By Toyin Shittu

THE BACKGROUND

The collection contains five volumes of forty one (41) poems. Each volume has varying number of poems, with volume 3 having eighteen poems and volume 2 with the least (4). The volumes bear different titles based on their thematic preoccupations. Volume 1 is entitled ‘Homage’, volume 2 “My wages cannot take me home”, volume 3 “The Fate of the Withering Tongue volume 4 “Bleeding Tongue” and the last volume “Rhythm from the sacred Tongue”. Volume 3 perhaps has the highest number of poems because it bears the title of the collection.

Volume 1

Ilorin

The poem outlines the different sides of Ilorin – the good, the bad and shows how the city triumph over the threatening evils.

The Pot of Porridge

The poem condemns unpatriotic acts, hypocrisy for the commonwealth.

Wailing Echoes of Distant Wind

This poem x-rays the negative transformation of the city and the people as a result of infiltration of hoodlums and miscreants in the metropolis.

Awon Jagidijagon

The poet uses poetic licence in the title of this poem. It is a direct description of the hoodlums who have infiltrated the city with their numerous atrocities. He further outlines their atrocities which range from killing, maiming and causing mayhem. The effect of the poet’s use of onomatopoeia is not lost on the readers.

Prodigals, Come Home

This poem is an appeal to well meaning, great sons of the city to rescue it from the calamity induced by the miscreants. In this poem, the poet’s recourse to Yoruba proverbial use of broom gives imagery and emphasises the beauty of togetherness. The poem ends on a note of hope through drawing reference from historical allusion.

My wages cannot take me Home

The title is a cliché, it is not poetic enough. The poem emphasises the inadequacy of salary in the country as a result of high level of inflation. The poet drives home his postulation through references to areas in his ancestry (Oke –Oyi to Malaete, Fufu to Eyenkorin) which are long distant places he has to traverse in the course of his duty. The poet uses hyperbolic expression which underscores his poor salary.

As it comes, debts incessantly ran after

                                               Like houseflies on rotten mangoes.

Reference to salary (it) paints a picture of debts overpowering salary but the phrase “run after” is vague because it does not answer what is being run after.

The poet traversing through hills and boulevards does not give the required imagery because they are distinctive locations. It is not clear what imagery the poet intends to convey through walking (traversing) behind mountains. Though the poet is able to reflect his restlessness in the course of making ends meet but wrong preposition rubs off the poetic essence of the lines. The same  thematic focus is expressed in “The Fate of the Ant”.

A Harvest of Penury

The poem points out the laborious existence people go through in their work places without commensurate pay. This is juxtaposed with the opulence of the elite, which is a sort of irony. However the poet’s use of cliché in “This take – home cannot take me home” rubs the poem of its poetic essence. The last stanza is however not related to the antecedent. The line is more of a cliché. The intent of the poet is not clear with the last line, “No hiding place for the gold fish”. The readers may desire to ask the questions: Who are “the gold fish”? ‘the rich’? ‘the poor’? ‘the majority”? ‘the minority”?

“Dead Rats Don’t Squeak”

The poet in this poem expresses disdain for low pay. He equally reveals the lopsidedness in the distribution of resources in the country, which does not favour the masses. The poet underscores his readiness to protest the abnormality and  hopes his protest will redress the situation as shown in the following lines:

For my grievance will take me home

If my wages refused to take me home

However, the imagery conveyed with the grievance taking him home gives ‘home’ a different connotation, which implies victory.

Volume 3: The Fate from the Tongue is Enough

A word from the Tongue is Enough 

 The poet in this poem advocates the control of our utterances in order not to cause discord in the society. He outlines the dangers that unguarded utterances has caused in our society. He warns that we may reap from the unguarded utterances we utter. Through poetic licence, he uses Yoruba saying like, “Gbafun Muri ni’le, gba fun Gbada l’oko” to emphasise the essence of reciprocity as effect of the ‘tongue’. However, the connotative use of the expression in Yoruba language indicates that good action begets commensurate reward. It may not be appropriate as used by the poet. The use of the expression as poetic language stresses the use of the poetic freedom but using a sentence cannot be appropriate. Even the expression is not written as it is pronounced in Yoruba, the appropriate one could have been, “Gbafun Muri n’ile, ni gbafun Gbada l’oko”. The Yoruba word ‘ni’ which is a verb is missing.

 Bon voyage 

The poet talks about the state of insecurity in the country (banditry in the north and kidnapping in the west). The language is poetic and rich in imageries but the poet is guilty of the use of cliché: “He who pays the piper, dictates the tune”

The Reapers Reap Again and Reapers of Anarchy

 The poems equally talk about insecurity in the country 

The Monsters You Made 1

        The poem satirises the low level (quality) of leaders in the country. It laments that at the moment leaders do not strive/struggle for the coveted office

The ones before us,

                 were made on a plate of gold

                        and as a result they exhibit greed.

The poet laments that the nationalists who struggled for the independence in the 1960s died in vain as revealed in, “The great sixties kicked the bucket in vain”. The exit of the great statesmen has left their country in the care of visionless leaders. Through powerful imagery, he compares the country’s situation to: “chicks whisked away by the vulture”. However, ‘hawk’ would have been appropriate in this context.

The monsters You Made II

                This poem is a reiteration of the satire of the political class whose appearance and mien are  deceptive,  “A mere vainglorious beast of personal infallibility”. This line, however, contains repetition, as the word ‘mere’ and ‘vainglorious’ connote emptiness. According to the poet, the incompetence of the political class has made the citizenry to experience insecurity on the highways, poor educational facilities. He concludes the lamentation with a line rich in Antithesis and metonymy: “We are blessed with Cursed Crowns: Clowns”.

             He further insinuates that politicians are clowns because of their conduct. The rhetorical questions at the end reveal the hopelessness of the poet. He does not belief that the political transition in the country can yield fruitful result as the country will be continually ruled by monsters.

Painful Laughter

          The poem is an address to a person presumably in position of authority. It is an indirect reference to a certain leader. The pronoun ‘You’ and ‘Us’ give this insinuation. The poem contains irony and agricultural imageries.

Hear the caged Bird sing

 The poem dwells on hope, which are seemingly unrealisable. Though the poet uses first person pronoun ‘I’ but towards the end of the poem, it becomes clear that ‘he’ symbolises the generality of the masses. The poet insinuates that the peoples’ hopes are unrealisable because they attempt to retract natural order of things.

Abiku

The poet continues his reiteration of the hopelessness of the people in an attempt to reverse natural order of things.

The gods are not to blame

 The poet in this poem emphasises why the people’s problem is as a result of their own undoing.

Waiting to Break Fast

In this poem, the poet expresses the view that the people are tired of hoping. They (the people) should rather be given what is due to them on time. The poet further satirises the ruling class for being deceptive.

Like umbrella, like Broom 

The title is a metonymy. It apparently refers to the two leading political parties in Nigeria. In the poem, the parties are seen as under achievers, their promises of better time have come to naught. The poet, as the voice of the people lambasts them and promises to wait for the failed representative of the people (in the APC and PDP) to showcase their failure to them.

The Pot of Porridge

The poem is a lament of sold mandate and a satire of merchandise of votes during elections. The poet lampoons the people of how such conduct deprive the people of social amenities and rubbishes their value system.

The Son of the Soil

            The title of this poem is a reiteration of the deceptive slogan ‘Son of the soil’ which in the political dispensable is an allusion to tribal coloration. Ironically, money politics change the slogan as a politician from a different ethnic background bought the people’s conscience and, at the end of his tenure, his performance further subjects the people to penury.

        However, the position of the poet is not clear in this poem. Does he support ethnic loyalty? Does he see it as an answer to our myriad of problems? One expects the poet to condemn the twin evils of money politics and ethic colouration in our body politics but the poem seems to be supporting the two evils.

Cracked Tongue, Cracked soul (A protect Song)

        The speaking voice outlines the numerous problem/hardships the people are going through. These problems include inflation, police brutality, low value of the naira, insecurity etc. The personae attributes the problems to few politicians feeding on the polity.

Master of ASDF! LKJ

The poem ridicules joblessness in the country. With different and multitude of University degrees, hope of securing jobs dwindles. The last stanza sums up the hardship facing jobless graduates on a humorous note:

                                    Alas!

Sixteen years of Boko only to become haram.

 However, the line has ambiguity of meaning as it can be interpreted to mean 16 years of devotion to learning is unable to prevent one from joblessness

book –learning

      Haram- joblessness

The cliche ‘Boko haram’ is borrowed from the designation of the insurgent group in the country.

The poem is also open to another interpretation as joblessness may be seen as ‘Haram’ (an Arabic word with means forbidden).

Zahaba nas walakiya naa nas

This title does not convey instant meaning but its onomatopoeic nature connotes portrayal of a troubled state. The poem mocks hypocrisy in the people’s religious disposition.

 Volume 3 is rounded off with “What is in this block shit hole?” The poem is a continuation of hopelessness that has ravaged the polity. What is however not clear is the intention of the poet in getting the poem translated to Dutch language.

Vol. 4 – Bleeding Tongues

For Eternal Richdom

The poet laments ritual killing of a woman. Her breasts and tummy rippled off, apparently for money ritual. The personae condemns the barbaric act but his intention is unclear in the last stanza.

A woman who is in love with deaf

          should not be ashamed to marry Alapata.

Is the personae blaming the victim of ritual? This concluding stanza completely deviates from the thematic focus of the poem.

Under the Ogede Tree 

            With poetic licence, the title describes a love activity which takes place under the banana (Ogede) tree. It relieves the vaingloriousness of such act and with historical/biblical allusion the poet fears catastrophic end of perpetrators of such heinous social malady of engaging in sex in open spaces.

The Silence from within

A dramatic narrative poem which reflects prevalence of incest in the society. The victim being alluded to in the poem, is a virgin who was made to keep mute while her body was ravaged by a close relative. The poem reveals and condemns the numerous domestic sexual assaults in our society which are usually shrouded in secrecy.

Valley of her innocence 

The poem focuses on rape and recounts the anger of the victims. It concludes with the victims nursing the effects of the rape till eternity.

The Withering Lotus

This poem focuses on piling hopes on greener pastures beyond the shores of Nigeria. With powerful imagery, the poet likens greener pastures to photosynthesis. The two stanza poem is in quatrain.

The good old days

The poet in this poem craves for the companionship of the friend who he sought to love around him like the good old days. As people relishes to have the good old days around them so does the personae want his friend around him.

The Second Coming

The poet uses titles of literary works to lament the poor state of affairs in Nigeria. The message is that the country so much blessed with  resources cannot guarantee good life for her citizens.

Adieu to the withered Tongue 

       The poem outlines of number of crises that have plagued this nation. The crises have taken toll on our nationhood and rendered the people prostrate.

The Eagles wings are crippled

          The poet laments the menace of activities of castle rustlers, farmers/headers crises and condemns the leaders as they remain unconcerned with the attendant crises. The use of the metonymy ‘the crown’ in

As the crown sits comfortably on the pawns

is noticed.

          The poetic licence WASOBIA (a Cliche which refers to the major ethnic groups in Nigeria, the Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo) reveals that Nigerians are not happy with the state of affairs. 

Conclusion 

        The collection boasts of array of poems that comments on raging public discourse. The thematic focus of the poems confirms that the poet is a concerned public analyst who desires the best for his country. The poems in this collection enable the readers to chronicle a number of social ills affecting their nation and with this intervention of the budding poet, Al-Amin El-Nasir (Nasthepoet), the people are sensitised and the poet fulfils his social obligation of intervening in public discourse with the aim of effecting orderliness in our polity.

         The poet however needs to take note of his use of words and expressions which are capable of rubbing the poems off the intended meaning. The poet also needs to exhibit adequate use of poetic devices in order not to muddle up the imageries.

The reviewer, Dr. Toyin Shittu, is a lecturer at Al-Hikmah University, Ilorin.

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