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Social Injustice in Ngugi Wa Thiongo I Will Marry When I Want And The Trial Of Didan Kimath

Social Injustice in Ngugi Wa Thiongo  I Will Marry When I Want And The Trial Of Didan Kimath

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1.1 Background to the Study

Literature is a reflection of life; it is a mirror, held up by the literary artist for society to see its reflection; for society to see itself in. One of the simplest, yet powerful definitions of drama defines drama as an imitation of life. For a society replete with contradictions and injustice, its reflection is bound to be the same; its drama is bound to imitate this.

Therefore, literature is a mirror which shows and exposes the socio-political, religious and economic realities in society. The duty of the literary artist is, more than anything else, to expose those persons and/or things which continue to militate against a free, peaceful and egalitarian society. The other side of the coin is that it encourages and extols those virtues and values that make for a peaceful and stable society. Emmanuel Ekunke corroborates the foregoing when he says:

 Literature as an artistic creation presents episodes that reflect social currents that humanity is expected to learn from. It captures the interplay of social forces. It also portrays the consequences of man’s actions, inactions, and reactions in his society (159).

On his part, Femi Osofisan (2001) affirms the x-raying or mirroring potentials of literature when he asserts that:

Arts born of that society, comments back on that social matrix, and by commentary I am implying here both the possibility of consolidation and erosion, of reaffirmation as well as contradiction. Sooner or later therefore it must collide or collude with authority, whether of State or shrine, of pulpit or classroom. Everywhere, in the close intimacy of domestic life, or the expansive space of social being, no hegemony is sacrosanct to the probing impertinence of art (108).

Social injustice in the contemporary society has been a lingering theme and a source of concern and worry to African playwrights and as much as they try to entertain with their works, they as well set out to correct those anomalies through their works. In this regards S.E Ogude observes that: “what constitutes the mainstream of African writing to date derives ultimately from definite historical event or social conditions” (1).

Thus, African Literature has its roots in the socioeconomic and political history of the continent. The post-independence disillusionment is very glaring in every part of Africa, Nigeria inclusive. There is a general spate of unbridled acquisition of wealth by the ruling class, the tendency towards property accumulation by those in leadership, thus the uncompromising attack on the privileged few by the playwright. Just like every other Marxist writer, Esiaba Irobi dwells on the same societal issues.

In an E-conversation with Azuonye Nnorom as was published in the Vanguard Nigeria Newspaper, Irobi says: “the historical rigor mortis and political epilepsy of the country has left cracks on the mirror of the mind.” (48). To Irobi, the leadership of the country has failed on fundamental issues. In the texts treated here, Irobi shows the level of social and inhuman injustice meted out to the people.

Udenta O. Udenta believes and states that, social injustice is a art as a form of social consciousness, having dialectical relation with social being… exists only in the context of the negation of existing contradictory reality of class society, by rising above its impediments, by going beyond its ideology and developing a system qualitatively new that challenges it (55).

The above quotation is what sets the thrust for this study and by interpretation, Udenta is no doubt, making a case for art as a veritable tool in the battle for the extermination of class society in all its manifestations: a realization which can only come through aroused consciousness furthered with action.

Udenta’s statement is clearly indicative of the reality of class consciousness inherent in African society; more so, in Nigeria which forms the focus of our study. This is a class consciousness that is replete with its attendant contradictions. Art therefore, through various aesthetics, has not only become instrumental in portraying these contradictions, but also in interrogating them

Considerable amounts of Nigerian cum African drama reflect various shades of social injustice. This is so because the societies in question are riddled with injustice. From the days of colonialism to the days of so-called independence, Nigerians and Africans have had to fight one from of injustice or the other.

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During the 12th regional conference for Africa and Arab countries (AFRECON) which held in 2015 in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, the Public Services International (PSI) General Secretary, Rosa Pavanelli, in here opening speech averred that “African people have a proud history of fight against injustice. So, they keep fighting against the inequalities of today…” (np).

This confirms the fact that social injustice has remained a cankerworm in Africa. John Rawls defines injustice as “inequalities that are not to the benefit of all” (54). It would appear to us that this definition implies that there is injustice in any society where some people are exploited and unfairly treated. Usually, the exploiters are the ruling class or the elites while the majority less privileged is on the receiving end of this.

It is believed that after Latin America, Africa is the next most inequitable region of the world. Plagued by myriads of socio-political, economic and religious problems and in spite of its wealth of resources, Africa countries remain rooted at the bottom of the international human development index. Femi Osofisan (1988) captures this when he says:

…although so much has changed, nothing really in Africa has changed… our continent has remained backward, static and decaying… and the principal reasons for our backwardness are still very much the same… a treacherous leadership and elite… the elite and their allies still gobble the wealth of the land, leaving the vast majority in abject poverty (17).

In Africa, the growth pattern enriches the state and the elites but does not transform or better the lives of the majority of the citizenry. In Nigeria, the elites have destroyed the educational system and turn around to send their children abroad. Unemployment has taken on a toga leaving youths to endure the frustrations of employment.

Talents are neither recognized nor rewarded. Mediocrity is encouraged and partiality elevated to a national religion. Workers are denied their pay; pensioners are deprived of their legitimate and hard earned pensions just as everyone is denied the right to talk about, talk less of demanding for, their rights.

Law enforcement agencies are used to hound, haunt, intimidate and oppress dissenting voices. Retrenchment from work scores very high marks. Social and economic inequalities are manifestly seen and conspicuously displayed in the opulence of a few vis-a-vis the loud poverty of the majority.

Ngugi WaThiongo’s The Trials of Dedan Kamathi though Africans have always used his works to comment on current socio-political affairs and act as the mouthpiece of the downtrodden their works are stepped in social issues that affect the poor masses, oppression, discrimination and disillusionment against the colonial masters during and after independence.

Social Injustice in Ngugi Wa Thiongo I Will Marry When I Want And The Trial Of Didan Kimath

Consequently, this make Ngugi to portray in these plays or drama portray how the colonial masters impose various social injustices like discrimination, exploitation, dehumanization and disillusionment during the period of independent. This statement buttressed Chinua Achebe to said that “any African who tries to avoid the big social and political issues of contemporary Africa will end up being completely irrelevant like that absorb man in the proverb  who leaves his house burning to pursue a rat fleeing from the flames” (78).

In support of Achebe’s point of view, Ngugi in his critical work Homecoming   posits that “literature does not develop in a vacuum. It gives impetus, shape, direction and even area of concern by the social, political and economic forces in a particular society. He further states that the relationship creative literature and other forces cannot be ignored especially in Africa where modern literature has grown against the gory background European imperialism” (15).

The outrageous and horrendous injustice suffered by the masses is exacerbated by infrastructural deficit, dysfunctional schools and healthcare, perennial scarcity of petrol and kerosene, runaway inflation, etc, etc, all of which leave the masses with a deep feeling of hopelessness. The elites are slowly but surely ensuring that the masses lose their essence and humanity by the magnitude of injustice foisted on the people.

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In carrying out its salvific functions, literature strives to correct societal ills which threaten peaceful human coexistence. As a member of his society, the literary artist examines and evaluates societal ills and, in some cases, proffers solutions to them. Emmanuel Otete-Akpofure opines that the dramatist as watch dog of society uses the medium of drama to lampoon negative and anti-social behavior (248).

The dramatist is a social crusader who uses his art to address social issues. Being an important and influential member of his society, the dramatist with a social vision and commitment must help to rescue, incorporate, preserve and mediate elements which serve the interest of the people. It is on this backdrop that this research seeks to examine social injustice in Ngugi Wa’ Thiongo’s I Will Marry When I Want and The Trial Of Didan Kimath, and manifestations, of social injustice in Africa in general and Nigeria.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

 Over the years, it has been observed that social injustices has become audile of the day in our societies these is seen in terms of bribery, corruption, oppression and victimization in African society. Poverty has eaten deep in to the livelihood in our society, Nigeria, Africa and the world at large due to the fact that our economy are control by leaders who are corrupt instead of developing the economic for the citizens rather to their own pocket.

Lootings of public funds that were made for development of the society have been diverted to personal accounts, this has lead to abject poverty among citizens and of such, parents are no longer to take good care of their children and this has hinder the physical, psychological, academic  and moral development of children in our social . It is on this note that this work seeks to examine social injustice in Ngugi Wa’ Thiongo’s I Will Marry When I Want and The Trial Of Didan Kimath, and manifestations, of social injustice in Africa in general and Nigeria.

Social Injustice in Ngugi Wa Thiongo  I Will Marry When I Want And The Trial Of Didan Kimath

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The main objective of this study is to examine social injustice in Ngugi Wa’ Thiongo’s I Will Marry When I Want and The Trial Of Didan Kimath, and manifestations, of social injustice in Africa in general and Nigeria. The specific objectives of the study will be:

  1. examine the portrayal of social injustices in the two selected texts under study
  2. also examine different forms of oppressions in our societies through examination of the texts under study
  3. examine the level dehumanization, subjugation and untold suffering meted out to the Nigerian masses by the elite
  4. also examine the various levels of class structures and human right violations in our society through examination of the texts under study
  5. proffers solutions to social injustices in our societies

1.4 Significance of the study

Firstly, this research is significant because it joins a few others to bring to public view a playwright so gifted and talented but sparsely studied. Indeed, most undergraduates in Ibibio’s natives, Nigeria, are barely aware of this writer.

Secondly, it bring to public view and to the consciousness of the global community, the level of social injustice – dehumanization, subjugation and untold suffering meted out to the Nigerian masses by the elite. This is against the backdrop of excessive affluence, obscene opulence and wealth of the privileged few.

Thirdly and lastly, this study sensitizes Nigerians that the solutions to their problems is in their hands. This sad state of affairs can be changed through their collective efforts. The people cannot remain complacent while expecting foreign intervention to change things for them.

1.5 Methodology

The methodology for this research work will be a qualitative research which relies on the analysis of some extrapolation of the primary texts. The research will also avail itself of some critical works. Magazines and other periodical drawn from the library. This research will also exploit the internet space for some online materials related to the subject of the research.

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1.6 Scope of the Study

This scope of this study will be limited to social injustice in Ngugi Wa’ Thiongo’s I Will Marry When I Want and The Trial Of Didan Kimath. This is to enable the researcher complete the work within the stipulated time. Therefore, all conclusions are based on textual analysis of the selected texts.

1.7 Theoretical framework

The theoretical model that will be adopted as theoretical frameworks for this study was the Marxist literary criticism views literature as an artistic construct with intrinsic socio-political and conomic structures. Mortimer Adler explains that the social relationship according to Marx and Engels is a “ history of class struggles where oppressor and oppressed stood in constant opposition with one another…a fight that each timer ended either in a revolutionary reconstruction of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes”(419).

This simply means that a fictional work is a composition of literary consciousness inspired by historical facts, social, economic and political events which can influence the novelist’s narration and depiction of human experiences. Terry Eagleton explains that “it is the characteristic of Marxism that it refuses to on the one hand a retreat from social and political into ‘discourse’, while also refusing a cynical or defeatist complicity with social existence as we know it”(x).

Therefore, the Marxist critic offers interpretation of a literary work by discussing and evaluating its ideology through the critical lens of Marxism. Marxist criticism is anchored on the economic and political ideologies of the radical German but London based thinkers, Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1899), who chided vehemently the autocracy of the bourgeoisie class in a capitalist system.

The above mentioned philosophers view capitalism as a new form of feudalism because the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ has become so polarized. This polarity is as a result of the exploitation of the proletariats by the economic class or the bourgeoisies who control the means of production and distribution. However, it is believed that the marginalization and oppression can be controlled by creating a revolutionary consciousness that gears towards replacing an oppressive social structure with a more transparent one in the form of ‘socialism’. M.A.R Habib goes further to explain that:

The influence of Marx’s ideas on modern world history has been vast. Until the collapse in 1991, of the communist systems of USSR and Eastern Europe, one-third of the world’s population had been living under political administrations claiming descent from Marx’s idea. His impact on the world of thought has been equally extensive, embracing sociology, philosophy, economics, and cultural theory.

Marxism has also generated a rich tradition of literary and cultural criticism. Many branches of modern criticism- Including historicism, feminism, deconstruction, postcolonial and cultural criticism-are indebted to the insights of Marxism, which often originated in the philosophy of Hegel. What distinguishes Marxism is that it is not only a political, economic, and social theory but also a form of practice in all of these domains. (208)

However, in the domain of Literature, writers and critics create their literary pieces by exploring the Marxist theory in their various interpretations of human experiences. Thus literary works become fictional pieces that contain or explore class distinction, oppression, exploitation, political/economic struggles and other forms of social problems inherent in a given society.

In doing this, the literary artist have succeeded in making the literary text a thematically self contained work possessing intrinsic revolutionary structure. In essence, the writer in depicting human experiences in his/ her novel, draws attention to some capitalist elements and at the same time creates awareness about them in order to project a revolutionary stance.

The understanding of literary texts through the limelight of Marxism influenced a great number of African writers who were confronted with colonial and postcolonial challenges. Hence, many of these writers employed Marxist ideologies as a veritable tool for fighting oppression and class distinction which is one of the major forms of social injustice.

Mr. Harrison

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