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Neologism and Dual Gender Status

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Wazobia, the name of the female king in Tess Onwueme’s play The Reign of Wazobia, is a neologism derived from Yorùbá, Igbó, and Hausa respectively, the three dominant languages in Nigeria. Motivated by the relevance of Onwueme’s lexical selection and the socio-political contexts in which the play is set, the essay relies on pragmatic contexts of language usage to analyse the coinage of the name to ascertain whether it dramatizes a political attempt to advocate unity between the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria. The essay also interrogates Wazobia’s dual gender status, and the feminist implications of the fact that she does not rule as a woman but as either a man or an androgynous figure. Wazobia’s dual gender and the illegal extension of her three-year regency raise a number of questions, some of which appear to contradict Onwueme’s well-articulated feminist stance. The essay shows that the neologism of Wazobia is largely restricted to a feminist stance, canvassing intra-gender unity among all Nigerian women as a prerequisite for attaining power and emergence into politics and spaces of leadership. Wazobia’s gender duality is interpreted as Onwueme’s rejection of gender-associated restrictions. This dual status also embodies socio-political implications for unity in the male/female divide, and the Igbóo/Hausa/Yorùbá division. The work interprets the favourable treatment of Wazobia’s tyranny as Onwueme’s feminist bias and political aspirations for women.


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