Since Nigeria’s political independence
in 1960, ensuring administrations have virtually towed the path of
devastation. How have Tanure Ojaide and Helon Habila been able to
portray the aesthetics of resistance in The Activist and Waiting for an Angel
respectively using the New Historicism theory. The authors through
various characters and events have been able to portray the aesthetics
of resistance. It is therefore safe to say that there is aesthetics in
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1.0 General Introduction
1.1 Definition of Terms
1.2 Purpose of Study
1.4 Scope of the Study
2.0 Literature Review
2.1 The Historical Context
2.2 The Author’s Background
2.3 The Critic/Reader
3.1 The Nigerian-Niger Delta Situation
3.2 Aesthetics of Resistance
4.2 Aesthetics of Resistance
5.0 Summary, Findings and Conclusion
1.0 GENERAL INTRODUCTION
…art has a purpose. I believe in the social status of art…it must
be used to advance the cause of humanity… I believe that if art has any
sake at all, it is humanity…I am a humanist. The content is as
important as the work. A work of art is not a technical jargon…A
container without content is empty. As concerned committed artist, the
basis of all art is justice (Osundare, 16).
The above extract forms the basis of this work. It emphasizes the
relevance of art to humanity and also shows the duty of the artist to
the society in which he lives.
Dating back from the colonial era, to the time after independence,
the socio-economic situation of Nigeria has continued to waver. The
British Empire expanded trade with Nigeria following the Napoleonic wars
and in January 1901
Nigeria became a British protectorate. The British were first
interested in trade but later delved into governance. By the middle of
the 20th century, the great wave for independence was sweeping across
the country. The British, were pressured by some Elites (such as Tafawa
Balewa, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Anthony
Enahoro) to grant Nigeria independence. In March 1953, Enahoro moved the
motion for Nigeria’s independence. The motion according to Enahoro was
‘fired by the dream to build a new and modern nation’ (The Guardian,
Nigeria was granted independence in October 1960. It became a Federal
Republic in October 1963 with Nnamdi Azikiwe as the country’s first
president. In 1965 there was a National Election which produced a major
realignment of politics and a distrusted result that set the country on
the path to civil war. On the 15th of January 1966 the military took
over power with General Aguiyi Ironsi as the Head of State. In May 1966
there was another coup which established General Yakubu Gowon as the
Head of State. Lt. Col. Emeka Ojukwu the leader of the Igbo secessionist
declared independence of the eastern region as the Republic of Biafra
in 1967 which resulted into war. General Murtala Mohammed staged a
bloodless coup accusing General Yakubu Gowon of delaying the promised
return to civilian rule in 1975. General Murtala Mohammed was
assassinated in February 1976 and Lt. Gen. Olusegun Obansanjo became
Head of State. In 1979, Alhaji Shehu Shagari was elected president.
Major General Muhammadu Buhari in 1983 overthrew the civilian
government. Ibrahim Babangida in August 1985 took over power and
promised to return power to civilian in 1990 which was later extended to
1993. In 1993 there was a presidential elections which Babangida
Annuled. The elections was won by M.K.O Abiola in August 1993, the
interim government of Ernest Shonekan came into power but was forced to
resign in November 1993 by Gen. Sani Abacha. General Abdulsalami
Abubakar assumed power after the death of Gen. Sani Abacha in 1998.
Preparations were made for civilian rule and in 1999 Chief Olusegun
Obasanjo became the president for the next eight years after which there
was a transition to another civilian government with Musa Yar’dua as
the President. Yar’dua did not complete his term in office, he died and
the vice president Goodluck Jonathan became the president.
Looking back after many years of independence, Enahoro puts the blame
of the present state of the country on the military’s interruption of
governance in 1966. He states that:
When in 1966, elements in the Nigerian military struck, seized
the government, and assassinated a number of political leaders; it was
obvious that a dark day had dawned on our political life (Enahoro, 16).
The military had come in their Khaki using the power of the gun and
decrees to disrupt the political process which had begun to gain ground
in the country.
All the blame cannot be put on the military as civilian rule has also
contributed to the devastation in the Nigeria system. The civilian rule
will be a discussion for another day. Consequently, the dream of having
a new Nigeria and modern nationhood can be actualized if all its people
take up their civil responsibility to unite as a force and speak the
same voice of resistance against bad leaders. In the words of Wole
Soyinka ‘The man dies in him who stands silent in the face of tyranny
(Soyinka,40) and according to Amilcar Cabral ‘Every Onlooker is either a
coward or a traitor (Cabral, 40). It is a clarion call for all to
adhere to as Nigeria need of voices to be raised. Tanure Ojaide in an
interview with Ezenwa – Ohaeto says:
Nigeria is a mother and a lover. At the same time, it is a
special person. Hence for the love of Nigeria, we must support the
country (Ojaide, 48.)
1.1 DEFINITION OF TERMS
AESTHETICS OF RESISTANCE
Aesthetics of resistance here means how the two authors under focus namely, Tanure Ojaide and Helon Habila in The Activist and Waiting for an Angel
respectively have been able to portray resistance. Ojaide and Habila
are prolific writers who through their works present the notion of
resistance against the socio political ills in the society. According to
…an African creative writer who tries to avoid the big social and
political issues of the contemporary Africa will end up being
completely irrelevant like that absurd man in the proverb who leaves his
house burning to pursue a rat fleeing from the flames (Achebe, 78).
Ojaide and Habila have shown their relevance by
portraying the socio and political ills such as the evil of military
government, poverty, marginalization abuse of power, lack of press
freedom, environmental pollution, imprisonment, martyr and prostitution.
They (Ojaide and Habita) also present resistance as a tool that can
lead to socio political change.
Resistance is having the capacity to say no to certain ills.
Resistance, is standing up for one’s norms. It is also opposition to
achieve the required change.
Nigeria has had good, dehumanizing and demoralizing rulers protest
came from different quarters, including the literary world. Writers have
watched the Nigerian society rapidly decline and they seek to warn
against more degeneration. These writers do not just criticize the
corrupt Nigerian leadership but also call for change. Tanure Ojaide and
Helon Habila draw vivid pictures of the state of the Nation and the
devastation brought about by tyranny. Tyranny, according to K.B.
Kubayanda is an endemic social and political problem in Africa
(Kabayanda, 25). The situation is ironic because despite independence,
from colonial imperialist, the people are still imprisoned by their own
African leaders Kabayanda adds:
…Independence, seems to be a self, serving arrangement between
the emerging ruling elites of the African colonies thus appears a
pattern that contradicts the dream of independence (Kabayanda, 25).
Because of the present state of affairs, writers have taken
up the challenge to stir up resistance to ensure that the nation is in a
Resistance could take a violent or non-violent method. In this study,
the type of resistance is non-violent. This is in line with Mohammed
Gandi’s view of resistance which environmentalist, critic, and activist
Ken Saro Wiwa followed. Others include: Ibrahim Lincon, the Black
American who fought against segregation between the blacks and whites,
Nelson Mandela who fought against black apathied in South Africa and at
the time of this research, resistance has continue to spring up in the
Middle East. In Egypt, the people had to protest against the President
Hussine Mubarak who had ruled Egypt for twenty nine years (29). The
people, claim to suffer economic hardship and lack of political reforms.
1.2 PURPOSE OF STUDY
The purpose of this study is to examine the aesthetics of resistance in Tanure Ojaide’s. The Activist and Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel.
This research, shall examine how the two authors have beautifully
explored and satirized the society using various characters and events
to depict resistance.
To the knowledge of the researcher, no work has explored the aesthetics of resistance in Tanure Ojaide’s The Activist and Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel.
This work will not only show how history affects the writer in his
production, but will also emphasis resistance as a tool for
1.4 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This study, shall explore the aesthetics of resistance, paying more
attention to characters and events that stand for resistance in Tanure
Ojaide’s The Activist and Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel.
The New Historicism theory is adopted for this research. Various materials related to the research purpose shall be used.
This (New Historicism) theory is adopted because it suits the
research purpose as it suggests that literature, can be studied and
interpreted within the historical time of the work the history of the
author and the critic’s perspective.