The study examines satire as a weapon of criticism: a critical reading of Leye Adenle’s “when trouble sleeps” and Nina Iphechukwude Anyianuka’s “disowned” and “Nnenna’s loss”. It deals with the critical investigation of satire as a tool of political and social criticism in three African texts, namely: Leye Adenle’s When Trouble Sleeps, Nina Anyianuka’s Disowned and Nina Ayianuka’s Nnenna’s Loss. Two major theories are appropriated in this study. Firstly, Leye Adenle’s text is probed through Marxist theory with emphasis on class and social stratification. This marxist approach served to examine several political vices and acts of injustice in contemporary Nigerian societies such as corruption, nepotism, hypocrisy, prostitution, jungle justice and robbery, to mention but a few.

The study adopt a descriptive qualitative analysis for the analysis of data. A purposive sampling method was used to select the three texts Leye Adenle’s When Trouble Sleeps, Nina Anyianuka’s Disowned and Nnenna’s Loss.

Th study revealed that; Satires have always been worthy tools used in ridiculing societal menaces and political decadence and were used in this study's discourse; Adenle ridicules acts of political nepotism, favouritism and partiality that prevail in most African nations, projecting the outcome of such forceful and dictatorial governance; In the two feminist texts, Disowned and Nnenna’s Loss, by Nina Anyianuka, this study has been able to show the existence of feminist concerns through the depiction of a society where women are violently discriminated upon; Nnenna’s Loss also satirises certain cultures against women in the African society.

In Conclusion, Satire has proven to be a useful tool for social and political criticism in the novels of most Nigerian novelists.

This use of the satirical technique shows that not only have African novelists been able to successfully adopt this style of socio-political criticism without necessarily being influencial, they have also been able to master the operational tools of the concept whilst still producing fine pieces of art.

In other words, this study serves as an all encompassing foray into the realities of most African countries both sociopolitically and in terms of gender relations.




1.1              Background to the Study

Many African writers have written productively on the socio-political vices in the African society. Most of these writings appear in different genres as inspired by the writers. Recently, prose has enjoyed a good number of patronages when it comes to satirising socio-political decadences experienced in most African communities (Malik, 2011). Poetry, due to its concise form and precision, has also recorded huge success as a tool of social criticism (Mohd, 2014). Satire, therefore, has been the most viable tool adopted in criticism of socio-political menace in communities where moral decadence and political vices are evident (Oginni, 1996).

Satire is a tool or feature of literary criticism. Literary criticism ( also known as literary studies) is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. In modern literature, criticism is often influenced by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of literature's goals and methods. Though the two activities are closely related, literary critics are not always, and have not always been, theorists.  Whether or not literary criticism should be considered a separate field of inquiry from literary theory, or conversely from book reviewing, is a matter of some controversy. Some critics consider literary criticism a practical application of literary theory, because criticism always deals directly with particular literary works, while theory may be more general or abstract. In the course of this study, satire is employed as a tool of literary criticism in African literature.

Different scholars have viewed satire in different ways. For instance, Daniel (2016) sees satire as a genre of literature in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement. The definition captures that the aim of satire is criticism and ‘ridicule’. Criticism is usually directed towards targeted persons, institutions or communities due to their misconducts, with the aim of effecting positive change in their behaviours (Adeoti, and Elegbeleye, 2005). In accordance with this assumption, Abram (1999) views satire as a literary art of reducing a subject by ridiculing it and frowning at its attitudes through contempt or scorn. According to Hornby (2000), satire is an agent of social criticism against a person or institution through the use of humour to unveil societal vices, faults or weaknesses. Equally, Iwuchukwu (2009), perceives satire as any literary work which holds up a society to ridicule or shows the foolishness or weakness of an idea or custom and towards its attitude of amusement, contempt or scorn.

From the foregoing, it could be inferred that satire is a piece of writing that uses criticism and ridicule to correct the moral decadence and injustice in the society. Satire, in most written genres of literature, helps the authors to achieve their purposes of writing. It also helps to build up the themes of writers in their writing (Ogonna, 2015). Satire is a powerful art form which has the ability to point out the deficiencies in certain human endeavours and societal norms which result from them such that they become absurd and even hilarious (Hamadi, 2017). Satire, being a tool of literary criticism, has different types: political satire, religious satire, feminist satire, social satire and so on. For the purpose of this research, concentration would be on feminist satire and gender satire. Political satire deals with the act of criticising certain aspects of politics. The criticism may be directed towards the corrupt practices of most politicians, money embezzlement, nepotism, sectionalisation, marginalisation and so on. Feminist satire is a type of satire that criticises certain issues based on gender inequality, gender discrimination and subjugation, gender oppression, violence and other related issues.

Looking at the historical background of Africa, during colonialism, most African nations fought vigorously for freedom and emancipation from the colonial masters and satire was one of the weapons used in achieving this feat (Ogonna, 2015).  After most nations started gaining their independence, African writers still continued in their criticism using different motifs (Ogunba, 1985).

Corruption is one of the major bones of contention in Nigeria as a society and this has led to various write-ups from prolific writers in the country. Ever since Nigeria gained her independence, more complex questions have been asked, with the view to comparing Nigerian current political structure with that of its colonial past masters (Njogu (2001). In order words, gaining independence is more or less an equal of moving from fry pan to fire (Njogu, 2001). Since independence, responses to the questions of who and how the country is governed remains untenable. The issue of corruption which tends to be the deadliest disease plaguing the most populated nation in Africa has become a vital issue seeking attention every now and then (Malik, 2011). Nigeria ever since independence, has experienced numerous issues relating to federalism, like ethnicism, tribalism, regional concentration of power, federal character unequal distribution of wealth, and corruption and so on.

The concentration of this study in terms of the literary genre type is fiction. The word ‘fiction’ is derived from the Latin word called ‘Facio’ which means ‘I make’. Thus, fiction can therefore mean that which does not truly happen and so it looks as if it really happened.  Adetunji and Adeyemo (2017) expound that some of the things that happen in fiction can as well happen in real life but the story in fiction is imaginary and therefore is fictitious. In the course of defining fiction, Joseph (2018) posits that it is a term derived from the Latin word ‘fictum’ which means ―created (Joseph, 2018:5). In his opinion, “fiction is a term used to denote anything, mainly stories or accounts that are not real. Can you recall the fairy tale or other stories that your mother or grandmother used to tell you about animals, monsters, or even human beings that existed in faraway countries or in the primordial times. These are fictional narratives” (Joseph, 2018:5). From the foregoing, it could be inferred that fiction is any form of narrative which deals, in part or in whole, with events that are not factual, but rather, are imaginary and invented by its author (Joseph, 2018). This study therefore focuses on fictional satire. It illuminates how African writers have presented their thoughts based on political and gender issues through imaginations.

Against this background, activists and literary writers write extensively to help reform the inappropriateness in the mode of governance of our indigenous government. Since satire has the capacity to condemn certain ills and decadence in the society, these writers found its use more feasible and practicable. Such approach to literary writing emerged as the most appropriate for them to express their commitment to the hurting menace on the land over the people.

Salient among the numerous aspects which they have explored is corruption. Most scholars attribute this to the fact that Nigerians got independence far too early (Ogonna, 2015). They are of the opinion that if independence had been tarried until recently, Nigeria would have been one of the most exceedingly developed countries in the world (Ogonna, 2015). Corruption has been a recurrent issue discussed by an average Nigerian. Many scholars have attempted discourses trying to ridicule and satirise this menace through literature. Standing out among the early writers in the different genres are Chinua Achebe’s A Man of the People, Wole Soyinka’s The Trials of Brother Jero, Frank Ogodo Ogbeche’s Harvest of Corruption, Niyi Osundaye’s Village Voices, Phillips Umeh’s Ambasaddors of Poverty and So on.  Apart from corruption, there have been records of other social and economic issues which are fast becoming agents of immorality, injustice and degradation in the society. Sexual abuse, drug abuse, child trafficking, xenophobia and internal racism amongst others have also become some of the areas that have caught the attention of most writers recently. 

Ogunba (1985) (cited in Olaniyan, 2015:1) discusses the importance of African writers on the need to stand against the injustices which are rampant in the African society. He puts this thus:

 When the writer in his own society can no longer function as conscience, he must recognize that his choice lies between denying himself totally or withdrawing to the position of a Chronicler and Postmortem Surgeon. The artist has always functioned in the African society as the record of the mores and experiences of his society and as the voice of vision in his own time.

Awodiya (2005) corroborates this when he expresses the potentialities and the ability of African writings to influence the decisions of the government.  

…to use the weapon we have; our pen, our zeal and eloquence to awaken in our people the song of liberation with our writings. We wash away the stigma of inferiority, rouse our dormant energies, unmask the pest and traitors among us, and preach the positive sermons.

Furthermore, passionate writers have been meticulous about the need to lend their voices to the social commitment. Early African writings making use of satire have been characterised by the use of metaphors and irony as viable tools of rhetoric to achieve ridicule and criticism of social ills through criticism. This study attempts the critical analysis of satire in contemporary African novels through literary criticism. On this basis, this study will be focusing on Leye Adenle’s When Trouble Sleeps and Nina Iphechukwude Anyianuka’s two short stories namely Disowned and Nnenna’s Loss”. These novels were chosen based on the fact that they criticise certain social and political ills in the society, some of which are concerned with corruption and nepotism in Nigerian socio-political arena, using satire.

For instance, Leye Adenle’s When Trouble Sleeps reflects the political and social injustice within the Nigerian society. It presents the image of a country where all sorts of social vices such as corruption, political violence, electoral rigging, oppression, sexual abuse, god-fatherism and so on have become the order of the day. This text could be viewed as both social and political satire. Similarly, Anyianuka’s Disowned focuses on social injustice and moral decadence in contemporary Nigeria. The book also criticises the ruthlessness of the military. For example, a journalist is murdered by the military for the open criticism he made against their governance. Disowned relates issue of rape, sexual assault, marital violence and domestic violence in most African home satirically. It also goes further to treat salient issues specifically relating to oppression against women. In its depths, the book recaptures the idea of sex as a language of power used by those who wield it, particularly men, use it viciously against women. In Nnenna’s Loss, the author unveils the theme of betrayal and infidelity being exemplified by African men towards their wives despite their incessant confession of love and affections towards them. There is a depiction of the challenges, mockery and agony faced by African women after the death of husbands. It reveals how they are often oppressed and victimised by the relatives of the deceased.

Unarguably, these texts employ the tools of satire and criticism as they go a long way to ridicule the societal decadence and other socio-economic issues in the nation. Against the background above, this study will be attempting a critical analysis of satire through literary criticism, using Leye Adenle’s When Trouble Sleeps and Nina Iphechukwude Anyianuka’s Disowned and Nnenna’s Loss.


1.2              Statement of the Problem

Numerous works have emerged treating relevant issues on satire in Nigerian literature. Most of them have tried to establish the extent at which the existing literary works on political satire have been able to criticise the menace of corruption which is rampant in Nigerian politics. They concluded that corrupt politicians could change if Nigerian writers keep writing to criticise their corrupt practices and moral decadence. The study has identified that most of the works have concentrated on how literary writers adopt satire as a weapon of criticism in modern day Nigerian society. However, the selected texts (When Trouble Sleeps”, Disowned” and “Nnenna’s Loss) under study have not enjoyed any attention from literary critics with regards to satire because they emerge lately. Thus, this study will be adding to scholarship by showing satire being used as a literary weapon on societal ills in contemporary Nigerian fictional texts. Against this notion, this present study intends to do a critical literary analysis of the use of satire in Leye Adenle’s When Trouble Sleeps, and Nina Iphechukwude Anyianuka’s Disowned and Nnenna’s Loss by examining how the works have been used as tools of criticism. It also hopes to expound on the implications of the texts on society in ways like influencing the creation of favourable government policies and helping to restore morality on society.


1.3              Aim and Objectives

The aim of this study is to do a literary analysis of satire in Leye Adenle’s When Trouble Sleeps, Nina Iphechukwude Anyianuka’s Disowned and Nnenna’s Loss. Its specific objectives are to:

  1. identify how Leye Adenle’s When Trouble Sleeps, Nina Iphechukwude Anyianuka’s Disowned and Nnenna’s Loss employ the use of satire;
  2. identify the possible implications of the texts on members of the society and;
  3. investigate how the thematic concerns of the authors have been drawn in accordance with the happenings in the Nigerian society.



1.4              Research Questions

The research questions which have been speculated to guide this research are stated below:

  1. How have Leye Adenle’s Leye Adenle’s When Trouble Sleeps, Nina Iphechukwude Anyianuka’s Disowned and Nnenna’s Loss been employed as tools of criticism?
  2. What are the possible implications of the texts on members of the society? and
  3. How related are the thematic concerns of the authors in the texts to the happenings in the contemporary Nigerian society? 


1.5              Scope and Limitation of the Study

This study covers the scope of Nigerian literature. It focuses on issues discussed or bordering most Nigerian writers who are seeking redress on the political and social injustice in the society.

The study also covers the prose genre and how it has been patronised effectively by contemporary Nigerian writers who are one way or the other victim of socio-political injustice in the Nigerian community. The novel has been deployed by this study as the focus of its discussion. Leye Adenle’s “When Trouble Sleeps”, Nina Iphechukwude Anyianuka’s “Disowned” and “Nnenna’s Loss” have been employed as the selected novels for the study.

As regards the theoretical model, this study will be adopting Marxist Approach and feminist approach. Marxist approach helps the researcher to have a clear ground on the criticism of political elite based on the ground of class stratification. To this effect, Marxism enhances better criticism on issues like poverty, corruption, unequal distribution of wealth and so on. Hence, this will be a suitable model for analysing Leye Adenle’s When Trouble Sleeps. On the other hand, feminist theory is particular about issues such as gender inequality, female subjugation and oppression. Thus, feminism, as a theory, will be adopted as the analytical model in Nina Iphechukwude Anyianuka’s Disowned and Nnenna’s Loss.

1.6              Significance of the Study

This study is significant for its political leavings aimed at being corrective of social ills. It is also important because it will broaden the knowledge of students of literature about politics and the tools used writers to caution it. It also provides scholars and students of literature an overview of works and the potentials for the power of ridicule within them. Moreover, it introduces literature students and researchers to the main trends in the African political development and their history.

As regards the socio-political setting of the texts, this study stands the chance of providing great opportunities and awareness to literature students on the political rivalry and power stratification existent amongst dictatorial world powers. It also affords students and readers the opportunity of becoming aware of issues involved in the process of literary criticism and to provide students with an introduction to the basic issues of literary theories (Ambali, 2016).

Also, this study would be of benefit to selfish politicians whose interest is to primarily embezzle public funds at the expense of the masses. The study will be a viable piece which is capable of helping them change their attitudes and approaches to political governance. 

1.7              Methodology

This study will be adopting a descriptive qualitative analysis for the analysis of data. A purposive sampling method was used to select the three texts Leye Adenle’s When Trouble Sleeps, Nina Anyianuka’s Disowned and Nnenna’s Loss. The criterion for the selection is based on the notion of satire as a tool of social and political criticism as exemplified in the texts. In the course of the analysis, content analysis would be used as the data would be validated using two literary theories: Marxist Theory and Feminist theory.



1.8       Brief Biography of the Novelists         

The novelists under concern in this study are Leye Adenle, with reference with his novel, When Trouble Sleeps and Nina Iphechukwude Anyianuka, with reference to her two short stories: ‘Disowned’ and ‘Nnenna’s Loss’.

1.8.1    Leye Adenle  

Leye Adenle is a Nigerian writer. He has written a number of short stories and fictional works. His debut novel is Easy Motion Tourist, a reflection of the ordeals and experiences of typical Lagos life. Leye Adenle’s great success, particularly in France, with his debut crime novel Easy Motion Tourist, describing the underworld of Lagos stimulated a follow-up to the novel. This gave birth to When Trouble Sleeps, where he goes even further in exposing the corruption and political bankruptcy of his home country. He has appeared on stage in London acting in plays likeOla Rotimi’s Our Husband has Gone Mad Again.

1.8.2    Nina Iphechukwude Anyianuka

Nina Ipheckwude Anyianuka is a Nigerian award-winning author and Nollywood actress. She attended the prestigious London Academy of Media, Film and Television. She also has a B.A. in Theatre Arts from the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Nina has worked with Endemol/Stormvision, Silverbird Entertainment, Sound-city Music Channel and Delta Talenf Quest, a youth oriented reality TV show for the Delta State government as Project/Content Director. She is presently the Creative Arts/Style Director at RMD Productions Limited. Nina’s fame rose when wrote her first short story collection titled, Disowned. It describes women who are exposed to sexual assault in the hands of their spouse and those who claim to love them.



1.9       Synopsis of the Texts                 

1.9.1    Synopsis of Leye Adenle’s When Trouble Sleeps   

Leye Adenle’s When Trouble Sleeps begins with a shocking revelation from Amaka a lawyer and the daughter of an ambassador. As a detective, she parades herself as the self-appointed saviour of Lagos' sex workers. Amaka has been a frequent visitor to The Harem, one of the most patronised secret sex clubs in Lagos. She also recruits indomitable women such as Naomi, Chioma, Eyitayo, Florentine and Funke among others to achieve this feat. After her several visits to the club and several attempts to bring corrupt politicians to justice, Amaka lands in trouble by getting entangled with Chief Ojo, one of the most corrupt and influential politicians in the city of Lagos. Mr Ojo is a gubernatorial candidate of the ruling party in Lagos after the demise of the runner up in a recent and ghastly plane crash. Chief Ojo, being the first runner up, indisputably becomes the replacement for the post. Amaka, in the course of her numerous sexual entanglements with Chief Ojo, realises so many acts of injustice perpetrated by the gubernatorial candidate. The most shocking is the incidence of him beating up a girl in The Harem, a secret sex club, after sexually assaulting her and leaving her to die. Amaka plays to the gallery and acquires enough information to end his political career. These pieces of information include nude pictures and videos of Chief Ojo with underage young girls on his phone. Amaka, with the help of Inspector Ibrahim, one amongst the very few incorruptible police officers, is partially able to set her feet on the path to justice.

As the election draws near, Chief Ojo who has been campaigning rigorously discovers that Amaka has incriminating information capable of destroying his political ambition, if published. Amaka is the only person standing between him and election victory. Hence, Ojo sends hired guns, Malik and Shehu after her. Chief Balogun, his powerful father in-law also hires a gang of thugs for the job. Amaka, struggled to outwit them all so as to gain survival.

1.9.2    Synopsis of Nina Anyianuka’s Disowned

Disowned tells the tale of a young female protagonist, Beatrice, narrating her ordeals as a woman who has long endured many acts of oppression from her husband. In the course of exposition, the text reveals the incidence of a courageous and brave journalist who was murdered in cold-blood by the military for constantly opposing them. After the murder of the journalist in the presence of his wife and children, the wife begins to suffer from psychological disability and the children are left to their fate. Their aunt narrowly escapes with them to the United States of America after several abortive attempts to hunt them down by the assailants. Life becomes less miserable for them as they reunite with their mother and seek refuge in the U.S. Beatrice, the eldest daughter, as well as her brothers, try to make a living but life is very hard and unbearable. Shortly, Beatrice runs into Femi, a cunny young man with an evil agenda. Against the wishes of her mother, Beatrice marries Femi and they finally relocate to Nigeria. Femi is described as an influential personality in the state. He is offered a gubernatorial ticket after gunning for it. Femi can be described as a hypocrite who praises his wife in public but makes a mockery of her at home. Many people see them as perfect couple in public but Beatrice actually faces all sorts of marital injustice. Femi often beats her up after which he rapes her at will. He constantly abuses her and also toys with her emotions. To make things worse, he womanises openly and cares less whether he hurts his wife’s feelings or not.

Beatrice has a lot of opportunities to walk out of the marriage. However, she decides not to because of her children and her experience of not having both parents after the murder of her father. These thoughts make her endure the pain and agony which she often faces in her husband’s house. Beatrice’s self-confession serves as useful guide to all such women who unnecessarily endure on account of their children. This decision almost gets her killed, as Femi’s cruelty gets to its peak. In the course of his incessant violence, their eldest daughter sympathises with her mother as she is being beaten and raped by her father. This incidence leads to a rebirth in the family as it marks the era of freedom for Beatrice. Her daughter gives her the courage to confront her husband and she discovers just how cowardly Femi is. Consequently, Beatrice and her eldest daughter discover the route to Femi’s armoury. They utilise it hugely to ruin him and in the end, he is sentenced to life imprisonment in France for murder. Finally, Beatrice and her children taste freedom and liberty from the tyranny of a husband and father.

1.9.3    Synopsis of Nina Anyianuka’s Nnenna’s Loss

Nnenna’s Loss tells the story of a young widow, Nnenna, whose mother-in-law keeps victimising based on her non-compliance with the Igbo tradition as regards the burial rite of her late husband. Nnenna whose love for her late husband, Udoka, is great, cries helplessly to mourn the death of Udoka. Her mother-in-law has attempted to take the children to the village but Nnenna objects vigorously to this. She (her mother-in-law) also tries to convey the remains of Udoka to the village for burial but all efforts prove abortive. Udoka’s burial is graced with people of timber and calibre because he was a man of influence. Nnenna meets the greatest shock of her life when she discovers that her late husband was not faithful to her while he was alive. In fact, she discovers that he was out with another woman in London some days before he died. It then dawns on Nnenna that there is more than losing Udoka to death. She regrets ever loving Udoka as she loses every iota of love and respect she ever had for him. Nnenna acknowledges that her real loss is Udoka’s infidelity and not his death.