The theatre of War and Counterculture in the dramaturgy of Ahmed Yerima
Ogheneruro Okpadah, Stephen
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The call for authenticity and originality in the documentation of history has created a counterbalance in historiography and culture. While the intellectual polemic between historians such as Peter Ekeh and Bala Usman on the ownership of the oil in the Niger Delta and which Nigerian ethnic group is superior to the other continue to pervade the Nigerian historical landscape, playwrights such as Ahmed Yerima have resorted to creating a new left in opposition to ideologies of older playwrights, and thereby creating spaces for what this paper terms the Theatre of War. Consequently, we examine Yerima’s ethnographic play, Abobaku as counterculture to Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman. The research also investigate various dimensions to the theatre of war in Nigerian dramaturgy. The study uses content analysis to explore the poetics of counterculture in Yerima’s Abobaku. The paper is anchored upon Talcott Parson’s theory of Counterculture, which is a tradition that poses itself in total opposition to a dominant culture. It takes the values of the dominant culture and redefines them negatively. Our study reveals that while Death and the King’s Horseman is rooted in the advocacy for the ideo-aesthetic function of the Abobaku praxis, Yerima’s play, Abobaku is a counterbalance to this praxis and recommends an abolishment of human ritual. This paper concludes that although Yerima is critical of Soyinka’s positive stand on the Ogunian motif and ritual scapegoatism, we must understand that the (Yerima’s) liberation ideology in his ethnographic play, Abobaku, stands on the shoulders of the giant (Soyinka). In other words, his dramaturgy is lifted up and borne aloft on the gigantic stature of Soyinka’s theatre. We recommends that budding Nigerian playwrights should endeavour to further examine the Abobaku motif in their works, to facilitate a fully fledged discourse on human ritual and sacrifice in the Nigerian theatre enterprise.