Thursday, July 18, 2024

We Need New Voices


By Veronica Elias Ugian

  • Title: The Rally
  • Author: Akanji Nasiru
  • Publisher: Kraft Books Limited
  • Number of pages: 124
  • Year of publication: 2018
  • Category: Drama

The Rally by Akanji Nasiru seeks to analyse the impact of the social injustices that have resulted in the enslavement of Africans by their fellow Africans and prevented Nigeria from attaining meaningful development. The play, which is divided into four episodes, is a political satire that examines the fight for change in an underdeveloped community held hostage by a cantankerous elite. The underlying tensions in the community are heightened by the struggle of youths who have learnt the ways of political justice and would like to see it in their community.

In Episode One, ‘Gathering Clouds’, the community has recently been recognised as a Local Government Area. The campaign teams of Chief Jayeola and Chief Oladele are shown in heated confrontation. Both men are vying for the position of Local Government Chairman. The latter is described by the former as authoritarian. Their rift is eventually settled by the Baale, but the episode also makes it clear that the youths of the community, led by Jide, have already sent a letter asking Joe, the founder and principal of the community college, to run for the same position. Unfortunately, Joe, also known as Oga, is not interested in the position.

Episode Two, ‘Faint Rumbles’, centres on a meeting of the Baale, Jide, another youth, Ajayi, and the council of chiefs. Jide and Ajayi have been summoned to confirm the allegation that their campaign has caused havoc in the community. The youths declare that they are ready to oppose the older generation. Jide meets with fierce opposition in the person of Chief Otun but he stands his ground. He remarks:

Kabiesi, I asked my question in all innocence. A peace meeting was what we were invited to. Kabiesi’s questions were beginning to make me fear that I or my fellow youths are being treated like the ones disturbing the peace (pp 51–52).

Even though the Baale gives him bad advice – to convince him to abandon the plan of the youths to put forward a credible candidate for the post of Chairman – Jide stands his ground. At the conclusion of the meeting, Chief Otun promises to create dissension among the youths and split Jide’s camp in order for Chief Oladele to emerge, unopposed, as the Chairman.

Jide meets Joe to talk him into accepting the proposal as the youths’ candidate for Chairman, but Joe quizzes him about his seemingly stupid career choice. Jide responds that it is nobler to serve one’s nation.

Episode Three, ‘Lightning and Thunder’ begins:

NARRATOR: The road to change is full of thorns and sharp stones. What does it cost to change life for the better? What price does the reformer pay to bring about the dream of a happy state? How many lives have been snuffed out on the road to the transformation of a dream into reality? The struggle for change includes the struggle to overcome the resistance to change, and the battle is not so much against backwardness, but against the agents of backwardness.

Early in this episode, Joe receives the news of a road accident involving Jide. He goes to the palace to meet the chiefs who feign ignorance of the accident, although they know that Chief Otun is the person behind it. Jide survives but is hospitalised just a day before a mass rally in the community. This unforeseen event – and the mischievousness of the chiefs supported by the Baale – causes Joe to rethink his self-imposed mandate.

Episode Four, ‘Showers of Hope’, opens with the campaign rally where the youths are downcast at the news of their leader’s hospitalisation. Is this turn of events strong enough to further sway Joe into joining the contest for Chairmanship? Will the community be left to the same set of leaders whom the youths do not want? The play offers interesting answers.

In this play, Nasiru eruditely portrays the animosity and rivalry inherent in Nigerian politics. He also encourages the younger generation to push for change and not settle for less than they deserve because today belongs to them.

Photograph: ‘Ghana Elections on the BBC’ by BBC World Service

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Veronica Elias Ugian
Veronica Elias Ugian
Veronica Elias Ugian is an award-winning poet and was a Wawa Book Review Young Literary Critics Fellow. She was on the long list of the 2018 Nigerian Students Poetry Prize (NSPP). She writes under the pen name Veralyn Chinenye, and moderates the 365-day Poetry for Advocacy Challenge on

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