THE LITERARY ARTIST AS A SOCIOPOLITICAL REFORMER: A STUDY OF CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE’S AMERICANAH AND WALE OKEDIRAN’S TENANTS OF THE HOUSE
- Background to the Study
Literature mirrors life. Through it, images of the society are created in different forms, weather beautiful or ugly. Literary artists are usually inspired by events in the society and other psycho-social experiences of theirs. These events and experiences are recreated in literature to assume human and social essence.
In Africa in general and Nigeria in particular, the citizens face a lot of problems, which include; lack of social welfare for the people, absence of quality leadership and robust legislative and judicial institutions. Thus, these have reduced the quality of life of the citizens and inhibit the socioeconomic, technological and sundry advancement and development of the nation. In a similar vein, it has changed the orientation and perceptions of some Nigerians about their nation and the world. It has made them to see other nations of the world (especially those of the west) as a sort of “Heaven on earth” which they must spend all their fortune to get to and Nigeria a kind of “dungeon” which they must strive to leave at all cost for a rosy life elsewhere. Some of these constitute the artistic preoccupation of a contemporary Nigerian writer.
Emezue (2012.1) gives credence to this opinion in the following words:
Literature constitutes a medium for expressing an author’s psycho-emotional state and position on sundry social, cultural, economic and political matters and a medium for displaying his artistry.
If it is accepted that literary works is an artistic medium for expressing emotions, it can also be accepted that these emotions are products of what have been experienced physically in a real, socially built world of ideologies events, circumstances, tasks, obligations etc.
However, since these writers are on board the socio-economic, cultural and political ship of their nation, they consider it pertinent to join in the struggle to retrieve the ship from the wrong hands of the lethal captains or risk being capsized. In relation to the foregoing, it is therefore necessary that the literary artists cannot stand aloof and watch without contributing their quotas to stop the anomalies which are going on in many African nations.
A literary artist is imbued with a divine order. He is placed at par with a prophet in the society, that is why his comments on the sociopolitical issues carry an air of finality among his people. Ogbazi (2002:78) avers that,
A literary artist may employ the vehicle of his own imagination towards a re-definition of a universal question. He may aim at rejecting an existing social order, or his main target may be to paint a picture of social anarchy. Furthermore, his intention could be to make a mockery of illusory existence of harmony in a given society or he may hinge his interest on the exposition 0f negative aspects of the human person that stultify growth and impede social (economic, political, and technological advancement and) development.
Ogbazi continues that, the end result or a literary artist’s mission is to impose an order on the variegated and myriad experiences of the people in the society.
This is in consonance with the words of George Thomas (in Rizwan Ahmad), “The poet speaks not for himself only but for his fellow men. His cry is their cry, which only he can utter.”
Speaking in the same tone, Ahmad(online) states that,
Instead of weapons of destruction, the contemporary world bally needs the weapons of mass instruction.
Instead of military tanks, the world needs book tanks which can infuse love for human beings among the mass.
Taking this posture also, Akporobaro (2012:34) writes:
The African novel is no longer a narrative impliciter, a means of entertainment as it was for E.M. Foster, Samuel Richardson and Gustav Flaubert. It is an aesthetic, defamiliarised or alienated exploration of man’s interior or psychological landscape.
In addition it is a psychopathology of society and of human soul, revealing its social ills and pointing towards better modes of living as human beings created in the image of God. Like priests, pastors and the judiciary and the police force, the novelists’ implicit agenda is man’s social salvation, his moral reform and the creation of a just and upright society… (34)
These abnormalities have inundated the African literary landscape with writings of functionalism and commitment. Some writers have written extensively in this direction and used such to document the ugly postcolonial conditions of African countries and as well used such writings to proffer solutions to it, while others used theirs to awaken the consciousness of the masses to the realities of their circumstances.
Against this background, two Nigerian novelists Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche and Wale Okediran have emerged to address some of these sociopolitical problems through the reformational approach in their novels. In these novels, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche and Tenants of the House by wale Okediran, some of the sociopolitical impediments were examined by the authors respectively. From her own view, Adiche presents the issue of lack of social and economic welfare from the leaders to the led, which has invariable led to lack of trust in our leaders, apathy and hopelessness which engendered mass exoduses of Nigerian citizens to foreign countries. Similarly, she dissected global hypocrisy and discrimination on a wider range. America and Britain are expected to be an ideal place to be, but the citizens of other countries are subjected to discriminatory and stringent living conditions. She exposes the poor living conditions of immigrants – non-US and British citizens who found themselves in their countries.
In Tenants of the House, wale Okediran enacted the political machinations and chicanery that are characteristic of our national polity. He paints a vivid picture of our political landscape and the category of individuals whom we elect to occupy the hallowed chambers of our national assembly. He maKes an appropriate dissection of a failed legislative institution.
He creates a political consciousness in us, so that we should be mindful of the type of individuals we elected to man public offices, especially those who are ill-equipped educationally who passed their Senior School Certificate Examination (SSCE) narrowly, and hardly makes any attempt to acquire tertiary education. Most of these political actors do not go there to advance the cause of the people but to enrich themselves and their political godfathers, because they were never prepared to assume any executive or legislative function. These shall be uncovered in the course of this study.
- Statement Of The Problem
A look into the sociological landscape of the country will reveal its hydra-headed problems; lack of reliable economic sustainability of the country, poor leadership quality, lack of qualitative education and high level of unemployment. These have engendered corruption, embezzlement of public fund, lack of security, armed robbery, kidnapping, prostitution, social and religious strife and ethnic bigotries. This research sets out to examine some of these sociopolitical problems through the reformational approach of the authors and the didactic function of literature using Chinamanda Ngozi Adiche’s Americanah and wale Okediran’s Tenants of the House.
1.3 Objective of the Study
Through the examination of the issues raised on the statement of the problem, the study will do the following among others
- Highlight the sociopolitical problems that confront the nation
- Unearth the causes of these problems
- Look into the implications of these problems
- Explore the reactions of the literary artist as a sociopolitical reformer.
- Evaluate the contributions of the literary artist in the exposition of these problems and as well in formulating a corrective framework that will put these problems to a halt.
- Significance of the Study
The significance of the study corroborates the fact that the works under study have with them the primary aim of teaching moral lessons while entertaining the readers. It gives expositions of the social relevance of literature, since literature does not exist in a vacuum, therefore, the society is the bedrock of inspiration to the literary artists, since his writing mirrors the life of people in the society. Similarly, the exposure and ridicule of these ills will touch the leaders and make them to have a change of mind and probably map out strategies that will result into quality decision making, radical policies and programmes which will in turn benefit the less privileged and the entire citizenry. The study will also help in the conscientization and revolutionary process, aimed at advancing the plight of the masses. It will also bring to the knowledge of other writers and researchers that the literary artists are duty-bound to reflect social and political realities of their society, by exposing the absurdities and follies of humanity and as well proffer solutions to them.
- Research Questions
The following research questions are formulated to aid this investigation:
- What are the problems that confront this nation?
- What are their nature, external or internal, political or social?
- What effects do they have on the masses and our national development?
- What are the contributions of the literary artists in solving these problems?
- What prospects await the African nations and
Nigeria in particular, given the upsurge of interest by literary artists in their effort to right the wrong?
- Scope Of The Study
The study is designed to explore the didactic values embedded in the works understudy. The researcher limits himself to a critical evaluation of two distinct Nigerian novels: Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s Americanach and Wale Okediran‘s Tenants of the House.