WOLE SOYINKA is one of Nigeria’s renowned playwrights. He was born 1934 in Abeoukuta in western Nigeria. The Trials of Brother Jero was written just before Nigeria’s independence in 1960.
The play looks at the politicians who were getting ready to lead Nigeria to her independence. The people were not sure whether to trust them or not. Brother Jero represents many other leaders of this world who turned out to be false prophets of the day after independence by fighting to get the best position in leadership for their own selfish gains.
The Trials of Brother Jero mainly deals with the challenges of leadership of a ‘man of God’. Brother Jeroboam was trained to become a Prophet by his mentor, the old prophet. Brother Jero is revealed as the Prophet, heavily bearded but neat. He is very confident, smooth and elegant. He carries a canvas pouch and divine rod. By his own words we that he is a prophet by birth and inclination. Brother Jero is very clever and he becomes his own master after being brought up in religious ways by the old prophet. By convincing the officials from the town council, Brother Jero got the best part of the beach for his church with a mere persuasion of the officials with six dancing girls who were dressed as Jehovah’s witnesses.
To Brother Jero, fairness only existed in fairly tales and not in real life. He learned that all competitions were based on dubious dealings. Brother Jero’s master was old and could not compete with a young man. That is why Brother Jero who can stand up to any opposition gets rid of him. Brother Jero is also a self conceited man who wants everything for himself at whatever cost.
In order to look different from other competitors for worshippers, Brother Jero takes a velvet cap from Amope on credit. He becomes a bad debtor because he fails to pay for it. The reasons for buying the velvet cap were probably because of his vanity. He wanted something that looks out of the ordinary and would make him appear above reproach. He wanted to be trusted without doing the right thing. For example he thought that people would believe him when he told them that he spent all his time at the beach and that he did not sleep because he spent all the time praying.
Amope, Jero’s creditor camps at Brother Jero’s house and takes him by surprise very early in the morning. She is not stupid like other worshippers who are referred to as customers of the trade. Brother Jero gets a chance to escape from his house like a thief jumping through the window not minding about his dignity as a prophet and a man of God.
Whenever Brother Jero is about to say his prayers in the morning, a scanty dressed woman always passes in front of him and disrupts his prayers. He accepts his major weakness that women are an absolute torture. He is expected to guard against any temptation but he fails to do so like many other religious men. In the process of following a woman Brother Jero is beaten up for his advances and he then realizes that the original medicine to lust is prayer.
The man of God only survives by manipulating those around him. Chume is a victim of Brother Jero’s wicked schemes. Brother Jero has to get rid of Chume. After finding out that Amope is Chume’s wife, he wishes to get rid of his creditor by pretending to grant Brother Chume permission to beat her. By allowing Chume to beat his wife Brother Jero loses his most loyal convert. After all when Chume gets his wish there would be no reason to return to Brother Jero.
According to Wole Soyinka, each person struggles for material gain, which is the root cause of all evil in society. The believers are cautioned to be aware of the existence of such false prophets.
The reviewer is an educationist and publisher-