The Department of Theatre, Film and Carnival Studies of the University of Calabar (UNICAL), has uniquely portrayed the Boki Culture as the told 'The story of Nigeria’ through a stage play titled; ‘The Crippled Giant’ 

The Play which was written and directed by a lecturer in the department, Kingsley Oyong Akam was staged at the Chinua Achebe Arts Theatre (CAAT) of the University of Calabar. The play x-rayed the sources of the ‘trouble with Nigeria’ (represented as a kingdom), possible solutions and on a hopeful note, depicts that there is always hope at the end of the tunnel.

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It is worthy of note that the late sage, Chinua Achebe in his ‘the trouble with Nigeria’ succinctly put it that “the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership”.

The story of Nigeria has remained on the top burner for both the high and low for decades. It is now common knowledge that once Nigerians gather either formerly or informally on any subject matter, before you know it, consciously or unconsciously, would soon delve into discussing the woes bedeviling Nigeria, ‘the supposed giant of Africa”.

The controversial question that has remained unanswered over the years is; whether Nigeria is really a giant or a crippled giant? The University don and writer of the play, Kingsley Oyong Akam, through; “The Crippled Giant” attempts to answer some of these questions through the stage play.

Be reminded again that the late sage, Chinua Achebe in his ‘The trouble with Nigeria’ upheld that, “the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. He reiterated; “there is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian land or climate   or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility to the challenge of personal example which is the hallmark of true leadership”.

But Akam in his; ‘The Crippled Giant’ appears to differ a little from Achebe. While Achebe lays the blame of the trouble with Nigeria squarely on the leadership, Akam in the ‘Crippled Giant’ lay the blame on the door steps of both the leadership and the led as they all “connived among themselves to lick the honey and also replaced it with filthy waters”.

In an interview with journalists shortly after the stage play, the writer and director of the Crippled Giant, Kingsley Oyong Akam said “the play dramatizes the efficacy of ‘Eshua’ and ‘Ekpa’ ritual dances of Boki. It is a satire of the Nigerian nation and the play is set is Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State”.

“It examines the universal themes of greed, corruption, injustice and man’s inhumanity to man”. According to the university don in the Department of Theatre, Film and Carnival Studies, UNICAL, “the play is a reenactment of indigenous African Theatre encapsulated in total theatre of the Boki nation”.

“The play tells the story of a great kingdom among the comity of kingdoms known for its great exploits, resourcefulness and seen by other kingdoms as a giant”.

“Its source of procreation and fertility is in “honey” which is always shared to every member of the kingdom on the day of procreation festival. Due to colossal failure of leadership, few individuals especially those at the helm of affairs of the kingdom seized the opportunities and connived among themselves to lick the honey” at the expense of the poor masses.

The reaction of those who licked the ‘honey’ provoked the gods, leading to the cracks of the pot. The kingdom starts facing difficult plagues and calamities which cut across barrenness, lack of rain fall, crops withering and streams drying up”.

The stage play further paints a picture in which the Queen became frustrated as a result of barrenness. The king, his chiefs and the community at large are making efforts for a solution. There is a protest and ritual dances ‘Ekpa’ by the women who danced necked and ‘Eshua’ by the men. All called for the dethronement of the king unless an urgent solution is found to the calamities. Unknown to King Otu, those who stole the honey also brought it and shared with him.

The play further paints a picture of a man who went on a surgeon, acquired knowledge but returned home without money. He is despised by his kinsmen. This is obvious in the Nigerian society today.

Similarly in an interview with journalist, shortly after the play, another lecturer in the department, Mrs. Affiong Effiong who said she is chairman, production and performance said her team oversees every production to ensure it passes quality test, fits the audience so they would go home satisfied.

In answer to a question that in Nigeria, no ray of hope is seen yet but in the play, we saw light at the end of the tunnel, Mrs Effiom said the writer and director of the Crippled Giant, Kingsley Akam used traditional ways to seek solutions.

In conclusion, the writer and director of the play, Akam expressed appreciation to the Vice Chancellor, Prof Zana Akpagu, the HOD of the Department of Theatre, Film and Carnival Studies and the entire University community for their various contributions to the success of the play.

He said a number of factors “motivated me as a creative artist to tell the story in an indirect way. The cripple is the Nigerian nation”.

 With the level of corruption, insecurity, ethnicity, unemployment, poverty and several other vices prevailing, is Nigeria the giant of Africa?

Many have proffered diverse solutions to ‘the trouble with Nigeria’. Of recent, papers have been a washed with the controversy of ‘true federalism’ as the way out.

Kudos to the University of Calabar for telling ‘the story of Nigeria’ in your own unique way through a stage play. My people have a saying that a mother never seizes to sing the lullabies as long as the baby keeps crying.

Nigerians will keep telling the story of our father land in diverse ways until the institutions begin to function the way they should. Many have told the story through novels like Chinua Achebe or stage plays like the Crippled Giant by Akam. We must continue to have faith in Nigeria after all, we are adjudged as a very religious nation. We will see light at the end of the tunnel like the stage play, the crippled giant portrayed.

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