Review Of Etima Okon Usanga’s Never Again By Chimnemezu Nwaeze

NAME OF PLAY: NEVER AGAIN

PLAYWRIGHT: ETIMA OKON USANGA

PAGES: 92 PAGES

YEAR OF PUBLICATION: NOVEMBER, 2022

ISBN: 978978794903

PUBLISHER: CALM HOUSE RESOURCES ABUJA, NIGERIA.

REVIEWER: CHIMNEMEZU NWAEZE

 

A QUESTION OF THE TRUE WINNERS OF ELECTIONS AND  BENEFICIARIES OF THE DIVIDENDS OF DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA A REVIEW OF “NEVER AGAIN” A PLAY BY ETIMA OKON USANGA

Abstract:

This review is to analyse the wanton gimmicks and crimes by partisan politicians and political parties and their bid to deny the people victory, good governance, development, and the dividends of democracy in Nigeria. It’s obvious that justice, equity, and fairness are the ingredients needed for nation-building as well as in solving national challenges. These values are enshrined in  14 (1), (3), and (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). Even sub-section 4 of that Section 14 further talks about justice, equity, and fairness in governance. These provisions in our constitutions are made to provide social justice, national patriotism & national unity. It is important to say that when there’s justice, fairness, and equity in governance, peace, progress, and prosperity for all become achievable. The journey to an impurity-ridden country starts with the voting into power of corrupt and unfit leaders because of financial and material inducements. However, by all means, people should stand their ground, be firm, and say no to votes selling, so that they will have the morality and legality to say no to maladministration in Nigeria knowing that a nation that vilifies truthful people can’t escape the shackles of nepotism, corruption, and underdevelopment. But whenever justice, equity, and fairness are trampled upon by those in authority, corruption, strife, and insecurity become the order of the day.

INTRODUCTION:

Literature as a creative art is a tool that corrects the ills of society through its three genres (PDP) Prose, Drama, and Poetry. Through these, literature tends to lampoon, critic, and make jest of the ill of society. The nature of a written and performed Drama avails the interpretation of the acts of man by way of performance on stage in the presence of the audience who learn from it and thus makes it a complete work of art even though one can also read a play and through its acts,  scenes, and settings in time, place and atmosphere derive some worth pleasure, information, and education into the ways of life and the things that troubles a particular people and society. Never Again is a drive into election rigging, crimes, warfare, ballot snatching, creation of bandit groups, wanton thuggery, looting, bribery, and corruption from the highest to the lowest levels of governance/leadership which are the existing vices perpetrated by political parties, stalwarts, and politicians on their quest to selfishly take over or retain power and divers leadership positions in the country thereby crumbling the peace and all-round development of the country and its citizenry. This shows the absolute wickedness and overwhelming daftness of party members to the new Electoral Act and the level political parties and their stalwarts do not really understand what it takes and also are not ready to equip themselves to be ready for good leadership. It shows the level at which money politics has destroyed the country, in that, the highest political member that declares surplus in every gathering and throws money around represents the party whether or not such a person possesses any quality or qualification to lead. Corrupt politicians as seen every day in our society seeks to exploit every possible mistake in the Electoral Act or the Voting system to their advantage and this, the writer very much displayed in “Never Again”. This particular war against the progress of our nation remains an overcomable impediment that stampedes the growth of the nation as it has for some time now become the order of the day but the newly amended Electoral Act has closed all gaps for subsequent manipulations. However, it is on this premise that this review of Etima, Usanga Okon’s “Never Again” Focuses on finding answers to the QUESTION OF THE TRUE WINNERS OF ELECTIONS AND BENEFICIARIES OF THE DIVIDENDS OF DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA.

REVIEW

The well-crafted play was detailed enough that it unravels the way and manner political parties bribe government officials to get what they want. It’s a formal exposition of the level of ferment in our legal sanity where lawyers who are supposed to be the last hope of the common man are used as Mephistopheles to invade different offices with their evil plans which helps to frustrate the country and the common man. A good example of this is seen in episode 2, page 8 as seen below:

“Party Stalwart 1: (to nobody in particular) Was what we offered to our man over there not enough? Could it be that those in the corridor weren’t saluted well? and as “Our Legal Adviser has been directed by the National Executive Committee, to carefully study the newly amended Electoral Act, with a view to finding any loophole which we can exploit. That’s all I have to say at this point. (yields the floor)”. It further exposes the level at which politicians use vulnerable Youths’ and most times end up not keeping to their bargains after the Elections. They dislodge these Youths’ and by so doing turn them to the mayhem of the society just like we currently have the Boko Haram and the Bandits ravaging the Northern part of Nigeria today. this is well captured by the playwright to drive his points home which is well seen in episode 2, page 10 in the statements of Aradu a party stalwart of the ruling political party, National Unity Restoration Alliance NURA as painted by the playwright:

“Aradu: (expresses displeasure) Every wise person washes his plates after eating. Our Party hierarchy ought to have fulfilled the promises made to them. This use-and-dump mentality has to stop. We all know how the boys worked tirelessly for our Party’s victory at the last General Elections”.

Episode 3 of “Never Again” Admonishes all electorate to be involved in the electioneering process of the country, read the 2022 Amended Electoral Act, at least to be firm that votes will count. Educate everyone in the nooks and crannies who has gotten to the age of voting even though afraid that their votes may not count to make sure they get their PVCs and also join others in educating everyone about the new laws of coming Elections in Nigeria to make people believe that their votes will count. That people should also study the body language, antecedents, and utterances of the various party candidates gunning for whatever political position there is which remains the only way corruption, bribery and the man-know-man sickness of unemployment in Nigeria will be abated. This, the playwright created from Pages 17 to 19 of episode 3 of the masterpiece “Never Again” is the conversations between the Newspaper vendor, Justus, and Benedict at a roadside in jigida.

The  4th and 5th Episodes unravel the confusion different National Working Committees and their Election Campaign Committee members currently face as regards to how they can manipulate and buy the electorates to vote in their favour. It all started with wanting to buy the security personnel that oversees the voting processes at each poll which is no longer going to yield positive results as they can no longer do any of such in their favour since election results will now be transmitted electronically immediately after the end of voting exercises in each poling unity all over the country. This Episode also shows that there are still few good politicians like Chief Festus who have not sold his conscience to the devil; he appreciates the good work the legislatures did with the newly amended Electoral Act. In his words “Our Federal Parliamentarians put in enormous time and resources in the amendment of the Electoral Act to ensure a more credible, transparent, and fair process. In fact, to be honest, for once, they were patriotic…” He also went ahead to defile the political evil-odds and mantra of Nigerian Political parties and politicians which is the evil of ‘Party loyalty before the nation or the electorate’ which makes them the most heathen and self-centered politicians which is the trigger and sole reason why most political parties see Elections as warfare against their watchdogs, and the electorate who stand as the nation. Chief Festus the party secretary in his stand disagrees with the Chairman of their party,  NURA in a heated argument as seen below from Episode 5, page 23: “Sir Erastus: (explains) You see, there is what is called symmetric and asymmetric warfare, but that’s a discussion for another time (elucidates). All I’m saying is that we can garner the votes our great party needs to win the election by engaging in sublime warfare.”

“Chief Festus: Mr. Chairman, it’s obvious that you’re inclined to war, whether sublime or not. Violent contest is antithetical to democracy…

Sir Erastus:

(incensed) Chief, you have repeatedly made me believe you’re not on our side. Do you want our Party to lose during the forthcoming General Election?”

“Chief Festus: (replies calmly) I’m a party man who believes that electoral victory shouldn’t be for the Political Party alone but for the people and the Law”.

The instances below also unveil the level at which politicians and political parties go to sell their mandate against the good of the people. This is seen in the words of the NURA party Chairman: “Sir Erastus: Who doesn’t know that Political Parties exist for the people? Daylight unmasks moles!. Chief”.

Chief Festus, even though the NURA party Secretary is still a man with a better view of democratic systems and thus never wanted to mortgage the future of the nation and the coming generation and also, knowing that a  revolution had just begun with the newly amended Electoral Act, alienated himself from NURA, a political party like the many political parties in Nigeria from time immemorial till date;  who is still head bent on bribing themselves to victory at the coming polls. in fact, NURA is painted as one of the many political parties and politicians in Nigeria who derive joy in empoverishing majority of the masses and making them unemployed and hungry in order for them to easily buy votes with tokens and plates of porridge. After all, according to them “Esau sold his birthright to Jacob simply because of a plate of porridge”.

Episodes 6 and 7 which rolled from pages 27 to 35 unveil the new strategies which party Election committees and their Candidates from all levels are taking; ready to maneuver the anti-graft agencies who they see as the new Sheriffs in town with their eyes everywhere looking out for politicians who withdraw outrageous amounts of money from the banks, how they made them and what they use them for. The playwright unveils this as getting dollars from the banks through their agents whom they tagged as Dollarati. They chose dollars to reduce the quantity of cash to be moved around and nd later on changes them to Naira. This time around instead of moving from house to house like madam Emu their party Woman Leader suggested, especially in rural areas to engage in operation show your PVC and pledge to vote for our party’s candidates and get food items, money, and clothes to help woo and money-wash or buy the heads and people of the groups in every areas and suburb they decided that they engage in a general party sensitization/rally involving people of all ages, strata, and mindsets to sweet talk and buy them as usual.

Episodes 8 and 9 which ran from pages  36 through 51 are obviously the highest point of tension. These Episodes are considered the most skillfully, well-crafted, and right-on-time intervention of the conscious emancipator whom the playwright rightfully gifted the name Saviour as if to say his parents already knew about the huge part he is to play in salvaging the recurring ferment and the previous futile struggles towards enthroning a new mentality to elections, mass reorientation, performance and leadership in his motherland. NURA in their planned political party rally/sensitization began with the political sugar-coated gimmicks, promises, and apologies as always seen in our society today. This would make one begin to imagine what obviously failed politicians mean when they say “Never Again” when their party and its candidates fail to drive good leadership to the nooks and crannies of the nation thereby causing all sorts of agonizing pains and unimaginable penury to the masses which leaves one with the question of what happened in all of the past excruciating years?.

The rally allowed a well-articulated and intelligent young man to get the audience to speak after they thought they had succeeded in wooing the crowd with the gifts and tokens they had promised and started sharing. To their total disappointment, the young man seizes the opportunity to open the eyes of the masses as he put it to the ruling party that they have failed and those apologies will not bring back those who have long died. He refuted their gimmick with the arrogant behaviours of party stalwarts and their candidates who had earlier started with force and deception. The people on realizing he was saying the obvious truth rejected every bit of their bribes and gifts as they continually chanted “Never Again” and left the premises of the rally also protecting Saviour from being held and roughly handled.

The next was where Saviour was being rough-handled by three thugs at a food vendor while he was eating. The political thugs tried to kidnap him even as he stood his ground querying to know who they were and what he had done. He tried to fight back but was dragged to the floor without any help from other customers there who claimed to be minding their business apart from the advanced food vendor who questioned the molesting of his customer and distortion of her business. The food Vendored being old and helpless was overpowered and her phone ceased too before a stranger came in from outside to intervene although he smartly impersonated to be a police officer which led to the fleeing of the thugs when they couldn’t defend their identity as they also claimed to be police officers when the Stranger queried and swiftly brought out and put back his National Identity Card to seal his performance as a true police officer. This is vividly illustrated by the playwright in Episode 9 page 48 through the stranger who educated the customers and everyone about the evil of maintaining Silence because of ignorance or fear while evil looms. Listen to the conversations:  “Stranger:

(states) Maintaining silence in the face of tyranny is a disservice to humanity!

Customer 1: (offers explanation) We didn’t get involved

because we thought they were Policemen. You know how they sometimes behave.

Customer 2: (suddenly finds his voice) Yes! We didn’t want to be arrested for obstructing a Police Officer in his line of duty.

Stranger:

(enraged) Just listen to yourself (states) Politely asking any security personnel the reason for the arrest of an individual doesn’t constitute obstruction of lawful duty. (advises) Raise alarm if you can’t approach any Security personnel. Do you know whether or not they would have killed Saviour by now if they successfully took him away?”.

Saviour having gotten acquainted with the stranger and the two customers at the food vendor agreed to register a movement which they called “NEVER AGAIN” aimed at all-around sensitization of the masses on the newly amended Electoral Act and the evil of vote buying and selling. This they resorted to achieve through mass sensitization in social media and also by printing and sharing handbills and banners that read all the penalties of Vote buying and selling in the newly amended Electoral Act. This is creatively captured in conversations in episode  9 page 49 which reads:

“Stranger:

(remarks) The wickedness of leaders doesn’t destroy a nation as much as the silence of citizens in the face of evil acts. (Admonishes) Don’t sit on the fence again! It’s time to take the Bull by the horns.

Episode 10 which ran from pages 51 to 58 brings us into a world where selfish and evil leaders come all out and are ready to sniff life out of anyone who comes against their evil ambition especially such as the recent abortion of the NURA party campaign and sensitization rally expectations by Saviour who’s team is already out with their NAM movement as seen all over the media and has begun to gain grands. NAM is geared towards the dividend of democracy, election, and nation-building and has already begun to win souls as expected. In the interest of NURA, Saviour and his team members are faced with being wiped out as the NURA party leaders and candidates gather to discuss their next line of action after the previous was murdered by Martin Luther King Jr. Gene of Saviour.

Episodes 11 to 15 which ran from pages 58 to 92 is what is known as the carefully written denouement which unveils to all how Saviour began to disguise himself and continued to hold meetings with his team members on how to successfully educate the masses on how to vote rightly. The candidate of NURA disagrees with their party chairman on their planned MA which is to militarize the election and take over power which was the only option they had after all their attempt to get to a Computer Virus which was meant to corrupt and manipulate the results of the General Election failed. The NURA party candidates decided to engage in town hall meetings to get into the minds of the people but fails at every attempt as the Never Again Movement already exposed every one of their evil plans. The Chairman of NURA was afterward arrested on the day of the general election after all his attempts to execute his operation MA which was uncovered by the DSS. Election results were announced and the people’s choice emerged thus it was a victory for the masses which ushered in the nation they had long wished and fought for.

Conclusively, the playwright is a writer that has successfully created his creative style of writing which remains in the arm bit of the compulsory grammatical, structural forms and rules of playwriting. His use of episodes to depict acts is worthwhile and also differentiates and makes him a unique playwright. His dictions are apt, everyday, and grand as he does everything possible to communicate well to all levels of individuals in the society in which the masterpiece is targeted at. The playwright is a master in the act of description and the game of purgation of emotions; he is aware of the importance of humour, adages, and idioms in a play as each of those helped him introduce new ideas in each of the 15 episodes of the play

The play is a prophetic mirror of the rebirth of the new Nigeria that is currently been fought for by intentional Nigerian Youths and every well-meaning Nigerian against evil-minded political kingpins, godfathers, stalwarts, and carrier politicians; those who see leadership as their birthright even at the point of their death or at the detriment of the growth of the nation. Those who have nothing to offer but rather to further sink the nation until it gets to an irredeemable state but Never Again will such happen. This, therefore, is calling on all to read Never Again to further learn how to take back Nigeria and rewrite our reality.

*********

Chimnemezu Nwaeze is the Lead Administrator of Wake Up Africa Initiative WAi, a Nigerian Writer/Author, and the  Secretary of the Association of Nigerian Authors ANA, Abuja chapter; you can reach him with nwaezevincentchimnemezu@gmail.com