Laughter appears to stand in need of an echo…It must have a social signification. Lawrence Levine, Black Culture and Black Consciousness, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977,321
In his latest novel, A Man of the People, Chinua Achebe has delineated a typical representative of the emergent bourgeoisie. If you have read the novel, you will remember that Chief Honourable Nanga, M.P., is the corrupt uncultured Minister of Culture in a corrupt regime of a newly independent African state. In a country where the majority of peasants and workers live in shacks and can only afford pails as lavatories, the Minister lives in a princely seven-bathroomed mansion with seven gleaming silent action water closets. He arranges for the tarmacking of roads, but only when his buses are about to arrive. The ten luxurious buses have been supplied to him by the British Amalgamated on a never-never basis. Elections are a democratic farce in which bribery, thuggery, and brutal force are used, with the connivance and financial backing of British commercial interests, to enable Nanga and his henchmen to return to power unopposed.These, I am afraid, are the realities of the contemporary African scene. How have Aluko and Soyinka reacted to them? James Ngugi, “Satire in Nigeria” in Pieterse Cosmo and Donald Munro (eds.), Protest and Conflict in (...)
1This rather lengthy citation from Ngugi’s study of satire in Nigeria may strike some as irritating – and justifiably so – but it is important that the mood be set ab initio; important that is, that the ills be called by their names. Ngugi made his study in 1969, at a time when Nigerian society was experimenting with self-governance and discovering the ugly realities of corruption andpolitical deceit.