Wakaa the Musical makes exploit in Abuja, where it presents Nigeria’s contradictions in the presence of the powers that be, AKEEM LASISI writes
Poor Rex! As he graduates from a prestigious university, he is very sure of what he wants to do next. He wants to leave his God-forsaken country and move to London where a beautiful lady, who has perfected everything for him, is waiting with a bullion van of love.
That is why Rex cannot stop talking and singing about the trip and the white lady called Cassandra. At every opportunity, he oppresses his fellow graduates with the picture of the London babe, whose radiant eyes, flowery hair and effortless smiles can make any man go ‘gaga’.
But because ambition is usually a double-edged phenomenon, Rex’s happiness and hope for Eldorado is short-lived. On getting to Heathrow Airport in the Queen’s country, he is shocked to find out that the lady who has been posing as Cassandra is one Bilikisu Kekereekun, another hustling compatriot, who only used the white lady’s image as her profile photo as bait for Rex.
The battle of his life at that point is one that he is not destined to win. When he can no longer cope with Bilikisu’s antics, he begins to fight. But that is what eventually leads to his deportation – as Bilikisu hits him hard when he tries to break loose from her grip.
Rex’s story is the metaphor of the fight that many youths have to fight in Wakaa the Musical, produced by Bolanle Austen-Peters, which was performed in Abuja last Monday evening, to mark Nigeria’s 57th independence anniversary. Wakaa is indeed the enactment of the fate of the youth in a country where elders have bastardised all promises and structures of a fulfilling existence.
The musical had tasted several stages, including the Shaw Theatre in London, but the setting of the latest show was unique. It did not only happen at Transcorp Hilton in Abuja, it also had big men in the audience. Among them were Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and his wife, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo; the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki; and the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed. From the private sector were also the likes of Prince Julius Adeluyi-Adelusi, the Chairman of the MTN Foundation, main sponsor of the musical, which had also earlier facilitated the play’s journey to London, UK.
Unfolding in songs, music, dance and elaborate swagger, Wakaa can be so humorous that even none of the big men could help laughing endlessly till their caps almost fell off their heads. But the play is also a satire and that is where the intrigue lies. In biting sarcasm, ironies and outright lampoon, the actors hit hard on vices and perpetrators of the sleaze that has continued to deny the country a breakthrough. As some members of the audience observed, the Transcorp show was very symbolic because it spoke truth to power, even in the presence of power.
The symbols of political, economic and moral corruption in the musical are Otunba Sagay (Bimbo Manuels), candidate of the Generating Party of Savannah, who later becomes the governor after a humorous debate; and Prof. Bazuaye (Lord Frank), who represents Brainy Party of Savannah. While Sagay has Iyalode Aduke (Mawuyon Ogun) as his running mate, Bazuaye runs with Jojoba, another ‘professor’ whose command of the English vocabulary can drown that of Partrick Obahiagbon, believed to be Nigeria’s number one verbose speaker.
Like many Nigerian politicians, Sagay does not believe in using public funds to develop the state. Instead, he sings, dances and ‘chops’ endlessly, as he finds solace in Ebenezer Obe’s popular song, A l’owo ma j’aye/ Eyin le mo/ Awon to j’aye lana da/ Won ti ku won ti lo. The song projects the importance of living a good life once one has made money.
Unfortunately for the people in the Wakaa nation, there is no hope even in the opposition. Beyond politics, however, Wakaa explores other issues that include love, friendship, commitment to society and vanity, especially as they relate to youths.
While Kike represents opportunism and vanity in the play, Ngozi is the object of love and true passion. Her commitment to developmental projects and accountability causes the downfall of a raw and corrupt politician like Otunba, who loses his reelection bid to his estranged niece, Tosan (Patrick Adibuah). The producer and director, Bolanle Austen-Peters, is very smart in this regard. She is able to resolve the winding and stinking plot in favour of hope and victory for those who mean well for society.
Tosan becomes the new governor. Jojoba is punished for political prostitution, while Tosan welcomes Kike back into his heart after initially calling it off with her for bastardising true love.
At the event, Austen-Peters explained that the play had been in Abuja for 10 days and had received applause all through. She thanked the vice president and the Senate president for creating time to watch the musical. Also, she saluted the culture minister for his support, saying Mohammed even saw the play in London.
The producer commended MTN for sponsoring the project through the MTNFoundation. According to her, without MTN, the production and the trips – within and outside – would not have been possible as the project is cost-intensive.
She noted that the youths who mostly made up the 70-man cast were graduates from different disciplines, who were yet realising their dreams and existence in art and culture. She thus advised government and other stakeholders to invest more in the sector, saying it was the future for Nigeria.
The Executive Secretary of MTNFoundation, Nonny Ugboma, expressed delight at the progress the musical is making and the large turnout witnessed in Abuja. According to her, the production, just as Austen-Peter’s first musical, Saro, is promoting an amazing culture and widening the entertainment terrain.
“In London, it recorded a huge success,” Ugboma said. “The play sold out every night. Now that Wakaa is in Abuja, it is a beautiful development. What we are witnessing now amounts to renaissance. It brings to memory the era of Hubert Ogunde theatre, which made Nigeria to stand out as the giant of Africa. Then, you could see a performance here today, another one tomorrow and so on. So, the MTNFoundation is happy to be part of this renaissance.”
Osinbajo commended the producers, cast and the crew. According to him, the performance was excellent and made the Independence anniversary more memorable.
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