(Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.)


The major theme in this play is politics. Arguably, politics is one of the prominent themes in Nigerian literature, then and presently. Ola Rotimi uses the work to satirize politics as practised in Nigeria. For instance, the politics of Sikira, an illiterate woman and the market women who assist her and the pomposity of Major Rahman Lejoka-Brown are very typical of Nigeria. All that governed politics at this period and even now is selfishness.

Politics of selfishness is the bane of progress not only in Nigerian society but also in the entire African continent. Regrettably, politics has become our backdrops and a waterloo. The theme of politics is invested in the character of Lejoka-Brown, a retired military officer who possesses every negative attribute of selfish military politicians—very arrogant and I-know-it-all attitude. He does not join politics because he loves to serve the people but because of what he is going to gain ¾ money and fame. This is very true of Nigerian society where politics is governed by self-interest.

Ola Rotimi is visionary in this play. He foresees ex military officers coming back to power as civilians. He presents a satire on military politics, or what I may call militocracy, and the insincerity of the military. He subtly cautions that the type of democracy these military officers will introduce will be close to dictatorship. Lejoka-Brown is the symbol of this dictatorship. This play, which was a caricature of the political landscape of Nigeria in 1979, is a reality in Nigerian politics in recent times.


There is also a theme of gender inequality in Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again. Lejoka-Brown thinks women have no intelligence until he meets his foreign wife. In between the humour in the play, there is a subtle gender conflict. As a Western woman who believes that women are not in any way subservient to men, Liza mobilizes her fellow wives to organize their own faction to stop the madness of their husband. What Ola Rotimi seems to be saying is that politics is not only the preserve of the men. Using the mouth of Sikira, he makes this point clear: “MEN AND WOMEN ARE CREATED EQUAL!” (Act 2 Scene VI). As a medical doctor and an experienced educated lady, Liza can compete favourably with any man. There is no doubt that sometimes women are used as puppets in order to fulfil men’s ambitions. This is exactly what Liza does not want to see or hear. The play can also said to be revolutionary in the sense that a national issue is looked at from the women’s angle.


Another theme explored in Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again is polygamy and wife inheritance. This theme is seen in Mama Rashida’s marriage to Lejoka-Brown. Mama Rashida is the first wife whom Lejoka-Brown has inherited from his dead elder brother. This practice of wife fragmentation or wife inheritance is the major cause of polygamy in Africa. The irony of polygamy and perhaps what makes it continue to strive in Africa is that even the women in some cases acquiesce to this patriarchal practice. Mama Rashida is a good example. Rather than resist being given as a wife to a man she does not know or love, Mama Rashida does not only feel comfortable with the relationship but also works tirelessly to maintain her rival wives. My opinion is that polygamy will continue to strive as long as a woman agrees to be a second wife.


The theme of cross cultural relationship and marriage is portrayed in Lejoka-Brown’s marriage to Liza who is a foreigner and is educated. Their marriage shows that the duo has gone past the mentality of racial and cultural segregation. Arguably, one of the ways of uniting the world is through inter-racial or inter-cultural marriages and this is what Ola Rotimi preaches in Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again.


The theme of deceit can be seen in Lejoka-Brown’s marriage to Sikira whom she calls a maid. It is not only Lejoka-Brown who seems to be deceitful here; in fact, many men and women can testify of the deceit of both partners when it comes to relationship. Sometimes it could be the man that is lying to the woman and at another time, it is the woman. Arguably, it is an act of deception for Lejoka-Brown to take another wife without informing his foreign wife, Liza. The relationship between Lejoka-Brown and Liza could also be said to be betrayal of trust. Lejoka-Brown does not only betray the trust of his wives but also the trust his party, the National Liberation Party, repose in him.


The belief in the magical power of the snake which Lejoka-Brown keeps under his bed expresses the theme of superstition in Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again. Many critics have argued that any work which does not explore the issue of superstition may not be regarded as a true African or Nigerian work. This is because the issue of superstition and taboo are very rampant in Africa despite the advent of science and technology. It has become a popular rumour that African politicians are fond of using some supernatural means to gain and maintain power. This is exactly the reason why Lejoka-Brown keeps the snake. However, Lejoka-Brown’s political crash before he reaches the pinnacle of his political dream puts a question mark on the assertion in the potency of some supernatural powers in wining an election or achieving success generally.


Ola Rotimi also subtly introduces Marxist ideology into the play. What makes Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again pass for a Marxist work is that there is a class disparity in the play and at the end of the play; there is a revolt by the women folk which leads to the emergence of Sikira as the flag bearer of the National Liberation Party. Lejoka-Brown, Okonkwo and Liza can be said to represent the propertied capitalist bourgeoisies while Mama Rashida, Sikira, Polycarp, Madam Ajanaku and other market women are the proletariats who are at the mercy of Lejoka-Brown.


(Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.)

FREEDOM: The need for freedom for the women folks is reverberated throughout the play. In fact, freedom is the campaign slogan of the National Liberation Party. It is not an exaggeration or an indictment to say that Lejoka-Brown does not give his wives freedom to express themselves. As a typical African chauvinistic man, he believes that women are only to be seen but not heard. Lejoka-Brown censors not only what his wives say but also what they wear using religion as a cover-up. A typical example is when he holds the pressmen at gunpoint when Liza broaches into their midst scantily dressed.
Ironically, Lejoka-Brown preaches freedom but he does not take corresponding steps to practise what he preaches. At home he does not give his wives freedom to express themselves and at the party meetings, he does not allow other party members to air their views. This is a vivid portrayal of the insincerity and hypocrisy of politicians. Rather than being an agent of freedom, Lejoka-Brown is an impediment to freedom. He uses gun and religion to coerce his wives and party members into submission.


(Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colours used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.)

GUN: One may be surprised or
alarmed by the careless deployment of a gun by Lejoka-Brown throughout the play. Although the play is on democracy, Ola Rotimi deliberately uses gun to depict the militarization of Nigerian democracy. In other words, gun, as used in the play, symbolises the deployment of force to gain political power even in a democracy. While Lejoka-Brown uses gun to gain submission, Alhaji Mustafa uses gun to debar the soldiers from burning down his house. I also want to believe that the soldiers who come to burn down Alhaji Mustafa’s house are also armed. This shows how the elitist segment of the Nigerian and African societies have armed themselves while the downtrodden are left to secure themselves.

PROMISE: While freedom as a concept is the slogan of National Liberation Party, Promise, as Lejoka-Brown’s good luck python is called, is the symbol of restriction. Nowhere in the play do we see the snake allowed to crawl around. Instead, Lejoka-Brown locks it up in his room just the way he locks up his wives emotionally and socially. Lejoka-Brown promises (pun intended) his people freedom but restricts Promise from exercising its freedom.

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