Class Stratification, Poverty And Social Injustice (A Critical Analysis Of Festus Iyayi’s Violence And Olu Obafemi Wheels)

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

Class Stratification, Poverty And Social Injustice (A Critical Analysis Of Festus Iyayi’s Violence And Olu Obafemi Wheels)


Abstract


This study is set out to analysis the issues of poverty, class stratification and social injustice in Olu Obafemi’s Wheels and Festus Iyayi’s Violence. The purpose is to enlighten Africans on the need to fight against all forms of social injustice. The Marxist theory is adopted for the analysis of this study. The result is that the quest for a classless society is the only way for a better living.


Chapter One


1.0 Introduction

A writer is supposed to perform certain duties to the upliftment of his society. Perhaps this accounts for various roles that both writers and critics have ascribed to modern African writers. Ngugi says:

I believe that Africa intellectual must align themselves with the struggle national idea… perhaps in a small way, the African writer can help in articulating the feelings behind this struggle. (Ngugi, 1975:50)

Nigerian writers have pursued different themes amongst which are cross-cultural conflicts, the African past, corruption in politics, social injustice, which also include; poverty, exploitation, oppression, marginalization, class struggle and class stratification. Achebe argues that the novel is a:

Form of fiction has seized the imagination of many African writers and they will use it according to their differing abilities, sensibilities and vision without seeking anyone’s permission. I believe it will grow and prosper. I believe it has great future. (Achebe, 1981:54)

Apparently, the events of the Nigerian political system have caused Nigerian writing to shift in themes. Therefore, a writer who tries to avoid the big social and political issues of contemporary African society will end up completely irrelevant because his work would have no impact on the people and society.

Such work becomes irrelevant like the writer himself to the society and the people because he has failed to address any of the important issues at stake. Therefore art should not just be for the purpose of exploring its beauty just as the formalist school of thought posits. It should contemplate the society and expose the ills in the society and as well define a solution for these ills just as the Marxist would argue.

The Marxist concern emerges out of the need to find a lasting solution to class stratification and a society free of oppression. Fortunately, this quest is not in vain as a good number of writers in Africa are involved in various ways in the struggle for the negation of the neo-colonialism and the alienating effect of capitalist lordship in African countries. Among these African writers are Olu Obafemi and Festus Iyayi. Olu Obafemi uses his novel Wheels to mirror the society and as well fight for the cause of the poor, just as Festus Iyayi has done in his novel Violence. He uses his protagonist Idemudia to narrate the plight of the poor who suffer from social injustice and are placed in the lower cadre of the society.

Marxism, like every other modern theory of writing is universal and since it can be used in quest of freeing the society from corrupt practices, Africans should then, not be left out as the decisive development of African literature. Marxism consists of the rise of a tradition of radical thinking in general, and with strongest ideological alignment.

At the level of general theory of development in question, it is a vindication of the generalization that in a class society, literary movements are inevitable, if not automatic outgrowth of class society and political directions.


1.1 Statement of Research Problem

Every research work poses as a problem that needs to be resolved, which bring about the questions as to how these problems that arises will be solved. The sole aim of the researcher is to find answers that will best solve these problems.

Therefore this research will by the end have answered questions like:

  1. What is Marxism?
  2. How has the gap between the rich and the poor evolved?
  3. What is poverty and class stratification and why is it regarded as social injustice?

In an attempt to provide appropriate answers to these questions the researcher will carry out thorough investigations on the Marxist theory thereby making references to the work of other researchers and scholars who have worked on Marxism. Also the works of Festus Iyayi and Olu Obafemi, as earlier stated, will be used as well.


1.2 Purpose of Study

The purpose of this study is to shed more light on the issues of class stratification, social injustice, and poverty and how African writers like Olu Obafemi, Festus Iyayi, Ayi Kwei Armah, Isidore Okpewho, Ngugi wa Thiong’o have used literature as a tool for the eradication of poverty and to breach the gap between the rich and the poor.

Also, in the light of these issues been faced in Africa, the aim of this study is to also bring to the reader’s notice the importance of fighting to get out of poverty in a dignifying manner and not allowing the oppression and exploitation of the bourgeois just as Festus Iyayi uses the character, Idemudia, in Violence to explain this, as well as how Olu Obafemi explores these issues in Wheels.


1.3 Scope and Limitation of Study

The major preoccupation of this study is to bring to limelight the issues of class stratification, social injustice and the eradication of poverty in the African society and how African literary writers have been able to expose these ills with the intention of eradicating it from the society. In order to achieve this, the research work shall be limited to using Festus Iyayi’s Violence and Olu Obafemi’s Wheels as the data for the analysis of these issues.


1.4 Justification

Many scholars and writers have examined class stratification as a component of social stratification, perhaps, why it exists. Also ‘poverty’ has been examined as one of the major issues in Africa and how it has become difficult to eradicate.

Though scholars and writers have examined these motifs, sometimes as a single entity and at other times collectively, readers don’t yet seem to understand that poverty is what leads to class stratification and social injustice. That is what Obafemi and Iyayi pointed out in their novels, Wheels and Violence.

These novels were the primary sources of reference as they capture the political experiences of the people. Both novelists unfold the nature of the instruments of power which were meant for effective governance is misused on the governed especially the poor.


1.5 Research Methodology

The methodology approach to be used for the effective analysis of this study is the Marxist theory. This is because the Marxist theorist view the society (especially capitalist society) as politically locked down and hold the freedom of the people. They portray the suffering of the masses in their literary texts and form their analysis and view point, that the masses suffer as a result of corruption and stratification which our leaders seem to always follow.

As most literary texts written now discuss more on the political state of a society and how political climate affects the economic structure of the society, which is depreciating as a result of class stratification, poverty and social injustice, the best approach pays more attention to the exploitation, the oppressed and stratified and explains the labour complexities been faced, which is the Marxist theory.

The use of Marxist approach is justified as the two novelists whose work shall be used as the data for analysis share the same ideological approach which is Marxism.


1.6 Festus Iyayi’s Background

Festus Iyayi, born 1947, in Benin City is a Nigerian writer known for his radical and sometimes tough stance on social and political issues. Iyayi employs a radical style of writing, depicting the socio-political and environmental system in which both the rich and poor live.

He was born in Edo state, Nigeria. His family was from a humble background, but instilled in him strong moral lessons about life. Iyayi started his education at Annunciation Catholic College in the old Bendel state popularly known as ACC. On graduation in 1966; and in 1967 he went to Government College Ughelli, graduating in 1968. In that same year he became a zonal winner in a Kennedy Essay competition organise by the United States Embassy in Nigeria. He left the shores of Nigeria to pursue his higher education, obtaining M.Sc in Industrial Economics from the Kiev institute of Economics, in the former USSR and then his PhD from the University of Bradford, England. In 1980, he came back to Benin and became a lecturer in the Department of Business Administration at the university, he became interested in radical social issues, and a few years after his employment, He became the president of the local branch of the Academic staff union of universities (ASUU), a radical unionist known for his upfront style on academic and national issues. He rose to the position of president of the national organisation of ASUU in 1986, but in 1988, the union was briefly banned and Iyayi was detained. In that same year he won the commonwealth prize for Literature for his book Heroes. He was later removed from his faculty position. Today, Iyayi is a member of different Nigeria literary organisations and works in the private sector as a consultant.

His creative include Violence (1979), The Contract (1982), Heroes (1986), Awaiting Court Material, (1996).


1.7 Olu Obafemi‘s Background

Olu Obafemi was born on April 4, 1950 in Akutupa-Bunu, Kogi State, Nigeria. He read English at the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. He is a Professor of English and dramatic literature in the University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria. He teaches literary criticism, theory and creative writing in the university. He is a dramatist, poet, novelist a foremost Nigerian scholar. Many of his published plays have been performed to audiences in Nigerian and to African and international audiences in Kenya, Cameroon, England and the United States.

Obafemi has won many academic fellowships and awards. He was awarded the DAAD study visit to the University of Bayreuth, Germany in 1993, 1994 and 1995. He was resident, and Professor of English in Tennessee University of Technology, USA from February to March, 2005. Professor Obafemi is a fellow of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) as well as a fellow of the Nigeria Academy of Letters.

Obafemi has produced over thirty plays through his university based theatre outfit, Ajon Players and the university theatre workshop in Leeds. Some of his plays are Nights of a Mystical, Beast, Suicide Syndrome, Naira Has No Gender and Dark Times are over. He is also the author of Songs of Hope, a collection of poems, and a novel titled Wheels. His scholarly works include Nigerian Writers and the Nigerian Civil War and Contemporary Nigerian Theatre.


Chapter Five


5.0 Findings, Summary and Conclusion

In the writing of Iyayi and OluObafemi research, various methods have been applied for better presentation and easier comprehensive of what the researcher aims to achieve from carrying out this research. First of all the research work was divided into five chapters in which the first chapter introduces the reader (s) on what the works all about. It also states the aim and objectives, justification, scope and limitation of the work as well as the theory to be use in establishing the facts that the researcher has gathered; it also gives an insight into the biography of the two writers whose works have been use as a case study. The second chapter looked at the review of literature of scholars who in one way or the other, discussed the theory used for the research work. The third and fourth chapter looked into the analysis of wheels by OluObafemi and Violence by Festus Iyayi respectively, in a bid to discuss the problem of poverty, class stratification and social injustice as has been discussed by both writers. Chapter five focuses on the summary, findings and conclusion of the research work.

This research work has to some extent try to examine and analysed what OluObafemi and Festus Iyayi have portrayed in their works; Wheels and Violence, respectively. In both novels, they have been able to show the ills of society, which include poverty, class stratification and social injustice, and have been able to the harm these ills had done society, while giving a possible solution to the problem, which centreson revolution of the masses as propounded Marxism. These writers portray that the ills that the society face as a result of man’s greed to attain wealth as well as over ambitiousness, will continue to retard society until the poor rise up to the challenge, thereby taking“the bull by the horn” and liberate themselves from the inhumane treatment that they are subjected to.
These works exist to make the people aware of the level of class stratification, poverty and social injustice that exist in society today. It is as a result of that fact that so many writers have elaborated these issues in their various works, in a bid to wipe off these problems. These writers in treating these issues dwell on the issues of poverty as the main reason for class divisions. It is as a result of poverty which exists amongst the majority in the society that breeds the notion of the “haves and the have-nots”. These writers preach the need for the people to fight against poverty, class stratification and social injustice, so as to make society a classless environment where discrimination will no longer be obtainable. They explore the physical, psychological, and emotional consequences of how the less privileged is exploited and stratified by the rich. In addition, their pity for the poor has become their reason for their agitation for the oppression of the poor to cease and for them to also be sensitised towards social rebirth.

In a bid to examine, analyse and discuss these problems present in society, these writers use the Marxist theory since that is an ideology that identifies with the suffering, oppression, exploitation and stratification of the poor. The ideology seeks for a way to help them out of their situation and as well, aims for the attainment of a classless and egalitarian society built on equality. This is what is obtainable in Olu Obafemi’s Wheels and Festus Iyayi Violence. Both writers use Marxist ideology to evoke and reawaken the level of consciousness of society. In the ways; it differs through its characterisation, setting, plot, diction and its style of writing but the most important thing to note is that despite the differences in form or structure, the texts expose the ills of poverty class stratification and social injustice which is generally seen as man’s inhumanity to man.

The rich who own the means of production are also the ones who rule over the poor, who are the ones actually producing, without the poor, owning the capital for production will be as good as being useless. This complexity in society is what Obafemi and Iyayi explore, in the neo-colonial structure, which the leaders of today have set. Obafemi and Iyayi are ideologically inclined towards socialist-realism and their texts are filled with revolutionary flavour. In this sense therefore, they find it easier in dividing the society into two classes in which the ruling class comprises of politicians, senior military officers, businessmen, while the lower class consists of farmers, traders, and the working class. The Nigerian society has been a divided one from the inception of colonial rule and even after independence because of capitalism, which is bound with greed, violence, exploitation, oppression, injustice, marginalization, stratification and poverty. Obafemi and Iyayi also expose the decay in the socio-political and economic state, and the dilapidation basic social amenities witness in all spheres of the nation, despite the natural endowment in both human and material resources that are under-utilised, which has become an eyesore in the society.

The texts Wheels and Violence can be seen as therapeutic novels, which give room for self-examination and proffer a solution as to how a better society could be born. These novels do not only portray the menace of the above-discussed ills, they also make use of the socialist-realism to proffer solutions to society plight. In Wheels, Olu Obafemi does not just expose the decadence in society; he also attempts to present a way out of the socio-political and economic situations in the society by bringing the poor together to fight against all sorts of injustice they face. He has outrighly used the Marxist ideology as a tool to end the division between the rich and the poor. He artistically creates a gathering in which both the rich and the poor are present. This act goes a long way to show that these writers are really concerned about the situation in the country.

In Violence also, Iyayi focuses on the socio-political and economic situations pertinent in society and brings to light the need for these problems to be addressed and resolved for the birth of an egalitarian society. Iyayi proffers solution to society by exemplifying his protagonist Idemudia as one who incorruptible and does not accept bribe even in his state of poverty. Therefore, Iyayi tries to point out the need for justice and fair play in which corruption is abhorred. The readers are motivated into action because their level of awareness is raise, as Iyayi presents sordidly, man’s inhumanity to man.

As the reader is made aware of all these problems, he is forced to find the need to restore the dignity of man, which can only be achieved through collectivism, and unity of all so as to achieve their goal. Iyayi exposes the insatiable appetite of man to gain wealth and power at the expense of the less privileged. The acquisition of wealth and power that is done at the expense of the lower class brings happiness and all manners of celebration to the rich in contrast to the pain, suffering and sorrow the poor face continually. This is dehumanisation and it brings to mind what is locally referred to as ‘man eating man’. The only difference here is, in this sense it is the emotion and psychology of man that is been eaten up. This creates bitterness that could generate into crime of all sorts.

Iyayi exposes a society where majority of families cannot afford three meals a day not even to talk of two. There is anger in the hearts of the poor and the choice of the title Violence indicates man’s inhumanity to man, which is barbaric and dehumanising in nature. The oppressed class is made to engage in all sorts of menial and dehumanising jobs. As I had cited example, Idemudia had to sell his own blood just to make a living and be able to feed his family. He offloads a huge amount of blocks under the rain after which he was paid a miserly amount of five naira. This made him sick and even when he goes for treatment; there are no beds for him to lie on. Man is faced with poverty, danger, disease and injustice.

Obafemi and Iyayi have made their message clear that the masses have to be in unity to fight against all these ills they go through, to make the society a suitable place to live in. The thought of the hateful reflex that emanates from the poor to the rich gives us an understanding of the reason why the need for an egalitarian society is necessary. These writers cannot sit back anymore and watch while the society accepts social injustices as a way of life. They believe that once the society understands that corruption and all these forms of social injustice are unprofitable and harmful, they will abandon it.


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