Election fever … A task on good governance
“Teaching kids to count is fine, but teaching them what counts is best,” Talber says, as he explains the cardinal duty our various agents of socialisation own the youths.
Bolanle Austen-Peters must have thought alone this line when her troupe, BAP Productions, staged Election Fever for both the enjoyment and critical thinking of students and staff of Methodist Boys High School, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The play, an allegory of politics and politicking in Nigeria, aims at sensitising youths, especially now that politicians are all over the place campaigning and willing to do anything to silent their opponents.
It, therefore, cautions against youths allowing themselves to be used as political thugs to obstruct elections or to do anything inimical to peace and unity of the nation.
The play centres on Otunba Sagay (Bimbo Manuel), Governor of Savanna State, who won elections through dubious means.
During campaigns he promised to make life better for all, but on winning the election, he veers off from his promises and begins to use fictitious projects to loot government coffers.
This puts him at cross-purposes with his nephew, Tosan (Patrick Diabuah), who returns to the country to help make things work in the state.
Tosan realising that remaining in his Uncle’s political party, the Generating Party of Nigeria (GPN), will stop him from making any positive change in the polity, he joins the Nigerians For Progress (NFP) and becomes the party’s governorship candidate.
Tosan wins the election and Sagay knowing he will face the law for squandering public fund and other offences committed while in office, packs his belongings to flee State House, when the law catches up with him.
A must-watch for any young person, the play exposes how politicians for their selfish and parochial reasons have mortgaged the future of the country, set the youths to destroy the people’s commonwealth, while they runaway with stolen money to foreign land with their children.
It also highlights the different theatrics like helping corn sellers to roast corn in the street, bean-cake sellers to fry their bean cake among others some governors put up to gain cheap publicity and worm themselves into the hearts of feebleminded people.
Among the play’s multiple themes is, ‘election is not a die-or-die affair’ and people contesting elective positions should see it as opportunity to serve the people, embark on projects that will positively impact on people’s lives and develop the country.
However, it must be noted that beneath the façade of the performance lies a subtle message that Nigerians should hold their leaders accountable, irrespective of their closeness or affinity to the ruling class.
This was played out in the character of Tosan, who not minding the consequences stands against his uncle; looks into his face and tells him the bitter truth of his administration.
The play also highlights the docility of the people at accepting whatever is thrown at them, even when it is glaring that the prodigality and misrule of leaders is costing lives and damaging the common heritage, including their children.
Directed by Austen-Peter and produced by Joseph Umoibom, the play’s two protagonists — Sagay and Tosan — seamlessly interpreted their roles; they showed their masterly of the act and related well with the audience.
There was a direct eye contact and gesticulating that made the audience feel these casts were directly addressing them.
The same goes for all the cast, their tonal and body languages were apt, which made it appear as if the audience, mostly students, were amid politicians on campaign ground.
The costume was appropriate and the use of street language was just right — on offensive.
Though, the stage was not properly lit, which is excusable because of the nature of the school hall, the cast managed the space, maintaining the left to right eye movement and the right exits and entrances.
Also, the lyrics of the songs used were in tandem with the storyline, which further connect the audience to the story; make them feel they are part of the happenings.
However, the interludes were long and flat. It is expected that the dancers should still be on stage to fill the vacuum, while the cast leave and when the cast reappear the dancers leave.
Despite this, the play remains a nice one to caution the audience, especially the youth to identify what counts in the polity and keep them, while shunning hooliganism and other evil politicians may throw at them.
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