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    FUOYE’s 7th Convocation Play: Parable of a nation in dire need of patriotic citizens, leaders…

    By Wole Balogun
    (S.A.Media to VC)

    Parables are stories usually told to preach morals and such stories deploy symbolic characters as caricatures of real life humans.

    “Prodigals and a Parable of Motherhood”, is a play written and directed by Bakare Ojo Rasaki, a Professor of Dance and Performance aesthetics at the Department of Theatre and Media Arts, Federal University Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE).

    The play was performed on February 9, 2023 as the Convocation play for the on-going 7th convocation ceremony of the Federal University Oye-Ekiti, (FUOYE). The performance turned out to be an excellent example of a parable being relayed by the playwright to bring moral messages for a nation like Nigeria that is currently in dire need of patriotic leaders and citizens.

    Co-directed by Dr. Tayo Isijola and Gondo Isaac, younger lecturers in the University’s Department of Theatre and Media Arts, which performed the play as commissioned by the University’s management through the Ceremonial Committee headed by Prof. Tajudeen B Opoola, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, ‘Prodigals and a Parable of Motherhood’, is a touching, thrilling and very intructive performance with a moving story that x-trays Nigeria’s woes as caused by unpatriotic leaders and citizens.

    The play begins on a strange note of a mother, Wuraola aka Doofan, dragging her prodigal children to court in order to sever her biological relationship with them!. This comic and satiric scene establishes the conflict of the play as the audience wonders why a mother would desire to approach the court of Law and demand the severance of her relationship with her biological children who she describes as prodigals?

    The Yoruba translation of the word ‘prodigals”by the playwright : awon omo pau bi ibon’ transliterated to mean prodigals like sons of guns, provides a sarcastic, satiric choice of words that aptly describes the unpatriotic nature of Nigerians and their leaders. Wuraola’s alias, Doofan, which is also of Nigerian origin of the Niger Delta, is equally symbolic in its meaning which translates to: ‘Good to know God’. This could relates to the playwright’s moral message of Nigerians being religious but needing to combine this with absolute patriotism. This is just as the play succeeds in no small measure in presenting parables that x-tray Nigeria’s stark reality characterized with corruption, tribalism, greed, selfishness, materialism among other ills resulting largely in unpatriotic disposition to the collective existence of the nation.

    The parables are presented as exhibits of evidence and facts put forward by an angry mother against her prodigal children. The name of the mother, is symbolic , Wuraola alias Doofan, in that ‘Wuraola’ in Yoruba denotes a treasured gold or gold mine or metaphorically a land flowing with milk and honey, in order words, the angry mother caricatures Nigeria as a nation with great potentials for greatness.

    In the same vein, the children who are called prodigals, brings to mind the Biblical allusion the playwright draws with the scriptural story of the prodigal son who demands for his inheritance from his loving father, only to go away and squander the resources. Thus, the prodigals caricature iNigerians in the play’s symbolic world.

    Bakare tells three significant and symbolic parables in his play to depict the largely unpatriotic nature of Nigerian leaders and citizens. The first is about our greed, selfishness and excessive lust for power, possessed not to lead aright, but for satisfying personal thirst: Four men who represents four major Nigerian tribal/regional groups, South, North, East and middle Belt, see a beautiful woman, Wuraola, while on their way for an important meeting and abandon their mission to woo the woman. Wuraola gets angry at the greed and selfishness displayed by the four men in wooing her, not to be treasured and respected but merely to satisfy their selfish thirst and massage their ego.

    The beautiful ‘Doofan’ fumes and rejects the love overtures by the four covetous men and the four men surprisingly turn against one another, blaming one another for failing to possess the woman, until she reveals herself as their mother who nourishes them and who is supposed to be treasured and not be possessed to satisfy greed desires.

    The second parable which is revealed as the second evidence against the prodigal children by the legal counsel to Wuraola, Barrister Obinrinleke, (played by Dr. Tosin Tume, a senior lecturer in the Department) is that of a great Iroko tree, very productive with healing powers. The tree is worshipped by grateful worshippers who bring great resources in form of sacrifices, to appease it. This prosperous tree which caricatures Nigeria in her great days, is presented symbolically as six characters whose costumes represent the tree and who come together to symbolize the Iroko. Each of the six characters further represents the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria the same way the delicacies their worshippers served as sacrifices to the Iroko tree, represent the nation’s natural resources. In no time, the six characters invite Esu, the Yoruba god of mischief to cause confusion and division among them because they each display greedy nature in eating the sacrifices given them by the worshippers.

    In their division, they fought and separated and become very weak and worthless such that their worshippers come back to turn them to objects of ridicule, until Esu makes them to realize that their separation makes them vulnerable. The symbolic use of a combination of bunches of brooms and single units of the brooms here as handed over to the six characters who represent the prodigals here, is apt in preaching morals instructing on the need to remain united as a nation irrespective of our challenges and differences.

    The third and last parable by Bakare in this thought-provoking drama is that of heartless children who choose to strip their mother, Wuraola, naked on her 60th birthday after leveling baseless accusation of unfair treatment by her, to them. The parable depicts the symbolic rape of the nation Nigeria by citizens and leaders from different regions of the six geo-political zones of the country. After striping their once gorgeously attired and beautiful mother naked, she becomes blind and wanders about aimlessly while her children are also afflicted with one ailment and another. They groan in pain and hunger and ask for help from a lady who represent the western world or white men.

    Concerned about their plight, the lady opens their eyes to their mistakes and advises them to return to their mother and return what they looted from her. On heeding the advice from the white lady, the four children regain their health just as their mother regains her sight, pride and glory, thus, Bakare symbolically preaches moral of patriotism to all Nigeria with this parable.

    A final return to the court room sees the judge, played by (Gondo Isaac, another lecturer in the department) getting confused as to giving his ruling on the case as the legal counsel to the prodigals, played by Mr. Chris ( also, a lecturer in the department), logically defends his clients as repentant children. The judge throws decision to the audience and this shows further that even the audience are confused as to decide on whose side to take. While some take sides with the mother, others take sides with the children leaving the judge with no choice than to pronounce that the judgement of the public is his own judgement.

    Thus, the play ends with the playwright deploying his poetic license to use the Brechtian dramaturgical technique of breaking the wall of the proscenium stage to liberalize the performance space and get the audience involved. The technique worked greatly as to not only convince the audience that they were watching a mere parable in a drama but also to get involved in critical reasoning about the reality of the poor nation, Nigeria.

    The performance received a glowing commendation from the Chairman, University Ceremonial Committee, Prof. Opoola who appreciated the cast and crew in his brief address after the play. Very important members of the University community, including the Representative of Prof. Abayomi Sunday Fasina, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Shola J. Omotola who is FUOYE’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Administration, Prof. Shittu Olubunmi, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academics, Bursar of the University, Mrs. Bolanle Debo-Ajagunna, Deans of the School of Post Graduate Studies and chairman, Committee of Deans, Prof. Omolehin, and Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, Prof. Adeniji , Prof. Alabadan of Engineering faculty, Prof. Oyedokun Wasiu-Alli, Director, He eral studies, as well as the Chief Security Officer (CSO), Mr. Paul Ogidi, Acting Director of Works, Mrs. Folashade Adebayo, Senior special Adviser to the VC, Dr. Dayo Shobowale, Secretary of the Ceremonial committee, Mr Fatuase, President, FUOYE Alumni Associate, Mr. Tope, members of the faculty of Arts, i.e Dr. Farinde, HOD, English and Literary Studies, Dr. Paul , HOD, History and lnter ational Relations, Dr. Ariremako, HOD, Department of Linguistics, Dr. Olaide Nasir, HOD , Religious Studies and Associate Professor of Theatre and Media Arts, Dr. Sola Balogun, and the host for the department, Associate Professor Lilian Bakare who is the Head of Department of the Theatre and Media arts as well as students of the department and non -academic staff members, relished the performance greatly.

    The play was staged by a joint team of lecturers and students of the department. The court clerk, was played by Dr. Tayo Isijola who co-directed the play while the highly talented students who took several other significant roles in high spirit, are from different levels of the department, from the 100 level to the post graduate level and also involving students on daily part time studies of the University. It was indeed a quitessential display of unity in diversity to promote progress which is one of the strong morals the playwright preaches.

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