Nijagha … Political Ambition Taken Too Far
William Shakespeare’s assertion that “every inordinate cup is unblessed and the ingredient is a devil” would forever remain relevant, especially as humans are wont to usurp leadership. Though some win the game and become heads overnight while some are consumed by the impasse their actions may cause. This scenario came to the fore in a play, Nijagha, a collaborative effort of the Nigerian/Ghana theatric interface, which held recently at the National Art Theatre, Lagos.
It showcases the cultures of the tribes that make up the two countries. Nijagha tells the harrowing story of how an African prince, Ade (Shola Are) tries to eliminate other princes to become king.
It opens with a wrestling march, which Iya Oloja stops on the grounds that such exercise should not be encouraged especially when the town is without a king. The people go berserk, requesting for the kingmakers to give them a king. While the confusion lasts, a thief (Michael Kofi) steals a trader’s item and money and runs away. The thief happens to be the identical twin brother of Olu (Segun Olamide), a stern police officer, who, by right of birth, is heir to the vacant throne.
Not long the thief escapes, leaving anger and confusion in his trail. The police officer, dressed in plain clothes, walks into the scene. The trader, whose items and money are stolen sees him and raises the alarm that the thief has come to steal again. The traders bounce on the police, beat him black and blue. They are about to lynch him, when the protagonist (Prince Ade), who has been contesting the throne walks in to save him. Ade pleads with the market men and women not to do further harm to him, but they insist on killing him. He then asks them to choose between him and the thief, who they would prefer as king.
The traders choose Princce Ade. Ade, now on self-recognition, wants the thief to be kept alive to witness his coronation and afterwards kill him. The people agree and Olu goes to detention for an offence he knows nothing of. On the coronation day, the people look forward to seeing Prince Ade crowned king and Olu condemned to death, but as fate would have it, the table turns against Ade, as the mother of the twins appears with the real thief.
Ade had actually given a huge sum of money to Olu’s identical twin, a never do well, to blackmail his brother. When the people know the truth, they reverse their decision and Olu is made king.
Cast of the play show a mastery of their roles – from the fluent delivery to movement. Even the music and dance are apt and further help to enhance the story.
Quite a thrilling performance that held the audience spellbound, the story does not appear to be a true reflection of an African society, as princes, especially heir-apparent, are treated with respect. Also, it seems nonsensical that Olu, a prince, and an office of the law, would live in the town of his birth and the people would not be able to identify him or differentiate from his never-do-well twin brother. It’s also absurd for a prince to pass a death sentence on anyone, when he has not been made a king. This denies the existence of rule of law in African traditional societies.
Presenting African societies in this light relegates shows a poor understanding of the roles council of elders play like holding court to decide on matters concerning the community in the absence of a king. It also shows that the African society is lawless and has little or no respect for officers of the law. Although things later turn sour for Ade, it goes to say that no matter how long one hides the truth, when it finally comes to the fore, the consequence is usually bitter. Ade later suffers shame and loses the cherished throne, the object of his inordinate ambition.