Drama as an Instrument for Conflict Resolution in Nigeria; A Study of Elechi Amadi’s Woman of Calabar

Drama as an Instrument for Conflict Resolution in Nigeria; A Study of Elechi Amadi’s Woman of Calabar
Drama as an Instrument for Conflict Resolution in Nigeria; A Study of Elechi Amadi’s Woman of Calabar

Abstract: This study examines Drama as an Instrument for Conflict Resolution in Nigeria; A Study of Elechi Amadi’s Woman of Calabar. All across the world, especially within the African continent, conflicts caused by either man or nature are evident. Almost all countries in Africa have stories of one conflict or the other engraved in its history. Nigeria has been witnessing its own conflicts which cut across the length and breadth of the country. From the North to the South, from the East to the West conflicts of different magnitudes: ethnic, religious, political, economic, communal among others have ravaged the country’s unity, peace and development. However, one major conflict that has become a recurrent decimal and so prominent within the Nigerian body polity today is ethnic conflict. This is because Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and developing federation richly endowed with natural, human and material resources; hence contestation for space, recognition, relevance and resources has become the order of the day.

Again, the return to democratic rule after a very long period of military rule as well as the proliferation of militia groups jostling for space and recognition in the country’s polity seemed to have opened the floodgates of ethnic conflicts. With the democratic opening, the space now exists for these pent-up feelings to come to the fore, often leading to clashes amongst the various ethnic groups inhabiting the country. The methodology used in recording and analyzing the subject matter involves a dual method: the content analysis of the text under study and a library-based research work on sources that particularly relates to the subject under study. Findings show that drama can indeed resolve conflict effectively. Hence, it is recommended that drama can be richly incorporated in every conflict situation that demands a decisive resolution. The study concludes that, for Nigeria to remain on the right side of history, it must always pursue an agenda for conflict management and resolution via the instrumentality of drama.

Drama as an Instrument for Conflict Resolution in Nigeria; A Study of Elechi Amadi’s Woman of Calabar




1.1       Background to the study

Drama can be traced to the religious rites of earliest communities shown through traces of songs and dances performed by priests and worshippers in honour of a god (Pei, 1971:23). The origin of Drama according to Riu, Xavier, Dionysism and Comedy (1999:15) is derived from the dithyramb or hymn sung around the altar of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and fertility whose cult had spread to Greece from the North-East. The hymn was sung by a chorus comprising fifty men derived from each of the ten tribes of Attica that contributed five men for that purpose. The process which evolved from a simple act of worship to full-scale Greek tragedy, had the altar of Dionysus positioned in the centre of the stage a form of Drama that dates back to 5th century BC in Greece. The dithyramb or hymn which initially dealt with only the worship of Dionysus, had a widening scope that eventually reflected the tales of semi-gods, heroes, legendary ancestors of the Greeks and their associates.

The dithyramb also reflected their wars, feuds/quarrels, marriages and adulteries all of which reflected on the destinies of their children. These aspects became sources of tension which gave rise to conflict between man and god, good and evil, child and parent. Drama which is a dynamic and unitary art, consist of many interlocking elements such as lighting, directing, stage/costume design, scenery, props and other essential materials used by actors before an audience. In order for a performance to be termed theatrical as we understand it today, there are three necessary elements required:

  1. actors speaking, singing or miming
  2. an element of conflict conveyed through dialogue, and
  3. an audience that is emotionally involved in the action but not directly taking part in it (Riu, Xavier, Dionysism and Comedy, 1999:34)

In the absence of these elements, there are other forms of performances that may be termed religious or social ceremony which does not strictly translate into theatrical experience. For example, an order of service for a coronation in which the king is crowned by the high priest or a sermon in the church or mosque, do not constitute a play because they are firmly rooted in reality. The use of dialogue between two or more characters on stage or through the tube, is a subtle means of communication and, or negotiation that can serve as a balm in conflict situations. Aristotle’s postulation that drama is “the imitation of an action that is true to life but not life itself”, scores this point succinctly (Akinyemi, 2007:78).

Drama deals directly with the socio-cultural aspects of a people in any given society. It is characterized by several elements which include shared language that symbolizes and categorizes events; shared way of perceiving and thinking about the world, that is, world view and cosmology; agreed form of non-verbal communication; agreed moral and other values; and a system of religious and other allied beliefs. In this respect, the art of the drama does not only mirror the life of a people but also suggest how to improve it. The flexible nature of drama as an art form is capable of recreating the past, confirming or criticizing the present and projecting the future. This attribute perhaps explains why Drama has survived all kinds of hardships since its inception in the 5th century B.C. In this respect, Drama can be aptly described as a dynamic and unitary means of entertainment, education, celebration, protest and discovery. These qualities obviously place this art form in a vantage position in terms of conflict prevention and resolution (Akinyemi, 2007:45).

Drama can be a veritable means of resolving most of the conflicts that afflict many Nigerian communities, because it is a dynamic art of literature which functions as a means of entertainment, education, celebration, protest and discovery. It is therefore a powerful agent of social control. As earlier mentioned drama has always been in the service of man from time immemorial whether presented on stage or through the tube, Drama is a powerful advocate of positive change. In this sense, the dramatist in most cases, assumes the multiple roles of an observer, commentator, judge and jury of his society. It is therefore not surprising that in defense of his role as an artist, Socrates (Chinyere 1998:12) declared himself.

Conflict is innate in nature; it abounds in every sphere of human endeavour. There is conflict in the family, contractual disputes between people who hitherto had mutual working relationships, disagreement in worship places and in the neighbourhood among others. Similarly, conflict is inherent in every piece of literary work; external and internal conflicts do exist in every literary work. External conflict takes place between the protagonist and antagonist; it is man versus man or the society. On the other hand, ‘internal or psychological conflict arises when a character experiences two opposite desires; usually virtue or vice… (Fleming, 2011: 145). The oppressed Africans who were marginalized fought to regain self-rule. It was a racial conflict, which was triggered by socio-economic and political factors. “White folks and black folks fight each other about who owns what”.

Conflict is perceived in most parts of the world, including Nigeria as an abnormal, dysfunctional and therefore a detestable phenomenon. Conflict which is an integral part of human existence has three major structural levels: intra-family, intra-community, and inter-community. Other levels of conflict include individual or personal, societal, ethnic, political, economic, and class dimensions (Onigu and Isaac 2004: ix). Conflict may occur in several forms including physical attacks or verbal aggression. It is, however, an inevitable aspect of life which has the capacity to bring about positive change. As subtly portrayed by Onigu and Isaac (2004:4), Conflict is a dynamic factor which starts with initiation, escalation, maintenance or monitoring, abatement and then termination or resolution.

From the above definition of conflict, it is quite obvious that it is a phenomenon that has the capacity to grow to a destructive state if it is not monitored and abated or maintained. It is therefore very important to avoid the terminal stage of conflicts by painstakingly following the causes of the conflicts in order to eventually arrive at reconciling the contending individuals or groups concerned. When this happens, the society, individuals or communities concerned, will usually be restored to some degree of orderliness that is capable of sustaining the changes that have emerged.

Whether conflict is viewed as normal or abnormal, it is a recurring decimal in human existence. It features in all kinds of human endeavour: social, economic, and political. It is therefore not surprising that conflict is the very essence of most formal and informal social organizations and processes. The differences that bring about conflict would normally require some adjustment in the differences between two or more people where at least one person or group will concede. In a situation where conflicts are not resolved, the consequences are felt beyond the immediate environment of those involved, thereby causing instability that may deter development. Conflicts are often endemic in industrial organizations, factories and bureaucratic set-ups.

According to Onigu and Isaac (2004:3), conflicts from these organizations are often settled through collective bargaining and union bargaining by institutional arrangements that help in reducing or managing such conflicts which are based on divergent views and goals. The existence of conflict presents challenges to the rational man who is disposed to think of alternative ways of proffering solution to the challenges before him. Man’s response to conflicting situations constitute the most important step in solving such occurrences which can be a veritable tool for promoting growth and development, if properly handled through efficient procedures. Conflicts, whether international, national or community-based, have become regular and increasing features of the socio-political set-up of the communities or countries involved. The rise and rise of conflicting situations in the human community is as a result of several factors derivable from the social, political, religious, ethnic and class differences of the citizenry.

Conflicts arise where there are multiple interests, goals and aspirations by individuals or groups in an identifiable physical environment and social set-up. They thrive where there are changes in the socio-political arrangement which gives rise to competition for political positions. It can also occur where the environment occupied by a community is earmarked for specific development that would up-lift the economic profile or status of the individual or group. As Coser (1956:8) correctly puts it, conflict can be regarded as:

…a struggle over values or claims to status, power and scarce resources, in which the aims of the conflicting parties are not only to gain the desired values, but also to neutralize, injure, or eliminate their rivals. Such conflicts may take place between individuals, between collectivities, or between individuals and collectivities. Inter-group as well as intra-group conflicts are perennial features of social life (Coser, 1956:8).

In this respect, conflict can be regarded as what happens during the process of finding solutions to problems that emanate from opposing interests. As posited by Park and Burgress (1951:574), conflict is designed to solve divergent dualism and achieve some kind of unity even if it be through the annihilation of one of the conflict parties. Conflict may not necessarily be looked at as a completely negative phenomenon because in a situation where it is carefully handled, it has the tendency of translating into a normal process of interaction.

As Deutsch (1973:156) correctly observes, although conflict generally exist “whenever incompatible activities occur” and may result in a “win-lose” situation, the resolution, transformation, and management of conflicts may produce a “win-win” situation.

African play Wright uses their literary works to portray how conflicts can be resolve using their drama like the case of Elechi Amadi’s Woman of Calabar. On the other hand, the study shall examine more on the concept of drama as an instrument for conflict resolution in Nigeria using Elechi Amadi’s Woman of Calabar as a case study.

Drama as an Instrument for Conflict Resolution in Nigeria; A Study of Elechi Amadi’s Woman of Calabar

1.2       Statement of the Research Problem

The West African writer, Elechi Amadi has received attention from many researchers and critics alike. However, this scholar has not analyzed the crucial issue (conflict resolution) that is central to a study of Elechi Amadi. Again, the author in question demonstrates concern for the Female gender and gender-related issues. Nevertheless, Elechi Amadi is more passionate about the plight of the female gender among the Efik nation writers as exemplified in her writings and this has not received any critical attention either.

The conflict between Africa’s past and present; between the indigenous and the foreign; between tradition and modernity is a dominant motif in research and critical works. Thus, this study which is motivated by these conflicts, intends to adopt drama as effective tenet for conflict resolution using Elechi Amadi’s Woman of Calabar as a paradigm in resolving conflicts.

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Peter Hezekiah Lawson (Sir Pee). The CEO of onlineproject.com.ng. A reputable researcher, Web Developer, ICT Instructor and a publisher of many research works in Education.