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Subverting Nationalism

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Historicizing Horrors of the Past in Femi Fatoba’s They Said I Abused the Government and Wole Soyinka’s Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known

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The thematics of Femi Fatoba’s They Said I Abused the Government (2001) and Wole Soyinka’s Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known (2002) demonstrate the potential of art to bear witness to the bizarre, depressing anomie bedevilling Nigeria between 1993 and 1998. This anomie was ruinously orchestrated by the power-hungry military, who annulled the free and fair presidential election won by Chief M.K.O. Abiola. This military incursion into Nigeria’s political sphere was facilitated by a nebulous nationhood plagued by contending differences among its federating units. The notorious brutality of General Abacha’s regime was a cavalcade of incarceration and killings of real and imagined political dissidents. Especially, outspoken politicians who fell victim to unstable power-plays were kept in detention facilities across the country. They Said I Abused the Government and Samarkand and Other Markets I Have Known’s articulation of these ‘years of the locusts’ is epitomized by the closing of newspapers, brain drain, and the imagery of stasis and displacement. These occurrences are captured by the accusatory tone of Femi Fatoba and Wole Soyinka’s poetics as they protest the military brigandage in their works. The essay seeks to explicate how protest and satire have been harnessed to articulate the subversion of nationalism in postcolonial Nigeria.

Affiliations: 1: University of South Africa, South Africa, and Federal University Oye-Ekiti, Ekiti State Nigeria


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