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Ecology and literature in the Niger-Delta region exposes the significant devastation of the environment by oil exploration in the region which results to excruciating poverty, loss of hope and death. This study explores the problems of oil crises in the form of militancy, environmental degradation, oppression and marginalization in Chimeka Garricks’ Tomorrow Died Yesterday and Helon Haila’s Oil on water. The work deploys the theory of eco-criticism as the theoretical framework for its analysis. It is the overall view of this work that oil exploration in the region has led to poverty  y, militancy, marginalization, loss of hope and death in the region. In effect, the work proposes that to secure the environment of this region for a better habitat of man and other living things, provision for a better and less-coercive ways of managing both human and natural resources should be employed in the region by the government the multinational oil companies.   



1.1 Background of the Study

Man cannot be separated from his environment because his perception and interaction with his surrounding make up his being. The destruction of the natural things (land community) that surrounds man is caused by man himself by the acts of destroying and recreating his habitat.

            In contemporary time, ecology has become a strong impulse for creativity. Basically, the term “Ecology” is form Greek words ‘Oikos’ and ‘Logos’ meaning the study of home; which in essence denote the science of the interrelationship between living organism and the environment. Ecology was first used by a German zoologist Ernst Haeckel (1866) to mean ‘the comprehensive science of relationship of the organism to the environment’. The definition of Haeckel, has been the subject of interpretation something different and perhaps more profound since 1900. Charles Elton an English ecologist defines it to be the ‘scientific natural study which deals with the sociology and economy of animals’. (43)

Fredrick Clement considered ecology as the ‘science of the community’ (154). While Eugene Odum defines it perhaps too widely as the ‘study of the structure and function of nature (2). Also Donald Huges in Ecology of Ancient Greek:  defines ecology to be:

A rational study of how mankind interacts with the home of the human species, the earth; with its soil and mineral resources; with its water, both fish and salt; with its air, climates and weather; with its many living things, animal and plants, from the simplest to the most complex and with the energy received ultimately from the sun. (3)

Man belongs to the earth in much the same way as animals and plant do. He is also a species of animals; part of the ecosystem of the earth and dependent on it for his survival. Hence ecology would be said to be the study of the interrelationship between living things to one another and to their surrounding environment. It includes the study of plants and animal populations, plants and animal communities and ecosystem.

             Literature abounds with different meanings to different authorities.MC Fadden defines “literature to be a canon which consists of those works in language by which community defines it-self through the cause of history. it includes works primarily artistic and also those aesthetic qualities are only secondary. The self-defining activities of the community is conducted in the light of the works, as its members have come to read them.” (56) Onuekwsi on the other hand defines literature as”

any imaginative and beautiful creation in words whether oral or written which explore man as he struggles to survive in his existential position and which produces entertainment, information, education and excitement to its audience. (6)

Scylla defines “literature as any writing on a subject: the body of published work concerned with a particular subject” (83). From the above definitions, literature is an imaginative writing that captures humanity. It is simply and solely a representation of reality (life).

            The   logic is that if the center of literature is man and ecology has to do with the relationship between man and other organisms in the land community, therefore how he (man) relates with his environment should also be a part of literature. Hence, ecological literature studies the relationship between human and their natural environment as depicted in literary works of art by writers. Eco-literature among other things examines man’s tyrannical and cruel activities against the environment. According to Chris Egharevba, “it is the irrational and groundless hatred of the natural world or aspect of it which eco-literature tries to examine” (53). What Estok calls “ecophobia” (20) Ecological literature gain prominence in the past 70-100 years. First describes as the green literature which studies man and the issues that suppresses his life and his relationship with the land community. It has even involves eco-justice which is a ‘set of laws’ that govern man’s relationship with his environment. In our locality, this kind of literature is prominent in works that come from the South-South (Niger Delta) region of Nigeria.

            The Niger Delta region of Nigeria is rich in crude oil, boundless natural resources, rich in agricultural product, wood, palm trees, vegetables, animals fish and oil etc but is in a state of ominishables because of ecological problems. The discovery and exploration of oil in the region since 1957 precisely in oloibiri in River state have affected agriculture, fishing as well as the living conditions of the people. With the leakage of oil from pipes and its spillage into the lands, farms and water, the Niger Deltans are faced with a threatening disaster.

            Crude oil, contains some naturally occurring radioactive materials which are harmful to man and other habitants of the land community. It reduces soil fertility and also smothers economic trees and food crops, out rightly killing them or reducing their yields causing a reduction in household food security. Hence it spillage results in the contamination of surface water with hydrocarbons and trace metals. Best Odinohia and Seyifa Brisibe state that:

oil spillage affected at least 1500 communities in the crude oil. Producing states in Nigerians, and were mainly from the 5284 oil wells that were dilled as at 2006 and the 700km of crude oil pipeline that cross the Niger Delta region… (6)

This effect leads to deterioration in every aspects of the communities which Best Odinohia and Seyifa stated that “the deterioration of the quality stable of food leads to a 24% increase in the prevalence of childhood malnutrition’ (43)

            When pushed to the wall, some Niger Deltans try to make the government and the world community to understand their predicaments. This leads to untold violence, killing, maiming, gunrunning, destruction and vandalization of pipelines and kidnapping of foreigners, prostitution etc. Chris Onyima has noted that:

Since the discovery and commercial exploration of oil in this area n 1958 until date, the people have been suffering from acts of bioterrorism, oil pollution of lands and water, gas flaring, hunger, disease and poverty. Poverty breeds prostitution, gas flaring, hunger, cancer and respiratory disease. (189)

Sometimes, they feel that violence is the only answer to their problem. It  is against this marginalization of the Niger Deltans, that Ken Saro-Wiwa and his other Ogoni People fought and was killed for.

            Though the plight of these people is caused by the exploration of oil by the multinational companies under the protection of the Nigerian government. The uniform youths through their emancipation movement also collude in the decay of the environment that is threatening to gulp the nation. This has driven many communities into extinction and the people migrate to other parts of the country in search of a better life. It is quiet disheartening and paradoxical that an area that contributes to the growth and development of the nation cannot cater for the needs of its indigenes         

 Thus, ecology and literature in the Niger Delta exposes readers to relationship between literary works and man in his environment. The work attempts to bring out writers that explain in literary terms with our natural environment and man’s activities that is killing the land community. Relating Chimeka Garrick’s Tomorrow Died Yesterday and Helon Habila’s Oil On Water to explain the effect of the destruction of our natural environment as well as the struggle for the emancipation and survival of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria using critical tools from ecocritical approach to literary studies.

1.2       Statement Of The Problem

The exploration of the natural environment has been criticized and analyzed from different angles and approaches with most critics and researchers focusing mainly on the benefit of nature paying no attention to the poor state of man’s environment. Many have critiqued Tomorrow Died Yesterday and Oil on Water under the subject matter of socio- economic marginalization, devastation of land, water and air, as well as their effect on man’s existence. The area this research focuses is on the analyses of Tomorrow Died Yesterday and Oil on Water using the ecocritical tools of ecocriticism, ecospychology and resistance to investigate the effect of oil exploration on man and his immediate environment by relating the portrayal of the negative impact of oil activities in the primary texts to reality. The main character in the works are studied to ascertain their stand and manner in which their environment affects their actions and their relationship with other characters in the text. In Tomorrow Died Yesterday Amaibi is an eco-activist just like kan Saro-Wiwa who as a means of liberating his people uses his writing in the advocate and also suffer prosecution though not in its extremist. In Oil on Water, Rufus uses his reporting activities as a journalist to point out the destruction and exploration of the environment and the people of this area. There is relationship in the industrial activities of oil exploration and its result in the lives of the characters of the text. With the spillage of oil into water, farms, lands, fishes and water are condemned. Many people gave up farming and look for alternative means of survival. Those who stand against the situation took up arms and vandalism of pipelines to attract the attention of government and the international community. Migration to other part of the country becomes the way out. There is despondent, and disillusionment in the life of the people which this research will investigate on. Thus, this study aims to relates literature to the environment through the theory of ecocriticism or green literature by examining the presence of oil in Nigerian prose friction using Helon Habila’s Oil on Water and Chimeka Garrick’s Tomorrow Died yesterday to explain the important and the effects of oil in the Niger Delta region as a microcosm of the entire world polluted environment.    

1.3 Objectives

The major aim of this research is to show the disastrous result we get by the ill handling of our environment, such as environmental depletion, impoverishment. degradation and marginalization. Hence, this study will;

                       i.            Critically analyze the level of environmental depletion and degradation in the primary text shown through the tools of eco-criticism and resistance

                     ii.            examine the literary device employed by both authors in the representation of the critical issue in the work

                   iii.            Examine the resultant effect of oil activities and other environmental exploration on man in his environment, such as violence, insecurity, poverty, social conflict, marginalization/oppression and death.

                   iv.            Examine the various approaches employed by the two authors in the primary text to portray and tackle these issues of environmental exploration and depletion.

1.4       Significant of the Study

This research will add to the growing number of researches done in environmental studies. It will also add to the rich and encouraging researches done using the Niger Delta literary texts. The significant cuts across almost all fields of life as man cannot be separated from his environment because when the environment is endangered, the responsibility of restoring it to its default nature rest on man. The study will also be useful for other researches whose field of study border on environmental issues, hence contributing to the existing literature.

1.5 Methodology

The nature of the research makes it an almost entirely library based work. Here the basic method of synthesis and analysis of various issues in the text and contextual elements are employed in the study. It involves a close examination of occurrence or incidents in the Niger Delta environment and how they affect the people of this region as represented in the selected novels. To this end, the primary literary sources of the research are drawn from the novels Tomorrow Died yesterday by Chimeka Garricks and Oil on Water   by Helon Habila. In relation to the primary source, secondary sources also prove useful to the research such as critical literary books, journals, reviews and notes on the related subject matter. Finally the internet will also be consulted/surfed to enrich the research.

1.6 Scope of the Study

The research is about ecological issues in the Niger Delta environment. It is a study of the literary environment of the two selected novels Tomorrow died Yesterday and Oil on Water. It takes into account the perspectives of both writers as regards the issue of environmental problem in the region. As such views expressed in the selected novels are supported by opinions of writers and critics from the broad and related fields of humanities and social science regarding relevant issues contained in the research topic. Thus, the research is intends to critically analyze the selected novels, relating findings therein to existing literature on the novels as well as to prevailing local and global ecocritical writings and criticisms.  

1.7 Limitation of the Study

Besides the restriction of this study to one literary genre of ‘novel’ the inability of the research to undertake an in depth analysis of more novels besides the two selected text poses a limitation to the study. However, owing to limited resources and times, the research is compelled to undertake a study of the earlier mentioned two novels with a view to emerging with a qualitative research. Personal interviews with both authors is equally a limitation to this study because of lack of funds, but we will endeavour to contact them through Email.

1.8 Theoretical Framework

The theory underpinning this research is ecocriticism. The term as a broad domain and has been expressed through many literary genres. The fundamental stand of ecocriticism is that the ideas and structure of desire which govern the interactions between humans and their natural environment are important if we can get a handle on our ecological predicament. Invariably, over exploitation of natural resources and man’s disregard for lands and nature that sustains human life have given rise to the question of survival of both man  and the environment that inhabit him. Ecocriticism is one of the ways in which humanity fight for this habitat. This is because there are rising frustration exacerbated by people’s inability to derive tangible benefits from the God given wealth

Ecocriticism has been considered most appropriate for the purpose of this research. Ecocriticism has it origin in the environmental movement of the late 1960s and the 1970s and has been called different names, including ecopoetics, green culture studies, literary ecology, and environmental literary criticism among others.  Williams Rueckert is known to be the first person to use the term ecocriticism in his 1978 essay entitled “Literature and ecology: An experiment in Ecocriticism” As a recent critical perspective to reading and studying literary works, ecocriticism according to Glotfelty, deals with ‘the study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment.’ (Johnson:7, Dobie: p238). In Johnson’s contribution, ‘ Ecocriticism has emerged as a field of literary study that  addresses how humans relate to non-human nature or the environment in literature.’(7)

Since the time of Ruectert’s 1978 essay, ecocriticism has gained recognition as one of the first ways of explaining nature and the functions of art. The need for the investigation of the relation between the natural world and humans in literature is thus, central to ecocriticism. The purpose is to raise the conscious level of people that man’s existence on earth is heavily dependent on the sustainability of the environment. In fact Glotfelty has stated that “this consciousness raising is ecocriticism most important task” (Dobie, 2012:237)

Following the emergence and burgeoning of ecocriticism as a critical and theoretical discourse, ecocriticism has quite a number of followers including Cheryll Glotfelty, Grey Gerrard, Timothy Morton, Karla Aurbuster, Harold Fromm, Ursula Heise among others who have written/ edited volume of books on it.

Ecocriticism as a literary cum ecological concept is understood to have been fully developed into a literary theory by Cheryll Glotfelty and Harold Fromn in The Ecocriticism: Landmark in Literary Ecology, which is co-edited by them and published in 1996. Prior to this period according to Glotfelty, underground work and experiments in this field have been ongoing, so that the collection consists of original works by literary scholars who have devoted themselves to the study of literature and the environment.

The term ecocriticism in the introduction to the  Ecocriticism Reader, is identifies simply as ‘ a study of the relationship between literature and the environment’ and seeks for example to answer such question as:

How is nature represented in the sonnet? What   role does the physical setting plays in the plot of the novel? Are the values expressed in this play consistent with ecological wisdom? How do our Metaphors of the land influence the way we treat it? How can we characterize nature writing as a genre? In addition to race, class, and gender, should place become a new critical category? Does man write about nature differently than woman do? In what Ways has literacy itself affected humankind relationship to the natural world? How has the concept of wilderness changed over time? In what ways and to what effect is the environmental crisis seeping into contemporary literature and popular culture? ...What bearing might the science of ecology have on literary analysis? What cross fertilization is possible between literary studies and environmental discourse in related disciplines such as history, philosophy, psychology, art history and ethics? (xix)

It is in line with these questions that the theoretical framework of this research proves its suitability by employing the tools of ecocriticism, ecopsychology and resistance. This way, the characters in the primary novels are shown as being responsible for their actions. They are revolutionaries who believed that their region is ripe for a revolution. They become activists and take up their stance against those that dare to stop them from regaining their freedom and obtaining justice. Ecocriticism strives to challenge the status quo, to change the injustice that is meted out on the environment by man. Thus ecocriticism is a revolution theory, a theory that tries to retrace man’s step and strives to stop him from destroying his environment.

            Other researchers within the boundaries of the ecocritical theories includes Lawrence Buell, Simon Estok and host of other western literary critics, not unmindful of African ecocritical writers such as Williams Slay maker, Augustine Nchoujie, Uzoechi Nwagbara, Juliama Makechi and many others reveal a lot about people’s reaction to global and localized ecological degradation.

On the whole, the ecocritics are concerned with the natural environment in much deeper and more valuable ways than nature writers of the 18th century romantic ages are. As an interdisciplinary study of literature and ecology, it also accounts other field of study which is also considered by ecocriticism to be possible contributors to ecocriticism. As such views from various fields of study concerning the environment are welcome ways to understanding the study of ecocriticism. This research will therefore seek to interpret the selected novels within the basic ecocritical paradigm enunciated by the proponents of the theory.

1.9 Definition of terms

Key term in this research that are frequently used are outlined and briefly defined as guide to readers for easy accessibility.

1.9.1 Eco-criticism:

This is a study of the relationship between literature and the physical environment as well as the interrelationship between human and non-human elements that inhabit the land community.

1.9.2 Ecology:

The term ecology refers to the study of the natural environment, with species that co-habit therein.

1.9.3    Literature:

The term literature may be taken to include not only imaginative works of every genre, written or oral, but non-fictional compositions as well. In this research, literature shall refer to fiction (prose) in it written form, though where non-fictional writings helps to elucidate an issue, reference may be made to it. Also in the review of literature section, non-fictional literature on privation and subversion shall be consulted.

1.10    Bio-Data of Authors

1.10.1 Bio-Data of Helon Habila     

Helon Habila was born in Nigeria. He worked in Lagos as a journalist before moving to England in 2002 for a writing fellowship at the University of East Anglia. He was the first Chinua Achebe fellow at bard College, New York. He stayed on in America as a professor of creative writing at George Mason University in Virginia. In 2007 his second novel, measuring Time was published and also won the virginia library foundation’s fiction award in 2018. His first novel Waiting for an Angel was published in 2002. The novel went on to win the common wealth prize for best first novel (African edition) in 2003. In 2001, his short stories, ‘Love poems’ won the game prize for literature his recent work Oil On Water serve as the primary source of his research. Helon Habila lives in Virginia with his wife and three children. He also teaches every summer in an annual creative writing workshop series in his native Nigeria, the fidelity Bank international creative writing workshop   

1.10.2 Bio-Data of Chimeka Garrick’s

The author Chimeka Garrick’s was born in Rivers State Nigeria. He currently lives and work in Biya, Port Harcourt with his family. The novel Tomorrow Died Yesterday which is one of our primary sources of data is his first [publication. He studied law and practice as a lawyer.  

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