By Omiko Awa
AS part of activities to mark Nigeria’s 52nd independence anniversary, National Troupe of Nigeria presented The Bridge, a musical dance drama recently at the National Theatre, Lagos.
Written and choreographed by Arnold Udoka, The Bridge has peace and unity as theme.
It opened with dances that cut across the major ethnic groups in the country, including Igala. The play centres on a bank manager, who, apart from unifying the various ethnic groups in the town where he was posted to serve, also helps to solve the different problems militating against the growth and development of the town, Tanfo, a town at the verge of collapse.
When the industrious banker, the lead character, is promoted to the position of a manger, his people are full of praises for him and organises an elaborate party to celebrate the new position; but the joy soon wanes when they discover that their son is not only transferred to Tanfo, but will head the bank as manger as well. Not satisfied with their son going to the town, the banker’s kinsmen and community leaders of thought plead with him to turn down the offer on the grounds that there is high level of insecurity, civil strife, corruption, rancour and power struggle among the people of Tanfo. But he would not listen; not even his pregnant wife’s entreaties could make him change his mind.
Dedicated to his duty, the young branch manger sets out for Tanfo. Just as his people feared, he meets Tanfo in anarchy and civil strife, which result in bloodletting. Worried about the situation, he resolves to settle the people’s differences thereby bringing a new order that ensures everybody is given equal opportunity to operate. While working under the new order, peace returns to the town and the inhabitants start to have a level ground to invest and move freely and the once dreaded community begins to experience some growth and development.
Using Tanfo as a metaphor for Nigeria as a developing nation, the 45-man dance drama, through colorful costumes and dances that are both traditional and modern bring to the fore the positive and negative forces that usually contend for attention for the emergence of true nationhood and mutual coexistence of the various tribes. The dance drama showcases how negative elements such as ethnicity, civil strife and distrust usually draw a nation backwards. The Bridge highlights the importance of peace and unity as essential ingredients of nation building.
In encapsulating the overall message of the play, Udoka said, “It is when we build bridges across boundaries, across gender, ethnicities, religions and states that we would have the understanding of people and the situation of things at the other side of the divide. What is happening is that within religions, politics and gender, there is so much strife, which is totally unnecessary.”
First staged in July this year at the 7th edition of African First Ladies’ Peace Summit held in Abuja, Udoka said, he was inspired by the unity of the nation to write the play.
“I was inspired by the need for the unity of the country to write the play, because I know the various federating states are capable of building bridges to link one another. Though some people are busy destroying what others have built or are building by causing confusion, strife or inter-tribal wars in the country, but with mutual understanding and justice, we will overcome them.
“If men and women understand themselves there will be no strife between them or male cheating or making laws that do not favour women. If we really understand the essence of building bridges, then we need to know that we have to build bridges of peace, love and unity across religions, political divide, states and ethnic groups to bring about social and economic justice that would enable the various communities in the country to develop and Nigeria as a country will be the better for it.”
While commenting on the role of the bank manger of Tanfo, Udoka said, “People should learn to grow up because there is no god-fatherism in self-actualisation; as a bank manger, the young man was able to manage everything, include human emotions and crises to succeed. He is a metaphor for leadership and the type of leader expected in Nigeria”.