Maybe Tomorrow… Portrait of country’s injustice to citizens

HISTORY will forever 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 words ‘patriotism’ and ‘nationalism’. According to the French statesman, who is also a writer, ‘patriotism is when one love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.’   

  These two definitions are at the heart of a new play, Maybe Tomorrow written by Soji Cole, and directed by Ibukun Fasunhan of Eclectique Theatre Production. It’s the ongoing stage performance that began last Sunday and ends this Sunday at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos.

  Maybe Tomorrow tells the story of two long-lost friends, Adolphus Wariboko (Kenneth Uphopho) and Kenule Ododo (Patrick Diabuah). These two friends fought on the federal side against the rebel forces during the civil war. They maimed, destroyed and committed all manners of atrocities all in the name of defending national interest in efforts to make the country united. Ododo even killed his own cousin for taking sides with the rebels; it’s the extent of his commitment to the goal of keeping the country one.

  With the singular purpose and common ideal for a united country, the two friends believe that there’s no alternative to Nigeria remaining together as one indivisible country; it is their country and nothing, not even ethnic loyal, must tear it apart. Anybody or group of persons against the unity of the country becomes an enemy that must not only be silenced, but annihilated. In oneness, they fought to make Nigeria overrun her enemy, the civil war rebels.

  But after the war, the two friends part ways and move on to other things to survive. While Wariboko finds solace with the Nigeria Police Force, Ododo pitches tent with his people in a militia group, Coastal Fighter Group (CFG), to agitate for better living conditions for his riverine people, who are left with tales of woes in oil spillages, devastated rivers and farmlands and ill health resulting from oil exploration by foreign corporations granted licenses to operate by the state that does nothing to protect the hapless communities.

  Thirty years after the civil war, the two friends meet again in circumstances that pitch them at two opposite sides of the divide – a police interrogation room, with one being the suspect for kidnapping two foreign oil workers and the other the interrogating police officer.

  While Wariboko represents the state that interrogates Ododo, whose CFG is alleged to have kidnapped two oil workers, the duo come to the realisation that the civil war was a waste of their youthful days as the ideals the war promoted are unrealistic, a waste of life and human resources; that indeed they had been sold a lie. Although this common truth makes them redefine their viewpoints and philosophical outlook about life, it also helps to further divide them, with each of them sticking to the two professions that bring them into collision in an interrogation room.

  With a determination to carry out the biddings of their respective standpoints as policeman and a rebel who must confront the government to face up to its responsibilities, Wariboko drills Ododo to make him admit to a crime he knows nothing about. Even the dire consequences of torture should Ododo fails to reveal the whereabouts of the missing men is thrown in for good measure. Just at the point when Wariboko almost strangles Ododo to death for failing to give him relevant information on the kidnapping the true identity of the kidnappers is revealed.

  Maybe Tomorrow depicts the Nigerian state, and highlights such issues as deprivation, poverty, minority issues, environmental degradation, human rights abuse and others. The play exposes highhandedness in the police force during interrogation of suspects and also their knack for incriminating innocent persons in criminal activities and forcing confessions out of them through torture.

  Maybe Tomorrow is a good story with telling dramatic effect. The duo of Uphopho (Waribiko), who was artistic director of Saro the Musical 2 and Diabuah (Ododo), also featured in the same musical theatre at Christmas as one of the lead actors, are at their finest in this explosive performance. Maybe Tomorrow is a play in which ideas of society, leadership, patriotism clash in pitching two former soldiers acting out polarized roles of policeman and militia in a heightened dramatic performance. Clearly, Cole’s play writing skill is assured and its performance by Eclectique Theatre Production is a boon.

  However, the play appears a bit long, as the dialogue seems to go round in circles. But this is as police interrogations go. Though the issues raised are absorbing, it is a challenge to the audience; a dose of comedy ought to be infused in between, which the two junior officers try to do; perhaps, a little more of it is needed.

  As the play goes on stage again this Sunday, January 25 at 3pm and 6pm, theatre-goers will once again be treated to a thrilling, super performance by the duo of Uphopho and Diabuah. Terra Kulture is where to savour this month-end theatrical feast!

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