By Prisca Sam-Duru
After watching the special performance of Yeepa! Solarin Mbo!!, it was unbelievable that corruption, the bane of Nigeria’s development, was also a major source of concern even in the early 70s when the play was written.
Perhaps, this informs the reason many are of the opinion that Nigeria may never work so long as the system is not restructured such that it gives no room for any corrupt practice.
Yeepa! Solarin Mbo!! is the Yoruba adaptation of Who is Afraid of Solarin, written by renowned playwright and Nigerian scholar, Professor Femi Osofisan.
The special performance of the play held at the MUSON Centre Lagos to the delight of His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ooni of Ife, Chief Alex Ajipe who was Chairman of the event, Prof. Femi Osofisan, theatre lovers and a host of other eminent Nigerians.
The play published in 1999 and first staged in 1972 was Osofisan’s response to corruption and decadence ravaging the country at the time. It is a satire on graft and corruption prevalent in the Nigerian society.
Powered by Ara Studio, the play was directed by Segun Adefila and produced by Mufu Onifade. It revolves around the late Tai Solarin, the respected figure of one-time Public Complaints Commissioner, PCC, for the Western Region of Nigeria.
In a farcical manner, Osofisan presents a group of corrupt and fraudulent local government employees who are paralysed by fear on news about the proposed visit of Tai Solarin. While Solarin is not physically presented on stage, the frequent invocation of his name is symbolic as it attracts much fear to the corrupt officials who constantly device means such as burning of files to conceal their evils.
Yeepa! Solarin Mbo!!, a Yoruba comedy play was energetic and hilarious while it lasted but at the same time, the core message which is to bury corruption was loud all through. Besides, Solarin remains the conscience pricking the corrupt.
As presented in the play, at the local government, virtually all the government officials and their staff are corrupt and fraudulent without any exception, from the Ciaman, Chairman of the Local Government Council, Chief Gbonmiayelobiojo; Dokita, acted by Wale Macaulay; and Michael Okorie, Edukesan, even to the professional beggars on the streets like Lamidi and Lemomu (Muri Amulegboja and Habeeb Awoko). That’s why they are all apprehensive of the impending official visit of Solarin. Consequently, the Chairman summons a meeting of the Council to decide how they can prevent the coming of Solarin which spells doom for them.
Osofisan employs the meeting as an avenue to expose the corruption and fraudulent practices ravaging the various arms of the Council as the meeting transforms into a forum where confessional statements that border on their corrupt acts are revealed at the slightest provocation.
A simple knock at the door sends jitters up their spine. Surprisingly, the Ifa priest played by Chief Fatai Adetayo, summoned from Ile-Ife to perform rituals as a means of covering their sins, becomes the worst corrupt, Pastor Nebuchadnezzar (Taiwo Ibukunle), is to the chagrin of the audience, among those feasting on the bread of sorrow as well. The play reaches its climax when the officials haunted by fear of Solarin walk into the trap of an imposter, Isola (Art Osagie Okedigun).
Isola befriends the pastor’s daughter, Cecilia (Aishat Onitiri) also known as Cecilly misa misa and this, you can imagine, marks the beginning of the end of the humour-laden but conscience-pricking production.
The Yoruba version of the play which has so far been staged at the MUSON Centre and National Arts Theatre in order to get to the grassroots is billed to tour all the states in the Sout-West while the English version does same but to other parts of Nigeria.
The producer, Mufu Onifade, said the project is designed to rekindle the lost legacy of travelling theatre. “Yeepa! Solarin mbo!! as adapted and incorporated into the Ara Studios project is a theatre advocacy for good governance. It is referral to the cleansing of our decayed mentality and an appeal for our good conscience,” he said.