Darah: The radicalisation of the Niger Delta political space has had its effect on the themes and rhetoric of works by the region’s writers, activist thinkers, and cultural mediators. I am currently working on a book of essays on Niger Delta literature as a follow-up to my recently edited anthology, Radical Essays on Nigerian Literatures: Volume I which appeared in 2008.
For the past 20 years or so, I have written passionately about the situation in the Niger Delta region. I have done so through the mass media and in public lectures and discourses. The common theme that runs through my interventions all these years is that a revolutionary process is unfolding in the oil-rich but economically and politically colonised Niger Delta. The manifestations of this political upheaval are more visible in the theatres of politics and movements of change or self-determination.
The vision and trajectory of these movements and actions are to promote a radical change in Nigeria’s political configuration so that the nations and peoples who are victims of local colonialism can emancipate themselves. The nations and peoples of the Niger Delta are determined to enjoy the freedoms and privileges that should flow from their resource endowment and strategic location in the world’s economy. My position is that the themes and idioms of this liberationist endeavour are reflected in the arts and literatures produced in the region. This address aims to highlight the manner this politics is reflected and refracted.
In his edited book, Before I Am Hanged: Ken Saro-Wiwa, Literature, Politics and Dissent (2004) Professor Onookome Okome observed that the “tales coming out of the Niger Delta are not evidence of dead dreams. Rather, they are examples of dreams which the suffering people are trying to make into reality”. From the genres and generations of literature that I have reviewed in this address, we can confirm our tentative judgement that the Niger Delta is both the locomotive of the Nigerian economy as well as the centre of gravity of the best traditions of the nation’s literatures and letters.
Professor Darah is of the Department of English and Literary Studies, Delta State University, Abraka. This is a slightly revised version of the address he delivered at the 2008 Convention of the Society of Nigerian Theatre Artistes at the University of Benin.