Unnecessary violence is used throughout the play, this violence mainly occurs amongst the rulers. Violence in this play can be questioned by morals because the violence is not justified. Much of the violence that occurs in the play is conducted to gain power. But power can be acquired in other forms instead of violence, but instead the leaders decide to use force. This violence occurs primarily because of the military rule they were under previous to Basha. We see that Basha has taken part in the killing of many leaders in the past, and this killing does not stop once he has becomes the king of Guatu.
The theme of violence and unnecessary killing is shown through a number of satiric methods, exaggeration, unreasonable logic and the shift in perspectives of different people. Exaggeration is used in the play to point out the fact that the rulers will go to any extent to gain power. Basha says “when he sees me eliminate them one after another and with ghastly tortures of first pulling out fingernails and sending him fingers and toes on birthdays of his children”. He says this to Maariya after she has questioned him about Potipoo’s trust in him.
This violence is not required and just exaggerates the brutality that goes through Basha’s mind. Another scene that we see unnecessary is when Basha is trying to get bank representatives to give Basha an open cheque; the representative says that he does not have the authority to sign an open cheque. Basha says, “I see. Shove this fool into open pit”. Although Basha may not understand the position of the representatives, he still does not take the time to listen to their explanation, and instead answers will pure violence.
This exaggerates the corruption and ignorance of the leaders during the early 1900s in Nigeria. Soyinka uses the satiric device of unreasonable logic through Basha in the play; this is to exaggerate the amount of fear and stupidity that the leaders of Nigeria had at the time. Basha says, “I tell him you send me the note to get me to cause rebellion and unrest and I strangle you myself. I carry your dead body to cabinet meeting in my strong arms with tears dripping down my face and drenching my ribbons and medals and I say to Potipoo, look, I love my wife but I love my commander in chief moreâ€¦.
The supreme council break into standing ovation” Previous to this, Maariya forged a letter to the Commander in Chief Potipoo. Basha uses unreasonable logic here to solve his current situation. Basha could have gone through with this plan if Maariya didn’t explain to him what she was doing. This thought of violence is inappropriate for a leader, which shows the terrible quality of leadership that Guatu was under. Here, Basha is willing to sacrifice the life of his wife just so he won’t be demoted. Manipulation is used in the play to show how easy it is for someone to take over the country.
In king Baabu, the people around him, mainly Maariya, are constantly dominating Basha. Manipulation is a factor that has to be considered when discussing morals; Maariya has a good opportunity to control the country through Basha. She does not care if Basha is hurt or harmed in the process, she simply wants control. Basha is being controlled and is used as a shield between Maariya and the citizens, which can be considered morally wrong. Exaggeration and irony have been used to show the manipulation through out the play.
This use of manipulation can also be seen in Shakespeare play of Macbeth, as Lady Macbeth manipulates Macbeth. She drives him towards the throne, sometimes against his own will. Lady Macbeth convinces Macbeth to kill Duncan who was the king of Scotland; Macbeth as a result then becomes the king of Scotland. We can almost see a replica of this event in King Baabu when Maariya convinces Basha to drive Potipoo out of power. In both these plays we see a dominant female who gets into power through their spouse. If their plan fails then she would not be blamed for it, instead their spouse would.
Maariya uses Basha as a shield to get into power, without taking the risk of paying the penalty. Exaggeration is used to show the ignorance of Basha in the play, it also shows the greed for power that people around Basha have. In Act 1 Scene 5, Basha is talking to the crowd and Tikim is telling Basha what to say because the crowd perceives Basha as another military ruler. Tikim says “tell them Basha Bash is dead” this is so that the crowd can understand that Basha will run the country as a democracy rather than a military rule. Basha says, “What you say? I standing here before you and you tell me Basha Bash is dead? This irritates Tikim as Basha is so ignorant and cannot see that he is “figuratively speaking”. This shows the audience the type of leaders that Nigeria had at the time. Irony is commonly used in the play to show how Basha is being manipulated, and how he has no idea about what is happening around him. “I agree to share the allocation for fertilizers with Potipoo. Fifty â€“ fifty we make deal. If this works, I can take back my fifty and keep the entire hundred. ” Basha says this to Maariya after she has fully explained the plan, which is to eliminate Potipoo.
This is ironic because if the plan does work then it will be Maariya that will be taking the “entire hundred” as she is in control. In this situation Maariya has created a plan to drive Potipoo out of leadership, but if the plan fails then Maariya will not be taking the blame, it will be Basha that will be taking the blame. She uses Basha as a shield, and as he is stupid enough to follow the lead of Maariya, she will have no problems. Another occurrence where we see Maariya take control is when Basha is just about to talk to the citizens of Guatu.
Maariya is dressed in full traditional attire and Basha is dressed in military gear. She says “TK Tikim will you shut him up and get him to aspire to some dignity”. This is ironic as Basha is the person that is supposes to be in charge, but Maariya is the one that is dressed more appropriate; this is to send a good image of herself to the citizens of Guatu. Form these scenes we can come to understand the mentality of the people who were supporting the “leader”, they all want to get into power by any means necessary. And because Basha doesn’t understand what is going on, it leaves him very vulnerable to manipulation.
Basha is very materialistic, and this is obvious in the play. He says, “What this dry chest know about war chest? ” he is referring to Maaryia’s breasts, and explaining to Tikim and Maaryia that she is no longer attractive. And that he wants to have many wives like King David and King Solomon. This conversation is also ironic, as Maaryia probably understands more about the “war chest” than Basha. She understands the value that the “war chest” contains and knows how to use it to the countries advantage instead of using it for personal pleasure.
The plays show the level of selfishness that the leaders had, and it is exaggerated in King Baabu. In many occasions Basha talks about how he is hungry after a significant event has occurred. Basha says “time not to stop this nuisance of rumbling stomach”. This is after he has thrown two bank representatives into “the pit”. The fact that Basha says this after the event shows us what he has been thinking during his conversations with these bank representatives. By doing this Soyinka makes the audience understand the priorities of the leaders at the time, in a humorous way.
Another instance where we see the selfishness of Basha is when he takes the rhinoceros horn and grinds it into powder. The rhinoceros horn could have been sold as ivory, but instead he grinds it up, and uses it as Viagra. Maaryia says “we need the foreign exchange but you keep grinding them to powder to give yourself cheap erection. Here he priorities his own pleasure over the countries financial problems. Maariya says “you don’t become great by mixing sex with power,” and in the end this rhinoceros powder kills him as it is poisoned.
This just proves Maariya’s statement to be true. These satiric techniques are what highlight the morals of the play, it sends out the morals to the audience in a comical way. The use of satire gives the audience a clear understanding of what was happening in Nigeria in the early 1990’s. Presenting the scenes in a comical way will allow the audience to truly understand what was happening from a primary source, Soyinka. Morals in this play are an important part, as the play has to convey the message of what was happening, such as the unnecessary violence, death, corruption and greed.