With Po, LiveTheatre interrogates leadership, national decay

A scene from the play

Abhijit Naskar, one of the world’s most celebrated neuroscientists, author, and advocate of global harmony, in one of his books, says: “Mothers and fathers are born everywhere. What the world needs are leaders.”

He harps on quality leadership, not necessarily political, but across all facets of human endeavour. He is convinced that, like the proverbial lead dancer, who sets the pace for his followers, a leader’s influence goes a long way to determine the attitude of the led and institutions in a particular community.

The impact of leadership is depicted in a satirical stage play titled, Po! staged recently in Lagos, the play takes a panoramic view of happenings in the country, beginning from the street to the economy, tertiary institutions, and others.

The two-man production, which features Abiodun Akinsiku and Tunde ‘MisterRain’ Ojobaro, opens with the duo, taking their baths and getting set to go back to their street cleaning job.

The play highlights the challenge of people living in single-room apartments, generally referred to as ‘face-me-I-slap-you’, and what they face in order to take their baths in the morning or carry out other chores in the compound.

The play uses potty as a metaphor to describe Nigeria as a country with lax laws and where any rubbish goes, especially if such claptrap comes from the leadership.

Although Akinsiku expounds the significance of potty to his generation, depicting how, as a catalyst, the bowl enables his family members to come up with solutions to issues, as result of the length of time spent on it, Ojobaro sneers at this suggestion, demanding to know some of the solutions any of his family members has proffered on national issue.

The play showcases the decay in academia, politics, traditional marriage rites in Igboland, women dress sense, public contractors, judiciary, the rot in the civil service and even the electoral system.

Seeing the political class as being gullible, the play reveals they can do anything to remain in power, the comedians show how the electorates collaborate with politicians by collecting money (stomach infrastructure) and other incentives to vote for people, who they know cannot deliver their election campaign promises. The play calls on the electorates to interrogate politicians representing them at all levels, calling these leaders to give an account of their stewardship and also to monitor their activities. It stresses that such an attitude would make leaders, at all levels, to be responsive and responsible to their people.

Using a story within a story technique to move from one theme to the other, the duo picks on ladies’ dress sense, describing it as indignant, suggestive and a show of nudity. One after the other, they disclose how this has affected the male sensibility, making them to act contrary to their planned purposes at a given situation.

Moving on to academia, the play reveals how some female students debase themselves with male lectures, soliciting for marks and grades they do not work for.

Stressing the importance of keeping the streets clean, Po reveals the profligacy of government when awarding contracts. It reveals the horrible tales of clearing the gutters and sweeping the streets, only to find the garbage cleared from the gutters go back into them and also how the winds help litter the streets because the waste is never removed by authorities concerned.

However, as funny as the play seems, it would be appropriate to balance some of the views presented, because theatre, apart from entertaining guests, serves as a veritable medium to educate, create awareness of negative things in the society and as well correct misconceptions.

While giving women knock, the play forgets men. It highlights their near-nude dress sense but failing to address the sagging culture among men. The director needs to be informed that this male dress sense offends the ladies just as the mini skirts and boob display wears arouse the men.

Another noticeable shortcoming is the projection that the Igbo make merchandise of their daughters through bride price. Though bride price may be high in some parts of Igbo land, it does not mean that the sub-ethnic group concerns trade with their daughter, as a close look into the ethnic group would show that the better part of the money so collected goes back the groom.

Written by Femi Branch and produced by Oluwanishola Adenugba for LiveTheatre in partnership with Theatre Hub Africa, the performance leaves the audience with the bitter lesson that everybody is part of Nigeria’s problem, Nigeria can only make progress if everybody plays his or her expected role in the society, whether as leaders or followers.

The free show was LiveTheatre’s way of promoting live performance and encouraging playwrights.

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