OLA ROTIMI IS TO BLAME IN “THE GODS ARE NOT TO BLAME!”

OLA ROTIMI FAILED IN THE CRAFTING OF HIS PLAY “THE GODS ARE NOT TO BLAME”

For quite an age, many have faced questions as to whether the gods are to blame or man is to blame in Ola Rotimi’s play, “The Gods Are Not To Blame.” In fact in Secondary schools in Nigeria and Africa, this question is usually used to set a division between the students as to who is to blame. While doing my research on this, I discovered that two parts have emerged. On one part, we have those attesting to their supposedly facts that the gods are to blame while on the other, we have persons swearing on their fathers grave that Man indeed is to blame as they use Gbonka and Alaka as accomplices to the crime. This debatative issue has given rise to certain discusses which of course still stands within the duo argumentative… In fact it has escalated so much that these arguments have gone beyond the reach of the Secondary school students as it is now raised in certain courses, for the discuss in the Universities mostly within the English and Literary Scholars, Theatrical Critics, etc. Various answers have emerged to support both views, but very few have said so much on what is and what is not. For clarity of understanding, it is best for us to take this from a certain point which is looking at the world views that affect this play.

We have various world views, but in this context, we will be talking about two, which affect this play. These are the African World view and the Grecian (Greek) World View. The African worldview theory is essentially a combination of the classical and contemporary, continental and diasporic African overarching outlook on human experience and the natural and phenomenal world. It is distinguished from the worldviews of other peoples in so far as it is grounded in and grows out of African history and culture. African peoples’ beliefs about God, nature, and major life rituals—such as birth, puberty, adulthood, marriage, elderhood, and death—exhibit enough commonalities to warrant being called an African worldview. These commonalities in many areas of the life-worlds and lived experiences of African peoples render interminable philosophical disputes and semantic discussions as to whether there exists a general or universal African worldview utterly unnecessary and unrewarding. One can know the African world view by knowing what tasks are performed by a discussion of it. But with reference to this discuss, I will place a magnifying glass on a very important part of this view. The African World View states that man is shown two paths: the path to prosperity, and the path to destruction. Albeit to say: Good and Bad. However, when man in his recalcitrance, chose the bad path, the gods do not punish him immediately. Rather, he has a choice.

  1. To perform the necessary purificatory rituals and sacrifices in order to wash him clean and absolve him of his sins or;
  2. To face the consequences.

Let’s take a look at Nigeria. Have you ever seen or heard that in a community in Nigeria, a man commits a crime and that the gods condemn the man instantly? Well, in all my years, I haven’t, but if you have, please send me a message in order that I know where this happens. I would love to take a trip to such a community and see things for myself.

Note here that, in considering the African World View, man is not punished immediately. It was Leopold Sedar Senghor who said that: “The greatest evil is to steal the sweetness of breath.” In Zulu Sofola’s “King Emene,” we see how the queen kills the son of the King’s first wife in order to make her son king. The gods are aware of this atrocity, yet, the African world view stands its ground firmly, whether the greatest evil has been committed or not. Here, the King is informed by the gods that, before entering into the peace week in order to usher in the New Year, certain sacrifices and rituals have to be performed. The King ignores this even after the Olinzele family members try to warn him of the consequences as well as the Omu. The message is even repeated through the new Omu which he appointed himself in the person of Nwani. At the end, he is doomed because he failed to heed to the warning from the gods. In The Gods Are Not To Blame, Odewale is faced with a predicament because he killed his father and married his mother. But the truth is that, the playwright did not in any way bring in the African world view. The reason is not far-fetched. This happened as a result of the fact that, he borrowed copiously from the Greek Play “Oedipus the King” by Sophocles. And in so doing, he borrowed the Grecian world view with it. Let us now look at how the Grecian world view stands in contrast to the African World View. The Grecian World View states that man’s fate lies with the gods. His destiny is woven by them (the gods) and they (men) do not have any duty in the carving of such a destiny. Like a blind bat, they are dragged to fulfill their destiny, whether it be one filled with doom or otherwise. In King Oedipus, he fulfills such a destiny, not out of his own volition, but out of an inert and unknown compulsion already placed by the Greek gods. However, this ought not to be the case with Odewale. He ought to have been told by say Baba Ifa, the mouth-piece of the gods, that there was a remedy to the precarious situation facing them and such a remedy was that he should perform the necessary purificatory rituals in order to be absolved. We are already aware that Odewale’s flaw is his arrogance and hot-temper. So it would not have been out of place if he had done all, refused point blank and gone ahead. Then, the African World view would have been given a chance,. But was that what Ola Rotimi did? Of course not! In his play, “The gods are not to Blame”, the African gods were sleeping, they were never aroused because there was no reason for them to. It was a play that negated their style. In essence, it cramped their style and insulted them because, not only were they left behind, other gods (the Greek gods) were brought into the play. How then can you say that “The gods are to Blame” or “The gods are not to Blame.” For some, the gods are to blame for pronouncing a curse without seeking for a solution. For others, the gods are not to blame because there was a solution which was taking the child’s life. For others, man is to blame because, he did not heed to simple instructions. Rather, he saved the child’s life. Hold a second. Why blame any? Why blame the Gods (African gods) that were not even there at all? Why blame the Greek gods that were operating on foreign grounds alien to their culture? Why blame man, when he was only used as an agent to create the plot? The truth is that, man is not to blame… the gods are not to blame… but rather, the god is to blame, and that god is Ola Rotimi. For in the crafting of a play, the playwright is a god who creates the story and characters, gives life to it, etcetera. He is that person that has the onus to determine what happens in the play. Hence Ola Rotimi has failed as a god! This does not suggest that Ola Rotimi is a bad writer. No! Not at all. He only ignored an important aspect that ought not to be ignored and there lay his failure.

KINGSLEY OBORO. On Facebook search for THESPIAN OBORO. Do not fail to Comment. (08034861440)

6 thoughts on “OLA ROTIMI IS TO BLAME IN “THE GODS ARE NOT TO BLAME!”

  1. i dont reli tink ola rotimi did any wrong in potrayiny the african gods.This is because the gods already declared that the child bethrown in the evil groove.AND SO IF MAN DISOBEYED BY RESCING THIS CHILD,i see no reason why the gods should give another option

    • Well Priscilla Owu-Yes you stand right there. I am not saying he did wrong by portraying them. I am only saying that those were not African gods. The African gods were asleep. You made mention that the gods instructed that the child be thrown into an evil groove and man in his recalcitrance, decided not to. Well, do not forget that my point here is that when Odewale was born, there was no alternative to divert his fate! That was a sealed destiny. And to be honest, blaming man is out of it because if you look at the Greek Cosmology, you will discover that whatever the gods proclaimed MUST DEFINITELY come to pass! Even if man had thrown the child in the evil groove (That is in an actual greek play/story), something would make that child survive to ensure that he fulfilled his destiny! The destiny of his Blood served like stew on aplate of rice!

  2. the instruction to throw the child into the evil forest was not a direct instructions from the gods; there was a kind of silence here. and this was carried to when the ogun priest begins to tie the legs with cowries and instructs Gbonka to go to the the evil forest. also considering the character of baba Fakunle the ifa priest, no room was created for further divination which makes the whole scene un-African and not in no way related to Yoruba culture that would always make room for provision for “ero” no matter how difficult the case may be. For Ola Rotimi, it is an uneditted full addaptation of the Grecian influence and enviroment.

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