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This thesis examines the interplay between the adaptation of historical materials for dramatic purpose and the production of what may be referred to as ‘hagiographic personages. The study argues that this interplay underscores the relationship between history and hagiography in the discursive construction of tradition in Northern Nigeria as evident in Hausa literature. This interrelatedness of discourses and discursive formations is complex and requires multiple reading and interpretive strategies. The study demonstrates that there is a great need to revisit the past in order to understand the present. The dramatization of the past in Northern Nigerian literature has been achieved through the technique of adaptation and the hagiographic presentation of historical personages. The strategy of historicity has made possible a better comprehension of ‘tradition’ in contemporary Hausa society. Thus, we see dramatic literature dealing with the past and historical personages contributing in no small measures to the structural understanding of Hausa tradition and culture as seen in Yerima’s Attahiru, Ladan and Lyndersay’s Shaihu Umar and Tomoloju’s Aminatu Queen of Zazzau, that the study used as illustrative texts.



1.1 Background of the Study

Literature has recreated history in different societies of the world. African literature has

been noted to have reconstructed specific historical moments in Africa. The pre-colonial, colonial and postcolonial periods especially in Nigeria has been creatively engaged through the mediums of drama, prose and poetry. However, little attention has been given to the genre of drama in its role of dramatizing the history of a people. This thesis focuses on Northern Nigerian history and the dramatization of its history in dramatic texts.

In geographical terms, Northern Nigeria is the area herein referred to as the former Northern protectorate, province or region. Presently, it comprises the nineteen of the thirty six States of Nigeria including Abuja the federal capital (Hickey, 2000:280). The people are largely Muslims and predominantly Hausa/Fulani. However, there are other ethnic groups who are also significant in number. They lie in the middle belt area with a number of ethnic groups. In pre-colonial times, Hausa States or Hausa Kingdoms were a collection of independent city-States situated in what became Northern Nigeria. Although, the people have being Muslims for many centuries, traditional beliefs and paganism were often mixed with the practice of Islam. In 1808, Usman dan Fodio, the head of the Sokoto Caliphate warned the Hausa rulers that if they did not stop the practice of paganism, a war would be waged against them. The Hausa State was finally conquered by Usman dan Fodio and incorporated into the Sokoto Caliphate. The role of the caliphate was to unite the people to become responsible to each other. Today, that position has not been let down as it has been providing unity within and outside the statutory and religious boundaries of the caliphate.

Dramatic literature—more than the novel and poetry combined—bears the greater weight of history through its undeclared intention to reconstruct the past. This is evident in the large corpus of plays that have reflected and re-presented that past, in all its cultural and socio-political complexities, as a prism through which the present can be fruitfully apprehended. It is in light of this that Umaru Ladan and Dexter Lyndersay‘s Shaihu Umar, Ben Tomoloju‘s Aminatu Queen of Zazzau and Ahmed Yerima‘s Attahiru have been selected for this study to dramatize Northern


Nigerian history.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The process of narrating and interpreting the African past has long been an intellectual struggle against European assumptions and prejudices about the nature of time and history in Africa. Some European historians have noted that the major issue in the reconstruction of the African past is the question of how far voices outside Africa shape the presentation of Africa's past and present. Many historians, especially those without any background or training in African historiography, have assumed, incorrectly, that prior to European contact with Africa, indigenous "traditions" were ancient, permanent, and reproduced from generation to generation without change. This is the false image of cultural isolation and temporal stagnation that has been disseminated in many parts of the world.

Representation is an issue that lies at the heart of the current debate in African studies regarding the cultural composition of Africa itself. On one side of the debate are those who argue that there is such a thing as an "African" identity whose deep essence goes beyond the surface differences that distinguish one African culture from another. On the other side are those who argue that culturally the people of Africa have far less in common than is usually assumed. Some notable African scholars like the Ghanaian philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah have argued that there is no cultural unity in Africa, and that Africanist discourse has inaccurately grouped together different cultures. They maintained that ―whatever Africans share, we do not have a common traditional culture, common languages, and common religious or conceptual vocabulary and that we do not even belong to a common race.‖

In much of what has been written about Africa‘s past, especially by European authors,

very little or no attention was paid to indigenous African views of the past or to the role Africans played in the shaping of global developments, processes, and structures. More crucial to the study, is the fact that little attention has been paid to how African writers have been reconstructing the past. It is important that those who teach and study Africa today try to solve the issue of representation in order to locate and unpack the economic, political, personal, or other motivations that might underlie any particular image of Africa. In other words, how have African history and culture been represented in writing? And on what authority do authors have to represent a continent and its identities?


This study focuses on the history of Northern Nigeria as part of African history. The study is an attempt to apprehend that history in the contexts of tradition, historical personages and cultural processes that have shaped the identity of the North as a cultural and political formation. It is observed that despite the dominance of exogenous views on the African past, there are quite a number of African writers that have been writing ‗with a view from within‘. These writers have been producing literary works that attempt to address the past, not as a monolithic event, but in terms of its contemporary relevance. In looking at the past, we have had abundant works published by African writers. Most of these works are in the different genres of literature, but there is a noticeable scarcity of historical novels compared to poetry addressing the past. Part of the argument of this study is that, with the exception of Kole Omotosho‘s, Just Before Dawn (1988), a historical novel about Nigeria, there is scarcity of historical novels in the strict sense of the word but there is an abundance of historical plays. The study also argues that it is the playwrights, more than the novelists and poets, who have been responding to the clarion call by notable African writers like Wole Soyinka and Dennis Brutus that African writers should be involved in the full retrieval of the African past in the quest for a contemporary self-apprehension and design for the future. The playwrights have been doing this through the adaptation of myth and historical materials and personages, as portrayed in Ben Tomoloju‘s Aminatu Queen of Zazzau, Ahmed Yerima‘s Attahiru, Dexter Lyndersay and Umaru Ladan‘s Shaihu umar. The plays under study are not merely in the service of reflecting on the past, but more as a means of contemplating the present and projecting into the future.

Based on the issues above, the following hypotheses will guide the analysis that will be

carried out in the remaining chapters of this study:

1. Attahiru, by Ahmed Yerima, is mainly a documentation of history.

2.   Shaihu Umar by Umaru Ladan and Dexter Lyndersay is more of an exercise in hagiography than a historical drama.

3.    Aminatu, The Legendary Queen of Zazzau by Ben Tomoloju is a re-enactment of history and a celebration of womanhood than an exercise in historiogra

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