Dr Kemi Atanda ILORI Vagabond Minstrels Osofisan’s new play reveals materialism as an unprofitable end A Review of Esu and the Vagabond Minstrels A play. Title, Esu and the Vagabond Minstrels: A Feritlity Rite for the Modern Stage. Author, Femi Osofisan. Publisher, New Horn Press, Original from, Indiana. Story time just got better with Prime Book Box, a subscription that delivers hand- picked children’s books every 1, 2, or 3 months — at 40% off List Price.
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Femi Osofisan tackles graft and corruption: A reading of his socially committed plays. Graft and corruption have become endemic minstrrels insidious in the Nigerian society that governance and leadership have continued to lack integrity and legitimacy.
Catalog Record: Esu and the vagabond minstrels : a feritlity | Hathi Trust Digital Library
Femi Osofisan, a dedicated and committed apostle of change and social justice, has skilfully utilized the platform of drama to expose and ridicule the prevalence, pervasiveness and debilitating effects of graft and corruption as social vices in Nigeria.
Following the tradition of African Drama’s commitment to social issues, Osofisan berates all the tiers of government and the public office holders for the country’s economic woes and the general poverty level of Nigerians.
The concern of this paper is, therefore, an intense sociological exploration of Osofisan’s plays that satirize and lampoon the seemingly legalized practice of bribery and corruption in Nigeria.
A contextual and theoretical framework is provided for the paper to enable readers to have a clear conceptual understanding of the discourse. The paper also balances the pejorative and optimistic views of Osofisan on a decadent society. It concludes with his encomiums on those who have remained resolute and unwavering and his prognosis that the society will become better when such distinguished men and women are emulated and celebrated.
Esu and the Vagabond Minstrels
Femi Osofisan, dramaturgy, graft and corruption. As a social crusader and a member of the society, he extends his creative tentacles to explore, reflect and depict various social vices that are plaguing the Nigerian society. The depiction of such decadent aspects of the society is fundamental to him as an artist who is deeply in love with his society. Osofisan is always optimistic and hopeful that the prevalent social problems in the society can be overcome.
In this paper we shall examine the plays of Osofisan in which social problems like corruption, graft, fraud and embezzlement are depicted. But before we go into that, we shall first of all attempt a contextual analysis of corruption as a universal phenomenon. Corruption in this context will be defined from the following three perspectives: Heidenheimer, Michael Johnson and Victor T. Khan bases his definition of corruption on those parameters and gives an all-embracing definition: His definition is significant in that it locates and fixes corruption within the political and economic structures on which the entire society is built.
Femi Odekunle 97 gives us a succinct typology of corruption. He divides it into five major sub-divisions. It is obviously a summary of the United Nations Organisation’s typology of corruption: It is obvious that no itemization of the techniques of corruption can be completely exhaustive because the practitioners are always evolving new tactics and strategies for their nefarious enterprise.
But the list is sufficient for our purpose here. Corruption, at all levels of governance in Nigeria, has reached such an alarming rate that successive governments use and continue to use it as a potent weapon to amass wealth and to purchase the loyalty of political supporters, and victimize or embarrass their opponents, or those who are considered as constituting hindrances to their political ambition.
Other causes of corruption are the state of social disintegration caused by the Nigerian civil war, lack of essential social services, unemployment and underemployment, population pressure, political instability and the inequitable application of the law. But no matter the justification one gives for being corrupt, corruption will continue to remain an aberration and a social malaise, and its practitioners will continue to be seen as corrupt.
The present situation in Nigeria has got to a stage that everybody in the society, especially the artist, thinks that something urgent must be done about it before it becomes too late.
Akin-George lamented the embarrassing state of corruption in Nigeria in and his comments are still relevant: In recent times corruption and economic crimes have reached such an epidemic proportion that something urgent and drastic needs to be done before the entire fabric of the society collapses through their combined weight.
The newspapers are filled with stories of corruption, bank frauds, drug peddling, currency faking etc. We create such a very bad image for ourselves, among ourselves, among potential foreign business partners that genuine and honest people suffer. Cases of fraud are rife in the financial institutions owing to what G. Oka Orewa calls “the proliferation of merchant banks, bureau de change, and finance houses, [that] has led to serious problems of management of the Nigerian economy.
Apart from individuals and corporate agencies, the successive governments in the country have also been accused of legitimizing corruption. The era of General Yakubu Gowon which was the period of oil boom made the control of power to be concentrated at the centre. Yet, the activities of all the political office holders and powerful elite and capitalists became difficult to be coordinated.
The business of corruption had a very good opportunity to thrive therefore. Towards the tail end of that regime, corruption had become part of Gowon’s political agenda. That was why the new government of Murtala Muhammed that took over from Gowon had an anti-corruption crusade by first of all exposing the corrupt activities of Gowon’s administration although that new government was not allowed to stay long in power to achieve its goal before it was removed.
Abdul-Razaq Olopoeia commenting on the regimes of General Ibrahim Babangida and General Sani Abacha is of the view that it was under their respective governments that the character of corruption changed rapidly and became a social norm as well as an act of state craft. The corruption rate has assumed a dimension that even the law enforcement agents are totally incapable of arresting the situation because they themselves are among its perpetrators.
This was what made the Inspector General of Police of the Federation to conclude that “Nigeria lacks the resources and manpower needed to effectively monitor corrupt activities [ The playwright, Femi Osofisan cannot remain silent in the midst of this corruption and decadence. Who’s Afraid of Solarin? It is a satire on graft and corruption prevalent in the Nigerian society.
Osofisan finds a similarity between the social and political situation in Nigeria and the Imperial Russia at the time when Gogol wrote his play. At that time, the aristocrats were totally in control of government and many of the officials saw their positions as opportunities for looting the government treasury. The Public Complaints Commission was established by the Obasanjo-Muhammed regime as a way of clearing the society of corruption. Tai Solarin, because of his dedication and diligence and commitment was appointed by government as the Public Complaints Commission.
That is why the play is written in honour of him to celebrate his cause and determination to stand against public corruption. Osofisan in a farcical manner presents a group of corrupt and fraudulent local government employees who are paralysed by fear as they await Tai Solarin, the Public Complaints Commissioner.
Solarin is not physically presented on stage; only his silhouettes are. The frequent invocation of his name is symbolic. According to Kunle Ajibade “for Solarin, the man, Tai Solarin has been demystified and rendered unheroic. The Solarin of the play, then, must be seen as a conscience pricking the corrupt” In the local government presented in the play, virtually all the government officials and their operatives are corrupt and fraudulent without any exemption right from the Chairman of the Local Government Council, Chief Gbonmiayelobiojo, even to the professional beggars on the streets like Lamidi and Lemomu.
That is why all of them are apprehensive of the impending official visit of Solarin. Consequently, the Chairman summons a meeting of the Council to decide how they can prevent the coming of Solarin which will spell doom for them. Osofisan uses the meeting as an occasion to expose the corruption and fraudulent practices of the various arms of the Council as the meeting turns out to be a forum where confessional statements that border on their corrupt acts are revealed at the ezu provocation. As Ajibade describes them, “none of them is clean.
They are all profiteers: That’s not the point of our complaint, you eunuch.
After all your appointment as a Director of the Breweries came to you first on radio. You didn’t reject it.
Don’t be silly; is it the same thing? Why are minstrwls women always confusing issues? Or you know how much I paid for that appointment? And who’s a eunuch if.
Esu and the vagabond minstrels. (eBook, ) 
And what of you! Is it the burden of plunder from the UPE buildings project that keeps you stunted? All because I refuse to let you encroach on the school lands for your minstrells scheme. I have told you again and again. Who wants that ant’s morsel? You can keep it.
What happened to the money sent from Lagos for all the UPE avgabond For all we know, that’s why the Commissioner is coming here. You know very well that the plans of those buildings are all ready in my office. You saw the beautiful designs. Is it inside the plans that the children will learn to read and write? School’s supposed to be starting next week. Rome was not built in a day. Go and bring your Commissioner here to catch me minstdels I see that this is all a conspiracy.
Many eminent men have gone to prison before and have come out only to be Heads of State. Bring your Commissioner, but just make sure that when he’s here he doesn’t take a look also at OFN Accounts.
Even, the Chairman of the Council distributes goats and mirrors to entice the electorate. His wife has just opened a boutique with donations from vagabonc people of the town. To him, “no one is to take any bribes at all except with specific clearance from me. He therefore orders that all files on UPE contracts be burnt before the arrival of Solarin.
The aand is not left out. The Doctor in charge shirks in his responsibility and the hospital suffers irremediably from congestion, lack of dsu baths for the patients, the mortuary is even more congested and the mortuary attendants make their living out of it.
Shockingly, corpses litter the floor. Government has voted a lot of money for this which has been diverted into private purses. Yet the Doctor says he has no skeleton in his thw. Even the judiciary is not left out, the Chief Magistrate orders the poultry attendants to take some of the fowls from the OFN poultry to his house for dinner. Besides, the Chief Magistrate is a cult man.
This exposes the absurd situation that is prevalent in our society among the highly placed officials of government. We recall Jigi’s concern about the greed of office holders in Osofisan’s Esu and the Vagabond Minstrels The locusts had not come to minstreos.