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Nature, Environment, and Activism in Nigerian Literature
 9780367436056, 9781003004578

Table of contents :
Cover
Half Title
Series Page
Title Page
Copyright Page
Dedication Page
Contents
Acknowledgements
1 Introduction: the Nigerian experience in postcolonial ecocriticism
2 Natures
3 Environments
4 Activisms
5 Conclusion: the future of Nigerian ecocriticism
Works cited
Index

Citation preview

Nature, Environment, and Activism in Nigerian Literature

Nature, Environment, and Activism in Nigerian Literature is a critical study of environmental writing, covering a range of genres and generations of writers in Nigeria. With a sustained concentration on the Nigerian experience in postcolonial ecocriticism, the book pays attention to textual strategies as well as distinctive historicity at the heart of the ecological force in contemporary writing. Focusing on nature, the environment, and activism, the author decentres African ecocriticism, affirming the eco-social vision that differentiates environmental writing in Nigeria from those of other nations on the continent. The book demonstrates how Nigerian writers, beyond connecting themselves to the natures of their communities, respond to ecological problems through indigenous literary instrumentalism. Anchored on the analytical concepts of nature, environment, and activism, the study is definitive in foregrounding the contribution of Nigerian writing to studies in ecocriticism at continental and global levels. This book will be of interest to scholars of African and postcolonial literature, ecocriticism, and environmental humanities. Sule E. Egya is Professor of African Literature and Cultural Studies at Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Nigeria. He is also an award-winning poet and novelist who writes under the pen name E. E. Sule.

Routledge Contemporary Africa Series

Introduction to Rwandan Law Jean-Marie Kamatali State Fragility and Resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa Indicators and Interventions John Idriss Lahai and Isaac Koomson Press Silence in Postcolonial Zimbabwe News Whiteouts, Journalism and Power Zvenyika E. Mugari Urban Planning in Rapidly Growing Cities Developing Addis Ababa Mintesnot G. Woldeamanuel Regional Development Poles and the Transformation of African Economies Benaiah Yongo-Bure Nature, Environment, and Activism in Nigerian Literature Sule E. Egya Corporate Social Responsibility and Law in Africa Theories, Issues and Practices Nojeem A. Amodu Greening Industrialization in Sub-Saharan Africa Ralph Luken and Edward Clarence-Smith For more information about this series, please visit: www.routledge.com/ Routledge-Contemporary-Africa/book-series/RCAFR

Nature, Environment, and Activism in Nigerian Literature

Sule E. Egya

First published 2020 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2020 Sule E. Egya The right of Sule E. Egya to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN: 978-0-367-43605-6 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-003-00457-8 (ebk) Typeset in Bembo by Apex CoVantage, LLC

This book is dedicated to the fond memory of Sani Ede Osu. He also sowed the seed.

Contents

Acknowledgements 1

Introduction: the Nigerian experience in postcolonial ecocriticism

viii

1

2

Natures

22

3

Environments

70

4

Activisms

120

5

Conclusion: the future of Nigerian ecocriticism

169

Works cited Index

176 184

Acknowledgements

I started this research late in 2015 while an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow and scholar-in-residence at the Institute of Asian and African studies, Humboldt University, Berlin. I thank the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for the opportunities since 2009. Prof. Dr. Susanne Gehrmann and Dr. Pepetual Chiangong Mforbe of the Institute, along with their postgraduate students, made useful contributions to the early versions of the work. My gratitude to all of you. I completed the first draft of this book while a fellow at the Rachel Carson Centre for Environment and Society, University of Munich, Munich. My profound gratitude to the centre for the excellent atmosphere that enabled me to complete the research and writing. I thank the 2018/2019 fellows who read part of the work and gave crucial suggestions on the project. My discussion with Christof Mauch, the centre’s director, on the work was also very useful. Thank you, Christof. I also received funding for this research from Nigeria’s Tertiary Education Trust Fund through its national research grant instrument. My deep gratitude. Other scholars I have interacted with who have assisted me in different ways in the course of this research are Michal Musialowski, Carli Coetzee, Douglas Kaze, Ogaga Okuyade, and Cajetan Iheka. Thank you for your suggestions. Also deserving of thanks are the anonymous reviewers engaged by Routledge whose suggestions greatly improved the work. I thank Leanne Hinves of Routledge and her team for their interest in this work. I also thank Autumn Spalding of Apex CoVantage and her team for doing a great editorial job. For their love and care at home, my gratitude to Oshone, Aisha, Joy, Wasila, Anyalewa, Oyigwu, Taofiq, Egya, Ene, and Emayabo.

1

Introduction The Nigerian experience in postcolonial ecocriticism

In the concluding chapter of his book Different Shades of Green: African Literature, Environmental Justice, and Political Ecology, Byron Caminero-Santangelo remarks that “postcolonial regional particularism will not only be attentive to shared characteristics of a place in the world but also pay close attention to differences within such a place” (184). In this book, I pursue this logic further: ecocriticism in Africa needs to go beyond regional particularism to a national one for greater attentiveness to differences within the region. That is, we need to decentre the category “Africa” as we think in terms of ecological differences. There are two immediate reasons for this. First, it is by now a well-known epistemological argument that we cannot lump together the historical and cultural particularities of the region’s peoples, whether in the precolonial past or postcolonial present, especially as it regards knowledge production.1 Beyond visible commonalities, differences abound, some of them profound and with socioecological consequences. Second, ecocriticism as a field of studies thrives on the notion of difference. Launched in North America, as its history indicates, with studies of the particularities of American nature writers (see especially Lawrence Buell’s The Environmental Imagination), ecocriticism has continued to emphasise that while ecological crises can be of a global scale, the best way to view them would be from a local lens by which the local becomes the locus of understanding the global. Besides, with an increasing focus on the nonhuman, the material, there is the need to continue to stretch the logic of difference because natural worlds are rooted in localities. Nigerian literature is famously rich in evocation of environment, both physical and non-physical. In the non-physical aspect, the imagination is tied to writers’ cultural, spiritual connection to a place, usually their birthplace (as in the case of Christopher Okigbo hinging his inspiration to his birthplace’s water goddess Mother Idoto and Wole Soyinka to the god Ogun). In the physical aspect, there is a lot of attention to natural (biotic and abiotic) life forms such as water, trees, mountains, the sun, and the moon. There is a growing activism for the protection of such life forms, especially in sites of industrial extractions. This book is a theoretical and analytical study of this broad spectrum of the environment in Nigerian literature, under three linked and intertwined conceptual categories: nature, the environment, and activism. It is crucial to

2

Introduction

emphasise, from the outset, that the categorisation into three is methodological, mainly to construct an interpretive approach. My aim is to present, with attention to the three categories, the distinctiveness of Nigerian experience in what has come to be known as postcolonial ecocriticism. This is the first attempt, as far as I know, to focus on Nigerian literature with a programmatic outlook that foregrounds its socio-ecological force, ranging from naturehuman relations to the present ecological crisis and to deliberate efforts made by writers to save the earth. Furthermore, the book projects the rich tradition of environmental writing in Nigeria, which is usually subsumed in studies that focus mainly on the continent of Africa as a whole without paying sufficient attention to national or sub-national particularities. The book, it is also hoped, should correct the impression that literary environmentalism in Nigeria is only about the Niger Delta region. Because of the growing body of writings on the eco-destruction in the region as a result of oil extraction, most studies on ecocriticism in Nigeria have tended to focus on only the region. The scope of this book is wide and encapsulates other forms of environmental literature in Nigeria. Theoretical and methodological approaches are rooted in postcolonial ecocriticism – an ecocriticism that takes into consideration the peculiarities of Nigeria as a postcolonial society. This bottom-up approach to the study of environmental literature, which most postcolonial ecocritics have preferred (see Slovic, Rangarajan, and Sarveswaran 1–10; Bonnie and Hunt 1–13), can only be realised if we think beyond continental generalisations. Aside from establishing the distinctiveness of Nigerian experience, I pay keen attention to how humans relate to their environment in Nigeria in the past and in the present. I develop ideas from material ecocriticism, especially within the frame of what Karen Barad calls “agential realism” (see Kerridge 19). In the context of this agential realism rooted in Nigeria’s oralities, our understanding of human agency is radicalised so that humans alone do not claim agential powers where other nonhuman beings are involved. Also referred to as distributed or shared agency (see Cajetan Iheka), the recast form of agency in material ecocriticism acknowledges nonhuman beings and objects in situations where they assist humans to accomplish a thing. With this background, I project the pre-modern and modern relationship between humans and their environments in Nigeria and conclude that unless the relationship based on interdependence is sustained, there may be no environmental future for Nigeria, no matter the degree of activism. This study responds to recent works in postcolonial ecocriticism, from which it has benefitted. Caminero-Santangelo’s Different Shades of Green, F. Fiona Moolla’s Natures of Africa: Ecocriticism and Animal Studies in Contemporary Cultural Forms, and Cajetan Iheka’s Naturalizing Africa: Ecological Violence, Agency, and Postcolonial Resistance in African Literature have made significant contributions to the field. Caminero-Santangelo’s monograph is more concerned about environmentalism in Africa, especially in the context of global capitalism, consistently making the case that the conditions in Africa demand situated

Introduction

3

protocols for a fruitful understanding of environmental struggles and writings in Africa. Moolla’s edited book of essays pays attention to cultural and spiritual connections that humans establish between them and their environments in different parts of Africa, each society having something that is really peculiar to it. Iheka’s book, perhaps the most recent in the field, attempts to expand the scope of African ecocriticism to the extent that it considers some unlikely literary texts, such as Nurrudin Farah’s novels, which have not previously been read from an ecocritical perspective. Iheka argues emphatically that in African ecocriticism, our focus should shift from human-centred ecocritical concern to other-than-human-centred ecocritical concern. All these books have chapters on Nigerian ecocritical writing, especially on the Niger Delta region, but their focus is on continental particularity, with Nigeria being treated in comparison with other nations of Africa. One main issue that differentiates my book from them is the exclusive attention to Nigeria. This enables me to pay closer and keener attention to local details, thereby presenting a comprehensive ecocritical study on Nigeria, the type that does not exist yet. To this extent, canonical and relatively unknown texts are read side by side to, on the one hand, demonstrate the textual depth of Nigerian ecocriticism and, on the other, to bring the richness of Nigerian eco-writing to the attention of international ecocriticism. In this premise, my central argument is that environmental issues are necessarily local, even though there are global connections, and attention to the local remains the most viable approach to understand the contribution of writers and other cultural artists to the fate of the earth. The distinctive Nigerian experience, as a body of ecocritical writings, is crucial to the understanding of not only the African situation but also the global situation. This book pays closer attention to historical details and locally derived artistic strategies, and it offers insights to current environmental realities in Nigeria.

Nigerian ecological-postcolonial particularity I deliberately place “ecological” before “postcolonial” in the hyphenated word of the subheading. This is an operational strategy of the framework within which the selected texts in this study are read. It is meant to indicate that, as evident in Nigerian history and literature, before the peoples who make up Nigeria today experienced the postcolonial, they had experienced the ecological and have continued to do so.2 In other words, Nigerian literature, perhaps more than any other national literatures in Africa, remains a rich resource with which to validate the argument that nature and the environment, the biotic and the abiotic life forms, and indeed the relations between the human and the nonhuman, have long been thematised in Africa before the emergence of what we now know as ecocriticism. Writing in 2007, William Slaymaker could, therefore, conclude that “Nigerian literature is a treasure trove for the ecocritic and literary environmentalist” (130). To unveil this “treasure trove,” as is my major aim in this book, is to project the aesthetic compass of Nigerian literature from the traditional lore to the modern craft. As my focus here is on the

4

Introduction

modern craft, which, of course, takes its life from the traditional lore, I return us to the categories of nature, environment, and activism, as they structure written eco-literature. By elaborating on them here, I attempt to construct the particularity of the ecocritical experience in Nigerian literature. Nature, environment, activism

I use nature as a concept to capture the closeness of humans to their naturalspiritual environment, their interdependence, and the fruitful world of harmony that is imagined by writers. People’s closeness to nature in the precolonial past, their understanding of their ecology, and their spiritual connections to the ecosystems were ways through which they were othered by colonial institutions (government, religion, education) through the discourse of primitiveness. While the colonialists chose to view it as primitive, pagan, and superstitious, the people’s connection with the natural world was such that they saw themselves as part of the world, and the form they took as human was tentative, ephemeral, and impermanent. Life was thought of in the form of a cycle whereby the human dies and returns to the dead and then prepares to return to the world through the process of incarnation.3 The human form, in its transience, becomes something of a bodily ensemble of other life forms, which need attending to in the form of constant recognition and interaction. For instance, connecting himself to Mother Idoto, as Okigbo does in the poem “Idoto,” implies recognising the attributes of the goddess in his lineage, in himself, and constantly interacting with her spiritually and physically since it sometimes entails going to a specified river to perform certain rituals: Before you, mother Idoto, naked I stand, before your watery presence, a prodigal leaning on an oilbean; lost in your legend. . . . (1–6) The persona, having strayed into western modernity, chooses to return, now seeing herself/himself as a prodigal. In other words, having compared the two (tradition and modernity), s/he realises that s/he had earlier taken a wrong decision. To return to the water goddess, to the native ways of life, is to privilege nature, as the poem does. There is also a strong form of interdependence, valued in traditional society as much as taking water out of a river for domestic purposes. This interdependence is a phenomenon that seeks to destabilise the rationality of enlightenment/ modernity in the present time whereby some literary works suggest a return to ‘nature’ by staging indigenous epistemologies as a way forward for societal

Introduction

5

progress. In point of fact, Okigbo’s notion of prodigality is a metaphorical rendering of the agitation, since colonial time, that a retreat from a rather failed west-rooted modernity, indeed a return to traditionalism, is one way for Nigeria to get to know the roots of her socio-political problems. Writers discussed under the category of nature are not necessarily conscious environmental writers in that their interests are shaped by traditionalism or, if you prefer, nativism, and the nature (human-nonhuman relations) described in their works is part of the larger context of the pre-modern social space. This is, however, not to think of nature as being in the past because it is pre-modern. It is, rather, in a continuous conflict with failed modernity in Nigeria – failed because the promises of modernity are yet to be fulfilled, and traditionalism constantly reminds us that rather than continuing to hope on modernity, we need to return to nativism. The points about nature are fully fleshed out in Chapter 2. In the case of environment, I focus on the aestheticisation of the Nigerian built landscape. That is, the human-influenced environment in literature, from the rural to the urban, especially with the onset of modernity. One of the consequences of modernity is the transformation of rural and urban spaces, described by Emily Brownell and Toyin Falola as a “massive human intervention in landscapes and [. . .] encroachment of the modern world into [African] nature” (1). In colonial terms, this transformation is viewed as western civilisation. By now, people have been persuaded to abandon their natural way of living, their close contacts and interdependence with nature, and to adopt the sophisticated sheltering of modernity. This entails destroying nature to create a built home, western-style. Powerfully drawn to modern consciousness by colonial narratives, Nigerians (especially the emerging elite) acquired a taste and a technology by which they effect the destruction of nature in order to raise structures as a normal way of living. But the urbanisation process, even from the beginning, is fraught with insufficient urban and regional planning. One of the early poems of J. P. Clark titled “Ibadan” captures the potential chaos that will eventually become characteristic of most Nigerian urban centres. The six-line poem reads, Ibadan, running splash of rust and gold – flung and scattered among seven hills like broken china in the sun. The rust of the roofing zincs, when reflected by the sun, gives a gold colour. But it is deeper than that, as the feeling of having gold is what most people feel when they are lucky to have a white-collar job and live in a city like Ibadan. The sense of golden modernity is contrasted with the reality of rust. The city, unorganised, unplanned, and untended, gives the picture of broken china from an aerial view. In this short poem, Clark powerfully interrogates the kind of modernity that bids us to leave the comfort of nature, migrate to the city

6

Introduction

(notice the reality of overpopulation in “flung and scattered”), and live in rust while having the feeling of possessing gold. With neo-liberal capitalism, Nigerian landscape becomes severely pressured by the technology of building, of exerting forces on nature. Even before flag independence, what eventually became a large-scale modern invasion of nature in Nigeria began in 1957 with the discovery of crude oil in Oloibiri in the Niger Delta region. The Delta region, till today, remains the most sordid example of the de-naturing of Nigerian landscape, where the effects are vivid and unashamedly left unclean – oil spills, gas flares, abandoned large equipment, polluted waters, etc.4 Beyond human-caused environmental hazards, Nigeria has come to contend with the effects of climate change, which have manifested mainly in the forms of excessive rains, flooding, erosion, desertification, drought, etc. Literary works are increasingly emerging in different traditional genres and in new ones (open mic poetry, stand-up comedy, documentary film) dealing with the fate of the landscape in the present time. The literary works are concerned with the creation of the modern space, through urbanisation, to cater for a modern life and how the creation profoundly affects the physical environment. At this point, the Nigerian writer has become conscious of the environment, particularly its crises, which are, in the view of the writer, the consequences of failed modernity. Chapter 3 is where I further purse the degradation of the environment as a result of human activities and climate change. Describing the physical environment or the landscape, as some conscious environmental writers do, is not enough. A strand of environmental writing, therefore, pushes the boundary towards activism, whereby emphasis is laid on the instrumentalism of literature to the extent that the writer could be viewed as militant. In this premise, I use the category of activism to draw attention to environmental writing that is aggressively confrontational to institutional powers in zones of deliberate eco-destruction. The notion of activism pursued here is mainly textual to the extent that my attention is on the activisms of the characters in the texts, not necessarily of the authors, although I present the argument that the texts’ focalisers are often the voices of the authors. I, therefore, attempt to shift the focus from the writer-activist (Nixon, Slow Violence 14–16) to the activist imaginary created through the force of literary alterity. It is a fact that environmental activism, the type I deal with here, is more dramatised in what is emerging as the Niger Delta eco-writing – a category that emerged as a result of the judicial killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa, who suffered persecution for his environmental struggle. This eco-writing is mainly characterised by the creation of protagonists or personas (in the case of poetry) that mobilise the locals to confront institutional powers mainly framed as multinational oil corporations in connivance with the Nigerian government. Nnimmo Bassey’s “We Thought It Was Oil but It Was Blood” is exemplary of how poetry, indeed literature, can push the boundary towards activism. The strength of this poem is in the strong images of abandonment, hardship, oppression, frustration, and death, as well as that of the hope the poet is able to realise and connect in a sustained breath of lamentation. But more importantly, the poem is eager

Introduction

7

to raise people’s consciousness towards fighting against petrodollar oppression. The persona, therefore, foresees a revolution: They may kill all But the blood will speak They may gain all But the soil will RISE We may die And yet stay alive. (65–68) Notice the use of capitals for “RISE,” a way of suggesting that the action of rising up against institutional powers is sure and emphatic. Blood is invoked to make the point that while the body can be killed, the spirit cannot. In other words, killing those who struggle, such as Saro-Wiwa, will not end the struggle; it will, in fact, encourage the struggle, as it has done given the eforescence of environmental writing from the Niger Delta. This is the central tenet of Nigerian ecoactivism. But environmental activism in Nigerian literature is not limited to the Niger Delta, a point that I have emphasised with readings of works from other regions of Nigeria. Notably, there has been activism from the north-western and south-eastern parts of Nigeria, which face the problems of desertification and erosion, respectively. The subject of environmental activism is further pursued in Chapter 4. From the foregoing, Nigerian ecocriticism can be seen as a trajectory that began from nature to the built environment and to environmental activism. It is one way to look at the history of ecocriticism in Nigeria. To trace it, the enquiry has to start from the depiction of precolonial time when humans were much closer to nature, to the postcolonial time when nature is subverted and the built environment privileged. And yet the modernity that privileges built environment is itself an agent of environmental destruction, thereby leading to a concerted effort by writers against it through activism. It is crucial to point out that this trajectory is in no way rigid. That is, we cannot interpret the linearity of nature, environment, and activism in such a way that one category cancels the other. They, in fact, coexist. One can even further argue that they are coextensive. But the boundaries are loose so that what one reader sees as an instance of nature, another reader could see as an instance of environment or of activism. Or a literary work may contain the three categories, although it is possible that one will dominate others. To this extent, the categorisation, as I earlier mentioned, is for purposes of my reading, of fashioning what I see as the distinctiveness of Nigerian ecocriticism, which, in fact, transcends the categories to embrace the historicity of Nigeria-specific aesthetics. The historical compass of Nigerian literary aesthetics is crucial in delineating Nigerian ecocriticism. It is an aesthetics, on the one hand, that roots itself in oralities, in local poetics; on the other, it is decisively instrumental, rooted in the notion of postcolonial counter-discourse.

8

Introduction

Tradition and instrumental aesthetics

Although Nigerian literature, like most literatures of postcolonial societies, has its beginning, its roots, in colonial modernity, it has purposively questioned its western roots, redirecting itself to traditionalism. Pioneer Nigerian writers are sometimes wrongly dismissed as Euro-modernist, following the scathing criticism of Chinweizu et al. But as Harry Garuba (51–72) explains, to pigeonhole writers such as Okigbo, Soyinka, Clark (for these are the main targets of the nativist criticism) as negatively modernist is to ignore their tradition-rooted and nation-concerned aesthetics in terms of style and theme.5 That is, evidence abound in their work regarding their cultural nationalism, especially as the writers have been, since inception, thematically concerned about the fate of Nigeria and stylistically inclined towards their traditional idioms (Okigbo: Igbo, Soyinka: Yoruba, Clark: Ijaw). Garuba, therefore, prefers to see them as “modernist-nationalist” – a term that captures their cultural nationalism, hinged on a marriage of the tropes of modernism, in which they are schooled, and those of traditionalism, in which they are raised. This aesthetic compass – a mixture of the traditional and the modern – is not only sustained in the history of Nigerian literature but also theorised and practised to a greater degree by the writers who emerged in the 1980s. Arguably, the most notable of them is the poet Niyi Osundare who in a meta-poem entitled “Poetry Is” (Songs of the Marketplace 3–4) presents what appears to be a poetic manifesto for his generation. Influenced by the argument raised by Chinweizu et al. that pioneer Nigerian writers are Eurocentric, obscurantist, and disconnected from their traditions, Osundare negates what he sees as the “Greecoroman lore” (6) of his precursors. Poetry, he postulates, should be a song that appeals to ordinary people, including hawkers and market people. As such, it should be rooted in nature, in traditionalism, with images that are not difficult for people to decipher (the poem is discussed in Chapter 2). For Osundare and others, poetry, art generally, in spite of its control by western institutions, can only make sense in Nigeria if it is duly domesticated to the extent that it is produced in local idioms and appeals to locals.6 Osundare’s supposedly radical relocation of poetry, art generally, from the intellectual zone to the marketplace (following his first title Songs of the Marketplace) has had a great appeal to writers of his generation and subsequent generations and can only be fully understood against the backdrop of the critical tradition in Nigeria. By the 1980s, there was a raging debate between writers, critics, and literary scholars about the role of literature in society. The debate was anchored on a sharp divide between formalism and Marxism. Pioneer writers and critic-scholars, because of their inclination to modernism, are often regarded as formalists. In the formalist camp are the writers Okigbo, Soyinka, Clark, Ola Rotimi, etc., and the scholars Dan Izevbaye, Charles Nnolim, Donatus Nwoga, Kolawole Ogungbensan, David Ker, etc., most of whom were trained in the formalist tradition. In the Marxist camp are writers such as Femi Osofisan, Niyi Osundare, Odia Ofeimun, Tanure Ojaide, Festus Iyayi,

Introduction

9

Kole Omotoso, etc., and the scholars Biodun Jeyifo, Emevwo Biakolo, G. G. Darah, Omafume Onoge, Ola Oni, and John Ohierhenuan. This crop of writers is often considered Marxist in literary ideology because of the rise of Marxist thought across Nigerian universities in the 1970s and the 1980s. Although some of the writers do not neatly fall into either camp, literary scholars and historians often resort to this division for convenience. There are thematic and stylistic factors in differentiating the two camps. Thematically, the older writers view the society through individual figuration, whereby the writer, especially the poet, interprets society through herself/himself as a poet-persona. The playwright or novelist, for instance, sees the society through a mythical character, going into the past in search of a traditional hero or mythical figure, such as Okonkwo in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart or Ozidi in Clark’s The Ozidi Saga. In contrast, the younger writers privilege the plight of the masses and are concerned about raising consciousness against the bourgeoisie. They disfavour individual heroism and prefer mass communal heroism. One of the triggers for this concern is the reality of the Nigerian Civil War (1967–1970), which leaves ordinary people grossly dehumanised. Post-war writings, therefore, increasingly grow socialist in tone and tenor, and they become a means of critiquing the class divide and the realities of oppression in Nigeria. Regarding style, the works of the older writers are characterised by dense, often private, images; complex syntax; and modern, far-fetched allusions. In contrast, the younger writers intentionally favour simple syntax, accessible images, and traditional allusions. Oralities become a crucial aesthetic factor in distinguishing them. The crux of the debate is the accusation by the Marxist camp that those in the formalist camp have failed to properly instrumentalise literature in the service of society. The formalists, according to the Marxists, have, in the tradition of high modernism, reduced literature to an avenue for mythopoeic selfglorification in which the writer is more interested in demonstrating her/his artistic prowess. The works of the formalists, therefore, do not lend themselves to what Jeyifo describes as an “application of a rigorous class approach to the analysis and evaluation of the production and reception of works of art and literature in Africa” (Wole Soyinka xiv). The playwright Bode Sowande, assessing the socio-political condition of Nigeria, concludes that “[t]he urgency of the need for a functional theatre is so great that a heavily loaded philosophical stuff [such as Soyinka writes] is a cheat on society” (quoted in Obafemi 170). However, the formalists refuse to be persuaded that a literary work can only serve society when it adopts the class approach, when it privileges a form that is accessible to ordinary people. The Marxist writers and thinkers, the formalists contend, fail to recognise the complexity of literature as an art form, thereby watering literary craft in the bid to democratise it and make it more functional. The formalists insist on what Izevbaye calls “technical excellence” (136). Nwoga is blunt about this: “[Nobody] should expect a poet to vulgarize his inspiration and strategies to fit into the laziness of those who do not want to make effort to appreciate his achievement” (107). Kolawole Ogungbesan goes

10

Introduction

as far as declaring that “[i]t is a betrayal of art for the writer to put his writings at the service of a cause, even if it is such a laudable and uncontroversial cause as the ‘education’ of the people” (7). Notice the allusion to Chinua Achebe’s “The Novelist as Teacher” (see Hopes and Impediments) in which he expresses his conviction that a writer has a role to play in her/his society by way of sensitising and raising the consciousness of her/his audience. But as it turns out, the notion of instrumentalism entrenches itself. The role a literary work plays in transforming society supersedes the concern with its form. In fact, the form is important only to the extent that it historicises socio-political realities and is itself historicised. This becomes, arguably, the singular most important aesthetic ideology that has underscored Nigerian literature of different times. The argument between the two camps, if properly contextualised, amounts to each overstating its position. The content and form of Nigerian literature, since inception, are implicated in a social vision anchored on what one may call the anxiety of nation. This anxiety became heightened in the 1990s when writers developed intense political poetics as a response to the decades of military despotism in Nigeria.7 The regimes of General Muhammadu Buhari (1983–1985), General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (1985–1993), and the late General Sani Abacha (1993–1998) successively visited upon Nigeria phases of devastating oppression that brought the country to the nadir of political and economic downturn. The journalist Karl Maier, in his study of the Nigerian society under military repression entitled This House Has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis, sums the country’s misfortune this way: “Since independence from Britain in 1960, Nigeria has witnessed at least one million deaths in Africa’s biggest civil war, the assassination of two government leaders, six successful coups and four failed ones, and thirty years of army rule” (xxi). As a result, “the very name Nigeria,” he states, “conjures up images of chaos and confusions, military coups, repression, drug trafficking, and business fraud” (xviii). Nigeria has yet to recover from this image. Along with pro-democracy pressure groups, guerrilla journalists, labour and student unions, protest musicians (such as Fela Anikulapo Kuti), Nigerian writers mounted pressures that led to General Babangida having to, in his own words, “step aside” (Ajibade 10). The late General Abacha, described by Chris Anyanwu as worse than Adolf Hitler (The Days of Terror 267), faced harsher pressures, which he confronted with unimaginable terror, but would eventually die in his sleep.8 Nigerian writers, in the real and in the imaginary, were in the forefront of fighting regimes, and to date, Nigerian literary imagination continues to historicise military despotism. The scenario which was a constant situation in the life of Nigeria under repression is best captured by Oyeniyi Okunoye thus: Inspired by the moral support provided by the active involvement of such influential public figures as Wole Soyinka, Gani Fawehinmi, and the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students, mass protests and anti-government rallies were staged to confront the military and denounce

Introduction

11

violations of human rights, lawlessness and despotic tendencies. [. . .] Civil Liberties Organisation, Campaign for Democracy and the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, worked in concert with labour and progressive bodies like the Nigerian Bar Association, the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Academic Staff Union of Universities to stage protests. [. . .] Journalists and popular artists as well displayed courage in acting as the conscience of the nation and defied all the decrees and orders of successive military juntas to suppress dissension and informed opposition. (“Writing Resistance” 80) In the context described here, Nigerian writers collapsed the diference between the real and the imaginary so that they often enacted in real situations the acts of resistance in their fictional works, or fictionalised, faction style, their real acts of resistance. For instance, in Waiting for an Angel, Helon Habila does not only capture that moment that he and his friends, and the highly militant writers who lived in Lagos, participated in demonstrations against military dictatorship but also uses the real names of the dictator and the writers in the novel (see Egya, Power and Resistance). Whether from a formalist perspective, or a Marxist persuasion, or a feminist viewpoint (the three have exerted the greatest influence on Nigerian literary imagination), literature has concerned itself with the socio-political condition, often in an overarching way that draws criticisms or a call for restraint from even Nigerian scholars. For instance, when Titi Adepitan accuses younger Nigerian writers, especially the ones who emerged in the 1990s, of “grinding out versions of Things Fall Apart” (125), he expresses the view of a certain school of critics who feel that the Nigerian political condition has come to over-determine the frame of counter-discourse with which Nigerian literature has been known for since Chinua Achebe. According to Adepitan, “[The] political landscape was becoming more and more desperate; before they [the writers] learned how to write many [of them] were co-opted into the vanguard of literature as an instrument of protest, and that was all they wrote” (124). Certainly, not everyone would frame the issue in the negative way Adepitan has done. Seeing it as a continental phenomenon, Abiola Irele has something that sounds like a word of advice for critics like Adepitan: The manifest concern of the writers to speak to the immediate issues of social life, [and] to narrate the tensions that traverse their world [. . .] leave the African critic with hardly any choice but to give precedence to the powerful referential thrust of our literature. (xiv) In spite of the postmodern factors that appear to shape present-day Nigerian writings, especially from the diasporic angle, it remains overwhelmingly concerned about Nigeria as a postcolony, slow to development, burdened with a pervasive systemic failure.

12

Introduction

Ecocritical aesthetics in the context

The aesthetic trajectory I have mapped out has consequences for Nigerian ecocriticism. There is no point in talking of any such thing as Nigerian ecocriticism without recourse to what Irele calls “the powerful referential thrust” of Nigerian literature, without reference to the rather deterministic anxiety of nation. That is, ecocriticism, as an aesthetic domain in the context of Nigeria, arises from, and remains rooted in, the social context within which literature is instrumentalised as a powerful means of creating a socially just society. The point of taking off for this ecocriticism is, therefore, the social space, which implies a domain already inhabited by humans, one in which humans are engaged in a struggle for a better life. The implication is that this ecocriticism, although it has the goals of undercutting humans’ inclination to environmental abuse, human exceptionalism, and species exclusion, is from inception invariably tied to the fate of the human. In other words, the ecological concerns of this ecocriticism are not divorced from the social concerns of Nigeria. The two are tied together so that to talk of a Nigerian ecocriticism is to refer to an ecocriticism that is, like in most postcolonial societies, produced from the imbrications of the social and the ecological. In very clear terms, Nigerian ecocriticism does not pretend to anthropocentric neutrality, does not vacate the social space, and yet it questions anthropocentric excesses and manifestations of social institutions that impede ecological justice. Its vision is socio-ecological, not merely social or ecological. As will be seen in the subsequent chapters, there is no way to talk of nature and the built environment without talking of the humans, often poor and hapless, who inhabit them, those whose fates are entangled with that of the nonhuman. One cannot talk of the environment in Nigeria without references to the neo-imperial systems of subjugation that use and abuse the human and the nonhuman, almost always in the same breath. Rooted in protest aesthetics, in the strong counter-discourse that characterises postcolonialism, Nigerian ecocriticism sees itself as an instrument in that it offers the ecocritic, writer or scholar, the possibilities of turning Nigeria into a space of socio-ecological justice. Nigerian ecocriticism has its gaze inwards, is place-based, and sometimes shies away from global debates on ecological issues, such as climate change and the Anthropocene. It is not that the writers are not aware of such debates. They are, in fact, aware and a few of them have thematised the debates and their intricacies at the local levels. What appears to be the case is that they are often overwhelmed by the realities of their immediate localities – realities, on the one hand, defined by the condition of extreme poverty and helplessness and, on the other, characterised by incredible human-caused eco-destruction. A crucial factor in framing eco-destruction, whether human or climate caused, in Nigeria is the pervasive consequence of failed leadership in Nigeria. As I mentioned earlier, the nation suffered a prolonged army rule that, in the estimation of many analysts, has left it plundered and economically weak with systemic corruption. Attempts to revive its economy have been plagued by

Introduction

13

structural deficiencies and often imposed foreign policies, such as the Structural Adjustment Programme (Eghosa Osaghae). In spite of the return to democracy at the turn of the twenty-first century, the country appears not to have made any substantial progress in terms of infrastructure development, human rights, and anticorruption fights. That is, Nigeria is still mired in the endemic socio-political problems that stunt its development, a reality that has dire consequences on its ecology. For instance, successive Nigerian leaders, since democratisation, have promised and failed to clean up the huge ecological mess in Ogoniland, and in other parts of the Niger Delta, a mess that has existed for decades, effectively destroying biotic and abiotic forms of life. In the face of this, most eco-writings from the Niger Delta, literary or not, do not, cannot, ignore this reality. In fact, this overwhelming concern with the immediate reality of the environment gives the eco-writings a tone of what may be regarded as an ecological single story whereby the same issues of eco-destruction, their consequences on humans and their environments, constitute a narrative across spaces and genres. The realist mode of writing, therefore, becomes the favoured one in Nigerian ecocriticism. The tendency is to vividly describe the realities of the environment. Often the present realities are juxtaposed with what appears to be the pristine past in order to make the point that modernity, as well as its agents of capitalism, is responsible for the present situation. Each realist description is underscored by an ideology of change. The literary work is critical of the present reality and, therefore, suggests a change towards a socio-ecological space in which humans and nonhumans can coexist. This may entail a privileging of indigenous ideals that foreground the type of harmonious interdependence that is ancestral to the society. In this context, a work of literature, although literary in every sense, is a cultural piece in which the form is not more privileged than the content since the form itself aspires to be an aspect of the local lore, often determined by the cultural content of the work. In other words, the literary work, in spite of its western form, is to some extent a piece of indigenous culture in that its formal properties are rooted in indigenous culture, its content, even if the themes present modern realities, is hinged on a cultural dimension that seeks to project the advantages of localised or domesticated advocacies. This is what one sees in even a cursory reading of Tanure Ojaide and Niyi Osundare, arguably the two most ecologically sensitive writers in Nigeria. The lore of their ethnic localities (Ojaide: Urhobo, Osundare: Yoruba) is foundational to their poetry, stylistically and thematically. In fact, their ecological sensitivity is not much of a response to the rise of environmentalism in Nigeria as it is to their romantic orchestration of their indigenous lore over and above the stylistics of modernity. Long before ecocriticism gained entry, so to say, in Nigerian literary scholarship, Ojaide and Osundare were concerned about not only the depletion of nature by western modernity but also – and this appears to be more important to them – the subversion of local lore, traditional aesthetics, by modernist aesthetics. Funso Aiyejina has described these two poets, along with those who embrace their practice, as poets of the

14

Introduction

alter-native tradition – alter-native referring to their preference for their native lore over the received modernist tradition. From the foregoing, one can conclude that the realism of Nigerian ecocriticism, the ecocriticism’s tendency to locate itself in the realist mode, is wrapped in indigenous literary tradition in that the style does not only favour local lore but also the theme leans towards the privileging of indigenous practices. One more point to make about Nigerian ecocriticism is its inter-generic landscape. By this I mean the substance of this ecocriticism is not located only in one genre. To properly locate this ecocriticism, one needs to look at the three traditional genres of literature: poetry, prose fiction, and drama, including other emerging genres, such as spoken word poetry. From Gabriel Okara to Niyi Osundare and to Ahmed Maiwada, poetry has historicised the pains of the environment and imagined a socio-ecological justice. From J. P. Clark to Ahmed Yerima and to Elaigwu Ameh, drama remains quite critical of institutional powers behind ecological crises in Nigeria. From Isidore Okpewho to Kaine Agary and Adamu Kyuka Usman, prose fiction has been keen to demonstrate that although humans are agents of environmental destruction, they are the ones who can reorient themselves towards creating an ecological future through activism. Some writers are known across two or three genres, dealing with environmental issues through different forms. For instance, Clark writes both drama and poetry that are rich in environmental themes. It may be difficult to say which of the genres is most keen about ecological issues, but the most prevalent of the three could be poetry. The point to make here is that any survey or study of Nigerian ecocriticism that does not take this inter-generic landscape into cognisance is likely to give a wrong impression.

From Nigeria to the world in the context of postcolonial ecocriticism To emphasise the notion of decentredness, the particularity of a nation, as this book does, is to make the point that rather than being a recipient or receptacle of global thought on ecocriticism, Nigeria should contribute, from its local realities, to the production of what one might see as a universal ecocritical course. That is, there is certainly something to learn from the flowering of ecocritical imagination in Nigeria. There is something peculiar to it that it brings to the world stage. But also, the context of Nigerian ecocriticism presented earlier is one way of asking global ecocritics to pay attention to its particularity, especially in reaching conclusions about it. It is best to start from the obvious point that Nigerian ecocriticism, whichever way one views it, is hinged on postcolonial ecocriticism. Through the notion of postcolonialism, Nigeria already establishes a link with other postcolonial nations. The aesthetics of Nigerian literature, and the condition of possibility for it, which I described earlier, could indeed be quite similar to those of other postcolonial nations, especially other nations of Africa. It is, in short, on the basis of similarities in the historical process of nations that had

Introduction

15

been colonised that postcolonialism gained currency. Postcolonial ecocriticism is, therefore, the globalised context of Nigerian ecocriticism. In other words, at the point that Nigerian ecocriticism turns its gaze outward to the world, it manifests itself in the orchestrations of postcolonial ecocriticism. This is not to say that Nigerian ecocriticism unburdens itself of its ecological, socio-political, and cultural particularities. It simply means that, as many postcolonial ecocritics have implied, “there are points of agreement, if not similarity, that are also productive tools. If the injustices of our world are undeniably interconnected and complex, however invisible such connections may seem, our solutions need also to be interconnected” (Roos and Hunt 7). The recognition of the need for difference and, in the same breath, for interconnection is, as I see it, the greatest strength of postcolonial ecocriticism. To strike a balance between the notion of difference and that of interconnection, therefore, remains the ultimate aspiration of any national ecocriticism constitutive of postcolonial ecocriticism. From the earlier efforts of, among others, Graham Huggan and Helen Tiffin (1–11; Postcolonial Ecocriticism), Bonnie Roos and Alex Hunt (Postcolonial Green), Rob Nixon (233–251; Slow Violence and Environmentalism of the Poor), Byron Caminero-Santangelo (698–706), William Slaymaker (129–139; 683–697), Juliana Makuchi Nfah-Abbenyi (707–714), and Elizabeth DeLoughrey and George B. Handley (Postcolonial Ecologies), postcolonial ecocriticism has considerably challenged the hegemony of ecocriticism in North America. The emergence of ecocriticism in American literary scholarship in the twentieth century presupposed that the study of literature and the environment was an innovative approach. At least this is the impression Cheryll Glotfelty (xv–xxxvii) gave in her introduction to the 1996 seminal volume The Ecocriticism Reader. Expositions of ecocriticism in this early period, usually referred to as the first wave, were silent, deliberately or unwittingly so, on the possibilities of the connections between literature and the environment in societies, nations, and regions other than America. DeLoughrey and Handley observed in their 2011 book that [at] American ecocritical conferences and in recent publications, we see an increasing tendency to naturalize a dominant American origin for ecological thought, and by extension a displacement of postcolonial, feminist, ecosocialist, and environmental justice concerns as outside the primary body of ecocritical work. (14) The first task postcolonial ecocriticism sets for itself in the face of the institutionalisation of “a dominant American origin” is, therefore, to assert the existence of other ecocriticisms, like the one this book is concerned with. DeLoughrey and Handley provide good examples to argue that, indeed, concerns with the environment had been going on in other literatures of diferent parts of the world before that of the American origin. This exclusionary tendency by the American ecocritics is ironical in that the American ecocriticism itself had posed as a cultural means of confronting, on the one hand, human species exclusion and,

16

Introduction

on the other, literary-institutional silence on the fate of the environment. As Lawrence Buell succinctly puts it, “Like racism, environmental crisis is a broadly cultural issue, not the property of a single discipline” (The Future of Environmental Criticism vi). Postcolonial ecocriticism takes this logic further: environmental issues are not limited to America; they are global, as long as postcolonial societies are part of the global. As such, ecocriticism has to have a global scope, with attention to historical diversities of postcolonial societies. The last point brings up the issue of describing postcolonial ecocriticism, which is concomitant with challenging the American hegemony. The operative term here is decentring. By way of decentring ecocriticism, postcolonial ecocriticism defines itself in terms of historical specificities, making the point that environmental issues are as diverse and culturally specific as literatures of different societies. Further, environments and literatures of formerly colonialized societies cannot be divorced from the historical processes of colonisation. DeLoughrey and Handley ask a crucial question in this regard: “Given the ample body of scholarship on nature and empire, [. . .] why are environmental concerns often understood as separate from postcolonial ones?” (14). Colonial and anticolonial narratives, if we look closely, are locked in a confrontation that mainly centres on the nature, environment, and culture of the colonised societies. At least this is the case with most parts of Africa; it is the case with Nigeria. That is why Chinua Achebe’s powerful anticolonial narrative, Things Fall Apart, portrays Nigerian (specifically Igbo ethnic nation’s) precolonial nature, environment, and culture to confront existing colonial narratives. “I would be quite satisfied,” Achebe declares, “if my novels (especially the ones I set in the past) did no more than teach my readers that their past – with all its imperfections – was not one long night of savagery from which the first Europeans acting on God’s behalf delivered them” (Hopes and Impediments 45). To this extent, postcolonialism and ecocriticism have been entangled from the beginning, and DeLoughrey and Handley are correct to wonder why environmental concerns are separated from postcolonial concerns. Of course, as they explain, the hegemony of American ecocriticism seems to be responsible for the separation, owing to its silence on colonial histories. With its move towards decentring ecocriticism, postcolonial ecocriticism finds company in ecofeminism, environmental justice ecocriticism, Marxist ecocriticism, and so on. With pressures from the discourses of the aforementioned types, global ecocriticism gets decentred so that the middle-class bias of first-wave ecocriticism was increasingly being replaced by a more class- and race-conscious social ecocriticism [.  .  .] a shift of focus from wilderness to metropolitan and toxified landscapes, with attention being directed towards constructed as well as natural environments. (Goodbody 13) In defining itself, postcolonial ecocriticism is distinguished by its inevitably instrumental dimension. Although first-wave ecocriticism is accused of what Axel Goodbody refers to as its “crudely instrumentalising approach” (ix), there

Introduction

17

is a sense in which we can say postcolonial ecocriticism is built on a stronger literary instrumentalism. As I see it, instrumentalism is one of the greatest legacies postcolonialism brings to ecocriticism in that it complements ecocriticism’s instrumentalism (whether it is crude or not) and solidifies the field’s functionalism in the face of critical environmental problems. Huggan and Tiffin had this in mind when, in describing the link between postcolonialism and ecocriticism, they thought in terms of aesthetics, advocacy, and activism (11). These cardinal points of instrumentalism, they explained, are common to ecocriticism and postcolonialism. They concluded that “postcolonial ecocriticism – like several other modes of ecocriticism – performs an advocacy function both in relation to the real world(s) it inhabits and to the imaginary spaces it opens up for contemplation of how the real world might be transformed” (13). Transformation is, therefore, at the heart of postcolonial ecocriticism. It is inherent in the example of the Nigerian ecocriticism I present in this book. Whether under the auspices of nature, of built environment, or of activism, the ultimate goal of Nigerian ecocritical aesthetics, as I pointed out earlier, is to perform an advocacy towards transforming the society. This transformation is anchored on a socio-ecological vision, taking into consideration the imbrication of the social and the ecological, the human and the natural, in what I have elsewhere termed an eco-human engagement of Nigerian writers (Egya 60–70). Firmly located in postcolonial ecocriticism, Nigerian ecocriticism demands a further decentring of the former, making the point that decentring is a process that ought to be ongoing. It seems to me that in fashioning the domain of postcolonial ecocriticism, scholars appear to be more concerned with the similarities of postcolonial societies that provide a condition of possibility for its validity. That is, scholars often position postcolonial ecocriticism against American ecocriticism or universal ecocriticism (if there is any such thing) and write in defence of postcolonial ecological issues as though all postcolonial societies are unified by those issues. Even when Africa is taken as a postcolonial category, ecocritical scholars often project it as if there is the need to suspend the continent’s socio-ecological diversities. While this tendency, which is mainly manifest in the knowledge production capitals of the west, could be understood as a strategy for foregrounding the common eco-humanity of the continent, there is no doubt that crucial specific details and the possibilities of harnessing indigenous knowledges are invariably lost in this kind of continental framing. The point is to encourage the production of more socio-ecological differences, beyond the continent, beyond the nation, even beyond the ethnic nation. This is the rationale for a distinctive Nigerian experience in postcolonial ecocriticism, even if similarities abound between Nigeria and other postcolonial nations. For an ecocriticism aesthetically rooted in indigenous lore, as we have seen with the examples of Ojaide and Osundare earlier, the kind of enquiry it invites is one that demands keen attention to traditionalism. To study Nigerian ecocriticism is, therefore, to pay closer attention to Nigerian indigenous cultures and to reckon with the notion of place and how it influences the production

18

Introduction

of ecocritical writing. This is crucial and worth reiterating in the study of ecocriticism across the world. Ecocriticism from inception appears to be guilty of, in Caminero-Santangelo’s words, “[erasing] histories of indigenous peoples, of colonial conquest, and of migrations that disrupted notions of wilderness and rooted dwelling” (10). This problem is not restricted to the first wave and second wave of ecocriticism. Even with new explorations in the direction of feminist ecocriticism and material ecocriticism, not much attention is given to peculiarities of indigenous societies. Perhaps the best way to explore the indigenous in contemporary time is to go back to nature and see the ancient framing of human and nonhuman interdependence, especially as passed from generation to generation in oral lore. In other words, ecocriticism in the global stage needs to rethink what Chris Conghran sees as the “ecological turn against nature” (14). For in nature (the real, not the textual one), humans can get to rediscover themselves and realise the ecological balance needed for the prevention of ecological catastrophes that appear imminent in the present time. To achieve environmental justice – suppose this is a goal that global ecocriticism takes seriously – there is the need to understand and re-contextualise human agency. The material ecocritical notion of shared or distributed agency is instructive in this regard. In the context of nature in Nigeria, human agency has not always been attributed to the human alone. There is something of an animist unconscious that structures the relations between humans and nonhumans so that humans always feel spiritually attached, via religion or not, to a certain higher power (this is further discussed in Chapter 2). But beyond that, the agency of humans, especially in the context of eco-activism in Nigeria, is almost always communal. That is, the ecological struggle is not usually an individual struggle but a communal one whereby an individual may start a form of resistance that will snowball into a group struggle. There is no doubt that this collective will to resistance is rooted in the ways in which life is lived in Nigeria. In spite of western modernity and its concomitant individualism, life is still communal. People share fears, struggles, and aspirations. The sense is always there that one should use her/his privileged position to fight on behalf of others. This communal sense is crucial to any fight to achieve environmental justice, either at the local or the global level. At the global level, there should be a level of boundless open-mindedness by which every human, irrespective of race and gender, can feel invited to make contributions towards achieving environmental justice. The desirability of environmental justice is, as most scholars affirm, a global thing. That is, all societies of the world would necessarily demand environmental justice. But local knowledges and practices need to be harnessed from all parts of the world in the fight for it. If, as Rob Nixon says, the challenge of confronting slow violence is “how to devise arresting stories, images, and symbols adequate to the elusive violence of delayed effects” (“Slow Violence, Gender, and the Environmentalism of the Poor” 257), then we need to open the stage for a diversity, as wide as human racial particularities, for a collective of “stories, images, and symbols.” And the stage is not one that relegates peoples often classified as indigenous and remote from a global discourse.

Introduction

19

If ecocriticism is concerned with literature and ecology, as Cheryl Glotfelty (xv–xxxvii) simply puts it, then attention is, of course, given to literary form. Form is crucial to Nigerian ecocriticism, not only as a domain of devices and strategies but also as a genre consciousness. As earlier mentioned, eco-writing in Nigeria does not limit itself to a single genre in that poems, short stories, novels, and dramas abound dealing with the ecological question, as this book demonstrates. It would also be misplaced to perpetuate any such thing as an ecocriticism genre – that is, a literary work consciously crafted in line with an ecological vision. Ecocriticism should be able to speak to and embrace all genres, and vice versa. It seems, however, that at the global stage, studies in ecocriticism favour the fiction genre – the result of the western literary capitals’ obsession with the novel form. While I take the caution not to generalise here, most leading books in ecocriticism in the west hardly discuss the poetry and drama genres. As ecocriticism has the function to deconstruct reified practices, dismantle epistemological empires, and foreground marginalised positions, its scholars should consider reversing the marginalisation of other genres. It could be that there are poems and dramas that best capture the condition of the earth, and yet they are sidelined by institutional endorsement of the novel form. Another point in this context is the perpetuation of the canon, whereby the same set of literary works are studied because they enjoy endorsement from the institutions of literature. This has been a problem with Nigerian, nay African, literature as a postcolonial commodity – a commodity produced through a process Graham Huggan describes as a “global commodification of cultural difference” (The Postcolonial Exotic vii). With a focus on the novel genre, Eileen Julien, through what she calls the extroverted African novel, has made a sustained critique of how contemporary African literary imagination has been commodified in the west. “Some African stories,” she writes, “effectively go unseen because of a steady diet in the North of clichéd fiction [. . .] the narrow novelistic diet to which the North had grown accustomed [offers] only a partial truth” (4). The practice robs readers of the diverse stories and genres available in Africa, a way, in her words, of “simplifying Africa, locking this massive, heterogeneous and dynamic continent into a supposedly imitative literary, intellectual, political and economic modus operandi” (4). To counter this and present a broader view of Nigerian ecocriticism, I have deliberately selected literary works that may not be known in the west but provide different facets of the ecocritical experience. The aim is to be comprehensive, even if not exhaustive, so that the rich context of Nigerian environmental literature in English (there are such literatures in indigenous languages) can be reasonably provided.

Structure of Nature, Environment, and Activism in Nigerian Literature In line with my classification of Nigerian ecocritical aesthetics into three categories, the main body of the book, after this introductory chapter and a concluding chapter, is in three chapters. Chapter 2 deals with the category of nature.

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Introduction

After providing a further theoretical context on the aesthetics of nature, I read Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine, Femi Osofisan’s Another Raft, and the poetry of Niyi Osundare and Christian Otobotekere. From Amadi to Osundare, the progression is from a precolonial nature when relations between humans and nonhumans were deeper, to a post-colonial nature, as relations become mediated by western modernity. Far from being a thing of the past, nature mutates and, at worse, turns itself into an unconscious by which many activities in Nigeria are mediated. Chapter 3 takes on the category of environment, with a focus on built environment and cultural and physical landscapes. The texts analysed here are Toni Kan’s The Carnivorous City and Denja Abdullahi’s Abuja Nunyi; two short fictions by Samuel Okopi and Olufunmi Olubunmi Adeniran entitled “Quarter to Eleven” and “The River God,” respectively; Helon Habila’s Oil on Water; and Kaine Agary’s Yellow-Yellow. The point here is that modernity brings with it a more sophisticated built environment, one that is easily polluted by humans. But also, the question of climate change, aggravated by human activities or scepticism, is presented in this chapter. With Habila’s and Agary’s work, the extreme waste and pollution in the Niger Delta region are discussed. Beyond the extreme ecological mess, we move to the realm of eco-activism, the logical progression being that Nigerian writers do not stop at merely depicting the environmental damage. They pursue a rather programmatic artistic resistance against institutional powers, at home and abroad, and neo-liberal capitalism in which consistent systematic manipulations destroy the environment and its human and nonhuman inhabitants. Chapter 4 deals with these issues of eco-activism with a textual focus on Aliyu Kamal’s Fire in My Backyard, George Mbajiorgu’s Wake Up Everyone, and May Ifeoma Nwoye’s Oil Cemetery. With the introduction and conclusion, there are five chapters of discourse on the Nigerian experience in ecocriticism, one that, it is hoped, enriches contemporary debates in postcolonial ecocriticism.

Notes 1 The essays collected in Rethinking African Cultural Production edited by Frieda Ekotto and Kenneth W. Harrow, I find, are quite illuminating about the discourse of homogeneity that undermines diversity in African knowledge production. 2 Even from a simple survey of the earliest works in Nigerian literature, it is clear that nature and the environment feature so prominently that the human world and the nonhuman world are entangled. This is what you see in works such as The Palmwine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, and The Fisherman Invocation by Gabriel Okara. 3 With regard to the Yoruba cosmogony, Soyinka explains this cyclical nature of the spirithuman connection and the kinds of transactions that take place within such a connection in his book Myth, Literature and the African World. His poem “Abiku” (Senanu and Vincent 189–190) and that of J. P. Clark, also titled “Abiku” (Senanu and Vincent 205), are a poetic rendition of this cyclical nature. 4 The matter of cleaning the lands and waters of Ogoniland, which is grossly messed up by oil spills, has remained a public discourse in Nigeria. For more than 50 years, the environment has been a mess. The present government of President Muhammadu Buhari used it as campaign bait to get votes from the Niger Delta region. But his government has yet to

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5 6

7 8

21

clean up the Ogoniland. The latest reports on the Ogoniland clean-up can be found here: https://guardian.ng/tag/ogoni-cleanup/. For more on the style and theme of the pioneer Nigerian writers, especially as it regards deployment of modern and traditional tropes, see Emmanuel N. Obiechina’s Language and Theme: Essays on African Literature and Oladele Taiwo’s Culture and the Nigerian Novel. Sustained studies of this notion of democratised art in which the writers prefer local aesthetics and common socio-political realities as themes in order to get literature to respond to the challenges of the Nigerian postcolony include Charles Bodunde’s Oral Traditions and Aesthetic Transfer: Creativity and Social Vision in Contemporary Black Poetry and EzenwaOhaeto’s Contemporary Nigerian Poetry and the Poetics of Orality. This political poetics has been the subject of my research over the years. See my monographs Nation, Power and Dissidence in Third Generation Nigerian Poetry and Power and Resistance: Literature, Regime, and the National Imaginary. For more on the terror the late General Abacha brought upon Nigeria, see Olusegun Adeniyi’s The Last 100 Days of Abacha: Political Drama in Nigeria under One of Africa’s Most Corrupt and Brutal Military Dictatorships. His image as a monster-dictator remains the most dramatised in Nigerian literature.

2

Natures

It may be something of extreme particularism to make the point, from the outset, that nature, the natural world, nonhuman natural beings, could not possibly mean the same thing to Nigerians, to Africans, as it means to the protagonists of western epistemologies. By protagonists of epistemologies, I mean those who assume themselves to be intellectually superior, who rule the world of theories with their thoughts, who constitute a powerful knowledge system that imposes, among other dualisms, the nature-culture dualism (Soper 31), thereby privileging culture over nature. Ecocriticism’s drive at the outset to recuperate nature with the American aspect of nature writing has been dismissed as “heavily thematic” (Morton 2) and instrumentalist. Citing Timothy Morton, Chris Coughran writes of a turn against nature in ecocriticism. Morton and others, Coughran says, “have dispensed with the category of ‘nature’ altogether except as an object of deconstructive cultural analysis – and argued instead for a practice of a literary-critical ‘ecology without nature’” (14). Since nature has become such a contentious concept – indeed, a concept, not a body of beings – in western thought, always in a flux of positive-negative discourses, it may be hard for the west to look to the past to see if there was ever a pre-discursive nature, such as a spatio-temporal reality, when autochthonous human-nonhuman interdependencies defined existence. Although some western ecocritical scholars today attempt to redirect attention to a pre-discursive nature to rescue the reality of nature from a culturalist epistemology, it does seem that what remains realist nature is largely anthropocentric.1 Therefore, in what appears to be her attempt to recuperate nature from what she calls “the constructed nature of ‘nature’” (250), Kate Soper says, “I take it [. . .] that however carelessly formulated some claims about our communality with nature may be, they are not intended to be construed in ways that deny us our species-specific capacity to articulate and understand them” (41). With respect to Nigeria, understanding and interacting with nature, one may argue, still remain an everyday affair. Humans have not been so remotely distanced from nature in that in most cases they see themselves as not without or in opposition to nature but within it. The aim of this chapter is to present a view of nature that, on the one hand, complicates the divide between the realist and the culturalist views of nature (which appears to be Soper’s main thesis) and, on the other, to show how

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nature, since precolonial Nigeria, is extra-human in the sense that it is beyond human comprehension and control. Human communality with nature, in this premise, implies humans’ submissiveness to the natural world and a constant yearning, through belief systems, to measure up to nature, to be worthy of sharing in nature’s ontological forces and agencies. The method here is to gaze backwards to the point where nature is totally pre-discursive – that is, before colonial invasion with its western ways of constructing. Such a backwards gaze, through the aesthetics of literature, to apprehend the extra-human forces of nature as well as human-nonhuman interdependencies is, I argue throughout the chapter, not only a prelude to the discursivity or constructedness of nature. It is a gaze that would trace the past to the present, foregrounding how nature, not as a concept but as a body of material beings, still remains relevant to Nigerians today and how this relevance, not totally repressed by modernity, can still help us envisage a world order where other-than-human beings would be instrumental in shaping a socio-ecological vision. To talk about nature, in the sense I have done here, is therefore to emphasise the existence and agency of nonhumans. And to widen the scope of what Nigerian ecocriticism is to international scholarship. Or, as it is precisely my intention here, to map out the full range of ecocriticism in Nigeria, beyond its present narrow scope of environmental justice. One of the reasons adduced by postcolonial ecocriticism scholars to debunk the arguments that, in the words of Elizabeth DeLoughrey and George B. Handley, “positioned Europe and the United States as the epistemological centers” (8) of ecocriticism is the rootedness of postcolonial literatures, such as that of Nigeria, in nature, that is, the abundance of the visibility and concreteness of the natural world in postcolonial societies, often wrongly perceived as a function of underdevelopment. That humans are closer to nature does not mean they are less civilised, their societies less developed. And yet ecocritical studies of postcolonial, or African, literatures seem to have given inadequate attention to nature as a nonhuman world populated by a diversity of beings, ranging from spiritual presences to material bodies/objects, from living to non-living beings. It could be that, as F. Fiona Moolla says, “[T]he natural world and animals have been active agents in African cultural forms for as long as these forms have existed” (9) so that literary scholarship in Africa, even with the emergence of ecocriticism as a field of study, overlooks it. Moolla makes the point in her introduction to Natures of Africa: Ecocriticism and Animal Studies in Contemporary Cultural Forms, one of a couple of books that draw attention to, and attempt to bridge the gap created by, the insufficient attention paid to the natural world in Africa. Nature, for Moolla, as it is for the authors of the essays collected in the book, is both material and epistemological. Materially, pre-modern (and by this I mean before the onset of western modernity) modes of life are recalled and explained. But more importantly, attention is drawn to the ways in which the natural modes of life continue to shape, and sometimes subvert, the forces of modernity. This is possible because of the epistemological deployment of nature in Africa such that indigenous knowledges, in spite of ethnographic specificities, formulate

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wisdoms and folkways with the objects of the natural world and with the agency of nature. For instance, Moolla reminds us that “the proverbs that constitute the philosophy of Africa cannot be conceived without the natural world and animals” (9). That is, the philosophical grounds on which Africans think of themselves as beings, as creatures, as inhabitants of localities is almost always linked to the natural world – from creation myths to modern-day spiritualities, the link between the human and the nonhuman is one of the easiest things to understand and believe. This notion is fundamental to my readings of Nigerian literature, and this chapter presents the interlinking of humans and nonhumans, the social and the natural, from the point that the natural world is inseparable from the social world. The other book that brings into view the representation of the African natural world in literary works is Cajetan Iheka’s Naturalizing Africa: Ecological Violence, Agency, and Postcolonial Resistance in African Literature. Iheka builds his arguments on a radical notion of agency whereby the emphasis is also on the effect of an action, not only on the intention. In this premise, agency can be unveiled to reveal the agents that may have contributed to the effectuation of the action, irrespective of the intentionality. He argues correctly that given the closeness of humans to the nonhumans in Africa, in what he calls aesthetic proximity, it is hard to see a completed human action without the contribution of the nonhuman. If this is the case, then the human cannot alone claim the agency, even if it is her/his intention that drives the action. Iheka consistently laments how African literary scholarship underplays the role of nonhumans, beings that are often vividly represented in African narratives. He, therefore, proposes what, following Jane Bennet, he calls “distributed agency – the idea that humans possess and share agency with the landscape and animals, among others” (4). This is premised on the biological and geographical commonalities that are not hard to establish between humans and nonhumans. In his words, “a spatial sense of nearness as well as a form of proximity brought about by similarities and shared characteristics” (22). The idea of distributed agency is rooted in an emerging subfield of ecocriticism called material ecocriticism, influenced by what is now regarded as new materialisms, which is driven by a rethinking of the nature-culture dualism. Material ecocriticism is perhaps what one might see as a western post-discursive response to its own regime of dualisms and of discursivity that had earlier regarded human dependency on nature, especially in “less civilised” societies, such as African societies, as primitive. That is, material ecocriticism attempts to return the west to a recognition of the being, the materiality – as against the textuality – of nature. In a way, it calls the west to reconsider its epistemologies, and one of the powerful statements in this regard is, All matter – even the one that we do not see, sense, or suspect – constantly interacts with other matter, whether in human or nonhuman forms. Far from being a naïve concession to animism or any mythos, framing this interplay in a narrative dimension is essential in the economy of ecological discourse. (Iovion and Oppermann 7)

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For Nigerians, as I presently show in the following readings, the understanding sought earlier is a given. Even in urban areas, among highly educated people, there are constant interactions with other life forms from different spheres of life. It could be in the form of a belief system or ethnic belonging or both. This is what Harry Garuba sees as “the practice of continually ‘re-enchanting’ the [natural] world” (45). Drawing from Raymond William’s idea of cultural materialism and Fredric Jameson’s notion of the political unconscious, Garuba calls the presence of this continual re-enchantment an animist unconscious in that it is an inherent part of human beings and generally influences their daily social activities. Garuba thus concludes that the animist urge to reification may have been religious in origin but the social and cultural meanings which become attached to the objects often breaks off from the purely religious and acquire an existence of their own as part of the general process of signification in society. The “locking” of spirit within matter or merger of the material and the metaphorical which animist logic entails then appears to be reproduced in the cultural practices of the society. (13) It is, however, crucial to see this beyond the realm of religion, beyond the realm of culture – if by culture we mean what human beings have created out of nature. This way of living, for many indigenous societies in Nigeria, is the efect of their lives emerging from nature and that the form of lives they have today as humans is a metamorphosis from an earlier form. We hear people say I come from a water, from a tree, from a rock, and as such I have to act in a particular way that may appear strange or illogical to another person. This is beyond a consciousness towards an object or a natural being; it is a concession to the order of nature, the way a human sees herself/himself as a natural being not diferent from a tree or water. For instance, the poet Niyi Osundare, whose work is discussed next, thinks of himself as being a natural child of the river goddess Osun, as a result of which he was not allowed to go near the river as a child to play or swim because rivers are supposedly sacred to him.2 In an epic poem entitled “What Mother Said,” Osundare pays tribute to the goddess for saving him and his family from Hurricane Katrina, which would have killed them (City Without People: the Katrina Poems 95–111). To this extent, the poet sees himself as a product of nature, as a human manifestation of the natural world, invariably guided by nature. From the foregoing, the point can be made about the ecocentric dimension of the indigenous way of living and its forms of knowledge. Lettered people often regard indigenous, unlettered people as having no ecological sensibility, as having no sense of conservation and sustainability. But, as Maurice Amutabi makes the point with his study of the Abaluyia people of Kenya, the local people, the “uneducated” or “uncivilised” people have relied on their ancient folkways to preserve the environment in ways far better than the modern scientific ways. Amutabi’s argument is that the practice of conservation, which

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could even be seen in taboo relationships with natural objects, has continued to shape the modern-day Abaluyia’s response to the environment. In his words, Conservation is [. . .] not only a matter of the transaction of space, food, shelters and security and sustainability but of distance, not just a matter of style, but it has profound epistemological value in its critical and reflexive role in the constitution of the modern Abaluyia environment. (220) In his opinion, as in the opinion of Senayon Olaoluwa (197–212) expressed in his ecocritical reading of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, the incursion of colonialism largely subverts African indigenous societies’ ecocentric practices. Olaoluwa is emphatic that “while the African construal of sacred spaces [in Things Fall Apart] enhances biodiversity conservation through forestation, Christian sacralisation of space in Mbata translates into deforestation and biodiversity depletion” (207). Scholars of ecological studies have continued to draw attention to the role of indigenous knowledge systems in conservation, suggesting the need to rely on them for more fruitful place-based studies (see Foyer and Kervran 153–172). To make a case for a Nigerian ecocriticism, as it is one of my objectives here, is to privilege the indigenous narrative – to take us back to the peasant localities and examine how human-nonhuman co-existence features in literary discourse. Before modernity in Nigeria, and the petrodollar capitalism consequent upon it, the environmental imaginary realised itself in the co-habitation of humans and nonhumans in local communities, driven mainly by a system of interdependency. It is a system in which humans, despite their seeming agential capabilities, are not necessarily superior to, or more powerful than, nonhumans since, in the final analysis, human beings might be rendered helpless by spiritual and material forces from the natural world. I am not here referring to natural disasters, which could be viewed as results of the exclusive agencies of the natural world. Indeed, natural disasters are one of the ways in which the natural world de-agentialises human beings. And yet there is the possibility that, as we will see in Another Raft, the play studied in this chapter, the natural world can be called upon by humans to prevent natural disasters. In the sections that follow, I focus on specific texts to demonstrate how the symbolic world of literature attempts to capture for us the temporality and spatiality of human-nonhuman existence. While we may have the sense that such existence is in the past and belonged to elsewhere, we need to understand, at least from Garuba’s notion of the animist unconscious, that this form of co-existence is really not in the past. It is still with us. And for a long time, it will continue to be. Nature is not about a return to, or a recuperation of, the idyllic past. It is the continuing of the organic relations many Nigerians (either suspicious of modernity or lacking the opportunity to get its benefits) establish with the natural worlds of their birthplaces. In reading Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine, the attention is on the interaction of human and nonhuman in

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the precolonial era, and there is nothing pristine or uncomplicated about this interaction as we see that humans may have always had conflict with nature via spirituality. The changing role of nature in the postcolony, with its modernity, crisis of governance, and inequitable distribution of justice, will be the focus of my reading of Femi Osofisan’s Another Raft, a drama that offers a different dimension of natural-spiritual interaction with humans from what we see in Amadi’s novel. The poetry of Niyi Osundare and Christian Otobotekere will be read to demonstrate the bond between individuals and their birthplace nature, something of personal romanticism, non-spiritualised and yet deeply binding.

The Concubine: the order of nature The Concubine is ecologically strategic. Whether in its linguistic self-consciousness, its aesthetic link to orality, or in its down-to-earth characterisation, or whether in its invocatory spiritualities or in its deep rural setting, the novel comes through as a conscious ecologisation of the art of fiction. The literary latitude fiction offers is explored to the fullest in depicting the natural world. This may be said of nearly all of Amadi’s creative works: The Great Pond, The Slave, Isiburu, and The Woman of Calabar, among others. He makes efforts to root his works in African cultures, especially the culture and tradition of his birthplace, the Ikwerre of Rivers State, south-south Nigeria. This is usually the verdict of the scholars of his works. Ebele E. Eko sees “passion for African culture, an echo that runs through [. . .] his creative works” (1). Chidi T. Maduka prefers to see Amadi as “a great cultural nationalist” (27). For James Tsaaior, Amadi’s work “cascades with oral literary aesthetics and cultural distillates” (94). These characterisations of Amadi’s work are different ways of unpacking (though without much success) its embeddedness in nature, precisely its forte as an art form that speaks of human co-existence rather than existence. They regard nature as a context for the dynamics of culture. In this framing, early Nigerian writers are seen as delving into the past as a way of critiquing modernity.3 In this reading, I go beyond what earlier scholars see as narrative context and setting to fully unveil the dynamics that Amadi’s fiction contains. These dynamics are the natural-social life shared and lived by humans and nonhumans. Earlier readings had been human-centred, culture-valorising, seeing Amadi’s bucolic societies as constituting the struggles and triumphs of humans as they share space with the sometimes hostile natural beings. I am interested in fleshing out the notion of shared space, locations of connectedness, co-agency between the social and the natural but also in substantiating my earlier argument that in the order of nature in most traditional societies in Nigeria, the human can become incontrovertibly submissive to the beings of nature. One of the earliest novels to emerge out of Nigerian literature in English, published in 1966, Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine, like its contemporaries, such as Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, is a story set in the precolonial period. Unlike Things Fall Apart, in which the society faces the incursion of the colonial

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authority, the Christian religion, and the onset of western modernity, The Concubine presents a society in its total mode of tradition and folkways untouched by any forms of ethnic and political externality. There is nothing in this novel that anticipates colonialism. There is, in fact, a conscious style to excise colonial anticipations, to even relieve the English language used in the novel of its colonial burden. Stylistically, English, in the Achebean maxim, is fully domesticated, indeed naturalise, if by that we mean giving it not only the natural flavour of the local but also localising it. It is a way of making the English language serve the nature of the African society.4 This naturalisation of the English language fully realises the aesthetic goal of the novel, which is in tandem with the cultural enclosure of its thematics. In the end, the English sounds local, given its syntactic and semantic transfiguration.5 I will return to the language experiment of the novel later. The crucial point here is that Amadi consciously limits the drama of the novel to a precolonial enclosure and within this avenue explores wide-ranging aspects of traditionalism. In this premise, Maduka writes of Amadi’s fictional world as a “traditional African society sealed off from the ravages of colonialism” (27). This is crucial to my reading, since one of the aims of positioning Amadi’s narrative at the beginning of this chapter on nature is to symbolically realise a historical process – that is, to demonstrate the historical progression from when Nigeria, as a society, was not yet touched by colonialism to when it succumbs to the pressures of colonial modernity. The setting of The Concubine is a village called Omokachi, and although there are connections established with neighbouring villages – namely, Omigwe and Chiolu – there is not any form of political and economic contestation that suggests inter-tribal or internecine conquest. The political independence of the community is, therefore, not in question. It could also be that, as the plotline suggests, Amadi does not want to corrupt his story of emotion, a love story in fact, with diversionary political issues. Indeed, what anyone reading the novel will immediately think of it is the fatal love between Ihuoma and Ekwueme, a love affair rooted in traditionalism in a society where every aspect of life is culturally structured, where long-established patterns are followed. It is love dramatised in traditional tenets but also, and this is my main concern, a projection of traditional life, a cultural civilisation, rooted in ecological tenets. There is something of a harmony between culture and nature. The blurb of the novel reads, in part, Obedient to the expectations of the traditional society they [Ihuoma and Ekwueme] belong to, they forswear their love so that Ekwueme can marry the girl to whom he has been betrothed since birth. But their passion is fated, and jealousy, a love potion and the closeness of the spirit world, lift this simple tale on to a tragic plane. The spirit world is entangled with the human world. I focus on what the blurb writer terms “the closeness of the spirit world,” which is really not just closeness in terms of contiguity but also the case of imbrication and determinism whereby the spirit world is endowed with

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agential forces with which it, along with the human world, co-determines what goes on in the society. Using the concept of shared or distributed agency, this reading shows the determinative roles of the spirit world, represented by actual objects and nonhuman beings (waters, trees, animals) in not only the lives of the lovers but also in the course of things in the entire community and neighbouring ones – that is, how the people’s world view is located in the spiritual-material connection. By foregrounding the spirit world, drawing attention to its critical contribution to the welfare of humans and the biodiversity, I follow Iheka (Naturalizing Africa) in suggesting a paradigm shift in our reading of pioneer Nigerian fiction, which is almost always concentrated on the social. The example of The Concubine shows, as a matter of fact, that the social is sometimes overwhelmed, actually over-determined, by the natural via the spiritual. Specifically, this interpretation, among others, demonstrates that precolonial African societies, such as Omokachi, have internal mechanisms that produce ecological consciousness and the sense of conservation. Furthermore, it is seen that the disruption of the order of these mechanisms, usually engendered by human greed and arrogance, do, as a matter of the indigenous knowledge system, have negative consequences on humanity. This novel, therefore, aims to advance the debate that traditional epistemologies remain crucial to the formulation of ecological discourses to deal with imbalance in the relations between humans and nonhumans. Nature, within the frame of this reading, is not to be contrasted with culture, a practice rooted in western metaphysics, which has, with the emergence of ecocriticism, increasingly faced criticism. The nature we see in The Concubine is in collaboration, rather than in conflict, with culture, and tension in form of fatalities, such as the death of the men attached to Ihuoma, arises only because human beings, driven by their emotions and greed, undermine the forces of nature. One of the crucial themes of this novel, in this regard, is the need for human beings to listen to nature and to recognise the natural and the spiritual as a prerequisite for harmonious existence, actually co-existence, in the society. “The point,” writes Patrick D. Murphy (13), is not to speak for nature, but to work to render the signification presented us by other elements of nature into a verbal depiction by means of speaking subjects, whether this is through characterization in the art or through discursive prose. In characterisation and in prose style, but especially in a spiritualised setting, Amadi presents a nature that is a body of subjectivities, of agencies, in the natural sphere. In short, the point of the novel is that all nonhuman beings, spiritual or physical, however important their materiality, should be brought into cognition in the life of the community. The novel consistently guards against the reductionism that the natural, or the spiritual, is pristine and harmless since we encounter the work of evil spirits and harmful objects in the text. But it interrogates,

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and rightly so, the assumed supremacy of human thought and action and demonstrates the powers that nonhumans can have, even to the point of disarming humans, not through disasters but through spirituality. Although, in line with the so-called Enlightenment rationality, modern or non-Ikwerre readers may see a dramatisation of superstition in this tale, the connection between humans and spirits cannot just be wished away as mythical and taboo formulations. Colonial anthropological discourses tend to see the precolonial spiritual dimension of life in Africa as coded in irrational taboos (see Amutabi 228–247). When, for instance, Ernest Cassier, writing about African philosophies, makes the generalising statement that “[t]here was no part of the social system that was not regulated and governed by taboos” (106), the point is missed – given the derogatory tone on taboos here – about the depth and profundity of an indigenous tradition or an epistemic that deploys spirituality to create a sustainable connection between humans and nonhumans. And, in any case, if taboos or any form of spirituality, as Amutabi (228–247) shows in his study, has a role in the preservation and conservation of the biodiversity, then such taboos, rather than be dismissed as primitive, should be seen as a lens through which we can fruitfully explore the indigenous knowledge of those who practice it. Amadi, in The Concubine, deploys the technique of narrative to draw attention to the indigenous beliefs of his Ikwerre people, particularly beliefs that enable the harmonious existence of human beings and nonhuman beings. But, more importantly, he invests in the story the moral and ethical questions surrounding such co-existence and the fallibility of human beings in maintaining this system of co-existence. To this end, my arguments eventually tease out a point that sees The Concubine as metaphorical of the attitudes of human beings in the world today, whereby human’s superior arrogance, and the consequent neglect of the principle of co-existence with nonhumans, has resulted in ecological catastrophe. This is, as the novel shows, suicidal in most cases. Water as nature is central to the thematic design of the novel. By centralising water, Amadi calls attention to its overriding significance as a being of nature to human society, at least in his ethnic nation, in Nigeria, and in Africa. Most local communities settle near water, either a pond, a stream, a river, or a sea. People make use of water – for drinking, cooking, and washing, among others; they also abuse water by contaminating it, blocking its way, and so on. It is also known that water has a way of getting back at the people by flooding, erosion, drowning and other means. Amadi chooses to focus not only on this material connection between water and humans but also on the spiritual connection. The Sea-King (presented in this capital initial form, an honorific that no human enjoys in the novel) becomes the water force that brings human beings to the realisation that their society is not ruled by them alone but in collaboration with nonhuman beings. These nonhumans are, among others, spirits, whose agency, in directing affairs of the society in collaboration with human agency, is decisive. The Sea-King is “the ruling spirit of the sea” (195), and since by nature human beings must use or abuse water, communities of human beings are inevitably inter-linked with the domain of the Sea-King. It becomes

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logical that water, through its various forces, enacts its agency on humans, just the way humans enact their agency on it. The Sea-King here is the agential force of water by means of spirituality. To see the Sea-King as a spirit or god is, therefore, to see him as nature – nature in its nuanced and fluid sense, involved with humans to generate culture. Ihuoma, the central female character of the novel, is a wife of the Sea-King. According to Anyika, the dibia (Igbo/Ikwerre name for a spiritual seer who can see beyond the physical), Ihuoma belongs to the sea. When she was in the spirit world she was a wife of the Sea-King. [. . .] Against the advice of her husband she sought the company of human beings and was incarnated. The Sea-King was very angry but because he loved her best of all his wives he did not destroy her immediately she was born. He decided to humour her and let her live out her normal earthly span and come back to him. However, because of his great love for her he is terribly jealous and tries to destroy any man who makes love to her. (195) This account foregrounds a number of fundamental issues, foremost among which are the similarities between humans and spirits and their relatedness; spirits, like humans, are also jealous; they fall in love, marry (can be as patriarchal and polygamous as men), keep a family, and so on. In the same breath, we also see the distinctive attributes of spirits. The Sea-King’s wife has the agency to decide what she wants, where to go, and, further, to transform herself into a diferent species. This gender freedom appears supra-human, at least from what we see of humans in the novel. Having defied her husband and taken the human form, all he can do is to give her excessive protection, which eventually translates to killing the men who confess or express their love for her, who desire to know her as a sexual being. It is clearly stated that the Sea-King is jealous, has a tempestuous temper, and is, in many ways, invincible, at least as far as humans are concerned. And yet there is nothing that shows the Sea-King holds anything against human beings. The water spirits, who are among the denizens of the spirit world, have since creation co-existed with humans, have interacted with human beings (it is clear that they give messages to and receive sacrifices from humans), and have maintained the ecological balance by ensuring that no form of water disaster befall the humans. In short, the desire of the female sea spirit, wife of the Sea-King, to transform herself into a human is a pointer to the organic and material connection, beyond the spiritual, between the two species. In her, the unity of the human and nonhuman is crystallised, given her exceeding beauty and moral rectitude. That is, when she chooses to become human, she turns out an exemplary personality, the kind of human the spirits wish would inhabit society. The destructiveness of the Sea-King, as the narrative implicitly intimates, is less of his wickedness as it is human beings’ inclination to choose to be ignorant of the internal workings of the nonhuman world. As the dibia points out,

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the Sea-King is not happy that his wife has decided to transform to a human being, but rather than harm her, he protects her. And, more importantly, the Sea-King reveals himself to the dibia as intolerant of any sacrifice from those who wish to share his wife. His wish is not for a human being to offer sacrifice to him and marry his wife; his wish is for human beings to realise that she is his wife and leave her alone. Even if his disobedient wife ventures into the world of humans, they are supposed to know who she is; they are endowed by nature to know who she is. That is why they have a dibia who interprets the natural world. This the novel makes clear. The dibia is emphatic when he responds to Wigwe’s question as to whether or not Ihuoma is marriageable in the physical world: Well, she could be someone’s concubine. Her Sea-King husband can be persuaded to put up with that after highly involved rites. But as a wife she is completely ruled out. There are a few women like that in the world. [. . .] It is death to marry them and they leave behind a harrowing string of dead husbands. They are usually beautiful, very beautiful, but dogged by their invisible husband of the spirit world. With some spirits marriage is possible if an expert on sorcery is consulted. With the Sea-King it is impossible. (Emphasis added, 196) This is clear enough. In fact, Anyika the dibia goes on to reveal that the SeaKing is so powerful that “when he is on the ofensive he is absolutely relentless. He unleashes all the powers at his command and they are fatal” (196). Yet this is met with human arrogance that always discounts the existence of other beings, especially spiritual beings represented by natural objects. Two men (Emenike and Madume), who ought to have known the existence of the Sea-King but choose not to, have already been killed. The novel is consistent in projecting humans’ generic inclination for wilful ignorance and neglect of nonhuman beings. This is, in actuality, what we see in Anyika’s regretful statement here: Just before Emenike died I detected some water spirits among the throng that eventually liquidated him. When Madume came to me for divination once I also stumbled on these water spirits. Somehow their connection with Ihuoma eluded me. The Sea-King himself probably confused me at the time. But now that I have made a definitive investigation into the matter everything is clear. (196) This is a mild way of putting it – as this is one of Amadi’s approaches throughout the narrative. Anyika, or any adult at all, in Omokachi could have noticed the strangeness of Ihuoma, characterised by her super-human qualities, which the dibia spells out eloquently by asking the question, “Have you seen anyone quite so right in everything, almost perfect? I tell you only a sea-goddess – for

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that is precisely what she is” (196). Traditionally constituted as the community is, with its beliefs, myths, and legends expressed even by children, it is presumably clear that they know these qualities of a sea-goddess. Indeed, the death of her first husband, Emenike, and of his rival, Madume, just after bullying Ihuoma could have been a pointer to the kind of person Ihuoma is. The manners of the two deaths, the rather insubstantial causes, disturb the community’s sense of reason, and at this point, the signals of the spirit world are rather conspicuous. All gods and goddesses in Omokachi are materially recognised and spiritually worshipped, although the agency of human beings is not suppressed and not disarticulated by the overriding discourse of spirituality. Human agency, therefore, achieves its most arrogant articulation in the utterances and actions of Ekwueme, precisely at the point where he is told that Ihuoma is a sea-goddess, with a dangerously jealous sea-husband and as such should not marry a human being. By now, Ekwueme is not only blinded by what people see as his graduated passion (more of lust than love) for Ihuoma, a mother of three children. He is also favourably disposed to make any demands on Ihuoma as a result of the drama of being rendered mentally unstable by Ahurole, the wife he is compelled to marry. Having realised that forcing him to marry Ahurole leads to circumstances that make him insane, Ihuoma is called upon to assist him in regaining his sanity. With her, he regains his sanity, as a result of which all parties involved, including Ihuoma, agree to do his bidding. The bidding is that he must marry Ihuoma, as he entertains no other option. His arrogance and sense of entitlement are already established. In him is the hubristic desire of the masculine to possess the feminine, even if she belongs to the Sea-King. His immediate reaction to the embodiment of the water spirit in Ihuoma, to the existence of the Sea-King, is it does not matter. One thing is clear, I shall marry Ihuoma. She is a human being and if marrying a woman like her is a fatal mistake I am prepared to make it. If I am her husband for a day before my death my soul will go singing happily to the spirit world. There also I shall be prepared to dare the wrath of four hundred Sea-Kings for her sake. (Emphasis added, 197) This is human agency at its worst, unconcerned about nonhuman beings, flexing its power of conquest over them. How else do you define such arrogance that erases the existence of nonhuman species, or that, knowing of the fatality involved, dismisses it with “it doesn’t matter”? This hubris, manifested in diverse forms, is at the heart of anti-ecological crises in human societies today, which, of course, has had an ironical efect on human beings themselves. This wilful, boastful rejection of the other – in the case of this novel, the spiritual, natural, forces – that has, since time immemorial, co-existed with human beings is crucial to mapping the insensitivity of traditional societies to their natures. Notice that Ekwueme, just like any other man in Omokachi, is a totally traditional man, having never had any contact with western

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modernity. He has lived his life attached to nature through spirituality: as a hunter, for instance, he believes in spiritual luck; he believes in the healing powers of herbs; he believes in the personal god agwu, which every human, including himself, has – a belief that insists on human’s action and agency being shared by his/her agwu. For instance, when he complains about Ahurole being ill-tempered, overbearing, and unnecessarily tearful, he goes to Anyika to make a sacrifice to her agwu, who, as it turns out, “would never be completely overcome” (137), which is a way of saying that Ahurole’s personal god does not only share in her agency but also desires to override her in this condition of co-agency. It is, therefore, the fault of human beings, like Ekwueme, that they invoke the wrath of the Sea-King by choosing not to find out or fully understand Ihuoma’s dual personhood (spirit and human), despite their projection of her as a unique personality. By way of implanting character traits, Amadi, from the beginning of the narrative, focalises the attributes of a goddess in Ihuoma. Perhaps we need to locate this in the larger context of nature-human interdependence the story constructs. Amadi strategically deploys a naturalised language in which natural elements and objects describe human social activities. The colour of Ihuoma’s skin is said to be “that of the ant-hill” (10) to indicate that it is fair. Midday is described as “before the sun struck the top of the head” (14), and other times are described by shadows: “Ihuoma was surprised to find the evening shadows about twice the length of their owners. Time had flown so fast” (23). People talk of “anti-fever leaves” (24) rather than medication. “On the evening of the brother of tomorrow” (63) is the community’s way of saying the evening of the day after tomorrow. To describe the evening time, when darkness has descended, the narrator says, “They could hardly see the markings on their palms” (89). When the sun sets, it is described by the Omokachi people as “going to Chiolu” (15) because the village is west of Omokachi. Natural objects and elements and the nuanced anthropomorphism in which they are invoked, therefore, become organic parts of human existence to the extent that human beings configure their activities through them. The language of nature, or language constituted by nature, that Amadi uses has a contextual force – something to the effect that this is only peculiar to the community described in the novel. But it also has a context that is decisively ecological, given the deliberate foregrounding of the co-agency and interdependence of humans and natural objects through spirituality. The novel consistently calls the reader’s attention to the role the nonhumans play in all aspects of existence: health, education, travelling, economy, politics, security, and so on. For instance, the Mini Wekwu stream that runs between Omokachi and Chiolu villages has “a powerful god,” whose worshippers from the two villages would meet and offer their sacrifices jointly. It established goodwill and the god ensured that no evil crossed from one village to the other. For instance, no wizard from Chiolu would dare cross to Omokachi to make havoc. Mini Wekwu will certainly liquidate him. (14–15)

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Although human instrumentalism, to the efect that humans turn their nonhuman co-inhabitants into use, is part of the fabric of the society, bonds between human beings and animals or other beings are established beyond the realm of instrumentalism. In the non-spiritual realm, we see the bonding between Ihuoma and her goat, for instance: a goat she is unwilling to part with because “[s]he was a rather intelligent animal and never strayed” (30). In the case of Ahurole, her goat has to come with her from Omigwe to Omokachi when she is married to Ekwueme because the bonding between them is so strong that she cannot leave it behind. She weeps when the goat mysteriously disappears. In the spiritual realm, sacrifices to the gods and goddesses are done with the help of nature since the objects to present as sacrifices, including where to take the objects, are elements or objects of nature. The first elaborate sacrifice we encounter is made by Madume, during which he is told to assemble the following: Seven grains of alligator pepper, seven manillas, an old basket, three cowries, a bunch of unripe palm fruit, two cobs of maize, a small bunch of plantains, some dried fish, two cocks, one of which must be white, seven eggs, some camwood, chalk, a tortoise (or the shell) and a chameleon. (59) Most of the items are from nature, and they are going directly back to nature. He is told to put most of them in the basket and in the dead of night “carry the basket and contents to any road junction” (59) and drop it. This sacrifice, usually with an accompanying incantation, is either to invoke nature’s co-agency (in a case where one has to achieve something and needs the help of the god/ goddess) or to appease nature (as is the case of Madume when he provokes the wrath of the god/goddess). The Amadioha shrine tended by his priest Nwokekoro is a vivid indication of how humans and natural objects have chosen to live in peace, as long as they understand each other spiritually. Amadioha is the god of thunder, ranked first in Omokachi’s pantheon of gods. Its awesome presence is represented by nature untouched – indeed untouchable – by human beings: They talked less and less as they approached the Sacred Woods [notice the capital initials] of Amadioha. Rank trees bordered the dark path. Some climbers were so thick they looked like ordinary trees. At the shrine absolute stillness reigned and it was quite cold as the high majestic roof of thick foliage, like a black rain cloud, cut off the sun completely. [. . .] The shrine was at the foot of a massive silk cotton tree. It was fenced off with a ring of tender palm shoots and their yellow colour blazed like a flame against the dark background. (16) This dazzling display of flora, showing, among others, the longevity of prized trees untouchable by human beings is complemented by the presence of fauna

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represented by “a huge grey serpent [that] crawled from behind the shrine and began to swallow its share of the feast. It showed no fear and the old men bowed their heads in reverence” (18). Beyond the animistic import, what is clear here is the role of spirituality in the conservation of the flora and fauna, a practice common in precolonial African societies. Here, as Amutabi (228–247) writes about the Abaluyia people of Kenya, certain tree species are untouched because of spiritual beliefs; it is the same with some animal species so that their lives are preserved as long as the community exists. This is a point that is well stressed in the novel. There is not any form of wanton destruction of natural beings or human beings, and determinate actions are predicated on established patterns. There is a measure of mutuality, anchored on shared agency, which no human being is willing to abuse given the consequences, as we see in the case of Ihuoma’s lovers. This mutuality is maintained by, among others, a communication link embodied by the dibia and the priests/priestesses of the gods/ goddesses. A dibia or priest is seen as “a mediator between them [humans] and the spirit world” (6) and as such must undertake their communicative role with diligence and sincerity, as represented by the utterances and actions of Anyika. It is expected that whatever a man or woman will do, or whatever misfortune befalls him/her, they must consult the dibia to know what role his/her god or any other god they may have had contact with has played. This is usually the definitive context in which the human being understands who or what, spiritual or material, shares in his/her agency. It is this context that is disabled in Omokachi, leading to the tragic ends of men attached to Ihuoma. The novel, as I pointed out before, insists that this disabling is the undoing of human beings who, driven by their greed and passion, overlook the strong, organic connection between them and natural beings – a connection that warrants a goddess to desire to live among the humans. Let us return to the implanted attributes that indicate Ihuoma’s spirituality, easily ignored by the men. Beyond the near perfection of her moral character, which Anyika points out at the point of his revelation, her beauty is unusual. When Ihuoma responds to her neighbour Nnenda, who admires her beauty, she says, “Beauty seems to carry sorrow with it” (35), and, therefore, she would rather not be beautiful. She speaks as a spiritual being, having tasted the bitterness of losing a human husband because of the jealousy of her spiritual husband. After giving birth to three children, her beauty still surpasses the ordinary: “Young men and even the old gazed at her again irresistibly” (36). Beauty, on the surface, can, of course, be non-spiritual. But the point The Concubine makes is that the Omokachi community is deeply spiritual, conscious of the role of natural beings enough for any man wanting to marry Ihuoma to spiritually investigate the marriage. Indeed, the novel makes it clear that it is traditional to investigate such ventures, as a man is expected to meet a dibia and find out about the girl he wants to marry. Emenike obviously overlooks it; Madume, who feels that Emenike snatches Ihuoma from him, also fails to do it when he thinks the coast is clear for him to woo her. Interestingly, Emenike dies after a fight with Madume, a fight which ought not to have led to death. As it turns out, it was

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Ihuoma’s jealous spiritual husband who set the two men against each other, leading to their deaths. It is in fulfilment of the custom that demands a man to spiritually find out about his prospective wife that leads Ekwueme’s parents to Anyika, knowing fully that their son will not do it. Ekwueme, like the other men, will overlook it because, like them, he is blinded by her beauty. There are many myths in Africa about men marrying beautiful women in haste only to fall into the wrath of spirits. Beyond the mythic space, however, The Concubine offers crucial lessons in how the overlooking of spirituality and natural beings leads to critical human and ecological problems. The narrative, in fact, is a dramatisation of the disruption that ensues in an otherwise peaceful community when the code of co-existence and co-agency between humans and nonhuman beings is breached. If Emenike and Madume die out of ignorance, Ekwueme, given his defying of the message from gods through Anyika, dies of sheer acquisitive hubris – and in him we see the contemporary man/woman who, in spite of their knowledge and experience of climate change, insists on injuring the environment and creating ecological imbalance as a result of their greed. It is incorrect to say, as Tonia Umoren does, that “Amadi locates his characters in a forum that is obviously oppressive that their survival become critical” (26). This implies that the characters are helpless. They are not; they are rather arrogant and disrespectful of the order of nature. And in the order of nature, human hubris must give way. At least, this is how it is in the precolonial time. The death of Ekwueme denotes the triumph of nature over humanity in a conflict engendered by the human will to suppress the existence of the natural other.

Another Raft: nonhuman agency in a social revolution With Femi Osofisan’s play Another Raft, I pursue the point that nature – still from a spiritual dimension – remains part of human consciousness, the result of the age-long interdependence between the human and the natural. Osofisan’s vision in this play is primarily animist but with a dialectical bent, bringing about a complexity that defies any easy characterisation. The ambiguity resulting from the complexity is that some may see the playwright as valorising the human world as against the nonhuman world, and some may see the opposite. Whichever side one stands, there is the unambiguous chasm between modernity and traditionalism. It seems clear that Osofisan’s ideological design is to challenge the excesses of modernity, even at its early stage in Nigeria – excesses exemplified by, among others, the colonially induced disconnection between postcolonial subjects and their native spiritual heritage, the commodification of traditional religious practices, the lure of money and commercialism, and the corruption attendant to it in the wake of modernity. But Osofisan is also critical of over-reliance on nature and on the spiritualised objects of nature to the detriment of human agency. The possible layers of meaning generated by the nuanced Brechtian dramaturgy of the play are to the effect that traditional spirituality, complete with its ecological agency, need not be disbelieved and

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need not be jettisoned. At the same time, human agency remains a crucial complement to the spirituality, the mysterious force of nature, with which there can be a genuine progress in society. While readers of this play, and of Osofisan’s other plays, are eager to see the social dimension, to divert attention to human-centredness and the possibility of anti-capitalist revolution in the Marxist sense (see Hutchison 205–215; Olaniyan 76–91; Gotrick 82–98; Abubakar 174–185), I would like to draw attention to the ecological dimension, the marginalised natural participants, in the play’s project of resistance. In doing this, I have in mind Iheka’s (2) contention that resistance in African literature needs rethinking with the nonhuman in mind. Rethinking notions of resistance by foregrounding the repressed agency of the natural being is the main objective of this reading. To locate Another Raft, a drama written in the 1980s at the height of postcolonial disillusionment in Nigeria, in the ecocritical problematic is to recall the historical moment in Nigerian literature when protest literature is shaped by Marxist literary aesthetics. The playwright Femi Osofisan came into the limelight in the 1980s on the wave of these aesthetics. He consistently develops a Brechtian technique within these aesthetics to the extent that Brian Crow describes him as “one of the genuinely Brechtian of African dramatists” (204). His work is deliberately anti-modernist in cast, masses oriented, and pointedly interrogates economic contradictions in a capitalist society. Some of his contemporaries in this mode of critiquing socio-political realities in Nigeria are the poets Odia Ofeimun, Niyi Osundare, and Tanure Ojaide and the novelists Festus Iyayi and Kole Omotoso. There are also playwrights, such as Tunde Fatunde, Bode Sowande, and Olu Obafemi. As I explained in Chapter 1, these writers emerged after Nigeria’s flag independence and consciously fashioned for themselves a generational ethos. In contrast to what they perceived as the Eurocentrism and self-mythification of pioneer Nigerian writers such as Wole Soyinka and J. P. Clark, they based their works on an ideological positioning of literature in the service of the ordinary people of the society. Perhaps their most powerful technique, in this regard, is, in the words of Yvette Hutchison, “to highlight issues and encourage, even teach, the mass audience to critique the ruling hegemony and also to realise their own power and agency” (208). Like most of Osofisan’s plays, Another Raft is on the surface about people struggling with forces of oppression – forces emanating not only from established modern institutions but also from myths and traditional religions deemed inimical to the formation of a just society. A sharp contrast is established between the hardworking poor and the lazy political elite, and this becomes the locus of a deep social conflict. My central argument here is that the obvious dialectical materialism of this drama, skilfully draped in Brechtian aesthetics (actor’s direct address to audience, audience participation, interruptive songs, ideological posturing, etc.) is built upon the agency of nature and its aestheticisation, which we are likely to ignore if we fail to look at nature beyond our conception of it as a mere setting of actions in the drama, as Hutchison shows in his reading of the play (205–215). The contention, therefore, is that

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nature in Osofisan’s Another Raft is not just a setting, a context, or a supporting platform for the actions and reactions of the characters that perform the oppressor-oppressed dialectics or for the discourse of socio-political liberation and cultural redemption, which appears to be privileged in the drama. Nature is rather a character in itself; in fact, it is the protagonist of the struggle to set the society free of oppressive forces, and until humans realise its agency and are willing to recuperate the co-agency of traditional philosophy, they will not be able to make progress. In specific terms, this reading draws attention to three related points. First is Osofisan’s project of de-mythifying or de-spiritualising of nature in a society where nature is unduly spiritualised by powerful human beings as a means of perpetually subjugating the common poor. In this case, the force of nature is repressed by greedy humans. Second is the playwright’s positioning of nature as an arbiter, a compulsive one, in resolving the dialectical tension created by a capitalist system. In this case, nature flexes its power over humans, especially those who wield capitalist power. Third is the deliberate foregrounding of the spiritual dimension of existence – Osofisan is not, in fact, against spirituality – through nature, and vice versa, and its constitutive role in releasing human beings from their self-constructed stagnancy and underdevelopment. I am aware that in casting Osofisan as a Marxist playwright, many of his scholars would not agree that he puts spirituality, myths, and rituals in good light. In an interview with Ossie Enekwe, Osofisan said, “I may use myth or ritual, but only from a subversive perspective” (78). But my contention is that his being subversive does not necessarily mean negating the forces of myths and rituals of nature. It is rather a critique of the ways in which humans instrumentally deploy them for their own ends. Osofisan deploys audience-address and stage direction to unmask instrumentalised spirituality, which is the effect of the rich manipulating myths and religious beliefs used to suppress the masses. In this regard, the dramaturgy creates the effect of nature on stage as a superstition that is immediately deconstructed. We are presented with “a huge water hyacinth” (1) that moves mysteriously on stage, and while the audience is just about making sense of such a mystery, the hyacinth is immediately revealed as human “figures which compose the water hyacinth, and who can now be seen more distinctly” (1); indeed, they are the entire cast of the play. This starts the alienation effect technique used throughout the play. The first scene, in line with this technique, turns out to be a direct address to the audience to, as it were, remove the scales from their eyes so that they can attune their minds to the force of representation being enacted. The water goddess, represented as Yemosa One, Yemosa Two, and Yemosa Three (the plurality itself being a means of questioning spiritual singularity), is quick to point out that what is about to begin on stage is not a “magic world” (2), it is not a spiritual realism but a “fiction” (3) being staged in a theatre, as all plays are. They go ahead and reveal their improvised costumes, such as the mats being used as a raft and how the rain is simply enacted by someone going on top of the theatre with “a bucket of water” to “sprinkle it down on the stage!” (4). They reveal that the drama is about “the fate of our nation” (4), and it is in this light that the

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audience members should comprehend what they watch on stage. That is, the playwright favours the demystification of what appears as mysteries, a way of getting the audience to not only be alert to the reality around them but also be able to interrogate the reality. This is one way of showing that the reality is itself constructed and need not be seen as sacred. The technique, with its ideological force, is not only Brechtian. It is, as Abdullahi S. Abubakar (174–185) points out, also an oral performance technique common to story and play performance in traditional Nigerian societies. Citing Ruth Finnegan’s earlier work on oral performance in Africa, Abubakar writes of “a high level of interaction occurring through spontaneous exclamations, questions, echoing of words, emotional reaction, and chorusing of songs” (176). Role changing whereby an actor shifts from one role to another during a performance is also African. According to Abubakar, “The performer is at times a ‘speaking animal,’ a god, or an ancestral spirit. The metamorphosis into these different creatures creates an effect that detaches the performer from the role, and the events from the audience’s reality” (176). This is a technique highly preferred by Osofisan, not only in Another Raft but also in nearly all his plays. This technique offers us an opportunity to see the connection between African performance aesthetics, which structure Osofisan’s dramaturgy, and the natural world. The aesthetics are built on the ontology and agency of natural beings, from the biotic to the abiotic. “An average African (elite or illiterate),” writes Abubakar, “still believes strongly in supernatural powers” (179). This is what I have earlier, following Harry Garuba, referred to as the animist unconscious. African traditional performance, the roots of Osofisan’s theatrical practice, fervently recognises the nonhuman. His Marxist inclination towards subverting myths and rituals, therefore, may be a self-conscious misreading in which he fails to understand that his art is inevitably implicated in the natural world beyond his instrumental use. It is crucial to also point out that Another Raft is a dramatic response to, an adaptation of, an earlier play called The Raft by J. P. Clark, published in 1964. Clark’s play dramatises the inability of four lumbermen to control the raft on which they sail in circumstances beyond their control. This play – published a few years after Nigeria’s independence, with political and tribal conflicts that would lead to the Civil War – is often read as an allegory of the Nigerian political condition. In this context, Another Raft links itself to Clark’s play, as the sea-goddess tells the audience, So many events have occurred since then [the publication of Clark’s The Raft] to take the nation many times just on the brink of sinking, but miraculously, we have kept afloat. Nevertheless, even as the decades drifted past, the storms have not ceased, nor have we been able to steer ourselves out of the fog of those initial errors. More and more obvious, as the ’80s roll to a close, the need seems to have become truly desperate for – ANOTHER RAFT. (5)

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The need for another raft, which is central to this play (as it surfaces as the title), implies the need for a critical self-appraisal, which is the major theme of the play. This involves, among others, examining current socio-political and economic realities, questioning the political modus operandi that sets the society adrift, pointing out bluntly those responsible for underdevelopment, and taking collective, decisive action towards progress and development. Further, Osofisan invokes much of the agency in his play to contrast what some see as the disarticulation of agency in Clark’s play. Hutchison puts it thus, In Clark’s play the men are victims: unable or unwilling to act, or define what their doom means, or take responsibility for themselves and their futures. Osofisan challenges this confusion and passivity and extends Clark’s cast of workers to include all classes of Nigerian society. [. . .] Thus in one place and in crisis Osofisan has representatives of all strata of contemporary Nigerian society: the political, military, religious, farming and working communities. All are held responsible for their own, and by implication, for Africa’s history and future. (207) This all-encompassing cast is complemented with a cast of natural beings (which, of course, Hutchison is silent about), such as water, water hyacinth, sharks, rainstorm, moon, sun, thunder, and wind. As it turns out, it is the natural beings that eventually cleanse the society of human failings and corruptions and sets the humans on a new phase of development. Nature, in the form of water, variously referred to as sea, river, lagoon, and ocean, becomes the base of traditional epistemology through which the playwright chooses to interpret the current postcolonial realities that have necessitated another raft. Through a complex dramaturgy, water achieves a multivalent force, from the spiritual to the cultural, and to the political. The spatio-temporal scope of this ecological exploration of the sea, as we will see, is indeed beyond the 1980s and the situation of Nigeria. Through dialogues, actions, and stage directions, Osofisan foregrounds the role of water and, indeed, other natural elements (wind, rainstorm, moon, sun, thunder) in processes of active co-agency of human and nonhuman in national and continental self-purgation. Self-examination leading to revolutionary purgation in the hope of a new socially just beginning is clearly posed as the driver of the dramaturgical exuberance of this play. The plotline involves a group of men carrying a bound “woman” for sacrifice who will sail on a raft because of the lack of a boat to an island where the woman will be given to Yemosa, the water goddess, as a way of appeasing her. The community of Aiyedade depends on this sacrifice for survival, as they are already experiencing plagues and disasters. In the words of Orousi, the chief priest of Ifa, there have been “[a]ccidents on the highway. Fires in the market. A cholera outbreak, followed by yellow fever! And now . . . the flood” (13).

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Indeed, we get to understand from Omitoogun, the priest of the water goddess, that “[f]or years, [they] forgot the goddess” (30). This deliberate forgetting is a function of the encroachment of modernity. Modernity, here, should be seen, in Olakunle George’s words, as “mode of seeing that engenders a historically unique social organization, one grounded in instrumental reason and legitimated by the promise of ‘enlightenment’ and universal emancipation” (73). This is the modernity with the civilising mission in whose logic “natives” are expected to jettison their ways of living, including their philosophical, spiritual connection to nature, and embrace the western way. Another Raft, in severely criticising this modernity, links it to capitalism and commodification, proposing a replacement of philistinism and consumerism with a spiritual, philosophical life in favour of nature-human co-agency. Yet, as I pointed out earlier, Osofisan’s project is not nativist but socialist, and his interest in nature, in nativity, in the natural-spiritual, is to the extent that it appropriately scaffolds a revolution that resists capitalism. Two characters represent the capitalist delinquency of humanity. Ekuroola belongs to the lineage of the Abore, chief priest of rituals, who should make decisions concerning sacrifices to gods and goddesses. Without him, no sacrifices can be made. But he has relocated to Lagos and lives as a business tycoon and yet maintains the title of the Abore because of the benefits accrued to it, one of which is the allocation of rich lands. As Orousi, the Ifa priest, interprets, “Rich lands are for the Abore. By traditional, unquestionable right. But when the weather changes, he must be prepared also for the rigours of rituals” (26). With Ekuroola, who is now rich and powerful, this is not the case. He takes the lands but abandons the rituals because he is now in a modern time and has chosen a foreign religion which he practices. Lanusen, the second of these characters, is therefore right to blame Ekuroola: “For eleven years. You fled, and you wouldn’t let another be chosen in your place. And because of it, the goddess has been cruel” (12). However, Lanusen himself, a prince of the palace and the local government chairman, uses his institutional power to cause the same condition that he now complains of. Ekuroola explains how he bribes Lanusen, the prince of the palace, to get the title. In his words, “[t]he house I built for you in Alagbede quarters, your sixth wife still lives there! Deny it!” (25). The context of this dialogue is that Ekuroola, Lanusen, Orousi, Reore, Waje, Oge, Gbebe, Omitoogun, and the sacrificial virgin girl (a symbolic othering of the female), who will turn out to be Agurin, are on the raft. The raft is drifting away, controlled by the waves of the sea; its moorings having been cut into pieces. The paddles of the boatmen (Waje and Oge) have mysteriously disappeared. They have just woken up on the raft after spending a night on it. The first mishap is that they cannot locate the island where the goddess’s shrine is located, and they blame the sight of Omitoogun, the priest of the goddess, who has now grown very old. Having wandered about the previous day, and now facing a drifting of an uncontrolled raft, they are all terrified. In this condition of terror, the rich and powerful (Ekuroola and Lanusen) engage in an

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argumentative blame game with each other through which they expose their own acts of corruption and deadly machinations. From the outset, through stage direction, the playwright indicates the class divide between those fated to be on the raft: Their positions on the raft are defined [. . .] by their class status, with PRINCE LANUSEN and the other chiefs together to one side; OMITOOGUN and his son GBEBE and REORE on another; the boatman’s position somewhere else; and finally the sacrifice, bound down, the back to us, farthest away from the side of the audience. (7) This image will eventually transform into a verbal dialectic whereby, having listened to the corruption and evil machinations of the rich, the poor will marshal their own points. Reore, who represents the peasant farmers, is vocal in confronting the capitalist exploitation of farmers by Ekuroola, the Lagosbased businessman, who, Reore just realises, owns the lands on which he (Reore) works. He exclaims, “So you are the landlord [. . .] we never see!” (26). He recounts how he and his colleagues “toil and toil, nursing Eledumare’s precious earth tenderly” (27) only for the landlord to send “his agents down to collect our harvest, leaving us the chaf” (27). “Eledumare” translates as almighty god, the owner of “precious earth.” That is, the earth, the farmland, as a natural being, belongs to no man but to almighty god, to the realm of spirituality. And yet it has been appropriated by Ekuroola, through an instrumentalised tradition, thereby dispossessing others of the gift of nature. The reaction of Omitoogun, the old priest, is acidic: he curses all of them, including his son Gbebe, who have abandoned their tradition or instrumentalised it and driven by greed have forgotten the goddess. In other words, the powerful ones in the society instrumentalise tradition and religion, while the powerless ones abandon them. “May the goddess,” Omitoogun curses, “wreak her vengeance on you all to the bitterest end” (29). At this point, the rationalist voice of Gbebe confronts the old priest so that father and son, torn apart by the ideologies of tradition and modernity, face each other. Gbebe, given to a raging temper, like his father, eventually throws his father into the sea, saying, “Die too, perverted father! Die and feed your goddess!” (32). Rather than praising him for killing his own father who has hitherto wanted the goddess to kill everyone, all the ill-fated members of the raft see Gbebe’s action as an afront to the water goddess, who will further punish them. They all decide to throw him into “the mouth of the goddess he’s abused so much!” (33) to appease the goddess. At this point, Osofisan appears to have invested much of spirituality in nature. And yet his concern, though far from denying the existence of water spirits, is not to invest so much spirituality as to deny the agency of man. Human agency is crucial to this drama, as is nature agency. The balance, for Osofisan, is only

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achieved if humans choose to embark on a positive action and then invoke the power of nature for the benefit of both nature and humans. In other words, humans have to make the decision first – a decision that takes the co-agency of the nonhumans into consideration. This is what is meant when one of the water spirits says at the end of the play, gods are a nuisance to men who abandon their will, but are always eager and fruitful servants to those who with determination harness their hyacinths with science, which is the supreme will of man. (84) In many places in the drama, it is made clear that this “supreme will” should not translate to human arrogance, as all indications point to the independent powers of nature. In point of fact, nature has variously exerted powers in such a way that humble the pride of humans. One such case is how nature serves as an arbiter to dialectical tension between the lower class and the upper class, thereby efecting the revolutionary change that humans have, in their wily habit, failed to achieve. As it turns out, the sacrificial virgin girl on the raft will spring up, wielding a gun, and save Gbebe from being thrown into the sea. Everyone will see that it is not a girl but a soldier called Agurin. At this point, the play destabilises the expectation of the gender-biased capitalist system. All the while, the sacrificial “girl” is given no voice, is totally neglected, not treated as a human being, even though it is said that she is to die so that the community may live. The reduction of females to objects of sacrifice by instrumental religion is one of the issues Osofisan confronts. What all the while appears like a cowed, submissive girl springs to action and begins to wield revolutionary rhetoric. Agurin (the soldier disguised as a sacrificial girl) is from a family of traditional carriers, people so designated because they are forcefully used as sacrifices to gods and goddesses. Agurin’s story reveals that he has been, in place of his sister, chosen by the prince-politician Lanusen as a hired killer. That is, Lanusen has brought Agurin on board the raft so that he can help him kill Ekuroola, his (Lanusen’s) political and business rival. This revelation, greater than that of corruption, shows a number of things. First, the powerful politician who insists on the journey of sacrifice in order to stop the wrath of nature is not even honest in his act. The worship of the goddess Yemosa, therefore, is simply a means, in fact a ruse to achieve the personal goal of killing a rival. Second, the capacity of humans to create violence, not only against nature or goddesses but also against themselves, while at the same time blaming nature for humanperpetrated violence. Third, the level to which the rich and powerful, such as

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the politicians, businessmen, and soldiers, can go to destabilise nature-human relations for their aggrandisement. The soldier, as soon as he reveals himself, poses as a messiah in the fashion that military generals take power in Nigeria and pose as political saviours.6 Indeed, if this raft, like Clark’s raft, is taken as metaphorical of Nigeria or Africa, as this is what the thematics of this drama suggest, then the appearance of the soldier is symbolic of military incursion into governance in Nigeria. Lanusen and Ekuroola represent the corrupt and morally bankrupt political elite whose greed and inordinate ambition to exploit both nature and humans provide the condition of possibility for the soldiers’ misadventure into the political space. Agurin the soldier exposes the ills and devilish intents of the politicians and poses as a revolutionary. With the aid of his gun, he insists that Lanusen, Ekuroola, and the priest of Ifa, who assist them, must face punishment by licking the foot of Oge, the assistant of the boatman. His solution is to humiliate them and throw them into the sea. But Gbebe, the most bluntly pessimist voice among them, tells him, “Your crimes are not as obvious of course. But you stink [of corruption] just as much, you may as well have turned the gun on yourself ” (63). This argument brings Agurin to the side of the rich and powerful, set against Gbebe; they all agree to throw Gbebe to the sharks in the sea. In other words, the politician, businessman, and soldier come to constitute the power structure of the raft, as is the case with Nigeria, and will not tolerate any form of opposition. As they lift Gbebe to throw him to the sea, nature – in the form of the combined forces of the sea waves, lightning, thunder, wind, and rain – intervene: There is a sudden lurch of the raft, as the wind fills into the rough sail. The incantations are cut off as the men are thrown down in a heap, on top of GBEBE. The frenzy ends, as they pick themselves up. [. . .] But the song is cut off abruptly, as the raft lurches again violently sideways, with a big crashing sound, throwing the men in all directions. When they pick themselves up, they notice that the raft has been wrenched in two, one part carrying off the Prince and EKUROOLA. This is the end of Lanusen, the prince-politician, and Ekuroola, the mindless capitalist – two characters representative, in the ideological design of this play, of the cause of the society’s underdevelopment. Waje, the boatman who insists on helping to save them, dies along with them, eaten by the sharks. Agurin the soldier too. In an act that shocks the audience, Gbebe, after a long monologue on Africans’ propensity for “living in dissipation, forever self-hating, self-destroying, self-consuming” (69), throws himself into the jaws of the bloodthirsty sharks. Gbebe, presented as a learned young man, has been from the outset critical of the black race. His character is the locus of self-examination through which Osofisan questions the rationality of a race, a continent, a nation incapable of learning anything from its history. He reminds us that the problems of Africans

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are caused by the Africans themselves, contestable as this assertion is. Through his perspective, the sea is presented as history from which the people have, rather than learning, repeated themselves as slaves: We of this continent, we’re like a raft lost in the stream of history, bound for an island of pain. We can scream all we want, sing our complaints to the air, but we cannot leave the raft. We’re doomed for ever to be the slaves of conquerors. Yes! That’s why our ancestors chose Yemosa as the totem of the land, because they know she is the goddess of shipwrecks. (45) This characteristic pessimism of Gbebe, irrational as it may sound, is complemented by stories of modern-day migration told by Waje the boatman: “Every month these currents carry the boats of men who hire themselves voluntarily to the Portuguese plantations lured by the illusion of profit. When they disembark, poor fellows, they find out the truth” (44). The sea, at this point, acquires a discursive feature, a self-reflective historicity, with which Osofisan provokes his African audience to examine themselves in the light of the realities of underdevelopment across the continent today. The symbolism of water in this drama, at this point, is shown to be multi-perspectival: it destroys and saves and human destructiveness is historicised. In short, water, in the form of the sea, becomes the constant presence against which humans can define themselves. What is, however, more crucial to my reading here is Osofisan’s deployment of nature as a resolution to the class tension and the class struggle by the poor. His revolutionary aesthetics are premised on the notion that left for human beings, there cannot be a revolution since either they are corrupt, as the powerful ones are, or they are sympathetic to the powerful ones because of what they get, as we see in the characters of the Ifa priest and Waje. Natural beings, therefore, have to intervene to save humanity, as well as themselves, since the rich and powerful also exploit them (natural beings). The triumph, in the end, of Reore, the farmer; Oge, the boatman assistant; and Orousi, the chief priest of Ifa getting out of the water with the assistance of the water spirits strongly resonates the co-agency of nature-human. But these humans, in Osofisan dialectal materialism, are peasants who can apply their brains and brawn to making honest economic contributions to the progress of the society. This is not only in the material sphere but also in the spiritual spheres, as we see in the survival of the chief priest, who genuinely regrets allowing himself to be used by the rich and powerful. The spirits, as we see in their dialogues at the end of the play, are, like the humans, humble and practical – not the kinds of gods and goddesses that claim to be super-human, unnecessarily vengeful, and set about to destroy human beings. Indeed, as is gradually unveiled throughout the play, most of the disasters, attributed to the vengeful power of the water goddess, are actually caused by the politicians and the businessmen, the capitalists. Osofisan’s overall message, therefore, is that in a spiritually viable society like Nigeria, where much of the spirituality is embodied in nature, there is the danger of capitalists using

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this nature-human connection to exploit the masses. This can only be stopped, as we have seen, through a genuine understanding and a radical deployment of indigenous philosophies of nature-human co-agency. In this context, Osofisan’s Another Raft realises in greater thematic depth the invocation of natural-spiritual beings in ordinary people’s need to dethrone regimes of capitalism orchestrated in Ben Okri’s The Famished Road. Azaro’s father, in his trance, sees the world as degenerate where instrumental rationality is the basis not of human progress but of human destruction, where nature’s strengths are repressed. He asks, “Rats and frogs understand their destiny. Why not man, eh?” (498). What this implies, as Another Raft fully spells out, is that natural beings have to take the lead in liberating the society from human capitalist destruction.

Nature as place and poetic inspiration: Niyi Osundare and Christian Otobotekere Ursula K. Heise in her book Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: The Environmental Imagination of the Global related the incident of a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who out of curiosity asked his students if they knew the kind of tree under which they were seated. To his surprise, the students could not identify the Monterey pine, yet they were students who could “converse knowledgeably about chlorofluorocarbons and the ozone hole” (quoted in Heise 28). The professor, himself a poet called Robert Hass, offered this grave conclusion: “I don’t think we have a chance of changing our relationship to the natural world if you don’t know what is around you” (quoted in Heise 28). After relating the incident, Heise asserts the point that “in order to reconnect with the natural world, individuals need to develop a ‘sense of place’ by getting to know the details of the ecosystems that immediately surround them” (28). In the attempt to live what one may call a scientific life, to heighten civilisation in the postmodern age, the so-called civilised societies have systematically silenced nature, happily replacing it with culture on the basis of technological prowess. But as many environmentalists, even in the so-called civilised societies, are getting to know, a sense of place is crucial to every person in forming and maintaining her/his identity, in sustaining a more interdependent life with nature, and, in the case of Nigerians, in continuing the dialogue with one’s ancestry. “An understanding of the local surroundings,” Paul and Anne Ehrlich write, “permits many people to gain awareness of the ecosystem services upon which their lives depend” (325). With that in mind, I engage another dimension of nature in this section. My interest here is to show the closeness of individuals – especially supposedly westernised ones – to nature, not necessarily a spiritual connection as we see in Amadi’s novel. Not necessarily an instrumental one, as we see in Osofisan’s play. This connection is rather romanticist, as the poets discussed here orchestrate their deep bond to the nature of their birthplaces and are keen to interrogate the pressures of modernity on it. The reading in this section is, therefore, premised on a fundamental assumption any scholar of Nigerian literature is

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conversant with, which is that the biophysical and cultural landscapes of Nigerian rural and urban centres have always held some sort of attraction for writers. From Amos Tutuola’s The Palmwine Drinkard to Zaynab Alkali’s The Stillborn, from Sefi Atta’s Everything Good Will Come to Dul Johnson’s Deeper into the Night, narrative landscape in the form of physical and cultural settings acquires a vivid character. This is even more telling with playwrights, as is clear from a cursory reading of the works of Wole Soyinka, Femi Osofisan, Ahmed Yerima, and Isaac Attah Ogezi. Nigerian poetry, though pithy and concise, hardly in the shape of long narrative verse, is perhaps more sensitive to the landscape than other genres. As I discussed in Chapter 1, before the turn of the twenty-first century, poetry – in the heydays of poets such as Niyi Osundare and Tanure Ojaide – reached its high point of reliance on nature, its aesthetic strengths hinged on its relation to place, mostly the poet’s birthplace. Place, for these poets, is a powerful marker of poetic identity on which they rely for self-fashioning.7 The ideological persuasion for them is perhaps best captured in the words of Nourbese M. Philip, who in an essay entitled “Earth and Sound: the Place of Poetry” suggests that literature, and in particular, poetry only begins to belong to a place when the poet belongs; the poet belongs when the language belongs; the language belongs when it arises from and reflects the essence of all that combines to produce place. In this process, the bond between poet and place remains indispensable. (173–174) This is part of the traditionalism of what has come to be regarded as secondgeneration Nigerian poetry. In their poetic practice and in their utterances, the poets of this generation, against the high modernism that influenced the poetry of their precursors, advocates for a poetics rooted in what they see as authentic traditional oralities. Their birthplace oralities, therefore, become great sources of inspiration for them. Perhaps the first step, as a poetic strategy, towards achieving that is captured by the poet Ojaide, who writes, Modern African poetic aesthetics are unique in possessing a repertory of authentic African features. This authenticity manifests itself in the use of concrete images derived from the fauna and flora, proverbs, indigenous rhythms, verbal tropes, and concepts of space and time to establish a poetic form. (30) Carefully embedded in Ojaide’s postulation are the biophysical nature (“fauna and flora”) and the cultural nature (“proverbs, indigenous rhythms, verbal tropes”), both of which are crucial to the formation of what he sees as an authentic African aesthetic. In other words, the notion of place, of biophysical and cultural spatiality, underscores the very essence of the form of poetry, the

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type that has gained wide currency and has had far-reaching consequences for the development of the poetic arts in Nigeria. The choice of Christian Otobotekere is deliberate. Although by age he is (born in 1925) a contemporary of the late Gabriel Okara and has published about ten poetry collections, he is relatively unknown, his fame nothing close to that of Okara. His poetry gained currency in the 1990s at a time when literary writing, especially poetry, from the Niger Delta had assumed a strong tone and tenor of resistance against petrodollar capitalism. With the powerful voices of Tanure Ojaide, Nnimmo Bassey, Ogaga Ifowodo, G. Ebinyo Ogbowei, and Ebi Yeibo, poetry from the Niger Delta is marked by a strident counter-discourse and invested with activism to the extent that some of the poets (Bassey in particular) can be referred to as writer-activists in the sense that Rob Nixon (Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor) uses the term. This poetry, on the one hand, recalls what it sees as the region’s pristine past, untouched by petrodollar modernity, and, on the other, raises a resistance with strong images of catastrophe against a Nigerian government in collusion with multinational oil corporations. But Otobotekere’s poetic practice deviates from the dominant trend. In his view, contemporary poetry from the Niger Delta is revolutionary, something that he thinks is needless or that should not be presented as the only poetics. Nature, its abundance, its natural diversity, is, in his contention, neglected by contemporary revolutionary poetics. In his words, “from what I know about poetry, it is not only revolutionary issues that augur for change” (https:// thenationonlineng.net/poems-help-preserve-ecosystem). He is thus rather concerned to show the natural world of his birthplace. In fact, he rationalises his non-activist stance in the face of destructive capitalism by consistently projecting his personal connection with River Nun, one of the well-known rivers of his birthplace. “Here I was born,” says Otobotekere, “washed in the river (River Nun). Then, in our own days once you were born, you’d been thrown into the river. That worked well for us” (https://thenationonlineng. net/poems-help-preserve-ecosystem). The ritual of washing a newborn baby in the river is one way of immersing the chid in nature, of demonstrating the connectedness, the interdependence, of human and the nonhuman. His poetic obsession with the river, stressed in nuanced metaphorisation, is, as he said, rooted in that first river bath. His words: You know the ecosystem [. . .] living things there, not humans beings, but [. . .] animals and so on. [. . .] So, when you realize that, you will not be selfish to think only of Patani [river] near you or River Nun close by. [. . .] You think of all of them [all rivers], for they all make up the ecosystem. (https://thenationonlineng.net/poemshelp-preserve-ecosystem/) For Otobotekere, the river is the poetic channel to view the rest of the ecosystem, especially the Niger Delta ecosystem, which is rich with diverse nonhuman

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lives. But his deviation from the dominant poetic trend in the region, which appears to be a deliberate aesthetic choice, may have been indeed contingent upon the circumstance of his life and profession. An economics graduate of the famous Fourah Bay University College in Sierra Leone, he had worked with Shell Petroleum, and he is currently the traditional ruler of Tombia in Bayelsa State, south-south Nigeria. He is, from this premise, on the side of the Niger Delta establishment, accused of conniving with oil companies. For instance, in most literary works from the region (Isidore Okpewho’s Tides and Tanure Ojaide’s The Activist) that strongly aestheticise anti-petrodollar activism, there are characters of local chiefs or retired oil workers (this is what Otobotekere is) who conspire with oil capitalists to impoverish the people and degrade the environment. They are antagonistic to liberation movements. There are scholars who think that a writer in the Niger Delta ought to turn herself/himself “into a voice for the voiceless and his art a medium for projecting their condition to the rest of the world as it has always been the role of the artist in Africa” (Ushie 15). Otobotekere is certainly not such a writer. It would be, however, reductionist to simply cast Otobotekere the poet as an antagonist because he does not approve of, or practice, revolutionary poetics. Any attraction to his poetry, from an ecocentric view, would be premised on not only his personal connection to River Nun but also on the merit of his poetry as a rich romantic exploration of the Niger Delta nature. This is particularly worth paying attention to in light of Iheka’s contention that activism, usually hinged on violence, contained in literature from the Niger Delta may have a negative consequence on the ecosystem on behalf of which the writers claim to have instituted resistance. According to Iheka, In Nigeria’s Niger Delta [. . .], the exploitation of the environment has been challenged by oil bunkering, which involves scooping crude oil from vandalized or corroded pipelines, and bombing oil installations, among other forms of violent resistance activities. Critics tend to view these acts positively when they appear in literary narratives. While recognizing the value of such violent resistance for human causes, I underline the contradictions involved when the act of resistance becomes complicit in the same environmental degradation it seeks to subvert. (4) To read Otobotekere’s poetry from a non-revolutionary perspective, as I have done here, is to bring to attention the fact that literary writing from the Niger Delta is not all about violent resistance. This poetry, in its own frame of resistance, resists violence in the region precisely because of the point Iheka makes. It foregrounds and valorises the natural world and insists on harmonious existence between human and nonhuman, although it is illusory if at all such harmony can be achieved in the region. Ogaga Okuyade (1–14) and Austin Amanze Akpuda (165–200) read Otobokere’s poetry from the perspective of pastoralism. Otobotekere’s poems, according to Akpuda, “invite us to

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deliberate on what is usually classified as the pastoral tradition in literature” (168). Okuyade thinks this deliberation is crucial as it is lacking in contemporary African ecocriticism. He writes, [Otobotekere’s] poetry falls within the latitude of pastoral poetry or ecopastoral tradition, an aspect of environmental literature which is hardly explored in the criticism of African literature. Consequently, Otobotekere’s poetry occupies a distinct position within the broad spectrum of contemporary African poetry. (5) In the premise of pastoralism, Okuyade and Akpuda link Otobotekere’s poetry to the Anglo-American romantic tradition. And yet there is something of place-based aesthetics that goes deeper beyond a romantic rendition of the Niger Delta in the poetry. The thing is around Otobotekere’s idea of the first bath in the river, which gives the poet an entitlement to the natural world as a place from which he comes. In other words, he sees himself as one of the river beings, a human form of a nonhuman being. It is something deeper than just the desire to romanticise. Ojaide, who is also from the Niger Delta, may have put it better when he writes that Otobotekere expresses not just himself but also the environment and life of his community in the nature issues he addresses in the fauna and flora. For a ruler whose traditional title is ‘Okun’ (which bears relationship with Olokun, the sea goddess) and whose family name is Otobotekere (with Otobo being the hippo), he is very much at home in his water environment and familiarity with riverine and aquatic images which recur in his writings. (136–137) The river, or any kind of water body, holds a special meaning for Otobotekere, one that goes deeper into his ancestral making. That his traditional leadership title and his family name are linked to water explain his dramatisation of his connection with river in his poetry. In a sense, he sees himself as a human form of a hippo, and what people may see as his romanticisation of the river, or the use of water imagery, may be an expression of a deep spiritual or ancestral connection. The valorisation of the Niger Delta natural world is not, it should be clearly pointed out, limited to the poetry of Otobotekere, although he appears to be the first poet to ideologise the theme. In Tanure Ojaide’s poetry, for instance, the pristine past is usually juxtaposed with the exploited present – the poet is fond of giving the pictures of how rich and human-nurturing the flora and fauna of the region were before the invasion of petrodollar modernity (Egya 1–15). But by far the other poet, apart from Otobotekere, who has projected the nature of the region is Gabriel Okara. As Oyeniyi Okunoye notes, “[The] liberty with which Okara in particular drew imagery and symbolism from his

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birthplace betrays the harmony and communion that the [poets of the Niger Delta origin] maintain with their immediate physical environment” (416–417). Okara’s The Fisherman Invocation contains much-anthologised poems, such as “The Call of the River Nun” and “Piano and Drums,” that depict the landscape of the Niger Delta. “The Call of the River Nun” is some sort of tribute to River Nun. The poet-persona – now distanced from the river on account of modernity – nostalgically relives his birth and childhood in the nurturing essence of the river. I want to view your face again and feel your cold embrace; or at your brim to set myself and inhale your breath; or Like the trees, to watch my mirrored self unfold and span my days with song from the lips of dawn. (5–13) Bathing in the river, relishing its atmosphere, and seeing oneself through it, all of which the poet-persona had experienced as a child, are captured in the lines earlier. This nostalgia is matched with an even more crucial invocation of the river – namely, the continuing nature-nurturing role the river plays throughout the lives of those who have experienced it. As Otobotekere mentions, an encounter with the river is for a lifetime. Therefore, the poet-persona in Okara’s poem can envisage the end of his fulfilled life through the river essence. The persona likens his life to a river, which like River Nun, “brings near the sea-bird call,/the final call that/stills the crested waves/and breaks in two the curtain/of silence of my upturned canoe” (19–28). The “final call” brings his life to an end. In this poem, as in others, Okara foregrounds the diversity of lives in the natural world, emphasising the entanglement of his life with them. For a society like the Niger Delta, it is even more demonstrable what Heise implies when she says, “Walking through natural landscapes, observing their flora and fauna, hunting, fishing, gathering fruits or mushrooms, ploughing a field, and tending animals are some of the ways the human body is perceived to reintegrate itself into the ‘biotic community’” (30). This would be taken as a daily routine in the Niger Delta region, and what Otobotekere’s poetry does is to vividly capture it. The poet-persona we encounter in Otobotekere’s poetry is absolutely integrated into nature from birth, from genealogy, and from faith and fate. We see this persona in the poem “I’m One with You” as he intones, This sibilant water In lullaby floods

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Best known to me and to Those jump-and-dive kids And the river-bent Sizzling reeds: The same sizzling And whistling river, Stirring the welcome of Migrant fishes and perched canals: And of yellow-stricken leaves of trees Standing at attention. (4–15) This poem is among other poems of the same thematic link collected under the title My River: Poems on Riverine Ecology. This collection is distinct among Otobotekere’s collections in the sense that it is the most coherent orchestration of the poet’s engagement with ecology but also because of its subject matter, which is the Niger River running through the delta region. To this extent, the collection is programmatic, especially if we consider the poet’s comment prefacing the collection, stating, inter alia, that the collection is one of many books in the series which focus on the Niger river [sic], what it carries, and what it does on its way. I have endeavoured to highlight some of its historical, environmental and cultural components, and, indeed, some of the phenomena around the Delta that might not have been well known. (15) But what is dramatised in the previous stanza and in the entire collection is that by telling the story of the river, Otobotekere is also telling his own story, with his poetry pointedly showing the binding forces between human beings and nature. The poet-persona introduces the “sibilant” water (that is, the river) and soon it is clear that this river is not alone: there are always the “jump-and-dive kids”; there are always the “river-bent” reeds, and, of course, there are fishes, canals, and trees, birds, all signalling the harmony in the wetland’s biodiversity. It is in its pristine existence. The river is consistently projected, with the poet deploying personification to depict other creatures paying homage to the river, just as the poet does. The poet-persona sees himself as paying the deepest homage since his poetic rendition itself is a manifestation of how he is artistically but also organically joined to the river from birth. “From season to season/In tune with your song:/Your song is/The song of my heart” (40–43). The Niger Delta is also a place of thick forest, a land of wild animals. This is what is depicted in the poem “Wetlands Forest,” where the reader encounters “reserve of monkeys” (2), “grinning gorillas” (3), thick pythons, bufaloes, iguanas, antelopes, and leopards; it is also a land of plants such as palm trees, “bush mangoes” (15) and other “Natural fruits at forest floor” (16). The ecological life is rich. In

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a lyrical flow, the poem lists diferent lives, human and nonhuman, in their most exuberant manifestations. The poet favours short lines, with accentuated sounds, culminating in a musical rendition. If “I’m One with You” depicts the riverine site, with a great sense of place where the poet-persona lives, then the hilarious poem “Love Is Here” (My River) gives us the sound of the Niger Delta in a tone that is also highly musical, with visual images: I’m native of this environ With colour-tinted birds Soft-tuning the music Of each bright day. Peace . . . . . Peace . . . . . Peace . . . . Outcrop of mind melody In the April of Peace – Love and Peace flowering On this bird roosting, Bird-cooing, bird gliding Peace sprinkled island shore. Love is here. The first line asserts the ancestry of the poet-persona, which appears crucial throughout Otobotekere’s poetry; it in fact underscores the sense of place unmistakable in his eulogy for the Niger Delta. The poem does not as much as give the diverse sounds expected in a setting like the Niger Delta with its rich biodiversity as it symbolically ofers what the poet-persona considers the anthem of the region, the song of love and peace. Otobotekere is eager, throughout his oeuvre, to show that the region is a place of peace, love, and unity – a claim that is, of course, contestable given the region’s multi-ethnicity, internal rifts, and fierce environmental struggles. Said Adejumobi (164–182) Byron Caminero-Snatangelo (Diferent Shades of Green), Michael Watts (189– 212), and Eghosa E. Osaghae (325–344) have variously made the point, in relation to Ken Saro-Wiwa’s struggle, that the Niger Delta is definitely not a place of inter-ethnic unity. As it turned out, the Joint Task Force mandated to bring peace to the region took advantage of the inter-ethnic rivalries to deal with prominent people, such as Saro-Wiwa. It is, however, useful to contextualise Otobotekere’s poetry as a landscape aesthetic hinged on, as pointed out earlier, a deep natural connection, and by this I mean the poet’s strong drive to ofer his readers nature in its pristine, almost prehistoric, form in the Niger Delta. It is his way of showing the depth of the phenomenology that binds him to the place. While there is actually a basis to problematise Otobotekere’s idealism, attention must be drawn to a certain form of realism that his poetry throws up. The Niger River, for instance, remains a realistically magnificent being, not merely an image-studded construction in Otobotekere’s poetry. There is something

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pointedly realistic in the portrait of the river in “A Moving Miracle” (My River): Here flows An ancient river A priceless river Dropped by One Creator, freely To a rural few – Aped by urban folk In empty swimming pools. [. . .] Everlasting river, foster mother, Whatever your name Whatever your origin Whatever your mission One thing you are: A moving miracle Friend to friends, Friend to all All year round At ebb or at flow Imperturbable mystery Massive and noiseless You move on, deep With slow and silent force. (Italics in the original) The eternity of the river, its spectacular presence, its hospitality, among other things the poem attempts to capture, are to some extent truly realistic of the Niger River. Of course, the poem, like every piece of eulogy, is hyperbolic in a sense. But this image of the river and images of other natural beings in Otobotekere’s poetry are products of powerful reminiscences from a man who, as he says in the preface to My River, has acquired a personal knowledge of the river “from kindergarten to adolescence and to adulthood” (15). Even in highly evocative panegyric renditions, such as the excitable “A New Eden,” we encounter features of landscape anyone who lives in the Niger Delta knows quite well: the green mangrove where “flying twittering birds/And diving swallows roam” (10–51). It is where “monkeys fling and swing,/[and] Proclaim new arrivals/And heckle visitors/For the fun of it” (8–11). It is also where “tiny silver-sheen fish” (12) are seen on the surface of waters, a land of “sweet dawn” (17), of enchanting “shore, meadow, [and] tree-top” (34). In the poem “Lake-Bird” (Beyond Sound and Voice), the region is also equated with Eden, more geographical features of the region are presented in alluring images. In

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this poem, the Niger Delta is a place where “all nature is fresh,” where the waters are calm and cool, where the lilies are white and water lotus dance to the breeze; it is a place of giant snails, of giant tortoises. The poem further intimates that it is a place of marvellous sound, of mellifluous music, “[m]easured and thrilling/Sinking and cooling/[which] Overcomes like a spell” (35–37). The poem even gives us the sounds made by the birds of the region: Tubo, tubo, tubo, Tubo ekeleke. Tubo-tubo tubo Tuboekeleke, tubo. (50–54) This onomatopoeic rendering presents a Niger Delta of happy birds and of other contented animals that intone their peculiar sounds across the length and breadth of the region. In the poem “Live Show” (Beyond Sound and Voice), the poet is even more descriptive as he does not only give us the sound of the birdlike creature but also shows how it dances on water: Hear her vibrating alto Leading the crowd, Oh, she suddenly leaps Into wriggle-wriggle-wriggle, upon Wriggle, about turn. Wriggle-wriggle-wriggle, upon Wriggle, about turn. She strides into Another halt, another vibration, O sky-lifting voice! (20–29) This lively representation is characteristic of the poems collected under the title Beyond Sound and Voice, poems that capture the diverse sounds of creatures living in the region, as long as Otobotekere can remember. There is something of an eye witness informing Otobotekere’s poems on the Niger Delta. It does seem that, as he himself relates, he had time as a child, an adolescent, and an adult to watch most of the things dramatised in his poetry. There is a certain immediacy that attempts to give the reader a vivid picture of the physical environment of the Niger Delta. As is clear here, memory plays a crucial role in Otobotekere’s poetry. As Okuyade writes, “The potency of his childhood memories is not only gripping, it also ofers the reader the benefit hindsight and a kind of horoscopic view of the environment” (8–9). It all implies that Otobotekere’s sense of place is acute. His poetry leaves no one in doubt that he knows the Niger Delta quite intimately as a birthplace, as a land he constantly journeyed to while an urban worker, and now as a land where he holds some power as a ruler of Tombia. Otobotekere’s perception, view, and understanding

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of the world began from his profound afliation to his place. Scott Russell Sanders makes the vital point that in the face of globalisation, the shrinking of the world into a village with its attendant migration, homelessness, and multiculturality, [t]he challenge is to see one’s region as a focus of processes that extend over the earth and out to the edges of the universe; to realize that this place is only one of an infinite number of places where the powers of nature show forth. (xvi) In aestheticising his birthplace, the natural life forms in the Niger Delta, Otobotekere is, in fact, performing a number of functions for the Niger Delta, for Nigeria, and for the entire world. Insofar as the Niger Delta is a part of the globe, Otobotekere, indeed, sings the praises of the world’s nature, taking as his point of reference his birthplace, which, of course, is usually the case with landscape writers all over the world. It is pertinent to point out that the enchanting poetic voice of Otobotekere (largely because of his rather insider view of nature) is not unconcerned about the fate of the biotic community of the Niger Delta. Although his poetry is disturbingly silent over what I would call eco-human crisis in the Niger Delta caused by the activities of multinational oil companies, it is not at all silent on the fate of the flora and fauna of the region that he has so dazzlingly portrayed in My River and Beyond Sound and Voice. In the poem “Wetlands Forest,” he raises a concern in the last stanza: “Right now, this model harmony,/This strange pleasure/With forest guards and benign ghosts/As tamed messengers/ Is being violated, and emptied/By heedless modern axe” (44–49). The metaphor “modern axe” is probably a reference to the technological activities of petrodollar capitalism that bring affliction upon the thick forest of the region. Similarly, in the poem “Lone Iroko,” the poet expresses his concern about the fate of the magnificent tree when he says, “Halt, man, halt./Withhold your axe/From felling or hurting its kind/In the name of development” (97). Here, as in other places in Otobotekere’s poetry, man stands against the well-being of nature – a situation that has caused great concern to nature conservationists. To this extent, I disagree with Ojaide that in Otobotekere’s poetry “[t]here is no interrogation of the riverine ecology; there is no mentioning of issues of pollution, poaching, and human degradation of the riverine ecology he contemplates” (Indigeneity, Globalization, and African Literature 138). And yet it remains a disturbing issue that Otobotekere is not anti-establishment, as nearly all writers from the Niger Delta have been. Even when he touches on the crises in the Niger Delta, as he does in “Surfing or Pirating?” (Live 2 Lives), he berates the youth for engaging in illegal activities rather than condemning the machineries imposed by the national government and multinational companies: Which is your tack? Of righteous anger

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Or piratical boating? No-no-no-no. Stop. You black out your future! Brother, sister, Desist and return To what is right, To your rights. Recant and repent, My dear son, My dear Sailor’s son! (36–47) If this is intended as a piece of advice, it is certainly one that youths in the Niger Delta will not take, possibly because they know how their environment is being degraded, how huge wealth is being mined from their communities without any substantial benefits to them, and, ultimately – this is where at least Otobotekere can understand their cause – how the biospheres are being destroyed. Again, one may be compelled to rationalise Otobotekere’s stance by way of recognising what appears to be his refreshing pastoralism (to echo Okuyade), which privileges the natural world in the face of the rather pervasive literary activism that may have undermined the fate of nature in favour of humanity. If Otobotekere’s valorisation of the natural world is rather silent on the destiny of humans, that of Niyi Osundare is not. A self-professed humanist, Osundare presents nature from a more eco-human angle, and it is to his poetry that we now turn. Like Femi Osofisan, Niyi Osundare is often regarded by critics and scholars as a socialist writer. Critical attention on his poetry have mainly focused on its strengths in critiquing contemporary socio-political happenings, and on the humanist ideal of advocating for the emancipation of the oppressed people from repressive regimes in Africa. I argue here that such readings of Osundare’s poetry undermine a vital aspect of his work – namely, its profound sensitivity to nature, to his birthplace environment. I have focused on three aspects of his poetry that are open to an ecocritical reading. They are his abundant use of nature imagery, his attention to the landscape of his birthplace, and his concern about the fate of the earth and its inhabitants. To illustrate these, I read a number of his poems, especially those collected in his volume The Eye of the Earth. After Christopher Okigbo, Osundare is arguably the most read and studied poet in Nigeria. Since his first collection Songs of the Marketplace published in 1983, Osundare has published quite a considerable number of volumes, ranging from Village Voices to the Commonwealth poetry prize winner The Eye of the Earth, from the Noma Award winner Waiting Laughters to City Without People: The Katrina Poems, to If Only the Road Could Talk. There are more than 16 in his oeuvre. While Osundare’s poetry is a complex body of variegated imagination, critical responses to it have tended to restrict its energies. Reasons for this are not far-fetched. Born in Nigeria and living there until the turn of

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the twenty-first century when he relocated to the United States, Osundare – a staunch critic of the establishment in Nigeria – is a self-professed humanist. He has consistently spoken of his desire to versify the aspirations and pains of the brutalised commoners in Nigeria. He has expressed his desire to take the craft of poetry closer to those considered too ordinary to comprehend the supposed intricacy of the poetic art.8 It is this goal that informs his radical aesthetic, which relies heavily on Yoruba orality. Some of Osundare’s volumes, such as Songs of the Marketplace, A Nib in the Pond, Songs of the Season, dramatise, in a sense which might be considered exhaustive, the condition of the poor in Nigeria, the privileging of community-centred arts, and the vitriolic abhorrence of the military regimes of the 1980s and 1990s which, in the poet’s view, pillaged the diverse potentials of Nigeria. But, as I intend to demonstrate here, nature – the nonhuman or extra-human aspects of existence – has continued to be a vital index of his thematic exploration. Even a cursory reading of Osundare’s poetry volumes shows that his orality-dependent poetics springs from environmental imagination. One of the few Nigerian poets with a robust autobiographical inclination, Osundare constantly writes himself into his poetry and does so through the images of nature. While Osundare is no doubt a consummate political poet, the aesthetic politics of his poetry is wrapped in nature, the other side of Osundare, which is often forgotten or silenced in the chorus of critiques that highlight Osundare’s commitment to the predicament of the poor. In his introduction to the 1987 edition of Osundare’s Songs of the Marketplace, Biodun Jeyifo, in what was then the most authoritative essay on Osundare’s poetry and poetics, contextualised Osundare’s poetry in the light of the “poetic revolution,” which had occurred in the post-war period in Nigeria. Osundare was among a group of younger Nigerian poets (Odia Ofeimun, Tanure Ojaide, Funso Aiyejina) who captured the literary scene with a coherent thesis on the condition of the Nigerian masses during and after the Nigerian Civil War. Their poetry was remarkably distinguished by its demystification of the poetic craft. Their demystification took the direction of simplified diction, familiar imagery, and a reliance on African traditional aesthetics. Towards the end of his essay on Osundare’s poetry, Jeyifo makes the following remark: A major analysis could indeed be offered of Osundare’s handling of nature in a way that is perhaps unique in contemporary Nigerian literature, oscillating as it does, between the accustomed animist ritualism of older poets like Okigbo and Soyinka, and careful sensitive observation and description, with something of a naturalist’s eye, and the moral-philosophical rubric of projecting the processes of nature as a model and a paradigm for change and renewal in society. (xv) Curiously enough, since Jeyifo made this suggestion in 1987, there has been no “major analysis,” not even what one might consider as minor analysis, of

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Osundare’s poetry along the lines of Osundare’s “handling of nature.” It is useful, though, to point out that while critics and scholars have always interpreted Osundare’s poetry through the sociological method, they have, like Jeyifo, acknowledged the distinct eco-imagination of the poet (see Na’Allah xxiii– xxxiv; Nwachukwu-Agbada 73–86; Okunoye 75–85). This recognition is seen in Harry Garuba’s “Explorations of Animist Materialism and a Reading of the Poetry of Niyi Osundare,” Titi Adepitan’s “A Theory of Growth and Maturation: The Earth as the Eye of Osundare’s Poetry,” and Femi Oyebode’s “Green Oranges and Anthill Castles: An Alienated Literature?” Of the three essays, it is Adepitan’s that comes close to an ecocritical study, even though he is generally concerned about canonical formation in Nigerian literature. Adepitan’s argument is that Osundare attempts to distinguish himself from the commonplace voices of “social criticism,” which, in his view, “is not the best premise to found the reputation of African writers” (78). Like Jeyifo, Adepitan concludes that the most pertinent observation is that Osundare is not just Africa’s most successful poet right now, he also looks set to have given rise to an entirely new way of envisioning our environment and circumstances, radically different from whatever may have come before in modern poetry. (63) Adepitan fixates himself on “observation” and thus does not go beyond commenting on Osundare “looks set” to concern himself with nature. On the contrary, Osundare, from the beginning of his poetry, consciously works nature into it and has been as concerned about the fate of the environment as he is about that of humans. Many agree that Osundare’s poetics is orchestrated in the opening poem to his first collection, a poem that has come to be seen as a manifesto for the postOkigbo generation of Nigerian poets. Entitled “Poetry Is,” the meta-poem goes as follows: not the esoteric whisper of an excluding tongue not a claptrap for a wondering audience not a learned quiz entombed in Grecoroman lore Poetry is a lifespring which gathers timbre the more throats it plucks harbinger of action the more minds it stirs

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Poetry is the hawker’s ditty the eloquence of the gong the lyric of the marketplace the luminous ray on the grass’s morning dew Poetry is what the soft wind musics to the dancing leaf what the sole tells the dusty path what the bee hums to the alluring nectar what rainfall croons to the lowering eaves [. . .]. (Songs of the Marketplace 3–4) On the basis of the radical assertions made in this poem and of his subsequent praxis, Osundare, as the titles of works in his poetry show, has been seen as “the people’s poet.” This title indicates that he has succeeded in democratising poetry, taking it from the domain of the elite to that of the masses. But this poem about poetry radicalises the art of poetry in two ways. First, there is a decisive shift from “Grecoroman lore” – the modernist poetry that fascinated earlier Nigerian poets – to “the hawker’s ditty,” a kind of communal ballad that is recognisable to, and appreciated by, all people, not only to an exclusive group of sophisticated beings. Second, there is a conscious use of metaphors taken from nature, implicitly projecting the immense reliance of humans on nature. Osundare’s poetry has, henceforth, sought to locate humans in their (bucolic) places, in the natural rhythms of life, and in the eloquence of their nature-given poetics. Osundare likens poetry to spring (“lifespring”), a metaphor which no doubt takes its life from the flow of water. People are attracted to the flowing water because it gives life and vitality. Very traditional to the people, in the sense of place, of nature, is “eloquence of gong,” “lyric of marketplace,” and “grass’s morning dew.” The provincialism of these metaphors disrupts any universalist claim and rather draws attention to the ineradicable connection between a person and her/his place. What is proposed here, and is practised to a great extent in Osundare’s oeuvre, is not only the connection between the “hawker” and her (traditional) “ditty,” or between the farmer’s “sole” and her/ his “dusty path,” for instance. It is also the connection between the poet and her/his natural place. Of all Nigerian poets, Osundare (as well as Tanure Ojaide) is arguably the one who most enduringly dramatises his connection to his homeland. The bond between Osundare and Ikere-Ekiti has remained indispensable largely because Osundare, extremely influenced by his traditional orature, sees his poetry as firmly rooted in Ikere-Ekiti – in the local “ditty” of the land and in its peculiar landscape.

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The connection can be better understood if we look at one of his wellknown biographical poem: “Farmer-Born.” In the first stanza, the poetpersona intimates, Farmer-born peasant-bread I have frolicked from furrow to furrow sounded kicking tubers in the womb of quickening earth and fondled the melon breasts of succulent ridges. (1–6) The picture we have is that of a farmer’s son. Osundare grew up as a farmer’s son in the then rural community of Ikere-Ekiti. Osundare would make this childhood experience of being bonded to land central to his aesthetic endeavour (Egya, Niyi Osundare: a Literary Biography). If we return to his meta-poem, we would appreciate that his use of such nature-derived metaphors (“soft wind,” “dancing leaf,” “dusty path,” “alluring nectar,” and crooning “rainfall” on “lowering eaves”) is traditional to his sense of place, a phenomenon that is central to Osundare’s ecopoetics. Osundare also has a profound sense of his traditional culture, seeing the world through it and constantly returning to it to mine images often directly from the repertoire of Yoruba proverbs. Any passage taken indiscriminately from Osundare’s poetry would demonstrate this. Consider, for instance, this passage taken from the lengthy poem “What the River Said” in Midlife, Osundare’s eighth poetry volume. Green green green Green goes my rippling song Where cornstalks suckle their cradles. And the millet towers into a tassled sky The onion’s leafy joy sits upon A stool of redolent marvel Green green green Green goes my rippling song Endless bamboo clumps which oil their rings With the sweat of loosening plains Bankfuls of Odundun okun whose leaves Are thrills in melon soups Green green green Green goes my rippling song. (229–242)

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All the images are from nature and are deployed in such a way that one has no doubt about the poet’s closeness to nature. Osundare’s mettle as a poet, for those very conversant with his poetry, is in the skills he has to deploy words from nature, especially images from the agricultural realm, to make his point. Even when his poetry confronts repressive regimes, even when he depicts the figure of the oppressor, he uses nature, focusing here on images centred on animals, on bestiality. This is why J. O. J. Nwachukwu-Agbada writes in his reading of Osundare’s poetry that “[o]ften Osundare’s metaphor for the poor is sheep, while wolf is his idea of the rich who savour the helpless in order to survive doubly” (76). If Osundare were not brought up in the rural area, where he went to farm and had a close communion with nature, it would have been impossible for him to delve so deeply into the local ways of life and the philosophy that binds people to their nature. It would have been impossible for him to create images from nature with such ease. There is always something in Osundare’s poetry that signals his childhood, his abiding closeness to the village where he grew up and to the culture of his Yoruba ethnic group. Osundare’s landscape aesthetics is the poetisation of his birthplace’s landscape with the aim, first, to foreground the pristine beauty of the environment, and, second, to bring to his reader’s attention the plight of the landscape in the wake of western civilisation and capitalism in Africa. Among other strategies, his projection of the physical environment of his community provides an interpretive insight into a deconstruction of the connective, the interdependence, of arts and the society so privileged in his poetry. The landscape aesthetics are elaborately treated in Osundare’s second volume Village Voices. It is a volume that recalls Osundare’s childhood. It evokes the communal life, the cultural mores, the distinct atmosphere, and the natural environment of the period before the invasion of modernity. “Month of the Fallen Leaves,” for instance, gives a picture of the dry season in the land when the physical terrain of the community is covered with dry leaves fallen from trees. This presupposes that the community has a lot of trees – Ikere-Ekiti where Osundare hails from is in the south-western part of Nigeria, a thick rainforest zone. The persona in the poem addresses a lover who chooses to come in the time of fallen leaves, a reference, really, to the period after the harvest when the soil is dry; when the sun appears daily, unencumbered by rain clouds; when people have less farmwork and, therefore, have more time for socialising, for hosting their lovers. The poem marries the themes of love and that of nature but focuses more – through a series of nature images – on the environment, the landscape of the community, which at this period is conducive for lovers to meet. The lover has come not only at the time “when cotton pods beam fluffy smiles/to the opening sun” (6–7) but also the lover herself/himself is “woollen laughter/on the silky lips/ of my [the persona’s] draper twigs” (8–10). In a single stanza, then, we see the closeness of the lovers (conveyed in powerful images of nature) and the environment of the community covered not only with leaves and “twigs” but also with cotton wools (most of the villagers are cotton farmers). Osundare is interested in the representation of the sights of the bucolic community, what attracts

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anyone coming to the place, and what is culturally, ethnically, and historically useful to the people living in the place. So he goes on, in a bid to emphasise the occupation of the people, which is farming, to write of the “ripened foliage [that] cradles the back/[. . .]/of baring ridges” (21–23). This is referring to farm ridges already bearing fruits, whose foliage is past its prime. The horizon is not left out, as the persona calls his/her lover to come away with him/her, “and together/we shall watch the egret /wing the virgin face of our eager sky” (26–28). It is a period that cattle are seen in the surroundings of the community, and egrets are seen flying all around. The intertwinement of love and nature is a technique that suggests that the poem is concerned with genuine love and the type considered natural, not attached to any material longing. With nature metaphors, but also against a natural background, the persona praises his lover as being natural in her way of doing things, which is why she knows the right time to visit him. The right time is the time of the harvest. In contrast, we see the physical appearance of the village at the beginning of the rainy season, when the first rain has fallen, in “New Birth.” The poem regards the first rains as a new birth, the metaphor rooted in agrarianism. Interestingly, the persona in this poem is a snake, happily describing its organic connection to nature. The persona announces itself: “I am a snake just sloughed/ the burden of bygone years” (1–2). It appears in a new skin. Then it goes on to give us a picture of the community’s environment as it is washed by a new rain: A new rain has fallen carrying last year’s debris in virile rivulets to meet the mighty ocean Earth, unyoked, breathes through every pore dusted feet swing to the rapturous rhythm of vibrating roofs A new river is here beckoning boatmen for new boats A new moon enlightens the sky dismissing the tired darkness of yesternights. (5–18) The first rains in this place, as in other parts of Nigeria, wash away a lot of dirt; it is the first physical efect they has on the landscape. It implies that the earth has taken its bath, which is why, according to the poet, it “breathes through every pore.” There is a new river, a new moon, two things that are very essential to the people in the community. But, basically, the poem seeks to show that when the first rains have fallen, the community wears a new look; there is

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a profound efect on the landscape. The coming of new rains also brings hopes to the people who are mainly farmers and deepens the communion the people have with their lands and with other natural beings. A very prominent aspect of Osundare’s landscape aesthetics is the representation of the rocks surrounding his birthplace. Ikere-Ekiti is bounded on two sides by two prominent rocks called Olosunta and Oroole. Olosunta is sacred, said in myths to be fundamental to the formation of the community, and worshiped in a yearly festival. Oroole is not. The two rocks have had a profound influence on Osundare’s life and have appeared frequently in his poetry. Growing up in Ikere-Ekiti, he had participated yearly in the Olosunta festival; he used to go up the rock during the festival. The secondary school he attended, Amoye Grammar School, is situated at the foot of Oroole; he used to go up the rock in his spare time to read (Egya, Niyi Osandare: A Literary Biography). The rocks are the subject of the poem “The Rocks Rose to Meet Me” in The Eye of the Earth. It is a eulogy to the rocks but also a foregrounding of the biophysical and cultural landscape of the community. It celebrates the agelessness of the rocks, their sure existence but also the organic connection between the stones and the people of the community. The poem dramatises the return of the poet-persona to his homeland after a sojourn in search of western civilisation, what the poet metaphorically calls “the westmost sun” (21). The rocks rise to welcome him home. While the rocks are anthropomorphised so that we can hear their voices, the poet-persona overwhelms us with a hyperbolic praise of the rocks, recalling the proverbs the people of the community had used to extol the rocks. First it is his bond with the rocks: “The rocks rose to meet me/ like passionate lovers on a long-awaited tryst” (1–2). Then the poet-persona relates the attributes of Olosunta: Olosunta spoke first the eloquent one whose mouth is the talking house of ivory Olosunta spoke first the lofty one whose eyes are balls of the winking sun Olosunta spoke first the riddling one whose belly is wrestling ground for god and gold. (5–13) Osundare delays what the rock says because he is more interested in showing the physical features of the rock and the treasures in it. The eloquence of the rock is really seen and felt during the festival when its priest would speak in an esoteric tongue to the people as a way of conveying the message of the god. The perpetual contact of the rock and sunrays results in what the poet calls “balls of the winking sun.” The rock embodies gold, obviously a reference

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to the mineral resources that can be found in it, and a god, a reference to its sacredness and what it has come to mean spiritually to the people of Ikere-Ekiti. The poet-persona presents Oroole thus: Oroole came next his ancient voice tremulous in the morning air [. . .] Pyramid of the brood, you who rob your head to pay your foot; for earth is where we stand earth is where we strive, and what greater vantage to a wrestling rock than a platform of a thousand feet? Behold, cornfields flourish around your foot elephant grass fallows the land for unborn harvests swell the grain with living water from your rocky arteries, fatten the tuber, so the hoe does not scoop a sterile clod so the dibble does not drill a deafened dross. Pyramid of the brood whose unclosing eyes witness every stoke and every dot at Amoye You who loomed so fearsomely close in the harmattan dawns of our learning days before withdrawing into stony distance with the noonward sun. (52–79) The preceding is pure eulogy, drawing attention to the shape of the rock (it is in the shape of a pyramid) and its geographical, agricultural, economic, social, and cultural importance to the community. Whether in rainy or dry season, in harmattan or heat, the rock Oroole, like the rock Olosunta, adds immense beauty to the scenery of the community. Osundare’s poetry attempts to convey that. Beyond his use of nature imagery and his landscape aesthetics, Osundare’s ecocritical sensitivity acknowledges the plight of those who are very close to the earth, whose means of livelihood are from the earth, who are invariably hurt each time the earth suffers environmental crises. In his imagination, the ordinary and the lowly are themselves nature since these are the kind of people who inhabit the rural communities. Always proud to announce himself “farmer-born, peasant-bred,” Osundare understands and, consequently,

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versifies not only their aspirations but also their pains as their earth gets increasingly destroyed with the encroachment of what he calls capitalism’s “cancerous god.” In “They Too Are the Earth,” Osundare captures the condition of those whose lives are dependent on their earth – the “they” of the title refers to them. They are the “swansongs of beggars” (2), the “millions hewing wood and hurling water” (8), the “thousands buried alive” (12), and the “women battling centuries of/maleficent slavery” (italics in the original, 20–21). These are categories of people who have a direct link with the earth for the purposes of subsistence, like those hewing wood and hurling water, or for professional reasons, like the thousands of miners buried alive. The poem highlights their misfortune and misery. The beggars, for instance, are “sprawled out/in brimming gutters” (2–3), and the buried miners groan beneath the surface of the earth. Notice that in highlighting their suffering, he uses images from nature since his poetry is inevitably an aesthetic of nature. The poem clearly implies, without stating it, that a certain authority is responsible for the suffering of the people. It is an authority that neglects its duty to the earth. The poem “What the Earth Said” is more explicit on the authorities responsible for the poor condition of the earth and its inhabitants. Known for coining words in his poetry, Osundare refers to people in those authorities as “excuthieves” (18) and “factorylords” (22). The persona of the poem is ubiquitous, seeing from place to place the damage done to the environment and to the human beings within the environment. S/he relates that I have heard backs creak on heartless machines I have felt lungs powdered with asbestos death I have seen lives snufed out like candles in the storm. (22–29) The poet draws attention to the efect of asbestos on the environment and on human lives, which, of course, does not worry the “executhieves” who provide them. If the place is a factory, the workers will be replaced when the ones working now die from the hazards posed by asbestos; if the place is a residential house, new tenants will rent the house when the ones living in it die. The poem’s theme remains that highly placed people who have had to take decisions about the earth, about the environment, have not bothered about the health efects of their decisions on the environment. The juxtaposition of human labour with machines here suggests industrial capitalism, which has been an antagonist at the heart of the Marxist dimension of Osundare’s art. This is also the theme of “Our Earth Will Not Die,” the last poem in The Eye of the Earth, a kind of last statement to Osundare’s thesis on the environment captured by the volume. The poem begins by exclaiming in a sad tone that the lakes are “Lynched” (1), the seas are “Slaughtered” (3), and the mountains are

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“Mauled” (5). Then it elaborates on the stated actions, explaining the nature and attitude of those who perform the action and the material they use: a lake is killed by the arsenic urine from the bladder of profit factories a poisoned stream staggers down the hills coughing chaos in the sickly sea the wailing whale, belly up like a frying fish, crests the chilling swansong of parting waters. (11–16) Those Osundare earlier calls “factorylords” allow wastes from their factories to destroy waters and the creatures therein. The poem draws our attention to other parts of the environment that are victims, such as “balding forests” (23) and “sobbing terrains” (27). It is “man and meadow” (29), the poem points out, that eventually bear the brunt of any acts destructive to the environment. But unlike in the previous poems, there is a tone of optimism in this one. The end of the poem foresees a future where the earth regains its lost energies: Our earth will see again eyes washed by a new rain the westering sun will rise again resplendent like a new coin. the wind, unwound, will play its tune trees twittering, grasses dancing; hillsides will rock with blooming harvests the plains batting their eyes of grass and grace. The sea will drink its heart’s content when a jubilant thunder flings open the skygate and a new rain tumbles down in drums of joy. Our earth will see again This earth, OUR EARTH. (Capitals in the original, 36–49) Whether this is a prediction, a prayer, or a mere wish from the poet, it is no doubt highly utopian given the present realities in the world today – the earth is increasingly being abused. The words depict the kind of earth the poet, and possibly all human beings, would like to have. What is clear from my presentation of Osundare’s poetry here is that it shifts from a romanticism of his birthplace, the rhapsody of pure nature, to the destructive effects of the built environment. This is significant to my assumption that the categories of nature, built environment, and activism are interwoven. In each we can see the others. With Osundare’s poetry, we exit the zone of nature and move on to the next chapter to enter the zone of built

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environment, with specific focus on the urban environment, where human scientific and technological activities, as well as the climate crisis, pointedly harm the landscape.

Notes 1 See, in this regard, the essays collected in Nature in Literature and Cultural Studies: Transatlantic Conversations on Ecocriticism, edited by Catrin Gersdorf and Sylvia Mayer. 2 For more on Niyi Osundare’s birth, upbringing, and closeness to nature, see Sule E. Egya’s Niyi Osundare: A Literary Biography. 3 For more on this framing, see Oladele Taiwo’s Culture and the Nigerian Novel and Emmanuel N. Obiechina’s Language and Theme: Essays on African Literature. 4 From his use of English, it is clear that Amadi is on the side of the argument, led by Chinua Achebe (Morning yet on Creation Day), that the English language if duly domesticated can serve African writers. My argument, from the evidence in his work, is that Amadi does really domesticate the language by bending it to capture his birthplace’s natural world. 5 This kind of linguistic experiment is also seen in Gabriel Okara’s The Voice. Emmanuel N. Obiechina writes that “Gabriel Okara, in The Voice, goes a stage further than Achebe in trying to transfer some of the syntactical features of the Ijo language into English” (58). 6 For more on military messianism in Nigeria, see Karl Maier’s This House Has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis, Matthew Hassan Kukah’s Democracy and Civil Society in Nigeria, and Tunde Babawale’s Nigeria in the Crisis of Governance and Development: Retrospective and Perspective Analyses of Selected Issues and Events. 7 For more on the use of poetry of nature for self-fashioning, see Sule E. Egya’s “Nature, Animism, and Anglophone Nigerian Poetry” (257–275). 8 Osundare’s views on the role of literature in a postcolonial society, in which he expounds Marxist ideas in relation to his personal craft and of his generation of writers, can be found in his own writings and the writings of others on his work. See, for example, his The Writer as Righter: The African Literary Artist and His Social Obligations and Saleh Abdu’s Poet of the People’s Republic: Reading the Poetry of Niyi Osundare.

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Environment, in the context of this book, should not be confused with nature. I am referring here to the built environment and constructed landscape in their biophysical and cultural framing. A keen reader may have noticed a kind of progression from the first section of the last chapter to this point. From the precolonial nature of Elechi Amadi’s novel to the clash of modernity and tradition in Femi Osofisan’s revolutionary nature and to the fate of nature under the pressures of modernity as dramatised in the poetry of Otobotekere and Osundare, there is a trajectory from the pre-modern to the modern.1 The ecological effects of deliberate transformations of the rural and urban Nigerian landscape from the pre-modern to the modern, or postmodern as the case is now, will be the focus of attention here. I am concerned with showing that intensified patterns of architectural modernity in rural and urban centres, the drive to cosmopolitan landscape, the rural-urban mobility, and the moral failures of people and government to properly ecologise their ways and policies have had consequences that continue to attract the attention of contemporary Nigerian writers. My aim is to further demonstrate how Nigerian writers do not only place significance on the place or landscape of their writing, as we saw in the previous chapter, but also see it as being, among others, highly conditioned, altered, deformed or de-natured by human activities. The texts I read in this chapter are about the (post)modern society. Precisely, I focus on the changing environments of Nigeria, as captured in fictional works, under the pressures of modernity. How does, one might ask, modernity alter the traditional landscape of Nigeria? What are the effects of colonialism on rural and urban environments today? What are the views of writers on the places they live, they love to live, or have lived all their lives, and what meanings can we generate from their artistic representations of the places, especially given the project of modernity? These questions will be tackled within the premise that literature as an art form remains a powerful tool – at least in the way Nigerian writers see it – for critiquing the fate of Nigerian biophysical and cultural environments, emphasizing their troubled metamorphosis as a postcolony, and charting a socio-ecological vision for them.

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With colonial modernity, and the kind of life it imposes on its subjects, to talk of place is to imply what Elizabeth DeLoughrey and George B. Handley call its “infinite meanings and morphologies,” which include looking at it “geographically, in terms of the expansion of empire; environmentally, in terms of wilderness or urban settings” (4). The discourse of development, of human progress, becomes the convenient template on which colonial expansion is undertaken. With expansion, local knowledges, systems and practices of places are not only undermined, but they are also forcefully destroyed in order to pave the way for modernity. It does not matter that destroying them implies removing the traditional base of human and nonhuman lives. The modern society, in the case of Nigeria, therefore, becomes a landscape in which humans and nonhumans struggle to fit themselves into the template colonial modernity creates for them. Interpreting this template has become the duty of Nigerian writers, especially those concerned with the urban environment. Literary works such as Cyprian Ekwensi’s Jagua Nana, Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Basi and Company, Wole Soyinka’s The Interpreters, and Zaynab Alkali’s The Stillborn set the tone for interpreting the new built environment that comes with modernity. In each of the books, the protagonist is lured to the emerging urban environment and comes to terms with its realities, which are not as salutary as modernity promises they will be. And yet the modern city becomes a metaphorical impulse that drives the self-developments of the protagonists. So, modernity is often challenged by the writers who, in most cases, according to Okolo Ifeyinwa, “create (a) subsetting(s) of rural areas where s/he allows peace and calm to dominate and, in essence, point the cities back to their rural roots for correction” (15). In other words, these writers interpret urban modernity by invoking rural traditionalism to suppress its negative excesses. Variously endorsing and yet being critical of the modern environment, the writers, and even latter-day interpreters, such as Denja Abdullahi, Toni Kan, and Sefi Atta, insist that Nigerian built environments cannot be divorced from the historical process that produces them. This is one way to validate the postcolonial ecocritical notion that “[p]lace encodes time, suggesting that histories embedded in the land and sea have always provided vital and dynamic methodologies for understanding the transformative impact of empire and the anticolonial epistemologies it tries to suppress” (DeLoughrey and Handley 4). To be critical of modernity as these writers are is to be critical of the “impact of empire.” Therefore, the imaginary of the urban process is one way for cultural self-assessment. But also for critiquing how colonised subjects inflict disorder on the order of nature. In his study of African urban cities, Garth Myers, from the perspective of urban political ecology, suggests that the historical past of African urban centres remains fundamental to their characterisation today and to any endeavour aimed at confronting their dysfunctionality. The same applies to the way in which we can develop protocols for interpreting the cities. In his words, when we approach the tangible environmental issues today, including air pollution, water pollution, environmental services provisioning, environmental

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hazard risk, climate change threat, and so on, [. . .] we cannot do so as if these issues or problems have no politicized past. They are what they are as a result of historical forces. (81) This “politicized past” (81), as he puts it, continues to haunt the rather astonishing exuberance of Nigerian cities and their desire to become modern. Urban developments are fraught with postcolonial problems, which have persisted since the colonial era. Most of the problems are hinged on uneven development. This is a function of colonial hierarchisation whereby certain areas are marked as crucial only because of their instrumental values for the colonial authorities. Lagos is a classic example. With a small land mass, said to be the smallest in Nigeria, and a coastal city perennially threatened by rising sea levels, the city is overwhelmingly overpopulated, the result of the rural-urban, even urban-urban, migration it has continued to experience since colonial times.2 Its uneven development is marked by an enduring commercialism: before flag independence, it was the port for carting away Nigeria’s wealth to the colonial centre; and today, it remains the gateway for Nigeria’s heavy import-relying economy, a form of economic imperialism. It has had the character of Nigeria’s largest cultural city since colonial times and had until the movement of Nigeria’s seat of government to Abuja in the 1990s been the biggest civil service city as well. And yet, in spite of spirited efforts by the state government, Lagos has remained an enigmatic example of architectural and traffic chaos, of all kinds of pollution, and of uncontrollable flooding. In its unceasing drive to attain full modernity, Lagos is paradoxically being de-modernised by the intensity of human-centred, unorganised activities, such as “unapproved development of marginal land, massive reclamation of swampy areas (for industrial operational bases and high class residential developments without adequate provision of drainage)” (Oyinloye, Olamiju, and Adekemi 58). It is a city that takes far more than it can carry since economic, political, and social developments have been unduly concentrated in it. The effects of this uneven development, as we will see later on with a reading of The Carnivorous City in this chapter, largely manifest in forms of overpopulation with its concomitant gross infrastructure deficit resulting in pollution. Perhaps the other most important city in Nigeria, after Lagos, is Abuja, the federal capital territory. As a fairly new city in that it was entirely programmatically built in the 1980s as the need arose to move Nigeria’s government seat from Lagos, one is appalled to see that the same problems created in Lagos are repeated here. Migration to Abuja – mostly of people in need of employment – has been massive. The colonial system of uneven development also shapes this city as it comes to have a concentration of infrastructure and amenities to the extent that wealthy politicians and businessmen and women within northcentral Nigeria prefer to live in it. Huge amounts of money are used to procure

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parcels of land; the city is full of high-rise official and residential buildings. And yet as a modern city, it has no city rail, no adequate transportation, and traffic gridlocks have been as terrible as in Lagos. Many parts of the city do not have drainage, or (adequate) water supply, or basic infrastructure for a decent living. There are heavily flooded sights, even within the inner parts of the city, when it rains, and street eyesores, mainly the result of refuse dumping, are quite common. With high-rise buildings, city crossroad bridges, Abuja desires to be cosmopolitan, if by that it is meant having an international appearance. International architecture and construction firms have been building the city. But its cosmopolitanism is immediately undermined by the lack of maintenance culture. For instance, the high-rise buildings are poorly maintained, in addition to the fact that lifts or escalators or other electricity-dependent facilities are condemned to frequent power cuts. Often, water to clean up the toilets and other parts of the building is lacking. The superfluous bridges and roads hardly have signs that enable easy movement in the city. There are frequent cases of collapsed buildings. Abuja’s cosmopolitanism is, therefore, one that seems to undermine the very essence of being cosmopolitan. Cities across Nigeria clearly lack what Erik Swyngedouw calls “metabolism” (22) in the process of modern urbanisation. This is a systematic move to create a circulation – that is, channels through which matters move smoothly from one end to the other in the city, properly removing the unwanted ones. In the manner that we talk of metabolism in the body, a city needs a process of consumption and disposal. Swyngedouw writes, “Circulatory conduits of water, foodstuffs, cars, fumes, money, labour, etc., move in and out of the city, transform the city, and produce the urban as a continuously changing socio-ecological landscape” (21). In point of fact, the construction of a modern city should be upon an architecture of such a circulation. For it does not only enhance the unhindered movements of matters but also of humans and nonhumans, whether small organisms or animals, and stands as an appropriate biophysical structure on which are ingrained the cultural aspects of the city. Through metabolism, the natural and the social are fused, giving the city a character of smooth human and nonhuman co-habitation. Metabolic circulation, then, is the socially mediated process of environmental, including technological, transformation and trans-configuration, through which all manner of “agents” are mobilized, attached, collectivized, and networked. The heterogeneous assemblages that emerge, as moments in the accelerating and intensifying circuitry of metabolic vehicles, are central to a historical-geographical materialist ontology. (Swyngedouw 32) An urbanisation based on such “metabolic circulation” suggests a socioecological vision. It de-emphasises human-centredness and allows inclusiveness on the basis of being. It is not quite clear if Nigerian cities have a template for

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urban metabolism. What is clear is that nearly all cities in Nigeria experience circulatory blockages, the efects of this being overflowing gutters, frequently burst pipes, flash floods, erosion, and street refuse dumps, among others. The lack of or inadequacy of critical infrastructure in Nigeria’s urban cities has been predicated mainly on government financial limitations. And yet it is quite noticeable that each city has an upscale area, occupied by the rich, usually well-planned and systematically maintained. This area is normally a small portion of the city, with the larger part being occupied by the poor, usually suffering from official neglect. This social discrimination underscores Nigeria’s urban sensibility and appears to normalise glaring aberrations that ghettoised the larger part of the city. Nigerian writers are keen to foreground this urban social divide, indicting the establishment of having a deliberate political agenda to keep the poor perpetually de-modernised while living in modern cities. Landscape, for Nigerian writers, is as much of a political construction as the politics of the rich and the poor are a determinant factor in built environments. Faced with such political dynamics, contemporary Nigerian writers in their representation of landscape foreground a social divide that critically questions the notion of gentrification in the urban process. Landscape aesthetics, therefore, takes the form of human-centred interrogation of modern urban infrastructure, as I demonstrate with the readings in this chapter. While the Nigerian government, at all levels, claims not to have adequate funding to cater for the environment, the real problem with Nigeria appears to be that of large-scale corruption. For instance, Nigeria has been enjoying the United Nations’ ecological fund, but state governors have in most cases misappropriated the fund. There are also diverse forms of capitalist and commercial activities that, due to official corruptions, continue to degrade the environment without adequate compensation. The extractive industry remains the most exerting. Aside from earlier coal extractions in south-east (Enugu State) and north-central (Plateau State) Nigeria, and the ongoing large-scale oil extraction in the Niger Delta, there have been legal and illegal mining extractions across Nigeria, mostly in rural areas with devastating consequences. Specific areas in Nigeria, such as Zamfara State, north-west Nigeria, Niger State, Nasarawa State in north-central Nigeria, have experienced systematised and well-coordinated illegal mining syndicates whereby foreigners, mostly from China or Asia generally, collude with local politicians and businessmen. These have been repeatedly reported by local newspapers, and some measures have been taken towards rescuing the mining sites.3 The aim is to extract maximum wealth from the land. Locals, mostly the youth and the underage, are easily lured into the money-spinning venture, especially in the absence of governmental welfare. The illegal mining ventures do not have health insurance covers, not even basic safety measures, and stories from illegal mining sites and environs are mostly of lead poison and other strange diseases. Aljazeera reported lead poison in Nigeria as “a silent killer” and informed that “[t]he outbreak of lead poisoning in Zamfara State was discovered in 2010. It has killed at least 400 inhabitants, mainly children, who are the most vulnerable owing to access

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and inadvertent ingestion of contaminated objects.”4 Lead poison has also killed children in the neighbouring state of Niger. From the foregoing, ecological crises in Nigeria as they affect built environments have two sets of causal factors. The first is human. The activities of human beings – whether in areas inhabited by the rich and powerful or the poor and powerless – have been responsible for ecological crises. Urban expansion, industrial pollution, inordinate consumption, mindless accumulation, inadequate urban planning process, indiscriminate dropping of wraps and nylon bags, and dumping of refuse on drainages, among others, have increased the risk of built environments. The second is the climate crisis. In a way, climate change is exacerbated by human anti-environment practices. But Nigerian society, like every other society, has witnessed the effect of ozone layer depletion in forms of harsh sunrays, unusually heavy rainfalls, drought, desertification, and rising sea levels, among others. Regarding the effects of climate change, Nigeria appears to have no effective plans, as climate-caused disasters, such as flash floods, continue to wreak havoc as the Nigerian government hardly puts in place any measures beyond the announcement of risk-prone sites. Besides government negligence and unpreparedness, the global capital, represented by multinational corporations whose capitalist ventures contribute to the local climate crisis, maintain a deaf ear and a blind eye to the predicament of the environment. There is no doubt, as Byron Caminero-Santangelo and Garth A. Myers have pointed out, that “localized problems [. . .] are often shaped by global factors that are difficult for many Africans to address, in particular the shaping of political, cultural, and economic conditions by the legacies of colonialism and (neo)imperial capital” (9). In their representation of the built environment, Nigerian writers are critical of colonial legacies and of the global capital, and they are keen to expose the failure of government – local, state, and federal – to protect the environment. I would like to point out that critical attention to built environments represented in Nigerian literary works remains quite insignificant and does not match the robust environmental imagination of the writers. As Myers points out, “African writers offer an amazing and surprising array of environmental voices on the urban dynamics of the continent” (115). Responses to immediate environments by Nigerian writers is, to say the least, visceral and biocentric, hinged on what one may see as an organic relation between the writer and her/his environment. In their aestheticisation of their environments, be it their birthplaces or not, there is a critical urgency that draws attention to the need for preservation and conservation. Beyond a romantic connection to a place, writers see the environments, biophysical and cultural, as crucial to the survival of human beings. It is expedient for ecocritical scholars to see the possibility of paying closer attention to the urban process, to the idea of place, and to the deployment of place-based tropes. In the sections that follow, my readings of literary texts that depict built environment, but more importantly that dramatise its fate, centre on pollutions, destructive practices, displacement, and climate crisis, all of which negatively affect humans and nonhumans. With Toni Kan’s The Carnivorous City,

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attention is on Lagos as Nigeria’s most populous city, where human beings themselves constitute the pollution. That is to say, the environmental problems are mainly caused by humans. This will be further pursued in Denja Abdullahi’s Abuja Nunyi, a volume of poetry that draws our attention to the biophysical and cultural landscape of Abuja but also to the displacement concomitant to the clearing of space for national interest, a case of wiping off nature to impose what may be best seen as a caricature of a modern city. Two short stories on flooding will be read to bring up the climate crisis angle, where humans are helpless and yet remain indicted for their lack of preparedness and systemic failure to build a society that should have catered for the natural world, whose elemental beings, such as waterscape, must take their natural course. The chapter ends with a comparative reading of Kaine Agary’s Yellow-Yellow and Helon Habila’s Oil on Water to demonstrate the extreme environmental degradation of the Niger Delta, a phenomenon that calls for eco-activism, which is the subject of the next chapter.

The Carnivorous City: humans as pollution Perhaps the point at which to begin an interpretation of Toni Kan’s The Carnivorous City as an environmentally conscious narrative is the suggestive title. The word “carnivorous” is an adjectival form of “carnivore,” which we will take as a nature metaphor referring to an animal that feeds on other, usually smaller, animals. The transposing of this animal quality to the city of Lagos, problematic as it may be, is fundamental to the thematic landscape of the novel. This is because, even from a cursory reading, the narrative is not just about the description of Lagos’s physical environment but, more importantly, of what one might call the metaphysics of Lagos largely expressed in its human geography. In other words, there is something of a spirit, of an unconscious, that is a determinant factor in the almost always increasing volume of humans in the city. One other way to put it is that there is always something in the biophysical nature of the city that draws Nigerians to it. The poet Odia Ofeimun, who has lived nearly all his life in the city, appears to know what it is. “In general,” he writes, “the city had a magic of its own” (xxi). He goes on to write lyrically about this magic: Big, boisterous, chaotic, with busy-body propensities in full play, Lagos has always been our all-comers city. She takes you over while you may be nursing irritations about things that do not work as they should. Lagos is a city whose harmonies of form appear to be overwhelmed by the sheerness of its incongruities. (xxii) Its incongruities appear to be central to its characterisation in the novel as a carnivorous city. The city’s shortcomings, hinged on its enigmatic nature, is

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one of the things that make it consume humans in the manner that a carnivore eats up flesh. Ambitiously multi-perspectival, The Carnivorous City raises issues ranging from the very essence of Lagos as a concentric society with diverse, gradable layers, to the philosophy behind the attraction it has for especially young people, from the city’s ambivalent positioning as an avenue to make or mar the different dreams that throw themselves upon it, to its rather irredeemable submission to the processes of urban entropy. The metaphor of the carnivore frames Lagos as a large carnivore, like the lion pictured on the front cover of the novel, with a capacious appetite (as the open mouth of the lion in the paratext indicates) to consume the species that have shared a space with it. These species include trees, water, birds, animals, air – indeed an extensive range of biodiversity. But the species somehow privileged in this narrative is humans. This privileging is problematic – and it is in this problematisation that the novel locates its crux as an environmentally conscious narrative. Kan writes from his position as a human and, from an anthropocentric perspective, brands Lagos as a carnivore that consumes mostly humans. “Lagos,” the narrator says, is a beast with bared fangs and a voracious appetite for human flesh. Walk through its neighbourhoods, from the gated communities of Ikoyi and Victoria Island to Lekki and beyond, to the riotous warrens of streets and alleyways on the mainland, and you can tell that this is a carnivorous city. Life is not just brutish – it is short. (33) But in the same breath, the narrative dramatises how humans have, through their excessive greed, embarked on activities that turn the city into a carnivore. In other words, Lagos as a carnivore is the making of human beings, and they are thus only being consumed by the very creature they have made. Indeed, the sheer overpopulation of humans in the city is a form of carnivore, as the biophysical space is overstretched under the excessive weight of human bodies. The neighbourhoods, streets, and alleyways are peopled by human beings (for this is what the narrative tends to emphasise), whose lives are now “brutish” and “short.” As it turns out, the human congestion leaves no space for nonhuman beings, biotic and abiotic. Every nonhuman existence is for human instrumental use. The human drama in the novel clearly demonstrates how humans themselves, exploiting the environment of Lagos, design their own destiny by creating the bestiality that eventually consumes them. I am, therefore, concerned to show how humans themselves are the pollution, how their intended and unintended attitudes, actions, and utterances remain the ecological crisis that the city, small in land mass as it is, has faced since colonialism. To understand humans as pollution in Lagos demands an understanding of the concept of uneven development and to see the context in which the city is a victim of it in the colonial production of the Nigerian nation. A political

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economic term, uneven development is, among others, an “uneven spatial distribution of industry, agriculture, mining, banking, commerce, consumption, wealth, labor relations, political configurations, and so on” (O’Connor 187). It is a concentration of development in one place to the detriment of other places and invariably to the detriment of the concentrated place. Political and economic rationalities may be the cause of such uneven development, as public and private organisations are attracted to the presence of infrastructure. Colonial authorities in Nigeria had preferred Lagos as a city of national government after the amalgamation of the southern and northern protectorates in 1914. This attracted development to Lagos. In the context of Nigeria as a nation, infrastructure became concentrated in Lagos during the colonial period and decades after Independence. Apart from having the largest port gateway, the city had the first international airport; it was home to headquarters of many industries, banks, and public and private media outfits, among others. Until the movement of the seat of government to Abuja in the 1990s, all federal ministries, Lagos State ministries, including their state houses, were in the city. As it turned out, Lagos, and the south-west region where it is located, increasingly acquired powers as the cultural, industrial, and financial capital of Nigeria, a reality that economically emasculated other regions of the country.5 This is part of its magic for attracting Nigerians. The infrastructure and facilities succeeded in giving the city an aura of modernity, so much so that most Nigerians moved to it to fulfil their desire of having a white-collar job and living a modern life. The promise of living a modern life remains the main cause of overpopulation in Lagos, and it is the consequences, legitimate and illegitimate, that come with this reasoning that shape the thematic of Kan’s novel. Like Odia Ofeimun, Kan has lived all his adult life in Lagos, is absolutely fond of the city, and is nicknamed Mayor of Lagos (see his biodata in the novel). His previous literary works, such as Night of the Creaking Bed, are set in Lagos. The novel exudes that confidence that comes with a sense of being intimate with a place, of having a sense of place, “that attachment to an immediate environment” (Paul and Anne Ehrlich 324). The novel can, therefore, be said to be a critical observation from a keen participant of the urbanisation process of the city. The tone at once celebrates and condemns the city. And yet the novel is a kind of pitiful rendition of the physical environment of Lagos – an environment heavily polluted by the effects of uneven development. As James O’Connor points out, The greater the uneven development of capital, the greater will be the spatial concentration of industry, households, and urban populations, and the more likely it will be that given amounts of waste of different types will be transformed into dangerous pollution. (192) In Kan’s dramatisation of pollution in the city, humans appear to be the worst in that they are not only accountable for the waste that eventually pollutes the

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city; they are themselves citified criminals and law breakers who turn the city into a gold mine. The portrait of the environment we have in The Carnivorous City is one over-determined by human activities, one threatened by the stranger-thanfiction realities of Lagosians. Through the story of Soni and of his brother Abel and their interactions with other Lagosians, but more importantly their coming to terms with the phenomenon called Lagos, we are taken into the urban arteries of the city. Soni comes through as a man who conquers his environment, whose initiatives are aimed at controlling the people he comes in contact with. And yet the novel opens with his death, one sure signal that people as powerful and patriarchal as him usually end up being consumed by the monster (in this carnivore) they create. The rhetorical device of suspense, crime fiction type, constructed with the story of Soni going missing – he goes out into the city he knows so well but never returns home – beyond propelling the reader’s interest points to the idea of uncertainty and of human vulnerability that mark the Lagos urbanity. Soni is symbolically the high point of the novel’s privileging of humanity, but he is also the low point (and this recalls the ambivalence I earlier referred to) because all his human wealth, pride, and patriarchy melt into the jaws of the carnivore he has helped to create. He is a conman per excellence, one made by Lagos as much as he shapes the human environment of Lagos. He is rich, influential, and can bribe his way out of any trouble. He knows every part of Lagos, ensures his presence is felt, and profoundly so, anywhere he goes. He is clever and smart and thinks of himself as far superior to people who take regular jobs. “What job, Abel? Wearing a tie to work in a bank? Is that the job you want me to do?” (88), he says as he confronts his older brother Abel who asks him to “find a decent job” (88). He prefers to be what one of his boys, Santos, calls a “hustler.” Santos, who becomes a guide to Abel as the latter moves around Lagos looking for his lost brother, describes the Lagosians who shape the social environment of Lagos: “We are all hustlers. Who doesn’t want to hammer like [Soni]?” (203). The slang “hustler” refers to a conman, while “hammer” means succeeding in a big way. Nnamdi, perhaps, describes his friend Soni better: “I wish Soni had [. . .] made a clean break, but then I suppose he had got in too deep. Your brother made serious money” (178–179). Deputy Superintendent of Police Umannah, who takes a bribe to unravel Soni’s whereabouts, calls what Soni does to have so much wealth “high yield, high risk” (233), a reference to fraud. But who is not a fraud in Lagos, the novel asks. One of the realities of Lagos this novel historicises is the issue of Area Boys – street touts that go about bullying innocent people. The nomenclature “Area Boys” refers to boys who lay territorial claims to neighbourhoods in the city and mount machineries of violence to extort money and other valuables from people. This phenomenon emerged in the 1990s, itself the result of the city’s uncontrolled population. At this time, street violence dramatically increased in Lagos. The other reality is that of smart, often educated, criminals who defrauded people in what was referred to as 419. This would later metamorphose into what was known as Yahoo-Yahoo Boys, a reference

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to Internet fraudsters. These criminal elements largely form the human pollution in this novel. Nearly everyone else in this novel is fraudulent and corrupt, galvanised by the get-rich-quick philosophy that appears to underline human interactions in Lagos. In fact, this informs the influx of young people, some of whom are university graduates, to Lagos. Nnamdi gives us one scenario: There were five other boys from our set staying with him. It was a tight space. At night we would talk and argue and some people would quote Karl Marx and Adam Smith, Frantz Fanon, Steve Biko, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre. Imagine us all: white-collar criminals spouting revolutionary rhetoric. It was funny. But Eva always had the last word. After we had all poured out our frustrations with revolutionary quotes as footnotes, he would unroll his thin mattress, and as he stretched out for the night he would say, “I will make it in this Lagos like Malcom X said, ‘by any means necessary.’” (177–178) The Carnivorous City presents human beings, millions of them, who are all frauds in their own ways, who in their fraudulent ways harm not only themselves but also the Lagos physical and cultural environment and are thus the real pollution the city sufers from. The craving to make it by any means necessary defines Lagos so that the reality Abel sees is that everyone he meets in the hope of finding out something about his brother is fraudulent in a way. Those who claim they will help him find his brother are actually out to defraud him, and their desperation to achieve that, so glaring, could be the novel’s extension of the carnivore metaphor. Each fraudulent person is a carnivore eager to devour the next victim. Abel is told he can get cash from his brother’s bank account without the requisite paperwork, without a signature, if he can bribe the bank branch manager with 15 percent of the amount he wants to withdraw. The manager, understanding the urgency of the situation, demands 25 percent. Santos’s response is, “Bros, Sabato [Soni] get plenty money for diferent banks. If you don’t accept 15 per cent we will go to another bank” (27). At another bank, a woman trained as a medical doctor who decides to go into banking because it enables quick, fraudulent riches, tells Abel, as a condition for helping, I know this may sound callous and unfeeling but Soni promised me a new car for my birthday and it’s next week Tuesday. I know he is still missing but I really need a new car. [. . .] There is a lot of money in his account. (99) These, along with others that Abel will meet, like the journalist Mayowa who smartly defrauds Abel, are carnivores ready to devour anyone, including people they know closely. In this carnivorisation of human relationships, even a

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carnivorous son will not mind devouring his own mother, so the novel insists. As Santos says, in response to Abel’s consternation at the ease with which people prey on others, “Corruption is another name for Lagos” (28). Santos himself will eventually reveal his own Lagos-acquired carnivorous instincts when, after aiding Abel to unintentionally kill Mayowa in a beating, he confronts Abel with a demand: he wants 50 million naira and the X5 SUV to keep the killing secret. Santos does not only work for Soni; he is taken as family, and he knows all of Soni’s bank account balances and his ongoing businesses. Abel cannot believe that Santos can turn around and make such demands. In the end, Abel gets to know that Santos, like everyone else he has interacted with, is one of the millions of [mice] nosing their way through the underbelly of Lagos, hoping for the lucky day when they would score some cheese. Most of them came to Lagos with a vow, like Eva, to make it or die trying. Most of them died trying. (188) The human geography of Lagos is also defined by sex and sexuality. The drive by men and women to conquer the opposite sex is synonymous with the quest to conquer the physical space of the city. The sex exploitation, which defies all moral boundaries, is better captured by the symbolisation of Soni’s penis. This penis symbol works like a motif throughout the narrative, as it is traced to Soni’s days as a university student in another city, and it destructively structures his relationships with women all of his life in Lagos. At the university, Soni was sexually active, sleeping with just any girl who caught his fancy, as most of the girls were attracted to his sexual vigour. Abel recalls that at the University of Jos where they both schooled, Soni went about without boxers and, it seemed, a constant hard-on [. . .] but the girls didn’t seem to mind. Soni ran through them like fire through hay and never forgot to leave his calling card above their beds: 9 inches was here. (Italics in the original, 83) The nine inches refers to the size of his penis, and by displaying it in all the places he goes, he sexualises himself with the intent of advertising his vigour to attract more girls. Later in Lagos, this sexualisation becomes a potent instrument for conquering the women he interacts with. By extension, he also conquers some of the men these women are married to, and it is implicit in the novel that his disappearance may also have been tied to his sexual exploits. Explicitly implied in this sexualisation is that Soni does not only use his penis to achieve pleasure (this is indeed irrelevant to him) but also to defraud women. The first female victim of Soni’s sexual exploit in Lagos, who Abel meets in his search, is bitter: “I told Soni he was nothing without his dick. I made a big mistake. I told my friends about him, nine inches and all. They rushed after

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him and he thought he had arrived. They were all married” (44). Her honest conclusion is that Soni can never be found alive: “I know he is dead” (47), and her reasons are these: Do you know the things your brother was into? Bad things, criminal activities. Do you know the kind of men whose wives he was sleeping with? Your brother had too many enemies. Too many people had reasons to wish him dead. (47) That the sexualisation of his body is a means of defrauding and conquering women is clearer when he meets Ada, the girl he marries and with whom he has a son. By now, “9 Inches” has become one of his Lagos nicknames, like “Sabato” that echoes Latin America, known to people like Soni for its proverbial drug lords (Soni prides himself as a Lagos drug lord). Ada tells of how people hail him as “9 Inches!” in the street. “And they always gave me this look, you know, like I was the latest victim. So, finally I asked him and the idiot worked up an erection and then brought a ruler” (141) and measured it. “Of course, it wasn’t [up to nine inches]. The foolish man had been cheating all the while” (141). Ada’s demystifying the myth of the nine inches further depicts the ingenuity of Soni as a fraud, a point that the novel stresses in its metaphorical construction of the carnivore. The carnivore’s desperation is often the function of such ingenuity. The sexual symbol that Soni’s penis represents assumes a greater meaning when fed into the context of sexual immorality as a defining component of the underbelly of Lagos as an urban centre. All the powerful people, usually made powerful by their ill-gotten wealth, whether through street fraud or corruption in office, usually relax in nightclubs where the materiality of sexual exploitation assumes greater intensity. The novel shifts the focus of the city’s social geography to nightclubbing to further demonstrate the carnivorisation process through sexuality in the ways nightclub owners and respected clients commodify the female body. One way the novel deplores this commodification is to maintain Abel’s perspective as a focaliser, through which we see most of the carnivorisation process, thereby taking a moral, if problematic, view of life in the underbelly of the city. The first time Abel walks into a Lagos nightclub, what he sees is “excessive and a tad depressing” (110–111). “He had never seen as many naked women all at once in one place, and even though he liked naked women, the nude conurbation had the unintended consequence of leaving him unaroused” (111). As is the case with such a situation, “[t]here were elderly men with beer bellies leering at the naked girls and sticking fingers into their dripping wetness” (112). The narrative’s focalisation does not take into cognisance the agency of the “naked girls” in the sense that they may have chosen to dance naked and pose their bodies for “sticking fingers,” as it is clear that the intentionality here is to interrogate such sexualisation of women as part of the carnivorisation process the novel confronts.

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Yet an ironical twist here is that Abel himself gradually descends into immorality with no other person than his younger brother’s wife – and this transition, in spite of Abel’s disturbed moral conscience, is a way of demonstrating how he is eventually carnivorised, his conscience, with morality, probity, and general sense of self-worth dissolving in the face of the social forces of the city. Abel’s contempt for Ada (he sees her as the girl his brother picks from a nightclub to marry) slowly gives way as it is increasingly becoming clear that his brother will never be found alive. But also the city, the novel emphasises this in many ways, like a carnivore devours Abel step by step to the extent that he comes to accept and take pleasure in everything his brother acquired through fraud – the very illicit business from which he had earlier stayed away. Here is Abel not only occupying Soni’s house, using his exotic cars, taking over his legitimate businesses and finances, but also taking over his wife. He held her, both of them half-naked on that bed for what seemed like a long time. Then she looked up with tear-filled eyes and kissed him. [. . .] He pushed her back on her bed and took one hard, dark nipple in his mouth. (238) While the sex is consensual on the surface, it is clear by now that in spite of the many classy Lagos girls he interacts with (Ada even connects him to a lady that crushes on him) and in spite of his initial disdain for Ada as a club girl, he has been desiring her since he occupied his brother’s house and took over his property. In fact, Ada, one might say, is the last object of Soni that Abel has taken over. His conscience deflated, Abel “finally admits to himself[,] that he does not want Soni [his brother] to be found. Not now. Not ever” (241). In this premise, Abel has moved from being the prey of the carnivore to being a carnivore – a clear testimony of how Lagos as a carnivorous city transforms people. The carnivorous transformation of people comes in many other ways. A crucial framing of Lagos in this way is the degree of pollution, be it air, noise, or water, that is depicted in this novel, emphasising the physical geography of the city. The novel’s strategy is to intersperse what I have called human pollution with the physical pollution of the city. One thematic dimension in this regard is the entropic force that characterises the physical geography of the city as much as it inheres in the social geography. This rests on the understanding that one of the critical problems of the city is the pressure of the human population on it. In most of the scenarios presented in the novel, this pressure presents problems for urban facilities of the city as well as for the human actors themselves. This pressure often manifests in chaos and instability; for, as the novel makes clear, “[in] a city with over fifteen million people seemingly always in a mad rush to get some place fast, nothing held your attention for too long. It was that way with everything” (68). With vivid descriptions of roads, streets, and neighbourhoods, in spite of the wealthy people living in it, Lagos is shown

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to be devoid of orderliness. As a matter of fact, its disorderliness is linked to the misbegotten wealth of its massive inhabitants, as the illegally rich and powerful live by disobeying orders and being above the law. Furthermore, the many poor, in their hurry to get rich quick, to fit themselves into the larger-than-life character of Lagos, dare the law and break any rules standing in their way. The effect of their lawlessness is the physical pollution of the city. This is how the novel presents Ojota, one of the most populated neighbourhoods: It was a Wednesday morning and Ojota, where the bus let him [Abel] off, was a mess. It had rained the night before and the ground was soggy and unsightly. Bedlam did not begin to capture the situation. Cars were revving and people were shouting as if in competition: hawkers belting out their wares, conductors calling out their destinations, itinerant pastors preaching about repentance, hell and damnation. [. . .] It seemed as if a million people had descended on Ojota with one purpose: to make him feel unwelcome. (83–84) Embedded here are flooding and noise pollution: the overpopulated city has no adequate drainage system to take care of running water. Lagos is notorious for being wet whenever it rains and succumbing to the force of flash flooding in the rainy season. Although Abel lives in one of the wealthiest parts of the city, and the novel makes the point that over the years, with constant reference to the past when Abel last visited, the city has developed by way of street naming and numbering, the majority of the City of Lagos, the novel dramatises, is in squalor, with human congestion and grossly insufcient facilities. Particularly staged in the novel is the phenomenon of road gridlock, called “go slow” in local parlance, as such a hugely populated city has no train service, and all the commuters have to travel to work by the road. Most of those who worked on the Island lived on the mainland and had to commute from areas as far flung as Ikorodu, Sango Ota and Egbeda. To beat the energy-sapping traffic they left home early, meaning that some parents never got to see their children awake during the week. (69) The novel, therefore, concludes that “Lagos is a city of men and women who had forgotten how to sleep and lived out their insomnia in gridlocked trafc” (146). As a coastal city, “named by the Portuguese after the lagoon that girded its waist” (159), it has become infamous from the annual stories of flooding that plague the inhabitants. On the one hand, it is prone to the effect of climate change, in that the sea levels are rising and the rains are pouring; on the other, the city, in spite of the concentration of infrastructure due to uneven

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development, lacks proper metabolism, waterways are insufficient, and people drop waste in them. The noise, dirt, and uncleanliness of the city are part of its modern realities that are glaring so that, in Abel’s thinking, if you “[m]ake the city quiet and clean and calm [. . .] it would no longer be Lagos” (159). In effect, the position expressed in the novel is that the physical environment is not itself deficient but that the city’s ecological problems are more economic, political, and social – the socio-political making of urban slums, the capitalist industrialisation without a commensurate level of facilities for urban metabolisation. The real issue to address in the case of Lagos, therefore, is that of “political, economic, and cultural dynamics along with the biophysical ones to comprehend environmental problems” (Myers 7). As the landscape of the city shows, the privileged people live in a well laid out urban plan, even though they lack any defence against the rising sea levels, but the poor are often massed together in small spaces, as the power relations produce slums out of them. Most of them are industry labourers and government workers, as well as street touts and fraudsters, and they become victims, along with the city, of an unjust urbanisation process. What the city needs, in effect, is a just urbanisation process, one that considers “the question of who gains and who pays and to ask serious questions about the multiple power relations – and the networked and scalar geometries of these relations – through which deeply unjust socioenvironmental conditions are produced and maintained” (Heynen, Kaika, and Swyngedouw 10). The biggest factor in producing and maintaining the unjust condition is the lawlessness instilled in the city, which serves both the rich and the poor in different ways. In other words, the institutional powers that ought to maintain law and order are often compromised, and the consequences on the built environment are far-reaching. The novel compellingly achieves a kaleidoscopic view of the City of Lagos. And although it tells the story of human beings – of Soni’s strange life being consumed by the stranger city, of his brother Abel (despite his intellectualised moral probity) being conquered by the social delinquencies of Lagos – it sometimes reads as an instructional material on the physical and social geographies of Lagos. This is surely one of its urban political strategies – that the flow of the narrative is sometimes slowed by the rather overarching inclination to educate the reader on Lagos as a subject in human geography. This is how the novel gets itself ecologised so that it lends itself to ecocritical readings such as this. The grafting of the human story onto the city’s story is definitely something that Kan sets out to achieve, and it underscores the drive to be multi-perspectival. There is a studied focus on how the city carnivorises the lives of the common people, as well as the lives of the privileged. Drawn into this human angle is the ethno-local dimension as Kan infuses incidents that capture the distinctiveness of the Yoruba tradition, the city being in Yorubaland. For instance, there is the incident of the woman who brings a bag of fresh faeces to the bank and pours it on the girl she accuses of dating her husband. As the woman makes to throw the content of the bag on the girl, people think it is acid, but “[i]t was something worse, something more shameful, more atavistic – a throwback to

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an ancient shaming ritual: she had bathed the young woman with shit” (95). As it is explanatory from the narrative, to be bathed with shit in such a way is regarded as the worst disgrace among the Yoruba people of Lagos. There is also the spiritual feature of Lagos represented in the prophet who insists that by fasting, praying, and keeping vigil, the puzzle of Soni’s disappearance will be resolved. The vigil started at midnight and ran all the way to 5am. They sang and prayed; Abel, Auntie Ekwi, Ada and about a dozen prayer warriors enlisted for the vigil. The prophet and the prayer warriors spoke in tongues whenever the prophet asked them to pray in the Spirit. (63–64) But it is clear to the reader, of course, that this is the point the novel makes, that the prophet as well as the prayer warriors he has enlisted make their living in Lagos – this being the way Lagos carnivorises them: making money out of people’s woes. After the prayer session, Abel has to ofer “something substantial in an evelope [sic]” (64). The novel’s gaze also takes in the activities of street hawkers and artists, like the young woman who comes around Abel and Ada selling “Alamo bitters” (144), an herbal and alcoholic preparation. “‘It is for waist pain and man power,’ she informed him [Abel] with another wink” (144); it is an herbal aphrodisiac. There is also the “dreadlocked Rasta” (145) who entertains with his words and music: “[It] is not my express intention to segregate your ambient party but I would like to serenade you both with a song or two in return for some shekels” (145). There is no category of humans left out in the cosmopolitanism the novel dramatises. And the emphasis is made that Lagos’s cosmopolitanism is diferent from what one may know of the idea of the cosmopolitan. With regard to Lagos, as depicted in this novel, cosmopolitanism is, in the words of Ola Soderstrom, “geographically diverse in the sense that its overall conceptual and political relevance is placebound. But also because it takes diferent forms and meanings in diferent geographic contexts” (557). Lagos’s cosmopolitanism, in this case, should be understood in the context of the novel’s central metaphor of carnivorisation – where the people acquire carnivorous skills (through crime and violence) and turn the city into a carnivore, what I see as the process of polluting the city. The reach of The Carnivorous City in portraying the city as a place and as a collective of diverse people is wide, indicating Kan’s knowledge of the city about which he writes. Beyond the humans, the neighbourhoods, the streets, and the pervasive pollution of the city he presents, he also wants us to know something about Lagos – the metaphysics or, if you like, that non-physical idea, a kind of soul, of the city that distinguishes it from any city in the world. And like powerful carnivores – the lion, for instance, we see on the cover – the city consumes all else thereby standing victorious. It is, therefore, my contention that the city, as framed by the novel, is negative in one way and positive in another: that it can make and mar its inhabitants. This after all is the heart

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of the metaphor of the carnivore. The stylistic strength of this novel lies in the drawn-out, sustained metaphor of the carnivore but also in the use of nature metaphors, such as the use of mice to refer to the mass of people “nosing their way through the underbelly of Lagos, hoping for the lucky day when they would score some cheese” (188). Each description – and the narrative is powerfully rich in descriptions – seems geared towards orchestrating the notion of the carnivore. My analysis has been to unpack the ecological force in this central metaphor by way of unveiling its implication for the biophysical and cultural structure of the city. In sum, my argument is that the city is carnivorous because it is polluted by carnivorous individuals, millions of them whose sheer force of overpopulation, congestion, traffic gridlock, noisy and noisome utterances, attitudes, and criminal activities stretch the city to an incredible point of entropy. It is a human and natural environment that needs redemption from the weight of overpopulation and the cosmopolitan chaos and lawlessness concomitant to it.

Abuja Nunyi: displacement, de-naturalising, and urbanity Like Toni Kan, author of The Carnivorous City, Denja Abdullahi, author of Abuja Nunyi, has lived most of his adult life in Abuja. In his prefatory statement, Denja is precise about his connection to Abuja: I have followed the dream of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, ever since I used to pass through its virgin landscape on my way to somewhere else as a university undergraduate in the mid 80s. Ever before I finally implanted myself on it as a denizen in 1998, Abuja had been a constant echo to me, through the outlandish tales of pioneers, through the flurry of government edicts and through the passionate lines of a soldier-poet, Mamman Vatsa. (6) The connection dates back to when Abuja was not yet a federal capital, intensified by his phenomenological and symbolic contacts with the city. On the one hand, he comes to like the city and moves to live in it. On the other, he gets to know the city through poetry, in symbols and images, satisfying his cognitive curiosity as well as gaining an inspiration. He, therefore, points out that his poetry marks his way of “continuing from where Vatsa stopped” (6). Mamman Jiya Vatsa (1940–1986) was a major general in the Nigeria Army who served as the minister of the federal capital territory from 1984–1985. Two of his volumes, Abdullahi alludes to, The Poetry of Abuja (1982) and Reach for the Sky (1984), are centred on the city of Abuja. With a sense of place, the writer’s role here, as in the case of The Carnivorous City, is that of a critical observation. Abdullahi sees himself as a witness to the making of Abuja, a witnessparticipant critical of the urbanisation process the city undergoes. Although he uses the poetic form and his thoughts are cast in metaphorical expressions,

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there is a referential thrust to his poetry that renders them identifiable to people who have known Abuja over the years. By reading the selected poems from the collection, my interest is to show the extent to which Abdullahi’s poetry is an urban political critique of the process of making Abuja, from a so-called virgin land (notice that Abdullahi calls it “virgin landscape”) into an urban centre, with the attendant problems of dispossession, displacement, and the repression of the natural world. Even though the poet uses the vocabulary “virgin landscape” that government ofcials favour, his poetry demonstrates that Abuja was not, before its adoption as a federal capital territory, a virgin land, if by that it is meant that the land was unoccupied before its status as a territory. This fact remains the ideological forte of Abdullahi’s poetry in that the tone throughout the volume is condemnatory of the hegemonic force underscoring the carving of a cityscape by way of seeking to erase the existence of the locals. I, therefore, approach the poems through the lens of urban political ecology, and the operative question here is to what extent is the built environment, the cityscape, of Abuja produced and maintained by power relations? One of the directions the answer to the question takes is, in the words of Roger Keil, “the linking of specific analysis of urban environmental problems to larger socio-ecological solutions” (724). This will only be achieved by unveiling the power relations at the base of the process of dispossessing the locals with the rhetoric of development. In the case of Abuja, it is such that the locals are hapless, even though they realise the dispossession that comes with development. They are unable to raise any concrete form of resistance because they find themselves assimilated into a larger system of oppression unleashed on the society by a military regime.6 In a colonial manner, they are “discovered” in the land, with the choice places of the land taken from them without compensation (after all, it is for a worthy nationalist course), and in some cases, they are relocated out of the gaze of the city, as they are considered too local and primitive and their natural ways of living have to give way to the modern ways of the government. Abuja Nunyi is a volume of poetry (the word “volume” is emphasised given the thematic unity of the poems) about the metaphysics of Abuja, as the Carnivorous City is about Lagos, and has a kaleidoscopic reach in depicting the social and physical geographies of the city, just as we see in Kan’s novel. Each poem is a description but also a philosophical thesis about the soul of the city, how it profoundly inscribes itself on its inhabitants, and its capacity to transform their lives. The notion of urban transformation, which I deploy in reading the poems in this book, is double-edged: the city itself gets transformed as much as it transforms its inhabitants. The effect of this is that just as the people turn out different from what they were before coming to Abuja, the city too becomes different from its original master plan. The contact between human beings and the natural environment, the landscapes – in the context of the modernisation of the space called Abuja – exemplifies the way in which urban cities in Nigeria assume a complex character with the pressures of rural-urban migration. The volume is overly emphatic, at least from the tone of the poems,

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from the intentionality of the author, that the transformation of the city and the people is a function of what one might see as reckless modernity. This is, of course, another way of saying that modernity only serves as an instrument in the human agency, which almost always is inclined to impact negatively on the built environment. In this context, it is crucial to see modernity as an extension of colonialism. Imposed on the space called Abuja and its local inhabitants, modernity becomes a powerful instrument in the hands of rich and powerful Nigerians in positions of power. The volume’s historical-critical perspective in giving a genealogical insight into the making of Abuja is noteworthy. Abuja only came to be the federal capital city of Nigeria on 12 December 1991, but before then, it was said to be a vast land of hills, waters, and arable lands. This trajectory is often silent on the fact that there were natives, mostly of the Gbagyi ethnic group, and on the fact that till today, the natives have continued to cry out about not being properly compensated and being unjustly displaced in the urbanisation of their lands. The volume poetises the Gbagyi nativity, the displacement of the natives, and the forceful erasure or de-naturalizing of their traditional environment. It, in the same breath, foregrounds the powerful influence of the Gbagyi culture in present-day Abuja, as some of the hills and other elements of nature, including settlements, still bear the names given to them by the natives. That is, the nature and culture of the Gbagyi cannot be totally erased, is not erasable, in spite of the heavy technology of change brought upon it. Of particular significance is the staging of Gbagyi’s cultural artefacts as demonstrated in the poems “To the Honoured Potter” and “Giri Potters.” The former is a poetic tribute to the legendary Ladi Kwali, a native of Kwali village in the federal capital territory, recognised worldwide for her craft in pottery. Ladi Kwali, whose picture appears on the Nigerian 20 naira bank note, received honours, such as Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1962; an honorary doctorate degree from Ahmedu Bello University, Zaria, in 1977; and the Nigerian National Order of Merit Award in 1980. A major street in the city of Abuja is named after her. Referring to her lack of western education, contrasted by her profound talent that takes her to different parts of the world, admired by people from different cultures, the poet says, “Your hands knew not the quill nor pen/ But spoke the language of the earth” (3–4). The earth is her home, the source of her talent and inspiration, and it is the craft of the earth that she shows the world. Ladi Kwali, the poem continues, tells the story of her people, of their art and beauty, and of their cultural heritage “with [her] craftswoman’s eternal fingers” (9), thereby bringing home to her little-known people “uncommon honours” (13). The poet extends this tribute for Ladi Kwali to her descendants in the poem “Giri Potters” in which we hear the communal voice of the craftswomen: We are daughters of Ladi Kwali We mould pots straight from native lore

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We dig the clay from ancestral hearth We fire the kiln with our breath of passion. (1–4) The happy tone of the poem, clearly perceived here, is undercut by the understanding that they showcase their wares openly on the ground by the road at Giri Junction, a popular transit place on the outskirts of the city. This craft, popularised by Ladi Kwali and recognised internationally, should have had a privileged place in the city. Or these women, who have continued the legacy of Ladi Kwali, should have been given institutional supports by the government or non-governmental organisations as a way of not only sustaining the Ladi Kwali legacy but also projecting her Gbagyi ethnic culture. Indeed, their craft should have been taken as bringing “native creativity/Into a wedlock with modernity” (7–8) in the process of creating the urban city of Abuja. But that is not the case. They are confined to the road and only beseech travellers not to “forget to admire our long-necked pots./Embody your dream of beauty inside them” (11–12). This is a form of cultural displacement where the arts and crafts that are central to the history and ancestry of the Gbagyi people take a marginal position with the urbanisation of their society. It is difcult to understand why the Nigerian government neglected the cultural artefacts of the Gbagyi, especially as they would have been one means of naturalizing the city – a far more worthy enterprise than the system of artificially greening the city. But as it is made clear in the poems, modernisation in Nigeria implies the process of removing the natural and replacing it with the built environment that suits the lifestyles of the middle and upper classes, a drive towards gentrification that leaves everyone desiring modernity and rejecting tradition. This is a justification for the displacement of natives, of the destruction of the natural, one that has colonial roots. As Myers writes, “Colonialism’s environments are still very much a part of why things are as they are in many cities of Africa” (60). The point of critique that Abdullahi’s poetry identifies, therefore, is the internal colonisation of the Gbagyi in the process of urbanising their space. Cultural displacement is reinforced in the poem “Song of a Native Son.” The poem also uses the first person point of view to affirm the persona’s closeness to the land, to his culture, as much as he wants to stamp the truthfulness of what he conveys to the reader. Here the male persona mentions aspects of Gbagyi folkways having to do with farming, harvest festival (the Zhibaje annual festival to celebrate yam harvest), and cultural performances (the Kabulu traditional musical ensemble; the word “Kabulu” is a Gbagyi word for a musical instrument). The regret expressed by this poem is that the modernisation of their land has placed undue negative pressures on this heritage. It is a poem that harks back to the pre-modern time when people were not just closer to nature, but their lives were also part of nature in that nature or the natural world in a way controlled the lives of humans. Wishes and regrets constitute the thematic of the poem. What Axel Goodbody calls “wish-construction” (209) is one of

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the strategies of this poem and others that position the Gbagyi as personas in the drama of urbanisation that relegates them. “The pastoral idyll,” Goodbody writes, is a powerful wish-construction: it is often nostalgically projected backwards in time, into the author’s [in this case, persona’s] childhood or a more remote past, and almost inevitably located in idealised rural surroundings which contrast sharply with contemporary urban life. (209) What is also interesting here is that local culture and nature are conceived as one; that is, the Gbagyi culture is invariably their nature, and it is the two-inone that the urbanisation process destroys. By far the most touching poem on the notion of displacement is “We the People.” With a heavy dose of lament as the tone, the poem bestrides the past and the present, both times being of no advantageous consequence for the indigenous people of the lands and hills of Abuja. The Gbagyi, the poem contends, are a people who were not even recognised until the inception of the appropriation of their lands as a federal capital territory. This is to express the fate of minority ethnic groups, many of them like the Gbagyi, which are not reckoned with in the construction of national narratives in Nigeria.7 Nigeria is often thought of as the colonial conflation of three (major) ethnic groups: the Hausa, the Yoruba, and the Igbo. In this narrative, over 200 ethnic groups, of diverse sizes and strengths, are often erased. This is Abdullahi’s point as he stages the invisibility of the Gbagyi ethnic group in this poem: We the people Without a name Without history Until they hungered for new lands. (1–4) If not that they want a land on which to build the capital city, the exclusivist three-ethnic-centred framing of Nigeria by the political elite who are, anyway, mostly from the three major ethnic groups, would not have recognised the existence of the Gbagyi people. Yet this recognition is partial, as the institutional powers controlling the formation of Abuja mainly rests on those three ethnic groups. Since their “lands are too blessed” (7), they are given partial recognition as “Exotic aborigines” (6), confined to the margins – such as their women, descendants of Ladi Kwali, selling their traditional pots by the wayside. This, however, does not allay the feeling of displacement, the lamentation of losing one’s ancestral origin, the people have. The force of modernity that others them, that undermines their humanity, is likened to the force of patriarchy, as the poet deploys the metaphor of the phallus, in reducing women to second-class citizenship: “Our hymens must yield/To the phallic thrust of

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modernity” (11–12)). This patriarchal metaphor is apt in that the poem, like others, focuses more on the plight of women and casts women as being closer to earth even than the men. While this may be seen by some as essentialising, it can be located in the ecofeminist notion that women often bear the hardest brunt of any injury inflicted on earth (Gaard and Murphy 1–13). The history of the Gbagyi, as captured in this poem, is from being totally unknown, absolutely irrelevant in the scheme of things, to occupying the marginal position of second-class status in the capital city, a symbol, among others, of Nigeria’s unity or, in the framing of the poem, the unity of the three bullish ethnic groups in Nigeria. Their voice, their art, their cultural being are lost in the ultra-ethnic modernisation sweeping across their land: “We sing shrill ancient songs/Amidst catcalls of a laughing world” (17–18). It is a process of replacing the traditional with the modern – the crux of urbanisation in most societies. There is no doubt that “[u]rbanization has long been [. . .] a process whereby one kind of environment, namely the ‘natural’ environment, is traded in for, or rather taken over by, a much more crude and unsavoury ‘built’ environment” (Heyne, Kaika, and Swygendouw 4). The cost of this, in this case, is the annihilation of the nature-culture of the Gbagyi people. The victorious voices of modernity and their exploits are captured in a number of poems in this book. The triumphal spirits of modernity in these poems sharply contrast the tone of disdain the poet sustains throughout the volume so that each poem reads as a success story for modernity and yet a declamation on the inhumanity of a modern or modernising city. We can return to the connection between this volume and Kan’s The Carnivorous City by seeing a link in the way Abuja and Lagos produce modern neurotics chasing wealth, indeed what one may call the wealth imaginary, as well as being produced by these neurotic wealth seekers. In this drama of wealth seeking, the humanity of these humans, just like the ecology of the city, in the social and physical senses, suffers critical depreciation. Most of them, in the first place, have no business being in the city, only lured by the whimsical ephemerality of rural-urban migration. Furthermore, they resort to forms of fraudulent manipulation to inflict injuries on the cityscape and by doing so injure themselves. Let us start from the injury inflicted on the city of Abuja by transforming it from what it ought to be, its image as a modern architecture, to what it eventually becomes under the weight of human greed. “Song of a Masterplan” is the poem that best captures this. A fairly elaborate poem, it traces the making of the Abuja master plan to its misapplication and to its eventual restoration. To emphasise the amount of funds invested in drawing up the plan, the poet uses hyperbolic expressions: Gallon of cofee Watered the throats Of those who drew it. Tons of naira

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Oiled the trips of experts Who conceived it. (1–6) The huge investment of the Nigerian government in the construction (in the physical and the symbolic sense) of Abuja as a federal capital city has a long history, dating back to the early 1970s. The ofcial decision to move the capital city of Nigeria to Abuja was made and announced in 1976 by the junta of General Murtala Ramat Mohammed. Between this time and eventual realisation of the goal in 1991 by the junta of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, huge funds went into building the roads, bridges, and mansions of the city, especially the palatial stronghold called Aso Villa (the seat of Nigeria’s president). Historically, Abuja has the distinction of being the only city in Nigeria that was systematically designed and built from scratch on the snatched “virgin” land of the Gbagyi people. As the poem points out, the city is supposed to be minted fresh, “Sanctified to the gods/Of ordered progress” (8–9) – a reference, one might say, to the fetishisation of modernity in a society that destroys its cultures and traditions in its craving for the modern. But the modernisation of Abuja, with all the funds spent, with all the costly plans, goes under the weight of powerful forces who rule the country by making rules that they do not keep. These are the “hordes in search of refuge/From sins committed/A long way of” (12–14). They are the rich elite, made up of corrupt government ofcials, the top echelons of the military, and business tycoons, who “invaded” (11) the city to build houses where they can live in proximity to the seats of governmental powers. This class of Nigerians, the very rich and powerful, do not need to follow the plans of the city since urbanisation for them does not include urban planning but the skills and the financial power to grab lands for their individual interests. This, thus, becomes the fate of the master plan: Pages of it became toilet papers For diarrhoead generals Sufering from pangs of overfeeding. Bureaucrats and ministers Wiped of libidinous genitals with it After lecherous tumbles With land seeking madams. (15–21) The strong images here – of uncontrolled passing out of faeces, of sexual immorality – in which Abdullahi attempts to capture the inordinate greed of the powerful political elite bring up other issues in the commercialism attendant to the destruction of Abuja’s master plan. One of such issues is the exploitation of government ofcials’ perversity by adulterous women who sleep with these ofcials to get illegal portions of land in the city. In the 1990s, the movement

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of the federal capital from Lagos, which implied the movement of nearly all the federal ministries to Abuja, had increased the pace of commercial activities in the city. People needed lands to build rent apartments, shops, and other facilities. Naturally, the price of a portion of land in Abuja skyrocketed, and the ministry of the federal capital territory was to regulate the sale of land in order to ensure adherence to urban planning. But this was not the case as this process was bastardised by corrupt ofcials. In depicting this, the poet foregrounds the moral deficiency, compounded by the “orgies of greed” (25), at the heart of the mutilation of the master plan. The result of greed destroying the master plan is that the city takes a shape that is a product of circumstantial realities, a kind of transformation that alters its urban goals. In fact, this is precisely why today patterns of ecological crisis have increased: people built houses on waterways, on places earmarked for railways, and commercial areas are invaded by residential constructions. Some poems take us in a poetic voyage around the city, showing this unorganised shape of the city. One of the effects of the circumstantial realities is the influx of people into the city in ways that are not orderly. Social formations appear in different parts of the city in unlikely places. Therefore, Zone 4 (described in a poem of the same name), which is designed to be mainly a place for offices and shopping complexes, ends up being, especially in the evening, a place of Flushed faces, tempting cleavages, too-sweet smiles, Melodious backsides jostling for attention, Coquettish eyes x-ray bulging pockets and groins, Shish kebab wafts meaty spices from opposite lanes, The Mallams re-arrange slices of dripping fruits. From a 4 wheeler, the voyeur peeps Undecided on the juiciest of them all: Welcome to Zone 4! This is what Zone 4 has become: a place where prostitutes converge and line up in the streets, eagerly expecting patronage from the rich and powerful men of the capital city. It is also a place of pimps, of drug users, and “Mallams” (5), the Hausa men who prepare and sell steaks, called suya in local parlance. Zone 4, though designed as a place of respectable residence, becomes a zone of nightlife said to be patronised even by very powerful politicians and government ofcials. It attracts young girls with “Melodious backsides” (2), mainly because their male clients are expected to be corrupt government workers and successful businessmen and are generous with cash. The economic power of their clients, one of the things that makes Zone 4 popular among residents of Abuja, is emphasised in the poem with the metaphor of the “4 wheeler” (6), a reference to SUV – the kind of cars mostly used by the rich and powerful in Nigeria. Indeed, the SUV is a symbol of riches for most Nigerians. The metaphors in this poem are sensual and carnal, giving the poem an overall tone of immorality and the ephemeral pleasures of life. This suggests that the rich and

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powerful, who have undermined the master plan of the city for momentary pleasures, have also turned the city into a zone of fleshly indulgence, one of the reasons for the underdevelopment of the nation. It is also one way of turning spaces in the inner city into ghettoes and slums, as long as they supply the pleasures needed by the lecherous but powerful government ofcials. There are poems on other parts of the city, such as “Area 10,” known for harbouring people who are good at forgery and good at inventing fake documents. It is a place of “pirated CDs” (3), “GSM girls” (5), and “second-hand books” (8). And because this is a place designated for offices, schools, and corner shops, not street marketers, these sellers of fake products are constantly chased and arrested by the “Task Force” (16) – a group of security agents and government officials who patrol the city trying to cleanse it of unwanted hooligans and street hawkers, who are themselves easily compromised. As it turns out, the city, with an increasing population of people determined to make money, takes a shape that further distances it from its master plan. And yet it is a city that self-consciously structures itself in line with class. That is, it becomes class conscious as the rich carve out spaces to suit their lifestyle, and the poor do the same, irrespective of the master plan. There is also a poem titled “IBB Golf Club” about the sporting complex where retired top military officers and politicians meet to play golf. But rather than playing golf, they pop “expensive champagnes/Smiling boyishly at hovering courtesans/ Snatching girls on their springy behinds” (10–12). It is a poem in which the paradox of the city resurfaces with intensity. And there is “A.Y.A,” a poem about a popular junction in the city with that name. There are also “Eagle Square” and “International Conference Centre,” two important landmarks in the city of Abuja – where high-profile political or official gatherings are held. The irony of the International Conference Centre, according to the poem, is that, in most cases, In the morning we gather here To talk about HIV/AIDS At night we comb the street In search of prostitutes. In the morning We rail at corruption And in the evening We anxiously await our cuts. (11–18) These contradictions, paradoxically staging the underside of the city, are deeply ingrained in the social geography, as well as the physical geography, of the city. It is one way of saying the cityscape, with all its dazzling infrastructure, fails to achieve its aim, just as the people, in their glamorous appearances, are not able to achieve any fruitful objective of moving the city and its inhabitants forward in the path of development. This remains the thematic thrust of the parallelisms

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drawn in most of the poems that capture the social geography of specific neighbourhoods in the city. Contradictions take another dimension in other poems in which the poet is much more concerned about the fate of the less privileged in such a politically charged city. As in The Carnivorous City, these people are othered by the power the city has come to represent; however, they in turn reshape the social geography of the city, turning it into something other than it ought to be. In other words, they, on the one hand, succumb to the forces of the city but on the other exert their own forces on the so-called master plan of the city. One of the points the volume consistently makes, which crystallises in the poems analysed next, is that the masses, the working class, are systematically short-changed in the power play that underscores the urbanisation processes of the federal capital territory. The movement of Nigeria’s headquarters into Abuja implies that the city becomes a home to federal ministries. Many people employed in the lower carders of the ministries have had to face difficulties in the city where public housing is hijacked by the powerful government officials and politicians. The rail system in Abuja is undeveloped and roads leading to the city are in bad shape, thereby making it difficult for workers to get to their offices on time. The effects of improper planning, or of the abuse of the master plan, are overwhelming to the extent that the working class, the artisans, the transporters, and suchlike find themselves struggling to live a decent life. “Carry Go” (a local parlance associated with commercial motorists in Nigeria) is the title of the poem that depicts the entropic force of the unsystematised transportation industry in Abuja city. The 49-line poem is divided into three parts, each dealing with a kind of transportation, each vocalised by the driver or rider. The first is the commercial motorcyclist transportation, known as Okada, popular in the suburban towns in Abuja. The persona here is the commercial motorcycle rider, known as Okadaman. Two things are crucial in his rendition: the unnecessary greed that drives young men to the urban centres and the hazard of engaging in a job like riding a motorcycle in such a disorganised society. “I fled the promise of the farm/To suck from the nectar of this new city” (4–5) is his way of stating his attraction to Abuja. He is a product of rural-urban migration. The metaphor “nectar,” which contrasts with the “promise of the farm” – that is, life in the rural communities – is the lure of urbanisation that undercuts the rational thinking of many young people like the persona, who would have fared better in the rural environments. Indeed, the import here is that it would have been more reasonable and more dignifying to stay in a village and pursue a meaningful life than coming to the city to subject oneself to the kind of risk that comes with Okada riding. The roads, usually narrow and potholed, are plied by the motorists and the motorcyclists at the same time, thereby causing constant accidents and clashes between them. The persona, therefore, gives us a picture of “a fallen colleague [a fellow Okadaman]/Battered to death by a hit-and-run” (10–11) motorist; that is to say, the motorist who hits and kill the Okadaman does not stop because he is not willing to take responsibility. In this premise of hazards, all the persona does is utter a prayer:

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Lord, keep me safe and alive So that when the rains come I could go back with enough money To marry Safiya my beloved. (14–17) The persona’s prayer, that he will go back to his village with enough money to marry his beloved, suggests that what brings him to the city is money. This implies that it is only in the city that people can make money, which is really the point of fallacy the poem confronts. Indeed, the promise of the village could have resulted in money too, but it requires hard work and perseverance, which is what the persona lacks, as he is after the quick money he can make by riding a motorcycle in the city. This idea of city-based quick money is a motif that connects the stories of the other personas in the two remaining sections. In the next section, the focus is on the taxi driver who insists, “No passenger must go unpicked” (19) because he needs all the money he can make. He overcharges passengers to accumulate money, which he will eventually spend on “Silifa my latest garage beauty” (28). In the case of the next persona, who is a bus driver, he dishes orders to his conductor, who must make haste to extort passengers because “Xmas is fast approaching/I need all the money/And in quick returns too” (36–40). Abuja becomes that space where people from diferent parts of the country, especially from the rural communities, come regularly to make money, mostly in the form of extorting others and breaking rules, turning the city into a den of criminals. This poem also presents parallels and contrasts in order to give distinct information about specific agent-victims of the urbanisation process. They are agent-victims because, as I have been arguing, they transform the city as much as they are transformed by it. Their capacity to act as agents is, though, constrained by the power play in which they are implicated as urban dwellers. Two more poems are worth using here to further point at the social geography of the city. “Abuja Babes,” linked with “Zone 4” in the question of prostitution, is a poetic rendition of the agency of less economically powerful but greedy women. These women believe they can use their bodies, their sexuality, to turn their fortunes around. Written in pidgin, with Abdullahi’s usual humour, the persona, an uneducated girl from a village, tells of how she comes to Abuja for her share of riches. Her attempt at getting a job proves unsuccessful because in the offices she visits, she encounters only “randy executhieves” (20), a coinage referring to corrupt male executive officers who demand sex from women before giving them employment or any kind of assistance. In the face of this difficulty, the persona, rather than returning to her village, chooses to take advantage of the situation. In doing so, she displays her own sense of corruption as she takes advantage of the men’s immorality, on a continuous basis, to make money off of men. She boasts, This bakasi wey papa God give me I go swing am here and there so tay

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Ministas and senatos go forget Wetin bring them come Abuja Na me and dem For that their hotel room. (25–30) The word “bakasi” is pidgin for buttocks, and her point here is that since she is blessed by God with sexy, voluptuous buttocks, she will use them to seduce federal ministers and senators, a reference to top government ofcials and politicians, so that they forget about their ofcial duties in Abuja and spend more time with her in hotel rooms. This is the way she can make money and fit herself into the circles of the rich people who inhabit the city. The point made throughout the poem is that the city embodies national wealth, which everyone can take from, and seducing these men to spend their corruptly acquired riches on her is her own way of partaking in the national wealth. This, however, foregrounds the paradox that while she thinks she is making money of of Abuja, she is rather destroying the city and in turn destroying herself, her body from the perspective that her flesh depreciates any time she surrenders it as sexual prey. By taking the attention of government ofcials and politicians away from their duties, the city, in both its biophysical and social-political shapes, is left unattended to, leading to the kind of ecological and environmental problems it sufers. The second poem is “Rock Children,” which like the previous one is narrated by a persona that initially appears as a victim and yet exerts her/his agency in reshaping the bio-social geography of the city. Here, the persona is in plural, using “we,” a reference to the children born out of casual relationships or noninstitutional marriages that are common with the economically powerless in urban centres. These children define themselves in the first stanza: We are products of distant afection Of hurried visits and air-conditioned liaisons. We are fruits of arranged marriages Consummated in hollow hovels and choked spaces. (1–4) From birth, they face poverty and precariousness. The “choked spaces” are in suburban areas of Abuja, which have increasingly descended to the levels of slums, such as Nyanya, Mararaba, Suleja, Kuje, and Gwagwalada, all known for being overpopulated and lacking sufcient facilities. Besides, their parents, with “mobile faces” (8), are always on the move, in search of means of livelihood and, therefore, have little time to dedicate to raising them in a proper way. To compensate for their absences, the parents make out time to, once in a while, “Ferret” (10) them to parks in the rich areas of the city and to elite eateries such as “Mr. Biggs and Tantalizers” (14). This does not change their stories, as

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Most times the face of fate remains stony And we are marooned in the valley of want To Nyanya we pledge our undying allegiance. We become adults too soon In cramped quarters Where toilets are after thoughts. We share living spaces with feverish siblings, Hunger-driven dogs and voracious pigs. Every morning we do our watery toiletries in open gutters As grownups constipate away in a nearby cemetery. (16–25) The inclusion of other species in their precarious life is telling. Humans are not the only victims of the environmental crisis of the city, even though the volume is not explicit about the sufering of other beings. In point of fact, other species, such as the dogs and the pigs, sufer more as they roam the streets and get hit and killed by moving cars and motorcycles. The contamination of the waters by defecation in open gutters and the pollution of the cemetery all suggest that the abiotic species are also implicated in this precariousness. And yet they live in Abuja, said to be the most modern city in Nigeria, an irony that resonates throughout the volume. Although the poems are mainly short and achieve high lyricism, they are descriptive and lead us into the physical and social structures of the urban city. Each descriptive expression is loaded with metaphors and allusions that are not far-fetched and a dose of earthy humour that indicates the poet intimately knows what he describes. The volume is heavily anthropocentric in the sense that humans, both as subjects and objects, are present in all the poems. But the paradox that runs through the structures of the poems is aimed at directing our attention to the destructiveness of humans. Through their greed and corruption, they destroy the biophysical structures and textures of the city and then become victims of the destruction. The emphasis the volume consistently makes is that the economically and politically powerful in the society create a money-driven metaphysics that drives people to undermine the biophysical shape of the city and by so doing undermine their own humanity.

“Quarter to Eleven” and “The River God”: mired in the climate of floods In this section, I read two short stories, Samuel Okopi’s “Quarter to Eleven” and Olufunmilola Olubunmi Adeniran’s “The River God.” They are taken from an anthology entitled The Rainbow Lied, edited by Su’eddie Vershima Agema, published in 2014. Although the editor’s prefatory statement is quite brief, we can deduce from it that the anthology is a response to real incidents of flooding in Nigeria. Agema and a number of the authors anthologised are

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from the north-central city of Makurdi in Nigeria – a city by the Benue River, annually afflicted by floods. While not mentioning any specific incidents, Agema states, When the promise of the Almighty held by the beautiful rainbow falls short too, we have to seek some understanding to it, or in the least, record it. We need to understand these and more – natural phenomena, issues of life, and so much more. Even when we can’t understand them, there’s a need to express our feelings of them. Many times, these expressions help us to remember. (v) Remembering involves much more than merely expressing feelings, as is clear in the anthology. That is, remembering in the context of Nigerian literature embodies resistance or counter-discourse. It is also a form of vigilance. In the collected stories are valences of socio-ecological agency, which manifests in the supra-human characterisation of floods, the humiliation of the human by the nonhuman, and the palpable mortality of the biodiversity, among others. It is instructive to mention that, with the exception of Chuma Nwokolo, the anthologised authors are young writers, often described as non-committal about realities that afect their immediate society.8 But these stories demonstrate that they are not only committed to human social vision but also to nonhuman ecological vision. And, as Abiola Irele says, African writers have always had the concern to “speak to immediate issues of social [in this case, socio-ecological] life” (xiv). With a sense of generational responsibility, Agema poses the questions: “When the story of time is told, what then would be said of us? What would we leave our generations coming who would necessarily need to have an idea of what world was before them?” (v). This sense of duty, rooted in the Nigerian literary experience, is crucial for interpreting this literature. I am, therefore, interested in drawing attention to two interrelated issues. First, a demonstration of the referential capacity of Nigerian literature in capturing contemporary environmental disasters, especially as it relates to climate change. In this case, literary instrumentalism is stretched to the point that people who may have experienced such disasters, or know people who have experienced them, see the use of creative writing as a means of commenting, analysing, or taking an ideological position on the occurrences. Such an ideological position often goes as far as probing the power relations that play out in the course of intensified human actions capable of aggravating climate change. That is, it can translate to an act of resistance. This, I argue, is certainly beyond Agema’s idea of remembering. Second, an exploration of the symbolic realm in which flooding, as foregrounded in these short fictions, acquires the status of a metaphor – one that disarms humanity in the face of climate reality thereby compelling humans to rethink their relationships with the natural beings with which they co-habit and yet undermine. Rather than documenting via creative writing for the sake of memory, the writers, according to this interpretive

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approach, formulate a metaphor that reminds them and others of the ecological shortcomings of human beings – namely, the neglect of the natural world, especially in a society driven by, on the one hand, a body of anti-climate superstitions and, on the other, illogical forms of urbanisation. Climate has come to be associated with existing beliefs and conventions for the average Nigerian. In a sense, climate has the tendency to be defined in relation to local realities or philosophies. In their introduction to Climate, Science, and Colonization: Histories from Australia and New Zealand, James Beatie, Emily O’Gorman, and Matthew Henry begin by pointing out that they “[acknowledge] definitions of ‘weather’ and ‘climate’ both as physical phenomenon and a constructed cultural meanings” (1). The two necessarily exist, one may argue, in every human society. Climate change can manifest in different ways as a physical reality, but a society can also choose to understand it through its cultural lens in that cultural constructedness is one of the compulsive ways humans tend to apprehend the existence of the natural world. This is why attention is necessarily paid to local cultural constructions. As Beatie, O’Gorman, and Henry write, “Local geographies of place and culture, as well as local geographies of climate, complicated global, national and even regional scientific conceptualisations of climate” (8). The flip side to this is that local geographies, if interpreted via cultural beliefs, may have the tendency to scaffold climate change scepticism. With the stories of floods read here, it is clear that scepticism rooted in beliefs and a wilful negligence of the natural world either by the government or the individual may stand in the way of privileging “local geographies of place and culture” as a process of understanding and tackling climate change. Okopi’s “Quarter to Eleven” has an intense atmosphere. From the scene of watching TV in the sitting room to that of being consumed by inundated water in the small, overcrowded apartment, the atmosphere is so intense and the tempo so sustained that the tragedy at the end has a resounding effect. Okopi’s strategy is such that he crowds the story with many characters – there are ten of them: father, mother, and eight children – and achieves tragic intensity through their diverse actions in the face of a devastating flood. The crowding of the story with many characters may be metaphorical of the overpopulation – caused by rural-urban migration, as we saw in The Carnivorous City – that nearly every important city in Nigeria has experienced. This point is worth stressing in that the characters find themselves to be so engrossed in watching TV that none of them pays attention to the weather. Beyond the filial bond, the family is bound together by modern urban culture. The urban culture that makes electronic gadgets, such as television, a vital aspect of life, that thrust upon humanity forms of modern entertainment. The picture presented is that of a working-class family in Nigeria, urban-based but usually with many children, crowding an apartment. But it is not the size of the family that gets one’s attention at first; it is the concentration with which they watch a movie. Yedza, the baby of the house, taps her father twice to get his attention, but she fails to get it because “[h]e is watching a Nollywood film with his wife and seven children

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whose eyes are faithfully married to the TV” (57). This intense concentration is significant in two ways. Firstly, it signposts the economic status of the family, for it is usually the less privileged ones who when given the opportunity to watch a movie or TV do so with such concentration. Indeed, the description of the apartment indicates that the family is a lower-class one. Further, the electronic set, although not fully described, is not the luxurious type; it is not a cable TV, mostly found in rich homes, but attached to a DVD player. All of this tallies with the career of the man as an average businessman who owns “a fish stall in the market” (87). Secondly, the narrative is keen to dramatise the effects of modernity in an average home in Nigeria, educated or not. The total submissiveness to television or a movie, a symbol of modernity, to the extent that certain crucial aspects of family life are neglected, to the extent that no one pays attention to the weather, suggests a sense of abandonment, pleasurable vanities, or some sort of philistinism. The baby of the house, whose innocence appears not yet consumed by modernity, can hardly get to interact with her father, suggesting that family time is not spent interacting but watching movies. Jamila’s attention is so concentrated on the movie that she does not hear when her mother, also engrossed in watching, asks her if she covered the soup pot in the kitchen before watching television. This is a habit, as her younger sister Pepheelo says, “The TV has two invisible hands that always cover Jamila’s ears whenever she watches a movie” (58). It is while they remain engrossed in the movie (which is about man’s inhumanity to man) that the flood reaches them. They appear totally insulated from any threats of flooding, comfortable as they are in the pleasure of modernity. The first sign of the flood’s arrival, itself a gesture of dislocated modernity, is the sudden power cut. “The kids are livid” (59) about the cut, as “the TV screen blanked out” (59). The silence that comes with the power cut enables them to hear the sound of light rain, of the “rumblings in the sky” (59). Things move fast, and the actions are relayed with an admirable skill of description. Okopi’s strengths lie in his power of description and the sharp contrasts he establishes to portray individual reactions to the disastrous flood. The sense one gets is that the family, the society, is used to this kind of flash flood. But this is more than the usual case, as this particular incident brings with it an unimaginable fatality. Ibrahim and Pheetami, dazed by the thunderbolt, “scamper away from the windows and hit their father who is about to switch off the socket to which the TV and DVD player are plugged” (59). Jamila screams sharply as the roof caves in, letting in a stone that hits her head. Yusuf dashes into the room to help Jamila. “Yedza and the twins are huddled up by the corner of the living room, away from the leaks, clutching at different parts of their mother’s wrapper” (59). The atmosphere of terror is heightened by the frantic moves of everyone to possibly escape the rushing and gushing of the inundated water. But there is no escape. Human agency, capacity, and the will to survive are gradually crushed under the increasing force of flood. In different pictures we see the ruthless crushing of humans by this all-time powerful nonhuman being, water. Flung against the wall, Pepheelo’s “hip bone is broken and blood is flowing from her

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temple. [. . .] She is unconscious” (60). During an attempt to help his daughter, the father, along with the child, are gushed out of the house “to their deaths, forty minutes later, by a big dogon yaro tree” (60). Pheetami, Jamila, Ibrahim, and Yusuf struggle till death: In the neck-high water, they use their feet to find and push the wooden and metal boxes in the room together so they can pile them up and stand on them. It is not enough. The water overpowers them, slowly pulling out their breaths until life separates from their bodies. (60) Yedza, the twins Ngami and Vadinyan, and their mother also die at “12:30am. [. . .] The clock’s dial still shows the time as quarter to eleven” (61). That is to say, the time also dies as it stops working. This follows the earlier death of TV and the DVD player, suggesting that this disaster, whenever it strikes, does not kill only humans but also all human scientific creations. And although the story is silent on other nonhuman beings, such as rodents and domestic animals that are likely found in such homes, we can imagine that they are all implicated in the fatality of the flood. The speed and urgency with which lives are snufed out of the inhabitants of this apartment, which appears symbolic of the increasingly overcrowded world, is telling. It suggests the kind of catastrophe that climate change brings – its speedy destructive force, its merciless nature, and its apocalyptic dimension. It also suggests humans’ obsession with the modern ways of giving themselves comfort, “placing a premium on human lives to the detriments of Others carries the risk of reifying the anthropocentricism that leads to ecological disasters in the first place” (Iheka 2). The ironical force of this story is that modernity fails to rescue this family. In point of fact, there is a way in which one can say modernity itself contributes to flooding their lives away. The narrator gives us the cause of the flood. “The great water overflowing from the Kiri Dam in the neighbouring state of Adamawa, and that which the sky has released tonight, is ravaging farmlands, destroying houses and snatching the breath out of livestock” (60). As a businessman dealing with fish (a middleman, one might guess), with a stall in the market, it is expected that the father could have heard of, or sensed, the impending flood, especially given that in the society he lives in, dams overflow during the rainy season, and heavy rains can always result to flash floods. That he does not know, is not prepared for flooding, and is, with his family, insulated against the realities of the weather of the time, suggests the humans’ typical negligence of their immediate environment. While he does not hear of an impending flood, of the danger of floods in the rainy season, he hears of something else that is crucial to his business. “Some traders told him in the afternoon, at his fish stall in the market, that there is trouble in Wukari; one of them said it owes to a bank robbery, another, a riot” (57). In fact, he briefly changes the channel of the TV to “NTA Jalingo” to see if the news has aired as a way of confirming its authenticity. The news of a robbery or riot in town may affect his business

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and as such he has to pay attention to it. And yet there is no news, not even a rumour, about the floods. This is one way of saying that he may have chosen to hear whatever news or rumours he deemed important, and by this framing, the story draws our attention to the fact that in Nigeria people are more concerned about commerce and accumulation and less concerned about the environment. As it turns out, modern commercialism has stood between humans and a sustainable environment. Indeed, the circle of this negligence is wide. A dam is a human construction, and the possibility of it overflowing, as well as how to control it, should be part of any process of building it. The government that builds the dam also has a responsibility to sensitise citizens about the hazards of overflowing dams. From the individual to the government, the attitude towards the environment, the lived landscape, urban and rural, has remained that of deliberate negligence, and yet humans whose acts of negligence aid catastrophic flooding are themselves pitiable victims. Flooding, therefore, is better seen as a metaphor that seeks to make nonsense of human’s anti-environment arrogance and nudge them towards a recognition of the other-than-human world – I will return to this point later. Adeniran’s “The River God,” like Okopi’s, takes the first step of disabling the superior sense of humans towards the nonhuman, especially as orchestrated in the abuse of their built environment. In the manner that Okopi juxtaposes the pleasure of modernity and flood disaster, Adeniran places two kinds of flooding together as a way of further condemning humans’ attitude towards climate disasters. Her main artistic strategy in this regard is the creation of a story within a story. So there is a story of a village flood, caused by the anger of the river god, in precolonial time and that of the town caused by heavy rains – that is, global warming – in postcolonial time. A point crucial to this strategy is the context of myths, of superstitions, in the precolonial time against the context of science in the postcolonial time. Unlike Okopi’s style with external focalisation, Adeniran allows the two characters – Emmanuel and Kelvin who are children – to focalise this story, and the significance is that our attention is drawn to their innocence, more to the future than the present, as Emmanuel admonishes his younger brother (and the reader, of course) to set his vision on a positive future. In this regard, the story is based on a prognosis that appears salutary to an understanding and management of the climate crisis. The choice of a child narrator and focaliser is also a means of undercutting the climate scepticism of the adults. The adults in this story are the locals, the villagers, who deploy superstitions to perpetuate their ignorance and aggravate climate change – a case that clearly deflects the argument that locals’ understanding of climate could prove useful to climate change solutions. It seems clear that Adeniran is interested in deconstructing traditional institutions that not only perpetuate ignorance about climate but also deploy patriarchy in misinterpreting ecological conditions to the detriment of the female gender. As the title suggests, the story of the river god is superimposed on the story of the family of Emmanuel and Kelvin under the inevitability of a flood. It is a deliberate superimposition of the past on the present to make the crucial point

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that the past should not be, especially in matters of climate exigencies, allowed to overshadow the present, that the present needs to be interpreted under its circumstantial reality. The story of the past is a touching one about a young girl chosen by the gods to be sacrificed – by being drowned in a river – so that the village can be liberated from famine. The village suffers from drought; there is famine as a result, and they badly need rain to enable them to cultivate their farms. For rain to fall, they have to appease the river god by sacrificing a girl to him. At once, this simple narrative structure provokes a number of issues in any discerning reader: the primitive cruelty of sacrificing an innocent girl, the ruthlessness of the gods, the patriarchal force that others the female gender and that destroys the future by killing a child, not to speak of the anti-ecological act of polluting the river with a human dead body. A couple of pages into the story, these issues, carefully articulated in metaphors and symbols, generate suspense, tension, and conflict until it gets to the point that the reader gives a sigh of relief, coming to the realisation that it is a folktale. And, like Kelvin, who is the audience of the folktale, the reader is moved to ask, “What kind of a story is that?” (66). Indeed, what kind of a story shows an entire village throwing a little girl, her mother’s only daughter, into the river alive, with all of them deaf to her cries? “The oracle,” according to the narrator, “had picked [the girl] [. . .] and the word of the oracle was final” (64). Although her father and mother have three other children, they are boys, and she is the only daughter; this throws the mother into great grief. The underlying irrationality is brought out sharply when the narrator places this poor, unfortunate family side by side with the entire village: [The mother] could not hold back anymore. There was no one to whom she could appeal, no one to save the life of her only daughter, her first child. The king’s face remained stony. His attendants stood in a file behind him and his four wives and three concubines behind them. His fourteen royal children came next, then the chiefs and elders of the village. Taking the rear, the rest of the villagers trouped after them. (64) Why not one of the many children of the king? Why not one of the many other children of the chiefs? Why this 9-year-old girl who “struggled, held firmly by two hefty men dressed in all white?” (64). There is no answer other than that the oracle has chosen her. Chanting “Life for life” (64) – that is, the exchange of the life of the girl for their lives – the villagers watch as the girl is immersed “and held under water. Her body thrashed for a while and then it finally lay still” (65). It is certainly a most cruel manner of killing a child. As if the killing of the girl in water provokes it, “A week later, the rain fell” (italics in the original, 65). It falls with rage, “with a grippingly ferocious sound, soaking the rafa covered mud houses and turning the reddish earth of Ode village to thick paste of mud” (65). For many days, the rain continues unabated,

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inundating the village with volumes of water. The efect is catastrophic, as the houses, built of mud, easily dissolved in the insistent flooding. The height of it is that “the water had broken into most homes and risen to almost shoulder level. Many threw the few possessions they could salvage into canoes and rowed away from the village and the river animals that had swum into their community” (66). That is, they are not only running away from the river water but also from living beings that come out of the river. The unceasing rain and the inundated water are framed as a retribution for the killing of the girl. And this gives a sense of solidarity not from humans like the murdered girl but from nonhumans who may have been moved by the cruelty the village visited on the girl. It could also be an avengement for the pollution to the natural world caused by the killing of the girl and leaving her body in the water. Whatever is the case, the story is that of consequences: humans, no matter what, may not be able to escape the consequences of their anti-ecological actions. Rather than end the famine, the killing of the girl brings a flood that wipes out the entire village. Ironically, the logic, rooted as it is in superstition, that killing the girl will bring prosperity is what the story aims to confront. The basis for confronting such superstitions, fleshed out in nuanced ways of attributing flooding to the anger of supernatural beings, is to direct attention to the reality of the climate crisis. By foregrounding this mythic story, a tale that Emmanuel focalises as just one of those stories that people tell, Adeniran implicitly indicts humanity in its quest to offer supernatural explanations for realities of the present time, such as climate change. Although this stance appears problematic, in the light of the human-nature relations discussed in the previous chapter, it is one that attempts to redeem a scepticism that manifests in the ways in which many Nigerians view aspects of climate change.9 Anything that is beyond human comprehension is easily ascribed to supernatural beings, even if in reality human intended or unintended actions or ways of life may have given rise to such a thing. In other words, while human activities may have contributed to global warming, as they surely do, whose consequence, among others, is heavy rainfall, leading to flooding, most Nigerians would prefer to believe otherwise. To quote again the editor of the anthology in which this story is included, “[W]hen the promise of the Almighty held by the beautiful rainbow falls short too, we have to seek some understanding to it, or in the least, record it” (v). This is interpreting incidents of flooding as the works of a mysterious Almighty, even while anthologising issues of the climate crisis. The title of the anthology The Rainbow Lied is itself an indictment of the nonhuman from an anthropocentric view, which is one way of indicating that humans fail to understand that their actions or inactions could be the cause of climate change. It is against such notions that Adeniran presents a folktale – its framing as a folktale, a mere story, is a way of registering its fictionality, contrasting it with the reality of the present. That is, superstitions that stand in the way of understanding or believing the reality of climate change are fictional constructions. Emmanuel asserts the reality of the present for his younger brother, for all of us, since we may have, like the younger brother, assumed that the story of the drowned girl is real. The story is in fact a folktale that has benefitted

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from Emmanuel’s developing skills for fictionalisation. “Emmanuel was going to be a writer one day, so he always said” (67). At an aesthetic level, the story is meant to demonstrate his growing skills for storytelling, for conjuring up actions and dialogues and images. It is also meant to show the concern of the future writer with climate problems. If Nigerian writers of yesterday or today have not explicitly thematised climate change, future writers, like Emmanuel, will certainly do so. The impact the story has on Kelvin, also on the reader, shows that Emmanuel succeeds in his attempt. The story will not leave the mind of Kelvin, especially as he and his brother sit on the roof of a building that is being slowly submerged in a flood. Their father, paddling a canoe, has conveyed their mother and sisters to a safe land. Emmanuel and Kelvin are waiting for their father to return and paddle them to join the rest of the family. The waiting is long, and it is to kill the boredom of waiting that Emmanuel decides to tell his younger brother a story. Through Kelvin’s reaction, we see the connection between the flood of Emmanuel’s fiction and the one they are trapped in. “That story you told me,” Kelvin asks his brother, “Is that why we had the flood?” Kelvin wants to know if they (he and other family members, the society in general) were visited by the flood because some people killed an innocent girl or committed any such horrendous offence, as it is in the mythical, fictional story. This question activates the general sensibility of superstition that the story foregrounds and contests. Like Kelvin, many people in Nigeria do think that floods come as a result of sins or acts of wickedness committed against gods and goddesses. By the time Kelvin asks the question, he has become tense from the atmosphere created by the story and has been gripped by the fear that he is among the villagers who wickedly saw to the submerging of an innocent girl in a river, with the belief that killing her in that manner was their means of survival. To think that humans’ sins can incur the wrath of God or of any supreme being in the form of a flood is not limited to the Nigerian society or to modern times. In his book entitled Flood, John Withington narrates myths from different societies across the globe and biblical stories that feature floods, such as the Noah’s Ark myth, and concluded that “in these stories the flood is retribution” (22). To think of a flood in this light, Adeniran’s story implies, is to maintain a regime of ignorance that is capable of destroying human and nonhuman worlds. Emmanuel promptly dislocates the logic of superstitions. “‘It’s just a story Kelvin.’ He laughed and rubbed Kelvin’s head. ‘I was just flexing my storytelling muscles’” (68). Kelvin’s sigh of relief is resounding, as he takes what his brother says as a truth without arguing further. But the fear is still palpable in his voice, as the image of the innocent girl remains bold on his mind, as it would be on the conscience of those who would assign spirituality to natural disasters. Emmanuel has to explain further: “[The killing of the girl was] organised murder. It was wrong. And it was not the reason the rain came” (68). At this point, the story explicitly reveals its moral compass – namely, to educate readers, audiences, especially gullible ones like Kelvin (although he is presented in the innocence of childhood) who rely on mythical and fictional stories to deny the reality of climate change. The effects of climate change such

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as drought do not need any forms of ritual, such as killing people for a water god or goddess, to remedy. And yet there is something of an indictment in his last statement aimed at totally dislocating the logic of superstition. “When the water goes down,” Emmanuel assures, “everything will go back to normal” (68). On the one hand, it is a statement that assures Kelvin and the readers that everything will be all right. On the other, it is perhaps a euphemistic way of saying that the circle of flooding will continue in a society where people emerge from disasters to do nothing about future occurrences. This is telling in that, according to the narrator, “[t]he rain and the floods had come suddenly, and given no one time to prepare” (66). In addition, “Emmanuel had said someone had opened the Lagdo dam in Cameroon” (67). Here is the usual cause of flooding in Nigeria: rainfall and dam overflow, a climate reality. In other words, this is beyond human control – heavy rainfall could most possibly be the effect of global warming, and its consequences include flash floods and a rise in dam, river, and sea levels. And yet humans could have taken some measures, knowing that this has become a usual occurrence. The extra-human excesses of flooding, the fact that the phenomenon renders human agency momentarily useless, has an ecological force worth exploring. The stories, in their aesthetic forms, provide what Hubert Zapf describes as “a site of critical self-reflection of modern civilization as well as a source of creative cultural self-renewal” (4) in that they draw attention to the ways in which humans can retrace their steps and begin to think of the nonhuman world in a way that can fruitfully benefit them. By their representation of floods, as Okopi and Adeniran have done here, Nigerian writers are keen to dramatise the inferiority of humans and the disabling of their species’ arrogance under the force of the being of water. Flooding in these stories, as in the others collected in the anthology, despite their anthropocentric gestures, tends to acquire a metaphorical status as a leveller of human centredness. All the stories foreground human suffering and are resoundingly silent on the fate of nonhumans, and yet they paradoxically place the blame on the inability of humans to think beyond their interest in an ecosystem inhabited by other species as well. The implication – and this is where the ecological agency lies – is that with the event of flooding humans are compelled to rethink their selfish attitude and thereby see the possibility of recognising and creating space for beings of the natural world. Notorious for not being able to manage disasters, the constant occurrence of flooding in Nigeria is forcing people and governments to sensitise themselves, create waterways, clear drainages, and plan built environments in ways that prevent the inundation of water.

Yellow-Yellow and Oil on Water: the polluted Niger Delta My focus in this section is the Niger Delta, perhaps the most environmentally polluted in Nigeria. Its pollution is human caused and of industrial scale. Rich in biotic and abiotic life, as Christian Otobotekere’s poem studied in the previous chapter depicts, the region has come to stand as a metaphor of extreme abuse of the environment. It indeed has a history of environmental abuse dating

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back to colonial incursion and culminating in the rise of environmental activism in Nigeria with the activities of Ken Saro-Wiwa. Not concerned with matters of activism here (environmental activism is the subject of the next chapter), my interest is to read two fictional narratives, Kaine Agary’s YellowYellow and Helon Habila’s Oil on Water to illustrate the degree of pollution in the region, what, logically, eventually leads to all kinds of activism in the region, real and imaginary. These stories, on the surface, do not appear to tell the story of environmental abuse. Yellow-Yellow is a coming-of-age story of a young woman, Zilayefa, who leaves her local community to go to the city of Port Harcourt to find a better means of livelihood. Like most coming-of-age stories in Nigeria written by female authors and staging the travails of a female protagonist, it is framed in feminist aesthetics. Oil on Water is cast in the form of crime fiction in which two journalists, Rufus and Zaq, journey into the creeks of the Niger Delta in search of the abductors of Isabel to negotiate her release. The journey is commissioned by James, Isabel’s husband, an oil expatriate in the region. This aesthetic detour – that is, reaching environmentalism through human stories – is an artistic strategy common to Nigerian ecocriticism, one that, one might say, is unnecessarily anthropocentric. But, as I pointed out in Chapter 1, the fate of the human is almost always tied to that of the nonhuman; political and economic underdevelopment in Nigeria always bends ecocriticism towards the human fate. The two stories are told from the first person point of view, the protagonists focalising all that we see. But the point of interest in these two narratives is the pervasive pollution, nonhuman and human, that appears to background the human actions. My reading is premised on the argument that, more than a mere background, the pollution depicted in the novels demands a frame of interpretation that stages the environment as a character, active or passive. To focus on the environment as a character is to fully understand these narratives to the extent that nonhuman action or inaction is invariably tied to human action or inaction, and one cannot be interpreted without the other. It is also to unveil the ecological agency of the narratives. In the case of Yellow-Yellow, the agency envisages and works towards a liberated space for women to bond with their environment, unhindered by patriarchy. For Oil on Water, the agency calls attention to the need for ecological activism, one that transcends personal greed – the type exhibited by the so-called Niger Delta militants. Yellow-Yellow is often praised as one of the first to portray the plight of women in the context of environmental degradation in the Delta region. In Sunny Awhefeada’s opinion, Yellow-Yellow is “probably the first novel written by a female about the Niger Delta situation. In this remarkable first novel, Agary brings a significant fresh perspective that has been hitherto ignored to the front burner” (97). He goes on to describe this “fresh perspective” as the bifocal “narrative leads” of the novel – namely, First, the region in all its pristine endowment and Edenic bliss was devastated and disrupted by the exploitation and exploration of oil by foreigners aided by local conquistadors. The second narrative thread depicts the

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violation of women in the region by foreign oil workers, and also by the indigenous bourgeoisie. (98) Awhefeada’s conclusion is that “while the land writhes in despoliation, the violation of the women, which often results in unwanted pregnancy, amputates their ambitions, aborts their dreams, and confines them to the abyss of impoverishment” (98). Actually, the point Awhefeada makes would be understood better if environmental exploitation, which is not only confined to petrodollar activities, is seen as begetting the violation of women and indeed the violation of all beings in the region. Pollution remains the means through which the beings are violated. In other words, pollution is the main theme here, as all strands of the narrative demonstrate its negative efects. Following Awhefeada’s frame of interpretation, the notion of pollution is pursued in two dimensions: pollution arising from the abuse of humans, of women, and pollution arising from the abuse of the nonhuman. The pollution, the novel is clear about this, is itself the efect of multi-perspectival neo-liberal capitalism. The novel builds an archive of neo-liberal capitalism in the Niger Delta, local and foreign. It spells out the invasion of the region by foreign capitalists of different interests, the last being Sergio, “an antique furniture dealer” (22) from Spain, with whom Zilayefa is entangled. Capitalist invasion begins, the novel informs, from “the days of the Royal Niger Company, later known as the United Africa Company (UAC), which the British had set up to maximise their gains from the palm oil trade” (74). There was the “Portuguese traders” (74), eventually displaced by the British. “The next generations were [. . .] the Syrian, Lebanese, and Greek businessmen and sailors” (74). And then came the “Filipinos, the Chinese, the British (again), and the Americans who worked in the oil sector” (74). What is clear from this archive is that oil exploration is the latest of the capitalist exploitation the region has suffered. Idom T. Nyabri writes of this archive, describing it as “historical experiences inexorably connected with and determinant of today’s [environmental] cataclysm in the region” (132). He identifies the age of the slave trade, of “human cargo taken for rum, textiles, mirrors, guns and other goods” (133); then the age of the palm oil trade by the Royal Niger Company; and then the age of crude oil exploration. Ike Okonta and Oronto Douglas, in their book Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights, and Oil also emphasise this archive of neo-liberal capitalist exploitations of the region, concluding that, with the discovery of crude oil in Oloibiri in 1956, “[t]he plunder of the Niger Delta has turned full circle. Crude oil has taken the place of palm oil, but the dramatis personae are the same” (2). It is within this context that the magnitude of the multivalent pollution of the region could be understood. Yellow-Yellow draws our attention to the archive of exploitation to show the different sources of environmental pollution, one that is not only seen in the physical environment but also on the human body – in the way the female body is sexualised and commodified (Egya 1–13). Let us focus on the physical

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environment first. The novel opens with a portrait of pollution. According to the narrator, “During my second to last year in secondary school, one of the crude oil pipes that ran through my village broke and spilled oil over several hectares of land, my mother’s farm included” (3). Zilayefa describes the scenery: It was the first time I saw what crude oil looked like. I watched as the thick liquid spread out, covering more land and drowning small animals in its path. It just kept spreading and I wondered if it would stop, when it would stop, how far it would spread. Then there was the smell. I can’t describe it but it was strong – so strong it made my head hurt and turned my stomach. I bent over, and retched so hard I became dizzy. It felt like everything had turned to black and was spinning around me. There was so much oil, and we could do nothing with it – viscous oil that would not dry out, black oil that was knee-deep. (4) The land and air pollution are such that life (of humans, of animals) is threatened, that the condition of emergency is created. This sight, this odour, the viscous texture, and their destructive consequences permeate the narrative. Also, notice how it permeates the human body: the efect of the smell, how it makes her retch to the point that she becomes dizzy. This destructive substance to the earth is also to the body, the earth and the female body unified as a victim of institutional environmental abuse. It is crucial to frame the multinational oil corporations, in connivance with government, responsible for this pollution as male, as manifestation of patriarchal powers. In his reading of Yellow-Yellow, in which he examines what he calls the male-image in the novel, Ignatius Chukwumah is of the view that “[t]he oil companies as despoilers are [. . .] at the heart of the maleimage that becomes displaced and aligned with a similar image provoked by other [male] characters” (50). Other male characters in the novel, displaced as Chukwumah contends, fail to fit into the role of the father figure, which Zilayefa yearns for, as she never gets to know her father, Plato Papadopoulos. All the male characters in whom she seeks her father take advantage of her and in one way or another abuse her, just the way the environment is abused by the oil corporations. Thus the oil corporations partly constitute the pollution that does not only determine the being of the earth, of the environment in which Zilayefa finds herself, but also her life. In fact, the narrative positions this site of degradation at the beginning to show how pollution renders useless the means of the livelihood of the locals, including Zilayefa’s mother, who caters for herself and her only child. With the frequent oil spills, the woman loses her farmland, just like other locals. With animals dead and the waters polluted by oil spills as well, the people of the community, who are mainly farmers, hunters, fishermen, and fisherwomen, are denied the means to survive.

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But Yellow-Yellow depicts another kind of pollution, one that is bodily and racial, thereby taking the notion of pollution from the physical to the psychological realm. Just immediately after describing the scene of the oil spill, Zilayefa introduces herself by explaining why she is nicknamed Yellow-Yellow. “‘Yellow-Yellow.’ That is what most people in my village called me because of my complexion, the product of a Greek father and an Ijaw mother” (7). In other words, she is begotten of an inter-racial union. While one might think her biracial identity constitutes a welcomed multiculturality, something to be tolerated, even admired, in our postmodern time, Zilayefa’s tone, her perception, throughout the narrative is to the effect that she is a second-class citizen, just like other children called yellow-yellow. That is, yellow-yellow, in the framing of the novel, is derogatory and becomes a self-inferioritising lens through which Zilayefa sees herself and constructs her subjectivity. Zilayefa’s mother meets the Greek sailor Plato Papadopoulos in the coastal city of Port Harcourt. “After months at sea,” Zilayefa narrates, “he was just happy to see any woman and would have told her anything to have her company” (7). She has just left secondary school with no prospect of furthering her education and in need of a job. The tone of the narrative indicates that the Greek sailor takes advantage of her: For the few weeks that he was in Port Harcourt, she was in heaven. She believed that she had found her life partner and that this man would take care of her. [. . .] Instead, he left Port Harcourt without saying good-bye. She went to the port to look for him one day, as had become her habit, and was told that his ship had left. There was no message; he was just gone, leaving behind his planted seed in my mother’s belle [womb]. (7) This background shapes Zilayefa’s own sense of identity, especially as other people, who consider themselves authentic locals, taunt her as yellow-yellow on account of her biraciality. The implication is that she is, as other children like her, considered a pollution, a waste left behind by sailors and expatriates who father children that they abandon. Throughout the narrative, Zilayefa struggles to liberate herself from this negative racial framing, although her struggles, tied to the condition of the environment, appear fruitless in that she finds herself in the same circumstance as her mother, being pregnant out of wedlock by a man who takes advantage of her. She is, therefore, as helpless as the environment, both used by foreign businessmen. This notion of human as waste, as a dumpsite for what the novel calls the “planted seed” of the foreigners, is stressed in the narrative. It, in fact, becomes a crucial theme, only paralleled by the waste of crude oil – the point Awhefeada makes in his reading of the novel. As Zilayefa gets to know about the existence of other yellow-yellows, other biracials, she feels compelled to know the reason for their existence. That is how the archive of neo-liberal capitalism is built – it gives her the history of yellow-yellows. She gets to know that her

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own generation of yellow-yellows is the latest since earlier yellow-yellows had emerged from contact with the British palm oil traders, of the Portuguese traders, of the Syrian, Lebanese, and Greek businessmen who had used the local women as dumping sites for their seeds. Their capitalism does not only bring pollution upon the land but also upon the women, who eagerly submit themselves to the capitalists, as their means of livelihood is eroded by the commercial activities of the same capitalists. Ecofeminists have long taken as an object of their analysis the ways in which the exploitation of women is linked to that of the earth in the way this novel captures it (Ynestra King 118–129; Patrick D. Murphy; Greta Gaard and Patrick D. Murphy). I am aware that the framing of women as closer to earth than men and thus co-victims of patriarchal pollution is, in some quarters, considered as essentialism. This is itself a function of a part of feminism that is inclined to what Terri Field calls “essentialism-phobia” (39). The othered women of Yellow-Yellow, most represented by Zilayefa’s mother, are indeed close to the earth because it is from farming, fishing, and other engagements with the earth that she, as a single mother, cares for herself and her daughter. As it turns out, the commercialisation of the Niger Delta environment, of its rich resources, extends to the sexualisation of its women, all of which are eventually abandoned as wastes after the capitalists have taken away what they want. In other words, the locus of the pollution of the female gender is precisely the female body, exploited and abandoned. This is not surprising because the enlightenment rationality that dualises a human into mind versus body sees a woman as more of the body than the mind and as such inferior. As Field writes, “Ecofeminists have long recognised the problem of the mind/body distinction and how it maps onto other harmful hierarchical dualistic pairs” (40). In the case of Zilayefa, her body is not only sexualised but racialised, with profound consequences on her struggles to recuperate her subjectivity. The sense of waste, of pollution, is reified by the metaphor of born-troways (translated as those born to be thrown away). Zilayefa says, I came to understand that people had preconceived notions about others of mixed race – they thought we were conceited, promiscuous, undisciplined, and confused. A mixed race woman in a position of power must have gotten there because of her looks. She was not there because she was intelligent. There was even much less regard for born-troways such as me. We were products of women of easy virtue who did not have morals to pass on to their children. (74) This extremely negative perception is mainly, I would like to contend, the result of the attitude of the foreign capitalists or exploiters who treat women they have sexual contact with as dumpsites where they can whimsically empty their desires and move on. It is the same way they treat the physical environment of the region, as a dumpsite for wastes after they have taken what they

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want. It is noteworthy that these foreign capitalists are aided by home capitalists. Powerful men like Admiral, the retired naval ofcer, and other males (Chukwumah 47–62) continue the sexual exploitation from where the foreigners stop. That is why the mixed-race women are not seen for what they are but as objects of sex. They are of fair complexion and beautiful, mostly without fathers, their mothers economically too weak to protect them against powerful predators who must abuse them sexually when they approach them for assistance. This circle of abuse, of rendering women as waste, othering them into the position of pollution in the society, is crucial to the novel’s discourse of oppression. That is why Zilayefa, in spite of her mother’s travail, finds herself in the same situation. She finds herself, almost willingly, entangled with the latest foreign capitalist in town, Sergio, the Spaniard, “interested in logging timber from the forest in [Zilayefa’s] village” (22). She seduces him, thinking he will fall in love with her and take her out of her poverty, the same way her mother had thought of the Greek sailor: I knew I had gotten his attention. I did not have to do much more. In my juvenile mind, I thought he would come to me and fall desperately in love with me and rescue me from my colourless existence. (21) Zilayefa, like her mother, is wrong. The foreign capitalist has sexual contact with her and leaves, as happened to her mother. Just like the resources of the Niger Delta, the women are also available to be used and dumped by the powerful ones. This psychological sense of waste, of being a pollution to the society, which Zilayefa has of herself is what distinguishes Agary’s novel from other novels on the Niger Delta. The idea of pollution the novel historicises is, therefore, psychological, and this as a technique works well with the signification of the female body through patriarchal inscriptions. The oil spill, presented in the novel as a new face of environmental abuse (Zilayefa presents it as a new form of pollution) becomes a common feature in Habila’s Oil on Water, with greater consequences. With this, what one might see as a human psychological sense of waste becomes a real physical waste of human bodies, in addition to all kinds of nonhuman wasted bodies and objects. Oil on Water depicts worse cases of human and nonhuman waste. Its strength as a literary narrative rests on its cinematic portrayal of the physical environment with keen attention to layers of waste and pollution. Photographic attention to small details of pollution, juxtaposition of wasted human and nonhuman bodies, and the probing of the power relations beneath the waste, pollution, and destruction are not only constitutive of the novel’s ecological thematic. They also grip the reader’s attention and shift it away from the narrative’s main plot, which is the search for Isabel, the abducted British lady. In this premise, my argument here is that the novel represents Nigeria’s cultural response to an intensified pattern of degradation, whose magnitude defies any common sense and demands acts of activism. The novel and its writer, especially as Helon

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Habila is not native to the region, are better seen as a metaphor of Nigerian, nay African, writers’ sense of responsibility that almost always powers their art. Such responsibility is a result of the tangibility of the immensity of the kind of pollution, in diverse ecological and social forms, that the nation or the continent faces. “African writers,” Byron Caminero-Santangelo writes, “have primarily addressed pressing political and social issues in colonial and postcolonial Africa. Concomitantly, [. . .] these writers are concerned with lived environments, the social implications of environmental change, and the relationships between representations of nature and power” (13). The intense attention given to environmental pollution in Oil on Water, its rather apocalyptic portrayal, remains a validation of the reality of environmentalism in Nigeria. As in Yellow-Yellow, the cause of pollution is capitalism, in this case petrodollar capitalism. The manipulations of the oil industries in the region, the consequences of which are all kinds of devastating pollution, are exposed. The novel, then, can be considered, in the words of Philip Aghoghovwia, a “contribution to the political, imaginative, and ethical attempts to hold extractive capitalism and its free market ethos of open (or in fact, broken) borders into account” (43). It seems reasonable, therefore, to reach the conclusion that Habila uses Isabel, and the circumstances surrounding her saga, to create a contrast between a people (the locals) facing a condition of pollution that threatens to annihilate them and a people (the expatriates) endowed with luxuries with which they create problems for themselves and for others. This contrast is expressed by one of the locals. Is that all you want from me, to tell you whether some foreign hostage is alive or not? Who is she in the context of the war that’s going on out there, the hopes and ambitions being created and destroyed? Can’t you see the larger picture? (153–154) These questions prick a reader’s conscience, as they provoke Rufus and Zaq to see the “larger picture” of environmental destruction that leaves incredible measures of waste and pollution on the surface of water and the earth. An ecocritical reading of Oil on Water, therefore, demands less attention to the actions of the human characters and more attention to the depictions of waste. That is, the dead, those killed by pollution, human and nonhuman, provide the locus for an ecocritical reading of this novel. Studies on the novel have drawn attention to its descriptive power and the foregrounding of the environmental question. Lucy Vagime thinks of it as a narrative with a “simple, lucid, straightforward, calm and careful style [that] unfolds the horrors that have accompanied oil exploration in the Niger Delta” (193). In her reading, the horrors are the experiences of the human characters who find themselves in what one of them calls an ecological war. However, the novel thematises environmentalism of the poor in a way that subverts the genre of crime fiction in which it seeks to locate itself. Jennifer Wenzel,

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for instance, finds fault with the human characters, the predictability of their utterances. In her view, the characters worth listening to are the nonhumans: “The land and water seem to speak directly, in their own voice, without quotation marks” (14). Agreeing with Wenzel on this point, Cajetan Iheka sees the descriptive strength of the novel, its concern with the nonhuman, as the point in which the novel orchestrates environmentalism: [T]he beneficiaries of the numerous flashbacks and unwieldy plot [in Oil on Water] is the environment which is rendered in powerful, poignant imagery that appeals to various senses. The devastation recounted by Rufus is primarily visual but the stench of oil and decomposing dead matter is impossible to ignore. This gripping narration of environmental decline makes it possible to shift attention from the search of the white woman – with her social and cultural capital – to the less attractive polluted landscapes and waterscapes. (“African Literature, Audience, and the Search for the (Non)human” 206) It is noteworthy that the “poignant imagery” of the degraded environment in this novel is pervasive, emphasised, and reiterated throughout the narrative. A reader does not need to locate it, as it will stare her/him in the face with powerful efects. In this regard, the novel is better seen as an imagistic rendition that provokes what Iheka calls “various senses” to the reality of waste and pollution. The musical first sentence of the novel sets the environmental tone. “After a while the sky and the water and the dense foliage on the riverbanks all looked the same: blue and green and blue-green misty” (3). It is a novel of landscape, with its strategy being description, the thematic shifting of the reader’s attention, as the narration progresses from the suspense of quest to the pervasiveness of different kinds of pollution. As in Yellow-Yellow, there is a human waste, more of physical than psychological, as the progression reveals human bodies. But also a psychological dimension is seen in the mind frame of Zaq, who, as he sets foot on the Niger Delta, succumbs to a “sudden fever” (4). According to the narrator, “The more his health deteriorated, the more he had taken to philosophizing over almost everything: a bat flying overhead, a dead fish on the oil-polluted water, a gathering of rain clouds in the clear sky” (4). Notice that his imagination is focused on dead matters, on polluted landscapes. Zaq will not survive the journey, will become a waste, and, in fact, a pollution, as his body does not enjoy proper burial. The more pollution Zaq sees, the more he is self-driven towards death. In other words, he becomes increasingly contaminated as the realities of waste confront him. In point of fact, he takes to drinking whiskey in excess in spite of his feverish condition, polluting himself from within. It becomes an addiction since even when asleep, “his whiskey bottle, now three quarters empty, clutched tightly in his hand” (118). When he has the benefit of being examined by a doctor, the report is discouraging. “Your friend,” the doctor tells Rufus, “I am sorry to say, is dying” (141). Although

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without a proper laboratory examination, the doctor concludes that “his liver is gone already” (142). This is not surprising, given his lifestyle but also given his intensified intake of whiskey in the Niger Delta region. One of the reasons he intensifies drinking in the region is that he often vomits when confronted with stark scenes of waste and pollution. At one point, “Zaq looked as if he were about to throw up, his face was sweaty and he raised the bottle [of whiskey] to his lips many times before the alertness returned to his eyes” (8). He always has that feeling of being a waste, of succumbing to the force of dying, only to rescue himself with the whiskey. As the narrative progresses into the inner creeks of the region, Zaq’s body wastes from within as he increasingly succumbs to alcoholism and from outside as he finds himself deep in air and water pollution. Zaq’s waste melts into the long-term waste the region has suffered. The environmental destruction, resulting from the waste, is both long drawn and instantaneous. Hazards such as oil spills, gas flaring, and air pollution have effects that are not only instant but also slow – what scholars such as Rob Nixon (Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor) have theorised as slow violence. The effects, whether immediate or slow, culminate in portraits that astonish the reporters, just like the reader, as they progress into the region. In one deserted village, they find “a chicken pen with about ten chickens inside, all dead and decomposing, the maggots trafficking beneath the feathers” (7). A dead, decomposing body of a man who “looked young” (72) is found under a tree in a bush. The waters they come across are all polluted, including dug wells. “Eager for a drink,” Rufus says, I bent under the wet, mossy pivotal beam and peered into the well’s blackness, but a rank smell wafted from its hot depths and slapped my face; I reeled away, my head aching from the encounter. Something organic, perhaps human, lay dead and decomposing down there. (8) A river turns to a moving mortuary of dead objects and bodies: And strange objects would float past us: a piece of cloth, a rolling log, a dead fowl, a bloated dog belly-up with black birds perching on it, their expression eyes blinking rapidly, their beaks savagely cutting into the soft decaying flesh. Once we saw a human arm severed at the elbow bobbing away from us, its fingers opening and closing, beckoning. (34) Notice that the waste here is constitutive of dead and dying humans and nonhumans. That is, the focus of the novel is on the horrors that humans and nonhumans have experienced. In reality, a careful reading shows that nonhumans are hit worse by the ecological hazards of the region. It is, therefore, improper that, as Iheka pointed out in Naturalizing Africa, “the few studies that existed focused primarily on the efects of environmental tragedies on humans

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in the afected areas [of the Niger Delta], often leaving out the nonhuman world or merely glossing over its relevance for the human population” (1). The extremely polluted rivers and the constant gas flare combine to unleash toxins on the human and nonhuman communities, killing every living thing. As the only doctor Rufus and Zaq meet in the creeks explains, “When the livestock began to die and the plants began to wither on their stalks, I took samples of the drinking water and in my lab I measured the level of toxins in it: it was rising steadily” (145). Within a few days of getting into the creeks, Rufus has produced stories of the waste and pollution in his head, his camera filled with images of “the gutted bodies half-hidden in the bushes, the thatchless, burneddown huts, the bullet-broken palm trees, and the spectacular fire throwing up a cloud of smoke over the tall trees” (79–80). With these images and many others, Oil on Water is indeed a story of waste and pollution, the types that penetrate the heart of the earth. Every living thing and non-living thing are victims of this polluted universe; there is no way any of them can come out of it clean, if they come out at all. One point to make, as I conclude this reading, is that the pollution of the region by multinational oil corporations, by the government, and by the bandits who masquerade as militants naturally leads to environmental activism, which eventually becomes the overriding ideology of literary writing from the Niger Delta. Indeed, the rise of literary environmental activism in Nigeria today is the result of the portraits we see in Agary’s Yellow-Yellow and Habila’s Oil on Water – portraits that have provoked the consciences of writers and other environmental and cultural activists. The next chapter is focused on this activism, which goes beyond depicting the polluted environment to mobilising resources against the institutional powers responsible for the pollution.

Notes 1 This historical trajectory is also one way of explaining the historical growth of Nigerian literature. Pioneer Nigerian writers are often described by their use of nature within the premise of what is seen as cultural clash (tradition against modernity). Writers after them are often described by their commitment to socio-political realities of a modernising Nigeria, what could be seen as the built environment. 2 For more on the land mass and population size of Lagos, see Michael Oyinloye, Isaac Olamiju and Ogundiran Adekemi (57–66). 3 See the following newspaper reports: Sahara Reporters http://saharareporters.com/ 2019/04/24/lai-mohammed-explains-nexus-between-illegal-mining-and-zamfarakillings, Daily Post http://dailypost.ng/2019/04/08/illegal-gold-mining-fuelling-banditryzamfara-eedris-abdulkareem-claims/, and Premium Times www.premiumtimesng.com/ news/headlines/324370-updated-nigerian-govt-gives-foreigners-48-hours-to-leavezamfara-mining-sites.html. 4 See Martin Zinggl, “A Silent Killer: Lead Poison in Nigeria” www.aljazeera.com/ indepth/inpictures/2016/10/silent-killer-lead-poisoning-nigeria 161024163015220. html. 5 This is one of the reasons for the agitations that eventually led to the resolution by the federal government to move its seat to Abuja, a location considered central to Nigeria and “virgin,” with possibilities of expansion.

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6 The idea of moving the federal capital territory was first conceived by the military regime of Murtala Mohammed in 1976. And it was during the regime of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, one of Nigeria’s worse dictators, that the city was built in the 1980s and 1990s. General Babangida was the first to occupy the palatial presidential villa built in Abuja. 7 The marginalisation of the minority ethnic groups, often seen in their inadequate representation at the centre, has led to the rise of agitations by ethnic nationalities. This is the basis of the resource control struggles of the Niger Delta minority ethnic groups, which often give ultimatums to the national government to attend to their demands or face the destruction of oil facilities in the region. 8 For more on the aesthetic and thematic concerns of emerging Nigerian writers, see Sule E. Egya’s Power and Resistance: Literature, Regime, and the National Imaginary in which the younger writers are accused of facing the global north rather than facing their society. Also, in 21st Century Nigerian Literature: An Introductory Text, Abalogu A. Onukaogu and Ezechi Onyerionwu are of the view that the emerging Nigerian writers have thematically “shifted from the society to the individual,” with the individual being “explorations of individual figures as they struggle to find existential fulfilment in life” (121). 9 Although I have yet to see any studies that comprehensively capture scepticism by Nigerians about climate change, I am aware that, just like every society, Nigeria has its own climate sceptics. However, Greg Mbajiorgu’s Wake up Everyone, a drama discussed in the next chapter, and Elaigwu Ameh’s Climate of Change capture the reality of climate scepticism in Nigeria.

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Eco-activism – at least within the context in which I deploy it here – is the point at which Nigerian literature’s ecological vigilance becomes crystallised, locating itself within the literary instrumentalism that remains both the condition of possibility for, and the avenue for critiquing the aesthetic force of, this literature. One question to trigger the discussion here is as follows: can literature, as an aesthetic domain, adequately engender activism? This question has preoccupied the minds of a set of scholars one might categorise as poststructuralist ecocritics, if by poststructuralism in the context of ecocriticism we mean an unrelenting concern with the ontological form and content of literature, what Derek Attridge calls the singularity of literature (see Roman Bartosch). In turning literature into an instrument for activism, are we on the side of its mimetic, referential strengths whereby it directly represents acts of activism in a given society, or are we on the anti-mimetic, overly discursive side in which case it constructs its acts of activism irrespective of what exists in a particular society and thus provides an avenue for an alterity that makes us experience the other?1 Such binary framing, usually deployed to account for the often reductive difference between the first-wave ecocritics and the subsequent waves pale in insignificance if viewed from the context of Nigerian ecocriticism. In the context of protest literature in Nigeria, of the realist mode in which ecocriticism situates itself, activism becomes a referential reality as well as an emplotted discursivity thereby necessitating Nigerian writers, in most cases, operating as activists and constructing activisms in their works. This literature, therefore, presents what Bartosch, following Heinz Ickstadt, calls “transformative mimesis” (277), if by this we signal the benefit readers, the society, can gain from the reality created by literary alterity. But my understanding and application of transformative mimesis, in relation to Nigerian eco-activism, is beyond Bartosch’s conception that alterity does not readily offer social transformation. In his formulation of what he calls EnvironMentality, Bartosch consistently makes the point that literary meaning “does not save the world but it helps us envision it with more alert eyes” (285). In his view, therefore, “ecocriticism cannot talk about the instrumental value of literature” (280). But Nigerian literature, from the arguments sustained throughout this book, is built on the philosophical

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ground that totally opposes that view; it is a literature where, in most cases, the writer does not just have an abiding faith in the instrumentality of literature but s/he also takes a further step of translating her/his literary ideology to physical action. A quintessential example is Wole Soyinka who writes literary works in which he rails against political oppression, embraces nonfiction to complement his literary efforts, and even goes further to partake in street demonstrations in pursuit of his ideology.2 The phenomenon is perhaps generally a thing of the global south or oppressed communities all over the world. Because of the pressures to speak out on behalf of the downtrodden, to confront institutional powers, they have had the need to have writer-activists who are alert to cases of injustice and direct their imaginative skills towards tackling oppression. They are sensitive individuals, intellectually alert, who either combine their professions with activism or abdicate their professions for activism out of deep convictions. The writer-activists Rob Nixon discussed in his work (mostly from Asia and Africa or of Asian and African descent), one of whom is the Nigerian Ken Saro-Wiwa, have had to combine real activism with writing, mostly nonfiction.3 Nixon is of the view that “we witness in these writers a desire to give life and dimension to the strategies – oppositional, affirmative, and yes, often desperate and fractured – that emerge from those who bear the brunt of the planet’s ecological crises” (23). In other words, there is something of a vicarious duty that propels them to intervene on behalf of “the world’s ecosystem people” (Nixon 22), those who are caught up in resource wars, whose immediate need is not how to secure resources but how to survive as living beings. And yet the most exemplary writer-activists (if we consider their martyrdom), such as Saro-Wiwa, are those who are themselves victims of the eco-destruction they rail against. In the case of Saro-Wiwa, the notion of exemplariness stretches to the huge influence he turns out to be on Nigerian writers. Arguably, his execution in 1995 by the maximum ruler General Sani Abacha marked the inspirational impetus for the emergence of explicitly ecocritical writings in Nigeria.4 That is, the literature of the environmentalism of the poor took its life from the rage and angst that attended the widely condemned killing of Saro-Wiwa, who was not only an environmental activist but also a renowned personality within the community of writers in Nigeria. Nigerian writers took his killing as a purposeful affront on the writing community, which had been in the forefront of the struggle to dethrone the military regime and return the country to a democracy. The Saro-Wiwa-inspired eco-writings are, therefore, an ethical call to save the earth routed via a struggle for a democratic dispensation. The logic is that unless a democratic order is achieved, there can be no environmental justice. This logic is at the heart of Saro-Wiwa’s environmental politics.5 Byron Caminero-Santangelo is, therefore, correct when he says, With environmental degradation in the delta serving as a potent symbol of a Nigerian state destroying the foundation of the nation, the people

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and the land, the Ogoni’s struggle for environmental justice turned into an iconic example of popular dissent against the criminal and illegitimate state. (Different Shades of Green 134) This is still the situation today, as new environmental writings, across genres, see the “illegitimate state” as the real culprit – since it allows itself to be used by the agents of petrodollar capitalism, such as Shell BP – against its own citizenry. This pedigree informs the over-concentration of Nigerian eco-literature on the Niger Delta region. It also accounts for the tendency in ecocriticism in Nigeria to be tilted towards the notion of environmentalism or environmental justice. This over-concentration has, in the hands of international scholars, become a narrow critique of eco-activism limited to the exploits and nonfiction of Saro-Wiwa, as well as the fiction of a couple of writers.6 Indeed, the Niger Delta, a mere region (one of the smallest, in fact), has often been too hastily used as representational of the Nigerian experience in ecocriticism. This is not to disregard the enormity of the eco-destruction in the region. What is redeeming, however, is the self-cautionary note of some scholars, drawing attention to the limitation of a Saro-Wiwa-centred critique and the need to go beyond his eco-heroism. Drawing opinions from other scholars, CamineroSantangelo points out that “we need to move beyond celebrating Saro-Wiwa as an icon of African environmental imagination and upholding his stories as a framework for environmental justice struggle locally and globally” (Different Shades of Green 135). To move beyond Saro-Wiwa, in my view, is to situate Nigerian eco-activism in the broader context of protest aesthetics in Nigeria, bringing into view the significance of pre-Saro-Wiwa eco-aesthetics – that is, to invariably reflect on the past and locate the genesis of the literature’s aggressive counter-discourse, trace its development as it historicises Nigeria’s political condition, and describe the rather intense socio-political undertones of contemporary literary works. The trajectory of protest aesthetics has been explained in Chapter 1. It is instructive to recall that one of the high points of protest aesthetics was the literary outburst of the 1990s against military despotism, which mostly manifests itself in the genre of poetry. Literary aesthetics were overstretched to lucidly emplot, on the one hand, the gross inhumanity of dictatorship and, on the other hand, a combative stance of a consciously awakened populace that embarked on activities, such as street demonstrations, geared towards dethroning the dictatorship. Hurt into writing by the gross human rights abuse in the extreme police state, convinced that their writing had the force of undermining the terror of despotism, and, quite importantly, surrendering themselves to the eventualities of confronting a cruel dictator, writers not only wrote but also took to the streets in protest against the oppressor.7 The theoretical context of this protest aesthetics presupposes an untroubled relation between literature and socio-political reality. One would think that literature, or the act of writing, is an extension of the physical struggles going

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on. While it may be contestable to claim that the protest literature of the 1990s contributed to the dethronement of the military regime in the last decade of the twentieth century in Nigeria, leading to the emergence of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, the discourse of political development cannot sidestep the roles writers and other cultural artists have played in the democratic process. Literature is an art form and may thus refract instead of reflect reality. Nigerian literature has witnessed experimental writing, in the spirit of high modernism, and has had debates as to whether a literature should have any kind of duty, least of all the kind that purports to emancipate humanity, as I discussed in Chapter 1. And yet there is something of a humanist faith, a display of human agential force, even in the most experimental writing. Ben Okri’s The Famished Road is one case here: its experimental magical realism, which shot it into fame, is anchored on a humanist ideal of social vision that culminates in Azaro’s father’s trance. Fresh from the trance, the man intones, [A] great something is going to come from the sky and change the face of the earth. We must take an interest in politics. We must become spies on behalf of human justice. [. . .] Rats and frogs understand their destiny. Why not man, eh? (498) In this case, Okri draws attention to the kind of justice that nonhumans already have, which humans need. It is that justice that the narrative is in search of. To this extent, literary experimentalism remains subservient to literary instrumentalism insofar as there is always the pressure, which Nigerian writers hardly escape, to emplot socio-political reality. It is from this point – the inevitable link to the human condition – that eco-activism can be said to have taken of. Literary writing concerned with historicising the ecological injustice and the annihilation of the biodiversity assume two characteristics rooted in Nigerian protest writing: a concern with the human condition and demystification of the literary craft to enable a wider communication and an empathetic reading. Eco-activism represents the full engagement of the Nigerian writer with the mounting crises of ecology, not only in the Niger Delta but also in other regions. Here the writer embarks on a deliberate aesthetic aggression, easily discernible even if submerged in the most artistically deviant art. S/he is of the hope that the craft of writing, stretched with ideology, can enable actions towards the liberation of oppressed humans and biodiversity, on the one hand, and the uprooting of the institutional powers responsible for inhumanity and eco-destruction, on the other. Strategies in this regard include a sustained tone of lamentation, a jeremiad orchestrated through what one might see as aesthetic angst, righteous rage, and an all-inclusive victimhood whereby the writer sees herself/himself along with the oppressed peoples and their earth as victims. These are juxtaposed within the same literary work with a belligerent tone and an outpouring of invectives against the oppressor figure, the killer of humans and biodiversity, whose characterisation is enmeshed in forms of

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aesthetic parody. A sure killer punch here is the othering, the belittling of the oppressor figure to demonstrate that there is always a fatal end for any kind of seemingly superhuman oppressor. There is almost always something of a closure that suggests the triumph of the oppressed at the end since with the downfall of the oppressor figure, the oppressed can then rise and celebrate the victory of the majority poor over the oppressive elite. The immediate problematic of this eco-activism, some ecocritics might note, is its inclination to the human agenda. As the works analysed in this chapter show, Nigerian eco-activism has the tendency to prioritise the fate of humans over that of nonhumans. With regard to the Nigerian situation, Cajetan Iheka is correct to say that “[t]he rubric of environmental justice, under which most African ecocritical studies are conducted, tends to deemphasize the nonhuman implications of environmental tragedies” (2). Not even the zone of literary alterity – that a literary work is capable of giving us a utopian alternative – is harnessed to pay attention to the nonhuman beings or natural world beyond human social visions. In fact, the writer, as a way of artistic tactics, inserts herself/himself in the human victimhood, either literally in the case of the writer being a native of the ecologically damaged zone or figuratively in the case of the writer choosing her/his image as a focaliser. The latter is what we see in Helon Habila’s Oil on Water whereby those who know Habila’s life (that he was once a journalist living in the southern part of Nigeria) are likely to see him in the young journalist who is the most important focaliser of the story. This human dominance is, of course, a point that postcolonial ecocritics have had to contend with. Postcolonial ecocriticism is a form of decentring, burdened with the inevitable link of the human condition, often seen as a function of the postcolonial condition. Therefore, rather than seeing the link to the human condition as a weakness in Nigerian eco-activism, it is more fruitful to see it as a postcolonial process in which the development of ecocriticism is measured by the peculiarities of a developing Nigeria – peculiarities generated by internal and external (neo-colonial) realities the nation has had to face. The human index in Nigerian eco-activism could be, for some ecocritics, the result of the underdevelopment that leaves humans struggling to survive, to rescue themselves, before they can even think of rescuing the nonhumans. But I would rather suggest that we see it from the perspective of the nature-human relations discussed in Chapter 2, whereby the inseparability of the human from the nonhuman has been a non-achievable project in Nigeria, as in Africa. They have always been together, fared together, and although the human may be more expressive of their agential force, as they are seen to physically carry out actions, it is fruitless not to see them as co-agential. While it is the humans who operate as writers and as characters in eco-activism, we may find, as we do in Fire in My Backyard, a strong presence of the nonhuman agency in the activism. The activist human characters may be working in conjunction with activist nonhuman characters. I have chosen to concentrate on the worlds of literary texts and not on the real exploits of any writer-activists. The three selected texts are Aliyu Kamal’s

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Fire in My Backyard, Greg Mbajiorgu’s Wake Up Everyone!, and May Ifeoma Nwoye’s Oil Cemetery. I do not know the authors of the three texts as activists, but I do know that they write about the ecological crises in the regions from which they hail, perhaps about places they really know quite well. That is, the settings of their works, even if fictional, bear the names and features of places they know. The character-focalisers in their works are their second selves. It turns out that the authors are all scholars teaching in universities; their characterfocalisers are a brilliant young graduate with hopes of being an activist/researcher (in Fire in My Backyard), a renowned retired professor (in Wake Up Everyone!), and a talented young woman with a passion for education (in Oil Cemetery). In the three works – a play and two novels – education, for the character-focalisers, as it is for the authors, is the most enduring forte and provides a platform for not only confronting institutional powers but also for re-examining existing anti-environment sociocultural practices. Given their backgrounds, their ideological persuasions, and their positionalities, but especially their emplotment of radical ideas aimed at altering the ecological condition of the places they are connected to, it would be productive to look beyond their works to their role as artists desirous of change. It is a role protest literature prescribes for them.

Fire in My Backyard: eco-activism and socio-cultural imperative Aliyu Kamal’s Fire in My Backyard is set in “northern Nigeria, a sub-Saharan region facing disaster and ruin” (24), caused by, among others, excessive wood logging. Umar-Faruk, a fresh graduate of grassland ecology, undertakes the task to save the trees whose lives have been cut short as a result of massive logging in the commercial city of Kano, north-west Nigeria. His grassland ecology degree is one of the crucial western epistemological instruments needed, in the framing of the novel, to confront the ignorance and greed of the local communities. His degree, in other words, does not position him to exploit the woodland for commercial purposes, as his society does (his own father being a leader in this regard) but to confront the practice. This irony in the character of Umar-Faruk has consequences for his relationship with his father, who may have funded his studies so that he can bring modern knowledge into his business of wood logging. This is even telling in the sense that the story is set in north-west Nigeria, among the Hausa, where children are expected, by culture and religion, to obey their parents and to pursue the ways chosen for them by their parents. The dominant ethnic group in Kano and its suburbs, the precise setting of the novel, is the Hausa, and the dominant religion is Islam. Umar-Faruk belongs to this cultural-religious origin, which ironically stands as his greatest predicament. A very determined young man, he knows exactly the magnitude of embarking on eco-activism within this culture; he knows the consequences of his step, especially as his father is a woodland business mogul, whose logging company funded Umar-Faruk’s education. Confronting his father, the woodland patriarch, is not Umar-Faruk’s only challenge; a greater challenge

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for him is what I have termed the socio-cultural imperatives of his society. By that I mean the everyday problems, bordering on poverty, precarity, sexuality, matrimony, and unnecessary tensions in inter-subjective relations rooted in the Islam-influenced Hausa culture. Umar-Faruk’s story is, therefore, of ecoactivism whose course is clogged by the imperatives of living in a postcolonial society where the struggle for basic social needs is compounded by the exigencies of religion. To achieve his goal of saving the trees, he must first of all save himself from the grip of his culture and the Islamic tradition, extricate himself from the unwanted love triangle that ties him to the rather strange drama of sexual exploitation in Rumbu village and the forest where he has camped for his fieldwork. In this reading, I argue that the peculiarity of eco-activism in a postcolonial society like Rumbu village and the City of Kano, indeed northern Nigeria, is marked by an existential problematic arising from the people’s struggles with their cultures and traditions that may have been shaped by their colonial histories. The reading of this novel is framed within the discourse that while ecoactivism could be a global phenomenon, and is often viewed from the lens of contemporary western epistemologies, the response to planetary destruction needs to take into consideration the social features that distinguish societies from one another. Until Umar-Faruk realises this fact and re-strategizes his course of activism, he is not able to make any progress, in spite of his being equipped with western knowledge. His initial thought rests on the assumption that with a degree, he can embark on his activism unencumbered. His character is conditioned by this frame of superior westernism. While totally disgusted by the cultural and traditional mores that stand in his way, he has to, in the end, “play at the cultural game” (10) to succeed. By doing so, he not only ends up saving the lives of trees but also of human beings, including his own life, thereby instantiating the notion of postcolonial ecocriticism that in a postcolonial society the fate of humans is firmly tied to the fate of the environment. His triumph, I further argue using Hubert Zapf ’s notion of ecological force, is tied to the agency of literature as counter-discourse whereby an ecologically envisioned literary work symbolically breaks the boundaries of religious and cultural conventions, getting the people to rethink their stance on their ecology. In other words, Kamal uses Fire in My Backyard to positively shift the paradigm in a society that, lured by capitalism, blindly commodifies its natural ecosystem. The resolution at the end of the novel whereby Umar-Faruk and his father reach an agreement to save trees as well as to adopt aspects of the Hausa culture that enable a responsible form of living is at the heart of Kamal’s literary instrumentalism: the drive to achieve a hybridity between modernity (what eco-activism stands for) and religion and traditionalism. The view this novel promotes is that such blending of the old and the new is crucial to progress in society. To recognise that Umar-Faruk, the eco-activist in Fire in My Backyard, is facing social and religious problems that slow down his activism is to come to terms with the crucial emphasis of postcolonial ecocriticism on the inseparability of

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ecological struggle and the social histories of postcolonial societies. This is even more telling in African postcolonial societies whose leaderships, after colonialism, have generally neglected the welfare of the people and of their environments. Nigeria, where this novel is set, has been grappling with the problem of governance spanning nearly 30 years of military dictatorship and a democratic dispensation characterised by the plundering of the nation’s resources. The effect of this is hardship that drives the people to engage in activities, as a matter of survival, which destroy their environment, as Kamal has demonstrated in his novel. To properly read this novel, the notion of difference conceptualised by most postcolonial ecocritics needs to be invoked (Roos and Hunt 1–13; DeLoughrey and Handley 3–39). In order to decentre ecocriticism, especially the strand usually categorised as first wave, postcolonial ecocritics not only make a case for the inclusion of literatures, oral and written, from the margins (as against literatures from the metropoles from where ecocriticism, as a field of studies, emerged) but also for the de-universalising of arguments, thoughts, concepts, and structures in the discourse of ecocriticism. This is a way of making ecocriticism, in the words of Byron Caminero-Santangelo, “responsive to colonial history and cultural difference” (11). In his view, one of the objectives of postcolonial ecocriticism is to see “the need to take into account the specificity of cultural, historical, and material contexts in Africa; the ways that modernity has shaped Africa; and the kinds of local responses that have been engendered” (14). The notion of difference, as I deploy it here, should not be seen as a means of negating the attributes of environmentalism, or eco-activism, that cut across different cultures, societies, and regions. It should rather be seen, and this is what postcolonial ecocriticism insists on, as a heuristics that enables us to base our understanding of environmentalism, any concepts of ecocriticism at all, in a set of specificities tied to a locality from which point global connections can be achieved. While I disagree with Bonnie Roos and Alex Hunt’s contention that “geographical specificity tends to reinforce a sense of isolation in correcting [environmental] injustices” (7), they are right in suggesting that “difference should not unduly hamper our ability to listen to and learn from each other” (7) in generating and understanding the discourse of environmentalism. Environmentalism, for most writers and scholars, implies advocacy and resistance – an active awareness of the state of the environment and the will to take action to improve it. This is at the heart of ecocriticism, perhaps what, according to Lawrence Buell, makes it “a self-conscious movement” (The Future of Environmental Criticism 1). Buell’s choice of the word “movement” here is noteworthy, as he, along with most first-wave ecocritics, prefers the pragmatic approach whereby literature or any art form serves as a vehicle for recuperating the concerns of the environment from an epistemological premise in literary scholarship that has long suppressed such concerns. Postcolonial ecocriticism further reinforces the need for advocacy and resistance, which is in tandem with the phenomenological and social engagement of postcolonialism (Huggan and Tiffin, Postcolonial Ecocriticism 12). Advocacy and acts of

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resistance have manifested in some literary texts as dramatisation of activism, as we see in Fire in My Backyard. In other words, the activism in the novel can be effectively backgrounded by the notion of advocacy and resistance expressed by postcolonial ecocritics. Furthermore, the novel exemplifies the need for activism to be fully spatio-temporarily linked to local socio-political realities as a way of instrumentalising the imaginary world in the service of the real world. Caminero-Santangelo is of the view that conditions in Africa make the kind of mainstream environmentalism popular in the United States and the UK unattractive or, at least, irrelevant to most Africans. Most do not have the resources that encourage and enable nature appreciation as a leisure pursuit and that lead to popular movements for the protection of “wilderness.” (26) The argument is not that Africans are too concerned about social issues and neglect the environment or that Africans lack environmental sensibilities. It is rather that Africans’ approach to environmentalism could be profoundly influenced by their realities and could have been a process of traditional epistemologies dating back to precolonial times. Elizabeth DeLoughrey and George B. Handley have correctly made the point that postcolonial ecocritics “have drawn from earlier works in postcolonial literature to suggest that the global south has contributed to an ecological imaginary and discourse of activism and sovereignty that is not derivative of the Euro-American environmentalism of the 1960s and 70s,” thereby debunking scholarship in the development of ecocriticism and environmentalism [that has] positioned Europe and the United States as the epistemological centers, while the rest of the world has, for material or ideological reasons, been thought to have arrived belatedly, or with less focused commitment, to an ecologically sustainable future. (8) The link Kamal establishes between agrarianism and the sustainability of trees, that the local farmers, though they sell trees to get money, are still the best people, historically, who can protect the trees, demonstrates that environmentalism is not new to them. This is why the protagonist chooses the agrarian village Rumbu as a viable place to start his activism, to start curing his people of their wrong perception about woodland. The eco-activism of Fire in My Backyard is, in this context, not so much of a fight against ignorance as it is against greed fed by the commercialism that comes with colonial modernity. By focusing on Fire in My Backyard, I attempt to make the point that even within Africa, within Nigeria, environmentalism encounters difference in ways that enable us to produce the distinctiveness of eco-activism in northern Nigeria, a region that is historically different from southern Nigeria. My contention

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is that this novel enriches the idea of difference in postcolonial ecocriticism in its dramatisation of ethno-cultural exigencies, especially in the way it infuses the cultural-religious elements in ecological activism. One of the visible differences between northern and southern Nigeria is that Christianity is the dominant colonial religion in the south, while in the north, it is Islam. Christianity is a product of the western colonial contact, unlike Islam, which resulted from contact with Arab traders in the eleventh century.8 While Islam had penetrated most of the north-west and north-east by the sixteenth century through the activities of the jihadist Usman dan Fodio, Muhammad Umar reported that the British presence in the Muslim areas of the present day Northern Nigeria can be traced from March 18, 1824, when Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Bello (d. 1837) received Captain Hugh Clapperton, who began the long presence of British interest in the area. (18) Although it is not the only religion practised in northern Nigeria, Islam, in the core areas it is practised, such as Kano where Kamal’s novel is set, does have a profound grip on life. As Rose C. Uzoma notes, “Islam, as practiced in northern Nigeria, does not reflect a demarcation between the social, political, and religious lives of the people. In fact, for followers of Islam in northern Nigeria, Islam is a total way of life” (654). This zone of Islam-rooted culture and tradition is explored in the novel as shaping, even framing Umar-Faruk’s eco-activism from conception to realisation. Kamal’s deployment of religion and culture as a context in this novel, it is important to note, is ambivalent in the sense that its consequences are negative and positive at the same time. On the one hand, the young, radical, westernised Umar-Faruk tends to dismiss moral and ethical issues tied to religion and culture, especially as they disrupt his ambition; on the other hand, he has had to rely on religion and culture (aspects he considers progressive and fruitful) to achieve his goal as an ecoactivist. It is this negotiation, a way of creating balance between the pressures of ethno-culturality and the pressing duty to save the forest, which crystallises the novel’s orchestration of diference from which postcolonial ecocriticism can benefit. Stylistically, therefore, the prose is endowed with diction that oscillates between cultural-religious meaning investment and ecological meaning investment so that there is a creation of a discourse that blends the local life of the communities and the ecological life of the woodland. Kamal’s textual rendition of the meeting point between socio-cultural pressures and eco-activism and the eventual triumph of the protagonist in achieving his goal as an activist within the religious and cultural atmosphere of northwestern Nigeria exemplify the force of literature in creating mobility within a culture. Herein is located its ecological force within literature as a means of cultural mobility. This force, according to Zapf, is not located within “thematic orientation or content but [it is in fact] the aesthetic processes staged in imaginative texts [. . .] within the larger system of cultural discourses” (4). This

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process is possible because writers, as Stephen Greenblatt says, are “marvellous improvisers” (14) who, besides their ability to improvise realities with imaginative language, also improvise ways through which cultural boundaries can be collapsed. This implies that a writer is necessarily (either by biological or social means) tied to a society, to a culture, from which she writes. Greenblatt argues that such a culture embodies the possibilities of what he calls “constraint” and “mobility” (14). That is to say, within the culture, there are possibilities to either remain constrained by its forces or transcend such constraining forces and create a paradigm shift. As improvisers, writers resist cultural stasis and push for change and mobility, and they do so because they are skilled enough to “take symbolic materials from one zone of the culture and move them to another, augmenting their emotional force, altering their significance, linking them with other materials taken from a different zone, changing their place in the larger social design” (Greenblatt 15). In this premise, writers can produce creative works that can assume and achieve the role of counter-discourse aimed at changing perceptions within a culture. To tie this to Zapf ’s ecological force is to ecologise the cultural mobility in that the agential force of writing, as in the case of Fire in My Backyard, rests in the book’s aesthetic vision of bringing about an ecological change in a society where people appear content with their entrenched anti-ecological ways of living. Kamal infuses an ecological force in his narrative in order to change the way in which the Hausa people regard their woodlands. The cultural form he uses, in this case the novel, is “a source of constant creative renewal of language, perception, imagination, and communication” (italics in the original, Zapf 28), on the one hand. On the other, it undertakes a “civilizational critique” (Zapf 4) by shifting focus from an anthropocentric view to one that embraces a sustainable nature-culture relationship. The analysis of the novel shows, among others, how Kamal as a novelist writes within the Hausa-Islamic culture of northern Nigeria to create a locally informed eco-activism that transcends the constraining forces of the culture. I, therefore, argue that by writing this novel, Kamal is, like the protagonist of his novel, engaged in ecological activism, acting as a discourse and cultural protagonist, his intentionality being to alter the perception of his Hausa people about their forests and agricultural potentials. The novel achieves its ecological force in the context of Umar-Faruk being an eco-activist and in that of Kamal seeking mobility towards a more ecologically conscious society. Fire in My Backyard is an environmentally self-conscious narrative, by which I mean a story with a programmatic aim of seeking justice for the natural environment. Its stylistic choices constitute a strategic ecological force in this regard. It is informed by substantial research in woodland ecology, the effects of which permeate the narrative with its dazzling, if somewhat redundant, display of scientific knowledge, such as the use of botanical names of trees. The superimposition of the Rumbu woodland on the plotlines, particularly the social relations between the people and the forest, and the humanising effect of these relations are also noteworthy. To further establish its stylistic credentials as a

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novel of eco-activism, it consciously alludes to, among others, “imaginary Ben Gunn” (one of the characters in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island) and “latter-day Thoreau” (the naturalist Henry David Thoreau) and to “the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island nuclear melt-downs” (93), two nuclear disasters in the former Soviet Union and the United States, respectively, that attracted global attention. While Umar-Faruk has a different story as an activist, and the “catastrophe of the greatest proportions” (6) he confronts in his society is different from the ones alluded to, the novel consistently makes the point that the global dimension or the interconnectedness of cases across the world should not be undermined. With this stance, the novel inserts itself into the highway of western environmentalism, while dramatising the struggle at the local level to save the woodland of the Hausa society. Although, in line with my theoretical design, the novel couples the fates of humans and nonhumans, insisting on the possibilities of redeeming society (with its full recognition of biodiversity), its emphasis on the economic victimisation of the natural environment is telling. The novel is strongly radical in the way it privileges the rescuing of nature, the environment, and the ecosystems from the consumerist capital hinged on large-scale commercial logging in a society whose modernising goals rest on material accumulation. One of the ways of foregrounding its radicalism is the dramatisation of fatherand-son tension symptomatic of what the novel calls culturalism – the undue pressures that tradition puts on individuals as they dream of satisfying their scientific curiosity. The tension between modernity (represented by Umar-Faruk) and religion-tradition (represented by his father) is staged here. Umar-Faruk, influenced by his non-conformist older brother Sadiq, a mechanical engineer, takes a bold stand against his father, Alhaji Adam, something not usually tolerated in the Hausa-Islamic society, generally interpreted as western education turning children wayward. Sadiq, trained in the Soviet Union, totally rejects his people’s folkways, insisting on western habits and lifestyle. He hates to pray, wears dreadlocks, wears jeans and shirts, drinks alcohol, keeps girlfriends (instead of marrying), and goes to the cinema; these are considered intolerable ways in his Hausa-Islam culture. The novel parallels these with normative Hausa-Islamic habits, which include praying five times a day, paying respect to elders, abhorring alcoholic drinks, being betrothed to a girl till marriage, and so on. His father disowns him and puts his hope on Umar-Faruk as the next heir. But Umar-Faruk, much younger than Sadiq, considers his older brother an inspiration because of his “work ethic” (8) and “clock-work efficiency” (8). Sadiq is liberal, free-minded, successful, and supportive. Umar-Faruk easily moves in to live with Sadiq because in the latter’s house, he is not woken up at dawn every day to pray; he is not stopped from going to the cinema. In short, he has a great deal of freedom. Sadiq gets Umar-Faruk on course with the following advice: “You can rehabilitate the environment and succeed at it just as I have succeeded in my line of work – by disregarding what is disposable, what is harmful, of traditional Hausa culture” (8). Although the aim is to create a balance between the western and traditional cultures, there is something of

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westernism especially with Sadiq’s lifestyle and Umar-Faruk’s education, which all blend with the novel’s strict adherence to Standard English language expressions, even in the dialogues of uneducated characters. Stylistically troubling as the westernism of the novel is, it gives the impression that western education remains the right instrument with which to pursue eco-activism. The degree in grassland ecology is symbolic of this notion in that it is what motivates Umar-Faruk to start saving the trees. It is a bold step for Umar-Faruk to set as his first mission in life the destruction of his father’s large-scale, wood-logging business. Money was taken from this business to give him an education. Umar-Faruk is not at all disturbed that he is destroying what has made him what he is or what needs to supply resources to raise his younger siblings. He does not care that his father already looks upon him as the heir, “the son on whom he placed his hope, to participate in the family’s tree-felling and fire-wood selling business” (8). Umar-Faruk is rather emboldened by a powerful conscience shaped by his conviction that, more than humans, the trees in the forest from which the wood fuel is made are in dire need of emancipation. In the early part of the novel, his opinion of his family, of whom he is growing loathsome, is “they were burners of scarce woodland resources; [. . .] they were aiding the advancement of the Sahara Desert, enjoying, in the meantime, the comfort of the ignorance of the catastrophe” (7). He takes it upon himself to confront his family as a way of preventing the catastrophe he envisages as the aftermath of rampant depletion of the woodland. He takes a number of tactical actions to disrupt his father’s business. He sets ablaze a huge pile of firewood in the company. He confronts Sambo, the manager of the company, and stealthily makes away with Sambo’s “twenty-five million naira” (233). Illegally acquired from his own black market in the firewood business, “Sambo had hidden the untidy partially torn five hundred naira notes in a patched sack, folded it down a little and covered the top with the fodder” (206). The crudeness of Sambo saving such a huge amount in a sack (some of the notes have gone bad) is symptomatic of the culturality the novel confronts since Sambo’s reason for doing that is his lack of faith in modern banking. Because of his subversive actions, Umar-Faruk, in the end, is banned from coming to the house by his father. It is then clear from the outset that the novel is a story of woodland, the rescuing of trees from human destructive greed, but it is also a story of human beings in their cultural-religious domain. The two settings of the novel are the urban City of Kano and its suburban area called Rumbu. Kano is known as the most commercial centre of the north and is populated mainly by the Hausa and the Fulani who mostly practise the Islamic religion (Toyin Falola and Steven J. Salm). In setting the story in Kano, Kamal critiques two crucial features of the city and its inhabitants – namely, the strong influence of culture and religion on life, the intolerance of cultural and religious institutions, on one hand and, on the other, the impulse of capitalism, the inordinate commercialisation of human existence, that drives and feeds human greed. At first, these two appear to contradict each other, as a culturally and religiously conservative society is

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perhaps expected to be less receptive to the kind of commercialism that comes with modernity. Alhaji Adam, for instance, insists that his children, indeed all members of his family, must be seen to be dutifully practising Islam, to embody the totality of the Hausa culture. They must attend Islamic school, pray five times a day, squat before elders with respect, get married at the right age, appear in prescribed wears, etc. He bans his son Sadiq from entering his house for not adhering to the tenets of Islam and the codes of Hausa culture. And yet Alhaji Adam is a multi-millionaire businessman with a big wood fuel outfit and his vision set not only on commercial modernity but also on the pleasure and comfort that it brings. He is agreeable to consumerism “in the way he kept the family well-clothed and fed, in the way, by bowing to fashion, he incurred the expenses to provide all the electrical gadgetry his family needed to amuse themselves” (157). Here is a man culturally and religiously opposed to the kind of freedom western education brings and yet takes pleasure in modern amenities enabled by that form of education. The hypocrisy of this character undercuts its religiosity, as it comes to represent the double nature of people who instrumentalise religion and the natural world. The commercial exuberance of Kano, which the novel dwells on as the causal factor for deforestation, has a long history. Writing about Nigerian urban centres in the eighteenth century, Ayodeji Olukoju points out that [p]re-industrial urbanization in Northern Nigeria was influenced by the political and commercial developments of the West and Central Sudan. [. . .] To be sure, external trade was complemented by the domestic economy based on peasant farming, pastoralism and craft. (16) Kano is, therefore, usually referred to as one of the ancient commercial cities in Nigeria, hugely populated with over three-and-half million inhabitants (www.population.city).9 The contradictions of postcolonial urban cities, such as Kano, remain a focal point in this novel. One of such glaring contradictions, as it directly afects woodland and deforestation, is that [the] infamous wood-energy trade itself was becoming modernised: donkeys had been replaced with carts; wholesalers of firewood offered interest-free credit to the retailers of the fodder. Modernisation [in Kano, in northern Nigeria] was perpetuating the use of wood fuel, rather than discouraging it. (212) Modernisation and its prevalent form of commercialism in the society ought to have empowered the people to acquire gas or kerosene (a more modern way of making domestic fire). But that is not the case, as demand for wood energy increases with the rise of commerce and population, emphasising the backlash of modernity in postcolonial society. Garth Myers foregrounds such

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postcolonial contradictions to describe what he calls “the diverse and complex environments of cities on the continent” (1), pointing out how it difers from the western model. One of his crucial arguments, which supports the notion of diference, is that in analysing African cities, focus on “political, economic, and cultural dynamics” (7) should complement focus on “biophysical processes” (6). This is because “African conceptions of the environment often did not make a distinct break between nature and society” (7). In other words, the biophysical processes or physical shape of the city, as we see in Kano City, is profoundly influenced by human political, economic, and cultural interactions. The novel expresses worry over the undue pressures that such interactions put on the urban city. People massively move to the urban centre without necessarily having any useful things to do, and such movement, as the novel depicts, has ecological consequences. Umar-Faruk’s theory is that as the urban population explodes, resources and means of livelihood get scarcer, “forcing families subsisting on poor wages to fall back on woodland resources as a cheap means of defraying the cost of city living” (212–213). The contradiction the novel foregrounds is the condition of living in a city and yet being unable to aford the minimum comfort of the city. Most of the people in the City of Kano, in Umar-Faruk’s thinking, should be in rural towns like Rumbu, farming and contributing positively to the nation’s economy rather than being in the city as burdens to the economy. Umar-Faruk believes that his project, dubbed the Rumbu Project, will bring back “[i]dle farm-hands deserting their villages,” rehabilitate the “few farmers who remain behind [. . .] [to] fell trees and sell the wood as fuel,” and provide the “urbanites [. . .] with safer alternatives to fuelwood” (175). Urban-rural relations become a crucial thematic through which Kamal advocates for a population management that is healthy for an ecological balance. To rescue the ecosystem from further destruction and human will from undue cultural constrictions, therefore, becomes the force that drives the actions of the protagonist Umar-Faruk, who embarks on what he calls the “rehabilitation” (a word used throughout the novel) of the woodland and of the people he gets entangled with in the course of his job. At the beginning of the novel, we see the protagonist taking his first trip for the Rumbu Project. He is aware that the Rumbu forest, the only viable one within the state, is the woodland that feeds his father’s and other people’s logging and wood energy businesses. This trip is to acquaint himself with Rumbu as a community and the woodland. First, the people of Rumbu view him as improperly dressed (wearing a pair of jeans and shirt) and disrespectful, lacking the manners to stand up and offer greetings with at least an inclination of the head [. . .], an uncultured upstart putting on airs possibly for having a degree certificate [. . .], a temporary resident whom one should tolerate his quirkiness with the hope that his brief stay in Rumbu would afford him of the opportunity to learn to behave like all gentle persons do. (10)

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Second, they wonder that his project about “saving trees” (14) is bogus and meaningless and only listen to him when he tactically shifts his focus to the strategies of producing more farm produce and more grains, which his listeners, mostly farmers, are more interested in. They cannot tolerate anyone advising them to stop selling the trees on their farmlands to loggers, but they welcome any advice that will help them produce grains in commercial quantities. It might be useful to, at this point, unveil the semantics of the word “Rumbu”; it is a Hausa word that stands for silo or grain storage, and the Hausa are known traditionally for farming maize, millet, and guinea corn. That nearly all the people in Rumbu are farmers, and that it has a rich woodland, constitutes a fictional construction to project the great resourcefulness of a society that destroys itself through the undue commodification of its resources. Most of them farm more grains to sell, fell more trees to sell, driven by capitalism. Umar-Faruk’s project is, therefore, aimed at saving them from themselves. He is undeterred by the cultural-religious difculties that confront him in Rumbu. He is, in fact, more emboldened, having resolved that “for his pet ecological project to succeed, he needed to subscribe to some pardonable aspects of the culture of rural Hausa life” (16). Indeed, this wisdom – to bring himself to succumb to tradition in order to fight it – will remain crucial to the construction of activism in the novel. It forms the crux of Kamal’s improvisation to undercut the cultural forces that appear to constitute a barrier to any form of progressive thinking and action. Three people Umar-Faruk meets at Rumbu – namely, Jarmai (introduced to him as the Rumbu youth leader to be his host in Rumbu); Tala, alias Dela (whom Jarmai introduces as his girlfriend); and Kumbo (a local male transvestite food seller) – become instrumental to the realisation of the rehabilitation of human will in the novel. Perhaps more important is the role they play in Umar-Faruk’s formulation of a dual (ecology-and-human) focus strategy in undertaking his Rumbu ecological project. His coming to know their lives and the intertwinement of his ecological goals with their social-emotional goals in life further forms a parallelism that underscores the notion that it may not be possible to foreground the fate of ecology without bringing to bear the fate of human beings. The highly self-important and ostentatious Jarmai, soon after knowing Umar-Faruk (the citified youth gaining popularity in the community), abandons his girlfriend, Tala, suggesting that Umar-Faruk can take over as her boyfriend. This suggestion sounds strange to Umar-Faruk, especially as he has not at any point indicated interest in the girl. In fact, the relationship between Jarmai and Tala is rooted in Hausa culture (and Umar-Faruk does not accept this), whereby Jarmai showers gifts on Tala’s grandmother, with whom she is growing up, in order to win her love. Jarmai explains, “When you want to marry a girl, custom demands that you offer gifts to some of her senior family members [. . .] if you want to get her in the end” (65). At this point, the ecology activist, in a move to avoid distractions, decides to dissociate himself from Jarmai and shifts his base to the forest to live among the loggers. This strategic move is also in furtherance of his tactics that to properly

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confront the practice of logging and woodland depletion, he needs to live among the loggers to study the effects of their activities on the woodland. He takes a menial job with them as a strategy of getting inside, although some of them are suspicious that he is far too polished for their kind of work and that he is up to something mischievous. The appearance of Tala (who now wishes to be known as Dela) in the forest as a salesgirl for Kumbo after rebelling against her parents for wanting her to marry a man she does not love will change the course of interactions for Umar-Faruk. Now free from parental care and cultural restrictions, working for Kumbo (the rather celebrated deviant who dresses, acts, and owns an eatery like a woman), Dela attempts to live a free life in which she can now choose the male she wants to visit, to associate with, to love. She emotionally gravitates towards Umar-Faruk and, at this point, the reader, like the protagonist, gets to understand why Jarmai had earlier suggested to Umar-Faruk to take her as a girlfriend. Meanwhile, watching Dela’s special liking for Umar-Faruk, her boss Kumbo attempts to use her as bait to get Umar-Faruk, whom he has all along admired, suggesting Kumbo’s homosexual orientation. Indeed, the general feeling among the loggers in the forest is that he sexually exploits the young men and young women working for him, just as he exploits the trees in the forest. The pressure from Kumbo angers Dela, who eventually tells Umar-Faruk what is going on as well as confesses her love for him. In the web of this emotional chaos, Jarmai appears in the forest, having been declared a wanted criminal in Rumbu. He wants Dela back, but she has never accepted him, and seeing how close she is to Umar-Faruk, Jarmai reaches the conclusion that all the while she has been rejecting him because of the refined Umar-Faruk. Jarmai threatens to deal with Dela and Umar-Faruk unless Dela falls in love with him. Dela, egged on by Umar-Faruk, directs Kumbo’s attention to Jarmai as a way of freeing Umar-Faruk from her boss’s desire. Jarmai yields to Kumbo’s desire because he thinks it might be an easy way of getting Dela, who works for Kumbo. In the end, Jarmai is used by Kumbo but fails to win Dela. As a result, he becomes enraged and vows to kill Umar-Faruk. About Kumbo, he boasts, “I will deal with the pervert [Kumbo]; he took me for a pervert like him; I will show him, perversion-wise, that I am more perverted than him!” (135). At this point, Umar-Faruk sees the possibility to accomplish the rehabilitation of the trio of Dela, Jarmai, and Kumbo, a task he must undertake if he wants to succeed in rescuing the woodland. Apart from the fact that his Rumbu Project is getting severely constrained by Dela’s emotional dependence on him and Jarmai’s threat to his life, he has also come to realise the strain that Kumbo’s cooking business puts on the woodland. In a talk about “trees and their wood burning potential” (210) with Dela, Umar-Faruk gathers the information that the gawo (Acacia albida), the marke (Anogeisssus leiocarpus), the kadanya (Butrospernum paradoxum), the tsaminya (Tamrindus indica), the kirya (Prosopis

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Africana) [. . .] were Kumbo’s favourites. They were trees which emitted intense heat, [and] were the most favourable for heavy cooking, which the man in drag assumed to be ‘the marker’ for delicious cuisine. They were convenient for a cook who was in no hurry, who willingly chose these energy-fuel tree-species for being slow burners, who thought their slowness and his premeditated effeminacy were complementary. (Italics in the original, 210–211) Kumbo is, therefore, one of the classic antagonists in this novel, who is not only a distraction to Umar-Faruk but also a threat to the woodland. His exploitation of the biophysical structure is linked to his exploitation of Dela and other young girls and boys working for him, in terms of sexuality and cheap labour. Here the novel achieves another parallel between the exploitation of the natural world and that of the human world. This framing propels the ecology activist to scheme the fall of the local food seller. Kumbo’s fall, in this plan, is to be immediately followed by the installation of Dela as the new food seller, thereby liberating her from Kumbo’s grip. A strand of this plan, in Umar-Faruk’s thinking, is to see the possibility of the liberated Dela agreeing to marry Kumbo or Jarmai thereby putting an end to the love triangle that threatens his (UmarFaruk’s) life and work. Yet this plan implicates Umar-Faruk in the perpetuation of the ethno-cultural pressures he confronts since he dislikes Kumbo’s deviant sexuality and will ensure that he fights it. He wants heteronormativity, traditional to the Hausa culture, restored. This ambivalence in Umar-Faruk’s characterisation is stressed throughout the novel and gets resolved in the interdependence of modernity and traditionalism mediated by the ecological force of the novel, which essentially foregrounds what Zapf calls “connectivity and diversity, relationality and diference” (82). In the end, Umar-Faruk becomes a figural meeting point of modernity and traditionalism. To reinforce the ecological dimension of this narrative, we see Umar-Faruk using a product of the woodland as an instrument to rehabilitate the people. This instrument is a poison prepared from “the leaves of Ficus thonningi” (224). Here, as in other places, the novel shows the agency of the trees: the capacity of the trees, harnessed by the protagonist, to deal with their human enemies. The trees are invited by Umar-Faruk into a co-agency framework for the demolition of cultural-religious practices. During a periodic party when all loggers in the forest drink, smoke, womanise, and eat Kumbo’s free food, Umar-Faruk drops the concoction “with enough ‘strength’ to upset ‘the strongest stomach’” (224) in the food served on a big tray from which everyone eats. Umar-Faruk [. . .] was the first to throw up [. . .] and was soon joined by others who, in their fear of poison, aimed wide of the mark, and in consequence proceeded to spatter one another with the utterly smelly, regurgitated gourmet meal of the day. (224)

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Umar-Faruk attacks Kumbo for wanting to kill him and the other loggers. An alarmed Kumbo, in defending himself, reveals that [the] Village Head Rumbu, and his retainer Inde and Sambo [who works for Umar-Faruk’s father], whom you know, are the ones after your blood. In fact, they came here yesterday asking about you, but I chose to remain on the right side of the law. (224–225) This revelation is confirmed later on when the inhabitants of the forest learn that Jarmai (who now has dreadlocks) has been assassinated by unknown men. They have apparently taken Jarmai for Umar-Faruk, who has grown dreadlocks since the beginning of his Rumbu Project. By now the reader of Fire in My Backyard knows why Sambo, the man who manages Umar-Faruk’s father’s wood-fuel business, wants to kill the environmental activist. The ambitious and zealous activist is aware, as the novel dramatises, that his life will eventually be in danger, and yet this awareness ironically propels him towards accomplishing his goals. The novel’s ideological construct is such that the activist is fully developed in the dynamics of increasing self-conviction and utmost sacrifice. We see Umar-Faruk progress from having a dream to developing a pragmatic programme and to undertaking decisive actions that lead to a victorious outcome. Besides undertaking research and writing articles on the woodland, he believes in taking real radically subversive actions to alter the situation. He straddles the symbolic realm (textuality) and the real world, both harnessed to create cultural mobility in the Hausa society. The plan to kill him is only an extension of a larger system of annihilating the woodland, as he says to the loggers at the party scene: [S]o you [Rumbu, Kumbo and Sambo] all have the motive to kill me, to see me dead so that you can continue with your evil deeds to the detriment of the Planet Earth, and to the detriment of all the population of women and men. (226) This linguistic blend of the human and nonhuman fates, of the pluralisation of socio-ecological vision captured in a single sentence as in the aforementioned, permeates the narrative in such a way that one may wonder if the novel is about trees, about the earth, about humans (men and women), or about itself as an ecological force. It is, of course, about all of these things, which are the possibilities that the latitude of the novelistic form can provide. In spite of the elaborate plot of love and sexuality, Fire in My Backyard is, in my view, not a story of human desire but a dialogic and multi-focal narrative that shows how things can be connected, from the social to the ecological. It does seem that human desire is thematised in this novel to the extent that Kamal is interested in showing that human degenerate emotions can get

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in the way of ecological activism but also to demonstrate that eco-activism, especially in a postcolonial society, straddles between biophysical sphere and socio-cultural sphere. The novel’s ecological project is precise, even from a cursory reading; Kamal has injected a lot of research in woodland science and culture into it. The narrative is copiously interspersed by Hausa names of trees, followed by their scientific names for the sake of non-Hausa readers. There are deliberate typology and functionality of the trees, especially in the Hausa society, giving the novel an instructional textbook style. Indeed the novel’s emphasis here, it seems, is to affirm the roots of environmental writing in the natural sciences and, in the same breath, show the nuanced humanity in the turn to environmental humanities. The convergence of the sciences and the humanities is, therefore, achieved in the way the science of woodland is placed side by side with the story of humans, who are mostly deviants, whose deviance pushes the boundary of the Hausa culture. To this effect, it is important to note that dreadlocks is used in this novel as a symbol of deviance, of resistance, and of the will to freedom. In the same manner, the novel stages Dela’s brazenness to walk about with uncovered hair [in a society where hair must be covered]. Such hair was signatory to her independence, her choice to defy her parents, her freedom to set out on her own in search of [. . .] her destiny. (117) However, leaving hair uncovered and wearing dreadlocks as a symbol of resistance is enabled by the space, uncontrolled by culture and religion, provided by the woodland – and this is to emphasise the agency of the woodland. The deviants, the transvestites, are given a form of security by the woodland, just as the criminals, such as Jarmai and the prostitutes patronised by the loggers. But the ironic twist, possible from the novel’s ambivalent structure, is that it is this safety that Umar-Faruk efectively exploits to fight the wood-logging business. The novel favours an interdependence between the humans and nonhumans as a positive direction. The point at which the broad parallelisms of the woodland’s life and human’s life meet is precisely here where Umar-Faruk has some sort of communion with the trees. For instance, his best moments are when he moves in the forest from tree to tree, with heightened empathy and identification, such as this: Two other kinds of trees, Balanites aegyptica (the aduwa) and Zizyphus spinachristi (the kurna) flitted past. These were trees that Umar-Faruk would like to see local soft-drink manufacturers make something of. Virrea donica (the dinya), for example, could be pressed to produce a blackcurrant-like drink, while Ficus polita (the durimi) must have some medicinal qualities, for being a bitter albeit edible fruit. (52)

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At this point, the characterisation of Umar-Faruk becomes grounded in the science of ecology so that the language achieves a further blend of UmarFaruk’s attributes and those of the trees. The bonding between the trees and the protagonist is part of a larger theme of interconnectedness developed in the novel. Beyond the interlinking of humans and nonhumans, elaborately depicted in the way the activist’s rehabilitation of the woodland is tied to his rehabilitation of people like Kumbo, Dela, Jarmai, and his own father, the novel stresses the interconnectedness of diferent species. For instance, the narrator talks of [a] pyramidal stack of cornstalk [being] common feature in all the farms; it was kept in place with a rope of the same material. [. . .] Many were stacked around young trees as a protection from the marauding sheep and goats, which went about foraging freely. [. . .] The ruminants were dwarfish, but very fecund, with the goats bearing up to four kids, and the ewes, twins. (91) In this ecology, the tree, the goat, and the corn are interconnected in the way they depend on one another. But the general fecundity of the forest and the interconnectedness of both human and nonhuman lives get constantly depleted by deliberate anti-ecological activities against which Umar-Faruk targets his Rumbu Project. The seasonal burning of the forest, targeted at the trees, is an act that nearly moves the activist to tears. In lengthy details, interspersed with scientific terminology, the narrator describes the devastating effects of burning on the woodland. It does not only affect the giant trees “singed,” “damaged along the lower reaches,” with “leaves now half-and-half ”; it also causes “the loss of soil nutrients, the hardening and compaction of the soil, [and] the escalation of the temperature,” and eventually disrupts the interconnected lives in the woodland as “birds had taken to the wing, spurning [. . .] the sky above the conflagration” (106). The use of fire here and in the scene where Umar-Faruk burns his father’s woodfuel factory is linked to eco-destruction that resonates in the title of the novel: Fire in My Backyard. Fire being in the backyard is a metaphorical way of saying that eco-catastrophe has reached the domain of humanity – a catastrophe caused by the irresponsibility of man. Besides burning, there is also the use of the chemical “strophanthin” to instantly kill and cut the trees. “The toxin was so destructively efficient that [. . .] [it] had taken a much shorter time, than the usual week, to dehydrate the tree completely before the roguish loggers began to hack at it” (213). This is the method Rumbu, the eponymous village head, resorts to when he badly needs money. In his strategic position as the village head of Rumbu, he organises the woodland of his community to feed the growing commercialism of the City of Kano because of the money he makes. In seeking to reshape the understanding of woodland in Hausaland where wood fuel is common, the novel comes through as a narrative of triumph. In

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point of fact, the spirit of triumph Umar-Faruk displays at the point of conceiving his ecological project is sustained throughout the novel thereby giving his activism the deserved intensity. The result of his relentless activism, which sometimes manifests in questionable tactics (such as his burning of his father’s huge heap of firewood and the poisoning of the food Kumbo prepares for his guests), is that in the end he rehabilitates Kumbo and Dela, as the incident at the party forces the former to give up cooking and his transvestite lifestyle, in which case the latter takes the role of a cook and ends up marrying her former boss. The activist also rehabilitates his father and elder brother. He returns to his father the 25 million naira he took from Sambo, confesses to taking other subversive actions, and persuades the old man to give up the wood-fuel business. Alhaji Adam sees his son’s sincerity of purpose in returning the money and listens to his proposal for saving trees. But more importantly, seeing his wayward eldest son, Sadiq, returning to him as a prodigal son at the insistence of the activist, Alhaji Adam agrees to not only give up the wood-fuel business but also to support his son by funding the first phase of the Rumbu Project. Sadiq, who has increasingly succumbed to drunkenness and womanising, is persuaded by Umar-Faruk to give up his lifestyle and bring his technical knowledge to the Rumbu Project. In the design of the novel, rehabilitating the aforementioned humans is also the process of rehabilitating the woodland. It is, in fact, the beginning of the success of the Rumbu Project, besides the scientific papers the activist has already published and the awareness he has created. This illustrates the notion that environmental activism in postcolonial society envisages a just eco-conscious society where the destiny of the nonhuman beings and that of human beings are tied together. It is also the point of resolution where modernity and trado-religion reach a meeting point. Umar-Faruk’s initial arrogance and extreme anti-culture, antireligion stance (“I bow to no man” (27)) gives way to a liberal understanding based on a multi-perspectival approach, at least for the sake of eco-activism, that sees him considering the positions of his family, of the Rumbu farmers, of Kumbo, and of the wood loggers. While agreeing to stop the wood-fuel business and fund his son’s Rumbu project, Alhaji Adam presents his conditions, which are part of the baggage of culture and religion: Sadiq “must get married” and “must drop in here everyday [sic] to see how we [his parents] fare” (236). Umar-Faruk must also get married (236). During the reunion of him and his estranged son, an adult in his midlife, Alhaji Adam asks for a pair of scissors with which he “ceremoniously cut off all the engineer’s dread-locks, before saying, ‘Go into that bathroom and wash off the sweats of adultery and alcoholism’” (235). Cutting the dreadlocks (Umar-Faruk has to cut his too), which symbolises freedom, implies that total freedom is not fully achieved. Or that it is a process since, very likely, the two radical brothers may, after getting what they want from their father, return to wearing dreadlocks because it clearly seems they are incapable of being totally submissive to their culture and religion. What is not in doubt is that Umar-Faruk has succeeded in starting the process of changing his society’s perception about woodland. His ultimate

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goal “would be for the rustic to graduate and become [.  .  .] a ‘globalite’ – someone who adhered to the current thinking of environmentalism, and made a sustainable use of our common heritage in favour of the endangered Planet Earth” (101). Eco-activism, anchored on modernity, gains acceptance in the traditional, agrarian Hausa culture. The woodland, suppose we see it as a character from the foregoing analysis, becomes the winner as it is liberated from the destructiveness of capitalism.

Wake Up Everyone: climate change revolution Wake Up Everyone is a dramatic work that, as the tone of command in the title indicates, urgently seeks to draw its audience’s attention to the catastrophe of climate change. The situation is such that everyone has to take action now. In the presentation of characters, in the dialogues, in the diction, in short the literary style, there is something of urgency that demands that humans who, in the framing of the drama, are responsible for the intensification of the effects of climate change to have an immediate change of mind and save themselves and the environment or face extinction. This is the drama’s location of irony, one sustained throughout. If humans are the problem, they are also the solution. This irony informs characterisation in the drama whereby there is a group of persons conspicuously on the side of ecological justice, and there is another group against it. As with such textualisation of environmental activism, there is someone who is, more than others, consciously alert, who takes the lead to educate, mobilise, and lead the people to confront the crisis. In the case of this drama, the person is a highly learned intellectual, a retired professor of agriculture and a dramatist, an idea that deepens the drama’s faith in education as an antidote to the kind of ignorance at the base of the climate crisis in Nigeria. It also suggests that eco-activism, especially in a country like Nigeria, ought to be spearheaded by highly educated and enlightened people. This contrasts, and is meant to correct, the reality of unenlightened, greedy people who claim to fight for the environment.10 Set in south-east Nigeria, centred on the crisis of flooding and erosion, the drama, like Aliyu Kamal’s Fire in My Backyard, is sensitive to the prevalent ecological crisis of a region from where the author hails.11 I am interested in showing, through this reading, that one of the ways to confront ecological crisis in Nigeria through activism is to involve the locals, the ordinary people, by way of education and mobilisation, by way of getting involved at the local level. Unlike Fire in My Backyard, where an individual, equipped with western education, confronts the crisis with a personal project, Wake Up Everyone favours the communal approach, although the communality is anchored on the wisdom and pragmatism of one person. The point the drama consistently makes, as I hope to show, is that everyone is an activist, or capable of being one, if enlightened and given a direction. Further, bucolic communities, as we will also see in Oil Cemetery, can fight for themselves, if sufficiently informed, if supported. It is in this light that we see the writing and production of Wake

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Up Everyone as a kind of enlightenment process, a way of providing direction for the people to confront their local ecological crisis. To that end, Greg Mbajiorgu is, like his protagonist Professor Aladinma, in the process of creating awareness and mobilising towards eco-activism. If, as Axel Goodbody says, “the most significant writers are likely to be those who have been most successful in redirecting the processes of modernisation by informing, warning and mobilising their readers” (93), then we can consider Mbajiorgu one. His deliberate effort, the research to scaffold it, is laid out in his preface, hinged on the notion of the theatre as an avenue for communication and dissemination of ideas. He calls his strategy “an experimental dramatic approach,” and he goes on to conclude that “[my] unconventional approach to dramaturgy has also afforded me the opportunity of giving some crucial climate change issues the depth of public articulation conventional dramatists can hardly give to such issues” (7). While it is hard to see any experimentation other than the drama being perhaps the first to explicitly thematise climate change, linking global theories of it to the practical realities in a locality, the deliberate use of the dramatic technique to educate the locals is something noteworthy. Also, the diction of the drama, as in Kamal’s novel, achieves a blend of the cultural meaning and ecological meaning. In fact, it goes beyond that as it locates its stylistics in traditionalism by way of deploying local lore, such as proverbs and songs. Also noteworthy is the fact that Mbajiorgu works within the established protest (explicitly Marxist) tradition of Nigerian drama, an aesthetic terrain already forged by dramatists, such as Femi Osofisan, Tess Onwueme, Bode Sowande, and Tunde Fatunde. In his study of the Nigerian drama, Olu Obafemi is of the view that the works of the aforementioned dramatists [deal], urgently, with contemporary social problems in Nigeria with the aim of raising mass awareness of a positive revolutionary alternative to the present decadence. [. . .] These playwrights [. . .] advocate social revolution as the only way out of the country’s present social incoherence. (168) To insert Mbajiorgu into this tradition, even though the drama lacks a Marxist lexicon, is to see him as advocating for a socio-ecological revolutionary change, what indeed the ultimate goal of his drama appears to be. One of the weaknesses some may see in the play is its panoramic view of climate change – the result of its ultimate aim of communicating. It attempts to capture in the dialogues almost all the possible things that Nigeria may experience under climate change. Issues that are not focal to the thematic thrust of the play, such as the creation of alternative energy, are, therefore, forced into the discourse. And in its attempt to insert itself into the global discourse of climate change, it appears to unnecessarily touch on achievements of other societies in terms of climate change without laying out the specificities of its setting. For instance, the professor, perhaps in a display of knowledge, refers

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copiously to incidents in other places, from ancient Greece to contemporary places in Africa. In its thematisation, there is something of preachment, something overly instructional, which may make a reader even question its didacticism. The play, according to the author, was initially commissioned and staged at the 2009 conference of the African Technology Policy Studies in Nairobi, Kenya (7). From that point, it has been performed in other locations in Nigeria, notably the federal capital territory of Nigeria, Abuja, at the very luxurious Nicon Luxury Hotel, by the author’s own “Climate Change theatrical experiment” group (9), also in 2009. It is possible that the Abuja performance had the audience of top officials and policymakers from the Nigerian federal government. The point here, which one can glean from the front matters and blurbs of the play, is that the play is tailored towards teaching or raising the consciousness of people on how to behave in a rapidly changing climate, in addition to drawing the attention of governments to the role they have to play to save the environments. Indeed, Mbajiorgu is utterly convinced that drama and theatre remain one of the best ways to disseminate information about climate change, and that is why, through what he terms climate change theatrical experiment, he has written this work of drama. He realised early in his endeavour that writing about climate change would involve research since this is about breaking down to understandable elements the complex issues in geology and other biophysical sciences. In his epistemological insertion of the ideas in Wake Up Everyone, one can appreciate his zeal to promote climate change education through drama and theatre. One can indeed see the aesthetic impulse and the elaborate dramaturgy in the play and in the play within the play, deployed to domesticate the global issues of climate change of Ndoliland, south-east Nigeria. Or, to put it in another way, the drama exemplifies the notion that “[i]ndigenous peoples are likely to suffer disproportionately from climate change because marginalized populations are often among the most heavily affected but have the fewest resources to respond to rapid environmental change” (Carey, Lynn and Hatfield 98). Indeed, resource problems and the political corruption that cause them are fully thematised in the drama. The indigenous context of the play is, therefore, holistic in the sense that it not only captures the plight of the locals but also the kind of local politics that cause the people and their environments to suffer. Although the play continuously uses the expression “climate change” as if to register its identity in the consciousness of its audience, the subject of the play is flooding, one of the risks associated with climate change. In the small town of Ndoli, a local government headquarters, a flood is likely to occur because of the unusual quantity of rainfall. This risk is first noticed by the retired professor of agriculture and a consummate dramatist, Aladinma, who is not only highly knowledgeable about climate change but also uses his dramatic and theatrical work to enlighten the ordinary people in the town about the consequences of the changing climate. Mbajiorgu frames the professor as the protagonist in the design of the intellectual-activist popularised in African literature. We see this kind of activist in Tanure Ojaide’s The Activist, a novel of eco-activism

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set in the Niger Delta region. The Activist, as he is simply addressed, takes a practical step out of the zone of intellectual abstraction, develops a resistant and insurrectional base, and launches himself into the political space to bring about the change that politicians have failed to bring. The revolutionary grid of the Activist is certainly more violent than that of Wake Up Everyone. “In The Activist,” Cajetan Iheka writes, “the efforts of local people to protect the ecosystem takes the forms of kidnapping by the Egba boys, oil bunkering by the Activist and Pere, [. . .] student protests” (Naturalizing Africa 105). In the case of Wake Up Everyone, Professor Aladinma totally believes in the power of the theatre and uses it as an instrument to create awareness and raise the locals’ consciousness. Expectedly, the people get so enlightened and so alert to their condition that they have to end up with a protest as a move to change it, especially in the context of the arrogance and acts of corruption displayed by the local politicians. Professor Aladinma is a highly knowledgeable intellectual who does not denigrate his people, in spite of his upper-class status, but looks upon them with a sense of duty and engages himself in practical acts that will assist in lifting them up from their illiteracy, ignorance, and poverty. He offers free agriculture extension services to the locals. He runs a drama group that stages plays now and then to further enlighten the people. He engages the government by bringing to the attention of politicians and policymakers the consequences of climate change. But not everyone is persuaded by the professor’s engagements. Dimkpa, an arrogant character who antagonises the professor, complains, “My farmland is dry and barren, with nothing at all to justify all my efforts during the planning season” (26). However, Ugodiya, a member of the farmers’ cooperative society supported by the professor, responds to Dimkpa, stating how they have benefitted from the intellectual’s wealth of experience: You have nobody to blame but yourself [for not coming]. We had series of meetings with Prof. on what species of seed yam to plant, when to plant and how to plant in this difficulty time of change in climate. We were also introduced to different crop varieties and animal species suitable for our changing climate. (26) Dimkpa represents the sceptics who believe that the apocalyptic message about climate change is exaggerated and thinks the professor has nothing important to ofer them. In fact, they think climate change is the professor’s fictional creation, one of his ways of humouring himself with his experimental theatre group. Another sceptic, Anayo, voices this in a dialogue with Mazi Chinedum, a beneficiary of Professor Aladinma’s extension programme: Well, I was not at the meeting. Of course, why should I waste my time listening to that funny old man when I know that he is nothing but a clown who takes joy in fooling around in his studio with those lazy, goodfor-nothing fellows – the likes of Ekene and Nweke who could not find

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employment after graduating from the university. Was it not last month that he and his actors staged a play campaigning against the use of firewood for cooking. [. . .] Instead of attacking those Lumber Companies in big cities that indulge in massive commercial logging, damaging our natural forest reserves and sacred groves, Professor Aladinma is busy disturbing poor innocent villagers who fetch nothing but useless-dry-pieces of wood to cook their food. (65) The previous quotation throws up a number of issues about climate change scepticism. There is the convenient ignorance of the sceptics, not only about what climate change means but also about the profession of the climate change activist. In a society shaped by masculinity and patriarchy, such as Ndoli, theatre arts are not deemed to be a profession. The actors, some of whom are graduates of theatre arts, are regarded as clowns who “fool around” in the society because they lack what people see as a proper job. There is also the wrong notion that the poor, the so-called innocent villagers, do not harm the environments because their injury to the ecosystems is not of large commercial scale. Such scepticism, informed by wilful ignorance, refusal to learn about the climate, and shifting of blame, remains the context in which Wake Up Everyone constructs its socio-ecological force. That wood logging, a central issue in Aliyu’s Fire in My Backyard, features here indicates the multi-perspectival crisis of ecology in every region of Nigeria, even if a region is known for a particular risk. It also indicates, as mentioned earlier, the all-embracing strategy with which the play thematises climate change, a feature that this drama also shares with Aliyu’s novel. The texts, in a bid to create awareness, to inspire their audiences towards radical consciousness, develop an expansive instructional information base, deploying botanical names and functions (in the case of Fire in My Backyard) and thematic wideness, with its attendant problem of depth (in the case of Wake Up Everyone). By far, the most critical obstacle in the realisation of the struggle against climate change, as the drama frames it, is the system of corrupt and repressive governance. This point is often stressed in literary works that deal with ecological crisis in Nigeria, especially in the Niger Delta region.12 Ndoli is, in fact, presented as an oil producing community with the oil multinational giants contributing not only to eco-destruction but also to instituting a regime of corruption and repression. The inclusion of oil crisis, in the drama that is mainly about flooding, is one way the drama widens its thematic scope and inserts itself into the discourse of environmentalism of the poor in Nigeria. It is also one way of reshaping the narrative, which is almost always that the ecological problems of Nigeria are limited to hazards associated with oil explorations. It is troubling that for most average Nigerians, climate crises do not immediately translate as ecological problems. It is even more troubling that ecological problems of the Niger Delta region are often not framed as a discourse of climate change in literary writings. However, studies such as those by William Ehwarieme (1–10), Sunday Efe (43–60), and Fidelis Allen (85–95)

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have concentrated on the effects of climate change on the Niger Delta region, with oil exploration hazard being just a part of them, in some cases a trigger for them. Efe in his study concludes that “[c]limate accounted for 60% of flood hazards. Other factors include dumping of refuse in drains and drainage paths, inadequate storm drains, and building along waterways” (58). But the oil industry, as Ike Okonta and Oronto Douglas harps on in their book Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights, and Oil, remains the greatest antagonist of the peoples and the natural world of the Delta region. There is a sense in which the climate crisis of the region is largely hinged on oil exploration. “The Delta,” Nicholas Shaxson writes, “produces more greenhouse emissions than the rest of the sub-Saharan Africa combined, and more gas is flared here than anywhere else in the world” (194). The foil to Professor Aladinma in the drama is the oil industry-sponsored local government chairman the Hon. Edwin Ochonkeya. He is an ex-militant “at the verge of forming [his] own kidnapping gang when the massive oil spillage which almost damaged the entire agricultural land in Ndele village occurred” (20). His father is killed in the spillage. He sees an opportunity to make money in this. He hires “a fiery lawyer” (21) to confront the oil companies that eventually opt for settling the case out of court. In the end, he gets a compensation of 300 million naira. In addition, the wealthy oil companies “agreed to bankroll my political bid to be the Chairman of Ndoli Local Government Area, on the condition that I don’t make any further case on behalf of the other affected farmers” (21). While refusing to share the 300 million naira with the other affected farmers, he cashes in on their woes by persuading them and the villagers to vote for him so that he can stand with them to fight the oil companies. His is a case of benefitting from both sides of the divide – a reflection of how militancy, made up of violent gangsters in the Niger Delta and elsewhere oppress the ecology and the people while claiming to fight oil companies (see Egya 94–104). In this way of manipulating the locals and the foreign oil companies, of using ecological crises to create further eco-human crises, the militants see themselves as victorious and turn out to be the wealthiest people, especially in the Niger Delta. The case of Dokubo Asari and of Ateke Tom are worth mentioning here. Tracing their developments as militants, their use as political thugs and their rapacious moves, Shaxson writes of the clashes between the groups as they took to commodifying their capacities for violence: In the run-up to those elections [in 2003], Peter Odili, the wealthy and flamboyant governor of Rivers State and one of President Obasanjo’s strongest supporters, employed Asari to intimidate his opponents. Asari eventually split with Odili, and his men fought bloody battles with Niger Delta Vigilante, another militia led by the feared warlord Ateke Tom. (200) This, a least, captures the entanglement of the Niger Delta militants with politicians who use their powers to create more militants or support existing ones to achieve their aims. Shaxson reports that “[at] least 50 militia groups exist

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in the Delta” (200), thereby turning the region to a theatre of violence. In the end, the hapless locals, but more importantly the unrecognised nonhuman world, remain the victim of the violence. When Professor Aladinma sees the sign of a flood, he comes up with a plan and gets his colleagues at the university to assist in designing the feasibility and cost of building “a dyke that will fortify” (15) the river banks. Then he approaches the local government chairman. Mbajiorgu positions this scene as the first in the play to foreground the role of governments, at all levels, in providing protection for the environment. Constructions of projects that will save the environments and prevent ecological crises are capital intensive, and unless governments are strategically involved, these projects cannot be accomplished. And it is the failure of government, more than the scepticism of the poor locals, that Wake Up Everyone calls our attention to. With a rogue in power, as Hon. Edwin Ochonkeya’s pedigree shows, the government’s stance is a total discouragement. He claims to know nothing of ecological crises in his environment, which is a way to manipulate the situation as he is used to doing. He fights oil companies to make money from them because of ecological hazards, an indication that he knows of and in fact uses ecological hazards to his advantage. But because this involves his office spending funds – tax payers’ resources – in making the environment habitable for them, he will not be involved. He dismisses the construction of a dyke as “a white elephant project” (16) and will not approach the oil companies to put in money because it is not as important as sponsoring his political ambition. Pressured by the professor to do something about the impending flood, the chairman asks the professor to prepare a proposal, giving the impression that he will get the council to consider it. But in an aside, he reveals to us, “Stupid old man. Who does he think he is? I Edwin Ochonkeya, the Crocodile that guards Ndoli creeks, the unsterilized knife that cuts the thick balls of Oyibo, release money for such useless project? Nonsense. Nonsense!” (18). The chairman, in his statement here, as in other places, is presented as a stock character of Nigerian politicians, unwilling to spend public resources on projects that benefit the people and their environments, full of bombastic self-praise and egoistic aliases. His ultimate aim in the office is not to serve, as he claims during his campaign, but to accumulate wealth, and this is revealed in the next dialogue that follows, where he explains to Jango, an ex-militant friend of his, how he manipulates his people and the oil industries. The creation of Edwin Ochonkeya feeds into the Nigerian ecocritical discourse that the ecological crises of indigenous communities are directly linked to political failures and imperial capitalism. The real problem is not that individuals are not making efforts towards tackling the critical ecological problems that bedevil them. It is that those who ought to rise against such problems are impotent, as they lack the resources needed to start any form of fight at all (Slovic, Rangarajan, and Sarveswaran 5). In its bid to confront the conventional narrative that centres on the interest of humans, the play becomes deliberately verbose with disputations. The farmers appear to be interested in the questions of climate change only because

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of the yields of their farms, the results of their labour. Government and oil industry officials exploit the environments for their petrodollar interests. The strategy of using the arts, specifically the theatre art, to confront this narrative is one way of indigenising the climate change discourse. With drama, locally rooted, it is expected that the people can get to understand the intricacies of the scientific complexity that results in a changing climate. Using the people’s way of talking, way of living, way of acquiring resources becomes a crucial step in getting them to rethink their habit of harming their environments on which they depend for their means of livelihood. They are mainly farmers and fishermen, and although they are stuck to their anthropocentric and patriarchal ways of doing things, they can now see and experience that their farms are not yielding well, that their waters are barren of fish. As Mazi Chinedum tells his wife, “The rivers do not have even fingerlings” (62). The conditions of the unyielding earth and the barren rivers – this emerging reality of their existence – is one of the eloquent game plans of the play in getting the people, indeed the audience, to understand why climate change is not a fictitious creation of the elite. Mbajiorgu’s design of creating a professor and endowing him with the intellectual power to understand the theory and practice of climate change, domesticate his understanding, and persuade the ordinary farmers to confront the changing climate with actionable plans is noteworthy. He attempts, in fact, to present a comprehensive dramaturgy by creating a character in professor endowed with a tripartite means of educating his people about climate change: his scientific knowledge as a professor of agriculture, his talent as a playwright, and his theatre arts practice through his local troupe. Added to that are his inspiration and moral stance. His experimental drama is rooted in his society, and, despite his international connections as a scholar and as a family man, he decides to stay at home, in the local environment, to contribute his skills to the development of the place. As he explains to Desmond, She [his wife] had pleaded that we leave this ‘God-forsaken country’, as she calls it, but I refused, insisting that since the country obviously needs help, someone has got to help it, even if God has forsaken it. Since she left me, I’ve devoted my time and passion to helping my country. (42) The character of Professor Aladinma, therefore, stands as the focal point through which the playwright attempts to realise the didactic thrust of his drama and the force of instrumentation that drives theatre art as a means of public education. Drama-within-drama becomes a powerful locus in that regard, offering a template through which disputations in favour of climate change are conveyed. The dramaturgy of this drama-within-drama is marked by fewer stage movements and more dialogue. It is here that the voice of the dramatist, of the author, is heard loudly railing against anti-climate change forces, at the same time making an urgent call to people and governments to rescue the

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ecosystems. With elements such as songs, proverbs, and invocations, the cast of the drama-within-drama x-ray locally based scepticism, such as the role of poverty and lack of care, and the sheer greed of the elite, among others. The eloquence of the dramaturgy here is based on orality and anthropomorphic metaphors, aimed at creating an apocalyptic situation, as this lengthy quote indicates: OBIOMA:

Eu-u-u Ewo-o. POVERTY! Poverty of the flesh has degenerated to poverty of the mind, and the spirit of poverty has cast its spell on us. What is left now is for man to become the predator of fellow man (Moves to Ekene.) My dear brother, release yourself like a gunfire and stray into your memory lane (EKENE relaxes his body as he struggles to entre his memory, after a while, he is motionless.) Tell me, have you never had a kind of dream that terrified you so much that you jumped out of bed and refused to go back to sleep? [. . .] EKENE: It was a dark night, I was walking alone on the street. Suddenly I found myself flying with the tornado or was it hurricane? And suddenly, there was an earth quake, everywhere was shaking, then, trees began to fall and buildings began to crumble and I jumped out from my sleep. It was the strangest and the most frightening dream I ever had, one that has refused to leave my memory. (36) The rhetoric of apocalypse, of an imminent large-scale destruction, where humans will be wiped of of the surface of the earth, runs through the dramawithin-drama. It is put in a language and in metaphors that are familiar to the people. This is purposeful, in that, as Goodbody points out, “[t]he depiction of apocalyptic events in literature commonly reflects a desire to warn readers; extrapolating the negative trends and developments in modern society in fictional scenarios is intended as a dramatic appeal for change before it is too late” (89). Full of animal metaphors, of proverbs based on anthropomorphic animals, the language is textured to convey the urgency of climate change and of its debate. There are proverbs, presented in stanzas, such as, “He who beats and beats a tiger out of sleep/When the tiger is awake/There is bound to be destruction” (italics in the original, 33). This proverb implies the consequences of man’s wilful anti-climate change actions. Another proverb questions humans’ inordinate greed that brings about destruction: “Why must we squeeze the last drop of milk from the very udder that nourishes the infant?” (35). The idea of milking the earth dry runs throughout the drama. And the emphasis is made that humans cannot escape the consequences of their harmful actions, as the earth, the ecological climate, is bound to fight back. The song “Wake Up,” which is in drama-within-drama, appears to be the summation of all the themes invested in Wake Up Everyone. It goes, in part, as follows:

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To build our new world No burning down of our bushes No polluting our rivers No more deforestation. To guarantee our future No greenhouse gas emission No heating up our planet Wake up! (Italics in the original, 52) It is crucial to point out that songs, music generally, play an important role in Nigerian drama, especially the type rooted in traditionalism. “Songs,” Olu Obafemi and Abdullahi S. Abubakar write, “are core to performance in most African traditional settings. Hardly can a performance subsist (be it ritual or mundane) without its being embellished with songs, music and dance” (164). Besides, one of the best ways to pass messages in a drama is through a song and other aspects of traditional lore, such as folktales. This technique is fully explored in Wake Up Everyone. The previous song and others that convey the new ethics of living in Ndoliland – one that takes into consideration the preservation of the biodiversity – is the legacy Professor Aladinma hopes to have created in his society. His exemplary proactive attitude and his utilisation of his talent and skills in galvanising the locals to get conscious about the ecology of their communities make him a role model – a point that Mbajiorgu, himself an intellectual, desires to project to the audience. The overall message here is that intellectuals cannot remain cocooned in their comfort zones in the university campuses or in their upper-class status or take advantage of their immigrant opportunities where “things work” (42), as the professor rejects the temptation to emigrate to another society. Intellectuals ought to get involved in developing their society, especially from the grassroots. It is also crucial to point out how Mbajiorgu accords the ordinary people the agency to turn their situation around, stressing the idea that change has to come from the ordinary people, from below. In other words, the activism of this drama is presented as a collective, communal agency, triggered by the effort of an individual, as the activities of the professor show. One of the messages here is how western education is instrumentalised or foregrounded as a vital function in the evolution of a fruitful activism. Mbajiorgu’s contention, it seems, is that a sustainable activism needs a solid intellectual-cum-practical base, in addition to the exemplariness of the elite in not only harnessing their native and acquired wisdom to bring development to their societies but also in organising the people, especially those without a western education. The method of organising people here is based on giving them the knowledge they need in order to liberate themselves from underdevelopment, stagnancy, and eco-destruction. Knowledge, Mbajiorgu’s play clearly shows, is indeed powerful in propelling people to create an ecologically just society. Knowledge is also

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foresight, as Professor Aladinma, armed with it, is able to foresee the flood, which will eventually be the result of the changing climate. His extrapolation is logical: I foresee flood because of the likely overflow of the river. [. . .] Ndoli land as you know, is a coastal region and like all coastal areas, its closeness to the sea makes it prone to flooding as the rivers easily overflow their banks, resulting to the vulnerability of human lives and property. (14) And yet this simple ecological logic is denied by the politician, who says he does not understand “this fear of impending flood” (14), in spite of his recognition of the professor as “an environmental activist” who fights “war against the vandalization of our natural forests” and has a commendable “Climate Change Adaptation Education” (17–18). The role of the politician as a foil in this drama is exponential to the notion, canvassed by the novelist Chinua Achebe (The Trouble with Nigeria) and many others, that Nigeria’s problems are hinged on the failure of the political elite. The politician, as he promises in an aside, ensures that the eforts of the professor in preventing the flood come to nothing. And, as Mbajiorgu projects, unless the corrupt misfits manning positions of authorities are removed, there can be no progress, whether in the aspect of humanity or ecology. This informs the ending of the drama where the politician comes under castigation by the people who are now sufciently enlightened to know the lies and manipulations of the political elite. The last scene of the play brings up the triumph of intellection-based activism over the shenanigans of the politician, as the flood arrives. Like all disasters, in spite of the warnings, the flood catches the people unawares. And the effect is better expressed in this local metaphor spoken by Ifediegwu: “The water has crept into our farmlands like a serpent, swallowing all our farm crops” (71). The local flavour of this metaphor, its deployment of an animal, of the local ecological understanding of how serpent swallows up what is edible to it, indicates the deliberate project of this play to root its aesthetics in indigenous knowledge. Throughout, the play makes use of local understandings to penetrate the complexity of climate change, often seen as a global phenomenon. In this premise, the play insists that the fight against climate change should start from the indigenous communities, that it could be better confronted from the perspective of the indigenous people. This is the point that Article 7.5 of the Paris Agreement on climate change makes, suggesting that actions should be “guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems, with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions, where appropriate” (italics in the original, quoted in Foyer and Kervran 153). The activism of the drama is constructed on the notion of integrating indigenous knowledge to the western dramatic form in such a way that the local audience is provoked to take a revolutionary action against the climate disaster that confronts it but

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also against the neo-imperial and home forces that stand in the way of genuine moves to save the earth and its inhabitants. To confront the flood, they have to confront their local politicians, who stand in the way of genuine anti-climate change activities. So, when the professor tells them that he has had a blueprint about preventing the flood and presented it to the local government chairman, “but it looks like he is completely determined not to do something about the proposal” (72), the people decide to do away with the chairman. As one of them says, using a nature proverb, “Now that we have discovered the hole that harbours the rattle snake that struck us with its tail, do we fold our arms and wait until we are bitten by the same snake?” (76). In other words, they cannot continue to be led by a politician whose negligence has caused them eco-destruction. The effect of this, as the stage direction indicates, is that “one of the farmers raises a song of protest, everyone joins as they brandish their farm machetes and diggers and move towards the Local Government Chairman’s residence, singing and acting violently” (Italics in the original, 76–77). This mass action returns us to the idea of Nigerian Marxist aesthetics. Championed by writer-scholars, such as Femi Osofisan and Festus Iyayi, the denouement always results in a protest aimed at uprooting oppressive structures. “The revolution itself,” Osofisan said in an interview, “is a mass of people always doing things together” (Obafemi 119). This is what Wake Up Everyone favours. Desmond, a graduate student working with the professor, expresses the possibility of Hon. Edwin Ochonkeya learning that people are coming for him and thus disappearing. But the professor’s response is if he escapes, will he run away from the grief of his people and the cry for their losses? His conscience will for ever haunt him and so shall it be to anyone of us who chooses to fold his or her arms and watch this earth die before his very eyes. The earth is dying, dragging all in it to its grave. We’ve got to cure it of its sickness. This is the time to save it, after all we made it sick in the first place. Before the deluge, those men and women were under my control, but now they have broken loose like wild tigers that escaped from captivity. (78) The professor’s sermonic speech here closes the play, summarising the crucial points expounded in the previous scenes. With appropriate and adequate knowledge, as we see in Ndoliland, the people are bound to deal with their corrupt leaders, to take their fate in their hands. The once passive and indolent people of Ndoli have now acquired power through knowledge, what the professor means by tigers escaping from captivity. They can now exercise their agency. Even if the leaders escape the people’s wrath, their powers are broken, and they live in perpetual fear of the supremacy of the people’s wishes. Henceforth, anyone with the intention of leading must give them precise plans of preventing ecological crises and enhancing their agricultural productivity. All of this, the play contends, is possible as a result of eco-activism.

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Wake Up Everyone is a communal drama, an injunction to all to rise in defence of the ecosystem. Expansive in thematic scope, with a dramaturgy that blends the traditional and the modern and a dialogue rich in nature metaphors, the drama, beyond offering knowledge on climate change, can indeed inspire its audience towards eco-activism. To this end, the work is significant to Nigerian ecocriticism, especially as climate change is usually viewed with scepticism. Its most powerful message is the idea that indigenous people can indeed get to understand the facts of climate change and harness their indigenous knowledge to confront it. This is possible with a theatrical performance that is rooted in indigenous aesthetics. But as it is with other texts of Nigerian ecocriticism, socio-political factors, mainly hinged on the economic survival of the ordinary people and the failure of politicians to provide fruitful leadership, stand in the way of ecological struggle. Unless the socio-political condition is dealt with, it might be difficult to deal with the ecological condition. Wake Up Everyone suggests that Nigerians indeed have to rise to deal with the socio-political condition through a revolution and then face the possibilities of creating an ecologically balanced society.

Oil Cemetery: feminisation of eco-activism Although the socio-ecological context of this novel appears to be the same with that of Mbajiorgu’s Wake Up Everyone, Oil Cemetery brings up a different dimension to literary eco-activism. Its unique frame of reference is a marriage of feminism, as understood and practised in Nigeria, and postcolonial ecocriticism. A strand of its feminism worth stressing is the reliance on indigenous practices in such a way that traditionalism is juxtaposed with modernity, the author ideologically privileging the traditional, as is the case with such a juxtaposition in Nigerian literature. In this reading, I am interested in foregrounding the novel’s ecofeminist ideas, what I call its art of integrative activism, and its dramatisation of the agency of the locals, especially women who collectively rise against institutional powers and patriarchal regimes of oppression. Given the way agency is ascribed to local women in this narrative, May Ifeoma Nwoye is among other writers, such as the playwright Ahmed Yerima, who shift the paradigm from women being passive victims of ecological crises, as we see in Kaine Agary’s Yellow-Yellow, to being active agents of change.13 Clearly implied in Oil Cemetery is the notion that men have failed to bring about socio-ecological change as a result of their greed and tendencies to violence, and as such, women cannot continue to look on, expecting men to fix their condition. If, as Greta Gaard and Patrick D. Murphy say, “[e]cofeminism is a practical movement or social change arising out of the struggles of women to sustain themselves, their families, and their communities” (2), then Oil Cemetery is one striking exemplar of the ideals of ecofeminism. The operative terms here are “struggles” and “social change,” which are very well dramatised in the novel. It is, therefore, a novel of ecofeminist action, one that leaves the reader wondering about the resourcefulness of women and their deployment

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of indigenous practices to confront their common enemies. And as is often the case with Nigerian feminism, the socio-ecological transformation achieved at the end is not only to the women’s benefit. Unlike the men who are concerned about themselves, the women are concerned about their families, including their men, and the well-being of their communities. On the basis of the ideas of struggle and change, one can conclude that ecofeminism as a theoretical strategy of reading has something of activism inherent in it. The activism is anchored on struggles waged against the ‘maldevelopment’ and environmental degradation caused by patriarchal societies, multinational corporations, and global capitalism. They are waged for environmental balance, heterarchical and matrifocal societies, the continuance of indigenous cultures, and economic values and programs based on subsistence and sustainability. (Gaard and Murphy 2) The second sentence of the quote captures the rationale for the women’s struggle in Oil Cemetery. Their vision is to create a future for their communities, one in which indigenous people and foreign oil experts can reach a level of harmony based on economic and ecological justice. The women are not against the presence of oil companies in their communities, at least this novel does not in any way imply this, but they desire justice that brings them the maximum benefits of petrodollar modernity. Like Mbajiorgu’s drama, this 243-page novel is ambitious in its scope. Although set in the small town of Ubolu in the southern part of Nigeria, it attempts to stage nearly all the issues faced by the Niger Delta region since explorations of oil began. These issues include oil spillage, oil pipe vandalisation and explosion, oil bunkering, death of species, air and water pollution, violent militancy, local betrayers, and oppressive security, among others. This self-projection to be a sort of a bible of the Niger Delta ecological crises, it seems to me, weakens the novel’s structure, dulls the plotlines, and distracts from its greatest strength: the feminisation of environmental activism. To compound this matter, there is the disturbing authorial intrusion one encounters throughout the narrative. The author’s voice often spills out of the third-person omniscient point of view to make commentaries on incidents, making the novel read, in some parts, like an essay. For instance, after describing how the vehicle carrying the security men (who come to Ubolu to ascertain the level of the catastrophe they have inflicted on the poor locals) “began a long journey downward, summersaulting into the ditch” (121), the narrator’s voice rings clear with retribution: “There is some justice in the world” (121). And yet the too much of telling, rather than showing, appears to be a strategy of the novel in producing a sense of urgency concerning the issues it raises or in foregrounding the kind of urgency that over-determines acts of activism. In its technical excesses, in its thematic purview, Oil Cemetery ardently pursues a crucial goal to prove how women, of all ages, educated in the western way or

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not, can rise and take action to emancipate themselves, but also the entire society, from the grip of petrodollar global capitalism. There is no compromising the gender angle here, as the narrative makes it clear that men, old and young, have failed, as a result of which women must rescue the society. It is within this premise that one has to see the interventionist role this novel plays in the growing discourse of activism in what has increasingly become Niger Delta eco-literature. One other thing to point out at the outset is the integrative nature of the activism showcased in the novel. To this extent, the activism is intersectional, drawing from different sections of the society and crystallising in the formation of a strong base for launching attacks on the enemy of the earth – an enemy that is also intersectional. The enemy is made up of villains, home and abroad; their capitalist and greedy interests intersect in the most brutal ways. Acts of activism emerge from different zones that can be mainly classified as the intellectual and the phenomenological. From the intellectual zone, there are activities of Rita, the protagonist; the human rights lawyers; journalists; and activists. From the phenomenological zone, there are the activities of the local young and old women. In the intellectual zone, education is the instrument with which acts of activism are effectuated. On the contrary, the phenomenological zone focuses on the real, lived experiences of people in the communities, their reliance on indigenous practices, and the actions they have to take as contributions to the activism. The indigenous practice embarked on as a potent act of resistance here is the exposure of local women’s bodies. One of the ways a woman can demonstrate the height of her rebellion against entrenched powers is by protesting naked. That is, by angrily removing her clothes and cursing her enemies with her nakedness. The novel harnesses this as an aesthetic strategy to construct its eco-activism. Another dimension to view this is to see an integration of the modern and the traditional, as Rita takes the modern approach, and the local women take the traditional approach. It is clear, though, that Nwoye’s thesis is the pre-eminence of education (modern and traditional) in constructing activism and a total rejection of any form of activism based on ignorance, greed, and violence. This thesis structures the parallelisms running through the narrative. The characters come in these parallels: Rita, with talents and passion for western education, against Lucy, nice and talented in a different way; Comrade Steve, a fiery and uncompromising unionist, against Timi, a unionist who fraternises with white oil experts; Barrister Bassey, selfless lawyer interested in the fate of the poor in Ubolu, against Barrister Rogers, a highprofile rogue with a greedy eye on the oil companies’ petrodollars; and Angela, Steve’s inconsiderate and cantankerous wife, is paralleled by Funmi, an activist like her husband Thompson Chima, who supports him to achieve his goals. The point Nwoye consistently makes with these parallelisms is that those who rely on education, who are well-read and informed about their course of action to liberate humanity, who integrate their folkways and traditional knowledges to acquired modernity, are the ones who achieve success in changing their society. The educated and the courageous are placed against the weak and

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uneducated. Also, the good are placed against the bad. It is interesting, though, that this character parallelism does not play out in the characterisation of the oil experts. Even though the degree of their hatred for the locals and their capitalist passions differ, all of them are presented as evil incarnates of petrodollar capitalism. The characterisation of the protagonist, Rita, from the outset, is based on the quest for western education. The novel progresses from when she is a child being raised by her father alone, having lost her mother, to when she becomes a university student, highly knowledgeable, consciously aware, and radical enough to pursue activism. At the beginning of the novel, her father is facing retrenchment from his contract work, and this spells doom for the future of his children. His greatest worry is how, without a job, he will fulfil his promise to his wife, “who died giving birth to his daughter Rita” (4), that he “would give Rita a decent education” (4). Hitherto, he “had been saving 20% of his salary as a long-term arrangement for Rita’s secondary school” (4). The concern for Rita’s education in this early part of the novel is emphatic. It is Nwoye’s way of calling attention to the role of education in building a future leader, which is what Rita turns out to be. The reader feels the depth of Izundu’s anxiety for his daughter’s education, given his kind of work – being perpetually placed on a contract status as a filing clerk – and his hope in Rita and her brother being able to get an education and assist him out of poverty. Education, as demonstrated in this novel, has remained a vital instrument in the dynamics of feminist aesthetics in Nigerian literature. Most dynamic feminist heroines, from Li in Zaynab Alkali’s The Stillborn to Enitan in Sefi Atta’s Everything Good Will Come, have relied on a sound education and a heightened sense of awareness to surpass the limitations of their societies. Since, at least in Nigeria, the goals of feminism are “basically to emancipate women from poverty, male brutality, ignorance and self-degradation” (Azuike 158), education becomes the greatest instrument. Katherine Frank, for instance, identifies education in Buchi Emecheta’s work as “the most potent of women’s liberation [. . .] her heroines are free and fulfilled in direct proportion to the extent of their learning” (23). Within the knowledge economy of modern Nigeria, a woman needs to be educated to properly acquire the economic power with which to gain cultural and political independence. This independence is the locus of feminist struggles in a society conquered by patriarchy, the type that Oil Cemetery depicts. With education, Rita is not only able to fight for herself but also for the society, and with this, the novel proves the point that women can be as radical and dissident as men and can lead a public agitation against multinational oil corporation in the Delta region. A crucial dimension is that the radical women are not interested in being militants, taking advantage of the ecological condition to enrich themselves. Their goal is to liberate their society, and that is what they achieve. In contrast to the women, the men are framed as violent militants who indulge in criminal acts for purposes of self-enrichment. Comrade Steve, the leader of the workers’ union of Zebulon Oil from where Izundu is being retrenched, proposes that Rita come to live in his house in Port

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Harcourt. This will enable her to get an education. Izundu promptly agrees to this because he will have to return to his village in Ubolu where the girl cannot get a good education. Her moving to live with Comrade Steve is, therefore, the beginning of Rita’s life as an activist. Although Comrade Steve, already a highly respected union leader, will become her greatest influence (she constantly says that all she knows about activism she learns from him), her innate qualities include curiosities, attraction to intellection, and a sharp sensitivity against acts of inhumanity. After being close to her for some days, Lucy, Steve’s niece living in the same house, sees these qualities in Rita and advises her to make good use of the opportunities she has because she is destined to “grow into a big woman” (20), a way of saying that she will achieve great success in future. Lucy’s parting advice to Rita, when her uncle’s wife asks her to leave the house, is, “Remember to be good, Rita; always do your homework and do not waste away your days like I did” (38). Privileged to always sweep Comrade Steve’s study, Rita, the narrator tells us, “began to read every union document she touched” (49). As she grows older and acquires more education, Rita is keen to practice what she has read, what she knows. An opportunity presents itself when Rita accidentally finds herself in one of the union meetings, and it becomes clear to Steve and Timi, as well as the reader, that Rita’s curiosity has transformed to a solid base for radicalism. To everyone’s surprise at the meeting, this is how Rita impulsively responds to the matter being discussed: “From the slave trade era to the crude oil era,” Rita began, “the history of our natural resources has remained in the hands of a league of merchants whose key agenda lay in the amount of natural resources they could acquire from our country. In their scheming exploits, they have raided our culture and our communities, brought a string of political, economic and social clashes, introduced conflicts, and ignited the fire of poverty and selfdestruction among our people. [. . .] So, I pose a question today. What is the oil industry’s contribution to the development of our communities?” (62–63) The context in which Rita, a mere teenager, a mere female, makes this speech heightens its force. She is not a member of the union. Comrade Steve asks her to bring a document he forgot at home, which he urgently needs for the meeting, and she decides to stay in the meeting without his knowing. When she asks to speak, Steve, who is chairing the meeting, does not look at her before asking her to speak because he is concentrating on a paper; he does not know it is the teenager staying with him. When some members of the union, not used to having women air their views in their meeting, shout, “It’s a woman! What does she know?” (62), Steve will not take such gender bias, and “looked up to encourage the speaker to continue. To his great shock it was Rita” (62). His immediate reaction is to let her say what she has to say, especially given her boldness, even though he may be accused of bringing a mere girl to be his mouthpiece in the meeting. That the union is hitherto lacking a female voice is

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troubling. That the men shout at her to shut up because she is a woman is even more troubling. The novel confronts this patriarchal reality by equipping the young protagonist with such a capacity for fast learning and a striking display of courage. The patriarchal ego of the union is punctured by Rita’s courageous voice. Rita’s speech, delivered in such an awkward situation, becomes the genesis of the struggles for the welfare of the entire host communities, replacing the narrow, staff-centred course of the unionism. Notice that the emphasis in her aforementioned question is on the communities, not the union. In other words, for the first time, after listening to the girl’s speech, the workers begin to think beyond their own interest as staff members of Zebulon Oil. They begin to think of the overall ecological consequences of oil explorations. This broadening of the circle of interests to encompass the entire host communities, no doubt, is one of the central themes in Oil Cemetery. Within the problematic of ecofeminism, the novel does not only expand the male-dominated zone of the oil workers’ struggles. It also expands the rather male-dominated ecoactivism of the Niger Delta region.14 In Nwoye’s feminist design, the trigger for this broadening has to come from a female, a girl for that matter, since one of the innovative lessons of this novel is to show that age does not matter in consciousness raising, even in a society where traditionalism relegates the child and the woman to passive citizenship. Oil Cemetery, as it turns out, sets out to rewrite the narrative, to bring into focus the roles children and women can also play in the struggles to liberate the society from petrodollar capitalism. The novel breaks the monopoly of patriarchy and suggests a plurality, indeed a communality, in which all genders of humans, even the nonhuman, can come together and integrate their efforts towards raising a fruitful eco-activism. This is important to ecofeminism which is itself built on plurality. Murphy writes, “Only by recognizing the existence of the ‘other’ as a self-existent entity can we begin to comprehend a gender heterarchical continuum in which difference exists without binary opposition and hierarchical valorization” (Literature, Nature, and Other 4–5). Heterarchical relations imply that each has respect for the other, believes in the capability of the other, and collaborates with the other for the purposes of advancing the course of ecology. Nwoye’s contention, as she radically inserts Rita into this all-male union, is to make the point that unless diversity and the recognition of otherness are privileged, there cannot be a transformation. Naturally, the men express pleasant surprise at Rita’s performance at the meeting, calling her a genius. One of the men is blunt about the lesson from her speech: “We have been fooling around; she has hit the crux of the matter. We should be stakeholders and not peanut collectors” (63). The peanut collectors are the men or group of men, such as the union, who embark on agitations only to be placated with some amounts of money and then start another round of agitations when they become broke. In other words, the peanut collectors are greedy, only think of what they can personally get from the so-called environmental struggles. The idea of peanut collection is crucial

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to the formation of activism in this narrative. The novel explores the greed and the inordinate corruption that shape the idea of peanut collection as a base on which it launches its alterity. The novel succeeds in replacing the idea of peanut collection with the idea of communal benefits, characterised by the provision of infrastructure that everyone in the communities can benefit from. Nwoye’s eco-activism is, therefore, the dismantling of the machineries of male greed and corruption and the subsequent enthronement of female communal vision. This vision should be understood from the theoretical point that, in a sense, to be a feminist is to be an ecologist since the plight of women and that of the earth could indeed be inseparable, as Oil Cemetery depicts. Kate Soper reminds us that “[p]atriarchal oppression has frequently been linked with those forms of rationality and technocratic values that ecologists cite as responsible for the domination and destruction of nature” (121). She goes on to point out that “the feminist emphasis on relational ethics is echoed in green arguments which have highlighted the integration and mutual dependency of the eco-system” (121–122). Murphy explains this in detail: [T]o be a feminist one must also be an ecologist, because the domination and oppression of women and nature are inextricably intertwined. To be an ecologist, one must also be a feminist, since without addressing gender oppression and the patriarchal ideology that generates the sexual metaphors of masculine domination of nature, one cannot effectively challenge the world views that threaten the stable evolution of the biosphere, in which human beings participate or perish. (48) In the framing of Oil Cemetery, until the female steps into the scene of environmental struggle, all that the male has been doing is a self-serving struggle, one in which women and children are systematically relegated. As such, the women and children become the most brutalised in the machinations orchestrated by the multinational oil companies and the male establishment. The male workers at Zebulon Oil and the foreign executives, all of them men, institute the idea of peanut collection as it serves their cruel minds. The novel is harsh on the foreign oil executives, using them to expound the realities of global petrodollar capitalism, underscored by racism. In their meetings, they utter words and plan actions that reinforce the importance of making money over humans and their ecology. This importance of making money not only blinds them to the suffering of the people and the biodiversity of the region but also drives them to embark on actions that are self-destructive. Nwoye ascribes to them superhuman power, arrogance, and the use of foul language against the locals, such as Hardcast referring to them as negroes. In spite of their superhuman stature, Jefferson, the head of Zebulon Oil, will eventually regret that they are the cause of their own travail. His speech at the commissioning of facilities built for the communities by the oil companies sums it all up:

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[I]f we had started out these developmental projects in phases since our company arrived, I am certain by this period [. . .] these communities could easily be competing with similar communities in Europe and America. It is regrettable to note that all the money and other resources given as compensations to local leaders and traditional chiefs did not improve the welfare of the people or preserve the environment in which the people live. We are talking of about huge sums in millions of dollars. All the money we spent here in all the projects we’re commissioning today is nothing compared to what we have given out through local intermediaries. (240) With what they call compensations “through local intermediaries,” the foreign oil executives inflict loss and other disastrous consequences on their own company and on their own lives, such as the abduction and killing of Brenda, Jeferson’s wife. Nwoye deconstructs the patriarchal base of this kind of compensation by creating men, on the side of the oil companies and on the side of the host communities, whose ultimate goals rest in enriching themselves. The trust the oil executives have in the middlemen, the intermediaries – represented by the Men of the Alphabets in the novel – demonstrates their utter insensitivity to the needs of their host communities and the projection of their superior but destructive knowledge system as the only viable means of dealing with the locals. In this premise, Oil Cemetery trenchantly makes the point that, in practical realities, the consideration of indigenous knowledge and system of doing things is crucial to any symbiotic relations aimed at creating a peaceful co-existence between oil companies and host communities. At no point does the novel totally reject explorations of oil in the communities, especially as the people of Ubolu and environs yearn for modernity – a modernity anchored on western education. The insistence, however, is that such modernity must come into a compromise with traditionalism by taking into accounts aspects of traditional life that can fruitfully enhance modernisation. One such crucial aspect, the novel insists, is the traditional wisdom of women, which the traditional patriarchal forces, with the help of an equally foreign patriarchal forces, represented by the oil executives, have suppressed. Until the women unleash their traditional wisdom, the communities remain under the grip of viperous men, local and foreign. Among the foreign ones are characters such as the racist Smith, who sees the locals as “Negroes.” He believes the way to confront the locals, if they get violent, is to deploy superior violence: “We are talking about primitive Negroes about to launch an attack on us. We cannot just sit here and fold our hands” (74). Hardcast is also of the same mind frame. He has no business getting close to the locals, let alone dialoguing with them; his suggestion, therefore, is to “buy off their leaders [i.e. leaders of the union]” (75). Although Jefferson is quick to point out that Steve Dada, the union leader, cannot be bought over, Smith insists that “[t]here is serious poverty over here” (76) and, therefore, anyone can be bought. When

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Steve rejects their bribe offer, gunmen trail his car and shoot him while he is returning from Lagos. In a hospital bed, the management of Zebulon Oil approaches him: “If you will drop all the issues about contract positions for the locals, management will fly you overseas for treatment” (101). Steve’s response is, “I’d rather die here than drop the struggle” (101). He dies, but not without showing the letter to Rita, not without expressing his good impression about “how thoroughly Rita had grasped the political struggle between the unions, the villages, and the oil companies” (100). The death of Steve and the suppression of the union immediately opens up the path for expansion, as Zebulon Oil sets out to lay pipes in new communities, including Ubolu. But the death of Steve is also the emergence of Rita, who, although she is not a worker at Zebulon Oil, becomes a powerful force with which the oil executives have had to contend. Rita avidly studies union documents in Steve’s study to gain sound knowledge of the activities of oil companies in the region. Rita “told herself it was time she got involved in matters that affected the welfare of her people, especially since her father was a victim of the injustice of the oil companies” (122). The personal stake is crucial to the construction of activism. Nigerian eco-activist, whether in the real or in the imaginary, often begin their battle from their localities, their communities, their birthplaces. The idea of bonding with one’s ethnic nationality is not unconnected with this. Ken Saro-Wiwa, for instance, is mainly known in Nigeria, even in the Niger Delta, for fighting only for his Ogoni ethnic nationality.15 Nwoye may have set her novel in the “southern part of Nigeria” (1) because that is where she hails from, and as such, what the novel dramatises is known to her first-hand. The focus of struggle on one’s native communities or birthplace is not limited to Nigerian ecocriticism (take the activism of the Kenyan Wangari Maathai, for instance) and feeds into the idea of place, of place-based postcolonial ecoaesthetics, as the writer, whether an activist or not, feels entitled, inspired, and compelled to resist ecological injustice in her/his immediate community or birthplace. On the one hand, place is invoked to, in the words of Byron Caminero-Santangelo, “give voice to silenced or marginalized perspectives as situated in particular communities and to resist universalizing discourse” (32). On the other, it strengthens the notion of difference to the extent that local ecological realities are staged by those who not only know them intimately but also lay claim to growing up in them and experiencing their pristine past before the invasion of extractive modernity. Such is the case with Nigerian poets, such as Gabriel Okara, Niyi Osundare, and Tanure Ojaide. For instance, Ojaide makes the point in one of his essays that to me as a poet, childhood is vital, because it is the repository of memory. That is why the Delta area has been so important to me. [. . .] My Delta years have become the touchstone with which I measure the rest of my life. The streams, the fauna, and the flora are symbols I continually tap. (“I Want to Be an Oracle” 15)

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The personal stake expressed by Rita is indeed Nwoye’s personal stake, as her novel appears to be her own expression of eco-activism against the degradation her own community or region may have sufered over the years. Yet Nwoye is not keen in presenting Rita as the absolute force of ecoactivism, much as the character focalises her notion of environmental struggle. It is not enough that Rita is now suitably knowledgeable and set to execute the motion of activism; there is a pertinent component of the activism that Nwoye is interested in dramatising. Shifting between the village of Ubolu and the city Port Harcourt, the narrator takes us to the village where people are already beginning to feel and see the hazardous impacts of ecological disasters, as a result of Zebulon Oil’s territorial extension. The reaction of the youth is destructive, and the novel makes the point that the youth, all young men, are also, like the older men, driven by greed. From the suggestion of “[w]hy don’t we collect the oil and sell” (116), some youth go into oil bunkering and end up “looking well-dressed and much happier” (116), thereby instigating others into stealing fuel from the pipes to sell. The executives of Zebulon Oil react to the destruction of their pipes in their usual manner, by sending their middlemen to bribe those they consider the leaders of the youth. The Men of the Alphabets, so named because their initials make up the alphabet ABCDE (Alfred, Benson, Christopher, Daniels, and Edwards), usually do not even deliver any amount to the villagers. Faced with pressures, they decide to donate 200,000 naira each from all the money they have been stealing from the people, which will total one million naira, and pacify the youth with it. Daniels is sent to give the money to the youth, but what eventually takes place is “[a]t the end of his short sermon, seeing the number and how wretched they were, Dan decided to give them two hundred thousand naira and pocket the rest of the money” (103). In other words, he pockets the balance of 800,000 naira. In another incident, the oil executives decide to bribe Rita with five million dollars, and hand the money to the middlemen to give to her. Knowing how hot-headed and uncompromising an activist Rita is, they approach her father, Izundu: The oil company has seen that she [Rita] is a very bright girl and they want to send her overseas to complete her education. [. . .] In fact, this N200,000 is for her to do anything she wants. They will even build a house for you too. (172) With this they con Izundu, who is totally mesmerised by their lies, and takes the money. Rita, of course, rejects it, and sees in her father the same greed and corruption through which men in the communities have short-changed the fate of the region. To take five million dollars from the oil company to bribe Rita and give out just a mere 200,000 naira, which is not even up to 1 percent of the money, to her through her father is the height of the arbitrariness characterising the idea of peanut collection. In the end, the money goes into

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the pockets of the middlemen so that rather than solving their problem, the oil executives worsen it. The local capitalists or middlemen, as this incident shows, are as cruel to the people, the ecology, the biodiversity, as the oil executives are. The struggle for the liberation of the communities and the environments involves confronting not only the foreign oil executives but also the local oil moguls, like the middlemen, who make their petrodollars by sacrificing the lives and lands of the locals. Nwoye’s integrative eco-activism has the clear goal of deconstructing the patriarchal collusion of the oil executives and the middlemen, on the one hand and, on the other, presenting what one might see as the developmental alternative, centred on building infrastructure for the communities. To achieve this goal, Nwoye brings to focus the role of traditional women to complement Rita’s and by doing so centralises an eco-social vision that transcends unionist struggles. It is not, indeed, the fate of the workers, the casualization of local workers, that the novel attacks but the entire gamut of eco-destruction and its effect on the local communities, especially on the women and children. In this framing, the maltreatment of local workers, which is the domain of Steve’s activism, is one of the elements in the domain of the Rita-led activism, the most crucial element being an agitation for the creation of infrastructure that will benefit all. This is the demand of the old village women who embark on an unprecedented act of activism. They are against frequent oil spillage, disappearance of fishes and other species from the river, constant fire outbreaks, and devastating soil pollution, all of which deny them their means of livelihood. But, worse of all, they witness the killing of their children by security agents deployed to protect oil facilities. The women of Ubolu and the environs decide to take a bold action. To prepare the readers for the women’s action, the novel presents touching scenarios where the women and their children are the worst hit victims of eco-destruction and the manipulations of their own men. There is the case of the woman who “had cried continuously, day and night, for six weeks. Her farmland, her only source of livelihood, had been taken away from her because some pipes passed through that portion of land” (87). Her helplessness is, in part, hinged on her being a female, in that “women in general were discriminated against in making claims and collecting compensation from the oil companies and chiefs. Widows were hardest hit, as they had no one to speak on their behalf ” (191). When security men invade Ubolu and teargas the community in the night, people wake up the next day to the catastrophe that “[t]he children who had inhaled large doses of tear gas in their sleep had died of suffocation” (119). Following a spell of inconsolable communal mourning, “[t]he children’s bodies were buried one next to the other until there was a single long stretch of graves not too distant from the oil pipeline which ran through the village farm” (120). The juxtaposition of the dead bodies and the pipes becomes symbolic of the ambivalence inherent in the modernity engendered by oil explorations. It is one that brings hope of scientific progress, as well as catastrophes of mass killings. Initially, Ubolu people, especially the women, were happy that

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they would begin to enjoy the fruits of modernity if oil facilities were sited in their locality. But what follows after the installations of oil facilities becomes the opposite of what they expect. This is modernity that brings deprivation, destruction, and death. This symbolism is stretched to the naming of a fire disaster site as “THE OIL CEMETERY” (capital in the original, 126), as all those killed by the fire are buried here. The oxymoronic expression oil (initially implying wealth) cemetery (implying death, destruction) is staged as the title in this narrative as it captures the enduring contradictions that frame relationships between the oil companies and their host communities. It is noteworthy that the novel casts the women as closer to the earth than their men in that they rely more on farming, fishing, and other activities that make them more entangled with the natural world. In this regard, the ecofeminist notion, expounded by Ynestra King (18–28), that women are closer to nature is depicted in the novel. Nature and culture, in the framing of ecofeminism, are implicated in an ecological struggle. “Ecofeminism,” Murphy writes, “from its inception has insisted on the link between nature and culture, between the forms of exploitation of nature and the forms of the oppression of women” (“The Women Are Speaking” 23). The women in Oil Cemetery are the hardest hit in the regime of oppression visited upon the natural world of the Niger Delta by petrodollar capitalism. And they should be the ones, the novel contends, to take the pragmatic step to liberate themselves and the natural world. Ubolu women embark on this step and achieve a transformation. Their action is rooted in indigenous practices. It is a strategic move that evokes the invisibility of traditional female agency. In a well-timed revolt, the old women interrupt a violent demonstration of the youth as they begin to sing “ancient sorrowful songs, [and] began to tear their clothing, shredding their garments right off their bodies. [. . .] The men began to leave the scene. The sight of so many naked old women made them quite uneasy” (191). The potency of this naked-body action is instantly felt and seen, spreading into neighbouring communities. “The young women who had earlier been inspired by Rita’s exploits had the courage to join their elders, tearing off their clothing as well” (192). The effect strongly resonates among the oil workers and the executives. “Entire work sites became overrun by women of all ages – all insisting it was high time they got their rights and secured the future of their children” (192). Oil workers, most of them men, have to vacate work sites to avoid seeing the nakedness of their daughters, wives, mothers, and grandmothers. This becomes the turning point at which the oil executives have to call themselves to order and have to listen to the demands of the host communities. Hardcast, hard-hearted and unconcerned about the fate of the locals as the semantics of his name suggests, cannot ignore this action: “I can face any challenge but I have never been confronted by a toothless naked old woman!” (194). One of the points the novel makes here, which indeed is clearly put, is that the old women, the local women, often disregarded and neglected, do indeed have agency. The Foucauldian idea of power plays out here. Power, Michel Foucault has maintained throughout his work, is not

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located in one place; it is everywhere and is not only top-down but also bottom-up. In Foucault’s words, Power is everywhere; not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere [. . .] power is not an institution, and not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular society. (The History of Sexuality 93) To invoke their power, the women resort to the complex traditional strategy of using their bodies as instruments of change. The female body, often used and abused by patriarchal exertions and discourses, becomes in this case a strategic means to get back at patriarchy and with much success. On the one hand, this successful revolt demonstrates the power of local women who have chosen to think beyond the position of victimhood; on the other hand, it indicates the potency of a traditional practice in confronting modern-day ecological crises. Rita and the other educated ones have been dealing with the matter through the modern way of seeking redress in the court of law. But their modern method is riddled with bureaucratic bottlenecks, legal technicalities, and overwhelming campaigns of calumny by the wealthy oil corporations, among other difculties. Besides having an immediate efect on the oil executives, forcing them to listen to the locals, the women’s naked-body revolt becomes the greatest evidence Rita and her legal team need to win their case in court. Left with no choice, the oil executives reach out to Rita, who they are willing to negotiate with as long as she can get the women to “cover their nakedness” (198). The action of the old women, who also approach Rita to lead them in negotiations with the oil companies, catalyses the court-based activism for the emancipation of the host communities. This time, it is not only Zebulon Oil, but all other oil companies have to come together to seek means of dealing with the wide-spread, naked-body action. The women only agree to leave the oil sites and wear their clothing when they have secured concrete promises from the oil companies that developmental work will begin immediately. Unlike the men, they do not want money or peanut settlement. What they want are [h]ospital, good roads, clean drinking water, [stoppage] of gas flaring, schools for our children [.  .  .], jobs for our children, allowance for the elderly, safe bridges, compensation for widows and orphans, turn[ing] of swampy areas into farmland, reclaiming the rivers for fishing. (203) The success of the old women’s action in collaboration with Rita’s struggle, seen in the commissioning of infrastructure at the end of the novel, foregrounds Nwoye’s feminist principle in the attainment of eco-activism. This principle is hinged on the meeting point of traditionalism and modernity. Rather than rejecting one for the other, Nwoye insists throughout this narrative that the potential agency of traditionalism needs to complement the agency

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of knowledge-based modernity. People of Ubolu constantly resort to ancestral worship to find out why their land has suddenly become unyielding; they invoke the gods and goddesses to give them an explanation about the famine they face. The limitation of this traditionalism (the gods can only say the land has been abused) is complemented by the strengths of modernity when the educated ones among them, such as Rita, begin to explain the chemical reactions that destroy their soil thereby causing declining harvest. The traditional and the modern, Oil Cemetery makes clear, can only fruitfully serve the people when they are harnessed through the mode of interdependence. It is not about one replacing the other but about both working together, strengthening the base on which the people can launch their eco-activism. The deconstruction of patriarchy through the interdependence of traditionalism and modernity resonates throughout the novel. After the women’s successful revolt, all parties in the oil region conflict are able to rethink and re-strategise for a better understanding. As one of the oil executives says, “The women are thinking of what will benefit the entire community. All the money the men have collected from us, they’ve used to marry new wives and take ridiculous titles” (208). This is precisely the core of Nwoye’s ecofeminist activism. Any activism which will benefit the entire host communities, including the oil companies, will have to be anchored on a feminist principle of motherhood where the woman as a wife and mother is capable of discerning what will benefit the community, not an individual. This implies a call for women, of whatever age, of whatever kind of education, to be vigilant, to make a move where necessary, and not to leave the fate of their children and the environments – indeed their socio-ecological future – in the hands of men, who are often blinded by their own greed.

Notes 1 This question is one of the issues that preoccupy Roman Bartosch in his rather formalist theory of EnvironMentality. “The whole idea of EnvironMentality,” he writes, “must not be understood as an approach to readings that lead to an environmentalist consciousness in the readers of fiction. Instead of the ‘precise mechanism’ that turns art and exegeses into environmentalist action, the hermeneutics of EnvironMentality entails negotiations of meaning and explorations of literature’s potential to make us experience otherness” (282–282). Such emphasis may not be significant, I insist, to the kind of ecocriticism I present in this work. 2 For more on Soyinka as a dramatist and public intellectual, especially from a scholar’s eye, see Biodun Jeyifo’s Wole Soyinka: Politics, Poetics and Postcolonialism. But Soyinka’s memoirs remain the most explicit and detailed on his life of activism. In this regard, The Man Died: Prison Notes and You Must Set Forth at Dawn: A Memoir capture some of the best years of his political activism. 3 Ken Saro-Wiwa is probably influential globally today as an environmentalist, not as a writer. For instance, Rob Nixon writes of how anti-Shell activists in the County Mayo of Ireland celebrated the tenth anniversary of his execution with “a vast mural of SaroWiwa whom they had adopted posthumously as the iconic transnational figureheads of their local struggle against Shell” (28). 4 A number of literary works emerged after Saro-Wiwa’s death as tributes but also as an organised writers’ poetics of rage against the institutional powers that killed him. These works began the militant strand of eco-writing on the Niger Delta. They are, among

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others, Abdul-Rasheed N’Allah’s Ogoni’s Agonies: Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Crisis in Nigeria and E. C. Osondu and Maik Nwosu’s For Ken, For Nigeria. Recall that it is Saro-Wiwa’s insistence on leading his Ogoni people to boycott general elections in 1995 that caused division in the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, MOSOP, leading to the death of some elders in Ogoniland. Accused of masterminding the killings, Saro-Wiwa and eight others faced a military tribunal, which eventually convicted and executed them. The writers, besides Ken Saro-Wiwa, mostly referenced by postcolonial ecocritics at the global stage are Isidore Okpewho (The Tides), Tanure Ojaide (The Activist), and Helon Habila (Oil on Water). They are novelist, as the scholars appear to favour fiction. However, Byron Caminero-Santangelo in his Different Shades of Green discusses eco-poetry in Nigeria. For more on the reality of writers taking to street for protest and on the formation of protest aesthetics in the time of political repression, see Femi Osofisan’s Insidious Treason: Drama in a Postcolonial State and Sule E. Egya’s “Art and Outrage: a Critical Survey of Recent Nigerian Poetry in English.” See Rose C. Uzoma, and Muhammad Umar for more on Islam and colonialism in northern Nigeria. See http://population.city/nigeria/kano/. I have in mind militant groups terrorising people in the Niger Delta region in the name of environmental activism. It is well-known that they are interested in using the condition of the region to enrich themselves. See, for more, Nicholas Shaxson’s Poisoned Wells: the Dirty Politics of African Oil. Greg Mbajiorgu, in an interview, said, “I come from Ihiala in Ihiala Local Government Area, in Anambra State” (338). The state is in south-east Nigeria, and it is well-known as one of the worst in the region in terms of floods, erosions, and landslides. See, for example, Helon Habila’s Oil on Water, Nnimmo Bassey’s We Thought It Was Oil but It Was Blood, G. ’Ebinyo Ogbowei’s The Heedless Ballot Box, and Elaigwu Ameh’s Climate of Change. Ahmed Yerima in his three plays on the Niger Delta (Hard Ground, Little Drops, Ipomu), especially in Little Drops, presents women as active agents of eco-activism. See Three Plays. Most literary works on the ecological crises in the Niger Delta, and the study of them, are male dominated. This can be gleaned from Ogaga Okuyade’s volume of essays, Eco-critical Literature: Regreening African Landscapes, which has considerable essays on the Niger Delta. For more on Ken Saro-Wiwa’s struggles in the context of inter-ethnic discourses, see Eghosa Osaghae’s “The Ogoni Uprising: Oil Politics, Minority Agitations and the Future of the Nigerian State” and John Boye Ejobowah’s “Who Owns the Oil? The Politics of Ethnicity in the Niger Delta of Nigeria.”

5

Conclusion The future of Nigerian ecocriticism

The main thrust of this work – to reiterate – is the claim, based on textual substance, that there is the need to map out a Nigerian ecocriticism. That is, a literary representation of nature and environment in the context of Nigerian literature deserving of sustained critical attention. This attention is ecocritical, different from the usual types that oftentimes cast nature and environment as a background for human struggles in a postcolonial setting. This ecocentric turn is relatively new but quickly gaining currency. Pursuing the ecocentric implies, as the argument has been so far, not only an exclusive attention to the ecological but also the socio-political. While a school of ecocritics may find this too anthropocentric or too instrumental, the readings I have done throughout this work prove that the imbrication of the ecological and the socio-political is simply inevitable. Postcolonial ecocriticism has long taken cognisance of the fact that the ecological and the socio-political are implicated in the same environmental fate. In other words, the natural and the human worlds are intertwined, much as they remain interdependent, much as they suffer from the same colonial exertions. To this extent, Nigerian ecocriticism, as I discussed in Chapter 1, is rooted in postcolonial ecocriticism. From the first to the fourth chapter, the attempt was to prove the particularity of Nigerian ecocriticism. The theoretical engagement in this direction is founded on the meeting point between ecological and socio-political concerns as they regard the well-being of the Nigerian state, what I earlier referred to as the anxiety of nation. Nigerian literature is profoundly determined by its historical forces – forces that critically shape Nigeria as a transitioning state. Colonialism, the Civil War, the prolonged army rule, and what one might see as an ecological war in the Niger Delta remain crucial to the formation of literary aesthetics. Hurt into writing by very pressing sociopolitical issues, Nigerian writers of diverse ideological persuasions have come to rely on the utilitarian dimension of art. To write is an act of resistance, of struggle. Nearly all the important writers in Nigeria have commented on the aesthetics of resistance. For instance, in spite of his real struggles for the emancipation of his Ogoni people, Ken Saro-Wiwa expressed a deep

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conviction on the utilitarian nature of literary writing. In his A Month and a Day, he was of the view that the writer must be [. . .] the intellectual man of action. [. . .] He must establish direct contact with the people and resort to the strength of African literature – oratory in the tongue. For the word is power and more powerful it is when expressed in common currency. (Emphasis added, 55) The belief in the power of the word, variously expressed by most Nigerian writers, is the force triggering what Abiola Irele called the “powerful referential thrust” (xiv) of not only Nigerian but also African literature. It is within this context that I have theorised Nigerian ecocriticism. The thematic domain is anchored on a socio-ecological concern with the fate of the Nigerian state, a recognition of the diverse tenors of struggles against institutional powers and the notion that literature is endowed with an agential force to bring about ecosocial justice. The stylistic zone is anchored on a conviction that traditional lore is preeminent, although it is inevitably tied to the modern and postmodern forms, whichever shape they take. It is usually a blend of tradition and modernity. And increasingly familiar tropes are used since in most cases the writers are keen about their audience; they want to raise the consciousness of their audience. My methodological approach has been premised on the categorisation of Nigerian ecocriticism into nature, environment, and activism. Under nature, I looked at, largely, the influence of the natural world on Nigerian writers, focusing on the novel of Elechi Amadi, the play of Femi Osofisan, and the poetry of Christian Otobotekere and Niyi Ousundare. Amadi creates a world in which humans and nonhumans coexist and operate within the reality of co-agency. But as it turns out, humans demonstrate their superior arrogance leading to the disruption of that order of nature, the negative effect on human resonating throughout the narrative. With Osofisan, the natural world is cast in an ambivalent light. On the one hand, humans need it to assert their identity but also to realise the interdependence without which they cannot exist. On the other, the same humans, driven by greed and capitalism, instrumentalise the natural world, especially its spiritual dimension, for their aggrandisement. The tension between the two contexts gets resolved by the self-assertion of the beings of the natural world that overpower humans and expurgate by way of drowning those of them that are anti-human and anti-nature. My reading of this play was emphatic that the nonhumans are indeed the protagonist of the badly needed change, and there would have been no revolution, in the Marxian sense, without the intervention of the natural world. I used the poetry of Otobotekere and Osundare to make the point, among others, that Nigerian poets fondly aestheticise the natural world of their birthplaces, almost with a sense of autobiography. Even a cursory reading of their poetry shows that “the author’s life is written on the land and all its inhabitants, human, animal,

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plant, and rock, and by turning terrain into text, geography into consciousness” (Allister 3). This practice has been raised into an aesthetic consciousness of the second generation of Nigerian writing and has been, at various levels, an attraction to Nigerian writers. It is clear from the chapter on nature that in spite of (post)modern entrenchment in Nigeria, the social space will continue, perhaps for a long time, to be intertwined with the natural space. The animist unconscious (a term Harry Garuba uses to describe the relations between the social and the natural worlds) will continue to power social life in Nigeria. Precisely, it will continue to remind humans that their lives, their utterances, and their actions are often conditioned by natural forces, or the belief in their existence, in contemporary Nigeria. Beyond that, the craft of literature, including other cultural arts, may remain influenced, lightly or heavily, by the connection between natural, oral lore, and the modern form. Studies in oral literature have gained currency in Nigerian academy. Such studies often return us to the past, via the aesthetic route, when the actions and philosophies of humans are ingrained in the nonhuman-human connection. It, therefore, means that nature – either as a being or as a text of idiom and aesthetics – is not something that will go away soon. It is not something that humans, in the context of Nigerian society, will overcome. Under the category of environment, the discussion was centred on the built environment and the aesthetics of landscape. My central argument was that under this rubric Nigerian literary writing becomes more conscious of the modern built environment, the forces humans exert on it, its pollution, and the effect on both nonhumans and humans. Issues that have concerned writers in this regard are overpopulation, displacement, and natural disasters, especially erosion and flood, which occurs so frequently in Nigeria. I read the novels of Kaine Agary, Helon Habila, and Toni Kan; the poetry of Denja Abdullahi; and the short stories of Samuel Okopi and Olufunmilola Olubunmi Adeniran. The urban processes of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous city, and of Abuja, the federal capital territory, are explored in the works of Kan and Abdullahi. They are critical of the infrastructure insufficiency and inefficiency, as well as the class tension that are attendant to the urban processes. Climate change in the form of catastrophic floods are the subjects of the short stories, and I considered them as literary orchestrations of the scepticism and lacklustre attitude with which Nigerians view issues of climate. To this extent, the stories are metaphors of human inadequacy that turn into humans’ greatest undoing. Habila’s and Agary’s narratives take us to the Niger Delta to clearly see the vivid environmental mess characterising that region, the hugest metaphor of environmental degradation in Nigeria. Agary favours what I see as the bio-psychological depiction of pollution, while Habila favours the biophysical aspect. Although the texts here are diverse in terms of theme and style, the writers seem to make a similar point, which is that the biophysical structures of the built environment are manifestations of human activities. There is no way that one can describe the biophysical without the cultural. It, therefore, becomes

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clear, as Garth Myers argues in his Urban Environments in Africa: a Critical Analysis of Environmental Politics, that besides attention to the biophysical, “we need to address political, economic, and cultural dynamics along with the biophysical ones to comprehend environmental problems” (7). This point is stressed in all the texts. The condition of human life is invariably tied to the condition of natural life in the built environment. The other point I find common to the texts is that the failed promises of modernity (that the modern life does not deliver the comforts envisaged) are at the heart of the critical condition of the built environment. The cities of Lagos and Abuja, for instance, ought to be the most modern in Nigeria. Yet they appear to be huge examples of failed cities, overburdened as Lagos is with overpopulation with its attendant human and nonhuman wastes, deficient as Abuja is with an unorganised transportation system. But by far the most staggering example of failed modernity in Nigeria, captured in the novels of Habila and Agary, is the rather unquantifiable mess in the Niger Delta as a result of petrodollar capitalism, which ordinarily ought to have turned the region into a landscape glittering with modern infrastructure. Activism is the category under which a heightened form of resistance against environmentalism of the poor is discussed. The concern here is how literary instrumentalism is deployed by Nigerian writers to confront those who stand in the way of eco-social justice, home-based or foreign. The writers here are highly conscious and consider their work an avenue for raising awareness against ecological crises but also for mobilising readers against local and multinational forces that connive to render their environment uninhabitable. Literary texts for this category are Aliyu Kamal’s Fire in My Backyard, Greg Mbajiorgu’s Wake Up Everyone, and May Ifeoma Nwoye’s Oil Cemetery. Kamal’s novel engages the problem of woodland depletion in north-western Nigeria, with a young man singularly embarking on act of resistance on behalf of the destroyed trees. Mbajiorgu’s play, like Nwoye’s novel, favours a mass action instigated by the activities of a retired professor who chooses to settle down in his bucolic community and embark on a process of educating the locals on climate change through theatre as a means of mass communication. Sufficiently enlightened about the climate disasters confronting them and identifying the political authority as their main problem, the people decide on a mass protest against the establishment. What distinguishes Nwoye’s narrative is its ecofeminist bent in that the female protagonist works closely with radical local women who come out to resist the patriarchal machinations of their own men who have become instruments used by oil companies to destroy the environment. In a classic ecofeminist thrust, Nwoye harnesses local tropes to prove that women and children remain the hardest hit in a zone of eco-destruction. What is common to the texts read under activism is the use of education as an instrument of change. The protagonists of the three texts have acquired certain degrees of education and find their learning a process of opening up possibilities for the formation of a base for activism. The other point is the role indigenous practices play in the formation of resistance. The three writers utilise local knowledge systems. Until Umar-Faruk, the activist in Fire in

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My Backyard, realises the need to learn the local ways of life in Rumbu and to integrate himself into the traditional habits of the locality, he is not able to make any progress in the Rumbu Project, whose chief aim is to rescue the trees being felled and logged in a commercial quantity. Similarly, Professor Aladinma of Wake Up Everyone easily humbles himself, rejects the lure of living out of the country with his foreign wife, and institutes an experimental theatre, which is really a community one, to educate the local farmers. Rita of Oil Cemetery is indeed young, inquisitive, intelligent, and radical, but it is her urge to educate herself and the courage to participate in the struggles of the oil workers’ union that help her stand out as a voice of resistance. She easily becomes the voice of the local women whose naked-body protest clears the way for a sure legal win at the courts, which eventually ends in an out-of-court settlement. The compromise at the end sees the communities benefitting from the developmental measures by the hitherto intransigent oil companies. As it turns out, in all the texts, local farmers are involved; in fact, they bear the brunt of the ecological crises. And it is when the activists convince them of improved harvests or of the possibilities of avoiding the disasters they consider God-made that they get their attention. That is, their involvement in the environmental struggles is hinged on a personal stake. The implication here is that the struggles are heavily anthropocentric in that the humans are primarily concerned about what will benefit them. The construction of the particularity of Nigerian ecocriticism with the categories of nature, environment, and activism is a way of insisting on a difference, even if there are similarities between what occurs in Nigeria and elsewhere, especially on the African continent. This work, therefore, has undertaken a process of decentring postcolonial ecocriticism by fashioning the particularity of Nigerian ecocriticism. Postcolonial ecocriticism itself is a process of decentring global ecocriticism, if by that we mean the ecocriticism that emerged in North America and instituted itself through canonical texts, such as The Ecocriticism Reader and The Environmental Imagination, as a global drive towards an environmental imagination. In the scheme of things, Nigerian ecocriticism occupies the third layer of decentring. The first decentring, in this regard, draws attention to the historical particularity of postcolonial societies and the second to the particularity of African societies. The third, within which Nigerian ecocriticism is located, draws attention to the particularity of the Nigerian state. This work has, therefore, thrown up issues of regional and ethnic differences within Nigeria and their implications for Nigerian ecocriticism. One of the issues to consider in projecting into the future of Nigerian ecocriticism is the furtherance of the notion of decentring. That is, ecocritics can already begin to think of ethno-regional particularities within Nigerian ecocriticism. The Niger Delta region, geopolitically framed as south-south Nigeria, has already produced a considerable body of eco-writing. This body of writing does indeed demand a theoretical and analytical engagement, which can engender a delineation of distinctive principles towards a particularisation.1 The future of ecocriticism in Nigeria will see studies dedicated only to

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the literary response to the condition of the earth in the Niger Delta. Other regions also have their peculiar ecological crises. Having lived and watched the environment in Nigeria, I can make the point that north-west and north-east have faced the problems of desertification and drought. South-east and southwest, usually zones of heavy rainfall, have faced the crises of floods, erosion, and rising sea levels. North-central Nigeria also faces the crises of floods and erosion. With the increasing effects of climate change, green grass is disappearing from the north-east and north-west, usually the traditional settlements of the Fulani herders in Nigeria. As they move towards the southern parts, via the central parts, in search of green pastures, they encounter stiff resistance from farmers, whose decreasing lands become contested between the herders and the farmers. This has had profound social-ecological implications, which will definitely shape the future of ecocriticism in Nigeria. Sooner than later, there will be literary works that capture the conflicts between the herders and the farmers, if they do not already exist. A keen reader would have noticed the rather disturbing absence of animal studies or a zoocritical dimension in this book. While throughout the book, but especially under nature, references are made to animals as beings of the nonhuman world, there is the need for Nigerian zoocriticism. Of course, it would be naïve to be dismissive of the representation of animals in Nigerian literary imagination, even if it is not as robust as it is in other societies. But animals have featured prominently in the construction of images in Nigerian poetry (Egya 345–358). The poet Tanure Ojaide, for instance, wrote in his 1986 collection Labyrinth of the Delta that “I breathe fire from my heart, not to burn any house but to drive vermin from our midst. I have the heart to scare the owl from sorcery and outsmart the tortoise in its cheating game” (emphasis added 5). The poet’s self-fashioning here is anchored on the attributes of animals. Ahmed Maiwada’s 2017 volume of poetry titled We’re Fish is one of the recent works that continues this animal metaphorisation, giving a rather postmodern aspect to the animist unconscious in Nigerian literary imagination. Beyond this, zoocriticism would look at the conjuncture of the traditional animal pet system and the modern one as the Nigerian middle class grows. Pet animals, such as dogs and cats, are kept at home; the relations between humans and pets sometimes having deep traditional connotations. One question to underscore a line of enquiry here is why are the Nigerian elite, often accused of being eager to ape the west, unable to imbibe the taste of modern animal pets? In the same vein, the Nigerian wilderness or thick forest zones deserve attention from writers and scholars of ecocriticism. Game reserves exist across Nigeria. Again, thick forests have existed in Nigerian literary imagination as parts of the natural world. For instance, in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, there is the evil forest, the humans’ way of othering the wilderness. Conservation, as we have seen in Amadi’s The Concubine, could be a natural process with humans through the process of prohibition and taboo. But there is the need to focus on wilderness, forest zones, and their conservation as an aspect

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of ecocritical engagement. Artistic works dedicated to the rich forest zones and the study of such works would expand the scope of Nigerian ecocriticism. The future of ecocriticism in Nigeria is, in my estimation, bright. And yet its richness can only be fully explored with approaches that emphasise difference and decentring. This point is ultimately crucial.2 It is hoped that this book makes the modest effort of starting a conversation in this regard.

Notes 1 The eco-writing from the Niger Delta enjoy more critical attention than those of other regions in Nigeria. For instance, nearly a half of the essays collected in Ogaga Okuyade’s edited volume, Eco-Critical Literature: Regreening African Landscapes are on the literary writings from the Niger Delta. 2 This point is indeed worth reiterating because of my experience when I organised a conference at Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University in June 2018. Themed “Ecology and the Convergence of the Sciences and the Humanities,” most of the papers on ecocriticism focused on Helon Habila’s Oil on Water, Kaine Agary’s Yellow-Yellow, and poetry from the Niger Delta region. The concentration of ecocriticism on the Niger Delta in the conference was both encouraging and discouraging in that even the discourse became monotonous and fails to represent the spread and diversity of ecocriticism in Nigeria.

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Index

Abacha, Sani 10, 21, 121 Abdullahi, Denja 20, 71, 76, 87–99, 171 Abubakar, Abdullahi S. 38, 40, 151 Abuja 72–3, 87–99 Abuja Nunyi 20, 76, 87–99 Achebe, Chinua 9–11, 16, 26–8, 69, 152, 174 Activism 1, 4–7, 50, 120–125, 172 Adejumobi, Said 54 Adekemi, Ogundiran 72, 118 Adeniran, Olufunmilola Olubunmi 20, 99–108, 171 Adeniyi, Olusegun 21 Adepitan, Titi 11, 60 advocacy 17, 127–8 The Activist 50, 144–5, 168 Agary, Kaine 14, 20, 76, 108–114 Agema, Su’eddie Vershima 99–100 Aghoghovwia, Philip 115 Aiyejina, Funso 13, 59 Ajibade, Kunle 10 Akpuda, Austin Amanze 50–1 Alkali, Zaynab 48, 71, 157 Allen, Fidelis 146 Allister, Mark 171 alter-native tradition 14 Amadi, Elechi 20, 26–36, 69–70, 170–4 Ameh, Elaigwu 14, 119, 168 Amutabi, Maurice 25–30, 36 animal studies 174 animist unconscious 18, 25–6, 40, 171, 174 Another Raft 20, 26–27, 37–47 the Anthropocene 12 Anyanwu, Chris 10 Atta, Sefi 48, 71, 157 Attridge, Derek 120 Awhefeada, Sunny 109–112 Azuike, Maureen Amaka 157

Babangida, Ibrahim Badamasi 10, 93, 119, 175 Barad, Karen 2 Bartosch, Roman 120, 167 Bassey, Nnimmo 6, 49, 156, 168 Beatie, James 101 belief system 23–5 Bennet, Jane 24 Beyond Sound and Voice 55–58 Biakolo, Emevwo 9 Bodunde, Charles 21 Brownell, Emily 5 Buell, Lawrence 1, 16, 127 Buhari, Muhammadu 10, 20 built environment 7, 12, 17, 20, 68, 70–5, 81, 88–92, 104, 108, 118, 171–2 Caminero-Santangelo, Byron 1, 15, 54, 75, 115, 121, 127, 162, 168 The Carnivorous City 20, 72, 76–88, 92, 101 Cassier, Ernest 30 Chukwumah, Ignatius 111–4 Clark, J. P. 5, 8–9, 14, 38, 40–5 climate change 6, 12, 20, 37, 75, 84, 100–107, 119, 142–155, 171–4 climate crisis 69, 75–6, 104–6, 142–7 colonialism 26–8, 70, 75–7, 89, 127, 169 commercialism 37, 72, 93, 104, 128, 133, 140 The Concubine 20, 26–36, 174 Coughran, Chris 22 Crow, Brian 38 Darah, G. G. 9 Decentredness 14 DeLoughrey, Elizabeth 15–16, 23, 71, 127–8 Desertification 6–7, 75, 174 difference 1, 15, 17, 127–9, 134, 162, 173 distributed agency 18, 24, 29

Index Douglas, Oronto 110, 147 Drought 6, 75, 105, 176 ecocritical aesthetics 12–14 eco-destruction 2, 6, 12–13, 121–3, 140, 146, 151, 153, 164, 172 ecofeminism 16, 154–9, 165 ecological crisis 2, 77, 94, 142–6 ecological force 87, 108, 126–137 ecological fund 74 ecosystem 4, 47–9, 108, 121, 126, 131, 145, 154 Efe, Sunday 146 Ehrlich, Anne 47, 78 Ehrlich, Paul 47, 78 Ehwarieme, William 146 Ejobowah, John Boye 168 Eko, Ebele E. 27 Ekwensi, Cyprian 71 Enekwe, Ossie 39 Environment 70–6 EnvironMentality 120, 167 environmental justice 16, 18, 23, 121–4 environmentalism of the poor 115, 121, 146, 172 erosion 6, 7, 30, 74, 142, 171, 174 extraction 1, 2, 74 The Eye of the Earth 58–69 Ezenwa-Ohaeto 21 Falola, Toyin 5, 132 The Famished Road 47, 123 female agency 165 Field, Terri 113 Finnegan, Ruth 40 Fire in My Backyard 125–142 The Fisherman Invocation 52 Flood 99–108 flora and fauna 36, 51–7 forest 53, 63, 114, 126–132 formalism 8 Foyer, Jean 26, 152 Frank, Katherine 157 Gaard, Greta 92, 113, 154 Garuba, Harry 8, 25–6, 40, 60, 171 Gbagyi 87–99 George, Olakunle 42 global capitalism 2, 156 Glotfelty, Cheryll 15, 19 Goodbody, Axel 16, 90–1, 143, 150 Gotrick, Kacke 38 Greenblatt, Stephen 130

185

Habila, Helon 11, 20, 76, 108–118 Handley, George B. 15–16, 23, 71, 127–8 Heise, Ursula K. 47, 52 Henry, Matthew 101 Heynen, Nik 85 Huggan, Graham 15, 17, 19, 127 human-centredness 38, 73 human exceptionalism 12 Hunt, Alex 2, 15, 127 Hutchison, Yvette 38, 41 “Ibadan” 5–6 Ickstadt, Heinz 120 ideology 9–13, 118, 121, 123 “Idoto” 4–5 Ifeyinwa, Okolo 71 Ifowodo, Ogaga 49 Ikere-Ekiti 58–69 indigenous knowledge system 26, 29 interdependence 2, 4, 13, 18, 34, 37, 49, 63, 137–9, 167, 170 instrumentalism 6, 10, 17; human instrumentalism 35; literary instrumentalism 17, 100, 120, 123–6, 172 Irele, Abiola 11–12, 100, 170 Iyayi, Festus 8, 38, 153 Izevbaye, Dan 8–9 Jeyifo, Biodun 9, 59–60, 167 Julien, Eileen 19 Kamal, Aliyu 20, 124–142, 172 Kan, Toni 20, 71, 76–88 Kano 125–142 Kaika, Maria 85, 92 Keil, Roger 88, 156 Ker, David 8 Kerridge, Richard 2 Kervran, David Dumoulin 26, 152 King, Ynestra 113, 165 Kwali, Ladi 89–91 Lagos 76–88 Landscape 5–6, 11, 14, 20, 24, 48, 52–4, 63, 70–6, 85 lead poison 74–5, 118 local lore 13–14, 143 Maathai, Wangari 162 Maduka, Chidi T. 27–8 Maier, Karl 10, 69 Maiwada, Ahmed 14, 174

186

Index

Marxism 8 material ecocriticism 2, 18, 24 Mbajiorgu, Greg 20, 119, 125, 142–155, 172 Metabolism 73–4, 83 Michel, Foucault 165 Militants 109, 118, 147, 157 modernity 4–7, 13, 20, 23, 26, 37, 42–3, 47, 52, 63, 70–6, 90–3, 102–4, 127, 133, 155, 161; colonial modernity 8, 28, 71, 128; petrodollar modernity 49, 51; western modernity 4, 13, 18, 20, 23, 28 Mohammed, Murtala Ramat 93, 119 Morton, Timothy 22 MOSOP (Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People) 168 multinational corporations 75 Murphy, Patrick D. 29, 92, 113, 154–5, 159–160, 165 My River: Poems on Riverine Ecology 53–8 Myers, Garth 71, 75, 85, 90, 133, 172 Nasarawa State 74 Nativism 5 nature 4–5, 22–27 natural disaster 26, 107, 171 neo-liberal capitalism 6, 20, 110, 112 new materialism 24 Nfah-Abbenyi, Juliana Makuchi 15 Niger Delta 2, 3, 6–7, 13, 20, 49–55, 74, 76, 108–119, 145–7, 155–9, 162–8, 171–5 Niger Delta eco-writing 6 Niger River 53–5 Niger State 74 the Nigerian Civil War 9, 59 Nigerian ecocriticism 3, 7, 12–19, 23, 26, 109, 120, 154, 162, 169, 170, 173, 175 Nixon, Rob 6, 15, 18, 49, 117, 121, 167 nonhuman 1–5, 12–13, 18, 20, 22–4, 26–7, 29–37, 44, 49, 54, 71, 73, 75, 77, 100, 103–110; nonhuman agency 37, 124 northern Nigeria 126–9, 168 Nnolim, Charles 8 Nwachukwu-Agbada, J. O. J. 60, 63 Nwoga, Donatus 8–9 Nwosu, Maik 168 Nwoye, May Ifeoma 20, 125, 154–167, 172 Nyabri, Idom T. 110 Obafemi, Olu 9, 38, 143, 151, 153 Obiechina, Emmanuel N. 21, 69 O’Connor, James 78 Ofeimun, Odia 8, 38, 59, 76, 78 O’Gorman, Emily 101

Ogungbensan, Kolawole 8 Ohierhenuan, John 9 Okigbo, Christopher 1, 4–5, 8, 58–60 Okonta, Ike 110, 147 Okopi, Samuel 20, 99–104, 171 Okpewho, Isidore 14, 50, 168 Okunoye, Oyeniyi 10, 51, 60 Ogbowei, G. Ebinyo 49, 168 Ogoniland 13, 20–1, 163 Oil Cemetery 154–167 Oil on Water 108–118 oil extraction 2, 74 Okara, Gabriel 14, 20, 49, 51–2, 69, 162 Okri, Ben 47, 123 Okuyade, Ogaga 50–1, 56, 58, 168, 175 Olamiju, Isaac 72, 118 Olaniyan, Tejumola 38 Olaoluwa, Senayon 26 Oloibiri 6, 110 Olukoju, Ayodeji 133 Omafume, Onoge 9 Omotoso, Kole 9, 38 Onoge, Omafume 9 Oni, Ola 9 Onukaogu, Abalogu A. 119 Onyerionwu, Ezechi 119 Oralities 2, 7, 9, 48 Osaghae, Eghosa 13, 54, 168 Osofisan, Femi 8, 20, 27, 37–47 Osundare, Niyi 8, 13–14, 17, 25, 27, 38, 47, 58–69 Otobotekere, Christian 20, 27, 47, 53–8 Onwueme, Tess 143 Oyinloye, Michael 72 ozone layer 75 pastoralism 50–1, 58 patriarchy 79, 91, 104, 109, 146, 157, 159, 166 petrodollar capitalism 26, 49, 57, 115, 122, 157, 159, 160, 165, 172 Plateau State 74 Philip, Nourbese M. 48 postcolonial ecocriticism 2, 14–20, 23, 124, 126–9, 154, 169, 173 “Quarter to Eleven” 99–104 The Rainbow Lied 99, 106 Rangarajan, Swarnalatha 2, 148 Resistance 11, 18, 20, 38, 49–50, 88, 100, 127–8, 139, 156, 169, 172, 174 “The River God” 99–108 River Nun 49–52

Index Roos, Bonnie 15, 127 Rotimi, Ola 8 Salm, Steven J. 132 Sanders, Scott Russell 57 Saro-Wiwa, Ken 6–7, 54, 71, 109, 121, 122, 162, 167–9 Sarveswaran, Vidya 2, 148 Shaxson, Nicholas 147, 168 singularity of literature 120 Slaymaker, William 3, 15 Slovic, Scott 2, 148 socio-ecological force 2, 146; socioecological vision 17, 23, 70, 138 Soderstrom, Ola 86 Songs of the Marketplace 8, 58–69 Soper, Kate 22, 22, 160 southern and northern protectorates 78 southern Nigeria 128–9 Sowande, Bode 9, 38, 143 Soyinka, Wole 1, 8–10, 38, 48, 71, 121 Sustainability 25, 128 Swyngedouw, Erik 73, 85 Taiwo, Oladele 21, 69 Tiffin, Helen 15, 17, 127 Tombia 50, 56 Traditionalism 5, 8, 17, 28, 37, 48, 71, 126, 137, 143, 151, 154, 159, 161, 166–7 Tsaaior, James 27

187

Umoren, Tonia 37 uneven development 72, 77–8 urban political ecology 71, 88 urbanisation 6, 73, 91–3, 101; urbanisation process 5, 78, 85–8, 91, 96–7 Ushie, Joe 50 Usman, Adamu Kyuka 14 Uzoma, Rose C. 129, 168 Vagime, Lucy 115 Vatsa, Mamman Jiya 87 Village Voices 63–9 Wake Up Everyone 142–154 Watts, Michael 54 Wenzel, Jennifer 115–6 “We Thought It Was Oil But It Was Blood” 6–7 Wilderness 174 Withington, John 107 Woodland 125–142 wood logging 125–142 Yeibo, Ebi 49 Yellow-Yellow 108–114 Yerima, Ahmed 14, 48, 154, 168 Yoruba orality 59 Zamfara State 74 Zapf, Hubert 108, 126, 129–30, 137