Analysis/summary of A Night with the Elephant by Femi Osofisan


Kwame Nkrumah – ex-president of Ghana

Ahmed Sedou TOure – President of Guinea Republic

Amilcar Cabral – Leader of PAIGE

Andree TOure – Wife of President TOure

Fode Keita – Artist now Guinea Minister of inferior

Nyamikeh – Nephew on the material side to Nkrumah

Ambrose Yankey – Chief of the Ghanian security guards later replaced in that function by buah

Camera Sana – Chief of the protocol staff Guinea

The Jesters – Masked players [who can then be played by the same character playing as Ghanaian staff]

The play, A Night with the Elephant by Femi Osofisan, has its setting in one of the rooms in Sekou Toure’s presidential palace in the year 1967. At the beginning of the play, Sekou Toure is pacing about in the room when Nkrumah and Andree breeze in. Sekou Toure, impressed by the Spartan decoration of his room, enquires to know how NKrumah sees the room, and Nkrumah replies: “Oh yes lovely,” crediting the excellent decoration of the room to Andree and further describing her as “quite a house keeper too”.    

 But upon NKrumah’s plan to travel to Ghana, he discloses he could definitely Miss Sekou Toure’s presidential palace, especially the “experience” he was in Conakry.

Nkrumah, meanwhile, complains of having sleeplessness due to the yet – to -occurred coup in Ghana but when advised by Andree to take “some sleeping pills”, he bluntly refuses. Andree soon leaves the room with and excuse of getting Sekou Toure and Nkrumah something to drink. Without Andree in their midst, the two men shift their conversation abruptly to the political happenings in Ghana and Africa. Before now however, Toure has sent for Amilcar Cabral. While they converse largely about political leadership in Ghana and await Amilcar Cabral’s arrival, Jesters barge into the room with word of exhortation to Nkrumah who they claim they admire as an impeccable leader; one who has transformed Ghana “… for without him we would be no doubt to have existed” (p.17).

 Construed The Jesters’s word as affront and scorn, Nkrumah is upset, “shaking his fist at them.” He laments about his past suffering which eventually births the Ghana independence but the people have no iota thought of this

I gave Ghanaian their freedom and built the country up for them. But the people have had it too easy. They never suffered as Cabral’s people are doing in Bissau. I have to do the suffering for them. That’s why they do not value their freedom. If NLC had given them bread and circuses they would have forgotten all about us (p.18)

When the jesters finally leave, Toure approaches Nkrumah and tries all possible means to pacify and also advise Nkrumah to ignore the jesters who are probably paid agents. It is Toure’s conviction that very soon “the masses of the people, those who truly remember” Nkrumah will troop “into the street “with Nkrumah’s name on their lips”. But Nkrumah is worried, especially as the people worship power. To crown it all, the NLC is in power. Andree comes in, carrying tray of drink and barbecued meat. Amilcar Cabral also arrives shortly, apologizing for his late arrival. It is his political rehearsal, Amilcar Cabral claims, that delays him.

Nkrumah reveals his plan of traveling to Ghana to Amilcar Cabral. He, Nkrumah obtains a message of counter coup from Accra boys. The counter coup will exit the NLC from power. They show case their happiness by dancing. A broadcast interview is suggested for Nkrumah to announce his arrival to the people of Ghana.

Fode, who is in the radio room with his crew, is appointed to interview Nkrumah. The broadcast interview is however, interrupted by the jesters who take over the interview from Fode. They jesters query Nkrumah about his past political administration.

Dr Nkrumah… if it is true that you indeed brought all these tremendous achievements to Ghana, why did the people still hate you? Was it perhaps because you ran a one man government and became an absolute dictator? (p.34).


The jesters also indict Nkrumah for the death of Dr Danquah who it was thrown into a narrow cell in Nsawam prison, at the age of 68. Nkrumah denies this allegation, stressing that Dr Danquah dies of “asthma… not because he was tortured or anything”.

All he wants the Ghana to be and “will continue to be is” a one party state in order for the “most effective and safest instrument of government for a socialist society” (p.35). The interview ends with Nkrumah refusing to answer the jester’s last question. He is extremely piqued as he steps down from the interview podium, saying “I’ll not answer such a question”. Sekou Toure too, is also irked about the jester’s question which he illustrates as “idiotic questions”. Not only does Sekou Toure frowns at the jesters’s questions, he equally frames the blame on Fode for cunningly bringing the jesters to embarrass Nkrumah.

 Shortly after the jesters exit, Andree congratulates Nkrumah for practically and perfectly answering all the queries posed by The Jesters. Amilcar Cabral suggests The Jesters’s interrupting part “should be left in” the broadcast interview and the entire thing sends to Ghana. This would take care of any doubting Thomases. Sekou Toure supports Amilcar Cabral’s idea, saying;

        On second thoughts, maybe they’re right, Uncle, maybe we should leave in the part of those jesters. You gave the very correct answer! (p.42)

Andree goes to the fuming Nkrumah, pours drink for him and remarks that even Sekou Toure is impressed by all the responses to the jesters. But she however, seeks a promise from Nkrumah: she wants Nkrumah to refrain from vengeance. On the NLC for in the first place, forcefully pulling him out of power her reason for this emanates from the experience she has. Sekou Toure her dear husband has been heedless to her on matters which pertain to vengeance thus, “Conakry is slowly turning into graveyard with all these death”.

        “But think,” Nkrumah asks Andree, “these men you are pleading for the Ankrah-kotok-harley Buganda, they have split a lot of blood. So what do I say to their victims?” Andree says absolute nothing to Nkrumah’s question but she is curious to know when exactly the bloodletting coup will finally end. Sekou Toure replies it is when the imperialist have been taught such a lesson that they retreat forever from all their predatory ambitions!

        Amilcar Cabral is partially in support of this but he however says the imperialist should be rather out rightly neutralized. Nkrumah and Sekou Toure hold firm to the ploy of assignation. Andree, angry by the assignation plan of Nkrumah and Sekou Toure, leaves the room immediately.

Andree:      fine goes on then with the killing [she leaves obviously angry]

Note: long when Andree leaves argument ensues between Amilcar Cabral and Sekou Toure. While Amilcar cabral sides Andree, insisting that the imperialists should not be chased away but Sekou Toure expressedly says that the imperialists ought to be assassinated and coerced immediately out of power. For Amilcar Cabral, he believes in the re-education and re-orientation of the imperialists.

        In the heat of argument Amilcar Cabral abuses Sekou toure, saying “you’re being childish” and thus deserves no respect and loyalty from him.

Cabral:       Respect and loyalty… you will not get that room me if that is what you want. It is my duty to tell you where I believe you’re going wrong!(p.49)

Sekou Toure, greatly upset by Amilcar Cabral’s disrespect to him, storm                             out of the room. His return to the room is equally uncertain. Amilcar cabral feels guilty and worries that the dispute which impels. Sekou Toure to aggressively leave the room is engendered by him. He decides, therefore, for this reason to leave also.

Cabral: [Standing up] it’s my fault maybe I should leave (p.49)

He is however encouraged by Nkrumah to stay. Nkrumah to stay. Nkrumah’s conviction is that Sekou Toure will “soon calm down and come back to the room. But in spite of his return he would not forget Amilcar Cabral’s affront to him and  thus he would not forgive Amilcar Cabral. And this is why Sekou Toure has been called “Sili,” the Elephant because “Elephants have a long memory”

Nkrumah:   ah, for your as if you don’t know Sekou sit down my friend he’ll soon calm down and come back

Cabral:       That’s why it’s the more dangerous, uncle. He’ll calm down. But he’ll never forget or forgive!

Nkrumah:   That’s why they call him “Sili,” isn’t it? The elephant! Elephants have a long memory. (p.50)

Just exactly as Nkrumah produces, Sekou Toure returns, follows by Andree who carries plate of barbecued meat and fruits. Amilcar Cabral’s apologize to Sekou Toure. But Sekou Toure bluntly refuses to accept it, threatening he is going to take his revenge on Amilcar Cabral for insulting “me here, right under my own roof”

The news of he successful coup in Ghana is brought by Fode and others –camera, tankey and Nyamikeh-who enter the room dancing

Almost all together:     He happened president! It’s happened at last!

Nkrumah:                  The coup?

Fode:                        just now sir on the radio it’s been announced

Andree:                     the NLC is gone, freedom at last freedom [General shout of joy embraces] (p.56)

In the heat of their ecstasy the suddenly carry up Nkrumah but then “put the down put me down comes a protest from Nkrumah though confused they put him down anyway Nkrumah is curious to know the detailed account of the coup he therefore asks fode to explain what was broadcast.

Nkrumah: You heard the broadcast?

Fode: Yes, of course all of us

Nkrumah: What did it say exactly?

Fode: That some officers of the armed forces, having looked at the precocious state of the nation decided to remove the NLC and institute a new government. All the members of the NLC are therefore instructed to report to the nearest barrack of police station in their own interest

Nkrumah: Is there all?

Fode: Yes, oh sorry, I forgot the broadcast was signed off by one late Samuel Arthur

Nkrumah: Arthur and did he mention my name?

Fode: No but…

Nkrumah: But what can’t you see? Can’t you…can’t… you… can’t?

Having eventually realized the causes hijacked Nkrumah splutter and begins to cough badly and unable to stand he collapses when revived by those in the room he decides to make a broadest to the people to Ghana. In the studio he speaks about his return and at the internal of saying “long live the people of
Ghana,” he splutters again and tumbles.

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