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Comedy, comedians and Nigeria’s rebirth

BELIEVE, every man has his secret sorrows, which the world know not. And often times we call men God when he is only sad” –(Henry Long Fellow).

Man’s quest for joy, bliss and happiness takes protean venturesomeness and can be likened to the sphygmic temperaments of artifacts, relics and museum scoundrels and thieves standing before sphragistic detectives. They exude grotesque disposition. Hence, the comedian tries to create a balance through comedy.

A comedy within the context of usage is any literary work, including, but not limited to a drama, play, motion picture, television, radio, oratorical dexterity, verbal phosphorescence and entertainment, etc, characterised by a humorous treatment of characters, situations, and having a happy ending. A comedian is, therefore, anyone who applies these afore – mentioned tools to create humor, joy and laughter.

Comedy is as old as man and comedians are always with us. In our world suffused, bemused and impregnated by Neanderthal bellicosity, scorching poverty, sanguinary proclivities, leadership inertia, chauvinism, tribal jingoism, religious extremism, mind-boggling hatred, saber rattling, genocide, psychotic corruption, horrendous rapes, ritual murders, ludibrastic  cluelessness, planlessness and lovelessness, etc. We can water down our feelings through comic relief characters and comedians who use satires, sarcasms, allegories, lampoonery, pantomimes, onomatopoeias, recondite gesticulations with religious, political, tribal, socio – economic connotations and undertones to laugh at ourselves.

The great literary masterpieces and mythologies from Homer’s Illiad, Odyssey; Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, A Man of the People, The Trouble with Nigeria; Soyinka’s Interpreters, Bacchae of Euripides and The  Man Died, The Kings’ Horsemen; Dickens’ Great Expectations, Marten Chuzzlewit, Nickolas Nicke, David Copperfield; Shakespeare’s  Corolinus, Julius Caesar,  Hamlet, Merchant of Venice, Tempest; Chaucer’s John Milton’s Plays; Sheridan’s The Rivals-A Comedy and others too numerous to mention had a tincture of comedy that didactically said something about ourselves and society, precipitating laughter.

We are in a world cocooned in cerebral dwarfishness, pusillanimous tergiversation and spiritual darkness because of our lost values, inability to speak truth to power and normative social standards. We use comedy and comedians to humourise our situation, to ameliorate our emotional erebus and political torpsy–turvydom.

However, comedians must heed the admonitions of statesman Abraham Lincoln that “with maice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right , let us strive on to finish the work we are in”.

The comedian and his jokes are tools for societal change, political renaissance, cultural revolution, psychological therapy, attitudinal reorientations, propagandistic elan and religious rebirth, because he can hide real happenings to galvanise the leadership and the citizenry into action for societal change.

A comedian once said that President Kwame Osagyfo Nkrumah once visited Nigeria and as he drove in a convoy with Abubakar Tafawa Balewa he saw a man urinating by the road side. He castigated Nigerians for being dirty litter louts. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa felt chagrined, despondent and crestfallen.

He quickly organised a reciprocal visit to Ghana. As he drove in a convoy with President Nkrumah he sighted a man defecating by the road side. He quickly called Nkrumah’s attention to it. President Nkrumah breaking protocols, asked the convoy to stop. He quickly called for the arrest of the defecating scoundrel and asked him: “Where are you from”?

The man quickly retorted “I AM FROM NIGERIA”. He immediately recalled the words of Mohandas K. Ghandi that: “I  can retain neither respect nor affection for a government which has been moving from wrong to wrong in order to defend its immorality”. What a shame! And whither goeth Nigeria?

The comedian made this joke and all laughed. But the silent and salient point is to admonish our leaders and Nigerians in general on social courtesies, responsible waste disposal mannerisms, provision of public toilets and efficient waste management.

It is also a truism that the comedian gave a joke which looked harmless, but in a actual fact, if a critic or journalist had written an article on “Nigeria, waste management and leadership inertia”, it would have attracted detention and or verbal or physical flagellation. Comedy is a way of laughing at our all-embracing inadequacies and weaknesses as individuals and as a nation.

We must draw or make a clear-cut dichotomy between comperes, masters of ceremonies and comedians in any social forum. The popular social mistake is the desire of comedians to function as all of these. The popular compere, Collins Adeyemi, in his recent book entitled Director of Ceremony adumbrated on the need for there to be a difference between all of these to make professionalism the watchword in the trade.

The Comedy Guild in Nigeria has become a fertile ground for youths, graduates and those with creative talents. They have become professional in their own rights and a regular feature at private and public occasions. The field is robustly enriched with Warri (Wafi), Sapele (Safa) boys and girls. Indeed, the South-South, South East and the South West are overwhelmingly represented in this field.

Some of the notable of these great comedians are Basket Mouth, I Go Die, Ali Baba, Gandoki and Rocky Feller.

Nigerian comedians have worked so hard from the 1980’s through the 90’s to the 2000’s to lift the comedy art and comedians toil from gutter snipe to professional level. They have become indispensible in the socio-economic and public calculus in Nigeria.

The essayist Henry Wadsworth Longfellow posited in his book ‘The ladder of St. Augustine’ that “the heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night”.

Finally, Nigerian comedians have toiled all night and they deserve a place in the pantheon of the great builders of Nigeria in our rebirth strides. They have to be more critical, spontaneous, authentic, creative and revolutionary in their orientation and drive to make our world and Nigeria a better place.

In trying to create happiness they most note the admonition of Francois Rochefoucauld that “we are more interested in making others believe we are happy than in trying to be happy ourselves” and “the happiness or unhappiness of one depends no less upon their disposition than on their fortunes”. God bless our comedians.

Mr. BOBSON GBINIJE, a social critic, wrote from Warri, Delta State.


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