Exclusive Review, Written by: Jekami Adetiloye O.

SOGÚNDOGÓJÌ: A MULTIPRONGED PERFORMANCE ART BY YUSUF DURODOLA MIRRORING A DEVIATING NIGERIAN POLITICAL SYSTEM.

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Full Zoom Video of SOGÚNDOGÓJÌ round table discussion. Convener: Yusuf Durodola, Moderator: Mathew Oyedele, Discussants: Jelili Atiku, Segun Adefila, Kunle Adewale, Aderemi Adegbite, and Niyi Olayiwola.

SOGÚNDOGÓJÌ is an indigenous phrase from the Nigerian Yoruba tribe that is synonymous with the English word: gamble. Basically, SOGÚN… in English means “turn twenty” and   …DOGÓJÌ is “to forty.” Literally, SOGÚNDOGÓJÌ joined together means turn twenty to forty. In Nigeria parlance, the perfect English word to describe SOGÚNDOGÓJÌ would be double your money. 

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Image: Yusuf Durodola

The performance explored a fresh artistic perspective as a satirical exhibition of the shenanigans of Nigerian politicians. Elections in Nigeria are conceived as a money-doubling avenue for the wealthy few. Political parties have become glorified Ponzi scheme organizations. Thus, the goal of SOGÚNDOGÓJÌ would be to reveal a clear image of our political attitudes while critically assessing Nigerians’ level of consciousness ahead of the 2023 Nigeria General Elections in a bid to stir their intelligence to become more aware of the matters arising. 

According to Yusuf Durodola, the producer and creator of SOGÚNDOGÓJÌ, the performance exhibition was initially inspired by the recent exponential increase in the price of presidential candidate nomination forms by the two major Nigerian political parties for a whopping forty million naira (PDP-#40,000,000) and hundred million Naira (APC-#100,000,000). 

Seeing there was nothing he could single-handedly do to reverse that event, SOGÚNDOGÓJÌ shape-shifted into a multi-purpose eye-opening political campaign. It became Durodola’s artful protest, political experiment, voter sensitization, and contribution to the ongoing attempt to remodify the Nigerian electorates’ persona ahead of the 2023 Nigeria General elections. 

“WHO ARE WE VOTING?”, Evidence of the performance Sogúndogójì, Digital Image, 2022. Photo credit: Benjamin Oladapo. When we fail to engage in the Gate-keeper level of politics, our PVC will only be useful for the candidates presented before us by those who actively participated in grassroots politics.

Almost everything done in Nigeria goes against the particular standard with which others around the world, who opened our eyes to those things, do them. Nigerians and Nigerian leaders take pleasure in straying from the established method of doing routines as it relates to public administration. 

Hence, SOGÚNDOGÓJÌ by Yusuf Durodola reflects on the devious divergent nature of everyone involved in the Nigerian political system from the citizens to their representatives. He insists that “the way we are is the way they are.”

The five performers finally dressed to commence the performance. L-R: Femi Adebanjo (Mokuti), Abimbola Otu, Yusuf Durodola, Rasheed Ibrahim(Ijolomo), and Adewale Ayodeji(Yaro). 

On the day of the performance, Yusuf Durodola and his four cohorts appeared very well dressed and fashionable to the teeth in elegant traditional attires accompanied by different types of modish footwear including trendy add-ons such as spectacles and sweet odored fragrance. 

On top of the fashion, the objects of performance are obvious. They include a transparent glass helmet in the form of a ballot box worn on the head of the performers, small-sized rectangular mirrors secured to the edges of each headpiece with green ropes that are further used to tether a gourd that is seen hanging way down in front of the featured performers. 

Image: Abimbola Otu… 

In their hands are green-hued aluminum kólò known as piggy banks. Those were also used to create amateur musical beats by the performers to accompany their chanting of the northern beggars’ popular song “asiri abo, bambi Allah. Allah bamusa, bambi Allah”. The short musical passages were chorused from the commencement of the performance until the end of the display.  

Persistently, the performers approached the people they met on the way; who in this case are the electorates of the 2023 Nigeria General Elections, singing the beggars chant as emotional blackmail to gather financial support for SOGÚNDOGÓJÌ fictional political party: Johnny Just Come. 

Performers at work trying to get obstinate onlookers to respond. 

The expected reaction was to have the audience drop money in the piggy bank or not, seeing how stylish the beggars (performers) appear. Surprisingly, in the midst of the ongoing financial difficulty in Nigeria, an encouraging number of people deposited money in the piggy bank without considering the extravagant dress of the performers. Just as they carelessly give their votes to deceitful political candidates who only attain the beggars’ role when they are campaigning. 

Objects of performance: transparent glass helmets, Piggy banks, and Gourd. 

As forecasted before the performance began that Saturday, only a tiny bit asked relevant questions or wondered what the essence of the performance was. The same with how Nigerian electorates go to the polling booth not knowing, fully agreeing with, or thoroughly understanding the intention of the various aspirants. Like they did with the performers to whom they gave money after severe pressure to just get rid of the performers’ disturbance, it looks as if the electorates are more eager to get the elections over as soon as they can. Not caring who wins or what the fate of Nigeria is as long as they can go on continuing their normal lives as it was before the election. 

Adewale Ayodeji engages one of the numerous audiences in Ladylak, Somolu/Bariga, Lagos State. 

Many of the handful simply did as prompted by the performers who, immediately identifying their next victim, raised the piggy bank aluminum in front to receive money. This is a similitude to Nigerian electorates’ behavior; they are ready to support or vote for whoever without having a strong belief in the potential of the aspirants. And as witnessed during the performance, ethnicity is still a great factor of bias. 

Since Yoruba people gave money because the five performers were from their tribe and the northerners encountered also gladly did the same because of the beggars chant that was sung in their language. Probably, the citizens from the South East and South West that were engaged would have also dropped money in the piggy bank like the Yoruba and Northern audiences that were engaged if the performance occurred in their setting or included their language. 

Besides, even God when included in the vocabulary of the performers was in Yoruba (Ọlọrun) and the Northern language favored word for God (Allah) as you would confirm from watching the performance clip. No wonder, the tireless performers were able to get the desired reaction from the Yorubas and Northerners they came across during the performance. This further goes to prove the influence of religion and ethnicity in Nigerian politics. Little surprise the education level of the aspirants is not largely considered by the masses for their interest lies in who speaks their language and who serves their God. 

The four participants were led by Yusuf Durodola; who in the context of SOGÚNDOGÓJÌ should be perceived in the likeliness of the eventually nominated candidate after a party’s primary election before the main general elections. Each performer is a representative of different characters bringing to life different actions based on their separate roles as is the norm in a typical political campaign. 

Abimbola Otu and Femi Adebanjo; the only female and youth participants respectively were not as engaged by the audience as Yusuf Durodola, Rasheed Ibrahim, and Adewale Ayodeji who the audience easily related with probably because of the society’s mentality that men and older individuals are wiser. That being the case, Yusuf Durodola, Femi Adebanjo, and Adewale Ayodeji can be said to be triplets in the same category as the older generation who in the midst of the clamoring for a youth or young adult president, governor, and senator continue to enjoy power because the electorates disagree that the knowledge of the non-older age groups is wise enough for such elevated seats of authority. This as likely as not explains why no youth was able to raise the nomination form fee as stipulated by the major political parties in Nigeria where they stand more chance of being victorious at the polls. 

Yusuf Durodola imitated the charisma of the top candidates contesting for the governorship or presidential positions in the general elections upon being nominated representatives from their political party primary election. Something he ensured to make incontestable with the conspicuous white staff only he held during the performance. In the same way, the governorship and presidential candidates are easily noticeable in the group of aspirants contesting for different political seats. 

The white staff is a multiple-edged symbol that is not customarily showing off social prestige. But first, a diversion meant to present Yusuf Durodola’s character as a better candidate than what the country is used to. What it really represents is dictatorship disguised in innocence and the short-term angelic attitude of Nigerian politicians when canvassing for votes prior to elections. 

The transparent glass helmet in the form of the ballot box is an ironic presentation of the shadowed behavior typical Nigerian politicians put up during the days leading to the elections. Exploiting pretense, the electorates are tricked from seeing the politicians’ actual negative intentions. 

This would explain why many of the audience engaged didn’t bother to ask what Yusuf Durodola’s fictional party (Johnny Just Come) agenda was. Or seek the mandates of the performers who sometimes during the performance claimed to be youthful aspirants interested in contesting for the major political seats in the country. 

This is the first showcase of the experimental purpose of the performance as a political appraisal that can be useful in ascertaining the cognitive attributes of Nigerian electorates. It further goes to prove that the electorates are as guilty as the corrupt government officials voted in power. 

This is so since to the average voter, the election symbolized by the glass ballot boxes is a required period for power transfer, not a moment necessary for evaluating the state of the nation and how the candidates put forward by the political parties can contribute towards national development. As simple as it is, with severe pestering done by the performers as they engage the audience, the voters feel obliged to support as they can. They believe it costs them nothing to simply go out and vote. Whereas as observed with SOGÚNDOGÓJÌ, it costs them everything like the cash they have given corrupt officials access to by supporting his ambition from the start. 

Additionally, the white staff is a public expression of Durodola’s sadness for the depressive state Nigeria is in at the moment. Also, the white staff is portrayed as a silent tool for mourning the ignorant electorates who are quickly carried away times without number over and over and over again by the manoeuvering of the Nigerian politician. 

The fancy fashion is an imitation of the elaborate lifestyle of prospective Nigerian aspirants who use flamboyant dress-up as a confidence trick. The kólò piggy bank for saving money is in this case utilized as an indication of the bluff of Nigerian politicians who approach citizens for support promising to save Nigeria. Whereas, their underhand goal like that of a child who has control of his/her piggy bank is to utilize the natural resources of the nation for their own enjoyment, and personal fulfillment. Something that should not come as a surprise since the goal of the politician from the beginning has always been to turn twenty to forty: SOGÚNDOGÓJÌ

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Round table graphics poster. 

The performance was followed by a round table discussion titled Performance Art As A Tool For Political Consciousness. The discussants included Jelili Atiku, Segun Adefila Oriade, Kunle Adewale, Niyi Olayiwola, Aderemi Adegbite, and the moderator Mathew Oyedele. 

The discussants agreed on the unfavorable influence of religion and ethnicity as a great contributing factor to the backwardness and stagnancy experienced in Nigeria. However, the renowned Nigerian performance artist Jelili Atiku emphasized the need for middle-class citizens to be members of political parties so as to contribute where it matters. Since the candidates we vote for on the day of general elections have been decided by the various political parties which means there is little or nothing the voters can do. 

A zoom image of the matters arising round table discussion that was scheduled days after the performance was executed. At this point of the discussion, the room was already warm. 

All the discussants agreed on the importance of eligible voters getting their PVC. Nonetheless, Segun Adefila compares an uneducated voter with PVC to a child arguing that it would be synonymous with putting a gun in the child’s hand. 

Niyi Olayiwola emphasized the need to create a platform that educates the gatekeepers, the low-class citizens, who have been observed to be the major targets of political parties due to their abundant needs and insufficient orientation. Especially because they tend to be more loyal to politics. Hence the need to fortify grassroots electorates. Adeyemi Adegbite insists that there can be no favorable political progression if citizens continue to think of what they can get by supporting a candidate rather than what is beneficial to the country. 

At the mention of Nigeria, two things quickly emerge in one’s head: the citizens’ overeagerness to make money and the increasing self-centeredness of the mercenary politicians who are primarily concerned with money at the expense of Nigeria’s today, its citizens tomorrow, and the ethics of government. 

The 21st-century Nigerian society is cosmetic of money and material possession. Alarmingly, these two focuses influence voters’ actions molding their electoral decisions to favor the dishonorable objectives of Nigerian politicians. 

All of this and more combined is what SOGÚNDOGÓJÌ by Yusuf Durodola experimented and reflected on. The performance proposed to hold in other parts of Lagos like Lagos Island, Oshodi, and the states like Ile-Ife is capable of resuscitating Nigeria from the political paralysis that continues to hinder the nation’s belated national development. 

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