In Jankariwo, Ben Tomoloju cautions insensate Leadership
There is no other way Pope Francis could have expressed his dislike for corruption, a hydra monster in the world, than to remark, “Corruption is paid by the poor.”
The Catholic Pontiff had seen its cataclysmic effect in the world — from Africa to the Americas, Asia and others — where the rich have escaped from the harm, leaving the poor and hapless to bear the burden. He had equally seen people die and rendered homeless, because their leaders ignored their responsibilities to the society.
However, while the rich plan to put burden of corruption on the poor, Ben Tomoloju, in his stage play titled, Jankariwo, brings to the fore the resultant effect of such buck-passing.
Presented by Ibadan Playhouse at Lagos Country Club, Ikeja, the play in a play, gives a panoramic view of a society plundered by its caretakers — people elected to oversee the welfare of citizens and resources. The play reveals leadership ‘profligacy’ and how it impoverishes the society and makes people lose hope.
Beginning from the families to government offices and the private sector, the play tells the gory details of how corruption has eaten deep into the marrows of the society.
Councilor Anjuwon, the protagonist, is insensitive to the plights of his people, especially, the farmers who facilitated his victory at the polls. He allows the attraction of his office to becloud his reasoning to the extent that he relinquishes his responsibility to house help.
The wife, Remilekun, explores the world: gallivanting around the globe in the name of looking for goods to sell to his impecunious citizens at exorbitant prices. Painfully, her junketing is subsidised by a ‘good for nothing’ bureaucracy.
While the councilor and his cronies enjoy themselves looting government treasury and thinking the sweetness of their offices will last forever, the military takes over government, thereby, putting them on the run.
Directed by Segun Adefila, the play’s major themes include corruption, leadership and malleable citizenry. Using Olumoroti as a typology of countries like Nigeria and others across Africa, Tomoloju, in the play, brings out the docility of the people to effect any change in the system, even when pushed to the wall.
Though a section of the society will argue that the change eventually came from the people, who make up the military, this is not true, as the military is part of the executive arm of government. The civil society is rustic and politically unconscious of its rights and duties.
In a way, the play calls on the civil society to shun the onlooker tag and become proactive to effect the needed changes in the society, and as well, hold its leaders accountable for the actions. The issue of square peg in round hole also comes to the fore, as it could be seen in Idaamu representing the councilor in Atunda’s school. He goes there to cause trouble and disorganises the whole set up. This is the case with the Nigerian situation where mediocrity has overtaken merit. It shows the premium leaders place on education and youth development. Little wonder, university lecturers and schoolteachers go on endless strike with government not showing much concern. This could as well be seen in many taking to gambling to raise money for their upkeep.
Olumoroti represents a weak state, weak as a result of years of pillaging and no meaningful planning. But must the whole blame go to the leaders? No, because the leaders are the products of the society. Meaning the type of leader a society gets at a point is dependent upon the mentality of the people or group of people that bring him/her into office.
Tomoloju did not just entertain the audience with the play, he uses the characters to x-ray people’s daily lives, showcasing how the leaders and the led have, in their selfishness and egocentricity, abandoned hallowed responsibility to the people. This abandonment is also seen in the maladjusted behaviour of Atunda, who takes his life.
Jankariwo tells insensate leaders that despite their powers, the inevitable could still happen, even in a democracy.The cast and crew interpreted their roles well, bringing out the salient messages with their tonal and body languages. The music and dances were apt and complemented the themes of the play.
The dances, though adequate should be minimally used, so that they do not unnecessarily prolong the play. The almost two-hour the play lasted could have been reduced to an hour or a little more by lessening the dance scenes. The costume was also applicable to the times and people, reflecting both rural and urban people.
However, despite the good storyline and excellent interpretation, the lighting was not adequately used to show those gloomy periods in the community and in the family of the councilor. Even at the point the narrator was at his most depressed mood, when the light should have dimmed, it rather shone brightly. Irrespective of the flaws, the play is a must watch for all.