April 13, 2021

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How mediocrity, greed ruin the nation

3 min read

Book Review

Title: Museums of Dream

Author: Olatunde Ojerinde

Reviewer: Chisom Nlebedum

Publishers: Kraftgriots

Pagination: 100

Throughout the ages, whether through poems, plays, novels or oral literary performances, the role of literature in society as a catalyst for reflection and change in our lives, values and society has been acknowledged. Indeed, in Hamlet Act 3, scene 2, William Shakespeare who captured this perfectly when he noted that the purpose of a play is to hold, as it were, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure (Hamlet).

At the heart of this role is its ability to present the human condition, which we are all too familiar with, in an outrageously explicit manner. Thus, forcing us to confront such issue in another light, to understand it and ultimately take a stand with or against it.

In Museums of Dream (MOD), the playwright Olatunde Ojerinde does not gloss over the very acts of corruption, tribalism, and nepotism which we are all too familiar with in different spheres of our national life. He launches, rather, into a prolonged sensational presentation of such issues with characters whose words, thoughts and actions invoke very many different feelings from us, the readers. For instance, when the character Barawu, the corrupt head of civil service, speaks or acts, we feel rage in two ways: either because we know he is a typical representation of most Nigerian civil servants or because we do not know this level of rot exists and we feel he should suffer some consequences.

Whichever it is, what stands out is proof of the playwright’s creative ability in mirroring our civil service’s value system back to us; to force us to ponder on how and why exactly this sort of unpatriotic and selfish individual is allowed to run our system down with mediocrity and greed.

This is also true for other characters in the play like Chief Ole, who generates a generous amount of disgust in the reader. He is the typical CEO we are told daily, by motivational speakers, to emulate. What inspirational speakers, however, do not often know is that Chief Ole, like many of his contemporaries, do not run any business per se, but are fronts for corporate scams and fraud aimed at ripping off the country and its citizens. They are the ones who supply candidates for our politics and civil services, with the sole aim of safeguarding their personal and business interests. This shows the playwright’s insider perspective of our systems of organised crime, working hand in hand to sabotage our founders dream.

But, literature is not always complete if it reveals all these woes and forgets to provide catharsis in the end, for as Chinua Achebe noted, stories exist to prepare us to confront the many troubles that assailed the characters in our stories, should we encounter those in real life. Hence, like every good literary work, Ojerinde concludes by bringing the victims of Chief Ole, Barawu, and the nepotistic academics’ game of divide and conquer together in a conversation. It is the youth, Simi, Zeug and Limerick who come together to question the status quo, and why they must continue to be pawns in the game of chess played by the older characters. In doing this, Ojerinde provides an outlet for hope, for the faith in our ability as humans to always rise and change our world, if only we dare.