I cry within, and want the general society to share in my inner pain — Ahmed Yerima: An Interview by Victor Abayomi.

Director, actor, playwright and scholar, Ahmed Parker Yerima is a former Director — General of the National Theatre and National Troupe of Nigeria. His other works include Gender Politics: Womens Writings and Films in Northern Nigeria (co-edited with Saeedat Aliyu, Kraft 2012); Discourse on Tragedy (Gurara, 2009);Critical Perspectives on Dance in Nigeria (co-edited with Bakare Ojo-Rasaki and Arnold Udoka); Modern Nigerian Theatre: The Geoffrey Axworthy Years, 1956 — 1967; Basic Techniques in  Playwriting; Theatre and Democracy in Nigeria (co-edited with Ayo Akinwale); Tafida & other plays; Three Plays; Igatibi; No Pennies for Mama; Muadhins Call, Ajagunmale, Little Drops; The Ife Quarlet; Mojagbe; Tuti; Akuabata; The Wives; Aetu; Erelu-Kuti, Idemili; Hard Ground (winner, Nigeria Prize for Literature, 2006 and winner, ANA/NDDC J. P Clark drama prize, 2006); Ameh Oboni the Great; The Limam & Ade Ire; The Angel and other plays; Otaelo; The Lottery Ticket; Yemoja; Dry Leaves on Ukan Trees; The Sisters; Hendu; The Sick People; Attahiru; Lanpapa; The trials of Oba Ovonramwen; Kaffirs Last Game; The Bishop and the Soul; and the Silent Gods.

Victor Abayomi: It is heartwarming for me to be speaking with you. I will like to ask you few questions based on your play, Hendu and creative writing. First, what inspired you to the direction of the Fulbe people? What actually fascinated you about them?

Ahmed Yerima: I was driven to the Fulbe people because of the new role they were beginning to play in Nigerian politics. I have done the same with Niger Delta crisis in Hard Ground. And with Boko Haram in Heart of Stone and Pari. The Fulanis, an erstwhile peaceful members of the Nigerian society, had also gained new attention through the notoriety of their actions in the Nigerian socio-political reality. I wanted to show what type of people they were from my own perspective. But gradually my story took me to their humanity and invariably, highlighted Nigeria’s fear of an emerging critical political force that was set to tamper with Nigeria’s entity as a unified sovereign nation. This was my fascination.

Victor Abayomi: That’s quite revealing. Upon discovery of these people, what drifted your focus to the people of Kuru Karama and the Biroms? Why them?

Ahmed Yerima: My story took me there. Based on my concept of social realism. I had to go into families. The real effect on the deconstruction of the family entity which often spread to the wider destruction of the country. Cultural differences played up here.

Victor Abayomi: I have learnt that you are a good researcher and you involve good hands in your research work. Tell me, who were some of the persons that influenced your concentration on the Fulbe people? Who helped you with some of these researches?

Ahmed Yerima: My driver who took me to Ago Fulani in Ede where I met the character that inspired my main female character in the play. She is Fulani. I also had the chance visit to Kano at that time to a Fulani settlement where I was able to appreciate their essence and humanity despite the negative notions about them at the time. A Post Graduate student who was from Birom gave me the second half of the picture I later presented in the play.

Victor Abayomi: Wow! Your wide experience is amazing sir! Your travels really affected your writing. I will like to ask, who is this Rupmucit you always appreciate in your plays and is travelling your hobby?

Ahmed Yerima: My wife.

Victor Abayomi: Is she also a writer? Theatre fanatic? A professor as her husband?

Ahmed Yerima: She read theatre arts in Jos and is presently rounding up her Phd degree work. She is the one I try my plots on, the one who feeds me when I write. And my first editor.

Victor Abayomi: This is beautiful, Sir. Why the title, Hendu?

Ahmed Yerima: Hendu means breeze in Fulbe. The Fulanis wander about like breeze. Just my analogy.

Victor Abayomi: Fantastic! If the Fulanis wander about like the breeze, then they must be well experienced men with ambition and zeal to be better persons. One of the preachings of your play, Hendu is the undying passion of these people with characters like Wabiti and Garga. Tell me sir, do you see a better Fulbe people? What are your thoughts about them? Why do you think they are often associated with some of the issues you tried to treat in the play? Tribalism, Religion Intolerance, Kidnapping, Manslaughter and the likes?

Ahmed Yerima: I think presently, the Fulanis on ground are not Nigerians. They have no respect for anything Nigerian; unity, culture, religion politics, anything. So, unless we purge them out, we will have no peace. Even the Hausas are not spared from their wrath. This determines the nature of my characters in Hendu. So in the play, you will meet the Fulanis, the foreign ones and the victims who own the land called Nigeria.

Victor Abayomi: How do we purge them out sir? Even the “king of the country” is a Fulani man. What do you think are the possible ways? Kill them? Send them out of our land aggressively? How?

Ahmed Yerima: Behold God shall send a leader who will do it. Writers only hope and pray.

Victor Abayomi: Amen. What genre of drama do you classify your play — Hendu? There’s always an argument amongst students and budding scholars that it is either a satire or a tragedy. Save them from this ignorance sir.

Ahmed Yerima: Social realism. A blend of both with societal corrections in the mind of the audience. I want them to watch, learn and think.

Victor Abayomi: Alright sir, this is well appreciated. Now, lets talk about Wabiti, her children and their dreams. What can you say about children being disobedient to their parents sometimes as it saves them from troubles? Wabitis children felt the wind of death but they only reacted at first to it and later, was silent about it and unfortunately, lost their lives. Again, do you know if Hendu has ever been staged in any Nigerian University or theatre?

Ahmed Yerima: Wabitis story is the human angle to the play. Wabitis story is what touches the audience. Her pain and loss is the message. I use her as a picturesque reality which also unfolds the playwright’s fear for his people in Nigeria. Her despair at the end of the play is the despair of the Nigerian people. When I see dead bodies lined up after the carnage of the bad Fulani people in TV documentary, I cry within, and want the general society to share in my inner pain. I humbly think that that is the responsibility of the playwright to his society. I don’t know if the play has been performed. But it will be a classic one day when scholars like you fully understand the depth of the play’s thematic significance.

Victor Abayomi: Hmm! Thank you for this revelation. Wabiti, in one of her dialogues revealed. “This country fans the embers of her own hell. I fear.” How will you rate the ills from the top? Is it just the people or their leaders? What is the way forward in this land where we have some lackadaisical and self-centered leaders?

Ahmed Yerima: I am not a politician but a playwright. Mine is to point society towards its problems and emphasize a need for a change, I do not effect it.

Victor Abayomi: Okay, Sir. One of the thematic preoccupations of the play is trust and distrust. What can you say about men and trust? Gambo is a trusted friend of Garga but he leaked out his secret at the end. Will you say Nigerians are careless with their trust for others hence, the social ills?

Ahmed Yerima: Yes. One of the ills. And most times, the people trust the wrong leaders. But remember that Gambo was an undercover officer. The prayer is that people like Garga are caught in the end.

Victor Abayomi: This is serious. As a playwright, what are the challenges that face you when writing a creative work such as this — Hendu?

Ahmed Yerima: Honesty of purpose. Sincerity of using the gathered materials and responsibility to my audience.

Victor Abayomi: Honesty of purpose and sincerity! Writers tend to be on a safer side you mean? Adjusting facts and truths?

Ahmed Yerima: To suit your story and message. Is life itself straight forward? Does reality not manipulate the truth constantly? Are facts real all the time? Who is a truthful man these days? Do you not see the truth from where you stand alone? Do you have the truth or your opinion? This is what goes in the mind of a good playwright all the time. A jumbled up mind set to tell a subjective side of a story from two eyes and stream of thought. As you research and gather materials, your story and theme begins to form. Good luck, Victor.

Victor Abayomi: Thank you sir. Will you consider Hendu as one of the best plays youve written so far? If yes, why? And if otherwise, why too?

Ahmed Yerima: Best play? I don’t think in terms of best or worst play. I have written over 70 plays and all are best to me. As long as I satisfy myself that I tried to achieve my thematic intention, then I am happy.

Victor Abayomi: Thank you sir. The crux of Hendu is the pain surrounding Wabiti and her family because she gave her all to a “stranger”- Garga. What do you think is a remedy for such submissiveness? You know the lives of her children wouldnt have been cut short if she wasnt with Garga. In the death of a husband, cant a woman live independently and make money herself to cater for the children? These are two questions sir. Take note.

Ahmed Yerima: There is no problem in a widow wanting to relive her life. But Wabiti’s problem was that she forgot to understand the ways of the man she wanted to use to replace her late husband. He even killed him. I used her to show the differences between the domesticated Fulanis and the foreign ones who have no allegiance to family or inter-tribal ties, religions and culture. The only remedy is that we must be very careful about the people we bring into our homes and our country. We may use them, but they have their own agenda which may backfire like Gargas master plan. This is the sad story of the Fulanis today. The only hope is you, me, Gambo and committed and true Nigerians.

Victor Abayomi: Thank you for your time sir. It is a privilege to interact with you. I pray for more inspiration for you sir.

Ahmed Yerima: Amen.


Victor Abayomi is a passionate and gifted budding dramatist, actor, theatre director, and screen writer. He is currently a student of Kwara State University, Malete where he is studying Performing Arts and Film Production. He is a member of the Hilltop Creative Arts Foundation, where his interest in creative writing was provoked. He has written a film titled The Real Dad which was produced by Chris Dimaku in 2019. He has to his name, several unpublished works which includes; plays, poems and short stories