With A Quest for Change, Omonigho interrogates political consciousness
It is almost trite to describe Nigerian literature or African literature, as that which is grounded on societal engagements. Ubuntu philosophy underpins Nigerian literature, where art is appropriated for life sake, and not art sake. Nevertheless, if practitioners of Nigerian literature are often guided by the need to engage the society, some do it more than the others.
In Stella Omonigho’s A Quest for Change, the reader meets a writer who not only reflects the society, with its political undercurrents, but also provides options to confront those undercurrents, as socialist realist works of fiction often do.The book, a drama, in three acts, lights up the socio-political ills of the Nigerian society and the recurrent disappointments the citizens get from their elected leaders. A people who have been unfortunate with unscrupulous leaders soon become cynical about any positive occurrence.
Set in the period leading up to general elections, the book dramatises the shenanigans that characterise the electoral processes, including such primordial sentiments that colour Nigerians’ loyalties as ethnicity, religion and even gender.
Furthermore, in the character of Rukky, Omonigho portrays the increasingly drive of women to rise above patriarchal repression which unfortunately is entrenched in the Nigerian system. Rukky’s husband, Efe, is shown to be extremely domineering, to the point of betraying his inferiority complex, as he seems threatened by his wife knowledge of the socio-political factors at play in the country. He tries to no avail to suppress any inclination towards social engagement by his wife.
More so, through the character of Mama Runo, Rukky’s friend, Omonigho portrays the average woman who seems doomed to her plight as she not only confronts a cynically patriarchal husband, but also a recalcitrant son. Mama Runo’s husband detests his wife’s penchant for calling attention to what she feels is wrong in the society while their son, who will be getting married soon, does not want to listen to his fiancée’s plea for him to be careful with his unguarded hobnobbing with politicians.
It is quite unfortunate that when tragedy strikes, the women, Mama Runo and the fiancée, are the greatest victims; Omovudu, the son and fiancée, fails to listen to the cautionary plea of mother and wife to be, and gets killed in electoral scuffle.If Rukky and Mama Runo are characters who go against the societal portrait of women, most of the other female characters in the play are what can be described as normative characters, who not only are not ready to challenge patriarchy, but sniff at fellow women who attempt to challenge institutionalised patriarchy.
Not only are Rukky and her friend challenged for their penchant for activism, but also subjected to a lot derision and suspicion by the same women they are advocating.It must be stated that Omonigho’s dramatic offering is an immense addition to flowering growth of Nigerian literature, especially for its expediency and topical engagement with the Nigerian problems, which politicians have continued to make look intractable.