Teacher Don Teach Me Nonsense: The Role of the Theatre Artiste in the Niger Delta Crisis
Adeseke, Adefolaju Eben (Ph.D)
This paper investigates the veracity of claims that form the content and thematic concerns of theatrical performances emanating from the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The Niger Delta region of Nigeria had been bedeviled with lots of crises in the past which are associated with oil exploration and exploitation. The efforts of the theatre artistes in the region to use participatory theatre as an attention-getting and subversive instrument to force the government to address their plight of environmental degradation and poverty led to outbreak of insurgency and its attendant woes. Although the tide of the insurgency was stemmed by former President Yar’Adua’s extension of Amnesty to the Niger Delta insurgents, there are still pockets of unrest in the region due to the prevalent sufferings closely associated with oil exploration. The propagandistic content of the works of the theatre artistes that only the Federal government and oil multi-nationals are culpable in the crisis and underdevelopment of the region sustains the violent protests by the people. This paper discusses how theatre practitioners from that region ignored best practices by using their plays and performances to misinform and mislead the people for personal preferences. They influenced the minds of the people negatively which led to the crisis in the region. The paper rests its operations on Theatre for Development (TfD) praxis as a sine qua non for resolving crisis in the Niger Delta and jolting the people to look inward for developmental issues. TfD is a participatory art, a powerful tool that can influence the minds and souls both negatively and positively, depending on how it is constructed. This tool has been tested on the field and has yielded good results by disproving the Niger Delta Artists’ propagandas. One major finding was that the prevailing advocacy that the government and multi-nationals have completely reneged on their responsibility is a mere propaganda. The government and multi-nationals have done and are still doing a lot in alleviating the suffering of the people, though these may not have met the total expectation of the people in the region. The research concludes that the suffering of the people is not unconnected with the corrupt tendencies, avarice and misrepresentation ofpolitical leaders, chiefs and traditional rulers from the region. The Niger Delta problems are more of internal colonialism rather total negligence and insensitivity by the Federal government and oil multinationals. This paper makes suggestions on how to alleviate the suffering of the people through constant government presence, payment of compensation without delay, and through the binoculars of TfD praxis to institute a culture of internal collaboration to engender, harness and sustain development within the communities. The paper encourages and suggests how theatre artiste can embrace, adopt and propagate best practices in the participatory arts/theatre artistry.
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