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Flowers Introspect … Metaphor for political perfidy


A scene from the play

Former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, must have handled a lot of cases on violence against women that made him to say: “We must unite. Violence against women cannot be tolerated, in any form, in any context, in any circumstance, by any political leader or by any government.” Flowers Introspect, by Ben Tomoloju, in the trilogy he recently published, portrays the trauma rape victims undergo.

Written during his undergraduate days at the University of Ibadan, the play opens with three students – Bayo, Bateye and Jide – who tattled on Simbi, a student who was violated by three other students under a tree. One of the rapists had wanted Simbi to be his girlfriend, but the sassy, young lady had brushed aside his advance; she made it clear he is not worthy of her company. The boy then plans with his friends and had her raped one evening while she was returning to the campus from one of her outings.

While the threesome — Bayo, Bateye and Jide — amuse themselves with the juicy tale, demonstrating how the criminals devoured the beautiful lady, the most desirable girl on campus, Bateye and Jide shift attention to Bayo, whose girlfriend, Christiana, a born again Christian, who would not allow him to touch her. They tease him for being inept with matters of the heart. But Bayo returns their attack, calling them jealous.

The story then sets on the scene, where the three students go for their girlfriends, but return to their cubicles grumbling after their unsuccessful adventures with the women. Each tells a sorry tale of disappointment. And in their despondency, they each longed for their girlfriends, hoping they would one day taste their real apples just like the rapists did to Simbi.

Highlighting such themes as violence against women, youthful lust, deception and decadence in society, Tomoloju, through the play, calls for a collective effort against rape and other violence against women. Using Bayo, Bateye and Jide, as protagonists, Flowers Introspect states that women are free to express themselves in any form in society, so far they are not contravening the law and that no man has the right to infringe on their privacy without their consent.

While condemning the rapists for the dastardly act, the playwright calls for punitive measures to be meted out to such offenders to serve as deterrent to others. Though the protagonists denounce the act, they, however, find themselves struggling against their own sexual desire and how to contain it so it doesn’t become disruptive of social order like those of the rapists.

Performed by TheVoice Troupe, the play generously uses comedy and dance to provide relief, while driving home the hard message that women need to be loved and adequately protected. Going by the social stance and political activism of the playwright, Flowers Introspect could be described as a satire on the Nigerian state, as it talks about the relationship that exists between the leaders and the led. The political leaders, who are in charge of the country’s resources have failed to do the needful; even at that, they expect citizens to worship them for failing to perform their legitimate duties.

The rapists are synonymous with the government, while Simbi presents the teeming hapless citizens, who are raped daily, literally, because they are too weak to withstand or oppose the oppressive apparatuses of the state that are weighed heavily against them.

Directed by Peter Ojo, the play is a timely social commentary, especially as the country is looking towards 2019, when citizens go for yet another election for a new sect of leaders. As always, they would expect the right people, with new orientation and political vision, which have been elusive in Nigeria’s 57 political history.

So, political leaders desperate for power largely for its own sake and selfish interests, would again ask for Simbi’s hands – the masses; if she refuses, they may take her by force, rape her, if the electoral laws do not protect her. And just as the rapists left Simbi deranged while they freely walk about the campus undetected and may not be brought to book if caught; and Simbi, for fear of stigma, may not step forward to press charges. That is the level of double tragedy society conditions women like Simbi to endure. The electorate is treated just as pawns in the hands of their leaders, who act with shameless immunity.

The playwright also calls on parents to instill moral values in their children, as shown in the case of Bayo, who arrogantly boasts of making seven ladies pregnant but shies away from the responbility of marrying any of them. Instead of being ashamed of falling cheaply, the ladies unrepentantly tell whoever cares to listen how the Casanova had his way with them. Flowers Introspect shows the sharp decline of morals in society and calls on all to wake up to the duty of correcting the deficit.

The play depicts Tomoloju as a moralist and adherent of the school of thought that believes theatre should not just entertain and inform, but serve as avenue to canvass positive change, mould minds, engage the people and challenge them to stand for what is right and also for their rights, whenever such rights are encroached upon or they feel threatened.

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