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Political satire in Nigeria literature as the topic of this essay sets out to understudy the employment of mockery and ridicule in Nigerian literatures (plays) as an approach to revealing, criticizing and forestalling the ills and evils that thrives in the society from people of all works of life, especially the political ills in the political sphere. For clarity, this essay defines in clear terms, the necessary subject matters especially as it relates to satire, politics and Nigerian literature. The inclusion of literature review is to enrich this essay with the scholarly inputs, research, opinions of renowned scholars of literature, as a basis for further research as this. Armed with post-colonialism as the literary theory, this essay analysis satire in the works of Emeka Nwabueze and Tess Onwueme – Then She Said It and A Parliament of Vultures. While lessons prescriptions of both authors in both texts are highlighted in this essay, the thesis concludes with reiterating the role and crucial place of playwrights, especially, satirists in political development, stability and the general prosperity of the society.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Cover Page… … … … … … … … … … i
Title Page… … … … … … … … … … ii
Declaration… … … … … … … … … … iii
Certification… … … … … … … … … iv
Dedication… … … … … … … … … … v
Acknowledgments… … … … … … … … … vi
Abstract… … … … … … … … … … vii
Table of Contents… … … … … … … … … viii
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
1.0 Background of the Study… … … … … … … 1
1.1 Definition of Terms… … … … … … … … 5
1.1.1 Satire… … … … … … … … … 5
1.1.2 Political Satire… … … … … … … … 6
1.1.3 Literature… … … … … … … … … 7
1.1.4 Nigerian Literature… … … … … … … … 7
1.2 Statement of Problem… … … … … … … 8
1.3 Scope of Study… … … … … … … … 9
1.4 Significance of Study… … … … … … … 10
1.5 Limitation of the Study… … … … … … … 10
1.6 Aims and Objectives… … … … … … … 10
1.7 Research Methodology… … … … … … … 11
CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
2.1 Review of Nwabueze’s A Parliament of Vultures… … … … 12
2.2 Review of Onwueme’s Then She Said It… … … … … 14
2.3 Satire in Literature: A Political Strategy… … … … … 15
2.4 Satire in Nigerian Plays… … … … … … … 18
2.5 Post Colonialism and it Study in Nigeria… … … … … 19
3.0 Emeka Nwabueze’s Dramaturgy… … … … … … 23
3.1 Aspect of Politics and Satire in A Parliament of Vultures… … … 23
3.2 Thematic Concerns… … … … … … … … 28
4.0 Osonye Tess Onwueme’s Dramaturgy… … … … … 30
4.1 Aspects of Politics and Satire in Then She Said It… … … … 30
4.2 Thematic Concerns… … … … … … … … 34
5.0 A Comparative Analysis of Nwabueze’s A Parliament of Vultures
and Onwueme’s Then She Said It… … … … … … 36
Conclusion… … … … … … … … … 38
WORKS CITED… … … … … … … … 40
1.0 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The term “Satire” is derived from the Latin word “Satura” meaning “dish of mixed fruits”. It is a “mode of writing that exposes the failings of individuals, institutions or societies to ridicule and scorn (Megan LeBoeuf, 1). It is known to have been alive to the socio-political realities of its time; a kind of court where the economics, social religious and political issues of the society are outlined, evaluated and judged to bring about a better society, the theatre, it’s practitioners, and in fact all the artists who are all vanguards of social change in their respective capacities keeping lustful eyes and attentive ears on the happenings in the society. Satire can be traced back throughout history. Whenever organized government or social categories has existed, so has satire. The oldest example that survived till today is Aristophanes. In his time, satire targeted top Politicians like Cleon and religion at the time headed by Zeus (Mathias Stephanos Etal, 207- 208) “Satire and derision progressively attacked even the fundamental and most sacred facts of faith” leading to an increasing doubt towards religion by the general population. From ancient times, Satirists make shared a common aim to expose foolishness in all its guise, vanity, hypocrisy, pedantry, bigotry, sentimentality and to effect reform through such exposure (Victor Ehrenberg, 263). Due to lack of political freedom of speech in many ancient civilizations, convert satire is more useful than overt satire in ancient literature of political liberalism. Historically, the public opinion in the Athenian democracy was remarkably influenced by the Political performance of the conic poets at the theatres (Joseph Anderson, 307- 319) since ancient time, watching and reading satire has been considered a one of the best ways to understand a culture and a society. It is categorized into Horatian, Juvenalian and Menippearn Satire: Horatian Satire is a named after the ancient Roman satirist Horace who playfully mocked the societal norms of his day; and the satire named after him is clever, yet gentle, instead of attacking evil. Horatian Satire ridicules universal human folly so that the reader might identify with what is criticized and laughed at.
Equally, Juvenalian Satire earlier mentioned his named after Juvenal and attacks public officials and governmental organizations. Juvenal regarded their opinions not just as wrong, but instead as evil. This type of Satire is more contemptuous and abusive, and uses strong irony and sarcasm. Polarized Political Satire is more often of this nature, and aims to provoke change. Juvenalian Satire is not often as humorous as the others. Menippean Satire criticizes mental attitudes rather than social norms or specific individuals. This type of satire ridicules single-minded people, such as bigots, misers, and braggart, among others. . Its tone may vary from tolerant amusement, as in the very satires of the Roman poet Horace to bitter indignation, as in the verse of Juvenal and the prose of Jonathan Swift. Juvenalian satire is the kind of satire that bitterly condemn human vices and folly; in contrast with the milder and more indulgent kind known as “Horatian satire”. During the 20th and 21st centuries, Satire is found in an increasing number of forms in literary genres for instance, Gulliver’s Travels and Animal Farm, in cartoons as Political cartoons with very healthy caricature and exaggeration, among others, a number of William Shakespeare’s plays can be seen and performed as Satire, including Richard III and The Merchant of Venice. Other example includes Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal which was more outright in its satirical nature.
Political Satire is a part of satire that specializes in gaining entertainment from politics, it is usually distinguished from political protest as it does not necessarily carry on agenda nor seeks to influence the political process. While occasionally, it may be used commonly to provide entertainment.
In Nigeria for instance, virtually all the new generation satirists are committed to issues of social and political concerns of our time. The relevance of any satire is dependent upon how well it is able to address the pressing issues of its society. As such, the political satirist is merely, a respondent to such issues of social essence. Therefore, it will only amount to man’s inhumanity to man, a sin against oneself and the nation, should a Nigerian satirist, writing for a Nigerian audience today, choose to merely play to the gallery in the face of the numerous perceivable injustices in our immediate society. This perhaps, is why Chinua Achebe posits that “any writer who tries to avoid the big social and political questions in his society” he liken such a writer to the absurdist man in an Igbo proverb, who leaves his burning house to pursue the rodents fleeing from the flames” (11). It is in this light that the political satirists believe that the level of injustice, corruption and other forms of malpractices and moral decadence in contemporary society have got to a point where the art of speaking with the “tongue in the check” on the stage alone is no longer enough, but rather there is an urgent demand for a more direct representation for an immediate social reform in our society. Femi Osofisan, one of the pioneer proponents of radical theatre movement in Nigeria believes that “if we warned ourselves often painfully enough with the reality around us, if we refuse to bandage our sensitive spots away from the hurt of truth, then we can attain a new and positive awareness” (14). The radical satire in Nigeria, just like its prototypes around the world, as a matter of necessity, it is expected to be committed to issues that will provide direct and fact evaluations and brings them to the consciousness of the audience who would then begin to do something to sensitize the entire society and initiate an attitudinal change.
A review of the developmental trends in Nigerian satire shows that from the post independent era to the present day, there has been a noticeable change in the tone of Nigerian satires, both in content and form. From the seventies, for instance, Nigeria playwrights no longer write to entertain alone, but also to express certain ideological positions or condemn certain societal ills. Saint Gbilekeaa believes that:
The contemporary Nigerian playwright bears a mark of ideological commitment and patriotism. The text of his play will durably reflect the Socio-political situation under which he writes. His themes and subject matters naturally emerge from issues of tropical within his demand (3).
The radical satirist either writes in favour or against existing political system especially, when it is anti-social and dictatorial. Wole Soyinka’s The Trial of Brother Jero, for instance, mirrors the misappropriation of the Christian religion by dubious Nigerians as morally opposed to the original intensions of the early missionary who brought it into the country. In the same manner, Ola Rotimi’s Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again, satirizes the never – do – well Nigerian Politicians of the Second Republic in their political antics. The duo of Tess Onwueme and Emeka Nwabueze in Then She Said It and A Parliament of Vultures are Nigerian playwrightsthat have accepted the obligation of dramatizing the ugly political realities of the Nigerian terrain. Whereas, Tess Onwueme dramatizes the political situation behind the exploitation and abuse of the Niger Delta region through oil exploration, Emeka Nwabueze ridicules with humour, the corrupt and absolute inefficient tendencies of Nigerian, politicians, especially the Nigerian law makers.
1.1 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Satire is an aspect of literary expression where abuses, follies and short comings are addressed mockingly with the intention of shaming the individuals, corporations, government and also instigating society into its improvement. According the Merriam Webster dictionary, satire is “a way of using humour to show that someone or something is foolish, weak, bad, etc: Humour that shows the weakness or bad quality of a person, government, society etc”. Satire is a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn. Its aim is frequently constructive social criticism, with the use of wit to draw attention to both specific and general issues in the society. Satire is a technique employed by writers to expose and criticize foolishness and corruption of an individual or a society by using humour, irony, exaggeration or ridicule. It intends to improve humanity by criticizing its follies and foibles (Megan LeBoeuf, 1). A writer in a satire uses fictional characters, which stand for real people, to expose and condemn their corruption. A writer may point a satire toward a person, a country or own the entire word. Usually, a satire is a comical piece of writing which make fun of an individual or a society to expose its stupidity and shortcoming. In addition, he hopes that those he criticizes will improve their characters by overcoming their weaknesses. When using satire, the writer; intention is to expose what he thinks is a problem in society. This problem could be popular or political. The point of satire is not only to expose but also to initiate change. Therefore the writer sees a problem and wants it corrected
1.1.2 POLITICAL SATIRE
Political satire is a kind of satire that entertains at the expense of current political issues with the use of humour. It analyses political issues in an attempt to expose the absurdity, vanity and hypocrisy in political strata of our society. A political satire goes beyond a mere mockery to expose the underlying truth. It works on bringing forward political issues in the form of Drama, Poetry, Prose, Cartoons, etc. Robert Speel defines political satire as “using Sarcasm and/ or humour to point out the foibles, incompetence or corruption of political leaders and government actions”. Political satire is a part of satire is specialized on providing entertainment from political anomalies. It is usually distinguished from political protest because it does not have any agenda to instigate protest and does not seek to influence the process of politics.
In recent times, political satire takes many forms, television programs like ‘The Daily Show’, cartons like ‘South Park and the Simpsons’, films like ‘Dr. Strange Love’ and ‘Wag the Dog’, and internet channels like ‘The Onion’ and YouTube’s ‘Auto Tune the News’ are prominent examples of political satire where everything politics is discussed and criticized to instill change and most reasonably for entertainment. This kind of satire succeeds when mixed with the realities of political debate with some particle of humour. No matter the form used, political satire enlightens our understanding of the happening in politics. This is why Benjamin Franklin a widely recognize American political satirist recognized that “humour is a powerful vehicle to engage the public in political issues” (Ivy Roberts, 2).
Literature is a work art of creative imagination which reflects or mirrors the society. Arthur Krystal defines Literature as “any writing form with letters, It is a record of one human beings surgeon on earth proffered in verse or prose that artistically wills together knowledge of the past with the heightened awareness of the present in ever new Verbal configurations” (89)
Literature is a writing considered as an art form or any single writing deemed to have artistic or intellectual value often due to deploying language in ways that differ from ordinary usage, its Latin root ‘litteratura’ (littera: letter or handwriting) was used to refer to all writing accounts, through contemporary definitions extend the term to include texts that are spoken or sung being Oral Literature (Arthur Krystal, 89). Literature can be classified according to whether it is fiction or non-fiction and whether it is poetry or prose. It can be further distinguished according to major forms such as the novel, short story or drama and works often categorized according to historical periods or their adherence to certain aesthetic features or expectations. The concept has changed the meaning of Literature overtime, today is broaden to have non-writing verbal art forms thus it is difficult to agree on its origin, which can be paired with that of language or writing itself.
1.1.4 NIGERIAN LITERATURE
Nigerian Literature manifests the struggle of a people whose country is undergoing the painful process of transformation from colonial period through neo-colonial to a wholly self-determining nation. Nigerian literature is in many forms a social act against the society, for instance: Chinua Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah is a Novel contend with the recession of humanism caused by several years of military intervention in the nation’s politics. As well, Achebe’s Things Fall Apart depicts an invaded society, struggling to uphold their already existing culture in the face of foreign cultures dominating the people’s mind. Nigeria Literature reflects the values, beliefs/ consciousness of the Nigerian society. Literature written about Nigeria is noted to deal with issues of colonialization, independence, democracy, women emancipation, politics, education etc. like the American, literature which reflects concepts of the American society- racism, immigration etc, Nigerian Literature mirrors the views of Nigeria in various classes of the society, activities from when Nigeria was named through colonialisation, independence and after independence are portrayed in the Nigerian literature as well as repopulating activities or beliefs from the pre-colonial era.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Satire overtime has proven to be a tool used in the struggle for a transformed society. It does this by reflecting totality all unacceptable standards. The Political class therefore perceives the satirist as a “Thorn – in – the Flesh”. The satirist, who writes about the dark sides of the society, has often met shift opposition from the ruling class, especially under an undemocratic atmosphere. Here, the radical satirist is considered a threat, an impending time bomb ready to explode anytime with a dangerous outcome. This is why any government with an authoritarian poise would fight political satirists. Unfortunately, satire and politics have proved to be a separable pair, since politics is part of the social life of every society, and the satire mirrors the realities of every society. The political satirist therefore sticks out his neck to play his role as a social commentator; else, he would not be doing his part as the watch dog o
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