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Stage Play “Pre-Emptive” Storms Nigeria And Also Honours Soyinka As Cultural Role-Model
By Seye Aluko

The Z-Mirage Produced (Prof Niyi Coker Jnr. written) Stage Play: “Preemptive,” which recently completed a world tour of London, Barbados and Nigeria etc. was momentous and superbly packaged. Great credit goes to Teju Kareem (The Z-Mirage boss) for the depth and scope of the project, Segun Ojewuyi (Artistic Director) for the conceptualization and vision, as well as the host of actors, directors, collaborators and consultants.

The play throws wide open contemporary issues about “race,” bigotry, stereotyping and radicalism! According to the Ojewuyi, the play is part of movement to ensure inter-cultural education and exchange. This is because there is a lot of mis-information and ignorance about foreign lands and cultures. There is also suspicion and violence in many parts of the world due to this misinformation.

The staging of the play in Nigeria also coincided with the 76th Birthday of icon, Prof. Wole Soyinka. Therefore the organizers of the occasion used the opportunity to honour Soyinka, and roll out the drums for the famed Nigerian role-model Nobel Laureate.

The concept behind the ‘’Preemptive ‘’ is that many groups strike at other groups in the fear that if they did not strike first, the other group would be the first to do so! To ‘’pre-empt’’ means ‘’to act before’’. Therefore George W. Bush described his assault against Afghanistan as “pre-emptive strike,” or a “strike-before -a -strike!”  In ‘’Preemptive’’ there is even the suggestion that persons engage in violence to bring attention to ‘’their cause.’’ And so it goes on...

We live in a complex world in which ‘’peace’’ is transitory. In many places, where peace does exist, it is ‘’ the peace of the graveyard!’’ In the troubled and turbulent world of today, many persons apparently do not seem to even know why there should be different human races, or why (Almighty) God created them in such a diverse manner! They appear not to appreciate these races. Thus the concept of ‘’race’’ (and its flip-side “racism”) is a great hurdle over which unfortunately hundreds, thousands and even millions stumble, and crash! Many persons have failed to realize that in the same way as the birds and flowers in the fields are diverse, so are the races, the colors and languages of the world. Is this not Almighty God’s Wish (Will)? Some people seem to wish that there should be only one race, and that this should be ‘’their’’ race. And the issue of race in contemporary society is couched in more saccharin-like words, such as ‘’zoning’’ and ‘’rotation’’ or “North and South (dichotomy)” etc.

Racial issues have plagued men from time immemorial, and have made the annals of history a catalogue, a compendium and a cross-reference of bloodshed. It is arguable that it was racism that fuelled the fires of 1929-1945 Holocaust! Jews were exterminated for no other reason than they were Jews! In present day religious conflagrations, it is not infrequent for persons to be confronted by groups, and requested to recite verses of particular scriptures, and to be attacked (or even killed) for not being able to do so!

Many are only comfortable with their own kith and kin.  And many persons (overtly or covertly) propagate philosophies of intolerance, and embrace attitudes of hostility to foreign cultures. Such racism (bigotry) has led to the great suspicions, the long security checks at airports, because many ( acting out personal or impersonal scripts) are even  desirous of blowing aircraft from out of the skies ( and perhaps becoming ‘martyrs’ by so doing)!

This list of conflicts is endless! Israel has been at war with many Arab Nations! The United States is embroiled in combat with both Iraq and Afghanistan! Memories of the razing of the World Trade Centre’s Twin Towers in New York (11 September 2001) are indelible! Nearer home (Nigeria), there have always been flash points of racial and inter-religious conflagration (the most recent being the Boko-Haram uprising). And so it goes on…

In spite of the fact that play ‘’Preemptive ‘’ is hilarious, it treats serious issues artistically. The hilarity is a mere backdrop for the presentation of the serious racial matters. The concept of racism in the play is encapsulated in the character of Uncle Ted, (Christopher Collins)(a white American retired police officer) who should be rational, unbiased and circumspect, but who himself epitomises the greatest inconsistencies of racial prejudices, as illustrated by his ignorant comments about Africa! But such ignorant assumptions are rife. And they also characterize many other types of relationships. They do not pertain to racial matters only! They exist even in matters of belief, faith and ‘’religion’’ (the used word religion being used for want of a more appropriate designation). There is so much suspicion in religion! Many people ‘’pity’’ persons who are of different religions (persuations). They describe them as being ‘’lost’’, as being ‘’unsaved’’, as being ‘’unbelievers’’, ‘’infidels’’, etc. The crucibles of race, of religion etc. are convenient avenues for individuals and groups to propagate hatred and calumny. This is in spite of the fact that many of the ‘’Founders’’, ‘’Leaders’’, ‘’Prophets’’ etc. that established (and propagated) these precepts, did not advocate their spread through intolerance, or violence!

If the issue of race is examined from the point of view of music, the piano or keyboard is known to produce pleasant sounds from the mixture of notes (from the different black and white keys). Also in the Orchestra; there are different instruments termed ‘’string’’, ‘’wind’’, ‘’wood-wind’’, ‘’brass’’ and ‘’percussion’’ instruments. These instruments are different in several respects, but pleasing music results from the ‘’mixture’’ of the instruments. And it is arguable that the issue of race can be addressed. A ‘’race can be concluded to be a component (or voice) in the Orchestra of Life! This is like the keyboard’s black and white keys. And a ‘’race’’ is not to be singled out as a vehicle to which to direct ‘’pre-emptive’’ hatred and opprobrium.

In ‘’Preemptive’’ a Zanzibar national (Ahmed) (Cortez L. Johnson) is a psychologist in America, and falls in love with a white American lady, Dr. (Miss.) Vivian Watson (Tania Dawn Coambs). Their love flourishes, and Ahmed (a devout Muslim) often offers prayers in Vivian’s apartment, as is practiced among many Moslems, some five times a day.

On one of the occasions while Ahmed is offering his prayers in Vivian’s apartment, Uncle Ted (Vivian’s uncle) on a visit to her apartment, enters the apartment (as the door is unlocked) and encounters Ahmed on the  mat, praying. Not knowing who Ahmed is, Uncle

Ted draws out his pistol and accosts Ahmed, hand-cuffs him, ‘’arrests’’ him, accusing him of being a foreign terrorist, and subjects him to a barrage of racial slurs.

The following dialogue ensues between (Uncle Ted) and (Ahmed):  “Oh, I notice you have an accent. Where are you from? Africa? Oh, the land of Kunta Kinte? Africa? All that Safari stuff? Where there are all those disasters? And orphans? Moslems there too? You’re drinking coffee? Oh, you make coffee? You got coffee in Africa? Really?’’

Uncle Ted then bitterly complains to Ahmed about the influx of foreigners to the United States, stating: ‘’ You people came to the United States of America (basically a Christian nation). We give you education, everything. You then turn around and try to run us down! You see us as the enemy, and do not wish to adapt to our way of life. Your religion forbids alcohol. Why don’t you stay in your own country, and pray as you like? Look at you! You have brought your prayer mat to the house of a total stranger!’’

Uncle Ted continues to berate foreigners (Ahmed included) as being parasitic to the U.S economy as follows: ‘’You cash in on our privileges. You reap where you have not sown! I met you here in this room engaged in prayer. Is this a prayer before a suicide mission? You are offering Muslim prayers in a Christian living room. Why don’t you do your prayers in someone else’s house? You pray five times a day? All these Arabic stunts make people feel comfortable! We all pray to the same God, don’t we? We are Christians here, but we do not set up churches in other people’s backyards.’’

When Uncle Ted is finally persuaded that Akheem is not a terrorist, but a friend (lover) of his ward (Vivian) this infuriates him further, as he is not comfortable with Vivian marrying a foreigner (how much more a Moslem). Uncle Ted states: “You bastard, you even shacking up with Vivian! You enjoy American schooling, yet you still want more (Vivian)! What are you still doing in America?  You got your education? Why not go back and help your own people?”

In a sardonic reference to an attempt by a Nigeria (Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab) to bomb an aircraft over Detroit U.S.A on Christmas Day 2009, Uncle Ted (in derision) states: “It is incredible what you people can believe! That you will commit suicide and then meet eighty virgins in Paradise! Like the one who blew off his **** in an aircraft. When he meets the eighty virgins in Paradise, what is he going to do? What is he going to use?   Am I missing something here?’’

Uncle Ted finally cross examines Ahmed as to his actual intentions with Vivian. (In reference to the African (and/or Muslim) practice of polygamy) he asks: “Is Vivian going to be your second, third or fourth wife? All this “one man, four wives crap!’’

The stage play “Pre-emptive,” in its concept and packaging by Z-Mirage, and in its touring of so many states and countries, exhibits the concept of corporate social responsibility. This is practiced by a number of for-sighted corporations. For example CHAMS (the Lagos-based computer and Information Technology Company) has pioneered a resurgence of stage culture by dramatizing the works of D.O.Fagunwa, a celebrated Nigerian (Yoruba) writer.

The telecommunications giant M.T.N has also awarded scholarships to thousands of needy students, including scholars at the prestigious Diploma Programmes of the Musical Society of Nigeria. Therefore the national and international venture encapsulated in Pre-emptive, cannot go unremarked, as it represents another watershed in a national and international corporate sponsorship for the arts and culture.

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