Interview with Oladipo Agboluaje, writer of New Nigerians
Why is the play set in Nigeria?
New Nigerians is set in Nigeria because I wanted to explore the contemporary politics of the country. I see similarities between Nigeria and Britain in terms of how both countries are sharply divided along ideological lines, so there are issues that resonate with a British audience. Also, since the play is for diverse audiences, there are many people from the Commonwealth and further afield who will identify with the shenanigans represented in New Nigerians.
What are the universal themes?
The universal themes of New Nigerians are power, greed, a need to belong, ambition, among many others. The characters all have their flaws. They find themselves in conflict as they try to change the world according to their competing visions. Greatness, the lead character, wants to change the world but he himself does not want to change. The main conflict is between either sticking to one’s morals or opt for political expediency.
How do you see the development of politics in Nigeria?
It’s a tricky question. From my point of view, Nigeria has never really had a radical political ethos. What goes for radicalism I consider to be populism, and this cuts across the political spectrum. We still practice a politics of the belly, which is not ideal for long-term planning. The president has signed into law the reduction from 40 to 35 years the age at which one is eligible to contest for the presidency. That is a positive step. It brings in new energy, new ideas into politics.
What would Nigerians get from seeing the play?
Nigerians will get to reflect on the nature of leadership and followership, the religious, class and ethnic divisions that continue to affect the political landscape. They get to have a good laugh at the recognizable foibles of the characters, and to empathize with them as well.
Why should audiences go and see the play?
Audiences will get a political drama with satirical elements that will remind them of politics in general. They will get to have fun participating in the play as Greatness tries to co-opt them to his side, as well as aid and abet him in hiding some contraband – you have to see the play to find out what it is.
You can see New Nigerians here on Friday 5 and Saturday 6 October.