Many underground publications decrying his murder subsequently sprang up. The most remarkable effort in this regard is an anthology edited by E. Osondu titled For Ken, For Nigeria The anthology has become a major reminder of the tradition of underground publishing that thrived in the days of the military. In "Exit left, monster, victim in pursuit" Soyinka, in memory of Abacha, makes a list of those he killed, describing the category of people he was fond of eliminating:.
The foregoing will, no doubt, create the impression that the experience with the military created chaos, stasis and frustrations, all of which provoked angry responses and made fighters out of poets. This may suggest that the poets were engaged in an unending war with a people bent on terminating the Nigerian dream.
On the contrary, the entire experience provoked the invention of hope, a sensibility that Nigerian poets across generational boundaries share. The fact that the poets went beyond envisioning an end to the chaotic state of affairs to imagining a new dawn for their land indicates that they saw the vision of change as the only viable alternative to despairing. They therefore invest images of renewal, rebirth and fulfilment in a future that holds prospects of recovery and the fruition of their dreams for Nigeria.
While it is easy to recognize this in Niyi Osundare's Waiting Laughters and Remi Raji's Love Songs for My Wasteland , two collections that celebrate the imminence of renewal, not many people will immediately associate Fatoba's They said I abused the Government with this. The fact that these collections, like very many others, project this consciousness indicates that it is a significant feature of Nigerian poetry of this period. Osundare's "The possibilities of hope", delivered at his acceptance of the Noma Award for Waiting Laughters , predicates his vision of hope for Africa on what he calls "the vitality of our people, their resilience" Appropriate images - laughter, rain and harvest - which project such desirable experiences as healing, relief and prosperity, recur in poems with this orientation.
The promise of renewal that healing showers and laughter convey occurs intermittently in Waiting Laughters. In "Movement III", the poet-persona says:. The last four poems in Fatoba's collection, "Rain Rain again becomes the metaphor for renewal and recovery. In each case, the poet-persona invents a dream for the nation. The quest for rebirth comes as a prayer in "For My Country":. Let your tomorrow be The hope we dreamt about, Drown the mistakes of the past In sparkling tears of expectancy and Clear your vision with duty.
Let the steps of the past Which wandered lost in wonder Trace paths of reconstruction Let those hands which burnt edifices Build crucibles of hope And light the flames of glory. Fatoba The optimism comes to a climax in "Like weaverbirds, not crows". But while optimism in Osundare's poetry is driven by a measure of humanist passion, the dream of change in Ademola Dasylva's poetry in Song of Odamolugbe thrives on prophetic impulse in the Judeo-Christian sense.
This is a logical extension of the extensive use his work makes of idioms rooted in Judeo-Christian symbolism. Personages drawn from recent Nigerian history emerge as saints, martyrs or agents of divine judgment, while the military are "soldier-ants". The change that his work envisions makes a claim to divine endorsement and hints at a longing in the Nigerian popular imagination for a revolutionary break with the past.
The paradox that governs the vision is that it is apocalyptic:.
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Then I saw three cherubs: Augusta, Dora and Gani, emerge from among The people with a shout of inspired trumps Of celestial host, their fiery sword poised to Wreak vengeance on murderous fakers, and Godless slavers of Jah people I saw a webbed pendulum move with a speed of Lightening, swinging to the ecstasy of motion-slight; The infidels unaware of our maturing agenda! Dasylva In exploring the component of contemporary Nigerian poetry that the experience of military rule inspired, this essay has sought to demonstrate that writing against dictatorships can be dynamic.
The fact that various phases of military rule in Nigeria elicited different responses from Nigerian poets across "generational" boundaries will suggest that this form of writing issues from the instinct of a society for selfpreservation. The press and civil society groups, as dependable allies, created the atmosphere that facilitated the growth of writing against dictatorship. The most significant formal impact of the experience on Nigerian poetry consists in the radical sense in which the voice of the persona came to be identified with that of the poet.
Newspapers naturally provided a popular and accessible platform to reach a wider audience as the poets were not content with writing but were also eager to influence the public. Military dictators and visionless politicians emerge in Nigerian poetry of this period as two of a kind.
Even though power-drunk and self-serving generals are made to represent the Nigerian military in the tradition of poetry under review, the entire force emerges as a political formation and not as a patriotic force. This explains why the poets depict the men of the military as destroyers while celebrating the people - the dead and the living - that were their victims.
Nothing can be more damning than the deployment of animal images to counter the self-image of the military dictators as saviours and reformers. In sum, Nigerian poetry of the military era is not just about the military; it is as much about the nation and the people, the helpless witnesses of the oddities that characterized the era. It represents the people in their resilience and resolve to invent a new nation out of the rot and immortalizes those who dared to confront the dictators, those represented as the martyrs of the struggle. It thus constitutes the literary expression of resistance to the chaotic state of affairs that the Nigerian experience of military rule precipitated.
The author appreciates the invitation from Prof Stephanie Newell that inspired the writing of the paper in the first instance. Aiyejina did not take into consideration that Soyinka's Etike Revolution , which satirizes the activities of the politicians of the Second Republic from onwards in Pidgin English, was already circulating in the early s. The era, as a consequence, produced more martyrs and heroines of democracy than any other in Nigerian history. Dele Giwa, Kudirat Abiola and Alfred Rewane were murdered in very bizarre circumstances by those believed to be agents of the state, while the killing of Moshood Abiola and Ken Saro-Wiwa, in no less questionable circumstances, remain reminders of the damage that the military and their supporters did to stagnate Nigeria.
The later poetry of Christopher Okigbo possesses the passion and idiom that anticipate post-civil war Nigerian poetry. The irony is that the worst phase of military rule in Nigeria - the Abacha era - provoked a variety of poetic idioms given that it also brought such unprecedented experiences as the killing of opposition figures, the arrest and detention of writers and critics of the military junta. This came to a climax with the killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight Ogoni activists. This was also the period that the nation recorded a mass exit of scholar - writers.
In addition to instituting and administering many prizes, which are announced at its annual convention every November, the Association of Nigerian Authors has also been a major pressure group and it reacted at different times to developments on the Nigerian scene in the days of the military. Clark-Bekederemo visited General Banbangida to plead for Mamman Vasta, a soldier-poet who was alleged to have masterminded a coup.
Efforts at replicating this in some other university towns as Nsukka, Ilorin and Ago-Iwoye also inspired student-poets. The group was initially known as the Akwei Circle and later came to be called the Positive Review Group. The poet has since resuscitated this column, even though he now resides outside Nigeria. Ofeimun is quoted as confirming that he was the first to manage the Arts page of The Guardian. Osofisan also admitted his preference for the medium of the newspaper; see Charles Bodunde The association had to change its name at certain points to beat proscription orders of military administrations that saw the banning of the association as a way to get rid of the opposition and the agitation that it championed.
A few university teachers were also dismissed from their posts in violation of the terms of their appointment. The collection brings together poems inspired by his detention during the civil war by the Gowon regime. It is not included in this study as it was primarily a response to Soyinka's experience of detention. Simply expressed as Oba ki i pa onkorin the king does not kill the singer ,the principle is rooted in the idea that the poet as a custodian of truth should be accorded some immunity in discharging this duty.
This adage is relevant in appreciating the satirical energy in the works of such performers of Yoruba origin as Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Lanrewaju Adepoju and Ologundudu. Fatoba also writes poetry in Yoruba. Some of the poems published in Petals of Thought also exist in Yoruba. Fatoba's major collection in Yoruba is Eko While Pidgin Stew and Sufferhead is the first collection of poems with pidgin poems published in Nigeria, only a few of the poems in it are in Pidgin while all the poems in If to Say I be Soja are in Pidgin English.
Ironically, the poem was to play an important role during the campaign for the release of Ifowodo when agents of the Abacha junta detained him. Osondu details the risk involved in publishing an anthology of this nature at the time in his introduction to the anthology, and it is no surprise that most of those that contributed poems were unpublished young poets who were also not afraid of identifying with the project.
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Poet Maurice Manning: A Voice in the Wilderness – Garden & Gun
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Daring the beast: Contemporary Nigerian poetry. In Abdulrazak Gurnah ed. Essays on African Writing Vol. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Dasylva, Ademola. Song of Odamolugbe. Etteh, Mercy. Agent of change or stability? Nigerian press undermines democracy. Fatoba, Femi. Petals of Thought. London, New Beacon Books. They said I abused the Government.
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J The eighties and the return to oral cadences in Nigerian poetry. Matatu , Ofeimun, Odia. Postmodernism and the impossible death of the African author. The Poet Lied. Lagos: Longman. Oguibe, Olu. A Gathering Fear. Lagos: Kraft Books. Ohaeto, Ezenwa. Contemporary Nigerian Poetry and the Poetics of Orality. Bayreuth: Bayreuth African Studies Series. If to Say I be Soja. Enugu: Delta Publications Nig. Ojaide, Tanure.
Delta Blues and Homesongs. Ibadan: Kraft Books. When it no longer Matters where you Live. Calabar: University of Calabar Press. Ojo, Tokunbo. The Nigerian media and the process of democratization.
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Journalism , 8 5 : Okunoye, Oyeniyi. One thing about the living sometimes a piece of us Can stop dying for a moment But you the dead. The phrases are like driftwood scattered on the sand which nevertheless suggest the outline of a form; their dispersal on the page is the source of their power. Punctuation would suture the strewn bits together, like the prosthetic joints you find linking the real bones in a brontosaurus skeleton. Those final two lines work as contradictory imperatives, like the commands in the story of Mr. Fox: Be bold, but not too bold. The flowers and the friend exist in a permanent reciprocity established by this little lyric.
As with any art of imposed constraint, we look for the moments when the constraints are defied. You surmise, reading his memoirs, that poetry is for him a quite distinct animal, specialized, like an arrowhead carved from stone, from every use but its intrinsic one.
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As he has held poetry to its essence, he has deepened it. And his poems in old age attain a special kind of power only available to an artist who works the same furrows over and over. The eye you see in the mirror is lit up by the sight of you; the mind, revelling in the transaction, records it, but in the process involves itself inside the exchange:. The poem reminds us, as the image in the mirror reminds Merwin, of how much has gone on inside the mind and how little trace its activity leaves on the material world.