Filed in Arts by on January 6, 2012

Historical rebellion as Oba Koso returns to stage
January 6, 2012 by Akeem Lasisi

IGI Insurance lured Nigerians to the road less travelled last Tuesday, when it sponsored the return of Duro Ladipo’s famous epic play, Oba Koso. The play produced by one of the children of the legend, Yomi, came as a surprise to many lovers of the stage, as neither IGI nor Yomi Duro Ladipo Arts and Entertainment Group gave much hint that history was being silently reinvented.

The event held at the MUSON Centre, Lagos, attracted eminent personalities that include Chief Ebenezer Babtope.

A recreation of the eventful life of Sango, the Yoruba god of thunder and justice, the play practically made the Duro Ladipo, the dancer, actor and magician – he could spit fire like Sango himself – who suddenly died in 1978, throwing many of his fans into deep mourning. So super is it that, in 1964, it captured the first prize at the Berlin Theatre Festival, Germany. It was also at the Commonwealth Arts Festival in the UK 1965 and in some other 17 countries later.

In the work directed by Isiaka Eegunbunmi, Alaafin Sango (played by Yomi), plots the death of his two war generals, Gbonka (Jimoh Abdurahman) and Timi (Adebimpe Muniru) just to quench his fear that they have become too powerful.

As has been retold in several plays woven around Sango, the legend sends Timi on an assignment, hoping he would be killed. In a way similar to the Afonja rebellion, Timi triumphs and crowns himself as king at Ede. Sango’s next scheme is to send Gbonka after him, thinking that one of them would at least kill the other. The failure of this plot means more trouble for Sango, and this leads to his suicide coated in myths and more drama.

With Duro Ladipo’s widow, Abiodun and two other sons of his also in the cast, Oba Koso glittered in rich costumes, dialogues and actions.

On why IGI invested in the play, Executive Vice Chairman, Remi Olowude, says it is part of its intention to help bring back the stage tradition. On the essence of Oba Koso, he says, “There are so many lessons and I won’t say this is the first or the last. First, if you become too powerful, you will be like Timi or Sango himself. Nobody knows what happened to Gbonka thereafter and we have not been hearing his about name.

“The family of Timi, on the other hand, continues to rule in Ede. Nobody has heard of Gbonka, the all-powerful who asked the king to abdicate office. Eventually, Sango died, with all its attendant confusion. So, there must be unity of purpose to avoid anarchy. We must not enthrone divide and rule.”

He promises that the revival agenda will see IGI invest in the legacies of other theatre legends that include Hubert Ogunde, Kola Ogunmola and Akin Ogungbe, while also taking Oba Koso to different parts of the country and abroad.


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