliferated in such diverse areas as international security, ethnic cooperation and
democratization. Indeed all the major fields in political science and religion have been the
recipients of important contributions from political and religious game theoretic models,
(Cameron, 2000:87).
Rasmusen, (2001:5), assert that, Game theory is the formal study of conflict and
cooperation. Game theoretic concepts apply whenever the actions of several agents are
interdependent. These agents may be individuals, groups, firms, or any combination of these.
The concepts of game theory provide a language to formulate structure, analysis, and understand
strategic scenarios. According to Gibbons and Robert (2003:19), the object of study in game
theory is the game, which is a formal model of an interactive situation. It typically involves
several players; a game with only one player is usually called a decision problem. The formal
definition lays out the players, their preferences, their information, and the strategic actions
available to them, and how these influence the outcome. Also, Obasi (2007:169) described it as a
branch of decision theory concerned with interdependent decisions.
Kenny, (2001:43) opined that the problems of interest involve multiple participants, each
of whom has individual objective related to a common system or shared resources. Because
game theory arose from the analysis of competitive scenarios, the problems are called games and
the participants are called players. But these techniques apply to more than just sport, and are not
even limited to competitive situations. In short, game theory deals with any problem in which
each player’s strategy depends on what the other players do. Situations involving interdependent
decisions arise frequently in all walks of life. A few examples in which game theory could come
in handy include but not limited to:
● Friends choosing where to go and have dinner
● Financial managers setting priority
● Parents trying to get children to behave
● Commuters deciding how to go to work
● Businesses competing in a market
● Diplomats negotiating a treaty
● Gamblers betting in a card game
All of these situations call for strategic thinking in making use of available information to
devise the best plan to achieve ones objective. Perhaps, one may be familiar with assessing costs
and benefits in order to make informed decisions between several options. Game theory simply
extends this concept to interdependent decisions, in which the options being evaluated are
functions of the player’s choices.
Ezeani (2010:99), define game theory as a body of thought dealing with rational decision
in situation of conflict and composition, when each participant or player seeks to maximize gains
and minimize losses”. An application of mathematical models to political studies, the game
theory deals with processes in which the individuals’ decision-unit has only partial control over
the strategic factors affecting its environment. Thus, according to Ken (2001:29):
In all situations, where a decision involving the others has to be
taken, in the case of generals engaged in battles, diplomats involved
in bargaining and negotiation, politicians trying to influence the
voters, legislators making effort to organize group or coalitions, the
game theory has a role to play.
In a game situation, the players or decision makers try to maximize their gains or
minimize their losses; they want to get as much as they can out of the game (Isaak, 1999:239).
Each player is guided by the rules of the game which described how the resources may be
utilized. “A rule of the game”, according to Roger (1991:288) can be defined as “a distribution of
resources and the strategic possibilities open to each player in the employment of these
resources”. Another important concept in game theory is “outcome”. This is usually the
relationship between the players and price or the objective they aim at. In certain games, like
election, there can be only two possible outcome either you win or you lose. There could be
larger number of outcomes in other games. This leads to another core concept of game theory
strategy. In the word of Goodman (1987:27), strategy is “an overall programme of action which
a player adopts in order to achieve a desired outcome or series of outcome under adverse or
conflict condition”, and consists of “all the different contingent plans that the player has for
deciding along the way how to act next”. In most games, a number of strategies are open to each
side, the objective is to choose the one that maximizes gains and minimizes losses.
In Nigeria, game theory are used in several areas both public and private sectors, like in
budgeting or execution, official decisions, federal appointments, political arrangements, lobbying
at the law making levels, state or local government creation apply game theoretic model in
achieving ones objectives. The list is unending and the outcome are regrettable when hatched,
yet, the contenders in some cases decide to play along in order to get the benefits due for the
proper playing. In other cases, it is played to thwart the action of a larger group by the few,
change policy, digress from the real and or applying game theory to problems dealing with
counterfeit goods, parallel importation and cyber squatting. It usually, tries to avert the rule,
constitution, belief, tradition and human rights. Much is invested to make it a real game.
Obasanjo third term bid applied game theory to second vent the constitution to suit his personal
or group ideologies. The factors affecting political and socio-religious development in Nigeria
bothered on the applicability of game theoretical model in its policy and implementation.
Therefore, this work was limited to zero-sum and its significance can never be
undervalued. It has the ability to expose the general public on the evil effects of game practice on
the activities in Nigeria which are in conflict with Nigeria’s development. The work will also be
an eye opener to Nigerian criticizes on the major causes of religious and political crisis in the
country. The objective of the study was to examine the implications of the zero-sum game on the
religious and political activities in Nigeria. The specific objectives were to:
i). briefly state the history of game theory,
ii) examine the implications of the zero-sum game on the religious and political activities
in Nigeria and
iii) recommend ways forward for Nigeria unity.
History of Game Theory
According to Dixit and Nalebuff (2004:191), the earliest example of a formal gametheoretic analysis is the study of a duopoly by Antoine Cournot in 1838. The mathematician
Emile Borel suggested a formal theory of games in 1921, which was furthered by the
mathematician John von Neumann in 1928 in a “theory of parlor games.” Game theory was
established as a field in its own right after the 1944 publication of the monumental volume of
“Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour” by von Neumann and the economist Oskar
Morgenstern. This book provided much of the basic terminology and problem set up that is still
in use today. In 1950, John Nash demonstrated that finite games have always had equilibrium
point, at which all players choose actions which are best for them given their opponents’ choices.
Jeremy (2005) and Wikipedia (2013) summarised the tenets or features of game theory
and a few of the most common are listed here:
Number of players: Each person who makes a choice in a game or who receives a
payoff from the outcome of those choices is a player.
Strategies per player: In a game each player chooses from a set of possible actions,
known as strategies. If the number is the same for all players, it is listed here.
Number of pure strategy Nash equilibria: A Nash equilibrium is a set of strategies
which represents mutual best responses to the other strategies. In other words, if every
player is playing their part of Nash equilibrium, no player has an incentive to unilaterally
change his or her strategy. Considering only situations where players play a single
strategy without randomizing (a pure strategy) a game can have any number of Nash
Sequential game: A game is sequential if one player performs her/his actions after
another, otherwise the game is a simultaneous move game.
Perfect information: A game has perfect information if it is a sequential game and every
player knows the strategies chosen by the players who preceded them.
Constant sum: A game is constant sum if the sums of the payoffs to every player are the
same for every set of strategies. In these games one player gains if and only if another
player loses. A constant sum game can be converted into a zero sum game by subtracting
a fixed value from all payoffs, leaving their relative order unchanged.
This central concept of non cooperative game theory has been a focal point of analysis
since then. In the 1950s and 1960s, game theory was broadened theoretically and applied to
problems of war and politics. Since the 1970s, it has driven a revolution in economic theory.
Additionally, it has found applications in sociology, psychology, politics, religion and
established links with evolution and biology. Game theory received special attention in 1994
with the awarding of the Nobel Prize in economics to Nash, John Harsanyi, and Reinhard
Selten. At the end of the 1990s, a high-profile application of game theory has been the design of
auctions. Prominent game theorists have been involved in the design of auctions for allocating
rights to the use of bands of the electromagnetic spectrum to the mobile telecommunications
industry. We shall specifically look at the two types of game theory that would be applicable to
our study, that is, non-zero game and zero sum games theory.
Non-Zero Game
In non-zero game, the gains and losses of the two players do not cancel out, they do not
equal zero. It allows a wide variety of possible payoffs, including situation where both players
gain and where both players loses, www.modelbenders.com/papers/smith_game_impart_theory).
Zero-Sum Game
Zero-sum game is a special case of constant-sum games, in which choices by players can neither
increase nor decrease the available resources. In zero-sum games, the total benefit to all players
in the game for every combination of strategies, always adds to zero (more informally, a player
benefits only at the equal expense of others). In this type of game, there are normally two players
or more, the gain of one will equally be the lost of others, for example, two handed porker game
is of sort: if player A wins #100 then player B has to loss #100. A political situation that can fit
zero-sum condition is a two or more contestant in an election, where each candidate is rational
and is trying to win. One candidate will win and others will loss.
In game theory, we talk about maximin and minimaxi. The two are distinct from each
other. Minimax is used in zero-sum games to denote minimizing the opponent's maximum
payoff. This is identical to minimizing one's own maximum loss, and to maximizing one's own
minimum gain. In other words, an unequal distribution can be just when it maximizes the
minimum benefit to those who have the lowest allocation of welfare-conferring resources,
(Arrow (1973:245-263) and Harsanyi (1975:594-606)).
When leaders have a zero-sum approach, i.e. one man’s gain is another man’s loss, the
result is always an intolerant religion/political and an intolerant nation. The religious and
political implications of this game will be highlighted in the light of zero-sum game as follows:
Religious and Political Crises
Religious and political crises have been noted as the consequences of the zero-sum game.
It will be recalled that since 1999-2012 almost 80% of these religious crises were fueled by
political factors (Igwe 2012). For example, center for reduction of religious-based conflict
observe that:
Political and sectarian violence has claimed more than 16,000
lives since the end of military rule in 1999. Protests by
opposition supporters in 12 northern states following the April
16 presidential election degenerated into three days of violent,
riots and sectarian killings between Christians and Muslims that
left hundreds dead, including at least 680 in Kaduna State.
Since the inception of civilian rule, religious crises caused by politics have been the order
of the day. Let us look at the table below and see when, where, causes of the crisis and casualty.
Table 1: When, Where, Causes and Casualties of Religious and Political Crisis in Nigeria
Tafawa Belewa
Caretaker 30 people injured, 3 cars,
1 church and 4 houses
Leader 4 to 25 people died,
Churches and Mosques
Councilor 6 houses, 3 cars were
degree of injuries
Argument over Politics
20 people were injured
and 1 car was burnt
Argument over Politics
5 people killed, 18
injured and 8 houses
were burnt
After a town hall meeting with Churches and Mosques
the governor (Christian/Muslim)
were burnt
2 killed, 6 cars were
burnt and many injured
Chairman’s house burnt
Chairman vs. Deputy
and 10 injured
Tooto (Nasarawa) Political
among 1 person killed
Rumour on Sharia
3 died, 5 cars, 3 houses
burnt and 20 injured
meeting 22 people killed, 500
property destroyed
Campaign over 2011 Elections
2 died, property worth
millions of naira lost
Northern States
the Over April election
At least 680 died, VicePresident’s
Mosques, INEC offices
also burnt down with
Sources: Human rights watch magazine 2012, New Nigeria (2002:14) and National Mirror
(2011:2-3, 53)
From the table above, the religious upheavals since 1999 have claimed several lives and
destroyed property worth billions of naira. For example the table revealed a total of 740 persons
killed, that is, those recorded at the scene by the press. More than the number may have died in
the hospitals or unidentified. Ninety eight persons were found with varying degree of injures by
the press. Twenty three houses were completely burnt down, 17 cars were burnt, 520 persons
were displaced and injured, INEC offices in most Northern states, Churches and Mosques were
also burnt. These were in the bid to ensure a zero sum game in the polity. The level of
devastations and economic waste involved do not matter at all for the perpetrators and sponsors
of the acts. The “Strong men” in Nigeria hid under the coverage of religion and politics to force
themselves to the leadership position in the country, especially, when they failed election. As
noted by Iwundu (2010:311), “right from the first republic till now, considerations on religious
background of the contestant had been there…Religion has a strong history of influence over
voting pattern…”
Disunity in Worship Places
Both Christians and Muslims are actively involved in campaigns of calumny against each
other. This is manifested in various forms including: incitement, distortion of fact about each
other, blocking each other’s chances, hatred and blackmailing (Sam.2007:8). All these are the
result of the winner takes all attitude in game theory which brings disunity among people of
different ethnic group, religion, tribe, political party and among members of the same Church,
Mosque or tribe.
Dominant Strategies
Over the years till now, Muslims have been trying to dominate Nigeria by the use of violence
strategies using various names but pursuing the same goal. According to Abu (2004:45):
An Islamic cult known as the Maitasine, (one who curses), which
started in the late 1970s and operated throughout the 1980s sparked
riots in the north. Their aim was to control the activities there and
to impose Islam to non Muslims. The disturbances caused by this
group resulted to the death of over 4,177 in 1980s. The members of
the Maitasine sect felt that, Islam was the appropriate solution to
fix the declining Nigerian society. The leader of this sect,
Muhammed Marwa, was an Islamic fundamentalist scholar who
migrated from Cameroon to the city of Kano in 1945.
For the members of this sect, Islam is the right religion for Nigeria, and the country should be
theoretically ruled by Islamic principles, pattern and laws.
Another dominant strategy applied by Muslims, according to Kastfelt (1994), took place
in January 1986, under the leadership of General Babangida, a northern Muslim, when he
secretly registered Nigeria as a member of the Organization of Islamic Conferences (OIC). The
OIC guidelines require that a member country be predominantly Muslim, with a Muslim head of
state. Violence in Northern Nigeria during the democratic setting was essentially triggered by the
planned application of Sharia law in judicial proceedings. In January 2000, the governor of
Zamfara State implemented legislation authorizing Sharia in the criminal domain applicable to
all irrespective of ones religion. The full introduction of Sharia was defended by northern
muslim elite, including ex-heads of states, Alhaji Shehu Shagari and General Muhammadu
Buhari. (Suberu, 2001:35).
Currently, Boko Haram is seeking to impose Sharia law in Nigeria. It purports that
Western or non-Islamic education is “sin” and would wipe all western civilization in the country.
To achieve these objectives, they have kept the police, army and all the security set ups in the
country including the government uneasy. They burnt houses, churches, mosque, police posts,
vehicles, killing innocent and defenseless children, adult and some young energetic Nigerians
who were on national youth service both in the day and at night without any of their members
being arrested, (Danjibo 2010). Even when they are arrested, according to Omipidan (2012:12),
their release took place anyhow like:
The story of the arrest of Kabiru Sokoto, the alleged mastermind of the
December 25, Madalla Church bombing, at the Borno State Governor’s
Lodge, Abuja. Daily Sun learnt, was rather dramatic. But the escape of the
same suspect from the hands of the police barely 12 hours after his capture,
was even more curious, intriguing and scandalous, especially because it
happened just when the state government was about raising posers about the
arrest of Sokoto. Although the police attempted a fibbed defense of the
situation, Nigerians now appear to know better. In an apparent move to save
its face the Inspector General of Police has since declared Sokoto wanted, a
suspect, whose photograph was never taken as at the time of his arrest,
Daily Sun can authoritatively reveal.
From the above strategies, it is clear that, Muslims are using the zero-sum game dominant
strategy to dominate Christians and adopt Islam. No wonder, Ojo (1998:78), noted that,
Christians believe that the Muslim political leaders who initiated these political moves were
trying to make Nigeria an Islamic state where Sharia law would be applied even to non-Muslims.
Judiciary Lapses
The zero-sum game syndrome has made the government to interfere in the judiciary
system because they have all the powers. Ndibe (2012), recall that Nigeria made only limited
progress with its anti-corruption campaign since inception. The Economic and Financial Crimes
Commission (EFCC) had arraigned more than 35 national prominent political figures on
corruption charges since 2003, a former federal minister in 2011, four former state governors and
a former speaker and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. But executive interference
with the EFCC, a weak and overburdened judiciary, and the agency’s own failings have
undermined the effectiveness of its work. And the height of this mess is that if you interfere in a
case involving a Muslim, you must do the same to Christian or there will be trouble. It is
unfortunate that the commission had only secured few convictions of senior political figures, and
they faced relatively little or no prison term. The EFCC seemed to have failed to prosecute other
senior politicians widely implicated in corruption, squandering and siphoning the country’s
wealth, leaving the citizens suffer in abject poverty, malnutrition and sometimes death simply
because of zero sum game already applied to balance the corruption by the ‘top class’.
According to Ekwunife (1992:8), the cause of religious crises lies not in Christian, Islam
or African Traditional Religion (ATR), but in the unpatriotic approach to religion by their
adherents to score political, economic, social or religious gains. What indeed breeds intolerance
among different religious groups or some members of any group is selfishness. Chuta (2004:44),
described selfishness as the practice of caring about oneself and not about others; of attracting
benefits to oneself first or in a disproportional manner to favour oneself. Many a time, our
leaders divert public funds to their personal account, some build houses, buy expensive cars,
send their children to the best schools abroad, a practice identical to minimizing one's own
maximum loss, and to maximizing one's own minimum gain, all in the spirit of winner takes all
of zero-sum game.
It must be noted that Nigeria as a nation is bigger and stronger than any religious or
political group, ethnic area and or powerful individuals or god fathers. therefore, careful
measures should be taken to ensure peace, tranquility, law and order in Nigeria body polity to
attract even and meaningful development. Prominent citizens and politicians have seen this need
and called for peace. For example, Governor Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso of Kano state believed
that “A stringer brotherhood among Nigerians is the basis for peace and progress”, (KNSG,
2012). The neglect of this call has, according to Obahiagbon, (2012) made
the search for national unity in Nigeria become a will-o’-the-wisp,
due to the deprecatory recourse by our narcissistic and jejune
political class to politics anchoring on ethnic gambadoism, religious
belligerency, disparate cultural osmosis, gangrenous regionalism
and even a philistinic resort to a paraplegic sense of parapoism in
the sociological, political and economic resolution of who gets what,
when and how. Little wonder we have suffered from a needless
internecine civil war, gone through a macabre armed struggle by
Niger-Delta militants and currently been asphyxiated by a daily
rampaging and daring Boko Haram armada from the Northern part
of our country.
The Benue State governor, Mr. Gabriel Suswam, also stated that the only way Nigeria can attain its rightful
position among the comity of nations, is when all the ethnic groups in the country come together to live in harmony
and peace. According to him, “as Nigerians, we have lived through those challenges, we have fought the civil war,
gone through political turmoil, but have remained as one indivisible entity,” adding that “our coming together is not
by mistake it is ordained and we must use this as a strength of our nation not to destabilise us,” (Babjide 2012).
The United States Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria, Terrence P. McCulley, in the same way tasked Nigerian
leaders at all levels, on the need to promote unity. According to him, Akinola, (2012) states:
People of different faiths, political background and ethnic areas contribute to the
fabric, strength and character of the United States in all walks of Life. And I
believe Nigerians must also work together to build their nation, irrespective of
their religious beliefs. If one puts continuous emphasis on differences, rather
than working toward overall betterment while co-existing, one risks chipping
away the very fabric of the nation,
The crisis in the country has continued because the vision of the founding fathers was frustrated and
scuttled by leadership challenge that manifested itself in sincerity and greed. For the nation to grow well, and for
peace and tolerance to become supreme, we need to purge ourselves of insincerity, greed and perverted notion of
service. Our leaders, including top civil/public servants, political office holders, heads of institutions and ministries
should handle issues with sincerity, honesty, passion, determination, and avoid favouritism, nepotism, tribalism
because this will go a long way to resolve issues, conflicts and crises, (Soeze 2012). Leaders using game theory
(zero sum game) where the players or decision makers trying to maximize their gains or minimize their losses or
trying to get as much as they can out of the game (situation), according to Isaak, (1999:239) should be avoided.
Having explored some of the nifty gritty of religious and political implications of games
theory for Nigerian nation, the following recommendations might serve as a check to the
identified failures of the state:
Nigerians should love and respect one another irrespective of place of one’s political
affinity, origin and religion. These have caused political and sectarian violence
claiming lives and properties.
Law should be made to stand against any religious leader found to have incited,
distorted fact about each other, blackmailed, or blocked each other’s chances thereby
frustrating the spirit of co-existence, peace and freedom in religious worship.
No religious group should use dominant strategy, inflicting injuries on others,
destroying or causing harm and disunity to the entire nation.
Persons prosecuted and found implicated in corruption, squandering and siphoning
the country’s wealth, should be dealt with in accordance to the law irrespective of the
zero sum game applied.
There should be tolerance among different religious groups, eschewing bitterness,
selfishness and greed. The various religious leaders should teach their followers
Gods’ own kind of lover which was shed abroad for all.
The application of non-zero-game theory in the scheme of things by players which
means that the gains and losses of the two players do not cancel out. That is, the
losers don’t necessarily lose all. However, a comb