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  • Background to the Study

Representation of supernatural forces has over time been one of the predominant themes in the gamut of literary texts as well as several narratives that put together; have made up the corpus of early Nigerian and by extension African literature. These are forces or powers that cannot be explained by the laws of science or be easily comprehended.

Since the advent of the first-generation writers, the likes of Chinua Achebe, Elechi Amadi, Flora Nwapa, Wole Soyinka, Ola Rotimi, J. P. Clark to mention a few, the thematic preoccupation of literary works by Africans has been geared towards preserving the African cultural, traditional and customary heritage and beliefs among which is the belief in the existence of supernatural beings such as gods, ghosts, the spirit of ancestors to mentions but few. Their works echo the presence, relevance, significance, control, and influence of supernatural forces in the Nigerian societal framework. However, there is a crucial necessity to state that it is in the oral literary tradition that the supernatural has its strongest hold.

That being said, there is a belief, in traditional African societies, that there exist gods and goddesses as well as the supreme God. The god and goddesses are believed to have human mediators who function as seers, priests, healers, rainmakers, wise ones, and so on. The seers foresee the future, priests make sacrifices for atonement, healers heal the sick ones, rainmakers call the rain unusually and the wise ones are like the community historians and custodians of the tradition from generation to generation (Adesuyi, 2003). That being stated, shrines are built for each god and goddesses with size proportional to how powerful the god/goddess is assumed to be.

The smaller gods and goddesses are also seen as supernatural mediators between human beings and the supreme God who is believed to be very powerful and far too remote from earth (Adesuyi, 2003). Hence, most African societies have come to believe that the supreme God has assigned different tasks to some smaller gods and goddesses to take care of. For instance, it has been observed that some African cultures believe that the earth is a goddess that is directly connected with fertility and fecundity (Ekpendu, 2015). Also, rivers, streams, and lakes are believed to have some gods and goddesses in charge of them and to this end, these water bodies are usually named after one god/goddess or the other.

In addition, some animals, in the traditional Nigerian society, are treated with reverence and some birds and, in some cases, snakes are regarded as ominous. When a particular stream or wooded landscape (e.g. forests etc.) is found unique, it is a supernatural manifestation. These unique places are seen as the abodes of communal deities or local spirits identifiable with the destiny of the different communities (Adesuyi, 2003). All these establish that beyond nature, there are the supernatural.

These forces have over time been portrayed, in Nigerian and by extension African literary works, as uncontrollable factors that influence the course of human activities, choices, relationships, course of events, etc. in typical African society (Ignatius, 2013). These influences or interventions could be positive or negative but is mostly against such an individual’s wish or expectations and usually beyond his/her control/powers. This is perhaps the reason why Africans has since the beginning of time, seen it as a necessity to appease, console, and in most cases worship them to averred incurring their wrath and also to seek their help with issues/problems beyond their knowledge such as natural disasters, infertility, etc. Following this, there is also the belief that these forces decide man’s fate, predestination, and foreordination which culminates the age-old traditional African ideology which holds the notion that every human has been created to achieve a certain purpose on earth either good or bad and nothing can avert it.

Furthermore, the significance of African’s belief in the existence of the supernatural is also evidenced by the various myths existing in various forms across diverse cultures ranging from mythological beliefs surrounding the creation of the world otherwise termed ‘how things came to be’ to the mythological beliefs surrounding the creation of human beings, as well as the existence of supernatural beings (spirit) in heaven before the awareness of their existence, occurred to mankind.

For instance, in the Yoruba mythological cultural belief, the world was believed to have initially consist of only the sky, water, and wild marshlands, all created by the Supreme God, Olorun, the ruler of the sky and creator of the Sun, with the first set of supernaturals residing in the sky. However, the supernatural, with the name Obatala, who was regarded in the Yoruba myth as Olorun’s favorite, later seek to carry on the work of creation and with Olorun’s permission descended to earth carrying a snail shell filled with sand, a white hen, a black cat, a palm nut and while descending, dumped the sand onto Earth with the white hen spreading it all over through which process he created the first solid land on Earth which he named “Ife” (Rosenberg, 2009). After descending, however, he planted and cultivated the palm nut which grew into palm trees and kept the cat as company. He, however, soon got lonely and started made clay figures that look like him which he soon grew tired of assembling and decided he needs refreshment for which he served himself wine tapped from the palm trees. However, he soon got drunk and ended up making clay figures with deformity. Olorun thereon breathes life into Obatala’s figures and they became human beings, who soon came together to form the first Yoruba Village in Ife. However, realizing the mistake made in his drunkenness Obatala vows to be the protector of those born with a deformity. He then ascended living humanity to thrive by itself and Ife soon became his Kingdom. However, the supernatural, with the name, Olokun, in charge of the sea, felt disrespected or perhaps, belittled that Ife was created without his permission. Hence, out of anger, he flooded Ife destroying most of Obatala’s kingdom. The remaining humans then pleaded with the supernatural, “Eshu”, otherwise known as the messenger god who then asked Olorun and Obatala for help on their behalf, the outcome of which saw the supernatural, “Orunmila”, in charge of divinity, descending to Earth bringing a stop to the flood (Rosenberg, 2009) and ever since, humanity thrived depending on the guidance of the gods in a time of need.

In the Igbo traditional cultural worldview, it was held that heaven, in the beginning, was peaceful under the reign of the great creator, known as “Chineke” with the first set of supernaturals (later, conceived as lesser gods and goddesses) living together in individualism which soon gave rise to jealousy, greed and the fight for more power and authority among the supernaturals. This soon posed a threat to Chineke, who, in a bid to solve the problem, divided heaven into equal parts for each god and goddess to have has a domain which is referred to in Igbo tradition as, Holy homestead. This saw the two supernaturals, Igwe and Ala taking charge of the sky and earth respectively. These two supernatural were believed to have met and created eight humans; four males and females respectively using four kinds of materials namely; sticks from the Ofo tree as bones, clay and chalk for flesh and leaves from the Umune tree for nurturing the five senses and sexuality (Liberty Writers Africa, 2019). These humans were taught about birth and sexual activity, babyhood, childhood, adulthood, parenthood, grandparenthood, great grandparenthood, and ancestor-hood. The supernatural, Igwe was associated with the energy of life that created mankind. The supernatural, Ala, made the laws of the land and rules of moral conduct while the supernatural, Igwe, oversees its enforcement serving as the judge, priest as well as the protector of the warriors

Hence, the former is regarded as the authority of “Umene” while the latter held the authority of “Ofor” (Liberty Writers Africa, 2019). After all, the celebration of life was organized in form of a big festival to which the supernatural, Amadioha, authority over thunder and lightning was invited alongside, other supernaturals namely; Anyanwu, in charge of the Sun, Ekwensu, with the power of tricks and mysteries, and the supernatural, Onwa, in charge of the Moon (Ugwueye, Uzuegbunam & Umeanolue, 2012). Following this, the great creator, Chineke, created the universe and therein using parts of Him-Her-Self and was known as the God of wealth. He was also believed to have created the Human Spirit, whom he gave a personally chosen destiny called a person’s “Chi”. These supernaturals Igwe, Ala, Anyanwa, Amadioha, Ekensu, and Onwa were said to have been bonded by the great creator, Chineke, with the laws of social equality and personal freedom. They are the ones in charge of human affairs in the Igbo traditional mythological worldview. In essence, Igwe and Ala are regarded as the representation of husband and wife while the first set of humans they created were regarded as their children.

In the traditional mythological worldview of the Fon people of Benin, the supernatural, Gu, recognized as the oldest son of the creator twins Mawu and Lisa, otherwise known as Moon and Sun; descended to Earth in form of an iron sword and took up the role of a blacksmith with a task to prepare the world for Humanity and thereon endowed humans with knowledge of tools manipulation with which they soon started growing food and building shelters for themselves.

On the other hand, the African worldview of the supernatural has also manifested in their belief in predestination to some and to others fatalism. This cuts across almost all African cultures. In the Yoruba traditional cultural worldview, the concept of predestination is associated with one’s head otherwise known as the concept of “Ori” and “chi” in the Igbo traditional cultural worldview. The discussion of the significance of this supernatural phenomenon has, for a long time, dominated the literary discussions by scholars in both cultures. However, one fact is established in both culture’s cosmological belief is that every individual is believed to have his/her own “Ori” or “chi”. It is to this end, that Achebe (2016) states that it is an individual’s other identity in spirit land complementing his/her earthly human being and went on to stress that nothing stands without another thing standing beside it. This line of thought cannot be displaced as absurd if one is to consider the phenomenon of human shadow and its association with everything earthly; everything has its own shadow, from human beings to animals, to plants, trees, and just about everything else. However, Achebe’s (2016) argument tends not to follow this direction. Instead, he argued that the world in which we live has ‘its’ double and counterpart in the realm of spirits adding that the human being is only a weaker half of a person while his chi is the supernatural-other as indicated in his statement; “a man lives here and his chi there”. This is not only true in the Igbo and Yoruba cultural cosmology but is central across a majority of the existing diverse cultural groups in Africa.

Following the above stated, there have been scholars in the field of African literature who argues that the connection between the supernatural ori and human destiny is analogous to fatalism otherwise known as Fate. In this line of thought, destiny is conceptualized to signify that the totality of man’s activities on earth has been fated at the point when his supernatural half, Ori, chose his ipin-ori, otherwise known as his “life-course portion” before been birthed to the world of the living and therefore is not alterable no matter what. This position is supported by Abimbola (2005) who argues that once an individual’s destiny has been chosen by the selection of an ori, altering it becomes almost impossible on earth adding that even the gods have no authority to alter a man’s destiny. This is evidenced when the priest, at the beginning of Ola Rotimi’s The Gods Are Not To Blame, affirmed to King Adetusa that the fate of his newborn baby cannot be changed and perhaps, is why the writer deemed the play’s title to be the Gods are not to Blame, however, that is reserved for later discussion in subsequent chapters of this research work.

This is also true in the cosmological worldview, which holds that man receives his portion in life generally before he comes into the world and there seems to be an element of choice available at that point but his chi, not actually Him presides over bargaining. Hence, when a man’s misfortune is somehow beyond comprehension, it can only be attributed to an agreement he himself must have entered into, along with his chi, in the beginning, stressing the existence of fundamental justice in the universe which entails that nothing terrible can befall a person for which he is not somehow responsible (Achebe, 2016).

Abimbola (2005) however proceeded to draw a line between free will and Destiny, stating that if a person’s choice of Ori from birth, which represents a causal antecedent that bears on his/her success, wealth, and failure after birth, turns out to be that which contains bad fortunes, such individual can change it by means of sacrifice emphasizing however that this requires individual’s freewill complemented with decisive personal strife, struggle or hard work and good character; there is a possibility that he/she can achieve a change of fortunes. This however seems to conform with the Yoruba cultural thought that people are held responsible for their own voluntary actions and at the same time goes further to imply that predeterminism does remove an individual’s free will phenomenon. This because the notion of sacrifice, strife, and character indicate the notions of ebo (sacrifice), ese (strife), and iwa (character) are examples of unrestrained nature and individual’s exercise of free will (Balogun, 2017).

  • Statement of the Problem

Over the years, several writers and critics of African literature have explored the concept of the fate and destiny in African literature from different perspectives. However, very little has been done to explore the undoubtable involvement of supernatural forces in influencing the choices of unaware human beings.  Hence, the onus of this research is to examine the theme of fate and destiny in Ola Rotimi’s The gods are Not to Blame and Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine with a view to unraveling the prevalence of supernatural forces in controlling activities of human beings which often manifests in a number of ways among which are fate, destiny or even predestination in traditional African worldview presented in the texts.

1.3. Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study is to examine theme of fate and destiny in Ola Rotimi’s The Gods Are Not to Blame and Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine. Other specific objectives of the study are to;

  1. Examine the manifestations of supernatural forces in Ola Rotimi’s The God’s are not to Blame and Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine.
  2. Determine how the authors represent fate and destiny in Ola Rotimi’s The God’s are not to Blame and Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine.
  • Find out how the characters react to their fate and destinies in the various texts.
  1. Examine the similarities and differences in fate and destiny in the two novels.

1.4. Research Questions

            The following research questions were raised to guide the study:

  1. What is the manifestations of supernatural forces in Ola Rotimi’s The God’s are not to Blame and Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine?
  2. How do the authors represent fate and destiny in Ola Rotimi’s The God’s are not to Blame and Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine?
  3. How do the characters react to their fate and destinies in the various texts?
  4. What is the similarities and differences in fate and destiny in the two novels?


1.5. Significance of the Study

            This study shall be significant to students, researchers and the general reading populace of Ola Rotimi and Elechi Amadi.

            The students and other readers will get to understand the concept of fate and destiny as portrayed in Ola Rotimi’s The Gods are Not to Blame and Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine. Therefore, they will be able to give it a better interpretation.

            The study when completed will serve as reference material to future researchers who will want to write on fate and destiny in other fictional works or on the same literary texts. It will add to the already existing body of literature on the topic under study.

1.6. Scope of the Study

            This study covers theme of fate and destiny in Ola Rotimi’s The Gods Are Not to Blame and Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine. It is restricted to the manifestations of supernatural forces in Ola Rotimi’s The God’s are not to Blame and Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine, how the authors represent fate and destiny in Ola Rotimi’s The God’s are not to Blame and Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine, how the characters react to their fate and destinies in the various texts and the similarities and differences in fate and destiny in the two novels.

1.7 Authors’ Biography

1.7.1 Ola Rotimi

Ola Rotimi, byname of Emmanuel Gladstone Olawale Rotimi, (born April 13, 1938, Sapele, Nigeria—died August 18, 2000, Ile-Ife), Nigerian scholar, playwright, and director.

Rotimi was born to an Ijaw mother and a Yoruba father, and cultural diversity was a frequent theme in his work. Educated in Nigeria in Port Harcourt and Lagos, he traveled to the United States in 1959 to study at Boston University. After receiving a B.A. in fine arts in 1963, he attended the Yale School of Drama (M.A., 1966), concentrating on playwrighting. Upon returning to Nigeria in the 1960s, he taught at the Universities of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and Port Harcourt. Owing, in part, to political conditions in Nigeria, Rotimi spent much of the 1990s living in the Caribbean and the United States, where he taught at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 2000 he returned to Ile-Ife, joining the faculty of Obafemi Awolowo University.

Rotimi often examined Nigeria’s history and ethnic traditions in his works. His first plays To Stir the God of Iron (produced 1963) and Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again (produced 1966; published 1977) were staged at the drama schools of Boston University and Yale, respectively. His later dramas include The Gods Are Not to Blame (produced 1968; published 1971), a retelling of the Oedipus myth in imagistic blank verse; Kurunmi and the Prodigal (produced 1969; published as Kurunmi, 1971), written for the second Ife Festival of Arts; Ovonramwen Nogbaisi (produced 1971; published 1974), about the last ruler of the Benin empire; and Holding Talks (1979). Later plays, such as If: A Tragedy of the Ruled (1983) and Hopes of the Living Dead (1988), premiered at the University of Port Harcourt. The radio play Everyone His/Her Own Problem was broadcast in 1987. His book African Dramatic Literature: To Be or to Become? was published in 1991.



1.7.2. Elechi Amadi

Elechi Amadi, (born May 12, 1934, Aluu, near Port Harcourt, Nigeria—died June 29, 2016, Port Harcourt), Nigerian novelist and playwright best known for works that explore traditional life and the role of the supernatural in rural Nigeria.

Amadi, an Ikwere (Ikwerre, Ikwerri) who wrote in English, studied physics and mathematics at Government College, Umuahia, and the University of Ibadan. He later served in the Nigerian army, taught, and worked for the Ministry of Information. Sunset in Biafra (1973), his only work of nonfiction, recounts his experiences as a soldier and civilian during the Biafran conflict.

Amadi was best known, however, for his historical trilogy about traditional life in Nigerian villages: The Concubine (1966), The Great Ponds (1969), and The Slave (1978). These novels concern human destiny and the extent to which it can be changed; the relationship between people and their gods is the central issue explored. Amadi was a keen observer of details of daily life and religious rituals, which he unobtrusively described in his dramatic stories. Similar emphases are found in his verse play, Isiburu (1973), about a champion wrestler who is ultimately defeated by the supernatural power of his enemy. Among his other works are Pepper Soup and the Road to Ibadan (1977), Estrangement (1986), the play The Woman of Calabar (2001), and the science-fiction book When God Came (2013).

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