The last days of Lumumba (the late lion of the Congo); a drama


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The last days of Lumumba (the late lion of the Congo); a drama


Lumumba, Patrice, 1925-1961
Nigerian literature (English)


This play is a historical drama by possibly the most prolific playwright of Onitsha Market Literature. Iguh writes in his preface that the purpose of the play is to inform readers of the last days of Lumumba and the manner in which he died. He then declares his work fictional rather than a true account. Although many of the pamphlets make similar claims, it is a curiosity as to why Iguh made these two contradictory statements.

The pamphlet contains many photos of Lumumba, Mobutu, Tshombe and other political players. These photos appear to be taken from newspapers and other accounts of Lumumba, the coup and his arrest. Additionally, scenes appear to be taken from court proceedings or parliamentary records. The photos and court proceedings add weight to Iguh's initial statement about informing the public,but they also seem to contribute to the fictive quality of this play.

With these photos and court proceedings, Iguh creates a fictive Lumumba who is Christlike. In a court scene before the Belgian colonial officials, the counsel appears to be a Pontius Pilate questioning a militant Christ who is much more the lion than the lamb:
You better sit down Mr. Crown Counsel if you have no more question [sic] to ask me. I am the lion and the impregnable rock of this country! . . . I am being judged by them now but a day shall come when I will judge them rather,(pg.22-23).

This scene follows a triumphant procession of Lumumba riding a horse into the market square with his followers who wave palm branches and proclaim him King of the Congo. It ends with Lumumba commending his spirit to God and declaring that he will fight the Belgians dead or alive. Thus, Lumumba's role as savior does not end with the Belgians leaving the Congo and his ascension as Prime Minister. Rather, it continues into the postcolonial state after his death.

While the characterization of Lumumba is Christlike, Mobutu, Tshombe, and Kassavubu play Judas in order to complete the biblical imagery and comparison.The spirit of God speaks to Lumumba and foretells his arrest by Mobutu and his subsequent death. The spirit also advises him to send his family to Egypt, the land of Freedom. Lumumba and two of his "disciples" are placed on wooden boards, beheaded and burnt. The play ends with a press release stating that the three were killed by villagers. The Lumumbists declare that the "black race as a whole" has been murdered and they shall be revenged.

Iguh's play has a definite message that appears to be carefully crafted to create a distrust of corrupt governments throughout Africa. In an essay published in the Journal of Modern African Studies in 1964, K. W. J. Post argues that the attention paid to Lumumba as "the martyr, saint and [...] god" (pg.406) reflects an educated, Pan-Africanist reading public, but even more importantly, this reading group is deeply suspicious of and "opposed to the Nigerian status quo," (pg.413). He also argues that it is significant that this play and other pamphlets about Lumumba "have almost all been published in Onitsha, a town on the River Niger which is the 'gateway to the East," (pg.411). This play was originally performed at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in the eastern region and revived for a production in Lagos, (pg.405).


Iguh, Thomas


Onitsha, Nigeria, A. Onwudiwe & Sons




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Onitsha market literature





Iguh, Thomas, “The last days of Lumumba (the late lion of the Congo); a drama,” KU Libraries Exhibits, accessed April 15, 2024,