Odia’s 1914 Centenary Dance Drama

Last Saturday, Odia Ofeimum’s 1914 showpiece dance drama of the centenary year was staged at the MUSON centre, Lagos. It traced  the loss of our sense of community   to  the  subversion of our undoubtedly superior  social structure by fortune-seekers  from a hostile environment where  ‘live was  nasty ,brutish and a short’ with a prevailing culture of ‘the survival of the of the fittest’ . Their rape of their new conquered ‘garden of Aden’, where you don’t have to work hard to survive was aided and sustained through the introduction of Christian religion in the south and reliance on existing Islam in the north. It is significant to note that the foreign invaders were indifferent to how the south and the north worshipped their God. Of greater interest was how slaves and later farm produce needed badly in their plantations and factories get to the sea ports en route America and Europe.

As it was before and after 1914, so it is today. What has happened is a change of paradigm. Globalisation, the new economic relations,   celebrated as the solution to poverty and inequality in   the world which supports government subsidy of $2 for every head of cow owned by a pastoralist in developed economies of the west in the circumstance where 75% of our compatriots live below a dollar a day can be regarded as the worst form of slavery. But just as our forebears were persuaded by   desperate men in search of ‘gold, glory and honour’,  that slavery and  later colonization were the only way to economic prosperity,  our today’s leaders, have accepted the current unequal economic relations  as the only way to  resolving our crisis of underdevelopment.

Unfortunately at the Agip Hall of MUSON centre last week where Odia and many gifted Nigerian youths  called attention to our past folly   of seeking external solution to our crisis of underdevelopment, there were neither  presidential  nor gubernatorial aspirants. President Jonathan’s economic wizards were conspicuously absent. There were no representatives of Christian Association of Nigeria, (CAN), Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, and Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, (TAN), Arewa Consultative forum, Yoruba Council of Elders, Igbo Elders Forum and all other groups that have contributed to the exploitation of the ignorance of our people since independence. How can we break the cycle of poverty, without first understanding the issues at stake?

It can also be argued that it has been more of hypocrisy and conspiracy rather than ignorance. Is it not too much of a coincidence that those who insisted we cannot end our cycle of poverty by putting our fate in the hands of those who  cannot  solve the social problems of their own societies without first  promoting chaos in the conquered territories were haunted down?. Awo realized ignorance was the bane of the society and attacked it with free education. For a healthy and harmonious relationship, he advocated a federal arrangement based on equality of the major ethnic groups. He was labelled a communist and sent to jail.  Murtala Mohammed insisted we must seek home solution instead of reliance on strategies imposed by those whose survival depends on our inability to manage our affairs; he was murdered by a drunken Dimka. MKO Abiola spoke of reparation for over 400 years of exploitation; he won an election but died in prison in the presence of representatives of western powers. Buhari who during his first coming as military Head of State similarly   insisted solution to crisis of underdevelopment must be home grown suffered similar fate.    For rejecting the IMF’s bitter economic pill and insisting we would have to produce grains, if we must eat grains, he was in the night of many knives deposed by Babangida who reversed all his policies and went on to accept  IMF  liberalization policy. The result was the sharing of our national patrimony among privileged members of the ruling class and the opening up of our market to the importation of labour of other societies leading to crisis of unemployment for our youths.

Odia’s centenary drama dance is a call on us to take another look at our crisis of underdevelopment. Can we continue to put our fate in the hands of those motivated only by the welfare of their own people, who turned our oil boom to oil doom, openly criticized corruption by our leaders but have no qualms holding on to proceeds of corruption?  As 2015 approaches, the choice of those who have since independence insisted on leaders who will not question their vision of society is clear. We will delude ourselves to assume the west, motivated only by self-interest will suddenly be on the side of the people

China and India our new friends are equally are equally motivated by self-interest. A few years back, some crooked Indians masquerading as foreign investors, aided by   some unpatriotic Nigerians secured huge bank facilities to establish textile industries. Over 70% of the funds went into importation of machinery and raw materials from India.  Shortly afterwards, all the textile firms asked to be declared  bankrupt   while  Nigeria market became flooded  with textile products from India channelled through some European countries.  It is also on record how India we had thought would help us resolve the problem of our jinxed iron and steel industry colluded with some unpatriotic politicians to end our dream of an iron and steel industry.

China has outwitted the West in flooding our markets with substandard goods. As Akin Oyebode recently put it, the celebrated transformation of our airports is largely done by replacing the old tiles with cheap Chinese tiles. Seventy percent of the $500m Chinese loan secured to build new airports will likely go back to Chinese firms. It has also allowed corrupt government officials  bring in unskilled Chinese workers in droves with many of them ending up selling wares in open market or ‘amala and ewedu’ in road-side eateries.

In our struggle to overcome our crisis of underdevelopment and end the cycle of poverty and misery, among our people, the West whose interest it is to keep us down in order to sustain the high standard of living of their people cannot be a trusted ally.

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