Wole Balogun, Ado-Ekiti
Recently, renowned late Professor of Yoruba Language, and author, Prof. Akinwunmi Ishola, resurrected on the proscenium stage of the Department of Theatre and Media Arts, Ekiti State University (EKSU), Ado-Ekiti, with the performance of the author’s historic play, Efunsetan Aniwura, which retells in critical stance, the story of Ibadan leader of the market women, Iyalode Efunsetan Aniwura, whose wickedness and inhuman attributes led to her fall from grace to grass in the pre-colonial Ibadan of old Oyo empire in South West Nigeria.
The play was staged by the 300 Level class of the department under the supervision of both Miss. Toyin Bade Afuye and Prince Feso Oyebade, lecturers at the department. Efunsetan Aniwura relays the touching story of a beautiful, strong-willed and enterprising woman whose barrenness robs her of a happy matrimony and turns her into a monster who destroys others happiness.
She becomes highly successful in business as a market woman but fails to produce a child as one of the king’s wives. She gets kicked out of her marital home as Oba Latoosa’s wife and becomes the Iyalode, leader of the market women as a result of her achievements as an enterprising woman.
She builds her own empire as a highly successful businesswoman and acquires many slaves whom she treats with scorn and envy. She makes her slaves work too hard and maltreats them and even kills them at the slightest provocation.
In spite of the warnings from Oba Latoosa, palace chiefs and even her well wishers, Efunsetan Aniwura continues on the path of wickedness, daring every right thinking persons and crushing every obstacle on her way. She is emboldened by the spiritual backing solicited from the three witches who assure her that she can do the worst she desires, but who later turn their backs on her when she oversteps her boundary by ordering a beheading of her pregnant slave, Adetutu, against all pleas for her to temper justice with mercy.
Adetutu, a pretty young slave of Efunsetan incurs the wrath of her slave master by not only falling in love with her heartthrob, but also getting pregnant for him. This is against the rules of Efunsetan that no slave of hers shall have a love relationship let alone becomes a father or mother.
Efunsetan’s deviance to caution lands her in trouble with her spiritual support base, the three witches, with the killing of poor, pregnant Adetutu whom the witches describe as Abara meji, meaning a woman with a celestial body, and an abominable offering for the witches. This is why they announce their withdrawal from spiritually backing her wicked deeds when she consults them for help to face the battle that follows her banishment from Ibadan by Latoosa.
Aniwura goes to war with Oba Latoosa, without the witches’ backing. She falls into the hands of the monarch and Ibadan warriors who capture her and bring her back to her matrimonial home, the palace of Oba Latoosa; not as a wife but a slave.
She feels the pains, travails and trauma of being a slave and becomes broken. She can’t stomach the wretched life of a slave. She ends her life by swallowing a poison, which instantly sends her to the great beyond. Her inglorious end signals a lesson for influential, dictatorial leaders who, when power drunk, rides roughshod on all their subordinates and lesser beings, with a warped thinking that they would remain in power forever.
The Killers, another performance by the students is in the same stream of thought with Efunsetan Aniwura on political criticism but in a more elaborate manner. The play tackles every negative challenges of the Nigerian nation on all fronts by satirizing on all such issues as corruption, insurgence, cultism, stealing, maiming, tribalism, nepotism and violence.
The play employs the Brecthian dramaturgical style of breaking the fourth wall by getting the members of the audience and the chorus actively involved in the performance to pass critical comments on issues raised by the several authorial voices in the play text.
It ends with a message of peace, that everyone should allow peace to reign. The song that reinforces the call for peace was rendered in the three major Nigerian languages, of Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa amid the hoisting of Nigerian flag by a lead character.
Head of Department, Dr. Adefolaju Adeseke, spoke about their challenges: “The department had approached the former VC asking him to assist us to do a kind of renovation. He approved money for that but unfortunately some of the areas we wanted them to touch were not touched. We also asked for an expansion of the auditorium to a 1000-seater and he promised to use Tetfund but before he left office nothing of that was done.
“We are appealing seriously to the university authorities to assist us to get the equipment to teach the students. We have been using a generator to power our performances. What is obtainable every where in the world is for us to be on the same power grid with the university to have stable power and we are speaking that the university do this for us.”
On the performances, he said: “Some of the reasons the department is existing is for academic purposes. It is also expected to have impact on the immediate environment who are students and staff of he university. Many of them have watched Efunsetan Aniwura and The Killers. What Efunsetan Aniwura teaches is that we should strive not to abuse power and not use it to oppress but use it for the benefit and growth of our society.
“The Killers written by Prof. AbdulRasheed Abiodun Adeoye, x-trays all the negativities in the Nigerian society such as violence up North and corruption, the bane of our development in Nigeria. When you go to other African countries people are doing a lot to move their countries forward.
“In Nigeria, we need to remove corruption, nepotism, and the message is for Nigerians and many of those who have watched the production today are youths. We are using the performance to instruct them that they should ensure that when they find themselves in positions of authority they should use their wealth for the benefit of the society.”
Afuye who is the lecturer in charge of the students that performed the plays in collaboration with others,
Dele Ojo Amos and Ganiu Kareem, said: “As a lecturer in charge TMA 30l, I just thought of it that we should perform a Yoruba play to celebrate one of the foremost Yoruba writers, late Prof. Akinwunmi Ishola. Once the idea was brought to the fore, even the students wanted to reject it but l encouraged them that they should not be stock characters but rather rounded artists who can act any role across all cultures.
“We read the scripts for two weeks so they could understand how to speak the dialect well. We also worked thoroughly on all the students. We chose one of them, Ilesanmi Esther to direct the play while I assumed the role of consultant artists where they consult me in every aspect of the production and I was acting in that capacity, instructing them on what to do.
“We were able to detect more actors and make many of them rounded artists, who can sing, dance act and all that. Looking forward, we will work more on performing other plays in other Nigerian or African native tongues.”