Throughout history problems in Africa have plagued the country. Nigeria has been overrun with failures in political leadership, where oil politics has held down the people of the country. Its post-colonial tragedies has led to a system that has tirelessly bludgeoned the masses into a state of submission that has led to a government that overpowers their people in accordance with the multinationals that buy into the country. Unlike other activists’ books that touch on political stories, it takes a certain type of story that paints the picture of capturing the political movement of a country littered with corruption and desolate, for a person to emerge as not only a patriot but also a political game changer.
Within The Activist by Tanure Ojaide, is political novel that focuses on the plight of social realist ideas within the Niger Delta. Within Nigeria there are several that are downtrodden and marginalized by the destruction of the environment by the political class of the multinationals from the likes of Chevron, Mobile, Texaco, Shell, and other major oil corporations. The protagonist of the novel is the Activist that returns to the Niger Delta as a symbol of patriotism to his country, intellections, and a figure that is greatly needed in order to transform the Niger Delta. His character provides a change that is needed in the Niger Delta, and helps to influence the dynamic change in the political power and the intellectual activist engagement that is capable of envoking an ideo-political influence and education within the country. His character helps to bring to light important concepts that has historically troubled the country including problems of race, religion, social class, ethnicity, gender, and other key factors present within the novel.
From the beginning of the novel, Ojaide presents the story in the present-day setting of Nigeria. The characterization of the protagonist is shown in the beginning chapter of the novel, where the Activist doesn’t go along with the traditional ritual of having his countrymen welcome him home after his long arrival to his home country where he left ten years earlier. Instead he care that his people stay in their homes. “He did not consider himself important enough for that type of reception.” (Ojaide, pg., 4) The social class within the Niger Delta consisted of mostly two major classes the poor and the wealthy. This class separation was mainly felt by the race of the Africans. The Activist reflected back on his time at the University where they came to America searching for a better way of life. The racial divide was felt when they realized they were subjugated to the racial bias of individuals that put them the ringer at every turn. “They realized the loss of respect and dignity in America they had to suffer bearing what they would not tolerate at home.” (Ojaide, pg. 22) As Africans they continually felt displaced strangers that didn’t belong, “rednecks” would taunt them and call them derogatory names, while they were harass for not speaking “American”.
His return to his home country was met with resistance from his American counterparts and others who thought that his arrival would bring to much attention. The activist had political aspirations, he wanted to change the plight of the people, the homeless, and the people within the country that were subjugated by the governmental power. “The government and the oil corporations brought in people from other states to fill the jobs in the industry that was destroying not only their environment but also their sources of livelihood.” (Ojaide, pg. 49) The situation created by the government created a dire economic situation in which the people were forced to commit crimes such as robbery in order to survive. The social class of the Niger Delta were, “jobless, urchins, capable of robbing, killing, and doing any type of dastardly act for pay to survive the hard times.” (Ojaide 49) The gender differences were felt by the women students that were raped by the male students, so much so that Dr. Ebi released an editorial on want for women to report acts of crimes against them, treat their bodies as a sovereignty, and the need for more regulations in order to protect the women. Problems between relationships of students and teachers that bordered on sexual harassment, rape, and other violations that need to be punished. The cause of the major Oil corporations left the citizens poorer, while their workers had a mini Disneyland for their children, their houses where made for a comfortable experience, while their lawns were manicured, and their cooking and bathing needs were taken care of. Compared to the residents that had to fetch water from the Ugunu River that was polluted from the chemicals due to oil exploration. The factors of race, gender, social class, and other disparities are agitated due to the need for the government to foster their relationship with multinationals in order to fill their pockets. The Activist sheds light on these problems, and tries to change these problems through his political activism while remain patriotic in serving the needs of his people.
- Ojaide, Tanure. The Activist. 2006. Farafina Books.