By Chukwuma Ajakah
With her maiden play, “The Blood of a Poor Prophet”, child prodigy, Oluoma Favour Achoson, a JSS 2 student of Navina College, set the pace for many in her age bracket on how to curb the lamentable poor reading culture that largely accounts for the dismal performances recorded yearly in various examinations.
In the play, set in Mgbada village, a typical rural African community, the young playwright presents the story of twins, whose inexplicable rivalry culminates in the tragic death of their good-natured father, King Udoh. The plot of the short play revolves around the duel between Prince Ugo and his twin sister, Princess Chiderah.
Besides the central theme of sibling rivalry, other themes embedded in the play include peer group pressure, cultural conflict, juvenile delinquency, education as an agent of civilization, tradition versus religion, betrayal of trust and the inevitability of change.
The major characters featured in the play include King Udoh, the King of Mgbada village and Queen Amara, his wife who plays the role of a doting mother to her son, Prince Ugo and ends up ruining the royal family and orchestrating the gruesome murder of the king.
Princess Chiderah and Prince Ugo are the protagonists who ironically also function as the antagonists due to the no love lost relationship between them. Some minor characters that play significant role in the development of the plot of the play are the diviner, Ezemuo, the Chief Priest of Mgbada, the Christian faith preacher, Pastor Emmanuel, Senior Pastor of Favour International Church and his assistant Prophet Uchechukwu, Mr. Uche, Principal Jofa International School, and Mr. Ebuka, a class teacher, Emeka, Chizoba and Nonso, friends to Prince Ugo. Others include the elders of Mgbada, royal maids, guards, and the king’s messenger.
The Blood of a Poor Prophet opens with a dialogue between King Udoh and Queen Amara. The King adores his wife who in turn requests that the king builds a school to facilitate the twins’ enrolment for their primary education.
The talk which had begun on a jovial note ends abruptly as the king considers the subject matter abominable. He and his subjects erroneously believe that formal education is inimical to their age-long cultural values. Despite his opposition to the idea of introducing a school into his domain, the amiable ruler rethinks over the queen’s proposition and convenes a meeting with the elders the next day to discuss the thorny issue. They invite the Chief Priest to inquire of the oracle and are excited to hear that the gods have acceded to their demand.
Subsequently, the school is built, but a twist of fate turns the blessing into a curse for the royal family. While Princess Chiderah enthusiastically embraces schooling and performs brilliantly Prince Ugo does the opposite. He prefers drinking with his peers to attending classes. Consequently, he returns after every examination with a woeful result until he eventually drops out of school while Chiderah, excels in the WASSCE and proceeds to the university.
Ugo’s dismal performance drives him into suspecting that his father had bribed the teachers to facilitate Chiderah’s success. The conflict generated rises to a climax when his mother connives with him to kill his father with poison they obtained from a fetish medicine man, Ajigoru. Their devious plot works out as the king dies after eating a meal served by Ugo.
The Blood of a Poor Prophet, marketed by EMMACO Stationeries is a single act play of 13 short scenes and 44 pages. The simplicity of its language, inclusion of school scenes, and a glossary of difficult words combine to make it appeal to junior readers. The emerging playwright, however, needs to have the work edited before it can be safely recommended for use in schools.
Actions in the last scene include the burial of the late king and the ominous entry of Prophet Uchechukwu who-like the biblical Jonah, comes with a message from God, warning the people of imminent doom. Ugo becomes the new king of Mgbada after King Udoh’s funeral. However, the play ends in suspense that leaves the reader wondering what will happen next.