Maybe Tomorrow… Projecting injustice in oil-rich region on stage

A scene from the play

A scene from the play

History will forever remain grateful to Charles de Gaulle, the French general, who led the Free France Forces (FFF) and later became head of the Provisional Government of the French Republic, for defining the words patriotism and nationalism. According to the French statesman, who was also a writer, ‘patriotism is when one love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.’

These two words were the focus of attention in the play, Maybe Tomorrow written by Soji Cole. Directed by Ibitola Adeolu, and presented at Heritage Garden, Lagos. The play tells the story of two long-lost friends, Adolphus Wariboko (Alade Akinbo) and Kenule Ododo (Adamson Paul). These two friends fought on the Nigerian side against the rebel forces. They maimed, destroyed and committed all manner of atrocities, all in the name of national interest and efforts to make the country united as one. With a singular purpose and common ideal for a united country, the two friends believe in the Nigeria project.

They believe Nigeria has no alternative; it is their country and nothing, not even ethnic loyal must tear it apart. With this, anybody or group of persons against the unity of the country becomes an enemy that must not only be silenced, but annihilated. In oneness, they fought to make Nigeria overrun her enemy, the civil war rebels.

But after the war, the two friends parted ways, doing other things to survive. While Wariboko finds a place in the Nigeria Police Force, Ododo pitches tent with his people, using a militia group, Coastal Fighter Group (CFG), to agitate for better living conditions for his riverine people.

Thirty years after the civil war, the two friends meet in circumstances that bring them in collision – at a police interrogation room, with one being the suspect and the other the interrogator.

While Wariboko represents the state, interrogating Ododo, whose group, the CFG, was alleged to have kidnapped two oil workers, the two come to the realisation that the civil war was unrealistic, a waste of life and human resources. This common understanding makes them redefine their nationalistic and patriotic ideals, as well as their personal philosophies about life.

Their personal and professional nuances tear these once jolly friends apart, with each holding firm to their own beliefs and never shifting ground for the other. Apart from this, each nurses the ambition to carry out the hideous plans of his group. Wariboko tortures Ododo to make him admit to a crime he knows nothing about. It is in course of this that the truth about who actually committed the crime comes to light.

Presented by Trio Troupe as part of activities to mark Nigeria’s 56th independence anniversary, the play depicts the Nigerian state, highlighting themes like deprivation, poverty, minority issues, environmental degradation, human right abuses and others.

It also brought to the fore the issue of those who claim to be speaking for their community, but only use the platform to feed fat on the ignorance of the majority.

Based on the happenings in the Niger Delta region, the play shows the highhandedness of the police force in getting information and also the failure of the force to carry out proper investigation before arresting and torturing alleged culprits.

While showcasing topical issues, the director succeeded in using the performance medium to draw the attention of government to the various imbalances in the polity with the aim of correcting them, especially as the current government stands for change.

Although a good story, the play is rather long and convoluting in its plot. Though, the cast properly interpreted their roles and was able to hold the audience spellbound, the director should introduce comic relief to lighten some of the knotty issues. Such relief would adequately make up for the length of time the play lasted.

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