Women And The Nature Of Liberation In Africa


Women And The Nature Of  Liberation In Africa,A Study Of Helon Habila’s Oil On Water And Femi Osofisan’s Women Of Owu




  • Background to the Study

The issue of themes in Osofisan’s  and Helon Habila works are diversified and it is in this diversity that women find relevance. It would be wrong to assume that Osofisan and Helon Habila set out to write specifically on themes relating to women knowing fully well that beyond the entertainment lies the real meaning of his plays. Since there are only two sexes in the animal kingdom, they has no other choice than to include women in their works. However, a most outstanding feat attained by Osofisan and Helon Habila in the treatment of women in their plays is the revolutionary roles assigned to them. The true African in him recognises women as mothers, wives and sisters. They are indispensable and always nestle men folk throughout their lifetime. This could probably account for Osofisan’s  and Helon Habila liberality in giving women a voice in their plays not out of pity or obligation but out of a strong conviction that women are a voice to be heeded. Little wonder then they  has ridden comfortably on the wings of women in conveying their messages. They has made a departure unlike other male writers like Wole Soyinka, Ola Rotimi, Achebe, Clark etc, from the ‘insidious software for the enslavement of women (Osofisan,2001:4) This Osofisan  attributes to the cultural font not only in Africa but worldwide and this he says:
has been one of the most active In the women’s struggle…as several scholars have recognised, both prejudice which endures against women
as well as the laws which consolidate and encode this prejudice, are born from mental attitudes inculcated in the individual by the cultural processes of his or her development.(2001:5
In plays where Osofisan idolises women, he attempts to correct the injustices society inflicts on them based on gender.


The general Assembly of the United Nations in 1999, with the intention of raising the public awareness of violation of women rights set aside November 25 of every year as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Stressing the need for such a move, the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, as reported in Awake January, 2008, page 3 said:
violence against women is global in reach and takes place in all societies and cultures. It affects women no matter what their race, ethnicity, social, origin, birth or other status may be.
Yes, everywhere, women all over the world are subjugated oppressed and no tradition is against it. As observed by Annan, such violence does not leave any woman out irrespective  of her race, tribe or socio-economic status. Little wonder then that women liberation is ubiquitous. In literature this has translated into feminism, womanhood, motherhood and womanism. Women treatment notwithstanding, women have played prominent roles in Nigeria. From the tender role of a mother who feeds, cradles and nurtures the child including the man of the house to the powerful role of a warrior, saviour and rescuer and the delicate life threatening political champions. Names like Moremi, Queen Amina , Madam Tinubu , Madam Atinuke and others may come to mind and many more too numerous to mention. It should be noted that nowhere else have women role in society been projected and brought into sharp focus as in literature, especially in drama. Although there are women dramatists like Zulu Sofola, Efua T. Southerland and others, men dramatists seem to blaze the trail in the promotion of women..This paper is all about Helon Habila’ and Femi osofisan with their concept of women liberation in their works.


This research work will examine the two novels by comparing and differentiating the novels, since the writers share similarities and differences in their texts.


The scope of this work is relatively wide. It will be determined by how affective or relevant a portion is to the study. The study will touch the mainline text, i.e. the area in which the topic is concerned.
It would have been worthwhile to use as many texts for this research but it will be limited to study of Helon Habila’s oil on water and Femi osofisan’s women of owu.


This study is hoped to be useful to various segments of the society. It will serve as an addition or contribution to existing literature on the topic and similar ones. It will further serve as a reference material to scholars, journalism students and practitioners who may want to pursue this idea further by providing data to substantiate or refute its claims.

Femi Osofisan’s Women of Owu

Born in 1946 in Erunwon village in Ogun state, Nigeria, Femi Osofisan is a prolific critic, poet, novelist, and playwright, whose work mainly attacks political corruption and injustice. He was educated at the universities of Ibadan, Dakar, and Paris. A professor of Drama since 1985 at the University of Ibadan where he has spent most of his adult career, Osofisan was the General Manager and Chief Executive of the National Theatre Lagos. He has won prizes from the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) for both drama (1980) and poetry (1989) and in 2004 he was awarded the Nigerian National Order of Merit (NNOM), the highest academic prize in Nigeria


Helon Habila Ngalabak (born November 1967) is a Nigerian novelist and poet, whose writing has won many prizes, including the Caine Prize in 2001. He worked as a lecturer and journalist in Nigeria before moving in 2002 to England, where he was a Chevening Scholar at the University of East Anglia, and now teaches creative writing at George Mason University, Washington, D.C.
Helon Habila was born in Kaltungo, Gombe State, Nigeria. He studied English Language and Literature at the University of Jos and lectured for three years at the Federal Polytechnic, Bauchi. In 1999 he went to Lagos to write for Hints magazine, moving to Vanguard newspaper as Literary Editor.
Habila won the Music Society of Nigeria (MUSON) national poetry award for his poem “Another Age” in 2000, the same year his short story collection Prison Stories was published.He won the 2001 Caine Prize for a story from that collection, “Love Poems”. His first novel, Waiting for an Angel, was published in 2002, and the following year won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Africa Region, Best First Book).
Moving to England in 2002, Habila became African Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia. In 2005 he was invited by Chinua Achebe to become the first Chinua Achebe Fellow at Bard College, NY, where he spent a year writing and teaching, remaining in the US as a professor of Creative Writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
In 2006 he co-edited the British Council anthology New Writing . His second novel, Measuring Time, published in 2007, was nominated for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award, the IMPAC Prize, and in 2008 won the Virginia Library Foundation Prize for fiction. His third novel, Oil on Water (2010), which deals with environmental pollution in the oil-rich Nigerian Delta, received generally positive review coverage. Bernardine Evaristo in The Guardian wrote: “Habila’s prose perfectly evokes the devastation of the oil-polluted wetlands”; Margaret Busby’s review in The Independent said that “Habila has a filmic ability to etch scenes on the imagination”, and Aminatta Forna in The Daily Telegraph concluded: “”Habila is a skilful narrator and a master of structure.”[10] Oil on Water was shortlisted for prizes including the Pen/Open Book Award, Commonwealth Best Book, Africa Region, and the Orion Book Award.Habila’s anthology The Granta Book of the African Short Story came out in September 2011.
Habila is a founding member and currently serves on the advisory board of African Writers Trust,”a non-profit entity which seeks to coordinate and bring together African writers in the Diaspora and writers on the continent to promote sharing of skills and other resources, and to foster knowledge and learning between the two groups.”From July 2013 to June 2014 Habila was a DAAD Fellow in Berlin, Germany.AHe was appointed chair of the judging panel for the 2016 Etisalat Prize for Literature.