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OJONIYI, ‘Bode: The Challenges of National Security within the Culture and the Consciousness of Crime in Tunde Kelani’s Maami

The Challenges of National Security within the Culture and the Consciousness of Crime in Tunde Kelani’s Maami


Drama Unit, Department of Languages & Linguistics

Osun State University, Nigeria


GSM: +234-803-508-2896


This paper engages the polemics in individuals’ developmental consciousness predisposition to crime within a cultural milieu that both conditioned to crime and expects decorum. Authorities – the state, the elders and the community – expect young people to learn and promote national interest, security and cohesiveness but they often bring them up within the culture of impunity, degradation and the glaring violation of fundamental human rights and lives. There is often a great gulf between what these authorities want in form of conformity to presumed international best practices in relation to the minimum standard for socio-cultural interaction that places values on human lives and how they brazenly break those values and standards. The implication of this double standard on the consciousness of such young people and their later years of existential struggle with crime is what one can clearly trace and see in the life of the main character in Tunde Kelani’s Maami, Kasimaawo. Therefore, this paper looks at the challenges of security within such culture and practices that foreground the consciousness of crime in the developmental process of Kasimaawo to the point that he returns from Europe to kill his father in an attempt to have peace. Theoretically, the paper combines psychoanalytical theory with dialectical text consciousness theory in its analysis. The paper concludes that security can only be built on a fair and equitable system that encourages the supremacy of justice within the framework of rule of law.   


There seems to be a sense in which people learn, internalise, commit and perpetuate crime/violence against others (Bienen 4; Anifowose 24). They carry out such violence/crime for different reasons ranging from survival, fear and security of self-interest to hatred, religious fanaticism, tribalism, racism and terrorism. And, talking specifically, there is a principle of legitimate force/violence especially when it is perpetuated by the state against an individual or a group of people (Anifowose 24). Unfortunately, weather it a legitimate force/violence or an illegitimate one; whether it is the line of the argument of Machiavelli in his classic, The Prince or in that of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, one thing is clear: force/violence breeds force/violence, counter violence and crime in any society. The reason for this appears very simple: the aggrieved party often will fight back to seek revenge or redress in which case the reality of force/violence turning to a vicious-circle experience that threatens communal peace and security stares us in the face.

The moment violence and crime becomes a vicious circle experience in any state, like in the case of Boko Haram in Nigeria, ISIS and terrorism mainly in the Middle East and racial hatred motivated killings in the United States, it definitely threatens national and in many cases, international security. The unfortunate aspect of this is in the fact that at such moment of violence and crime transforming to a vicious-circle experience, it assumes the status of a culture – a culture of violence and crime. In this case, the example of kidnapping in Nigeria can be cited: it starts as a means of protest by the Niger Delta militants against the degradation of Niger Delta eco-system; later it becomes a mean of making money through ransom payment. Today, it has spread to almost all every state in Nigeria as a “business venture” and a means of making quick and cheap money by hoodlums. It has become a national security problem.

In essence, the moment violence and crime becomes a culture (and culture being that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habit acquired by man as a member of society) (qtd in Wallace 6-7), then it becomes something that can be learnt or acquired by every member of such society. It is within this reality – of learning and acquiring the culture of violence and crime – that this paper critically appraises the developmental/growing process of Kashimaawo, the main character in Tunde Kelani’s Maami within the actuality of the culture of crime and violence. It looks at how growing up in the environment of crime impacts his later life existentially and psychologically.

One thing seems sure; nobody in the society sets out to teach Kasimmaawo to kill another human being. If there is any expectation from his mother, relatives and the community, it is that he will grow up to be a good, respectable and well behaved citizen of the country. However, the circumstances of his maturation inadvertently create a foundation of existential psychological challenges that predisposes him to committing crime of murder in his later years. The society – his parents, the elders and the State – appear to have prepared the ground for Kashimaawo’s consciousness of crime.             

On Psychoanalytical Theory and Dialectical Text Consciousness Theory

Violence and crime is arguably based on existential psychological reality of the life of an individual as a member of a community of people and culture. Consequently, Kashimaawo’s progressive journey into a life of crisis where he eventually commits murder in order to gain “peace” and “freedom” can be traced to consciousness and psychological conflicts that are linked to the circumstances of his growing up in an environment of crime. To fully appreciate his consciousness, there is a need to be familiar with Freud’s analysis of the structure of the mind. Freud’s structural theory divides the mind into three agencies or "structures”:

  • The "id,"
  • The "ego,"
  • The "superego.”

According to this psychoanalytical theory of consciousness, popularly referred to as personality theory; personality is composed of the three elements mentioned above. These elements work together to create a range of complex human behaviours (http://psychology.about.com).

The id

The “id” is said to have been borrowed by Freud from the Book of the It (Das Buch vom Es in German) by George Groddeck, a pioneer of early psychosomatic medicine (http://psychology.about.com). The id represents the human primary process of thinking. It is said to be the most primitive need gratification impulses in man which is organised around the so-called primitive drives of sexuality and aggression that arise from the human body. Freud’s use of the term primitive in explaining the impulses of the id is limiting and perhaps misplaced. So, I have used the word, “so-called primitive drives of sexuality and aggression” because it appears these impulses are the same even in the modern men.  

The id is said to be driven by instincts, drives or wishes.  Drives or instincts are the forces behind the translations of basic human needs into motivational forces and energies. In the id, these drives require instant gratification or release. It is explained to be like just picturing “the hungry infant, screaming itself blue. It doesn't 'know' what it wants in any adult sense; it just knows that it wants it and it wants it now” (http://psychology.about.com). When human (characters, in case of drama) needs are not satisfied immediately, they become stronger and stronger until they break into the person's consciousness. In Freud's theory, it is these instinctual impulses or drives, originating in childhood, that are at the root of adult psychological problems. This form of unsatisfied desires may be the motivation for Kashimaawo’s motivation for returning to go and murder his father. It may also account for the desperation behind his action to have meat for his birthday celebration and initially meet his father.

Freud identified two main forces among the drives and instincts of the id. They are life or eros and death or thanatos instincts (http://psychology.about.com). Life instinct perpetuate the life of the individual (all the needs connected to survival: food, water, shelter, and so on), as well as the life of the species (sex). The force of life in the id which motivates us is called libido. In Latin, libido means, "I desire" (http://psychology.about.com). Later, libido comes to mean the sex drive because Freud believes that sex is the most important of the needs in the psyche, and since people are social beings, he considers sex the most social of all needs.

It is claimed that later in life, Freud starts to think that next to life instinct is death instinct. The belief is that there is an unconscious wish for death in every man as death seems to promise peace, an end to pain, suffering, and all the negative and unpleasant experiences of life. For many people in the world, life is an everyday struggle and full of suffering. Thus, death is the satisfaction of all human needs. It is also claimed that Freud might have at this point agreed with the saying that, "the first step of a child is the first step towards death" (http://psychology.about.com).Freud sees evidence of the death instinct in the desire for peace, and in several attempts to escape reality through alcohol, drugs, books, and movies. Directly, these attempts present themselves in suicide and indirectly in aggression, cruelty, and destruction. These tendencies could be seen in Kashimaawo, as he eventually goes after his father to kill him in other to gain peace and freedom from the conflicts in his consciousness.

The Ego:

This is said to mean, “I” in Latin (http://psychology.about.com). In Freud's view, the ego mediates between the id, the superego, and the external world to balance man’s primitive drives, the moral ideals and taboos and the limitations of reality. According to him the

ego is that part of the id which has been modified by the direct influence of the external world.... The ego represents what may be called reason and common sense, in contrast to the id, which contains the passions... in its relationto the id it is like a man on horseback, who has to hold in check the superiorstrength of the horse; with this difference, that the rider tries to do so with his own strength, while the ego uses borrowed forces (http://psychology.about.com).

To successfully mediate between all these parties and fulfill its function of adaptation, the ego must be able to enforce the postponement of gratification of the drives and impulses of the id until such time as the situation (reality) changes or a socially acceptable way to satisfy the drive is found (http://psychology.about.com). Now, because the “drives” of the id demand satisfaction and they are often unacceptable to the superego, the ego must establish acceptable conditions to create equilibrium or balance in consciousness. It is at the point this balance is no longer possible that the characters unavoidably enter into the point of inner conflict or crisis with self and with others. In other to defend itself from the impulses of the id, the ego develops what in psychoanalysis is known as defence mechanism. These defence mechanisms include repression, reaction formation, projection, regression, denial, rationalisation, and sublimation. The ego uses such defence mechanisms whenever internal drives threaten to create anxiety, or whenever there is a danger of original or unacceptable impulses to protect itself. Thus, the largely conscious ego stands in between the Id and the superego, balancing human primary needs and their moral beliefs. A healthy ego provides the ability to adapt to reality and interact with the outside world in a way that accommodates both the id and the superego. The ego is not just the sense of self, it is more of a set of psychological functions such as reality-testing, defence, synthesis of information, memory, and so on (http://psychology.about.com).


The superego represents the values, customs or the traditions (the conscience) of the society and counteracts the id with moral and ethical implications of its demands or drives. The word superego consists of the Latin super meaning "above," or "over," and ego, the “I”. It actually means "above-ego," that is, the "higher power" of the mind, where the conscience and moral norms reside (http://psychology.about.com).In religion it is regarded as part of human’s consciousness where the knowledge of God dwells. The superego stands in opposition to the desires of the id that are often socially unacceptable. There are two reasons why an id impulse can be unacceptable:

  1. As a result of a need to postpone gratification until there is reality condition that makes it possible to legally or morally enjoy such postponed or delayed gratification;
  2. As a result of a prohibition imposed by other people (especially parents) and the social environment. The sum of these norms and prohibitions is the content of the superego (http://psychology.about.com).

There are two modes or sides of the superego. The two modes or sides are:

  1. The conscience;
  2. The ego ideal.

These two modes are said to function like plus and minus or positive and negative. Conscience is said to involve punishments and warnings while the ego ideal deals with rewards and positive reinforcements for a man’s action or inaction based on the societal value or expectation (http://psychology.about.com). The mode of the superego is based upon the internalisation of the customs, traditions, world view, norms and mores we all have absorbed as children or young people from our parents and the society and the surrounding environment. It represents the conscience which mode includes our sense of right and wrong, and maintaining taboos specific to the child's internalisation of the parental culture. The superego is so pervasive that anytime its requirements are not followed, the feelings of guilt and shame may arise in consciousness.

According to Freud, the superego arises from the struggle to overcome the oedipal conflict in man (http://psychology.about.com). This may lead to the feelings of guilt without any conscious mistake. However, the source of the superego's power is in the social pressures of the individual experiences in his or her consciousness.

While existential theory of consciousness uses terms like “I” to represent the influence of the transcendental on an individual, represented as the “me”, psychoanalytical theory of consciousness uses the “ego” and the “super ego” to represent this influence on an individual (the me). The individual, the “me” in existential theory of consciousness is very close to the id in psychoanalytical theory. However, in psychoanalytical theory of consciousness, the “id”, the “ego” and “super ego” are essentially what constitute the personality theory.

But in clear cases where the image and the actual character representative of the superego foregrounds the basis of the moral conflicts in a character like in the case of Kashimaawo, the character has to invert his/her understanding of conscience and ego idea through a process of existential adaptation by the power of his/her ego to renegotiate meaning, purpose and responsibility. It is at this moment that action moves to the realm of what I term dialectical text consciousness, where as Derrida affirms, “nothing is denied and nothing is affirmed” (108-111) and equally, meaning if any, is inconsistency or ever differed (Miller 285). Once meaning is seen as inconsistent, then it means, agreeing with Nietzschian theory, that we bring and project meaning into the nature of things based on our interest (qtd in Schacht 199-225). This is based on the individual’s ability of power of reflective intuition where signs are called up in chain of binary opposition, difference, privileging and elimination consequent on what the character perceives as representing the best option or line of action (McCulloch 40-41). This, perhaps, is one of the reasons Kashimaawo privileges killing his father as an action that is good, essential and required for his gaining peace and stability. Again, he has likely come to a point where he accepts Maami as his ego-idea against the pseudo image of his father, Otunba, as a superego.

I will now proceed to fully analyse the life of Kashimaawo in Maami, tracing how the circumstances of his growth predispose him to crime and how this could be seen as a pattern of crime development that can jeopardise personal, communal and national security.

Kasimaawo in the Environment of Crime

About ninety percent of the action in Maami is relayed as actions/events playing and replaying in the psyche of Kashimaawo, the main character in the film. It is through access to his mind/ consciousness that we are able to encounter the story of his life. We accessed Kashimaawo’s consciousness/psyche through series of flashbacks and flashbacks within flashbacks. There are about fifteen flashbacks and flashbacks within flashbacks in the film making the actions to run simultaneously and at the same time in layers. And, all the flashbacks are reflective of the crises in the psyche of Kashimaawo from his childhood – from the very point of the beginning of the story of his life as a child in the film.

We are introduced to these flashbacks as he is being driven from the Airport to his hotel room. Suddenly, from the discussion on what has, and has not changed in Nigeria, his consciousness/mind travels back to the house of Otunba where his brother has been used for money ritual. He has encountered the body of his brother in a dedicated money ritual room of his father, Otunba, about thirteen years before. Since then, he has become apprehensive of his father in a different light and picture. Before then, he has always desired to meet/see his father. But after the encounter, the picture of the father he desires to see and associate with, a protective, caring and loving father has altered. The father has become a monster and evil being that should not be allowed to live.

He, the father, a representative of the superego, a symbol of societal morality and conscience, has changed so much to a personification of persistent picture of evil awareness in Kashimaawo. The picture of his brother in a continuing mute ritual posture keeps haunting his consciousness, moving him, in a form of the drive of id (in aggression and destruction) to always desire to get rid of his evil father. He has not learnt any societal morality of fairness, justice and rule of law from his father. He remembers how his father’s gateman forcefully attempts to apprehend him to be used in replacement of his brother after the ritual fails. The timely equally determined intervention of his mother is what saved him.

He equally vividly remembers the negative side of his mother, Maami. As young boy of ten, he has had to disapprove of her scamming and swindling people in order to survive or, as she normally claims, feed him. Unfortunately, even though he loathes this aspect of the character of his mother, he is helpless and therefore can virtually do nothing to stop her. Definitely, this must have surely again foregrounds the inconsistency of the societal morality that teaches certain virtues, demands faithfulness to the virtues, but acts totally contrary to the virtues in the very presence of the one who is expected to be faithful to such virtues.

There is evidently no doubt that the morality and the ethics of the society as personified in the images of the superego around him have badly and negatively impact his ego. He still also vividly remembers the Officer who attempts to rape his mother in his office in exchange for allocation of a market space. He looks on through the window to see how this image of the conscience and the ego ideal of the society strive to forcefully have sex with his mother on a mere office table. He sees how his mother fights back to free herself from this “monster” with no human feelings. Again, we can safely assume the devastating effect of this action on his ego. Of course, we can equally deduce at this point that his personal morality seems to be higher than that of these sects of the conscience of the society. His drive moves to the desire to protect his mother and to the aggression to kill or get rid of anything that may bring shame to her.

Another equally of a serious damaging effect on his psyche is the scene of the attack of the three robbers who beat him and Maami, push them out the taxi cab and go away with all the money she had made. These robbers are also grown up men. With all these experiences in the hand of the supposed conscience of the society, the expected image of morality and virtue, his Ego enters into the phase of crisis and gradual erosion of compact personality. He has developed into a split personality without clear cut loyalty to the ethics or the virtues of the society. After all, the societal morality, virtues and ethics are not clearly formed in his consciousness.

Nearly all the representative of the superego he has encounter in the process of his maturing are involved in one form of vice and crime or the other. As a result of this reality of inconsistency in the lives of the conscience of the society, Kashimaawo has no clear cut role model of good and virtue. His role model remains Maami, the scammer and the swindler herself. These series of inconsistency and lack of a well defined societal morality and ethics in his consciousness must have been responsible for his incessant nightmares and hallucinations in the flashbacks or properly put, in his continuous regression into the sources of mental and psychological conflicts in his mind.

In one of such nightmares or subconscious regression, he finds himself in a class room and in the version of a repressed image of the mythic/legendary Termogene; he approaches his teacher with a talismanic ring and cloth, unfortunately for him, the woman teacher did not fall to the power of his talisman. The teacher transforms into a masquerade, catches him and demands for his father. Now, in real life, he has rejected the image of Termogene for Segun Odegbami, an equally legendary football star when Maami insinuates that he will be a Termogene for showing appreciation of her beauty. He equally has a desire to have a responsible father figure in his life. So, the object of what he fears in real life situation transmute into the symbolic objects of uncertainties and apprehension in his state of sub-consciousness to haunt and frighten him continuously.

Quite almost naturally, a pattern of this existential consciousness nightmares and psychological regression takes shape in his life and becomes a constant struggle. This eventually begins to affect his concentration and the ability to remain focused on his goals and aims without relapsing into a state of phantasm on the events of the past in his life. At this point, Kashimaawo seems to be on his way to becoming a maniac and an emotional wreck.                  

            The content of his nightmares again changes. He now sees himself missing crucial and critical goal at the mouth of the goal post. At this point, he seems to have associated the image of Otunba, his father, being alive to a sign of evil, failure and lack of responsibility to his mother, Maami and his brother, Korede. He believes he has to kill Otunba to have peace. He is therefore under a form of existential consciousness pressure to get rid of Otunba. Inadvertently, getting rid of Otunba becomes an aggressive desire that is tied to his pleasure and fulfilment. His id is fully active and at work here. In his id (the combination his drive for pleasure and death, but here, not in his own death, rather, in the death of father) Otunba, the sign of evil must be eliminated.

At this point, his Ego has to mediate between the desire, the pleasure, to terminate the life Otunba and the stance of the society, the superego, on the killing of another man. He has therefore by the force of his ego been deferring his pleasure to kill Otunba to the most appropriate time he would be able to have his desire without being caught by the superego. Now, this delay of his pleasure, this search for the appropriate time, is the cause of the tension and the crisis in his consciousness. If he would hold his head and be able to concentrate, Otunba must die. He finally resolves to get rid of Otunba after the nightmare where he misses scoring a goal bound ball at the mouth of the goalpost.

This is the rationalisation: Otunba’s being alive will spell doom for his future. It means the desire of his id will remain unfulfilled. It means his ego will be hurt and remain split, while the fake and the inconsistent superego continues to have its way. However, and very strongly, the picture of Korede in the ritual posture, of the death of Maami, of the wickedness of Otunba, of the inconsistency of the society, of the failure and lack of morality, ethics and justice in the society continue to haunt his mind. His consciousness is in crisis.

Unfortunately, the same society is demanding of him a service, a responsibility! And, in annoyance, he declares to the agent of the society, Dolapo, that he has not just come to Nigeria to represent Nigeria at the World Cup – for there are equally some other important, if not more important reason for coming to Nigeria. The important reason is to get rid of the source of his problem: to kill Otunba and fulfil his dreams. And, he did not accept to represent Nigeria at the World Cup until he has fulfilled his the drive of his id with his ego providing a very suitable situation for him to do so. At that point, he has little or no issue at all with the already split superego in the inconsistent society. His responsibility is to his drive as motivated by his passion for Maami and Korede.  


Conclusion: The Consciousness of Crime and the Challenges of National Security

Experientially, it is evident that from Kashimaawo’s childhood, the consciousness of crime has been unconsciously and subtly planted in his psyche. He has grown up in the environment and under glaring circumstances of the pervasion – of near celebration of societal vices and crimes. There is actually no time that he has experienced any form of sanction or punishment against offenders or perpetrators of crimes. In essence, he has really not at any point been able to internalise the meaning of sanctions and punishment for vices and crimes as a means of creating deterrence and maintaining justice.

His is a society that seems to reward vices and crime: Maami goes on and away with all her vices to survive, the robbers collect Maami’s money, beat her and Kashimaawo and escape in a taxi cab, the market Officer keeps collecting bribe and probably raping and sleeping with vulnerable women like Maami, while people like Otunba continue to enjoy their ill-gotten wealth without any form of justice.

And, as the future of every society, the children and the young members of the society are keenly looking at the elders of the society and the state. They are unconsciously and consciously learning/acquiring and internalising the inconsistency, the deceptions and the other general vices of the society, the superego. In Nigeria, they can also often see that the talk of the rule of law and justice against crime is mere rhetoric without proactive actions. Terrible criminals are known to have gotten “justice” in and under the country’s judicial system only to end in gaols in the West. Experiences like this cannot but create contradictions in the consciousness of young people and other members of the society.

There is a need for the authorities: the elders and the State, the conscience of every society, to ensure the promotion of good values, cultures and ethics and to show consistency in what they do and demand of the young people. Culture of impunity and degradation of human lives must stop. There must be clear a system of justice that sanctions and punishes all form of vices and crimes to serve as deterrent to any one with the consciousness of crime.

National security is better guarantee in an environment of justice, fairness and the supremacy of the rule of law where there is a clearly defined sanction against every societal vices and crimes. It is these links of justice, fairness, consistency and punishment of crimes that are missing in the maturing process of Kashimaawo. State authorities cannot continue in the game of hide and seek with the values of truthfulness, justice and fairness whilst hoping that there will be national security.   



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