The Post Independent Nigerian Politician In Wale Okedirans Tenants Of The House

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The Post Independent Nigerian Politician In Wale Okedirans Tenants Of The House


Chapter One


1.0 Introduction

This essay is on the post-independence Nigerian politician in Wale Okediran’s Tenants of the House. The study examines the corrupt nature of Nigerian politics. The book itself is a skillful delineation of the ugly colors of Nigerian politics with its seeming intrigues, base motives, ‘win at all costs motive’ and money as the great leverage. It also has its rich mix of love and politics.

Once upon a time, there was a region in the amalgamated units called Nigeria which has the largest land mass, contributed greatly to the national pool, had fair share of commerce and industrial activities and above all called the shots in the art of power and leadership. This region had produced nine out of the fourteen (14) heads of government so far who had ruled for greater part of the country’s fifty one (52) years of self government. The region also produced uncountable numbers of ministers and retinue of other influential citizens who drew their power from diverse sources. As the nation celebrates thirteen (14) years of uninterrupted democracy to day, one huge question is to be asked ‘What have the leaders so far done with political powers?’

African literature not Nigerian has had a long tradition of political satirization perhaps owing to experiences of dictatorship, nepotism and such other vices inherent in the leadership of various African countries. This explains the theory of writing as socio responsibility. Thus, from anti-colonial struggle to the vicious neo-colonialism we have had writers that pursued this course with uncommon virtuosity, it is within this context that one situates Wale Okediran’s Tenants of the House.

In Tenants of the House, Wale Okediran presents a vivid picture, a critique, even if not an expose of contemporary Nigerian politics. Though the setting of the 306 page novel is the Nigeria’s lower chamber of the National Assembly; the House of Representative, it dramatizes the polity with coverage and artistic bravura. Indeed, the first person narration endears readers to the book and gives chance for details.

Fortunately, both the writer and the narrator were members of the House (insiders) hence the excellent account. Tenants of the House is not all about politics as it embedded equally powerful themes, notable among them is the theme of love.

The novel always has the potential to stir up controversies as it gives a unique insight into the politicking, corruption, intrigues, scheming, betrayal and political horse-trading that has been the hallmark of Nigeria’s legislature since 1999. What many Nigerians have only previously speculated about has been revealed by an insider. It is a haunting portrait, with a strong ring of familiarity and topicality, that I find most instructive, the realism of the narrative, a strong indication of how little progress has been made in Africa’s development process. The point has been made and nauseam that a critical causative factor in Nigeria’s development, is the failure of the leadership elite; their graft and greed, lack of enlightenment, and viciousness, made worse by their alienation from the reality and the people they are supposed to lead.

In Okediran’s most recent novel, we are introduced to a terribly disoriented society, where there is much conflict between rhetoric and action, appearance and reality, individual and society, and this is reproduced not only among the political elite but also at all strata of the society. The book presents, withy gripping suspense a shrill voice of a nation in urgent need of political renewal and rebirth.


1.1 Life And Works Of The Author

Wale Okediran was born in April 1955 in Oyo State Nigeria. He qualified as a medical doctor from the Obafemi Awolowo University in 1980. He had worked in government and private hospitals for several years before he went into private practice until 1999 when he went into politics and was appointed Chairman, Oyo State Hospital’s Management Board.

He later contested for a seat in the Federal House of Representatives, where he represented his constituency, from 2005 to 2007. Wale Okediran is well known for his essays, short stories and novels which are deeply rooted in the contemporary Nigerian society in which he lives.

In 1990, his poem “Call to Worship,” won a book prize for the American poetry contest while his novel, The Boys at the Border was shortlisted for the 1991 commonwealth literature prize. Indeed most of his works have been shortlisted for awards or are actually award winners. His novel The Rescue of Uncle Babs, won the 1998 ANA Prize for children’s literature while Dreams Die at Twilight, was adjudged for the NLNG, Nigerian Literature Prize in 2004.

In the same year, Dreams Die at Twilight was one of the 25th best books of the last 25 years in Nigeria by Spectrum Books Limited.

In 2005, Strange Encounters won the ANA Fiction prize while The Weaving Looms, was shortlisted to the 2008 Wole Soyinka prize for literature in Africa.

Okediran who is a medical doctor, served as a member of the Federal House of Representatives, Abuja, Nigeria between 2003 to 2007, he was also the National President of the Association of Nigerian authors from 05 to 2009.


1.2 Synopsis Of The Novel

Tenants of the House is a skillful delineation of the ugly colors of Nigerian politics with its seeming intrigues, base motives, ‘win at all-cost’ motivations and money as the great leverage with its rich mix of love and politics. The novel centers on the plot to oust the speaker of the House of Representatives as seen through the eyes of Honorable Samuel, the narrator. The move was initiated by the p residency and Honorable Samuel, hitherto an inconsequential member in the House, was propelled to the forefront of dubious politicians with dubious intents, moving him a key figure in the battle for the leadership of the house.

As the story unfolds, the narrator reveals the motivations behind the unpredictable flow of events in the legislative largely shaped by `fertilizer’ (bribes) offered to legislators. The extent to which corruption dictates the fate of a country is summarized by one of the honorablses, Moses Adeyi, who says:

“Who will stand up for anything except his stomach, all people want is money to eat”[217].

It is this desperate avarice that leads to the intrigues daily played out in the hallowed chambers of the house that revolve around late night meetings, prostitutional shift of allegiances, driven revelries, blackmails, conspiracies, betrayal and spy work. All of these are part of legislative work that Nigerians are not privy to. We are also exposed to some of the tricks employed by legislators to truncate the functioning of the house, like curing off power supply, sabotaging the air conditioning and short circuiting the microphones. One would be surprised how dubious our lawmakers are.

Okediran also gives us a fictionalized insight into the battle for the third term bid how the greedy legislators so dramatically demonized in the impeachment saga, came together in a union of very strange bed fellows, to shoot down the dastardly tenure elongation bid of a very theatrical president. ‘Oneya’. In disregarding the rules of narration Okediran, who alternates between the first person and omniscient narratives goes behind the scene to report events that shed more lights on the overall plot. While some may see this as a plus, conservatives may consider it a flagrant violation of narrative rules, but there is no denying this approach helped in the wholesomeness of the study.

The novel apart form being an expose on some subtle issues in the House, like cultism and drug use among legislators the novel has a mix of memorable characters like Hon. Lizzy Bello, the gun-carrying belle of the house how carries pistol in her purse and is in the thick of every plot, for the good or the bad. There is also the small senator smollet, the president’s dog on a leash and go between, not to mention president Oneya and others, whom Okediran assembled to move his plot forward with much drama and theatrics.


1.3 Review Of Related Criticism

The spirit of struggle against unjust social systems like slavery, colonialism, racism, capitalism and imperialism is neither new or peculiar to Africa, and different people of the world at different times have had to resist forms of oppression sometimes successfully without decisive success.

Writers, because they constitute a sensitive part of the society may more than others feel the oppression around them although they may not have the best imaginative responses to political analysis and activities but they still contribute their own quota through their write ups.

Okediran Tenants of the House has also been analysed by different authorities but only a few would be cited here.

Abubakar Adam Ibrahim in an online article sees the book as

“a competition of political intrigue treated with a huge dose of thirty veiled fiction documenting occurrences in Nigeria’s lower legislative chamber.”

This is a fact as the author who is also a fictional character in the novel recounts his ordeals as a tenant in the House of Representatives.

Reuben Abati views Okediran’s latest novel in an article as

“a fictional account of some of the highlights of that season in Nigeria’s fourth republic.”

He admits that much in the end what the author offers is an artistic portrayal of the enduring challenge of leadership not just in Nigeria’s tottering political space but in Africa.

Abati’s view is correct because the Nigerian politicians who was depicted as a hero, fighting for independence in anti-colonial Nigerian literature, is now portrayed in post-independence Nigerian literature as a corrupt individual, intolerant of opposition and dissent, a criminal, a monster dictator and a vain fool.

Lanre Ogundimu in an online article where his views were properly expressed comments on the book as one:

“full of political satire, innuendo, intrigue and dubious characters, the author, Wale Okediran, uses his inside knowledge and experience as one term congressman in Nigeria’s Federal House of Representatives to skillfully tell an interesting fictional story. The book exposes the political class and the back stabbing and selfish interest in the lawmaking chamber and the country.”

In addition to this, I would say that this novel offers a quintessential portrait of the brutal and cannibalistic leadership that Nigeria has had to endure in the past five decades.

Carmen views the novel in an article by “good reads” published online as she gave her own contribution to Okediran’s novel: Tenants of the House: “Recent Nigerian history has read like the melodramatic imaginings of Nollywood, so it is no surprise that the new novel describing surreal machinations in the Nigerian House of Assembly, Tenants of the House, by Wale Okediran describes a dizzying. Swirl of rapidly changing political loyalty. Extravagant sums of money casually changing hands in brown envelope, politicians whose actions make the reader waver between disgust and sympathy.”

Carmen’s view is true as the book portrays the societal ills and decadence prevalent in our present society.

Abdulaziz Abdulazid in an online article titled “muse and musings of a young Journalist” views the book in is comment:

“Tenants of the House has many strong points one of which is obviously manifested meticulous research conducted by the author. There are many instances to prove this point: one which is the Fulani culture he deeply explored the trip to Canterbury and Kampala show case research/experience of water at his work”.

The novel is indeed typical of a scholarly work as the text shows enough research which proves the extent at which author strives to please his readers.


1.4 Justification Of Study

African independence remains a twentieth century political mirage sought for but never attained political misrule, dictatorship and corruption have become the order of the day and the masses are grossly disillusioned by the activities of the leaders.

This topic is justifiable owing to the fact this research work has not until now been analyzed to portray the character trait of Nigerian post-independence politicians in Okediran’s Tenants of the House.


1.4 Thesis Statement

This essay examines the post-independence Nigerian politician as corrupt and immoral in Wale Okediran’s Tenants of the House.


Chapter Four


Conclusion

This essay is an analysis of Okediran’s view of the Nigerian politicians with pertinent focus to the happenings in the House of Representatives and politics in general as not just a satire in reality but an expression of his care and concern for his country focusing mainly on two aspects; corruption and immorality which constitute the heart beat of the novel.

In the course of our study, we have noted the obvious fact that the African political independence has remained a twentieth century political mirage sought for but never attained. This is against the background that corruption and immorality have become the only virtues of the emergent new leaders of these independent countries. An analysis of the novel Tenants of the House reveals that corruption permeates the entire strata of leadership, starting from his Excellency; the President to the least clerk working in government parastatal and everybody seems to be groaning under the weight of corruption.

Finally, Okediran calls for an awakening of conscience on the part of Africans, if the social political status quo would change then, our problems will change. He states that the solution lies in our hands as academics, students civil servants and market women to extricate ourselves from the socio-political cobweb of corruption and immorality and the evils of society.


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