Morountodun is a play written by Femi Osofisan which reflects the 1965 Agbekoya uprising when poor peasants revolted against the oppressive government. The playwright through flashbacks brought past events into the present to bear on the subject matter which is the evaluation of the contribution of women in nation building and peace keeping. The playwright adopted the style of play within a play in advancing the plot. For instance, the play started with the presentation of theatrical performance but in the course of the performance, there is an interruption by Titubi and her group representing rich class) which then unfolds the rest of the action.
The play having a historical background is structured in a way that event of the past shuffle into the present to create a fantastic whole. As Titubi and her group come to disrupt the performance which is a way they feel is the best way to stop the revolters ( because they assume the revolters to be selling out their ideas to the masses who after watching the performances will support them) she discovered another way of achieving this after her interaction with the deputy superintended who is fishing out their leader. To achieve this, Titubi volunteered to disguise herself as a prisoner so that when Marshal’s men will storm the prison house she will be rescued as one of the one of the prisoners. The overall aim of this is to find her way to the camp of the revolters so as to know their secret and consequently weaken them, just like moremi did to the Igbos.
Unfortunately, when Titubi made her way to the camp of the peasants in disguised of a prisoner, she discovered that the prisoners are fighting just course. Though she succeeded in arresting their leader (Marshal) she requested for negotiation between the two parties to the surprise of the deputy superintendent and her own mother Alhaja Rabirat. Having stayed with the peasant, she witnessed their suffering and identified with their quest for fair play. For her, Moremi, her role model fought a just cause but in her own case she found out that the state is not always right like the case of the exploitation of the poor farmers who pays tax more than they earn.
TITUBI: Titubi the daughter of Alhaja Kabirat belongs to the upper class who gets richer at the expense of the poor. These upper class felt threatened when the poor farmers revolted against the government because they know that the war will affect the economics activities and in some other aspects like asine and the rest of those things that goes with war. For this they sought for a way to stop the farmers and their first attempt was to stop any theatrical activity that reflects the oppression. In the process of stopping the theatrical performance, Titubi discovered a more effective way of achieving her goal. In display of humanly feeling in Titubi she felt back when she finally made her way into the camp of the poor farmer because she experienced their suffering herself and understands what it means to b poor in a society, where the poor are reduced to a mere chicken by the ruling class. An important unique characteristics of Titubi is courage. She was courageous you walk into the mouth of python(the revolters) just to accomplish a mission. She couldn’t hesitate to make a turn after staying with the peasants especially when the deputy superintendent was congratulating her thinking that she is going to hand marshal over to him. Through her the war between the peasants and the farmers was resolved.
ALHAJA KABIRAT: Alhaja Kabirat is a wealthy woman and the leader of the market women, whom of which are the piloters of affairs in their society. Though she was afraid of the revolter, she felt her daughter should not be the object of the problem solving as regards the government intention to stop the peasants. She plays more regard to her prestige than any other thing and that is why she wanted her daughter back despite her daughter’s courage to help in stopping the resulting farmers. As a rich person, she is so proud because she believed that money solves all problem. She was so disappointed when assumed that the war is won as Titubi led Marshal to the deputy superintendent but Titubi turned the gun against the superintendent instead. Finally, she is a loving mother who will do anything to protect the interest of her child.
DEPUTY SUPERINTENDENT: He represents the government and seeks a way of stopping the farmers. He sees Titubi’s courage to stop the revolters as an opportunity to achieve his aim. Though he recognizes the power of the wealthy but he maintains the dictate of his job. She was happy to see Titubi’s accomplishment of their plan but it surprised him to see Titubi supporting the poor farmers.
MARSHAL: Marshal is a very important figure when he talks about the Agbekoya uprising. He believes in action and not words. For him, he is saturated with result less dialogues with the government. He ceased the opportunity of one of such dialogue to strike. Though he ended up in the struggle be his name still rings like a bell because his last action contributed in the government’s sincere agreement for settlement. Marshal though captured by Titubi is a brave and sensible fighter whose worth is measured in the battle field.
BABA: Baba is another important figure to be noted. He is the leader of the camp and he is always in fond of seeking other people’s opinion. As a good leader he tolerates other peoples’ opinion. Baba believes in dialogue and that is why he did not approve of Marshals idea of fighting even when the government called for dialogue.
MOREMI: Moremi is like a symbol in the whole story line. She is a courageous woman who volunteered to go into slavery In order to save her kingdom despite the fact that she is a queen. Moremi went into the camp of the igbos who torment the yorubas from time to time and was able to discover their secret which she passed unto her people and this gave them victory. Moremi believed that human beings have a lot to do for themselves rather than relying on the gods. According to her:
…How many times already we’ve watched our festivals change into periods
Of mourning when the Igbos set on us: yet we have made sacrifices upon
Sacrifices till the earth is glutted with blood… tell me, my friend, what more
Shall we do to learn that the gods will not help us? I have decided Moremi
Shall be the clay which the race requires to remold itself.
Moremi Is a figure of women empowerment who through her action influenced people like Titubi, and by doing so validating womanhood in a world dominated by men.
LAWYER ISAAC: He is the stooge used by the government for its ugly policy extension. He is moved by money and duty to the extent that he agreed to sneak into the peasants camp with the intention of exposing and crushing their revolution. When he was caught he pleaded guilty to show the extent at which he cherished his little life.
OPPRESSION: The dominant theme as can be seen in the play is that of oppression of the poor by the rich(under the shell of the government) that prompted the revolution by the poor farmers. Government made people to pay taxes through their noses and when it became unbearable the peasants took to arms. We see this oppression extended to the theatrical situation where Titubi and lier group stopped the performance because they feel it endangers their well being. Also in the story of Moremi we see the Igbos oppressing the Yorubas and so on.
REVOLUTION: Another significant theme in this play is revolution. The farmers feel the government is not giving them fair treatment took to arm since dialogue failed. The peasants wrote many letters to the government to look into the condition but instead of relieving them of their burden, the government resorted to making things worse for them which now gave the peasants the idea that the best way to live is to die, and that is why they refused to look back notwithstanding the fact that their men fall day by day. It was a good thing to learn that the revolution though bloody brought the desired change.
COURAGE: Theme of courage is also noticed in the play. Titubi is portrayed as a courageous character who is ready to do anything possible to get what she wants. Though she is of a rich background, she let herself be imprisoned so as to get into the camp of the peasant with the sole aim of capturing their leader, which she did. The story of Moremi also portrayed Moremi as a fearless character who against all odds accepted to go into slavery just to accomplish her mission f exposing the secrets of the Igbos and consequently weakening them. On the side of Marshal, he is seen as a fearless and courageous fighter who is bent on fighting it to the last. Not even when the government agrees dialogue Marshal sees it as an opportunity to take his turn on them.
DISGUISE: That Titubi was able to penetrate into the camp of the peasants was as a result of her disguise as a prisoner. Moremi also did not appear as the queen, instead she chose to take the form of an ordinary woman in order to be taken into slavery. On the other hand, the peasants also disguised as traders and they were able to invade the prison house.
The language of the play is simple and straight forward. The playwright made use of English language but he infused Yoruba language into it to reflect the social background of the play. Through language he was able to differentiate characters and also review the inner minds of the characters. For instance, Moremi has this to say in order to show her determination to save her people:
…This is a day of joy, my friends! The land is going to be reborn, by the
Daring of a woman!
This portrays her as a determinant character.
Titubi also demonstrated a similar characteristic when she told her mother; I volunteered (more excited) you see, mama, they are coming to this prison this week…the police will let them come, and free the prisoners, including me.
So, through suitable use of words, the playwright was able to pass his message across without confusing events and personalities.
Written by Ray Chukwuma Agwu Katinns, graduate of Theatre and Film Studies University of Nigeria Nsukka.