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Comical Relief, Not Presidential Campaigns, By Banji Ojewale

Nigeria Student Forum / Books/Literature/Writing / Comical Relief, Not Presidential Campaigns, By Banji Ojewale (43) Views

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Fadeyi Oluwaseun
Ladoke Akintola University Ogbomosho
B.tech Marketing Management
200Level, Nigeria.

…what we are witnessing, the appropriation of the political arena by the fading duo of Atiku and Buhari, can’t be the real deal. It is a short-lived comical affair a tragic performance throws up. What we desire is a new beginning, a fresh face leading us into the future, those who would give the country unadulterated breath.


Classical tragedies of ancient dramatists were incomplete without the dominant presence of what critics call comic relief. The Greeks who gave us the precursor to today’s theatre were elegant practitioners: Thespis (said to be their forebear), Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripedes etc. Later, drama, under the Roman civilisation, underwent negative changes, according to literary writers. Historians say, “for seven hundred years the drama steadily sank, to completely disappear beneath the surface in the sixth century A. D.” Later, in the hands of modern masters like William Shakespeare and John Dryden, the comic relief in plays found a return to its golden age. Such has been its impact and influence thereafter that in 1918, the French critic, Guillaume Apollinaire predicted that “no future audiences would be able to endure, without impatience, a play in which these elements (tragedy and comedy) are not balanced against each other.”

What Apollinaire meant was that no matter how serious or tragic a theatrical presentation is, it can only be enlivened by comedy or humour. It is the reason that the greatness of such Shakespearean tragedies as Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello and others derives from their comical vignettes.

Comic relief is defined as “an important literary technique…that refers to the author’s use of humour to give the reader or audience an emotional break from the tension and heavy mood of a serious or tragic plot. This can include humorous characters, clever dialogue, and funny scenes.”

So, while many of my compatriots can only see dreary performance and darkness playing out in the current political campaign for votes by the contestants, chiefly President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Mr. Abubakar Atiku of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), I see a lot of comic relief in the air.

Why must a receding generation determine the fate of the incoming one? Why would we trust those who created the problems for us to offer the solutions? You would expect those with such a record to be denied the chance to call the shots. But this presents a comic relief in the tragedy of a nation that rests its hopes on geriatric pillars than on its youthful resources.


We are in a theatre hall. There is a serious political play showing. A former president would say it’s a do-or-die affair. I disagree. I call it a see-and-laugh affair. For we must laugh at a situation in which two septuagenarians are in a mortal combat for the votes of the eligible youth of the land. They are traversing air, land and sea to capture the souls of these young citizens on February 16. Shouldn’t these old persons rather be retired to allow the untried but creative and energetic citizens be given the opportunity to take over. After all, the statistics indicate that more than half of those registered to vote are the youth.

Must we not be amused that the old are battling for the soul of a land that boasts a weightier number of those moving into the future? Aren’t we to laugh at the theatre of the absurd that this suggests? Isn’t a vote for them a vote for the sad past, which we desire to flee from?

Nobel-winning Wole Soyinka, an old hand in theatrical productions that have displayed the power of sardonic comic relief, has lately joined compatriots who disavow a reach for the oldies in the next dispensation, after he let down his throng of admirers in 2015 with his inexplicable support for Buhari. Now, he is upset with the poor performance of the horse he put his bet on. He was part of those who crafted the comic relief. Is nature imitating art? Or the other way?


Why must a receding generation determine the fate of the incoming one? Why would we trust those who created the problems for us to offer the solutions? You would expect those with such a record to be denied the chance to call the shots. But this presents a comic relief in the tragedy of a nation that rests its hopes on geriatric pillars than on its youthful resources.

I also believe that the current mood of tying our fate to the presidency of one of two old gladiators is a death blow on the future of this great country of nearly 200 million people. If we see it as a comic relief in a theatre, then we must not forget that such scenes don’t last. They are cast in a longer scene of tragedy.


Isn’t it comical, allowing for ‘release of our emotions and ease tensions in the midst of an otherwise serious scene’ as we find in some of Shakespeare’s works?

Years ago, when Gbolabo Ogunsanwo, illustrious columnist and Sunday Times of Nigeria editor at its peak in the 70s, was commenting on a national issue, he declared that Nigerians needed to mourn for events they were celebrating. I also believe that the current mood of tying our fate to the presidency of one of two old gladiators is a death blow on the future of this great country of nearly 200 million people. If we see it as a comic relief in a theatre, then we must not forget that such scenes don’t last. They are cast in a longer scene of tragedy.

For us in Nigeria at this period, we must ask ourselves what will play out after this comic relief. True, those watching may enjoy some respite from the gloom and doom of the play. There will be some laughter from the jokes and banter of the jesters brought in by the dramatist. Shakespeare had them in the garb of gravediggers, porters and gatekeepers. But they didn’t dominate the play, as the show wasn’t theirs but that of the tragic actors. They always gave way for Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet.

So what we are witnessing, the appropriation of the political arena by the fading duo of Atiku and Buhari, can’t be the real deal. It is a short-lived comical affair a tragic performance throws up. What we desire is a new beginning, a fresh face leading us into the future, those who would give the country unadulterated breath.

Banji Ojewale writes from Ota, Ogun State.

Source: https://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/2019/02/07/comical-relief-not-presidential-campaigns-by-banji-ojewale/

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