THE USE OF PIDGIN ENGLISH IN OLA ROTIMI’S OUR HUSBAND HAS GONE MAD AGAIN.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1     Background to the Study: Language Question in Africa Literature

English language serves as the most prestigious foreign language in Nigeria, having assumed the role of second language as well as that of an official language. In addition, it serves as the language of wider communication and of education.

It is interesting to note that from the time in 1962 when Obi Wali wrote the paper entitled “Dead End of Africa Literature?” the language question in African literature has remained a major issue in literary debates and conferences. Many scholars made their contribution on the language question with some taking the extreme position of rejection of Europeans languages, and others taking the moderate position of adoption, the one Ola Rotimi belong to.

Drama represents life in a distinct ways. It is said to be a mirror of life. It is a unique genre in the sense that it draws its raw materials directly from the human activity and uses them as its medium of expression; as such it is said to be an imitation of life. In this sense, it is said to draw directly from human life than other human experiences.

Language use in drama has shown the dexterity displayed by playwrights in manipulating language to serve dramatic ends. This demonstrates the appropriate use of language as a vehicle of characterisation.

To most African playwrights, language is an instrument employed to portray their character’s social class, age and background; among these notable playwrights are Ola Rotimi, Wole Soyinka, Femi Osofisan and Olu Obafemi just to mention a few. To such playwrights who use the medium of English, the different shades of English existing in a community such as Pidgin English are a veritable tool for character identification, in some earliest writer’s works, pidgin English is made for humour as well as for character portrayal. All these manifest in the works of Nnimmo Bassey, Frank Aig-Imouekhude, Edwin Oribhabor, Ezenwa-Ohaeto, Tunde Fatunde, Ken Saro-Wiwa, just to mention few, and they use other features in term of aesthetics, creativity and life but the use of pidgin English in literary expression has transcend these functions.

The present Nigerian Pidgin English became popular in Nigerian literature through the works of Amos Tutuola, Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka at the turn of the 1960s and in music by the late Afro beat legendary Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. These writers can justifiably credit as the first set of writers to document the language for popular use as they were later followed by other writers and brought Nigerian Pidgin English to international limelight.

Most of these writers see Pidgin English as a means to distinguish between the literate characters and the illiterate, most especially the house-help or market women’s characters, for example, Polycarp the house boy of Lejoka Brown in Ola Rotimi’s Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again, and Chume, Jero’s assistant in Soyinka’s The Trials of Brother Jero. The language also distinguishes the criminal underclass of jailbird felons, thugs and petty crooks like Danger in Ahmed’s The Lottery Ticket.

In addition, Nigerian Pidgin English can be seen in Wole Soyinka’s The Road, and Death and the King’s Horseman, Chinua Achebe’s A Man of the People Aig-Imouekhude’s poem “Stew and Sufferhead”, Ken SaroWiwa’s collection of songs, “Dis Nigeria Self and SozaBoy”, Mamman Vasta’s “Tori For Geti Bow Leg”. Ezenwa Ohaeto’s “I Wan Bi President” and “If To Say I Be Soja”, Nnimmo Bassey’s “I Love My Kontri People”, Edwin Oribhabor’s “Abuja nahevun, nakpangba and odapuem”, etc. Mamman Vasta was the first person to open the gateway of pidgin poetry in the 1980s although Fela Music uses Pidgin English for the masses to understand his music, his tool for perpetual criticism of Nigeria’s government and religious figures.

As a successful playwright, Ola Rotimi paints a panoramic picture of the strings of problems in the society caused by a lack of vision of our politicians and lampoons his hero’s idea about politics.

Ola Rotimi uses Lejoka-Brown, a retired army major, to depict that the business of politics as conducted in Nigeria is war. The metaphorical conceptualization of politics in Nigeria involves the mapping of the ontology of war on that of politics. In other words, one can understand the domain of politics in Nigeria by evoking the knowledge frame one has about war. Very early in the text the reader encounters Lejoka-Brown perfecting his military strategies for a political warfare.

The text reveals that politics involves the following presuppositions as in war: a ‘military strategy’, ‘army tactics, ‘surprise and attack’ strategy, ‘counter-attack’, ‘coercive and autocratic strategies’, ‘take over’, ‘war prisoner’, etc. reveals that Lejoka-Brown makes no discrimination between war and politics and this explains why his choice of language is dominated by war rhetoric. The preponderance of military rhetoric in the text indicates that Lejoka-Brown perceives ‘election campaign’ as a ‘military campaign.’ This presupposes that election in Nigeria is a do or die affair between ‘political enemies’ and thus deserves the application of maximum force for one to be victorious. Politics is also framed as madness. The playwright achieved this through the use of language and character’s actions as the play satirises the society and indirectly mocking Nigerian society as a whole.

 

 

 

1.2     Statement of the Problem

Firstly, Nigerian literary artists assign the Nigerian Pidgin to the uneducated, house-helps, motor-park touts and the rank and file of the armed forces. Pidgin English is also employed by the educated in informal situations or in social interactions with their uneducated counterparts. This essay shall attempt to focus on the evaluation of Pidgin English in Ola Rotimi’s Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again as case study to justify the different functions it performs in literary expression and concern with the meaning of words as used in situational contexts, thus allowing for extra-linguistic variables, recognising the speakers, the bearer and the social context between them, as well as their purposes.

Secondly, there are lot of literary works by different Nigerian writers from different genres of literature. Nigerian literature has produced many renowned writers in Africa and across the globe. Some of them were criticised most especially in the use of language in their works but unknowingly to some critics that they write to suit Nigerian sensibility. Here, Ola Rotimi makes use of Pidgin English to portray the characters and the reason for using it by some educated characters.       

1.3     Purpose of the Study

This study examines the appraisal of Pidgin English through the study of Ola Rotimi’s Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again. The work focuses on the introduction of Nigerian Pidgin English into Nigerian literature, Nigerian Pidgin English itself and review of related literature on Nigerian Pidgin English. It also focuses how writers “weaved” the language for literary aesthetics and also the debate on language question that liberate writers to employ the language that we suit their environment’s sensibilities. Therefore, this research is an aim to paves smooth way for further linguistic researchers on the use of Pidgin English in Nigerian literature.

Secondly, there are lot of literary works by different Nigerian writers from different genres of literature. Nigerian literature has produced many renowned writers in Africa and across the globe. Some of them were criticised most especially in the use of language in their works but unknowingly to some critics that they write to suit Nigerian sensibility. Here, Ola Rotimi makes use of Pidgin English to portray the characters and the reason for using it by some educated characters.

1.4     Aims and Objectives of the Study

The aim of this study is to conduct an evaluation of the use of Pidgin English in Ola Rotimi’s Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again. The objectives of this study are:

       i.            To examine how the use of Pidgin has been used to portray some characters.

     ii.            To examine the presence of Nigerian Pidgin English in the play.

  iii.            To show how Pidgin English was been used by the playwright to explore his creativity.

   iv.            To show that the former use of Pidgin English or humour and character’s stratification by the earliest playwrights is now more than that.

1.5     Significance of the Study

The importance of Pidgin English in Nigeria now is clearly seen as both the literates and the illiterates use it. Irrespective of any limitations experienced in study of Pidgin English, this study will be important to Creolistics as a course.

The peak of every development in a language is its standardization; the appraisal of the language in this research will contribute to its development. The analysis of the pidgin use in the text will show how the playwrights and some of his contemporaries that use Pidgin English in their works try to bring it to the limelight. Although, Pidgin English lacks orthography but its syntax and phonology are being developed the more the users and the writers use it, this shows as the gradual development of the requirements for its popularity. This research is also significant because of its contribution to knowledge

1.6   Ola Rotimi and the Arts

Olawale Gladstone Emmanuel Rotimi, best known as Ola Rotimi was born on 13th April 1938, he died August 18th 2000. Ola Rotimi entered the Nigeria dramatic and theatrical scene after the dusk of the first renaissance produced by Wole Soyinka, J.P. Clark and Ulli Bier had settled down. He left indelible imprint in the areas of playwriting and directing in Nigeria, a fact attested to by many critics, theatre scholars and practitioners.

Ola Rotimi discourse ripples with incomparable oratory, reveals rare intellectual depth and a broad horizon that bestrides the liberal arts and provides fresh perspective in the understanding of his plays.

He has remained one role model for younger generation and practitioners. His view has shaped the conduct of the theatre and his play has shown how drama’s power shape the thinking of the society and attempt to solve some of the problems encountered in everyday living.

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