Destined to Be… Proclaiming a New Political Culture in Nigeria
‘Destined To Be’, is a stage play conjured in the creative chambers of Christine Odi, the first female professor from the Department of Theatre Arts, Niger Delta University, Amassoma, Bayelsa State; it talks about the emergence of a political culture. Dim Oba, this week takes a break from the motion picture and brings us an hilarious and thought provoking stage play.
Opening the play, is the preparation for a meeting to strategize for the party’s primary elections in favour for one of the candidate, Chief Gomogomo. The play exposes his tactics in running his campaign and the political party as a family affairs. He proposes to the leaders of the leaders for his wife, Ala-ere to become the Woman Leader while his daughter, Bodise-ere will be his face in the leadership of the youth wing. He doesn’t believe in the proper conduct of the meeting of the day but only interested in eating and drinking with a well prepared the table with different sorts of drinks and food. The attitudinal framework and political ideological approach of Chief Gomogomo is rising concern amongst the members already as Mr. Daniel calling his attention to follow laid down rules.
As the play progresses, the play exposes the character of Ala-ere, Chief Gomogomo’s wife better, her plans for the office of First Lady. She plots for her husband’s takeover of the government House but is disheartened when the cover story of a newspaper attracts her attention. Ala-ere calls her daughter’s attention to it who is aware and knows the people behind the news item. She convinces her daughter who she says is going to be the First Child therefore encouraging her to play along the family’s grand plan of becoming the first family. Through Bodisere, the student leader is invited to Chief Gomogomo’s house but he turns down Chief’s offer for financial support to Students union. One thing leads to another, Bodisere is pregnant for Amatu while Amatu is searching for his biological father.
Due to Chief Gomogomo’s high-handedness his party decides to disqualify him from the race for the post of governorship. He laments to his wife while they are in search of their only daughter who left them after a heated debate over how Chief called Amatu, the student leader unprintable names.
The play structure is a departure from the usual Act 1 Scene 1 structure but broken into six events spanning a period of about 18 calendar months exposing the despicable and pretentious character of a post colonial Nigerian politician. The mix of politics, love, family and student activism is a blend of the inter-connectivity of society and revealing the various sentiments and cravings for the common patrimony of the people. However, my primary concern in this review is the manner in which Chief Gomogomo’s political aspirations ends with his party expelling him for the embezzlement of public funds, failure to complete the government contract and his lack of leadership skills.
While the characters, actions, dialogue and setting of the play are familiar to everyday Nigerian, Christine Odi graciously plotted the denial of the party ticket to Chief Gomogomo even without holding the party’s primary election. This is a bold breakaway from the traditional Nigerian political culture especially since the return of democracy in 1999. So, Nigerians are exposed to an unfamiliar path of disqualification of a candidate just because his principles doesn’t align with philosophy of the political party.
We have not come to a point where a political party will disqualify a candidate who has contributed immensely to the take off of the party from its infancy stage. Chief Gomogomo is not just a founding member of his party, but a financial backbone who is already in debt for his forthcoming campaign without securing his party ticket to contest for the governorship elections. How can this be?
In modern Nigeria, can a party disqualify a candidate for the mere fact that he is not in alignment with his party ideology? What are criteria for the selection of candidates in the political parties? Since the return of democracy in 1999, do the frontline political parties have a clear-cut ideological principles of operation or policy? Can a national Chairman of any political party with the support of NEC members disqualify a candidate who had fails to carry out contracts?
Therefore, I choose to close my eyes to other issues raised in the play. This type of the play strikes and rekindles hope within our political space. As a country we ‘Destined to Be’ irrespective of our tongues and tribe manifested in our region and religion. Christine Odi destined that Chief Gomogomo’s political ambition was not destined to be but what was destined to be is a governance system free from mediocre, self-centered and brutal elements.
Let’s agree and proclaim the playwright, Christine Odi as a dramatic prophetess that foresees a near future, when the political parties will disqualify their candidates based on their track record and the achievements made in previous offices they occupy. One day, political parties in Nigeria will be responsible for the emergence of this new political culture through internal cleansing mechanism. She is a scholarly prophetess and I pray alongside her colleague, Professor Ben Binebai, who wrote the foreword of the play and when he wrote, “Considering the stylish manner in which this play is woven, one can only expect many more seeds waiting in the wings of Christine Odi to sprout.”
Waiting for more creative works from Professor Christine Odi, the first female Professor from the Department of Theatre Arts, Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State.