By Dan Ugwu
In history, the vocation of poetry has always imposed on poets variegated and cumbersome but inalienable responsibilities. Poets are pre-eminent repositories of the individual or communal voice and (re)memory. They are also the custodians of societal fund or mores, values and cherished ideals. As such, they constitute and represent the open sore of collective conscience dutifully and religiously rankling and applying the healing herb to the weeping sore in any society’s experiential trajectories through the kinesis of history.
Fundamentally too, poets, through the efficacy of the creative word, are veritable midwives of transition and revolution distilling and nourishing ideas and ideals that constitute the substratum for society’s ontological essence and existence.
Thus, whether they assume the high office of the traditional griot, marabout, prophet, town-crier or that of the (post)modern poet, the burdensome, urgency and immediacy of these protocols cannot be diminished. And the poet must diligently apply the self to this hallowed office with penetrating vatic insights and searing vision.
Unfortunately, Africa’s nay Nigeria’s prevalent predicament finds eloquent and unequivocal expression in political subterfuge and treachery by a decadent political elite, economic strangulation by a petite bourgeoisie in active collaboration with their counterparts in the metropolis and an unconscionable crippling social morass and moral atrophy.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their Communist Manifesto laboured much to establish this existing class struggle of the bourgeois and proletarians. Ancient and medieval court and peripatetic poets wove martial poetic lines and stored them in the granaries of history as eternal testaments to the human spirit and obsession for war.
In the present epoch, especially in Africa, the case is not different. “Drumbeats of War” is Gbanabom Hallowell’s poetic collection, which eminently belongs to this thriving, noble and ennobling African tradition in verse which frontally and viscerally engages postcolonial Africa’s history of violence and violence of history mediated by fratricidal and internecine wars.
The poet’s penetrating searchlight in the present collection is beamed powerfully on his native Sierra Leone which was embroiled in a decade-long civil debacle until the ECOWAS monitoring group, ECOMOG led by Nigeria tamed the tall raging flames and willful self-annihilation. While the war lasted, democratic institutions were convulsed, economic hub of activities disrupted and socio-cultural life anesthetized.
Sierra Leone became quarantined as an international pariah earning the opprobrium of the world as a failed state in a state of developmental arrest, perpetual inertia and endless becoming. Hallowell’s “Drumbeats of War” represents a committed and patriotic citizen’s confrontation with the realities of war with its negative and negating temperament, manifest in the mindless destruction of innocent lives and property and the ruination of a nation’s soul and integrity.
Hallowell’s poetic afflatus, imagination and sensibility have drawn heavily from the fountainhead of the purgatorial experiential gamut of the war. Ushie’s “Eclipse in Rwanda” is a vociferous poetic statement employing astronomical metaphors in strident condemnation of the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
Back home to Nigeria, the warning brims often. Christopher Okigbo’s “Path of Thunder” prophetically prognosticated the Nigerian civil imbroglio of 1967 – 70. Wole Soyinka’s “A Shuttle in the Crypt” and J. P. Clark – “Bekederemo’s Casualties” are poetic renditions whose thematic matrices negotiate war.
Above all these writings, Chinua Achebe, a novelist and essayist, was a man of ideas who died with the burden of a seer, a change agent whose literary pouch brims with warnings that can chart a new course for national rebirth. So distraught was Achebe with the Nigerian system and those who run it that he chose not to connive with the ogres raping his motherland.
Achebe used his works to point out the grey areas needing attention in our politics. His writings served as adequate revolution for him to articulate his people’s culture and help the African society regain its belief in itself and put away the complexes of the years of denigration and self-denigration.
This was part of his contribution to the task of giving back to Africa the pride and self-respect it lost during the years of colonialism and to seek a way to repair the disaster brought upon the African psyche in the period of subjugation to alien races.
From his Magnus Opus, THINGS FALL APART to his grand memoir “THERE WAS A COUNTRY”; Achebe expressed an eloquent espousal to this poetic tradition that navigates the theme of war through his husbandry of language.
The discourse on Nigerian revolution has been over-emphasized. Nigeria is perching precariously on the brink of collapse, brought about by discontent with the activities of the ruling class, famously known as politicians; the bourgeoisie that has wasted this nation’s patrimony through scandalous squandamania and unchecked loot.
The poetic messages and drumbeats of revolution are now taking flesh. The assault on Senator Ike Ekweremadu in Germany has lots of messages. It is not necessarily about the activities of the outlawed IPOB, but much about the discontent of the masses. The outrage and frustration on the faces of those Igbo belligerents in Germany have much to say about the feeling of disenchantment and betrayal on the hearts of most Nigerians.
Ekweremadu is not the first and will not probably be the last to receive the huge assault that almost got him naked. Recall that some years back Former Governor Rochas Okorocha was nearly attacked in similar manner by angry Igbo men while he was invited to deliver a lecture at Chatham house London.
If not for security apparatus, he would have probably been lynched. But did that stop him from further plunder when he arrived Owerri? No! He even looted more as over 32 allegations of million loot are hanging over his throat.
Already, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB); Nnamdi Kanu has released the names of Nigerians who would be attacked on foreign lands as soon as they arrive. In his Twitter handle, Kanu said he had ordered its members in 100 countries across the world to attack all Igbo governors if they are seen in any of the countries.
The target will soon spread to all Senators, Federal and State lawmakers and Ministers, and from the Diaspora, the onslaught will arrive Nigeria where angry mob reeling with hunger and hopelessness will join the charade and trace the oppressors even to their comfort zones.
As it is customary of Nigerian political life, highly placed politicians have issued statements condemning the pugnacious attempt on Ekweremadu. His party the PDP has condemned it; Bukola Saraki his former boss has condemned it; Dino Melaye has condemned it; Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) has also condemned it, and even told Nigerians that some of the perpetrators have been arrested by the German police.
Nigerian politicians and their cohorts would hardly alienate themselves from self delusion. It is not just condemning the violent act, but understanding the temerity and audacity of the attack. As a matter of urgency, government, particularly, the National Assembly has to take up comprehensive steps to address issues leading to acts of resentment and agitations by Nigerians within and outside the country, rather than playing ostrich.
Sadly, the culture of impunity occasioned mainly by power aphrodisiac and unprecedented squandamania has opened the floodgates for plundering government’s turn over. There is wide spread acrimony arising from visible inequalities and social disorder, intolerance, mistrust, bigotry, unhealthy propaganda, deepening hatred and hate speech, rapid deterioration of relationship between the peoples of the different political parties/orientations and other myopic sentiments necessitated by religious Fiats.
There is a wide margin between the powerfully endowed politicians with sophisticated wealth and the educated and non educated poor of the society. All these are already forming a catalyst for a revolution; a revolution which will take a measure where the disadvantaged poor home and abroad will not only demand for their share of bread but commandeer it. It will be sudden and involuntary.
There will be no leader of the rebellion against the affluent politicians dressed on neatly ironed senator wears and agbada, rather hunger and survival instinct will be the propelling force. And by then, the so-called affluent politicians in the society will either be compelled to examine the plight of the poor or flee from their wrath. This is not time for using the Igbo front to advance hate politics by feeding them with the salad of bitterness against the opposition.