Only God knows what was going on in the mind of Anais Nin, the author of Delta Of Venus, when she said: “How wrong is it for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself?”
This was resonated, last Sunday, in a play, The Wives’ Revolt, written by John Pepper Clark.
Opening with Okoro, the town crier informing the people of Erhuware that the money given to the village by the oil company operating in its community has been shared into three equal parts among the elders, the men and women and that each group is to get their share according to their age-group, the announcer returns home to be greeted by the vexation of his wife, Koko.
Koko, who represents the women, challenges her husband on why the largesse should be share in such formula, knowing too well that the elders are the men. She sees the formula as being unfair and says that it will have been much better if it had been shared just between the male and female folks.
Her argument is that by the sharing formula, the men hold the two-thirds of the oil revenue.
Why women agitate for a fair sharing formula, some men reported to the council of elders that the womenfolk have resulted to using witchcraft, turning to goats, to harm them at night. This leads to the council of elders to come up with a law that banishes goats in the village.
The new law ignited fire in the heated polity, as the women saw it as anti-women, especially as goat is the one of the domestic animals they are allowed to keep in the village.
To stop the menfolk from carrying out their oppressive law, the women plan to stage a protest with the central authority. At a said date, they left the village marching through Otughieven, Eijophe, Igherekan, Imode to Eyara, leaving their children and husbands to fate. They made their husbands do the domestic chores such as babysitting, cooking, sweeping, taking the children to school and other tasks considered the prerogative of the women by themselves.
Not batting an eyelid at their wives’ absence, the men frolicked with the free women in the village with the swollen purse. And since their husbands are not coming for them, the women pressed on to Eyara, where they were accommodated and cared for by Ighodayen, a notorious prostitute.
Hearing that their wives have got to Eyara and in the hands of Ighodayen, the men plead for their return, but unfortunately the women, all, have contacted venereal disease. And it became a case of had we known.
Presented by Mosaic Theatre Production and directed by Agozie Ugwu, the play depicts themes such as inequality, highhandedness, oppressive social structure imposed by laws and nature, poor crisis management and inequitable distribution of resources.
With Patrick Diabuah (Okoro) and Ann Njemanze (Koko) interpreting their roles to the admiration of the audience, the beauty of playwright using the stage to settle crisis comes to the fore. Here the male and female folks saw their shortcomings and blame themselves for it. While the male blamed themselves for pushing their women to the extreme with their laws, the women call for caution, realising that they, the women, ought not to have gone to the extent of allowing their anger to take the better part of their emotion. The play evenly apportions blames to both gender, highlighting the complementary roles each play to the other.
It also projects that violence in any form does not benefit anybody, but in most times creates more problems in the polity, as it could be seen in the women bring home infections that may end up taking the lives of some of the men.
Though wordy, Wives’ Revolt goes beyond the spectacle to a very rich content that calls on opinion moulders and custodians of the African culture to revisit some of our value system and come up with standards that gives the male and female folks their real place.
Though, nature appears to assign women with the role of home-keeping and other not too tasking duties, the society, rural or urban will get no better if the women are not well cared for. Also, it is a call for the womenfolk to cooperate with their husbands, seeing them as not just their head, but as partners they need to work together for the progress of the family and advancement of the society.
Taking another holistic view of the play, the playwright tries to position a situation, where the oil companies, representing the imperialist milks the people and throws peanuts at them to fight over while it capitalises on the fracas created to explore the people the more. It calls on the people to be cautious of the largesse they get from the oil companies, as in most cases, they are meant to stir feud rather than better the lot of the people.