Distilling a dysfunctional society through Gomba’s Guerrilla Post
A writer calling the government of the day to account.
And so when President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration conceived the odd idea of proposing a Bill against Hate Speech, many were appalled.
That a government that came to power through the instrumentality of unfettered speech would chose to gag society and not showing same level of tolerance in its quest to stay in power.
It meant that the very instrument that brought it to power had suddenly become a threat to the administration’s own existence.
Indeed, governments of failed or failing states like Nigeria, rather than take advantage of the intrinsic value of opposing views expressed by critics, would rather resort to monitoring their society media accounts and invoking security infringements to cow them into silence.
That is the situation Kafka (Kaka Travan) finds himself in Obari Gomba’s Guerrilla Post (Narrative Landscape Ltd, 2018; Lagos).
A poet of the people, Kafka is critical of government’s inactivity that suggests it is siding with the killer herdsmen that have been on the rampage in parts of the country and the equally absurd notion of expending tax-payers’ money to set up ranches to protect the private businesses of cattle rearing.
So what is the role of the Office of the Citizen, which a writer arguably occupies (according to PB Shelley, who notes that a poet is the unacknowledged legislator of the world), if he has no say in the affairs of his country?
Who is better placed than a writer to amplify the concerns of the ordinary citizen?
And if the writer is gagged and prevented from expressing the concerns of society, wouldn’t that be direct ticket to tyranny and dictatorship?
And so Kafka (Gomba’s metaphor for protest in the manner of the French philosopher and writer of the same name, Franz Kafka) steps in and begins active social media campaign to challenge government’s poor handling of a social menace that has sent a large number of citizens to their early graves.
But government, through its security system, in the name of Superintendent of Police Maden, will have none of that social crusading nonsense and sees it as a directly challenge government’s policy and might.
Unknown to Kafka and his friends, Pake, Best and his girlfriend, Jess, Maden has been monitoring his Facebook social media account and making incriminating notes.
Maden’s moment comes when Kafka’s poetry reading event is disrupted by Maden’s send. Kafka is arrested and so begins his long night in Golgotha.
But there is a twist in the tale, as Kafka and his friends find out in dismay.
Kafka’s alleged security threat through his postings and comments on social media against the government are worsened by a mistaken personal slight on SUPOL Maden.
Kafka’s journalist friend, Best, wants the best towards the publication of his friend’s poetry on love, provocatively titled Twenty Poems About Sex.
When SUPOL Maden sees these poems in their manuscript state in the custody of his wife, he goes mad.
From then on Kafka becomes a marked man for execution for not only daring to confront government, which SUPOL Maden represents, but for also making a cuckold out of him in the bargain.
It is also the time of Nnamdi Kanu’s Indigenous People of Biafra’s (IPOB) uprising in the South East, with oil bunkering also rife in the Niger Delta.
These two incidents give SUPOL Maden and his men opportunity to hang terrorism charges on Kafka’s neck; he fate appears sealed.
How do Kafka and his friends resolve this dilemma and rescue their friend from the clutches of a tormented policeman, who saw the worse form of violent action in Nigeria’s North East-ravaged Boko Haram enclave?
An otherwise loving man and husband whose mind is unhinged by what he saw and experienced and who now batters his wife for the infidelity she does not commit?
Only Pake, a proper bastard, if there is one, a man born on the night of Nigeria’s complicated beginning, when the country wagged a senseless civil war and his mother is raped raw by both Biafran and Nigerian soldiers and from which dire circumstance he is sired.
He is the only one who has the guts to confront SUPOL Maden to the death so as to stop the unwarranted madness being visited on innocent Kafka.
How he does it brings the engaging play to a cliff-hanging, violent denouement.
Gomba’s play is revolutionary, as it takes into account contemporary issues of the Nigerian state and weaves them into thrilling dramatic finality.
Gomba reaffirms the role of the writer in an unraveling society like Nigeria’s and the many sad songs the crusading Kafkas would have to sing and the travail they would likely go through before they could sing of beauty again, as his love poems that are prevented from being read suggest.
Guerrilla Post is a play cast in the thriller mould, with its deftly woven, playful plot and dialogue that race the audience to its cliff-top.
In Gomba’s play, poetry collides with politics, and lays bare Nigeria’s unfolding contradictions that defy commonsense.
This is radical and topical drama with intense political meaning. It is drama for Nigeria’s here and now!
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