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The primary function of literature as a social institution is its reflection of happenings in the society as stated above. As an expression of society too, literature draws its materials thereof, which include in particular, influencing the society to reproduce life and shape it through artistic creation. Thomas (2011) asserts that literature has the peculiar merit of faithfully recording the features of the time, and of observing the most picturesque and expressive representation of manner. To Thomas, literature was primarily a treasury of custom, a source book for the history of civilization. Furthermore, according to Ngugi (1981;6) in James (2009):

Literature is in itself part of man’s self-realization as a result of his wrestling with nature; it is, if you like, itself a symbol of man’s creativity, of man’s historical process of being and becoming. It is also an enjoyable end product of man’s artistic nature, the daily struggle within a community, and the daily struggle within our individual souls and selves.

This is because an artist is a member of society who expresses in his craft different social status at different times. According to Warren (2000) in primitive society, we may even be unable to distinguish poetry from ritual, magic, work, or play. However, in a modern society, literature talks about the economic, social and political situation of each social group and its influence on the society at large. This is why from a Marxist perspective, literature is socially determined, and it deals mainly with social relations. This bears credence to Tse-tung (2005) who asserted that in modern society, all cultures, all literatures and art belong to definite classes and are geared to definite political lines. From all these, an artist is one who conveys historical and social truths of society from the prism of arts; hence literature is seen as a summation of the history of society. As James (2000) puts, the history of a society can however be seen in three fundamental areas; namely, the sociology of the writer which talks about the author’s social ideology, the social content which is about the social purpose of literature and the audience. These however shows with a change in society over a period of time as can be seen in the works of great authors like Charlotte Bronte, Bernard Show, who contributed to the political situation in their society.

Coming to African, pre-independence African novel reflects the quest for freedom from the colonizers. The authors during this time were busy in shaping a cultural nationalistic fiction as a means to assert indigenous identity. Such a literature was written when there was a hope – a hope that after independence Africa will prosper. Such a fiction therefore tended to be dominated by a forward looking optimism (Pandurang, 2017). As a result, novels like Things Fall Apart (1958) by Chinua Achebe and The River Between (1965) by Ngugi Wa Thiango emanated.

Such a hope, however, gave place to despair soon after Africa got independence. The change of leadership did not help in bringing about a change, a change that Africa had longed for. The new indigenous ruling African class involved itself in practices that were not different from earlier colonizers or even worst than the colonial masters. Corruption other evil practices left the people only disappointed. This situation could be likened to that of the present Nigeria, where everyone clamoured for a change in leadership only to be disappointed after the 2015 general elections. When the change came everyone knew that they were deceived and this was not the change the all anticipated where banditry, terrorism, herdsmen attacks, starvation and other social ills became the order of the day. Sensing this, authors like Ngugi Wa Thiango, Chinua Achebe and Ayi Kwei Armah who are watch dogs of the society, have no choice but to speak against the social ills of the neo-colonialist. They soon turned towards a mode of writing whereby they could express their anger and disappointment. This anger and disappointment replaced the earlier promises of nationhood and self-assertion in their novels. Since satire has its roots in society and aims at reformation, these writers found such a mode more feasible and useful. Such a mode of writing was most appropriate for them to show their commitment to and involvement with the painful problems of their people.

Satire, the act of using humor or exaggeration to critique society, has always been a part of literature. Although its use is mostly apparent in literary works that focus on particular social practices, it is also present in all forms of African literature. Darah (2005) noted that the satirist is seen as a defender of communal norms and virtues. This image of the satirist has led some sholars like Akingbe (2014) to discriminate between satire proper, on the one hand, and pseudo-satire or lampoon, on the other. According to him, a lampoon is a descriptive portrait that relies on invective rather than objective and sophisticated analysis. By contrast, according to Darah (2005) it is argued that satire achieves its aim through what the eighteenth century English satirist, John Dryden, called “The fineness of a stroke that separates the head from the body, and leaves it standing in its place”.

Akingbe (2014) citing Ngugi (1972; p.55) noted that:

Satire takes for its province a whole society, and for its purpose, criticism. The satirist sets himself certain standards and criticizes society when and where it departs from these norms. He invites us to assume his standards and share the moral indignation which moves him to pour derision and ridicule on society’s failings. He corrects through painful, sometimes malicious, laughter.

Ngugi Wa Thiongo wears many hats. He is a story teller, essayist, lecturer, anthropologist, sociologist, teacher, researcher and creative writer. He has frequently been identified with the above occupations. A study of his literary and academic essays as well as his creative works reveal that he is a satirist. One of the objectives of this study is to show the operations of satire in his creative works. In this regard, our focus of attention will be on his novel: Wizard of the Crow. The study focuses on how Ngugi uses satire to highlight the nonchalance and indifference of neo-colonial African leaders in Africa to the plight of ordinary folks in society.


The biggest problem staring Africa in the face and preventing her from attaining development is bad leadership occasioned by corruption which has continued to dwarf African from independent to now. The challenges of leadership have often been addressed as a two dimensional problem. While critical literary works often project the dimension that implicates the nonchalant attitude of leaders as a major source of leadership problems, not much emphasis have been laid by literary scholars on how the oppressed affects leadership. This study examines the problem of neo-colonial African leadership in Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Wizard of the Crow by looking at the way leadership actions and inactions affect the society and how they are exposed and ridiculed by Ngugi. It directs its focus on Wizard of the Crow through expression of dissatisfaction by the oppressed via struggle such as confrontation and protest.


The main purpose of this work is to evaluate leadership in neo-colonial Africa as presented in Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong’o in order to:

  1. examine the extent to which Ngugi’s Wizard of the Crow is a satire of Neo-colonial Africa.
  2. determine how effective or otherwise Ngugi has employed satire in the novel as one of his literary technique.
  3. examine the motive behind adopting this narrative approach to arouse national consciousness in his reading populace.


            the following research questions are raised to guide the study:

  1. To what extent is Ngugi’s Wizard of the Crow a satire of Neo-colonial Africa?
  2. How effective or otherwise has Ngugi employed satire in the novel as one of his literary technique?
  3. What is the motive behind adopting this narrative approach to arouse national consciousness in his reading populace?


This work uses satire as a literary term to explore the vivid picture of African leadership situation as portrayed in Ngugi’s Wizard of the Crow. It exposes through struggle by the oppressed, the various leadership activities that inflict pains on the down trodden members of the society plus the self-help steps taken to overcome oppression. It is of academic concern and relevance because it constitutes a body of knowledge which gives a clear picture of the complex realties that confront contemporary Africa. It serves as a source material for researchers and also significant as it ironically sees silence among the oppressed as contributing to oppression and thus projects them as an option for a changed society through consistent struggle that exposes and ridicules leadership burden on them. The text therefore illustrates how satire can be used to explore the tension between the oppressed and their oppressors. In essence, the novel is an example of how writers indirectly deploy satire to ridicule leadership from the perspective of the oppressed. This shows the dynamics that characterise the use of satire in the process of representation in literature.   


Ngugi’s Wizard of the Crow typifies the evil legacy of colonialism, particularly as expressed by our indigenous political leaders, which this work aims at bringing to fore.  The choice of this topic was informed by the need to deploy satire as a means of confronting the social, political and leadership challenges in Africa. This is because satire usually presents the representation of societal ills in a fictional way with fictional characters. The choice of the text understudy is informed by the fact that it expresses issues of timeless significance, for instance, in relation to crisis of leadership in Africa, Wizard of the Crow vividly portrays the realities of 21st century Africa. Secondary sources with established approaches to satire will help in presenting the propositions that this study seeks to display as a means of justifying the relevance of satire in exploring the leadership issues that confront the African society.


Ngugi wa Thiong’o was born into a large peasant family of Kamiriithu, near Limuru in Kiambu district, Kenya on 5th January, 1938 and was baptized as James Ngugi. He was educated at Kamandura, Manguu, Kinyogori primary schools and Alliance High School, all in Kenya. He received his B.A in English from Makerere University College (then a campus of London University) Kampala, Uganda in 1963.

As a child from a family of twenty-eight, he lived through the Mau Mau War of Independence, though not actively involved but his family was caught up in the movement. His half-brother, Mwangi was actively involved in the Kenya Land and Freedom Army while his mother was tortured at Kamiriithu home guard post. This experience of the division in his family caused by this revolution, later fuelled and directed his craft towards the government he felt betrayed his family and the entire people of Kenya. As a teenager from 1952 to 1962, he was able to observe a number of conflicts and divisions within his family that showed the struggle against the British colonial government. This can be understood from his own account of a family saga as recorded in the preface to Secret Lives

As I write, I remember the night of fighting in my father’s house; my mother’s struggle with the soil so that we might eat, have decent clothes and get some schooling; my elder  brother, Wallace Mwangi, running to the cover and security of the forest under a hail of bullet from colonial policemen; his message from the forest urging me to continue with education at any cost; my cousin, Gichini wa Ngugi, just escaping the hangman’s rope because he had been caught with live bullets; uncles and other villagers murdered because they had taken the oath; the beautiful courage of ordinary men and women in Kenya who stood up to the might of British imperialism and indiscriminate terrorism. I remember too some relatives and fellow villagers who carried the gun for the white man and often became his messengers of blood. I remember the fear, the betrayals, Rachael’s tears, the moments of despair and love and kinship in struggle and I try to find meaning of it all through my pen.

As an undergraduate, his first short story “The Fig Tree” was published in a literary magazine, Penpoint in 1960. He later wrote many other short stories in 1961 and 1962 and published them in the Conservative Settler Magazine, Kenyan Weekly News as well as in the Sunday Post and Sunday Nation. He came into literary prominence in East Africa with the performance of his first major play The Black Hermit at the National Theatre in Kampala, Uganda, in 1962, as part of the celebration of Uganda’s independence. This play which was published in 1968 was the first major play to be written in English by an East African and the first to be performed at the Uganda National Theatre.  His first novel, Weep Not, Child, published in 1964 was written while attending the University of Leed. It was also the first novel in English to be published by a writer from East Africa followed by The River Between (1965) which has a background in Mau Mau rebellion and describes an unhappy romance between Christians and non-Christians.

In 1962, there was a conference of African writers at Makerere University College, Kampala, Uganda. This conference where Ngugi as a student met with writers from African countries was a turning point in his literary voyage. In the conference titled: A Conference of African Writers of English Expression, he met significant writers as: Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Christopher Okigbo Gabriel Okara and others. According to him, his reading of Peter Abraham’s Tell Freedom, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and George Lamming’s In the Castle of My Skin shape his reading of African literatures.

In exile, Ngugi worked with a London based committee for the release of Political Prisoners in Kenya (1982-1998), which championed the course of democracy and human right in Kenya. He also served as a visiting professor at Byrenth University (1984) and Writer in Residence for the Borough of Islington, London (1985). He took time to study film at Dramatiska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden in 1986. After 1988, he became a visiting professor of English and Comparative Literature at Yale University between 1989 and 1992. Between 1992 and 2002, he was a Professor of Comparative Literature and Performance Studies at New York University from where he moved to his present position at the University of Califonia Irvine. He was in exile for the duration of Moi Dictatorial regime between 1982 and 2002. On August 8, 2004, Ngugi and his wife, Njeeri returned to Kenya after twenty-two years in exile. On 11 August, 2004, robbers broke into his high security apartment, assaulted him, his wife and went away with valuable items. This made Ngugi wa Thiong’o to return to America.

In 2006, the American Publishing Firm Random House, published his first new novel in nearly two decades, Wizard of the Crow– an English translation of Gikuyu language novel, Murogi wa Kagogo. He is a distinguished speaker in many universities around the world. He is a novelist, essayist, playwright, journalist, editor, academic and social activist with many honours including the 2001 Nonino International Prize for literature and many others.


This work uses Marxist literary theory in its analysis because Marxism is a social and literary theory which deals with the historical development of past, present and future societies. It focuses on class struggle within a given society in order to forecast a better future.


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