Rhetoric and Rivalry

Arrow of God and Present-Day Nigerian Politics

in Matatu
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Politics almost always entails opposition and rivalry as individuals and groups compete for power and influence. This essay juxtaposes the use of rhetoric among political rivals in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God with the use of such language among present-day Nigerian politicians. Parallels are drawn between the utterances of such characters as Ezeulu, Nwaka, and Ezidemili in Arrow of God and those of Nigerian political personalities like Olusegun Obasanjo, Goodluck Jonathan, Ibrahim Babangida, and Atiku Abubakar (the statements of the Nigerian politicians having been gathered from the mass media). Rhetorical strategies such as wit, repartee, innuendo, cynical/wry humour, and outright abuse/imprecations are identified as shared in the two worlds. It is argued that such language of rivalry is common in all political settings, ancient or modern. It is also suggested that literary works such as Arrow of God constitute a source of both political wit and wisdom for politicians to draw on.

Rhetoric and Rivalry

Arrow of God and Present-Day Nigerian Politics

in Matatu




Katie WalesA Dictionary of Stylistics (London: Longman1990): 405–406.


Chinua AchebeArrow of God (1964; London: Heinemann1974): 144. Further page references are in the main text.


Chinua AchebeArrow of God (1964; London: Heinemann1974): 16. Further page references are in the main text.


Olusegun Obasanjo“Before It Is Too Late,” Daily Newswatch (12 December 2013): 76.


Imam Imam & Ahamefula Ogbu“Obasanjo on Atiku: ‘I Dey Laugh o!’,” This Day (26 November 2010): 1.


Cozzy Websisieko and Tatafo“I Still Dey Laugh: Obasanjo to Atiku Again,” Vanguard (16 January 2011) http://www.9jabook.com/profiles/blogs/i-still-dey-laugh-obasanjo-to?xg_source=activity (accessed 29 March 2014).


Onoriode“Osun: Atiku replies Obasanjo, ‘We too dey laugh ooo’,” African Examiner (27 November 2010) http://proudlyurhobo.blogspot.com/2010/11/osun-atiku-replies-obasanjo-we-too-dey.html (accessed 29 March 2014).


Reuben Abati“Atiku and Obasanjo: ‘Me Sef, I Dey Laugh O’,” The Guardian (28 November 2010): 34; Yomi Odunuga “Me Sef I dey Laugh o” The Nation (30 April 2011): 21.


  • View in gallery
    Figure 1

    Former President Olusegun Obasanjo doing his funny “I dey laugh o.”13


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