A REVIEW OF EBI ROBERT’S “AN EMPTY KINGDOM” BY PERE OWEI B.A.HONS.ENGLISH AND LITERARY STUDIES, DELTA STATE UNIVERSITY, ABRAKA, NIGERIA.





 Photo: Ebi Robert's shot of John Obera, best Oralist in the Manfred Lach Space Moot Court Competition, 2016, holding a copy of AN EMPTY KINGDOM in South Africa.


BOOK REPORT:                                            AN EMPTY KINGDOM
AUTHOR           :                                           EBI ROBERT
GENRE              :                                           DRAMA
NUMBER OF PAGES:                                 89 (INCLUDING GLOSSARY)
NUMBER OF ACTS :                                   3 ACTS (SEVERAL SCENES)
PUBLISHER              :                                   BULKYBON BOOKS, LAGOS NIGERIA
DATE OF PUBLICATION:                          2015



SETTING: The play takes place in Egweama, in Bayelsa State of Nigeria, a Fictitious Setting from the playwright’s mind’s eyes.

MAJOR SETTING: The major setting is Egweama, a coastal Ijaw settlement in the Niger Delta of Nigeria.
MINOR SETTING: The minor settings includes, the kingdom hall, community playground, the house of Tuaton, Duadogi, Sikigbo, Koko and the sea as seen in different acts and scenes.

PLOT SUMMARY: AN EMPTY KINGDOM is an intriguing story which the playwright subtly and aptly handles with the use of his characters that fit in the roles they played. The play entails the psychological vent of disgust against the age-long pattern of selecting a king by the people of Egweama although fictitious, (being born from the writer’s ingenuity) but deals with a real life situation, among the Ijaw speaking tribes of the Niger Delta. With a sense of democracy and solidarity, the people of Egweama saw reasons why they must bury the old order and embrace a new system as Sikigbo affirms. In his remark he says thus:
“The Iroko has fallen and contrary to our common custom, there is no root to raise another Iroko” (Page 20: Act 1, Scene 1)

The statement above points to the fact that upon the demise of the last Timi (King) there is no direct son of the late king to take over the throne since he had no seed. The people who lampooned the ways of the last four kings that ruled them with unreserved disapproval and derogatory remarks such as: “We have seen the anus of the goat”, and “have drunk the urine of kings and hidden their smelly buttocks for too long” resorted to choosing a king (Tuaton) with a servant’s heart, having the people at his heart. Events turned around as Duadogi who regarded himself as a branch to the throne, brought to the fore, his machinations of bribery, blackmail and political side-lining (of the other king-makers), in other to garner support for his bid for the throne. The climax of the conflict and the last straw that breaks the Carmel’s back was on the coronation day, when Yanate, one of the king-makers calls for the people’s king (Tuaton) to step forward. Duadogi also comes forward hence the Twin kings who ruled before the last Timi.
To the disillusionment and dismay of the people, Koko, the king-maker, steps forward and wear Duadogi the crown. The former was threatened of blackmail for raping and killing a maiden, of which only Duadogi knows about and was asked to crown the later or have his secrets revealed. Amidst the people’s disappointment and murmuring over Koko’s betrayal, Duadogi orders for the banishment of Tuaton – the people’s king. This led to the resolution of the play’s meaning –An Empty Kingdom. Sikigbo said thus:

“There can only be a king where is a kingdom and there can only be a kingdom where there are people to rule”.

The people unanimously agreed with Sikigbo’s view point and left the kingdom to form another, with their choice-king-Tuaton the fisherman and farmer.

MAJOR THEME

1.      Democracy and Politics: The play in every sense portrays a democratic and political scenario to its audience. The playwright tends to give credence to democracy as the “new order” being a government of the people as Abraham Lincoln asserts. He maintains the supremacy of the people’s view over what has been an age –long political cum traditional practice of the land. The elements of politics was brought to bear when Duadogi resorted to bribery and blackmail and betrayal to garner support for the throne, whereas Tuaton believes in the selfless service he wants to offer the people whom he acknowledges that “by choosing him, they have made themselves king”.
2.      Conflict: The theme of conflict is centered around the character of Duadogi. He is by every sense the antagonist and villain in the play. He stirs up confusion and chaos among the people of Egweama just for achieving his selfish ambition of becoming king. He went as far as offering bribes to those who are against his kingship bid. He succeeded in becoming king by threatening Koko of blackmail if he is not crown king at the day of coronation.
3.      Corruption: This theme is portrayed as immanent in the age-long order by the playwright. He exposes the ills and evils of the Kings and their ways. He stresses the height of moral decadence and debauchery with which the kings paraded themselves. In one of Sikigbo’s remarks he said: “when they (the kings) upturn truth, it is the youth that suffer the consequences” page 21: Act 1, Secene 1. From the foregoing, it is crystal clear that the people lie under the mercies of their kings and whatever action taken, they only suffer the grievous outcome of such actions. Corruption which has eaten deep into the fibres of Egweama land and was finally rejected by the people who sought for a “new order of doing things”.
4.      Unity and Solidarity: The writer brought to the fore the uniqueness of the motif of unity and solidarity, apart from the theme of democracy which have the people right to air their views. From the prelude of the play, the opinion of the people was a paradigm shift from the old order to the new order, and in unity and solidarity the people spoke with one voice. When Sikigbo proposed the idea of how a new king should be installed, after some deliberation the people concurred to the idea. Again when the choice of Tuaton was made, the people agreed and when Duadogi was crowned king by Koko, the people with a collective resentment and disapproval left the land to join their choice-king Tuaton upon his banishment.
5.      Youthful leadership: The play portends the zest and enthusiasm of young people’s opinions prevailing over the opinion the old; it exposes the weaknesses flaws and failures of the age-long practice of the elders of the land and its consequences upon the younger generation. Sikigbo was point blank when he hits the nail at the head by saying “The future belongs to us (the youths) not to the old, therefore let us be part of the making, else the poison served by our fathers will be ours to taste”. PAGE 25: Act 1, Scene 1, he was simply saying the ways of the older generation (our fathers) is poison to that of the younger generation (the youths), hence a need for them to champion the cause for the change they desire.

CHARACTERIZATION
(MAJOR CHARACTERS)

1.      Sikigbo: He is the chief and leader of the youths. The foremost character in the play as he sets the stage for the unfolding of the major events in the play. He was the one who calls for the first meeting, informing the people of the demise of their Timi (king). He pointed out that: “there remains no seed from the house of the Timi to suffer the crown”. In another statement, he noted that: “During the reign of the last four Timis, we worshipped sins”, hence he square-headed the rejection of the ways of the old order and championed the cause for the “new order”. His actions culminate to the plays conflict, climax and resolution of meaning.
2.      Tuaton: A stranger although (a net-man from Ikibiri as pointed out by Ififie), Tuaton the fisherman and farmer endeared himself to the people with his generosity and benevolence to all and sundry. Sikigbo lauded his kindness when he said the following about him.
….Tuaton the stranger that was made son, Tuaton the giver of yams, Tuaton who runs errands for the mothers. Etc.
The above remarks stood him out as the choice of the people. When told he has been chosen as the people’s king, he turned it down at first, but when he saw that the people’s confidence was completely on him, he then agreed. On the day of coronation, Tuaton steps forward alongside his unknown rival-Duadogi who was eventually crowned king by Koko, Chief of the king-makers who had skeletons in his cupboard”. Consequently, Tuaton was banished and was joined by the people of Egweama who had built their trust and confidence on him.
3.      Duadogi: He is the villain of the play who parades himself as ‘a branch to the crown’ being the uncle of the late Timi. He is an epitome of bribery, corruption, slander and blackmail, common in the politics of nowadays. His quest for the throne was more than anything else to him. He meets Koko the chief of the king-makers and threatens to reveal his secret of raping and killing a maiden, if he is not crowned king on the day of coronation. His overbearing ego and arrogance made him to banish Tuaton, which prompted Egweama people to leave the land for him, hence leaving him An Empty Kingdom.
4.      Koko: Koko is the chief of the king makers and a custodian of the laws of the land. The role he played in crowning Duadogi instead of Tuaton puts him among the class of the major characters in the play by virtue of the skeleton he had in his cupboard (raping and killing a maiden) he betrayed the mandate of the people being that his hands were tied. This singular act tore the kingdom apart with the secession bid led by Sikigbo with others following.

  MINOR CHARACTERS

1.      Alayingi: The pregnant wife of Tuaton who accords her husband great respect typical of the African woman. She calls him names such as: My moon! Iyanowei (meaning my owner) etc. She gave all the support her husband needed from her and she was very happy when he was chosen to be king over Egweama.
2.      Finta: Finta is one of Sikigbo’s friends and a key supporter of Sikigbo’s ideas. He said to the people of Egweama that: “the five king makers are made by us and it is us alone that can unmake them”. With the preceding statement, he condemns the ‘old order’ and sought for the ‘new order’. He was also the one who went with Sikigbo to Tuaton’s house to convince him to accept the people’s offer to be their king.
3.      Ififie: He is the son of Nato, friend and key-supporter of Duadogi. When Sikigbo championed the cause for change and made the choice of Tuaton as king, for the people, he was the only one who spoke for Duadogi. He also brought the idea of visiting Sikigbo and Finta and tells their ears what they need to hear (bribe them). Duadogi buys his ideas and went to ‘see Sikigbo’ but was turned down abruptly.

Other minor character includes Fagha, Katagbo, Alagbo and Biboye, all friend and supporters of Sikigbo; Oko and Sia, friends and supporters of Duadogi. Godo and Dodo, friends to the throne and king of Odioma and Opoama respectively, the king makers, conductors, young and old men and woman alike.

DRAMATIC TECHNIQUES

1.      Dialogue: This is the chief tool with which the playwright sends across his message to the audience. The characters were point-blank as they throw their words on one another with an admirable accuracy and mastery of proverbs and age-long adages.
2.      Dramatic Irony: this is a situation whereby a scheme unknown to some characters of a play, although known to the schemer and the audience is carried out to the astonishment of the ignorant characters about it. The playwright achieves this through the seeming blackmail threat of Duadogi against Koko the chief of the king-makers who eventually crowns Duadogi as king instead of Tuaton to the surprise and amazement of Egweama people.
3.      Soliloquy: In page 12, Act 1 Scene 1, Fagha the first speaker speaks in Soliloquy thus: “Hmm! Wonderful. I say wonderful”. Also in page 61; Act 2, Scene 3, Koko in soliloquy says: “How deceitful is the mouth of a man and the beat of his heart”. Thus soliloquy means one speaking to himself alone on stage without other characters hearing him or her.
4.      Imageries: The playwright painted a lot of images in the mind of the readers with his use of proverbs and old adages such as:

“We have seen the anus of the goat”
“We have drunk the urine of kings and hidden their smelly buttocks for too long”
“To do thoughts and mind”
“Let the people turn the meat”
“Those who are seated in brilliant beads” among others, are the imageries painted by the playwright to make his audience’s mind transcend beyond their physical environment. The above imageries subscribes to the richness of the cultures and traditions of the African society from which they are coined.


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