Wednesday, December 04, 2013

268. Women of Owu by Femi Osofisan

Femi Osofisan's Women of Owu (UP PLC, 2006; 78) is considered a re-reading of Euripides' The Trojan Women. The story is about the plight of the women in a defeated town. Oyo mercenaries and warriors from the tribes of Ijebu and Ife had surrounded the city of Owu, on the premise that they were there to liberate the people from their oppressive King. After 7 years of siege, the walls finally gave and the allied forces entered. Sparing none, they killed all men and children and some women. For majority of the women, the leader of the forces and his followers made whores and wives out of them. 

The story discusses how the gods of the Owu people deserted them and the major reason for the invasion. It was clear that the wife of the leader of the combined forces had been captured and married to the King of Owu, in an earlier military campaign against the the Oyo people; this loss transformed the artist husband into a military commander and hence this attack. The other reason espoused was the takeover of the famous Apomu market. 

However, what this story tells is not an ancient story of struggles but a current phenomenon where the strong invades and fights the weak under the banner of liberation.
Nowadays, when the strong fight the weak, it's called a Liberation War to free the weak from oppression. [8]
Several of this liberation invasion has resulted in the death of more civilians than those which led to the attack against the supposedly 'oppressive' king. A case in point is Iraq and currently Libya. Today, Iraq is in such a mess that even those civilians who jubilantly brought down Saddam's statue in Baghdad to mark their victory over the man are not satisfied with the current state of events, where to live through a day is a miracle. One would ask, has the supposed democracy, that magic wand of governance returned to the country? Are the people freer to live or to kill? What makes the invasion that has been declared a success by the invaders such?

What is clear is that like the mercenaries who took over Apomu market, or fought for it, Iraq became a commerce ground for American industries in Iraq, with its oil, building contracts, and infrastructural development. Thus, those who benefitted were not the ordinary Iraqis who are still dying in their numbers, and who - according to one source - have become addicted to tranquilizers. The actual beneficiaries are the people who made 'wives and whores of the women', figuratively speaking. Those who raped the land of its resources.

However, every event has multiple stories. And this the destruction of Owu is no different. There were people who praised the invaders, for having liberated them from the oppression of their king - a king who had the day before the invasion escaped. Such folks claimed that the invaders were only interested in lofty ideas and ideals like freedom and human rights and were blessed to have had them.
WOMAN: No Erelu, what are you saying, or are you forgetting? They do not want our market at all
WOMAN: They are not interested in such petty things as profit - 
WOMAN: Only in lofty, lofty ideas, like freedom - 
WOMAN: Or human rights - 
WOMAN: Oh the Ijebus have always disdained merchandise - 
WOMAN: The Ifes are unmoved by the glitter of gold - [12/13]
Unfortunately, as the allied forces fledged fully their intentions, it was clear that their destruction had no humanity in them. They killed everybody including the dogs and the children. Only the some of the women were spared and even they their future was hazy. Thus, there are folks who would stick to whatever reason they are fed like leeches even if their lives show the contrary. 

In all these there were those who were lucid. They saw things as they were and called it as such. They never recognised the brief effect of the invasion; but they also recognised what was ahead of them. Sarcastically, they cried:
WOMAN: Bless the kindness which has rescued us from tyranny in order to plunge us into slavery! WOMAN: Sing, my friends! Let us celebrate our new-won freedom of chains! [13]
And this is what all liberation and war is about. In an attempt to solve one problem it creates a bigger one. Problems are not solved through fighting; the only reason that war exists is because it makes war investors happy and keeps the psychopaths - masochists and sadists - thrilled. And it is for this reason that
War never ends, but only moves to another place? [58]
An interesting play that I will love to see performed on stage.
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About the Author: Babafemi Adeyemi Osofisan (June 1946 in Erunwon, Ogun State) is a Nigeria writer known for his critique of societal problems and his use of African traditional performances and surrealism in some his novels. A frequent theme his novels explore is the conflict between good and evil. He is in fact a didactic writer whose works seek to correct his decadent society.

Osofisan attended primary school at Ife and secondary school at Governor College, Ibadan. After secondary school, he attended the University of Senegal in Dakar and later the University of Ibadan. He continued post-graduate studies at the University of Ibadan and went on to hold faculty positions at the University. [Source]

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