Who is this ignorant soldier?: A post-colonial reading of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy

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Awelewa, A.
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Department of English, University of Lagos
This paper is an attempt at a postcolonial reading of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s novel, Sozaboy, which in his own words is written in “’rotten English’, a mixture of Nigerian pidgin English, broken English and occasional flashes of good, even idiomatic English” (Author’s Note, Sozaboy, 1994). In this piece, I identify SaroWiwa’s novel as an indifferent account of the historical happening in Nigeria between 1967 and 1970. The novel emphasises “the rule of darkness” where “some peoples were the imperialists and others the imperialized in history” (Brantlinger 857), a situation that led to the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates of Nigeria in 1914. Applying A. T. George’s theory of anomaly, the paper considers the characterization of Mene (herein referred to as Sozaboy) as a deliberate attempt to re-create history from the point of view of a partisan judge, the author. The perennial struggle for relevance by perceived minority ethnic groups of Nigeria brought under the control of three main or dominant groups by a colonial fiat remains a major concern in post-independence Nigeria. The paper also examines the role of colonisation and the discovery of oil in the Niger Delta area of the country towards the end of colonial rule as major factors that contributed to the struggle for supremacy among the people of Nigeria in the early years of independence. It also examines the incursion of the military into governance of the newly-independent state as a catalyst for internal struggle, political instability, corruption, mutual hatred and wanton destruction of life and property. The new country witnessed these in the early years, leading unavoidably to the Nigerian-Biafran War. It is argued that Sozaboy, though not a true canon for the post-colonial rendition of Nigeria’s history, is “anti-war,” and provides adequate inspiration for retooling Nigeria.
The paper discusses the anti-war posture of the author and the belief that Nigeria fought a senseless war that derailed the country. It also takes into cognizance the minority question within the Nigerian State and the individual quest for identity.
Biafra, Niger Delta, Nigeria, Oil war, Postcolonial, Rotten English