The Wives’ Revolt… Towards better women-oriented laws, practices
Women agitating for their rights to be heard, recognised and be given their dues in society resonated last Sunday in a play, titled, The Wives’ Revolt by JP Clark.
It opens with Okoro (Taju Dauda), the town crier, informing the people of Erhuware that monies the oil company operating in the area offered the community has been shared into three equal parts among the elders, the men and the women. He further discloses that each group is to get its share according to their age group. Okoro returns home to be greeted by the vexation of his wife, Koko (Kike Saheed).
Koko, who represents the women, challenges her husband and the men on their wisdom for the sharing formula, knowing too well that the elders and the men are the same. She sees the formula as being unfair and argues that it would have been much better if it had been shared equally between the men and the women. She further argues that with the sharing formula, the men have two-third of the oil money, while the women just a third.
With the women agitating for a fair sharing formula, some men report to the elders that the women have resorted to the use of witchcraft to turning goats to harm them at night. This results in the council of elders passing a law that banishes goats in the community.
The new law ignites fire in the heated polity, as the women see it as anti-women, especially as goats are some of the domestic animals they are allowed to keep.
To stop the menfolk from carrying out the oppressive law, the women plan to stage a protest. At a said date, they leave the village and march through Otughieven, Eijophe, Igherekan, Imode to Eyara, and leave their children and their husbands to their own fate. The action forces their husbands to do domestic chores such as babysitting, cooking, sweeping, taking the children to school and other chores considered the prerogative of women.
Taking it back on their wives’ absence, the men begin to frolic with the free single ladies in the village. And since their husbands refuse to come for them, the Erhuware women press on to Eyara and are accommodated and cared for by Ighodayen, a notorious prostitute. On hearing that their wives have begun to fraternise with Ighodayen, the men plead for their return. Unfortunately, all the women have contacted venereal diseases. And it becomes a case of ‘had we known!’
Performed by Tiro Theatre Production and directed by David Idemire, Clark’s The Wives’ Revolt depicts themes such as inequality, highhandedness, oppressive social structure imposed by patriarchal laws, poor crisis management and inequitable distribution of resources.
With Dauda and Saheed interpreting their roles to the admiration of the audience, the beauty of drama as an instrument to settle crisis comes to the fore. Here, the male and female folks see their shortcomings and have themselves to blame. While the men blame themselves for pushing their women to the extreme with their unjust laws, the women call for caution, realising that they, too, ought not to have gone to the extent of allowing their anger to take the better part of their emotion. The play evenly apportions blames to both parties and highlights the complementary roles each ought to play to make for a harmonious society.
Although somewhat wordy, The Wives’ Revolt goes beyond the spectacle to a very rich content that calls on opinion moulders and custodians of the African culture to revisit some of the value system and come up with standards that give the male and female folks their rightful place.
The playwright takes a holistic view of the oil companies that milk the people and throw peanuts at them to fight over, while they capitalise on the fracas created to exploit for oil wealth and leave the people the worse for it. It calls on the people to be cautious of the largesse they get from the oil companies, as they are meant to stir feud, rather than better the lot of the people.