People as ‘compatriot’ of corruption in Ugbede’s our son the minister

A scene from the play

The Indian poet, Latika Teotia, had the Nigerian eco-political terrain in mind, when she penned these famous words, “It is better to move on than change yourself to satisfy the demands and ego of others,” in her poem.

What with the various gratuitous demands of family members and close associates on their sons or daughters, who are either elected into public office or are appointed to serve the nation.

Teotia’s wise words came alive in Paul Ugbede’s play, Our Son The Minister, recently produced by Bikiya Graham-Douglas-led Beeta Universal Arts Foundation at Terra Kulture Arena, Victoria Island, Lagos. Kenneth Uphopho directed the play.

The play highlights how family, friends and associates compel ministerial and other appointees of government to loot the national treasury and commit other hideous crimes so as to satisfy them at the expense of national development.

The play focuses on Dr. Makoji Ejembi (Patrick Diabuah), a promising medical doctor, who gets a ministerial position. When the news gets to Ejembi’s mother (Dianna Yekinni), she organises a party and spends N250,000 feting friends and relatives. Also, Ejembi’s uncle, Abutu (Soibifaa Dokubo), who wants to have his own bite of the expected largesse, awards a contract for the building of a new family house on behalf of Ejembi, to his own son.

The doctor’s aunty (Inna Erizia) equally comes up with a request for her son to be employed in the ministry Ejembi is to oversee, while Ejembi’s friend (Ikponwwosa Gold) hires four Hummer Jeeps and a Mercedes Benz Limousine to take their entourage, including rented crowd, to the State House for the swearing-in ceremony.

In the face of the inconsiderable demands by family members, friends and associates, the unpretentious Ejembi rejects the appointment, saying he is not sure he could fulfill all the requests and still have time and money to carry out what he is officially appointed to do –– to serve his country judiciously.

He declines the offer and decides to move on with his medical practice instead of dancing to the tunes of his praise-singers, who want to use his position to satisfy their self-centred demands and egos. His decision provokes a backlash; the various groups believe he is bewitched, thus they resolve to deliver him.

Our Son The Minister is a political satire, with multiple themes that include hoax, fraud, religious bigotry, spirituality, police incompetence, among others. These themes make it a topical play, as these issues remain recurring narratives in Nigeria’s socio-political space.

A close look at the play exposes the playwright’s anger, and his wish to say everything he feels wrong with our system in the play. He traces Nigeria’s slow pace of development and the high level of corruption among political office holders to the people’s unusual, criminal expectation of their leaders.

However, Ugbede’s anger spills over sometimes, as some themes dovetail into others. A few themes and sub-themes would have just been enough, especially as no elixir can cure all human malaise at a go. In any case, the cast and crew must be commended for the excellent interpretation of Our Son the Minister, as a piece of remarkable performance, irrespective of the multiple themes.

Most of the cast showed expertise, with Soibifaa Dokubo and Chris Iheuwa (Ejembi’s second uncle) improvising. Sometimes, they even appear to forget their lines, but thanks to Inna Erizia, who in a few instances filled the gaps with her adlibs.

But Ejembi (Diabuah), the lead character, was up to the game. His voice and body movements were electrifying and in consonance with his speech and action. He looked like a man playing out real life scenario; he was in his right elements.

Such artistry drove the themes home for the audience, as made the performance have a transcendent feeling beyond the stage; they could identify how individuals, one way or the other, assume the role(s) of the characters they are watching.

The play is a direct charge for everyone to go to the basics to mitigate the decay that has been inflicted on society. It decries the high level of corruption among public office holders and the need for a change of behaviour.

Indeed, Ugbede argues that it is not only leaders that should be held accountable for the things they do, and states that the people – friends and relatives –– must also allow politicians do what they are appointed or elected to do without interference.

Our Son the Minister is a mirror of Nigerian society and highlights how everyone is directly or indirectly culpable in creating bad leaders and encouraging corruption.

Our Son the Minister is a winning play from the maiden edition of Beeta Playwright Competition, organised by Beeta Universal Arts Foundation. Its performance is a fulfillment of the producer, Graham-Douglas’ promise to stage the winning entry for the competition.

In this article:
corruptionPaul Ugbede
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