Twingle-Twangle- A Twyining Tayle-The choice between two leadership styles
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This entry is part 6 of 12 in the series Reviews Season Three

In Twingle Twangle: A Twyining Tayle, Femi Osofisan showed us that a democratic government ruled by common sense thumps an autocratic one ruled by might. Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy reviews

Oh did I forget to tell you yesterday that I ate Femi Osofisan’s Twingle Twangle: A Twyining Tayle at the early hours of the morning? But I did! One spectacular thing I find exciting about Osofisan is his ability to present new ideas using an old mode or idea. Did he not do it with Women of Owu where he employed the Moremi myth to capture proletarian struggle in a modern society? He also did same with Tegoni which is an adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone and in Red is the Freedom Road.

This time, he employs the folkloric form to tell the story of twin brothers who went in search of worldly wisdom. While one was strong and valiant, the other was weak in strength but sagacious. They arrived at the archetypal crossroad with one road leading towards the sea shore while the other leads to the forest. Kehinde (the valiant one) wants them to take the path leading to the sea shore, Taye (the weak but wise one) decides that a path through the forest would be most adventurous. The inability of both twins to arrive at a truce lead to each following his own favoured path. Kehinde along with his servant take the bag containing arms and ammunition and heads towards the seashore while Taye heads towards the forest with the bag containing herbs.

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Kehinde arrives at the village of Etido and defeats a vicious sea monster that has plagued the place for a long time and which the people had to sacrifice their most beautiful maiden to on a yearly basis. That year it is the princess who is to be sacrificed and Kehinde defeats the monster after a long fight. He becomes a folk hero, marries the princess and becomes the king of Etido. As king, he would teach the people that weakness is a vice that must be defeated; he would ask them to prey on their weak neighbours, war with them. Mercifully, he orders that no looting or wanton destruction be done by his men.

Taye at his own end also arrives at the forest village of Ereko tired and famished. He meets there a contest whose winner gets the hands of the princess in marriage and also inherits the kingdom. Luckily, the contest is not of strength but of common sense. The contestant would drink a hot bowl of soup without wincing or gasping! All contestants failed and the contest was thrown open to all. A famished Taye jumps in the circle and, through an act of cunning, drinks the soup without flinching. He wins, marries the princess, and becomes king. He is benevolent and he teaches the people about hard work, tending of plants and special care of farm produce so that his village becomes prosperous!

Kehinde on the other hand was not finding it easy in his Kingdom, the populace have gone against him, they are tired of his war, it makes none any richer and has caused the demise of many young men seeking glory. They revolt and Kehinde realises that war is spurred by no other factor but greed. The greed to loot and accumulate wealth, rape and destroy. He promises them another war yet and one that would make everyone richer, they would invade the Kingdom of Ereko (his brother’s kingdom)!

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The citizens of Ereko have been taught to farm and tend crops, they are not warriors and this impending war gives them the jitters, many wanted to vacate the kingdom before the arrival of Etido fearful warriors but comrade Taye (he is addressed not as ‘king’ but as ‘comrade’) appeals for calm and proposes an absurd solution. The people of Ereko would not fight, they would organise a big feast and celebrate the coming of Etido warriors to their domain!

Imagine the surprise of Etido warriors when they arrived and found the people they had come to war with dancing and celebrating to welcome them? Absurd hun? They got in and stopped the music, they asked for the leader and both twins discovered themselves leaders of the warring parties. Kehinde was intent on proving that might is strength, he goes on to depose Taye making him a vassal to him, he annexes Ereko to his own kingdom and commands that they must now pay tributes to him. Taye agrees to these demands and invites Kehinde to a feast.

Kehinde and his warriors ate and drank. Little did they realise their food had been drugged to make them sleep and after eating, they all slept. Taye asked that they be bundled and tied down immediately and the town people were happy with Taye. They removed the crown from Kehinde’s head and place it on Taye’s.

Kehinde wakes up and suddenly realises that their sojourn was a five year sojourn and it has ended. So both twins must head home to their parents.

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Now, Osofisan has shown us two kinds of government–an autocratic cum military government ruled by might, and a democratic and free one ruled by common sense–and he asks the audience (using the Babalawo in a narrator position) which is better. Certainly, the largest vote would go for Taye’s style of leadership. The decision had already been made when the crown on Kehinde’s head was removed and place on Taye’s head.

Osofisan may be anything but he has remained true to the epic form of theatre as we see the use of alienation effect, double casting and the idea of leaving the final decision to the audience; albeit the argument weighs heavily on one side of the scale more.

At the time the play was produced, Nigeria was experiencing military rule and this play is an attestation of the role art plays towards the liberation of society. The play is simple to understand and it is much more than a mere folktale for there is a great lesson to be learnt and the playwright uses the play to compare and contrast an autocratic society and a communist one. Osofisan, clearly, remains one of Africa’s master playwrights, a position also enjoyed by Wole Soyinka and John Pepper Clark Bekederemo.

© Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy

Series Navigation<< Abubakar Gimba’s Witnesses to Tears: An indictment on our moral orderA visit to the forest of daemons: Reading D. O. Fagunwa’s Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irumale >>

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By Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy

Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy holds a degree in English language and literary studies. He is a short story writer, copy editor, book reviewer, literary critic, poet, and essayist. He teaches English as a Foreign Language in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

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