Book Review: Deconstructing Okeho Exodus

The Òkeho Exodus is a captivating historical play that tells the story of a small town in South West Africa, precisely in Oyo State, that lost its home  and people in the struggle against colonial rule. The play depicts the struggles of the local chiefs who became divided amidst the oppression meted out by the British between the 19th and 20th century.

Through its engaging plot and well-developed characters, the play manages to convey the complexities of colonialism, power dynamics and resistance in a way that is both informative and entertaining. Olutayo Irantiola, the author of Òkeho Exodus, deserves commendation for his excellent work in bringing this important piece of history to life.

Irantiola is a keeper of culture, a published poet and a historian whose stage play, With Our Uniform, was performed at the Lagos Fringe Festival, Lagos, Nigeria and in 2021 at the SOS Theatre Festival International, United States of America (USA)

Proving his mettle again, he authored his first published drama text, The Òkeho Exodus – a historical play which is an entertaining dramatic documentation of the story of Òkeho. Òkeho was one of the towns in Yoruba land that was conquered by the British colonialists between the 19th  and 20th centuries.

The author encapsulates The Òkeho Exodus and spotlights the pre-existence of Western African political system and culture before the intrusion of the colonial masters and the aftermath of their arrival  in five Acts. These five Acts recounts details of the regicide, revolt and relocation (the exodus) of the Òkeho people.

No drama is complete without a situation. Irantiola succinctly marks actions between the pages of memory with sprinkles of proverbs, wit and humour. The chants, use of imagery, flash back all highlight the author’s strengthened literary prowess. Rising tension, dialogue, conflict, climax rising action are well thought out sequentially and mainly expressed through the English and Yoruba languages which are interpreted afterwards for those who may not understand the language. The play seeks to serve the purpose of remembrance.

Through this piece, the author proves his loyalty as a true born of Òkeho and as a historian. The pulsating depth of his use of language, the infusion of dramaturgy and the richness of proverbs that reverberates through the text is appreciated and well worth the read.

More than this, it proves the author’s meticulous awareness of his past and serves as a guide rail into future purposes and intentions. History continues to bear witness to the established system of governance and structure that was in place before the take over by colonizers.

This drama  puts a spotlight once again on the Òkeho tragic loss as captured by Irantiola.There is apt documentation of the origins, heritage, systems and structure of The Òkeho people who sadly lost their birth place. In the end, all hope is not lost because there is realisation of the errs which put into perspective his hope in the indigenous people that they can start all over again.

At the beginning, we see a distressed king summon his subjects to discuss the invasion of Fulani/Dahomey people and how they can secure their lands . Unfortunately, the King dies before they could actualize their plans  to quell the internal insecurities already rocking the land and surrounding towns.

The enthronement  of a New King Oba also makes prominent the undertone of the British rule under the Supervision of Captain Ross. Jinjin is read as saying “ Òkeho is no more our Òkeho, it is now the Òkeho of Captain Ross”. With a quick turn of events there are plots to end the rule of the whites. The upsurge didn’t turn out as expected. It led to the death of the King and his family. The message remains intact and relevant even in this present age. It should instruct and inspire all that are truly Africans who seek to trace back to their roots.

The Òkeho Exodus more than any documentation of the invasion of the town  and the intrinsic details of internal battles takes readers further  down the lane of  distortion or misconceptions of our history, which can be termed a bigger tragedy in contrast to the fate of the indigenes. Although for the sake of dramaturgy the author also incorporates exaggerated events here and there to a permissible extent.

Dedication to his craft, one which has undergone tremendous stages of research, discovery and dedication is  evident in this text.The memories that are resurrected in the work will resonate with readers of all ages. Those who witnessed the war will be moved by this story and those who did not will agree no less that it is a story of love, betrayal, war, death and one of survival.

Overall, this play is a sufficient read for anyone interested in African history and the impact of colonialism on Africa.

Written by Damiete Braide of the Sun newspapers

Culled from The Sun News Online

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