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SON OF A CHIEF: PREACHING POLITICS WITHOUT VIOLENCE

By NBF News
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As the 2011 polls draw by, it is pertinent for the electorate to be familiar with the quality of their politicians. In the same manner, politicians should be weary of their inordinate ambitions, and avoid violence or any manipulation.

They should desist from the usual style of eliminating opponents through the usual do-or-die or point-and-kill approach. Dr Chris Iyimoga's exciting play; Son of a Chief, directed recently by Greg Mbajiorgu at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, becomes a timely parable for the polity as Nigerians prepare for another round of general elections come April.

Although the play is set in the rustic Doma community of Nasarawa State where the playwright hails from, it is instructive for all and sundry as it explores the conflicts arising from the death of Chief Onah; a traditional ruler; to showcase man's incredible lust for power and authority at all costs.

The plot grows from the palace where Chief Onah, otherwise addressed as Abaaga (Eya Joshua Buhari) nurses an unusual ailment.

This culminates in a chronic cough that eventually claims his life. Abaaga leaves behind a son, many daughters and widows among whom is his senior and mother of his only son, Ari (Otto Williams). Meanwhile, Ari is expected by tradition to inherit his father's wives (including his mother) but he declines this to the shock and disbelief of the palace chiefs. One of the kingmakers, Oboshi (Apertso Ejijah) threatens him, insisting that he must obey tradition.

Amid intrigues and controversies, Ari seeks supernatural help from Osede to enable him have him discard his father's widows and marry his hearthrob, Azimi (Mmaju Adaorah), and two others; Cynthia, the city girl and Ajima (Faith Ugwu). Here, the play succeeds in weaving tradition with politics, aside reinforcing the dangers posed by amorous affairs on matters of state and governance.It is significant that the vacant stool of the late Abaaga provides the platform for women to express their desires to become the queen by marrying Ari, the prince. But the conflict deepens when the heir to the throne prefers to defy tradition. The scenario paves the way for jealousy, envy and hatred such that Azimi decides to eliminate the man who might prevent her from becoming the queen of Doma land.

In a conspiracy similar to that of Lady Macbeth, who leads her husband to kill King Duncan in William Shakespeare's Macbeth, Azimi presents a poisoned palm wine to Oboshi at a palace party. However, after sipping from the calabash, Oboshi passes the poisoned wine to Ari, who gulps it ironically in celebration mood. But it is too late for Azimi to prevent her lover and future husband from drinking it. And so, in a tragic twist, both Oboshi and Ari die in the process while Azimi herself commits suicide after her open confession.

This tragedy is well interpreted by the director, who uses distance as an obstacle between Azimi and Ari to make the worse happen. And the audience could not but share from the dose of a bright future that is rudely shattered by share envy and hatred. At the same time, the director illustrates African setting through aesthetic elements of indigenous music, dance, drumming as well as symbols, motifs, props and costumes. All these are highlighted with the cast's resourcefulness in the areas of acting, movement and projection. But the costume designer and the cast seemingly delve more into the Islamic world while selecting fabrics and designs.

At the end of the production, which benefitted from colourful lighting and creative mood interpretation, it was difficult for the audience to believe that all was made possible by a 200 level acting class of the Department of Theatre Arts and Film Studies of the university. The playwright who was elated at the students' performance also gave a handsome cash gift to the cast. In attendance at the show were the playwright, Dr Chris Iyimoga (who is currently INEC commissioner from Nasarawa State),Greg Mbajiorgu; the director and lecturer in the Department, Professor Emeka Nwabueze, Professor Aloy Ohaegbu, Prof Damian Opata, Dr Emeka Umeifekwem, Barrister Chidi Onah and Mrs Imelda Mbajiorgu.

From the stupendous energy that was invested in the play whose theme is most relevant to Nigeria's current political landscape, it is perhaps necessary for Son of a Chief to travel round Nigeria with the aim of teaching people how to play politics without bitterness. And with the aid of well meaning sponsors, more Nigerians may learn greatly from Iyimoga's dramaturgy.