By Japhet Alakam
One of the qualities of good writing is that it evokes emotions, connects things and tells a story that the reader can relate to.
These are some of the traits that Sam Omatseye, newspaper columnist, poet and essayist possesses that qualify him as one. And this, the renowned writer and author of My name is Okoro, demonstrated in his latest book, Tribe and Prejudice, a collection of poems.
In the 63-page book published by Origami, containing 30 poems, the poet in his characteristic manner of handling issues takes a passionate, honest, descriptive, lyrical and reflective look on diverse issues in Nigeria.
The poet opens with the poem, Tribe and Prejudice, which incidentally is the title of the book. In it, Omatseye looks at the city of Lagos, the melting pot of old, where people from different tribes come and mix up and what has become of it now, highlighting a number of ills, including nepotism and tribalism that have become permanent afflictions across the land. The poet also recalls the effects of the love lost in relationships as seen in events that transpired before the 2015 governorship election in Lagos, and how the Oba allegedly threatened non-Yoruba that fail to vote for his anointed candidate, should see the lagoon as their next home.
The poet, also took the readers down memory lane, where he listed some other areas in Nigeria where tribalism and its attendant prejudice showed its ugly head. They include Delta, where the supremacy battle between the Ijaw, Urhobo, and Itsekiri is still raging; the Ife and Modakeke case in Osun that raged for years until peace returned. The actions of the Niger-Delta militants and that of the Boko Haram insurgents are also issues the poet took a second look at.
Other poems include, Strangers Invocation; Asaba Massacre, Girl Bomber; Corruption; Almajiri, Tyranny; Obama in Kenya; Orlando; The Sham I am; For Mohammed Ali; The Immigrant; Evil Pot; Confessions of Executive Rogue; The Statue; The Vultures and others.
In Strangers Invocation, which is dedicated to the late Suzanne Wenger, Omatseye describes his visit to the Osun River with awe and reverence.
In Asaba Massacre,1967, the poet took the reader to the horrendous event or the unreported genocide, the murder of about 1,000 boys and men of Asaba at the wake of the Civil War by soldiers of the Nigerian Army. Was it how it was supposed to be? he asked. “They should have told us/It was not a welcome party/But a farewell/We would have come prepared,” he laments.
Apart from historical events, the poet also had time for some current issues like the Almajiri phenomenon, the Awo statue at Alausa, Lagos and corruption and its effect on the country and others, were given adequate attention in the collection.
Is the poet a Christian or not, this cannot be answered as the poet had words for people that believe in witchcraft and how they operate in Evil Pot, and at the same time, affirming the supremacy of God in another poem, Kaleidoscope.
It was not all about woes and woes, some glorious moments such as the victory in the Under 17 World Cup Final in 2015 was also celebrated in the poem, A Mexican Tear.
In his comments about the collection, Executive Editor of TheNews/PM News, Kunle Ajibade describes it as “passionate, honest, descriptive, lyrical and reflective.”