People of the City: Politics and the Urban Experience in Contemporary Nigerian Literature

Adeoti, Gbemisola (2007)


Contemporary Nigerian literature, a by-product of urbanisation, has contributed considerably toward the construction, dissemination and popularisation of metropolitan ethos. Whether in the narrative mode of the novel, the performative mechanism of drama/theatre or in the euphony of poetry, literature is a socio-cultural space where the subalterns of contemporary metropolitan centres find their voices and negotiate their marginality. Interestingly, both the powerful and the powerless are claimants to and keen contestant for the urban space. That is much evident in the framework of conflict, characterisation, subject and narrative techniques of contemporary Nigerian literary art, as evident in this works of Cyprian Ekwensi, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Femi Osofisan, Bauchi Emecheta, Zulu Sofola, Ahmed Yerima and others. The paper is essentially motivated by teh need to navigate the contours of urban experience in post-independence Nigeria as well as the dimension/texture of its politics through the corpus of imaginative literature generated by this experience. It focuses on the complex manifestations of the urban phenomenon beyond the social, economic and political disciplinary framework. Quite clearly, literature inscribes the experiences of dislocation and that is a recurrent feature of the post colonial state. It is our contention that ordinarily, the city is supposed to be the driving engine and the centre piece of modernisation and development. It is a human space with its own ethos of collectivity and well being. However, in the case of contemporary Nigeria, the city has failed in this responsibility, just as the dreams of modernisation and development remain deferred from one political dispensation to the other. to understand the extent of post colonial predicament, one needs to take a conceptual look at the cities. This much is captured in many writings and it forms the crux of textual illustrations in the paper.