Wole Soyinka’s “Alapata Apata” is a drama text that reconfirms the playwright as a brutal satirist who writes about socio-political contemporary issues in Nigeria and beyond to stir up masses towards revolutionary actions. In “Alapata Apata”, Wole Soyinka interrogates the lopsidedness of the contemporary Nigerian society, ranging from abuse of power, bad governance, cultural alienation to the wide gap between the so-called leaders and the led.
To drive home his point about the neo-colonial decadence of Nigeria, Soyinka deployed the elements of satire to dramatise human follies in “Alapata Apata”.
Themes in Alapata Apata
Alapata Apata discusses several themes that portray the Nigerian contemporary situation. The text dramatizes social, political, cultural and economic concerns among others. In this essay, some of these themes shall be explained.
1. Misuse of Power and Political Corruption
Set in contemporary Nigeria, “Alapata Apata” explores the depth of misuse of power and political corruption among elites in Nigeria. In the play, all the political leaders are corrupt, greedy and power drunk. For instance, in “Alapata Apata”, General, a representative of the military strand of the political institutions will do anything “to sit on natural resources”. He mobilises his troop to capture a site that he believes contains some minerals by force. He orders them to:
“shoot any interloper in sight, burn any mining license or certificate of occupancy anyone tries to display and deal with the claimant with extreme and terminal prejudice.” (97)
Accurately, this illustrates the repulsive sycophancy of the Nigerian elites and their craving for resource control. Since the discovery of oil in Nigeria till now, the ruling elites control several oil blocs and are still penchant for more wealth.
Typically, in Nigeria, politics thrives on godfatherism. Every political figure or candidate in an election has one or more godfathers who control them. In “Alapata Apata”, Wole Soyinka dramatises how politicians run from pillar to post, seeking endorsement during an election. Daanielebo, the failed bricklayer who suddenly becomes the governor of his state represents this crop of individuals. He talks about how he slavishly grabs political power through the influence of his godfather. Hear him:
“I prostrated myself to him. I licked his boot. I let him scrape his boots on my head. He taught me the dirty tricks I know, tricks I have improved on.”(138)
This is one of the consequences of cluelessness and the self-seeking preoccupation of the ruling elites. As exposed in “Alapata Apata”, the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited is now moribund due to the cluelessness and negligence of the government. Despite being the largest steel mill in Nigeria, starting since 1979, the steel mill was mismanaged and remains incomplete. Through his character, Alaba, Soyinka describes the company as “the proverbial stone that gathers no moss” and produces a total sum of Zero after forty years of existence.
4. Man’s Inhumanity to Man
Another theme that can be found in “Alapata Apata” is man’s inhumanity to man. In the play, we see the sorry and poor conditions of the Nigerian people under poor leadership. Soyinka portrays Nigerians as a people plagued by poor electricity, insecurity, bad roads and several other kinds of calamities. Wole Soyinka also stresses the fact that workers and pensioners are maltreated by the government and their officials.
In Alaba’s words, “Pensioners queue at government pension office every month and faint or drop dead while waiting to collect pension”.
Sadly, this is Nigeria where this inhumanity to man makes the headlines every day. How corrupt officials loot pension funds—the report on how over thirty billion nairas meant for over four thousand retirees was stolen by top government officials in 2012 could have served as a backdrop to this thematic discussion in “Alapata Apata”.
5. Cultural Alienation
Away from political issues, Alapata Apata also deals with the theme of cultural alienation. Wole Soyinka expresses concern over the rate at which Nigerians now abandon their cultural values, practices and religion. Through the character of Dele, we see how Nigerian now prefers “oyinbo wedding” to traditional wedding. In the case of Dele, his Oyinbo wedding could not save his failing marriage.
Also, Soyinka is not happy with the way students pass foreign subjects at the expense of indigenous ones. Senior boy for one fails Yoruba but passes English in school. The linguistic fracas among the characters is also relevant in the interrogation of a comity of people that is drifting away from its own cultural values and heritage.
As a result of the raised issues, Wole Soyinka dramatises the rising tide of revolution in Nigeria and Beyond. In “Alapata Apata”, Alaba and Teacher represent this category. Alaba is a major symbol of social change while Teacher represents the conscience of the people. Truly the world is crooked and all gone “askew”. This is why protests and movements are being championed across Nigeria by revolutionaries who risk their lives for the liberation of their people.
From the viewpoint of post-colonial and modern African literature, we have seen how Wole Soyinka dramatises the contemporary Nigeria Saga in “Alapata Apata”. The themes of abuse of power, corruption, man’s inhumanity to man, cultural disintegration, revolution etc are fairly discussed as seen in the text.
- Kehinde, M.A: Alapata Apata Dramaturgy: “Thematic Pre-occupations in Wole Soyinka’s Alapata Apata.”
- Anote, Ajeluorou (2014): “A Satirical Take on the Abuse of Power” : Isokoland
In my next article, some of the elements of satire that are deployed in “Alapata Apata” shall be discussed. If you like this article, kindly comment below and share it with your friends. Thank you.