Akpojotor Peter’s play “Adaugo” Dramatises Childhood Travail in a Depraved Society

When one reads children’s literature, one, often, reads either an adventure story, myth, morality story, stories of the innocence and joy of childhood, or a narrative—like Akpojotor’s play—of the travail which children go through while growing up. The play, Adaugo, is a critical portraiture of how the kind of family children grow up from, parents/relatives they have, the society they live in, even the times they are born into, influence childhood experiences. It particularly depicts a society rife with child abuse, moral depravity, and delinquency.

In one act and eighteen scenes, the play retells, with deft consciousness, the often under-told stories of the rigours of abuse which children face while growing up. It portrays a society in which children become pawns for parental abuse, sexual molestation, premature marriages which often culminate in underage mothers/fathers whose futures are often substituted for that of the children they bring to their premature world, as with Adaugo—the eponymous character.

In the play, Adaugo, a teenage girl, lives without her mother, under the care and tutelage of an evil stepmother who subjects her to all forms of abuse capable of destabilizing her childhood and, by implication, adulthood. Even Adaugo’s carefree father is rather concerned about his teaching work than the life of his daughter, in the hands of his callous wife. In Act 1, Scene 12, Adaugo laments her ordeals thus: “If there is any word that can describe something worse than the experience of hell. That was what I went through. On different occasions, I have stayed several days without food. I have been stripped naked and pepper applied to my private parts on different occasions” (56). Akpojotor’s play is handy with the kind of experiences we see, hear, or read every day about house girls and their madams, evil stepmothers, and their stepchildren. The play captures the rather bizarre experiences of children behind the closed doors of family life, sometimes, as a result of lack of paternal/maternal care, or the outright absence of parental value in their lives.

As one reads Adaugo further, one learns that parental abuse is not the only bane of Adaugo’s childhood; she is equally sexually molested. Elementary to the plot of the play is her eventual rape (by a boy who, later in the play, is identified as the prince of the Kingdom—Oku Kingdom), which results in pregnancy. The unexpected pregnancy prevents Adaugo from furthering her education, which consequently hinders her from pursuing her dream career in law. Even before the fateful pregnancy, she’s been raped many times in her house by one of her stepmother’s relatives, Akpan, as she recounts in Act 1, Scene 12: “As if the maltreatment from my stepmother was not traumatizing enough, I was raped several times in my father’s house, before the one that happened near the school demonstration farmland. At a point, I became so frustrated in life and wished death for myself. I contemplated suicide” (56). In her attempt to speak out by reporting to her stepmother, she is punished, threatened and, thus, cowered into a stoic of sexual and parental abuse.

Despite being stripped of motherly fortitude, even her father is hardly present in her life, aside from the fact that he wants her to study hard to be a lawyer. It is not enough to have good thoughts for one’s child; it’s more comforting to be a part of his/her world, for the absence of the latter often hinders the actualisation of the former—in fact, it compounds the ache of childhood struggles in what becomes a lonely world for the child.

In the character of Adaugo, Akpojotor depicts what most children, as well as househelps go through, in the name of living with stepmothers, aunties, bosses, even abusive mothers. The play also shows the social, moral, even psychological effect of lack of parental attention in a child’s life, especially in the contemporary world of career parents, and foster-parenting—a phenomenon which has resulted in a desolate and abusive childhood for most children, like Adaugo.


At the centre of this play is the decadence which ruts the contemporary society, where morality gives way to debauchery, parental value gives way to delinquency, responsibility is overcome by waywardness, and lawlessness gives rise to crime, while freedom is measured with the value of one’s purse and social class. An instance of delinquency is when Tochi (the prince of Oku Kingdom) rapes Adaugo because the latter refuses to let him copy from her in their Senior School Certificate Examination, after he (Tochi) gives a huge amount of money to a teacher who promises to supply him answers during the examination. Unabashed by his actions, Tochi tells Nkechi, in scene 6, that: “In fact, if everyone in the village wants to know, let them know. Besides, it’s not their money” (30). Here is a society in which moral consciousness is lost, and profligacy is uplifted, at a very early age.

As part of the child advocacy discourse, it will be more reinforcing for Adaugo to be staged so that, rather than being read, the audience can see the morally decayed society we are in, and the bleak future staring in the horizon. However, there are certain structural weaknesses that could impede a captivating theatrical display of the plot. Akpojotor seems to tell (through the conversations between his characters, which the audience only glimpses) rather than show. A play should show not tell without showing. Rather, it should, in showing, tell. While the plot is centered on Adaugo’s rape experience, the manner of its revelation stifles the playwright’s artistic consciousness to dramatic techniques, especially in handling actions. For instance, the innocent Adaugo seen in scene 1, who is concerned about the need to study hard to pursue a career in law, contrasts with the Adaugo in scene 3, at the hospital conducting an HIV test, a test we later realise is due to a rape experience she had some days back (maybe months? We cannot tell!) More contrasting to what is presented in scene 1 is the statement from one of the nurses at the hospital that: “The technologist sent her test sample for further confirmation a few days ago. He is yet to furnish her folder with the outcome” (11), which shows that Adaugo and her father were at the hospital some days ago, prior to the present scene, which the audience is not aware of. In fact, the audience has no knowledge of how the fact of Adaugo’s rape was discovered before her father decides to take her to the hospital to run an HIV test. Akpojotor does not leave any clue to his audience that could link, thus, give a coherent plot. It is not even an attempt at suspense, or a nuanced plot twist, to find a worthy consideration. Here is the major plot of the play, but only known, not through action, but through dialogue of the characters. Akpojotor, ignoring the role of action in drama, hides behind his characters’ dialogues to ‘narrate’ the events he is supposed to show.

Also, the theatrical artistry of the play is scuttled by its poor scenery; no graphic depiction of settings and locations, especially those central to the evaluation of the class and social standard of the characters. For instance, the audience is only given twisted understanding of the social standard and class of Mr. Orji, a civil servant who has the wherewithal to travel to Abuja, but whose family fetches water in the stream with clay pot (scene 1). In one sense, Mr. Orji is middle class, living in a good house, in another, he is poor. Which does the audience believe? His identity seems to undulate along the unsteady plot. The audience is also given a fragmented picture of the kind of king that Igwe Agu Ojukwu is, the kind of palace or cabinet he uses. The fact that he owns a car and could give money to the police does not give a demographic description of the social standard of his character; rather, what the audience reads of him is only intuitive. Akpojotor ignores description of scene and locations at the peril of theatrical refinement. These may pose a problem to staging, which is a more reinforcing way of advancing the discourse of the play.

However, Akpojotor has written a play, in a time of great yearning for nuanced children’s literature, that will not only catch the fantasy of children, but points adults to the parental, social, mental, even moral realities of the world of children. The play’s thematic awakening is geared towards imploring the society to pay attention to the world of children. Although faulted by weak plot structure, poor handling of dramatic techniques, the play’s symbolic characterisation, social, civil and moral criticisms make it a reckoned testament to the child advocacy discourse. One thing stands out in this play: One learns from the character of Lolo Ugoma that the idea that the rich will always go scot-free, as well as the circumstances of their ‘going scot-free’ is a reflection of a society constantly adrift from morality, hence, at the death-end of justice and equity, as both the former and the latter cannot be separated. On the other hand, Igwe Agu Ojukwu’s character is symbolic of the role which adults, parents, as well as the rich, not just the poor, should play in fostering moral uprightness and the revival of justice and equity in the society, if not for anything else but for the benefit of the future—the children.



Nket Godwin, poet, literary critic/essayist, book reviewer.

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