In Soji Cole’s maybe tomorrow, patriotism signposts new vision

A scene from the play

History will ever remain grateful to Charles de Gaulle, the French general, who led the Free France Forces (FFF) and later became the head of the Provisional Government of the French Republic, for defining the twin word of patriotism and nationalism.

According to the French statesman, who is also a writer, “patriotism is when one’s love for his or her people comes first, while nationalism is when hate for people other than one’s own comes first.”

This statement was the focus of Soji Cole’s Maybe Tomorrow.

Directed by Ibukun Fasunhan, the play tells the story of two long-lost friends Adolphus Wariboko (Kenneth Uphopho) and Kenule Ododo (Patrick Diabuah).

These two friends fight on the Nigerian side against the rebel forces. They maim, destroy and commit all manners of atrocities in the name of national interest.

Produced by Eclectique Theatre in conjunction with Terra Kulture, the play depicts the Nigerian state, highlighting themes like deprivation, poverty, minority issues, environmental degradation, human rights abuse and others.

With a singular purpose and common ideal for a united country, the two friends believe that Nigeria has no alternative; it is their country and nothing, not even ethnic loyalty must tear it apart.

With this, anybody or group of persons against the unity of the country becomes an enemy that must be silenced and annihilated. In oneness, they fight to make Nigeria overrun its enemy, the Civil War rebels.

But after the war, the two friends part ways, doing other things to survive. While Wariboko finds solace in the Nigeria Police Force, Ododo pitches tent with a militia group, the Coastal Fighter Group (CFG), to agitate for a better living conditions for his riverine people.

Thirty years after the civil war, the two friends meet in a circumstance that sees them in opposition — a police interrogation room, with one the suspect and the other the interrogator.

While Wariboko is representing the state, interrogating Ododo, whose group, the CFG, is alleged to have kidnapped two oil field workers, the two — Wariboko and Ododo — come to the realisation that the Civil War was not necessary, and was only a waste of life and human resources.

This common truth though makes them redefine their stand and philosophies of life, also helps to divide them, with each having a strong grip on his stand.

With the determination to carry out the biddings of their various groups, Wariboko tortures Ododo to make him admit to a crime he knows nothing about. It is in the course of this that the truth of who actually committed the crime is revealed.

It also brings to the fore, the duplicity of people claiming to speak for their community, only to use the platform to feed fat.

Based on the happenings in the Niger Delta region, the play shows the highhandedness in the police force at getting information and also the failure of the force to carry out proper investigation before arresting their assumed victims.

With a very good storyline that reminds the audience of government’s insensitivity to people’s plight, the play is a bit long. Though, the issues raised are all engaging, the audience needs to be allowed to water down the messages with comic relief.

Howbeit, the play is worth the while and should be a must watch for anybody interested in Nigeria, its unity and people.

It also reminds the audience, especially now that the country is concluding another round of elections, that Nigerians must all join hands to build the country irrespective of their political differences, because war is not always the best way to resolve crisis.

It calls on political zealots to be mindful of their utterances, shun actions and activities that will incite hate among ethnic groups with different political ideas.

The two characters seamlessly play out their roles; as their body languages and tones depict the different blocs each stands for.

The dialogues and gesticulations are pertinent, thus, giving the vivid descriptions of depression, suffering and neglect in the Niger Delta and other places across the country.

The play, indeed, teaches everybody to be patriotic, seeing the nation first before any ethnic group if they must live as one.

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