Friday, 28 June 2013

By celebrating Saro-Wiwa, we simply identifying with his immortality, says Gomba

By Anote Ajeluorou

Dr. Obari Gomba is a poet, playwright and university don; he teaches English at University of Port Harcourt. With the Hyacinth Obunseh-led African Writers Forum’s forthcoming International Colloquium on the late Kenule saro-Wiwa in November to coincide with his judicial murder by the then military junta, Gomba was recently appointed organising committee chairman by the university, where the colloquium will be held. In this interview, he spoke on sundry issues relating to Saro-Wiwa’s writing, the impact of the man’s writing and his environmental activism for which he was murdered on November 10, 1995. Excerpts:

How does it feel celebrating Saro-Wiwa in your university and you being saddled with the task of organising it?
  It is a great idea. It is very thoughtful of African Writers Forum to have come up with a programme like this. It is also great that the unique University of Port Harcourt has been chosen to play host to this event. Saro-Wiwa is a symbol of excellence and social justice. I speak of him and those values in present tense. He still stands tall today…tall above the inanity and crudity of power. We cannot fail to celebrate him…to celebrate his entire essence. The University of Port Harcourt is a lovely site for the gathering of those who understand the meaning of Saro-Wiwa’s life.
  Our university has been the hub of cultural activities for decades. In our history, we can boast of such active forces as Ola Rotimi, EJ Alagoa, Kay Williamson, Willfried Feuser, Sunday Anozie, Charles Nnolim, Helen Chukwuma, INC Aniebo, Chidi Maduka, Nolue Emenanjo, Ozo-Mekuri Ndimele…to name but a few. These men and women have kept a great cultural tradition.
  And you know that my university has partnered with the Rainbow Book Club to bring about the Garden City Literary Festival since 2008. Interestingly, I am also the chair of my university’s committee for that yearly festival which has brought a lot of great persons to the university. The likes of Wole Soyinka, Kofi Awoonor,  Ama Ata Aidoo, Molara Ogundipe (who has joined our faculty), Jesse Jackson, etc have visited my university through the years.
  Presently, Elechi Amadi and INC Aniebo have been appointed as writers-in-residence in my university. Truly, the University of Port Harcourt is the first-choice destination for cultural events today. My role in this development is a modest one. It is to deepen the tradition I have inherited. This is why I am excited about the AfWF colloquium. It will not be an essay task. So I have rolled up my sleeves.

What activities should guests look forward to at the conference?
  The theme of the event is “Environmentalism, Minority Rights Activism and Literary Renaissance in the Niger Delta”. The programme will run from Wednesday 9th to Saturday 12th in November 2013. Captain Elechi Amadi will be the chair of the colloquium. Prof JP Clark will present the keynote address. There will be plenary sessions, dramatic performance of Saro-Wiwa’s Basi and Company, exhibition of Saro-Wiwa’s books and manuscripts, visits to Saro-Wiwa’s home and personal library in Port Harcourt and a dinner for guests. It will be a momentous time for all of us.

Do you not think this celebration is coming a bit late coming as it does some 18 years after his judicial murder, especially considering that this idea didn't quite come from your university?
  Mankind has never failed to celebrate Saro-Wiwa since he made the supreme sacrifice in 1995. Books have been written in his honour. Vigils and rallies have been staged in his honour. The flame of his resistance has continued to interrogation the assumptions of the Nigerian state. We have continued to cite him in our various engagements with the state. In all these, my university as the flagship of intellectual pursuit in the Niger Delta, lays a peculiar claim to the mystique of this inimitable figure whose person and career conforms to the values of the social construct, which we stand for.
  There is already a building in honour of Saro-Wiwa in my university. It is called the Ken Saro-Wiwa House. It houses the Department of English Studies where I work. My office is in that building. We thank Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi for donating the building to my university. Rt. Hon. Amaechi donated the building when he was the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly. Rt. Hon. Amaechi is an alumnus of the Department of English Studies in my university. So, you see that the celebration of Saro-Wiwa has been flowering for long in my university.

What ways do you think Saro-Wiwa's legacy can best be celebrated and immortalised?
  Saro-Wiwa took care of his own immortality. He did not leave it to us. He did not leave it to his children. He did not leave it to chance. He successfully immortalized himself through the life he lived. His writing and activism are abiding testimonies of his immortality. He has grown even taller in death. Death is his apotheosis, as I said in “No Leaf Falls”, a tribute-poem, which I published in 2009.
  When we celebrate Saro-Wiwa, we are not ushering him into immortality. No. We are simply identifying with his immortality. And we have to take the party a little higher by asking the same questions he asked. Resource control, fiscal federalism, environmental protection, corporate responsibility, minority rights and self-determination are still nagging issues in our polity. We have to keep demanding that our state should live up to its vow of justice and equity to all the stakeholders in this postcolonial mélange.

As a writer yourself, do you think Saro-Wiwa's works are being celebrated enough since his death?
  Of course. Let me start in an ironic mode. Saro-Wiwa’s book was on the syllabus of the West African Examination Council when he was murdered by Dauda Komo and Sani Abacha. They took the book down… I think it was A Forest of Flowers. That was a kind of celebration. If the rabid soldiers could acknowledge the motive value of his writing, then they unwittingly doffed their berets to Saro-Wiwa’s superior mind-power.
  At another level, we see that since Saro-Wiwa’s death, there has been a global interest in his writing. In a few odd years, he has come to stand amongst the first-ten writers in the African canon. Check Bernth Lindfors’ paradigms. They are interesting. Yes…they are interesting because they take into account such formatives as popularity and scholarly attention. Saro-Wiwa enjoys this enviable first-ten placement with the likes of Soyinka, Achebe and Ngugi.

In your view, how best can Saro-Wiwa's literary legacy be bequeathed to younger generation of writers?
  This colloquium is part of it. We believe that society stands to profit from the values which Saro-Wiwa stands for. There are strong challenges on our collective security and integration today. We cannot pretend not to know the root of this development. The unfinished business of nationhood is on the laps of Nigeria. Some people have chosen to play North-South politics with the situation. It is a shame.
  Nigeria is where it is today because of our collective commissions and omissions. When citizens run their systems the way we have done for over 50 years, then they have elected to make themselves slaves to others in a highly competitive and merciless world. We beg others for everything…healthcare, technology, education, transportation, food, security, energy, etc. Damn it! We have made ourselves the joke of the world. We cannot continue like this. No country is ever developed by foreigners. Forget all the trash about foreign investment.
  Check all the countries that are developed. They began by creating internally fair systems to integrate the component units of their polity. Then they moved on to develop internal capacity to deliver goods and services. We have missed it on both counts. I bet you, take the example of the oil industry; look at Nigeria’s technology-dependence on the West. That is the most important source of revenue in Nigeria today; and it is still subject to the whims and caprices of Shell and its cohorts…over 50 years since independence.
  Even the Department of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation cannot tell us convincingly that they know how many barrels the multinationals drill per day. Whatever the multinationals declare, we take. And the multinationals have come to exude an annoying impudence here. They incinerate our communities and environment daily.
  The power-cabal says nothing because they are hooked up to a grand system of petroleum-profiteering. If we love this country, we must all wake up…rise up…speak up. That is the legacy of Saro-Wiwa to our generation and to the next generation. Saro-Wiwa’s literature is involved in the articulation of freedom and justice. We must learn from the dynamism of his literary engagement.

And lastly, how far has his environmental activism for which he was killed be vindicated or proven wrong in Nigeria's political space? Any end in sight for his struggles?
  The guilt of Nigeria is already common knowledge. The guilt of Shell and its cohorts is also common knowledge. They have not stopped their decimation of our communities. They are doing worse under the veneer of democracy. Surprisingly, the Niger Delta elite have been mum. You know the empty rhetoric about having our son in office. They are waiting for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to leave office before they start their beggarly garrulity again.
  Thank God for the testament which Saro-Wiwa has sealed with his blood. No one can undo it. It is anchored deep… right to the bedrock of our lives in the Delta. The environment will always be a keystone in the articulations for self-determination…by all the nations of the Delta. The struggle is not over. There is a deceptive lull but the undercurrent is still strong among the wretched of the earth. Let Ogiso and his party continue to measure peace by the barrels. Tomorrow will come. We shall keep hope alive!

The guilt of Nigeria is already common knowledge. The guilt of Shell and its cohorts is also common knowledge. They have not stopped their decimation of our communities. They are doing worse under the veneer of democracy. Surprisingly, the Niger Delta elite have been mum. You know the empty rhetoric about having our son in office. They are waiting for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to leave office before they start their beggarly garrulity again

A new season of Project WS set to open

By Anote Ajeluorou

As the 79th birthday celebration for Africa’s first black Nobel laureate draws near (July 13), organizers of Open Door Series Project WS, a platform for International Cultural Exchange, is set to flag off a series of cultural activities to mark it. An initiative of Zmirage boss, Teju Wase Kareem, the programme has evolved over the past three years to include an international Essay competition for senior secondary school students, advocacy lectures, tours, drama and cultural presentations.
  The Project WS brand, which was inspired by the essence and ideals of the Nobel laureate in Literature, Prof. Wole Soyinka, seeks to create a better understanding for global cultural concerns. According to Kareem, “These ideals, summed up in the artist's humanism as reflected in his globally-acclaimed roles as a cultural, civil rights and political activism, are the pedestal on which we have built the programme of the Open Door Series.
    “Soyinka's birthday anniversary on July 13 was deliberately chosen as the presentation date of the event annually. Project WS started with WS76 with the play Preemptive and Seven in 2010, and it featured a troupe of American actors and theatre scholars on a tour to the Caribbean and over five states in Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory. Project WS77 in 2011 was with the theme ‘I Love My Country’; and it hosted 77 senior secondary school students from all over the federation and the Diaspora, who competed in the essay competition and also took part in the cultural exchange programme. They were also opportuned to share moments with the Nobel laureate in a mentoring session at his home in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
  “Project WS78 was another celebration of the essence of the artist in the society using Wole Soyinka as a reference point. In a bid to instill a sense of patriotism in the hearts of young ones, especially the multitude participating in the project, it was tagged ‘The Mind of a Patriot’. And, as in previous editions, the young ones had opportunity to share moments with the global citizen and cultural icon, Soyinka.
  According to Kareem, “The 2013 edition is premised on the theme: ‘Memoirs for our Future’; and it would hold on the traditional July 13 --- being the 79th birthday anniversary of Prof. Soyinka.
  “This year, we’ll be having the Senior Secondary schools essay competition, play productions, cultural presentations -- all designed to herald the 2014 edition that would mark the 80th birthday anniversary celebration of Soyinka's birthday. A grand programme designed with novel artistic and educational items has also been planned for the 2014 edition”.
  He stated that the main goal in the Open Door Series was to combat fear, violence and its contingent reactions through the use of education, arts and culture.
  To herald this year’s project, Kareem also noted, “WS79 is a precursor to WS80, which is a highly significant year for us all. Prof. Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka who is the symbol and anchor of the WS Project will be 80 years old next year and the project seeks to mark that very significant date in significant ways.
  “It is important to note that we are not marking the day because it’s a birthday but we intend to mark the day because it symbolizes for us all a continuation of the life of an inspirational man who has fought and is still fighting for the dignity of man, the rights of the individual and the unity and security of his country, our country”.
  He said a lot was being planned for WS80 including the essay competition, children’s cultural presentation/advocacy summit, tours, flag off WS80 essay competition, and presentation of Memoirs for our Future, a book that will be unveiled by Soyinka in London. It’s a compilation of the winning essays from WS76 to WS78 as well as other selected essays from submissions for all the years, with Soyinka himself writing the foreword to the book. He will also flag off the WS80 essay competition to the Diaspora students at the summit that will hold during the event.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Ebedi residency for writers… A haven in need of govt, corporate support

Stories by Anote Ajeluorou

Set at the foot of a hill in ancient, serene Ebedi town, the Dr. Wale Okediran-inspired residency for writers has continued to be a haven for writers from across the African continent. From Uganda, South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe and, of course, Nigeria, Ebedi International Writers Residency has hosted some of the finest, young literary minds defining and shaping a continent’s writing culture.
  So far, such writers as Doreen Baingana (Tropical Fish), Dul Johnson (Why Women Won’t Make it to Heaven), Igoni Barrett (From the Cave of Rotten Teeth), Yewande Omotoso (Bom Boy), Barbara Oketa, Ayodele Olufintuade (Eno’s Story) and many more have drank from the serene, inspiring well of Ebedi. Each year there are no less than three sessions with no less than three writers admitted into the residency, solely financed by Okediran, with provision of feeding and board in a four to eight weeks’ stay.
  With three writers – Ghanaian Macdell Kofi Joshua Sackey and Nigerians’ Chiaka Ukachukwu Obasi and Taofeek Olayiwola – who recently had a six weeks’ stay at Ebedi, the profile of the only writers’ residency resort in West Africa keeps rising and gaining acceptance among writers. But just like their counterparts that had tasted the serene and salubrious ambience of Ebedi, these three writers are not happy that the noble objectives of Ebedi as conceived by Okediran, medical doctor-turned-writer and politician, are yet to penetrate the thinking of various governments and corporate Nigeria so as to come to its aid and boost it.
  For them, Ebedi International Writers Residency programme is an incubation ground for literary creativity not unlike the many talent hunt and reality TV shows enjoying massive monetary endorsement from corporate Nigeria and showing on various TV stations, gulping several millions of naira to sustain them annually.
  Although tucked away in the quiet of Ebedi town in Oyo State, these three writers still found it odd that the beauty and value of this unique writers’ resort was yet to be discovered and properly harnessed as part of nurturing the creative endeavours of young Nigerian, nay Africans in the hallowed field of writing, clearly the continent’s most successful creative cultural engagement and export to the outside world, with four Nobel Prizes to show for it!
  For Olayiwola, who writes in Yoruba, Ebedi residency, which started in 2010, ought to have had corporate financial support by now so its burden didn’t rest solely on its founder Okediran alone. That way, he stated, the gains of the residency would be deepened and its impact far fetched among African writers. With another literary prize, Etisalat Literature Prize newly opened to first time published authors of African origin, the nurturing, incubating workroom Ebedi provides would go a long way in getting the creativity of the continent’s writers soaring.
  “So far the programme has been on self-sponsorship”, Olayiwola lamented, “People should come and support it. Various governments’ empowerment programmes for youth should also be extended to Ebedi International Writers Residency programme, as a way of promoting creativity. The value of Ebedi to literary creativity is limitless. Government and companies should support this project.”
  Obasi, a dramatist, also called on government and corporate bodies to support Ebedi, as part of a wider support for cultural expression in the country and the continent. He particularly called on corporate bodies that regularly sponsor musical shows and other entertainment talent-hunt projects to look the way of writers as well, particularly Ebedi.
  Sackey, who was apparently excited at what Ebedi offers writers, also called for international collaboration to make Ebedi even better to continue to nurture the aspirations of the continent’s writers.
  For these three writers and several others like them, who have passed through Ebedi, whereas writing is sometimes viewed as a reclusive and intellectual engagement, it still has ennobling society as its central, and support for it could no longer be denied it by those with the means to do so, whether government or companies.

AND, at the closing ceremony last Saturday that attended these three writers’ stay at Ebedi, which involved active participation of local school students of Ebedi Community Grammar School, poetry reading and recitation, singing and dancing and a quiz contest, was held. This was part of activities of community service for residents; it required resident writers to interact and impart useful, creative skills to the school’s students.
  A literature schoolteacher Prince Femi Olalere commended Okediran for his vision in setting up the residency to encourage creativity and for consistently spending his money to sustain it thus far. He also thanked the residents for imparting the students, further noting, “We thank the residents for grooming the students in different creative areas like dancing, singing and writing. I want to say that the students have learnt a lot from the resident writers’ mentorship. Indeed, they are privileged to be learning from the resident writers. It’s my hope that the students would make use of what they have learnt from the writers to improve their lives”.
  Rasaq Ibrahim recited a visionary poem, ‘I have a dream’; a 3-woman act staged a skit on drunkenness and Maryam Adewole and Deborah Rowland read poems in Yoruba.
  All three writers (Sackey, Olayiwola and Obasi) testified to the conducive ambience Ebedi International Writers Residency offers writers in helping them continue and complete ongoing works, and the hospitality the community also offered them in their short stay. Obasi, who just completed work on Fatherland, said, “I will remember most the hospitality of Ebedi people. Okediran and his people have shown us brotherly love. I’ve had no distraction to write. It’s been wonderful spending some weeks here. It’s the right place Okediran has set up. It’s hard to see a full time writer without the distractions of workaday life; the environment here is serene. I have enjoyed it so far”.
  “I’m greatly encouraged by the camaraderie radiating in this community,” Olayiwola reminisced. “Within the last three weeks that I got here, I did a great deal. I’ve never had it so serene, so cool, so friendly as Ebedi. I’ve had a wonderful experience. The serenity has really helped me a lot; it’s as if we have lived here all our lives!”
  The Ghanaian was probably more effusive, when he noted, “I’m going to miss the ambience, the serenity; this place is conducive for writing; it’s a fine place to cogitate and write! I’ve completed two books – on poetry and children’s story. I’m inspired by nature”.

Friday, 7 June 2013

For African Literature, Another Voice Beckons From Within

By Anote Ajeluorou

Africa’s cultural validation always seem to come from outside the continent, but usually with a mixed baggage of the good and the not so-good. This has had the sorry implication of the hunter always telling the story of the hunt usually at the expense of the hunted. It was what Africa’s literary ancestor Chinua Achebe spent most of his life’s career fighting – to retrieve the soul of Africa’s cultural historicity from the one-sided narratives of the West.
  Indeed, Achebe pointedly told the West, represented by the Swedish Academy in 1986, when he declined to attend a conference on African literature (a probable reason why he never got the Nobel Prize for Literature), “I regret I cannot accept your generous invitation for the simple reason that I do not consider it appropriate for African writers to assemble in European capitals in 1986 to discuss the future of their literature. In my humble opinion it smacks too much of those constitutional conferences arranged in London and Paris for our pre-independence political leaders.
  “The fault, however is not with the organisers such as yourselves, but with us the writers of Africa who at this point in time should have outgrown the desire for the easy option of using external platforms instead of grappling with the problem of creating structures of their own at home.
  “Believe me, this is not an attempt to belittle the effort and concern of your organisation or indeed of the Swedish people who have repeatedly demonstrated their solidarity with African aspirations in many different ways. But I strongly believe that the time is overdue for Africans, especially African writers, to begin to take the initiative in deciding the things that belong to their peace”.
  With telecommunication giant Etisalat instituting a new literary contest to further empower African writers and boost writing on the continent, Etisalat Prize for Literature, as homegrown validation for African writing and writers could not have come at a better time. It is indeed another welcome validation. With its handsome 15,000 British pounds prize tag, the Etisalat Prize for African Literature has further opened up the literary space on the continent for young writers to reach the top.
  The Etisalat Prize for African Literature comes against the background of similar prizes already making the round. In Nigeria alone, there’s The Nigerian Prize for Literature, sponsored by gas giant, Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) company. This prize is strictly for Nigerian authors residing anywhere in the world, and worth $100,000.00. There’s also the Wole Soyinka Prize for African Literature, a continent-wide prize that will start on a rotational format from next edition next year in all the genres of literature starting with drama. Prose fiction has dominated since inception in 2006. It’s organised by the Dr. Ogochukwu Promise-led Lumina Foundation.
  However, the new prize’s target is unique, as it aims to identify only first-time, new entrants in the literary block and reward them for their first novel, which must be from 30,000 words long.
  The prize entry opened last week, June 5, the launch date, to publishers who have published a minimum of five authors in the last three years. All entries will be vetted and scrutinized by a panel of four pre-selected judges chaired by associate professor in the Department of African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, Pumla Gqola, Other judges are Zaks Mda, Professor of Creative writing at the University of Ohio and winner of the Commonwealth Prize, Billy Kahora, Managing Editor of Kwani? and Sarah Ladipo Manyika, writer and academic.
  These judges will work together to select the long list as well as a shortlist of three novels and finally the winner who will be announced in February 2014.
  The prize’s patrons or board members that will assist the jury include Nigeria’s Prof. Kole Omotoso, Nigeria and Africa’s first black Pulitzer Prize winner, Dele Olojede, Britain’s youngest and first black woman publisher, Margaret Busby, and Zimbabwe’s Ellah Allfrey, Granta’s deputy editor.

ETISALAT MD/CEO, Mr. Steven Evans said his company’s passion for excellence and empowerment was among the values that were at the core of the prize, adding, “The Etisalat Prize for Literature will empower young writers by providing a platform for first time writers of published fiction novels to be discovered. It will also reward excellence in literary writing. We are pleased to have initiated this important project that celebrates literary excellence and creativity in Nigeria and across Africa.
  “We believe literature has the potential to effect change and serve as a catalyst for promoting a cultural revolution. However, it is a field that has been relegated to the background, making African fiction and short story writers to look to international awards for recognition. The Etisalat Prize for Literature is our way of sharing in the passions and aspirations of young and upcoming writers as well as breathing new life into the literary society”.
  He also noted that the aim of Etisalat Prize for Literature was to serve as a viable platform for the discovery of new creative talent from the continent and invariably promote the growing publishing industry in Africa.
  Entries for the prize will be accepted in two categories, namely: Full length English fiction novels and Flash Fiction Short Stories.
  Chair of judges, Pumla Gqoka said quality and excellent writing would be what the judges would be looking for in the entries.
  Etisalat Head, High Value Events and Sponsorship, Ebi Atawode stated that launching the literary prize was a dream come true for her and her company, Etisalat. She enjoined African writers to seize the opportunity to perfect their writing craft and be duly rewarded for it.
  Winner of the prize will also enjoy a fellowship at University of East Anglia’s Creative Writing Programme. 1000 copies of the three shortlisted authors will be purchased by etisalat and distributed to libraries. Other details can be obtained at etisalat website.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Democracy Day play… In search of good governance at all levels

By Anote Ajeluorou

THE coincidence appeared deliberate. The thematic focus of the play, Daniel, hit the heart of Nigeria’s political malaise. The root cause of the country’s political trajectory has long been traced to poor moral disposition of the men and women at the corridors of power, whether directly as heads of government or as the numerous advisers that explicate or complicate governance.
  So, last week’s anniversary of Nigeria’s Democracy Day became appropriate time for Snapshots Productions, the creative and performance arm of Pastor Poju Oyemade-led Covenant Christian Centre, Lagos to stage Daniel, a play written by Phillip Begho. It’s a historical-political play on the ancient Babylonian empire.
  The story of Daniel as recorded in the Bible of the same title is first class story of political intrigues that can take place in any king’s court. But more importantly, it’s the story of morality in government, and how a few good men or a single upright man, who chooses to stand apart from the moral decadence around him, can make a difference.
  It’s precisely for this reason that Snapshots Production, led by former Artist Manager to ace gospel singer, Sammie Okposo, Mr. Duka Kachi, decided to stage Daniel at MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos on Democracy Day, May 29, some10 years after he first saw the production. Kachi saw in the play a compelling story against the corruptive tendency that is rife in governance circles in modern day Nigeria.
  To cap up the remarkable performance, admission to the two performances was free, which Kachi said was a way of disseminating the gospel by inculcating the values of strict morality on young people, as it would stand them in good stead in their lifelong careers in the years ahead. The two sessions had the Agip Recital Hall overflowing with audience.
  For Kachi, the choice of Democracy Day to stage the play was deliberate as Nigerians needed to be given a moral compass in the exemplary character of Daniel, a man who stood apart from the corruption of his day and who held on to his faith in Almighty God (in spite of threats to his life) as the one deserving to be truly honoured above any human king on earth.
  Kachi stated after the performance, “Interestingly, the story of Daniel is that of a man who brought excellence to government. He worked with autocratic kings, who were despots and he still distinguished himself among his peers. Daniel was led by the spirit of excellence; he gave impeccable, first class, excellent service in spite of the prevailing political environment. Daniel is the kind of man we need in Nigeria right now, men and women who can give excellence, impeccable service in spite of everything else.
  “Daniel served and survived four mean, evil, wicked emperors, but he stood his ground amongst them all and they held him in high esteem. Even Daniel’s colleagues and adversaries testified to his incorruptible nature. The important thing about Daniel is that these four wicked emperors saw something indispensable, something so valuable in him to their being successful rulers of Babylon and they wanted him in their courts. The great King Darius even begged Daniel to change his mind; that he should not proclaim God as being mightier than him so he could spare Daniel his life in spite of a decree he had signed into law”.

DANIEL’s performance came after an opening glee of classical musical performance first at the foyer of the hall, then inside the hall by sensational Ige and her cello partner. They gave the audience a taste of magical classical music that kept the audience clapping endlessly. For a free show, such thrilling performance from Ige and her male companion on the cello was a sheer delight and the audience thoroughly enjoyed it.
  Clad in a red gown and a red scarf like some ancient, Middle East folk artist, Ige’s renditions, coupled with her strong vocal power, was engaging and compelling. She weaved her way in and out in varying pitches to a crescendo, with her companion’s cello also weaving along; it made classical music so enthralling just as it acquired a new, uplifting meaning. Their performance was with such supreme verve it got the audience applauding for a long while.

FIRST, Daniel (Tosin Smart) found himself among lions in the Babylonian men he worked with at the king’s court. There was the King Darius’ wife, Queen Hajitha (Uchechukwuka C. Elumelu), whom the king referred to as serpent on account of her devilish plan to have him assassinated; Satala (Samuel Adejuyitan), the wiry politician and administrator and Nimri (Femi Abatan), the brainless war general all envious of the Hebrew slave, Daniel for the huge favour the king bestows on him.
  With Daniel newly made the king’s chief minister, the three others feel short-changed by a common foreigner. They begin to plot his downfall. With Satala’s political sagacity, he convinces Hajitha (who unsuccessfully tries to have Daniel sleep with her) and Nimri so the king would promulgate a decree to the effect that no other god should be worshipped in 30 days in all of Babylon except King Darius (Opeyemi Adaegbo). They know Daniel’s devotion to the Hebrew God and that he could not bow to any other god except Jehovah.
  Satala manages to convince Darius to set himself up as god to be worshipped for 30 days. The king ascents to the decree without knowing that its true intent was to rid the palace of Daniel. Not long after Daniel returns from a trip to oversee distant lands of the kingdom, he falls into the trap set for him and is brought to judgment.
  His condemnation is a source of grief to the king, who wishes above all else that Daniel would be proven wrong on the charges brought against him by the trio. King Darius even begs Daniel to recount his faith in his God, but Daniel would not. He would not bow to other gods, not least to a man who has set himself up as an object of worship.
  Daniel is delivered to the lions’ den. King Darius is greatly agitated and laments his courtiers’ treachery and evil plot against Daniel. Daniel as chief minister is a huge asset to his kingdom and he knew how profound his loss would be.
  King Darius couldn’t find sleep in his agitation. But that is when he gets a hint of the coup plot being brewed in his own court, with the intent to unseat him. He sees Satala wooing his wife, Hajitha and of their evil plot to kill him. But it has all been Queen Hajitha’s plot; she merely recruits Satala to execute it. Satala would set up Nimri to kill the king and have him also executed for killing the king, dispose of Satala and become the undisputed monarch of Babylon!
  Begho’s execution of the resolution of Daniel’s plot is finely done and Kachi’s directorial touch sublime. The performers, too, mostly semi-professionals, did a great job of interpreting the plot and in putting life to the performance. Except Satala, whose vocal projection was faint, it was an all-round superb performance. Elumelu (Queen Hajitha) displayed dexterity in characterization; so also Adeagbo (King Darius), who gave flawless performance.
  Begho’s interpretation of Daniel isn’t just a re-enactment of the Bible story. It tells of the profundity of living a Godly life; how God turned Daniel’s adversity into victory for him by turning the evil plots of his enemies against them.
  But even more profound a lesson to glean from Daniel is the dilemma rulers, kings and presidents face in choosing the right ministers, advisers and other courtiers to assist them in governance. While Daniel is an exemplary man, the others in King Darius’ court, including his own wife, are busy plotting to subvert his leadership for the love of power and pecuniary measures.
  But even more telling is Daniel’s life of devotion to his Godly ideals from which he draws his exceptional lifestyle that sets him apart from the other corrupt officials. His life of Godly service makes him favourite of four kings of Babylon.
  Produced entirely on the expenses of Covenant Christian Centre, with the intent to take Daniel around some campuses to show it to young Nigerians, it’s the sort of production that corporations should scramble to sponsor, as it speaks truth to power in an uncommon way.
  What further distinguishes Daniel, as drama is its non-preachy, performance style. Although a Christian play, it does not rely on any dose, heavy or light, of preaching. Even when it doesn’t ring bells of repentance, the silent, exemplary life of Daniel is its central message unto repentance. Yet in its neutrality is the compelling story of personal regeneration, whether in a Christian setting or even a secular one, where morality or uprightness in character is needed for excellent service to humanity.
  Daniel is a must-watch stage performance, especially now that Nigeria is searching for similar antidote for its hydra-headed political dilemma!