ECOCRITICAL ANALYSIS OF TANURE OJAIDE’S THE ACTIVIST AND KAINE AGARY’S YELLOW-YELLOW.
Ecocoritical studies intensely show the relationship between man’s environment and literature. In this way, ecocriticism becomes a standpoint that brings environmental discourse to the fore within a literary context; a context that shows the exploitation and decay in man’s environment.
Following this assertion, the themes that border on environmental degradation are routed in migration, pipeline vandalism, blowouts owing to gas flares and pollution. Most of the analyses on the concept of ecocriticism take the direction of the greenish nature of the environment and the extent of the marginalisation of a people. This research views ecocritism from a different perspective. It depicts ecocritism as a theory that deploys the tools of ecoactivism and resistance in the reading and analyses of Tanure Ojiade’s The Activist and Kaine Agary’s Yellow-Yellow. It also shows the manner in which humans strive to unchain themselves from the manacles that hold them bondage by resisting the discourse of ecotrauma. This study also delves into the negative impacts of oil activities in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria by connecting the ecocritical patterns of ecoactivism and resistance to the utterances and actions of the characters in the texts.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Man cannot be separated from his environment because his perception and interaction with his surrounding make up his being. The destruction of the natural things that surround man is caused by man himself by the acts of destroying and recreating his habitat. Thus, ecocritical studies examine the way in which humans and the natural environment interact and counter each other.
Byron Caminero-Santangelo will comment in his essay that ‘Laurence Coupe sees ecocritism as an approach to literature which considers the relationship between human and non-human life as represented in literary texts and which theorizes about the place of literature in the struggle against environmental destruction’ (705). The Niger Delta region of Nigeria is rich in crude oil, but it is in a state of omnishambles because of ecological problems. The discovery, exploration and exploitation of oil in the region have affected agriculture, fishing as well as the living conditions of the people. With the leakage of oil from pipes and its spillage into lands, farms, and water, the Niger Deltans are faced with a threatening disaster. Best Ordinohia and Seiyefa Brisibe note that ‘oil spillage affected at least 1500 communities in the eight crude oil-producing states in Nigeria, and were mainly from the 5284 oil wells that were drilled as at 2006 and the 7000 km of crude oil pipeline that cross the Niger Delta region. Oil spillage often results in contamination of surface water with hydrocarbons and trace metals, as measured using atomic spectrometry’(4).
They further note that ‘the crude oil of the region contains some naturally occurring radioactive materials. The crude oil spillage reduces soil fertility. It also smothers economic trees and food crops, outrightly killing them or reducing their yield causing a 60% reduction in household food security. The deterioration of the quality of staple food leads to a 24% increase in the prevalence of childhood malnutrition’ (4).
Crude oil spillage also results in the bio-accumulation of heavy metals in surviving food crops like cassava and pumpkin. Pat Okpoko in Environmental Impact of Technological Intrusion in Nigeria notes that crops and economic trees affected by oil spillage show signs of scorching, yellowing and shedding of leaves, stunted growth and death’ (4). He notes further that ‘fishes caught from the polluted streams are often unpalatable and show signs of reduced growth and reproductive performance and consequently decreased population’ (62). When pushed to the wall, some Niger Deltans try to make the government and the world to understand their predicament.
This has led to untold violence, killing, maiming, gunrunning, destruction and vandalism of pipelines, and the kidnapping of foreigners. Young girls who cannot find jobs find succour in the hands of foreigners and wealthy Nigerian men who after sleeping with them give them money that ought to be naturally theirs. Chris Onyema notes that ‘since the discovery and commercial exploration of oil in this area in 1958 until date, the people of the Niger Delta have been suffering from acts of bioterrorism, oil pollution of lands and water, gas flaring, hunger, diseases and poverty. Poverty breeds prostitution, gas flaring breeds cancer and respiratory diseases’ (189). Sometimes, they feel that violence is the only answer to their problem.
After the amnesty that was granted to the militants of Niger Delta, some of its indigenes still resort to thuggery. Ojaide says that ‘the area boys were fighters attempting not only to reclaim what had been robbed from them, but also holding firmly to what was theirs that others were attempting to snatch away’ (55). For Ato Quayson, ‘violence becomes a means by which some people visit displeasure on those associated with the state, particularly minor officials and those seen as colluding with it’ (58). Also, Ngugi wa Thiong’o lends his voice to that of Quayson to say that ‘violence in order to change an intolerant unjust social order is not savagery, it purifies man.