Revisiting Jeta Amata’s ‘Black November’ by Seun Kolade

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A Story of Hope

Everyone needs to see 'Black November' and witness the strength; vigour; emotions; the rebellion and revolution of youth!

That film gave me hope!

Hope that there is still strength in ideals.

Hope that there are still emotional currents to be stirred.

Hope that there are still people to mount a rebellion against tyranny!

I have for a long time clamoured for a Nigerian movie that could cause a stir; a Nollywood production that would make the people reason above mediocrity; a movie which would evoke strong emotions.

I found all of the above in Black November which was written, produced and directed by Jeta Amata.

Plot

Black November is the story of every Niger Deltan, as conveyed through the character of Ebiere. He is a brave activist who represents her people (Niger Deltans) by projecting their anguish, suffering and struggles using Gandhi's model of Satyagraha (non-violence).

A very brilliant girl; she grew up in the creeks and eventually got a scholarship to complete her education abroad.

Unfortunately, on her return she discovered her mother and siblings amongst scores of other villagers had been killed at an oil pipeline explosion while engaging in oil bunkery─ a direct consequence of government's negligence and incompetence in securing oil assets in the Niger Delta.

Although tempted with juicy pay-offs and similar offers from the government on one side and the expatriate oil companies on the other, Ebiere; an epitome of integrity resolved not to compromise.

Thus began a struggle for change in the Niger Delta spearheaded by Ebiere which was to birth an unprecedented revolution. She gathered the women; both young and old and even led the men to protest their cause peacefully.

However, the lines between activist and terrorist soon blurred and her activities were repressed by the uncompromising government of the day who did not understand the language of dialogue. Heavily armed soldiers were let loose upon Ebiere's village and mayhem ensued─ a terrible event which recorded gross violation of human rights.

But Ebiere's war wasn't just with a corrupt authoritarian government or the capitalist-oriented expatriate companies; she also faced opposition from the gerontocratic leadership of her village in form of the village chieftains.

The Elders of the land had betrayed the people by collecting huge pay-offs from the expatriates on behalf of the people and keeping it for themselves. 

When dialogue fails, violence often becomes attractive.

Such was also the case in 'Black November' when the young men decided to embrace violence as a solution to their problems. Led by Dede; who was Ebiere's lover, they resorted to abductions of expatriates followed by demands of huge ransom fees.

The hitherto inattentive government, frustrated by the guerrilla tactics employed by the insurgents and compelled by the oil expatriates to find a lasting solution to the issue decided to dialogue.  However, the meeting turned awry with both sides failing to reach a consensus and in the fracas that ensued, Dede was killed.

As the popular Yoruba saying goes, 'Every day is for the thief, one day is for the owner'. On the day the Village Elders met to discuss the happenings in the town, one of the elders who perhaps pricked by conscience disclosed he wanted out of the existing arrangement of looting community funds.

Concerned more with sustaining the status quo than anything else, the other Elders murdered him.

His premeditated homicide became the singular catalyst which changed the tone of the struggle forever.

One thing led to another in rapid succession which eventually culminated in the public lynching of the remaining Elders by a faceless mob.

Rumours flew; propaganda circulated and the wrong information reached the rest of the world. The government immediately had Ebiere arrested with some other youths. 

Protracted kangaroo court proceedings followed with the narrative largely toeing the government's argument and Ebiere fearing the worst for her fellow Niger Delta compatriots admitted her complicity in the charges against her in order to set them free.

The verdict was death… By hanging!

Despite efforts by the remaining members of the Dede-led insurgents in getting the US government involved and subverting the judgment, all attempts to avert Ebiere's death failed.

Well, she ended up as a martyr and for me; the movie could not have had a better ending.

The struggle still continues!

I must confess, the first time I saw the creeks in its raw unaltered form was while watching 'Black November'.

You need to watch the movie to understand the agony of the Niger Delta people. I think it's only then one can graphically capture their suffering and properly empathise.

 

 

Creative works (literature, art and culture) emerging from Nigeria.

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