Academic journal article Nebula

Political Power and Intellectual Activism in Tanure Ojaide's the Activist

Academic journal article Nebula

Political Power and Intellectual Activism in Tanure Ojaide's the Activist

Article excerpt


In the context of the political violence and socio-economic contradictions in the Niger delta region of Nigeria, which are fuelled by the inept activities of the ruling class and the multinationals, this study examines Tanure Ojaide's ideo-aesthetic predilections and views as Nigeria grapples with the tragedies of post-colonialism. Ojaide undertakes this artistic reconstruction in his recent work, The Activist. Ojaide's The Activist is a contemporary novel that deals with post-independence disillusionment about oil politics, ethnic marginalisation and environmental predation in Nigeria. The title of the novel evokes political activism or participation, which is needed in order to change Nigeria's landscape. Intellectual activism is central in effecting Nigeria's transformation. Intellectual activism deals with the ideological and political education or engagement necessary to raise the awareness of the masses about changing an unjust order. This sort of activism is relevant since acquiring political power by the intelligentsia is vital in combating the ills in Nigeria. Therefore to alter Nigeria's moribund politics, intellectual activism is a sine qua non.

"Power (unless it be the power of intellect or virtue) has ever the greatest attraction for the lowest natures ..."--Charles Dickens, in Our Mutual Friend, p. 489.

"If man is ever to solve that problem of politics in particular he will have to approach it through the problem of the aesthetic"--Friedrich Schiller, in On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters, p. 9.


The Activist is a political novel with social realist ideals. It reconstructs the plight of the downtrodden and marginalised in the Niger delta--and Nigeria by extension. Also, the novel refracts the destruction done to the Nigerian environment by the multinationals in partnership with the political class. The Activist, who is the protagonist of the novel, is a returnee--he is a symbol of the intellectualism, patriotism and vision needed to effect transformation in the Niger delta. As a stock character, his characterisation in the novel evokes wholesome change in the Niger delta region of Nigeria, and Nigeria in general. He shows such change to attainable through change in the dynamics of political power and the engagement of intellectual activism, which is a reasoned form of political activism capable of provoking ideo-political engagement and education in the masses in order to upturn justice in society. The Activist returns home after studies abroad and becomes disenchanted with the status quo, so he jumps on the political bandwagon to effect change and development in his environment. His actions are in parallel with other well crafted characters in the novel, who are equally agents of societal transformation. The Activist flagged off this ideal by participating in, and winning, election as governor of Niger Delta State in order to bring healthy change. The Activist's political victory was the first time anyone was elected to that position in the state--this is historic: "The Activist whose campaign had drowned the other eleven candidates' voices comfortably won the governorship race and became the first elected governor of the state in all its history" (318). Furthermore, his characterisation contrasts with other mindless intellectuals in the novel as well as the political elite, whose leadership style has failed the Niger delta community and the Nigerian state. In conspectus, The Activist is a well-weaved tale of failure of political leadership in present-day Nigeria, where oil politics has held the masses down for a long time--and how to avert this bungling system through the coalescence of intellectualism and populist-oriented political leadership.

Ten decades after the amalgamation of its separate power blocs, Nigeria is still tottering on the precipice. To say that Nigeria is a nation in dire straits is no news; it is a verifiable fact. …

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