Oshodi Tapa broadens Lagos@50 celebrations cultural calendar
The performance of the historical drama Oshodi Tapa closely followed behind Vision of the Child 2016 project, with ‘Sisi Eko@50: Ageing Gracefully or Na So-so Pancake?’ as theme that explored the artistic expression of children within the metropolis as part of the cultural activities lined up to celebrate Lagos@50.
With a premiere at MUSON Centre and the first staging at Freedom Park, Lagos, recently, Oshodi Tapa brought a historical perspective to the Obaship of Lagos city, especially the political tussle before the turn of the last century, the interference of foreign powers and what eventually emerged as the most flourishing city along the Atlantic coast.
But more importantly, it is the external influence that helped shape, resolve and consolidate what has come to be the line of Obaship in Lagos that form the plot of the play. Young Oshodi Landuji (Joshua Alabi) and Farouk (Austyn Onuoha) are Nupe natives who had to flee from the internecine wars to the south. They arrive Lagos and are taken in by Oba Esiloku. Lord Fagbemi shows Landuji the lay of the land; Landuji finds favour with Oba Esiloku and he sends him off to Portugal as envoy.
He is made a Balogun upon returning, and Oba Esiloku dies soon after. Rather than his son, Prince Kosoko (Toritseju Ejoh), succeeding him, the powerful Eletu Odibo (Joshua Alabi) subverts the process and crowns Oluyole as Oba, but Oluyoe’s reign is short. But Eletu Odibo would not relent in denying Kosoko the crown. He, again, crowns Akitoye (Kenneth Uphopho) as Oba and leaves Kosoko in the cold.
By this time Kosoko’s quest for the crown has led to war and defeat and he is forced to relocate to a neighbouring country among the Egu people.
But Oba Akitoye is convinced Kosoko belongs to Lagos and not in a foreign land, as a prince of the ruling house. He seeks to bring him back, but Eletu Odibo is vehemently against it and advises Oba Akitoye against bringing Kosoko back as it would rekindle in him the quest to be king except Akitoye is ready to vacate the throne. However, in the midst of the royal squabble, Balogun Landuji Oshodi is in a quandary as he is sympathetic to Prince Kosoko, the rightful heir. Recall that it was Kosoko’s father who took him in when he newly arrived Lagos and would rather the right thing is done by returning the crown to him.
However, the dramatic import of his sympathy is not brought to bear on the plot to make it really tense and thick. Writer and director, Mr. Wole Oguntokun, makes him merely an errand man shuttling among the warring factions. Nowhere is he made to confront Eletu Odibo for denying the son of his late mentor the throne. Also, why is Eletu Odibo so powerful no one dared question him? What happened to all the white cap chiefs as Eletu Odibo’s power runs rampage in the selection of the Oba? It is only Oba Akitoye that manages a feeble challenge that doesn’t go anywhere; he accepts the throne that he knows is clearly Prince Kosoko’s and would not relinquish it without being forced out although it must be conceded that he has a softs pot for Prince Kosoko.
However, when Prince Kosoko arrives from exile he restates his claim to the throne. This sparks off another tussle that eventually forces out both Oba Akitoye and Eletu Odibo from power to pave the way for Kosoko being crowned Oba. While Akitoye flees to Abeokuta, Eletu Odibo flees to Badagry for safety. But Oba Kosoko’s reign is short-lived, as the European powers arrive at that point in time. He also flees to Epe to escape being captured.
Meanwhile, Balogun Landuji Oshodi remains an important chief in the palace in the negotiation with the Europeans powers. Commissioned by Mujibat Iyabode Oshodi, a direct descendant of Landuji Oshodi, Oshodi Tapa dredges up history and the political landscape of Lagos at a certain critical period of its existence.
Although not particularly explosive dramatic offering, it succeeds in re-enacting a historical moment in the life of a beloved city. Oshodi Tapa’s historical exploration serves well in the year-long activities to celebrate the city of aquatic splendour.