Wakaa! The Musical thrills, blasts political class
• ‘Why MTN Foundation is in love with the arts’
It was a rare moment of artistic ambush executed against some of Nigeria’s political bigwigs, when Bolanle Austin-Peters Productions staged Wakka! The Musical at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja on Monday. In attendance were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, top government functionaries and Abuja residence, who had come to see the musical theatre that combined a strong dose of satirical statements about Nigeria’s leadership deficit with thrilling performance to celebrate Nigeria’s 57th Independence.
Indeed, it was a rare moment for art to so eloquently speak truth to power in a performance ambience that had the country’s numbers two and three citizens laughing away at foibles sometimes aimed at them at the larger, real time political stage. But it was the power of art to, like rats, nibble at your feet and fan you at the same time, so you are none the worse for wear.
The corrupt, depraved Sagay promises to provide everything for free for the citizens, but delivers nothing after being elected into office as governor. In his bid for a second term, he has vision of buying a Bombardier jet to avoid traffic on the roads and an helicopter so he could aerially survey the challenges facing his state! It is such reckless buffoonery that characterises Nigeria’s politics that Wakka! The Musical throws well-intended jibs at.
It is classical soap-box demagoguery that has put the country on its knees. But the politicians in attendance could afford to laugh at Sagay’s demagoguery because Wakaa!, as art form, created a distance between the actual fictional existence and what plays out on the political turf.
And so Osinbajo says enthusiastically at the end, “I have never seen such beautiful performance anywhere before” just as Saraki also quips in his Twitter handle, saying, “#WakaaTheMusical was a great show! I was really entertained. Kudos to Bolanle (@Bolabap) and the entire cast and crew! You all have positively advanced #MadeInNigeria theatre!”
But beyond the Osinbajo’s ‘beautiful performance’ and Saraki’s ‘entertainment’ value of Wakaa! The Musical is its life-transforming advocacy for good governance that has so miserably eluded the country for its 57 span of life for which the two are real life characters. It is the reason one of the newly graduated characters in the show Don Rex has to scout social media to court what he thinks is a white lady and his ready ticket to flee the harshness of political profligacy at home to England for a better life. It turns out a hoarse; his English Cassandra is another young Nigerian stranded in London, who wants to test the myth of an African prince, with fire-breathing Sango fame to his name. After seven years studying medicine in Nigeria, Rex ends up with a security job after being a mortuary attendant in London. He ends up being deported as illegal alien, when he falls out with Cassandra, who informs on him.
That is what the Nigerian type of bad politics inflicts on its youth. And it took the character of the Executive Producer and Director, Mrs. Bolanle Austin-Peters, to pull off such theatrical feat, not only of staging a superlative show, but also getting prime audience like the vice president and senate president to see for themselves how much good governance delivery could mean to the young segment of society like Rex and the thousands, who still go through the desert and perilous seas to cross to Europe to escape the evils of visionless political leadership.
And so youthful Tosan (Patrick Diabuah), who upstages his uncle Sagay after discovering that the man he worked for to win power is a cankerworm eating the political fruits meant for the entire Savannah State, takes oath of office as the new breed, who is without guile or corrupt past. Although we do not get to see how he performs in office contrastively with his failed and fraudulent uncle Sagay, it is the ardent hope that Tosan would entrench a new political culture away from Sagay’s. that way, Savannah State (Nigeria) could begin to be the country it should be. For Wakaa! The Musical, the current class of politicians have only delivered empty promises such that even the basic, elementary things do not work. But where are the new breeds (like Tosan) to clean up the mess?
Bolanle Austin-Peters Productions was staging the musical for the first time in Abuja (a weeklong affair) after it made its first outing in London last month to critical acclaim. Its sister show, Saro, was the first to tour London last year. In the Lagos, London and Abuja performances, the theatre company had a supporting partner in MTN Foundation, which has continued to express its support for Nigeria’s artistic and cultural expressions, as a way of engaging Nigeria’s talented youth in fruitful endeavours so as to take as many as possible off the streets.
According to the foundation’s Executive Secretary, Noni Ugbomah, “Promoting arts and culture, for MTN, is promoting Nigeria’s rich culture and diversity. We’ve got lots of youth talent. The young people performing are amazing. We just came back from London with Saro and it was a sold-out show.
Now, we have come to Abuja as well, and it’s about the independence celebration. Wakaa! is a strong narrative about Nigeria. Lots of kudos for Bolanle and we want to encourage other production houses in Nigeria; there’s so much talent to harness.
“Over the years, people moved typically away from anything that is authentically Nigerian to all western (European); that is why we call this a movement. Live theatre takes a lot of skills and we’re so happy to be part of it.”