John K. Kargbo, in his play, Let Me Die Alone, sums up the prevalence of betrayal in a typical African traditional society. Its setting in Senehun and Moyamba villages of the Mende Kingdom, the play brings to prominence the evils and disasters the desperation for power and the infidelity of one’s trusted persons can inflict on the society. There is a reflection of what evil excessive desire for power portends.
The duo of Musa and Lamboi, blinded by their inordinate crave for power (i.e the throne of the chief), betray two successive chiefs. They are also directly involved in the murders of both Gbanya and Jeneba and by extension, the suicidal death of Yoko.
The play opens with the lovemaking scene between Gbanya, the chief of Senehun and Yoko, his favourite among his thirty seven wives. A guard interrupts their romance with a message that the Colonial Governor is on his way to Senehun.
Gbanya is saddened by the intended visit of the Governor and preoccupied by the dreams he has had before now about his father calling him home. In Africa, when the predecessor of a king or chief calls him, what this means is that the incumbent will soon join his ancestors.
In the light of this, Gbanya has the premonition that something bad will happen to him soon. The knowledge that he sided John Caulker against his brother, George Caulker in an all white war further confirms his fears and unseats his heart.
At first, Yoko tries to dissuade him from engaging himself with such negative thoughts. Later when the latter is unyielding to her advice, she reminds him of his promise to bequeath the throne to her at his demise. Gbanya objects vehemently to such arrangement. He lays claim to the fact that Mende Land is in a state of chaos and disorder. It needs a man to right the wrongs.
We encounter Musa and Lamboi next. Those two are presumably members of Gbanya’s administration. Lamboi, who wants to become the chief, seeks for the cooperation of Musa in killing Gbanya. At first, Musa refuses to oblige to Lamboi’s evil agenda. He later accepts to help when Lamboi threatens to reveal his secret of human sacrifices.
The anticipated Colonial Governor, Dr Rowe, comes to Senehun and as expected, he outrightly humiliates Gbanya for supporting a white brother against the other. Lamboi and Musa capitalize on this and poison Gbanya after the Governor has left.
While in his death throes, Gbanya is quick to recognize he has been poisoned and the reason he is poisoned. He attempts to hand over power to Yoko before he dies. He dies while doing so.
Triumphantly, Lamboi proclaims himself the new chief. However, suspicious Yoko, who is convinced that Gbanya has been killed by the duo, objects to the pronouncement. She assumes the mantle of leadership instead.
In the following scenes, there is a rapid growth in Yoko’s powers with her servitude to the Governor and the expansion of her chiefdom. We witness a shift in her government’s seat from Senehun to Moyamba.
We also witness the infidelity of Jilo to Ndapi. Jilo is involved in extra marital affairs with Lansana. Ndapi, the chief warrior, is portrayed as a woman-beater, one who maltreats his wife. Jilo would later seek solace in her affair with Lansana. Their only daughter, Jeneba by name, a very sharp young girl, visits the palace frequently.
Yoko who has had enough powers already wishes she can switch places with one of her attendants. Being a Poro woman, Yoko can not conceive. She wishes she is a mother instead of a queen.
While this is on, Musa and Lamboi do not relent in their ploy to eliminate Yoko and take the kingdom for themselves. They marvel at how Yoko has successfully managed the affairs of the chiefdom and her dexterity in maintaining a good diplomatic relationship with the Governor. They decide to kill Jeneba and incite the people against her (Yoko).
Ndapi, on the other hand, catches an unsuspecting Jilo during one of her numerous escapades with Lansana. He drags her to the palace. Yoko placates Ndapi, promising to deal severely with Jilo. Yoko thereafter embarks on a stately visit to the Governor’s place.
Before her journey, Jeneba is kidnapped by Musa and Lamboi as a start to their nefarious plan. Yoko orders for a mount of a search team to unravel the disappearance of Jeneba.
While she is away, their plans (Musa and Lamboi’s) soon come into motion. They kill Jeneba and impress the people into believing that Yoko is the guilty evil doer here. They poison the mind of the people, the village’s Sande women, Jilo and most especially, the father of the child, Ndapi.
Upon her arrival, Yoko is called several unprintable names. She is called a “witch”, “murderer” etc. Yoko is baffled by the people’s sudden change in attitude towards her. She is more confused when Ndapi questions her legitimacy.
When she realises she had been accused of having buried Jeneba alive to sustain her in power and allow good favour from the Governor, she denies having a hand in Jeneba’s disappearance and pleads innocent.
Ndapi will not listen to any of these. Rather he attributes her heartlessness to her inability to procreate. Fortunately for the queen, the dead body of Jeneba is found mutilated; her heart and private part cut off.
Everyone realises that Yoko has been wrongly accused. Ndapi, in particular, tries to make amends for the humiliation he has made her go through. Yoko announces that she will unravel the matter to its very root at the Poro Bush.
After a thorough investigation, she discovers Lamboi and Musa are the causes of Jeneba’s death. Ndapi attempts to go after them but Yoko reminds him of the consequence of their actions:
Their noses will rot, cataracts will marry their eyeballs, leprosy will devour their fingers and elephantiasis will cling to their legs. That is the Gbeni’s revenge.Yoko, Let Me Die Alone.
The messenger is then introduced. He has come to dispatch the Governor’s message to Yoko. Despite his big vocabulary, it is discovered he belongs to the Poro society as well. The Governor instructs Yoko to relinquish her conquered territories. This is the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
Yoko realises she has been overwhelmed by depression, a disease of the mind. She poisons herself amidst pleas from everyone.
▪️ While blackmailing Musa, Lamboi accuses Musa of making charm with the parts of Yatta’s son and Mama Kadi’s daughter. The name of the charm, Lamboi claims Musa made, is Bofima.
▪️ Let Me Die Alone also explores the theme of human sacrifice and the occult beliefs prevalent in Africa. This theme is portrayed through the secret human sacrifices made by Musa, albeit secretly. Musa sacrifices Yatta’s son, Mama Kadi’s daughter and much later, Jeneba for prosperity and longevity.
▪️ The consequence of offending the god of Gbeni (of the Poro cult) is that “cataract will marry the eyeballs; leprosy will rot the fingers; and elephantiasis will cling to the legs” of the offender.
▪️ By choosing the throne of Mendeland, Yoko can no longer conceive. This obviously is the ultimate price for her quest for the throne and her admission into the Poro cult.