A Critical Review of Diran Ademiju-Bepo’s No More the Taming Hawks
As a post-Osofisan generation playwright, ‘Diran Ademiju-Bepo in his latest play No More the Taming Hawks, sparks a revolution against the series of failed Republics thrown up by the political system in our country, Nigeria. Using the African total theatre tradition of ritual and storytelling narratives, he conveys his message(s) with passion to the nation.
Painted on the canvas of the metaphor of Flights to depict Nigeria, and in doing this, he believes as a nation, we had a Take Off moment in history. This is likened to the military take-over of power, especially the January 15, 1966 coup led by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu, in the name of redeeming the image of the nation; since, for him and his team, the nation had been run aground. Just to wake up and discover that the military intervention was only but a worse narrative.
In describing the spine of incidents in the play, the playwright whets the reader’s appetite thus, on the blurb of the attractive 79-page book, divided into ten parts: the Take Off, Flights One to Eight and the Landing, from the stable of Dynasty Gold Books and Publishers, with the imprint, DynastyTales:
Several seasons ago. In the present. The King Dove dies… The throne becomes vacant. A dove returns from the defense academy, only to usurp the throne of his childhood friends. He suspends the customs and traditions, disbands the Council of Elders, transforms himself into His Hawkcellency, the Commander-in-chief of the Hawks Forces, AJAGUNLA ASAGBADE and invites his friend to join him…
On the threshold of glory for the land, his Chief Hawk of the Land, ASARINLE stages a ‘palace coup’, forcing him to abdicate, only for him to also preside over another season of fake promises… The people’s dreams and hope flee into oblivion. Chaos and anarchy follow… Three moons later, another Hawk, ADABAOYE rides in on the crest of the bungled dreams…
As a global parable relevant for us as a nation, the playwright pricks our conscience and thinking faculties never to forget in a hurry, the litany of empty promises we have been faced with by a series of our leaders. The playwright believes that the nation’s Constitution cries for a review, but it has been proven that our political actors and gladiators are never ready for such. Many burning issues of national concern are raised in the play: the incessant clamour for restructuring, the threats of secession, farmers-herders clashes, high profile looting on an industrial scale, terrorism and malevolent insurgency that threaten the peaceful coexistence of the nation.
The promise of Change by the government of the day, for the playwright is nothing to even mention, for there is still never any change. Through Awoyale, priest of the Oracle in the play, we read: “… It is only those in the world who are beating a new melody; a new rhythm, which you mistake for a shift… The regency will be until the contamination is purified.” (p.13). In spite of these static and tragic moments in the country, we seem to be a people who never learn from our history, a people who do things today, repeat same tomorrow and expect a new and better result. In lamentation, Lameto, the human rights activist in the play says: “We are a cursed people, a forgotten race. Never knowing their rights, never learning, never willing to learn from our past. Like a people without a conscience… “(23).
The present political dispensation is seen as a sham, upon promises made, as our major roads are now littered with children begging for daily living, people dying of hunger and starvation, etc. The playwright believes that we need the wisdom of the broom, coincidentally is the deceptive symbol of the present All Progressives Congress, APC administration, which has to be swept off the political stage as the next generation is struggling for the coveted throne.
OBANLA: …My people, the wisdom of the broom. That is what the Oracle was talking about. Let us sweep away all unwanted deposits the Hawks through Asagbade may have left in our land.
TOMIDE: And even the hawks themselves must be swept off forever.
This, the playwright believes must be done to avoid sit-tight-syndrome as the country has been bedeviled with the numerous attempts by our political leaders to promise one term in office but after testing the corridors of power, will want to remain on the throne forever, irrespective of their poor performance in governance. Upon ascending power, they do promise not to stay ‘one day longer than necessary, but, alas, no sooner than later, those promises will be swept under the carpet, and fake, unconvincing reasons will be given as to why they need a second chance to serve.
Lamenting the rather unfortunate situation the nation finds itself at present, the playwright puts to us the tragedy of how our innocent farmers are being butchered on a daily basis and their source of livelihood being destroyed. In Lametos words: “… Our land has now been turned into a den, surrounded by arms-bearing hawks, who destroy people’s livelihood in the name of fending for their animals. They take life with such impunity never known in our history. Leaving a trail of carnage, destruction, death, poverty, division and evil in its wake. And you still say you will… “(p. 59).
This is not unconnected with the realities the nation is faced with these days: villages waking up to inhumane attacks claiming millions of lives and properties worth millions. Yet the problem seems to have a sacred and royal backing that even cows have become senior citizens of the country and tagged ‘Untouchable” for the life of a cow is now worth the ransom of the destruction of an entire village.
Issues of undeserved detention of individuals who clamour for restructuring and secession are also condemned by the play while Diran Ademiju-Bepo proffers a solution, a solution he believes will end all forms of taming by the leaders, like hawks in doves skin. And the solution to him is a collective will and effort in form of a revolution just as the doves, led by the elders and heirs, do away with their intrigues and differences and become united against the taming hawks. He calls on traders, farmers, market men and women, students, teachers, religious leaders, etc., to join hands in one accord and fight against all enemies of the state to salvage the nation.
The playwright tells us of how politicians make empty promises just to gain power. Just like Winston Churchill said “Politicians don’t believe what they say, and they are surprised when people believe them”. And the most tragic thing for us as a nation is when we fail to even show these politicians a way out, instead we re-elect them. As said, we need statesmen, not politicians, just as Professor Patrice Lumumba will say, “The politician looks to the next election, and the statesman looks to the next generation” (Lumumba 2017).
Ours being a country of only politicians, and no statesmen, the play raises a few questions, such as: is it plausible that the playwright believes, just like Asagbade, that our politicians who have phobia for truth, and longer throat for power, as the Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka once put it: “the hunger for power is in the DNA of Nigerians” will be willing to abdicate their seats no matter how poor they govern? Aside that fact, is it possible, considering our political history, for a leader to abdicate by some kind of conviction as depicted by Asagbade, the antagonist in the play? Does the power transition between him and Asarinle not appear contrived, like the Greek Deus ex machina, too rapid that one could hardly see the connection?
A not-too-circumspect reader or spectator would wonder why Asarinle has to die before Rohunfade takes over power and we are told the gods of the land intervene as it does not seem commonsensical for a leader to necessarily die for another to emerge. Perhaps that is the moral of this whole narrative.
In conclusion, ‘Diran Ademiju-Bepo has come to prove the classical critic, Longinus wrong, who once gave the verdict of no more masterpieces here. No More the Taming Hawks is a master piece from all indication, written on the model of the past, addressing contemporary burning challenges of Nigeria and other lands. It pictures the nation on flight, proffering for us, a solution to our unfortunate situation as a country. A drama which is timely and apt in the issues raised, and a must read for all patriotic sons and daughters of this nation for the rescue of the nation in the hands of long lineage of taming hawks.
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