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Nigeria and pains of a prophetic poet

“To fight against untruth and falsehood,/to fight against myths or to fight against an ideology which is hostile to mankind,/ to fight for our memory;/for our memory of what things were like – /that is the task of the artist. A people who no longer remembers has lost its history and its soul.” ––Alekzander Solzhentsyn’

One interesting and yet unique aspect of creative writing is that uncanny ability of the writer to predict and warn against the dire consequences of sundry crimes, including dismally poor governance, years before they unfold and escalate. A writer is therefore, a veritable vessel and indeed vehicle in the hands of the Creator to convey profound and salient messages to His people..

Incidentally, a recent critical look at my collection of 90 poems titled: ’Petals and Thorns, Truth and Blood’ written over 18 years from 1976, as a fresh graduate of the University of Ibadan, up till August 1999, at the return of democratic governance in Nigeria took my avid attention. Good enough, some of them were published under my weekly column, ’Poem-of-the-Week’ mostly on Saturdays, precisely by the ‘Nigerian Herald’ newspaper, in Ilorin, Kwara state back then. Another source of pain is that the critical alarm raised by yours truly have not only worsened over the decades but have remained unresolved till this moment.

There lies the pain! For instance, in my poem titled: ‘The Witness’, in which I stated that while: ‘I am the witness to the civil servants severed from the egg’s sweetest yolk/and the hungry voters/waiting to sell their sanity and souls to the highest bidder –for five naira pittance/and trade their heroes for their foes”… ‘I am the witness also to the selfish shepherds fattened by the sweat of the flock,/ clinging to power’s palaces like lice on hides/ daring the voices of vision above our mad market din.’ That was written and published back in 1989.

But is the socio-economic and political situation any better as at this day? Not at all. In fact, we are worse off as at 2023 What with those who have led us into the economic misery of recurring insecurity, huge debt profile, high inflation rate of virtually all consumables and national disunity wanting to hold on to power like lice on hides? But we cannot go on like this. Let us consider another poem of mine titled: ‘Month-End Blues’ in which I wrote that: ‘For us Pay Day is the saddest of all,/ a harvest of horrors when dreams die fast/ as creditors arrive one by one/.

The landlord’s frown is like a lightning flash/ before hunger’s thunderstorm quakes the humbled heart. Before the wives return with tales of market woes/ and three square meals are reduced to one or two. ‘The school kids are back with backs bleeding debts/. Even NEPA man’s presence screw drives the severed siesta/ as you ask yourself, again and again/: ‘How much will I owe before the next pay day?’ That was written in 1980. Sadly today, some elected political policy makers, earning N30 million or more per month question the rationale behind the payment of N30,000 minimum wage to the hungry and harried worker battling daily with the inflation monster. What manner of democracy do we practice here in Nigeria? ‘When shall we smile again was my poem written in 1993 with deep concern about the high cost of living. It stated that ‘when shall we smile again with the exponential flight/of the cost of living upswing like famished falcon,/clawing our chicken-hearted purse,/riding high on the wave-crests/ the whirlwind or Greed,/deaf to the cackled cry of the ruffled mother-hen and the tantrums of the owner,/ as the proud predators climb higher and higher, /far beyond the sight of we common mortals. When shall we smile again?’ Yet, one did not know back then that it was only a child’s play.

With inflation rate currently hovering above 21per cent in 2023 we can understand how terribly bad the economic situation really is. And that reminds me of my response to the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) under the famed IBB days. ‘SAP CARES’ was the title of my related poem: ‘Who cares if you are jobless and homeless, helpless and hopeless?/SAP cares – Struggle and Persevere./Who cares if the Naira tumbles from grace to disgrace and is trampled upon daily by the daring dollar?/SAP cares, Suffer and Pray. ‘Who cares if there is brain-drain and looters become lords/and sinners become saints and the Nigeria of our collective dream is sapped daily by the greed of a chosen few/. Who cares?/ Who cares? Who cares?/ SAP cares, like it is not, or Sink and Perish. That was in 1988. Going further, I wrote another one with the title: Requiem for the Naira. It goes like this: ‘Once upon a time/ our naira danced with the Dollar and yawned at the Yen./ She laughed at the Lira and frowned at the Franc/. She saddled the Cedi and marched with the Mark./Once upon a time before our economic eggheads bruised and battered her down to her begging knees.

When will she rise again? Our Naira to walk the streets with pride, When? When? When?/ That came way back in 1988. The answer is most unfortunately, still hanging in the wind. The point being made here is for our opinion molders, policy makers and political leaders to make out the time to read and take the writings of their authors most seriously.

They should listen to the voices of reason. The best way forward therefore, is for Nigerians who truly care about the affairs of the country to connect back to the people they claim to lead. To begin with, read through the Introduction to my collection of poems, ‘Petals and Thorns, Truth and Blood’ © 1994. My dear reader, come, let us reason together. Let us brainstorm on the plights of the common man: the beggar in the street, the orphan in the orphanage, the homeless under the flyover bridge, the grey-haired peasant farmer still scrounging the hardred soil to harvest a hope, the childless woman whose neck was crushed yesterday by the firewood fetched for tomorrow’s market place, the poorly paid civil servant who is handed peanuts, devoured daily by the inflation monster. Let us think together about those hunted by the pangs of penury; from whom much is taxed and taken but to whom little or nothing is ever returned. He is the common man-the flotsam and the jetsam of our society.

The souls of our earth whose wishes have withered in the heat of graft, whose dreams have been aborted by the hunting hands of Greed. Yes, you and I are scions of this wretched breed. We, the so called elites, with our so called Western education must do away with Greed – the master magician changing with the chameleonic candour, from agbada to khaki and back again. Yes, Greed is still doing the dance of the demons that makes the angels to cry and the hearts of our patriots to bleed!

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