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J.P.Clark’s Meta-dialectics in Wives Revolt and All for Oil

Continued from last week.



Clark’s portrait of Col. M.C. Moorhouse is that of exploitative manipulator who uses Chief Dore Numa to perpetrate land-ownership atrocities against the natives of Warri. He is the one who rewards Chief Dore Numa with medals and portion of land and political power to intimidate and deprive people of their lands. Col. M.C. Moorhouse is a satanic agent who is responsible for the land-related problems in Warri. Through manipulation, Ogbe people are driven away from the headland for the purpose of building offices, barracks etc. He is a disgusting character.

From the portrait of the three characters, Clark’s message is a very clear one: the present ethnic configuration of Warri is flawed and needs to be reversed; the issue of land ownership should be redressed because the acquisition process masterminded by Chief Dore Numa is self-serving and manipulative; Chief Bekederemo’s activist prescriptions and complaints which culminate in his opposition to Chief Dore Numa should be the basis for the reconfiguration of the nationalities in Warri since all – Ijaw, Itsekiri and Urhobo are exploited by Chief Dore Numa.

The ending of Clark’s ALL FOR OIL is symbolic and has implications for the future. Actors like Chief Dore Numa, Chief Bekederemo and Col. M.C. Moorhouse are still alive; this means that the problems of Warri are not over as Chief Bekederemo will continue to agitate until his genuine complaints are properly addressed – which is the task his ancestor Ngbile has thrust upon him. Clark is calling on the relevant authorities to rectify the injustices in Warri in line with Chief Bekederemo’s agitations – Chief Bekederemo who clearly awakens Chief Dore Numa to the reality that he (Dore Numa) knows who the true owners of Warri are.

Clark’s artistic vision is that Chief Bekederemo will not die until the injustices in Warri particularly and the injustices generally in Nigeria are corrected because to Clark, the making of Nigeria by the colonial masters is flawed. This is a heavy statement from Clark who has turned a human rights activist in ALL FOR OIL having set ablaze his characteristic cultural edifice in pursuit of new realities in his literary career.

Prof. J.P Clark
Prof. J.P Clark

Clark’s development of his three characters, which is full, adequate, convincing and realistic, is reinforced by the roles of characters like Branuvwere who is afraid and worried that Chief Bekederemo’s generosity to  his children and other people may wreck him, Nemugha who gives independent and objective advice and opinion to Chief Bekederemo on any issue without giving him the room for necessary adjustment; Piniki Ederume who strengthens and inspires Bekederemo for anything either through his songs or provision of necessary piece of information for him to work on  as he does in the time of the illness and the abortive arrest masterminded by Chief Dore Numa; Fuludu and Fiobode who always kowtow to the wishes of Bekederemo without differing views; Mitovwodo who gives Chief Bekederemo the ideal love of his life; Fetaroro who gives Bekederemo hopes of survival from the illness as handed down to him by Ngbile; Egerton Shyngle who always gives Bekederemo necessary legal opinion and guidance on issues; Johnson Nana who brings greetings to Chief Bekederemo from Nana (Johnson’s father earlier dealt with by Chief Dore) that he is worried about  the fate of the Itsekiris following the proclamation of the HOME RULE REPEAL ORDINANCE – a signal that even the Itsekiris acknowledge their confidence in Chief Bekederemo’s leadership qualities and justifiable agitations against Chief Dore Numa’s numerous illegal arrests, capture of livestock for sacrifices to gods, seizure of young girls, palm produce extortion, surreptitious leasing of people’s lands in Okere, Sapele, and Alder’s town in the name of Olu long dead; Bar Rolle, who tells Chief Dore Numa of how Chief Bekederemo (warrant Chief appointed by Copeland Crawdor who displaces and drives Ogbe people from the headland to build a trading post now called Warri) breaks a court session in Okpare which quickly reawakens him to the knowledge of how the same Chief Bekederemo scatters the court in Frukama and on different occasion perpetually refuses to pay fine imposed on him by a legally constituted court leading to incarceration of Chief Egbe (and later released on payment of the fine by people other than Chief Bekederemo), gives an inventory of the steady flow of goodies and gratifications sent to Chief Dore Numa by the Ijaws, Urhobos, Isokos, Abohs and Kwales in fear, respect, recognition and anticipation of favour from him (Chief Dore Numa; A.C. BURNS, who sees Bekederemo as an objectionable troublesome character whose maritime trade hacks away the profitability of the white men’s palm oil and kernel business in Sapele, Koko  and other areas reported as the representatives of the firms complain bitterly about the steady decline in profit-accrual, gives vindictive excuses and tries to dissuade Col. M.C. Moorhouse from giving audience to Chief Bekederemo’s petitions against Chief Dore Numa; Chief Egbe who always protects Chief Bekederemo’s interest but plays mediatory role between Chief Dore Numa and Chief Bekederemo anytime they clash in words, thus making himself a constant cooler of the ever rising temperatures between the two though Chief Dore holds the strong view that Chief Egbe is always on the side of Chief Bekederemo because he is married to his sister Fiobode; Chief Babigha who sees Chief Dore Numa as his only instrument to confront Bekederemo for justice over the burning of his shrine, and S.L. Bucknor who always gives candid opinion to Chief Dore Numa on legal matters concerning Chief Bekederemo. It is the conglomeration of the various voices of these characters that give chief Bekederemo, Chief Dore Numa and Col. M.C. Moorhouse their individual qualities and identities.

Clark draws on these individual qualities and identities to build his artistic vision about the problems plaguing the different nationalities manipulatively fused into unholy union by the colonial masters. Clark’s character portrait shows that both the minor and major characters are germane to the development of the plot – the plot itself being chronological in arrangement because the characters are drawn from history. ALL FOR OIL shows Clark’s healthy exploitation of historical materials in the construction of his vision for Nigeria using a language that is skillfully an admixture of prose, poetry and quotable philosophical expressions. Lines like these from Bekederemo  who says: “Fetaroro, you know life is only a bubble made in the river. We see ourselves large in it, but it bursts in our face before we know it” and from Fetaroro who maintains thus: “And we also know the deepest track we make here on earth, and call our careers, is no more than the wake a boat makes. It tears up the river with pride but the river soon swallows it up. Arrival is all, yes, it is the arrival…” are moving, evocative and mesmerising in construction that one is compelled to commit them to memory and permanently appropriate both the penetrating poetic rhythm and the philosophical echoes and truism the lines embody – which I am very sure are EFFORTLESS CASCADES from the Kiagbodo-born  Clark.

Premised on the contours in ALL FOR OIL and THE WIVES’ REVOLT, the consummation of Clark’s incineration of his artistic cultural costume is his gallant flight to the world of marxist writers like Ngugi Wa  Thiog’O. It appears that pulverisation of all institutions and structures of exploitation and oppression plaguing man on any planet using any necessary instruments as a potent counter-force is Clark’s new revolutionary persuasion. Structures of oppression should no longer be given a breathing space or spell of hibernation anywhere on earth. In the two plays, Clark’s COMMUNICATIVE characters – Koko (for the women) in THE WIVES’ REVOLT and Chief Bekederemo in ALL FOR OIL – the preoccupation is towards the extirpation and pulverisation of invading oppressive structures (typified by the men in THE WIVES’ REVOLT and by Chief Dore Numa in  ALL FOR OIL) until justice descends on the plagued humanity.

Conclusively, the man Clark, the Nigerian poet of the 20th century, has willingly claimed the seat of an INTELLLECTUAL MILITANT in THE WIVES’ REVOLT and  ALL FOR OIL out of pragmatic deep solicitude for the plagued humanity in Nigeria. And again as a cautionary digression I must add that though Clark’s portrayal of the roles of Chief Bekederemo, Chief Dore Numa, Col. M.C. Moorhouse and others, remarkably vivid and realistic, which may provoke irrational aggrieved vituperative responses from persons/groups pathologically mindful of their public/private persona thrown up for critical interrogation, they should be content to claim as a guide the reality that ALL FOR OIL is a representation of probable action patterned upon the ARISTOTELIAN MIMESIS just in the same way I would like readers to realise that Clark’s break from culture can only be located in terms of the thematic thrust as the two plays still demonstrate healthy exploitation of the cultural resources of his own people out of which a RADIANT TAPESTRY has been woven with a reverberating dexterity.


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