By CHRIS OMOTOSHO- REVIEW
I have always descried poem as an expression of feelings from imaginative minds. Thus, a poet will do well when he/she relies on the immediate environment for inspiration for the conveyance of his/her feelings in the vehicle of poetry. This may explain why the renowned Poet, Niyi Osundare, submitted that African Literature, irrespective of its form, should be “endogenous”. A read of The Soyinka in Me is a reflection of this. The poems in the collection are a chronicle of experiences within and around the Poet such that span for years.
Of much importance and that which would readily raise “dust” and create a sort of suspense is the title of the collection –The Soyinka in Me. The “on the surface” understanding of this is that Soyinka must have been a source of inspiration or a Mentor to Dada Olanipkeun. A flip through the work confirms this. The first and the last poems in the collection, “Kongi, Eniogun” at 82 and “Kongi in you”, respectively are a tribute to and eulogy of the African WS, Wole Soyinka. Of special interest here is “Kongi in You”.
Reading through the poems in this collection, anyone familiar with the works of Soyinka would readily agree that Dada Olanipekun, the Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, has indeed been stung by Wole Soyinka. The striking point of similarity is the theme of poems that are Africanized and or Nigerianized as one would find in almost all the works of Soyinka. Soyinka is a writer who is concerned about his immediate society. His works are a comment on the happenings around him.
From Dance of the Forest, to the to The Road, to Kongi’s Harvest, to Death and the King’s Horsemen to Lion and the Jewel, to The Man Died, Ake, Isara, The Interpreters, Idanre, King Baabu, Alapata Apata, InterInventions, amongst others one would see a treatment of socio-political issues that have direct bearing on the African cum Nigerian society. What then should one expect from someone who has been “stung” by Soyinka than to respond to the societal issues in his poems; so as not to make himself irrelevant like that man in an African proverb that left his house burning in pursuance of a fleeing rat from the inferno? Such a man can be likened according to Achebe, to any writer that fails to respond to issues around him through his works.
Dada Olanipekun did not fall into the category of such a writer. He has succeeded, in the 40 page book that treats 27 different poems, to address and respond to the socio-political issues in his immediate society and Africa, celebrates nature and eulogizes both the dead and living heroes. The tone of lamentation and helplessness in “Saratu” shows the pitiable state of mind of the parents of Chibok girls whose children are yet to be seen, two years after their abduction, simply because the Nigerian state, unfortunately, failed to protect and defend the vulnerable. Poems like “Lagos”, “Nigeria”, “The Last One Naira”, “Seasons of Siege” and “Abuja” treat the themes of hopelessness, suffering, deprivation, marginalization and neglect, as we have in Nigeria.
Soyinka is not a pronounce Feminist but his love and soft spot for women and celebration of womanhood in his works cannot go unnoticed. One of the contributory factors that led to the tragic end of Elesin Oba in Death and the King’s Horseman was the time Elesin Oba spent with the young maiden in his attempt to leave a “seed” behind after his demise. Thus sleeping with the young woman would afford him the opportunity of emptying himself to her. One wish he didn’t do, maybe he would have taken the glory that was bestowed on his son Olumide. Sidi was celebrated in Lion and the Jewel and Iyalode square up with Elesin Oba in Death… and almost became the heroine in the play. These, amongst others, are the respect Soyinka gave to the womenfolk. It is not a surprise therefore for Dada Olanipekun to have taken this from Soyinka. Thus, women and their beauty, virtue and chastity are celebrated in poems like “The Love on Red”, “Momudatu” and “Iyawo”
Is Dada Olanipekun a Romantist? Difficult question to answer! My understanding of the theory of Romanticism, as celebration of nature, made some crop of poems in this collection to qualify them as Romantic Poems like “God is weeping”, “Confession”, “I am not black I am Chocolate”, “I am Water”, “It rained” and “Here Goes the Day”. Those poems celebrate nature in its beauty. There is tone of lamentation and a quest for the reversal of unnecessary bloodshed and waste of lives in the poems “Uganda” and “A friend”. The ancient town of Abeokuta is celebrated in Ode simply titled, “Abeokuta I” & “Abeokuta II”.
Dada Olanipekun has expressed himself to us, to the world, to the generations yet unborn through this 40 page collection of poems that address every facet of life with inspirations from his immediate environment.