Tuesday, 26 July 2011


By Ibrahim Malumfashi

A Poem published in 1992

If you care to look round the habitation
Your eyes open, looking with ease not trepidation
You will find my abode, and that of my neighbour.
I live up there, if you can not locate it with ease
Where only millet grow with haste to sustain the
Peasantry and those in power and business
I live up there, where the environment
Is wicked, harsh, tormenting and degrading
The air so dusty, the sun scorching mercilessly
It rises early, and set down late than later                     10
I live in that country, the nation
Cursed and deluded by infants
They call “her”
The most populous black nation
But in her, is nothing but darkness
Accursed by its peasants
And discarded by the leaders

Move slowly, just round the corner
You notice a slum, where paupers hang around            20
You see the cycles parked perpendicularly
It is not a sign of affluence
But of servitude, modern slavery
After the corner, you notice the mansions
Architects dream buildings
Colourful and lined up, like parade at ease
I live in that region, but not in affluence
Because as you move around, you notice
Where I am abode
Where Mother Nature refuses to bless                           30
The serenity is absurd, like Siberia
Chaotic, as you have all that matters     
Affluence and poverty
The paradox of living in an angered country
House break-in, stealing, hemp smoking
And prostituting
Gambling, heavy drinking and thuggery
All night political meetings
Birth and death, amidst                                                             40  
The harsh environment
Merry making, hatred and agony
But then peace reigns sometimes
At night or day time
When the house-holds are out, making ends meet
Or in the early morning
When all seems as dead
That is my time of stock taking
Of imagination and good dreams
Of our daily living                                                                    50
In this kind of morning in my neighbourhood
I found abode for reminiscence
Lost in thought
And the mirror image of my society
I see in the mirror, reality
The wealthy and the paupers
The tall, big and barroic architecture
The slums and the ghettos of riverine Calais

One early morning in my neighbour hood
Far way from the buildings                                                      60
By the herds of cattle looking for fodder
I heard the reading
From the sociology student son of my neighbour
The voice trailing and voicing discontent
From the mind of Lerroine Berret (jnr)
“A nation is an amalgam”
He said
“Of critical decisions
Made at a crucial fork in the road”
“A nation is a choice                                                               70
It chooses itself at fateful forks
In the roads
By turning right or left
By giving up sometime
Or talking something”
He continues
“And in the giving up and the taking
In the deciding and not deciding
The nation becomes”
Which nation?                                                               80
‘And even afterward
The people and the nation defined by the fork
And the decision that was made there
As well as the decision that was not made
Engraves itself into things, institutions,
Muscles, tendons”
I see. Do you also know?
“The first decision requires a second decision
And the second decision requires a third
And it goes on and on                                                    90
Until one day, the people wake up
And discover that they are mad
Corrupt and divided, and that
They built war, hatred and blood
Into the very air they breathe? ”
As even the sky
Could not have been an ingrate.
The womb, where my nation is
In between the roads                                                      100
But where are the roads?
Is it the straight one that leads to despair?
Or the bending one that forces the vertebrate
To break to pieces?
Or that which straighten and bend our souls?
How can the people take one leaving the other?
When we are blind, despite the shining retina?
We are not on the road to anywhere
As there is no road for us to follow
But long, tortuous and hazardous landscape                          110
Leading to valley of despair, called a nation
Agoraphobia, all over

Early that morning
As I hurried to my cooling spot
The breathy airs, making my veins shiver
I felt at ease with myself for a time
I felt that I can live with this forever
Despite the agony that is in my soul
Despite the uneasiness and dilemma
Moving with cattle speed                                               120
The dampness of the weather
Soak at my feet and trouser
Just before the bend to my quarter
The house well fenced, like Maximum Security Prison
With a big bowl, like a beggar’s dish
Looking up to the sky for star’s information
I heard the chill came
With high frequency
As a hand tried to switch from MW to SW
News from abroad                                                         130
America, Britain, Russia
I stood there, my gaze fixed as if in a dream
It then came to me
The sudden bathos
In our daily living?
Our loyalty, patriotism and nationalism
Broken down to ashes
While our ideal, lay with either Capitalism
Socialism, or Communism                                             140
Or that hollow grip of neither East nor West
They are nothing but empty words
As their grip and thousand times attributions
Will not fill the beggar’s bowl
Nor will they help to make his soul at ease
From its AIDS of many years
Degrading, hypocritical and sycophantic life
Is what the reality is
That is how we are
Because I care                                                                150
I care for my land, people and myself
The state machinery care less for me
The people live with empty words
The state with the reality

All day along
Their anotheria nervosa officials
With their apocalyptic tongues
Have been asking
“What have you done for your nation?”
Not what the nation has done for me.                                     160
“National self reliance, or
Foreign Economic slavery
The choice is ours”
They rant about.
No the choice is theirs
They are the reschedulers of our debt
With the Paris and London clubs
Not once was I ever invited
To say my mind on that donkey’s load
They dined and wined over my fate                               170
They came back with brocades and wrist watches
And a lot of hard currency
To wine and dine at home over their “victory”
In getting through their sucker punch
That deadly, poisonous, Tysonic punch
This only makes me and my neighbour
Shriveled like plant without nitrogen
I come to think of it
Why are they saying?                                                    180
“The farmer, the doctor, the teacher
Help make this nation great?”
Why should I? Why should they?
When did you know that I exist
Or they exist?
Is it when your urban granaries emaciated
Or when the streets you live in
Are dingy and unkempt?
Or when you need a tender-loving hand
Over your little new born baby?
“My nation!”                                                                  190
I almost shouted to the hearing
Of the early morning birds that scuttle around
Hopping from one branch of tree to another
Not aware of my turmoil and burning heart
“What have you done?
To show your appreciation for my hard work?
Is it now I am a citizen of this nation?
When you have milked her out                  
Destroying the keys to the treasury                               200
And throwing any evidence to the ocean
Leaving us with nothing but crumbs?
“My nation?
What have you done for me
When my little daughter was sent off from school
for lack of writing materials?
What have you done for me lately?
When my darling wife was sent off
From the public clinic, for lack of drugs?
What have you done for me                                           210
When my little son died of hunger
Amidst the plenty in you?
What have you done?

As I move stealthily towards my abode
And through you with mind binoculars
I see nothing, but ghettos

Gidan Igwai, Mile 9, and Maroko

when I look again
I see the slums of
Rigasa, Owo, Ohafia, and Damboa                               220
I then ask
What is the purpose of government?
Exploitation? Cheating? Harassment? Or
Sucking the blood and tears of my kind?
I am the government they said
But how?
When I woke up every morning
With empty stomach?
When I walk hundred of kilometers
To get water for my family?
How can I be such an irresponsible governor
When the treasury is with me?
No! I am not the government
But some others
Who can move mountains to get their way
Who banked the treasury abroad
And withdraw in pieces.

There and behold, I look into the horizon
As the helicopter hopped over my head
Waving to me, piloting with laughter                                      240
With sad mind and blocked thoughts
I waved back
The sky cloudless, the rising sun diminishing
Reddish, big, dissolving and scattering
How I wish I can fly, and ran way
Like the birds do, and be safe
From this tormenting livelihood
But then I am not a coward
As I heard over the radio, blaring
“The country needs us
We have no other country but Nigeria”                         250
I say, who are ‘US’? Who are ‘WE’?
The call was not for me, as I passed the house
Nor for my neighbour, who was just then
Feeding the animals, from the grasses by his hut
Why should I care with the nation’s agony?
When I walk on foot
Hundred of kilometers to sell my one kilo ware?
Why should I care?
When I carry water on my head
Hundred of kilometers to my desolate village?              260
Why should I care?
When I roam about with my family
Hundred of kilometers to mere consulting clinics?
Why should I care?
When the call was not for me
But for the caller?
Take it, if I do care
And then my blood pours in gallons
From labouring to make the nation great
They only laugh at me                                                   270
Why should I care?
When the nation calls for me
For reconstruction, social rejuvenation
Economic revitalization, cultural revolution
And national development?
Why not my “nation”
And that of my neighbour
Give my neighbour and me, an amphetamine
And see the reaction.

The local national news was on                                     280
When I arrived at the verandah
With empty garage, full of assorted things
Baby doll, tins of different shapes and sizes
Stones, dust and pieces of grasses all over
A sign post, where the young go to play
To release the tension from aggressive parents
I sat down facing the eastern side
It was then I heard a lot of agro
With alacrity and at an apogee
Of disaster over an alfresco meal
They can’t help it, but to altercate
Like ambidextrous individuals
They were totally lost, but not my neighbour
He was never taken in by amnesia
Because of the catastrophic disequilibrium
Of the nation state
He never prayed for the west
To amortize in any way
The nation’s economic debt                                           300
“Why” he always ask
“A bedraggle nation like ours needs a bail out”
He was never malignant, but firm
A benign individual my neighbour
But very bellicose in stature
Always with a bludgeon carrier
Which he referred to
“For making those exploiters blotchy”

Now when I look into the eyes of my neighbour
A labourer tilling the soil                                               310
By his two room dinghy huts
I see disaster
The parable of the dinghy huts
Is like that of the spider
When it spun its web around a window
Small wind carries it off
Or if the owner of the house
At the end of every month
Clears off the rubbish, the dirt and dust
The spider gives way                                                     320
The spider is shelter-less, homeless and lost
A refugee with no official UN status
From an opening I saw the wife
With her bosom stature
Raising the pestle, marinating it with the mortar
To get the morning meal ready
I saw the perspiration on her shoulders
The tiredness and the exhaustion
But pest ling she does with ease
From the husband to the wife                                        330
My eyes ran helter-skelter
I see in their eyes-smiles
Smiling for nothing
But dejection, uneasiness and uncertainty
I thought that over
How can a nation have hope on these people?
They live not because they want to
Because death has deserted the family
For years
With plain grain stuffed in their stomach                      340
I watch them pray, my ears prickle
‘Beyond” hands up in their sky, like the vicar
“Oh you death, that merciful sleep
That peaceful atmosphere
That dark but joyful thing
Come a- visit to this household
Bless this household with your mercy
Come! come!! come!!!”
As their hands collapsed by their side                                     350
And I see those tears
My heart hardened the more
Why then won’t I talk, against the rulers?
Those gnomes of individuals
When I can see the signs?
Why then won’t fight
When I have the strength to fight?
Why then won’t I vilify?
When I have the pen to write?
Why then won’t I implore?                                           360
When I can feel the tension?
Why then won’t I rebel?
When I have the will to do?
Take it from me, I vowed
If I should get hold of a viper
I will throw it at the government house
Inside their meeting chamber
If I should have my way
I will set ablaze                                                     370
Their meeting chamber
If I should have my way
And I am able to get hold of their necks
I will conduct a vivi section
Bringing out their viscera
Cutting into them with force - to pieces
Why won’t I make so much vituperation?
When the state is vitriolic to me?
My state is a miscreant state
Why then won’t I be misanthropic
Why should I mollycoddle the state?                                      380
When it has discarded me like a moraine?

Sighing from my inner thoughts
I saw him coming, shaking hands
I feel the rising temperature, tension
Aggression and uncertainty for the future
We are intrepid, my neighbour and I
Very much intransigent
Wait till you hear and feel
The grip and gnashing of teeth
Then you will understand                                              390
Looking at three of them by the wayside
The children of my neighbour, lost
Eating off by Marasmus and atrophy
The little boy holding the stack of corn
That surrounds the building
Lean, with protruding stomach and big eyes
The small buttocks
Being carried by small poles of legs
And swinging hand of stick                                           400
In the horizon, a car’s siren comes through
Looking from hideout, I saw the ambulance
The doctor came to the neighbourhood
Not to the neighbour on my left
To the government official on my right
From the window, I can see the stethoscope
Diagnostic experiments full of grammar
My neighbour, nor his wife could not decipher
Malnutrition, no, not that
Protein calorie-under nutrition                                       410
The officer’s son
Protein calorie-over nutrition
The little girl he called hers’ measles
What a trajectory
It should have been missiles.

You eat to live and move about
You move about to get food to eat
In my neighbour’s house
The food
Is millet, dried corn, sorghum, and grind cassava                   420
No vegetable, legumes, tubers, fruits and nuts
With their exhaustive body
Pneumatic blood, combine
To produce in them bad dietary system
In the end, mental acuity
From the distance I see the eldest child
That loving lone star of her parents
Moving with hardness and trepidation
The body full of rashes
Like the stem of a baobab tree                             430
Knees swollen
The hands, like that of a stillborn calf
By the stack of sorghum
Very near the peg of the animals
Stood the mortar, the pestle hanged above
The head of the eldest child
Just beside the mortar is a small river
Where the dish washing and bath
For the small ones are carried out
The wife, stand with stack of used dishes                      440
Full belly, not with food but feotus
Strapped at the back
A lactation child
Whining like a bee
The head as big as water melon
The legs from the wrapper
Like spider’s hind leg
Long, soft and brittle
That night I could not sleep
I put a note by my side                                        450
With a drawing of the day’s stock taking, annotated
“Fragile, handle with care
Look around, there are signs
Look around and feel tension
Look round and say your mind
On the manifestations of socio-economic
Crises of this land”

Then come the month of August
Some eight weeks after my vigil                                    460
There am I by the wayside
Looking into the eyes of my neighbour
That early morning
His land lost its greenish
Deforestation - to get the pot at home black
With years of soil erosion, famine
And desertification
The rain comes in trickles
When it floods, the plants give way
When the plant ripen, come drought                             470
Ad locust invasion
Looking into the eyes of my neighbour
I see
Hunger! poverty! death!
I have almost lost hope of survival
But then a ray of hope shines
As I look into the eyes of my neighbour
I see the will to fight
Even with small stick of millet
I can see those coming                                          480
The children: the kwashiorkor, the marasmus
And the small pox ones
Beware the ides of poverty
Ethanmatous diseases and
Vitamin deficiency
Over there, theropthalmia
And that from palm oil: Avitaminosis A
With all these
And their delayed skeletal maturation
They will fight to death.                                       490
Looking into the eyes of my neighbour
I can see the question
Why won’t there be rebellion
Destruction and death?
Yes, but wide spread in-action!

I was at the market place - month end
I saw people moving
Thousands of them without transportation
I saw human wagons                                                     500
Walking aimlessly with black nylon bags
Collecting non - nutritious food stuff
At the same time
I saw the ‘V’ boots and the ‘Cocaines’
Winnowing the near empty streets
Some parked at the market place
I can hear the selling and the buying
Like pendulum
From one side I heard
“Oga, give me the rotten tomatoes”                               510
They are cheap and more, but poisonous
On the other side, I saw
The slave girl buying basketfull
Of tomatoes with garlic and onions
I saw also the old woman buying
While the house - boy bought
Two thighs of mature ram
So also the bones
For master’s dog and cat                                               520
While the old woman bought them
Not for dog, nor for cats
But the dog in men and women
The cats in children of the paupers’ lot
With that, I see nothing in the horizon
But riots, killings, destructions, agonies
Maiming and wailing
As two forces come, face-to-face
When capitalism, which respects wealth
But rejects human values evolves                                  530
So said my elementary teacher
The rational ones got to crush it
Before it is too late
When capitalism, which breeds politician
Not statesmen
Show its head
The masses got the destroy the monster
When capitalism which makes combatant soldiers
Political prostitutes, tax collectors, power mongers
War weary and in - active                                              540
Rear its head once again
Let me see heads rolling
When capitalism, which makes
The Imam and the Vicar, money watchers
Come forth from the hiding
Let’s not resort to prayers
But fireworks and bombs

I say unto us
We can no more blindly
Be patriotic, flag saluters, flag wavers                           550
National anthem singers and National pledgers
When we live on an Island
Full of poverty
In the vast oceans of wealth
And prosperity
I say unto us
Rebel! Fight!! Die!!!
Die with one of them or all
Never die alone
Let me hear legs being broken                              560
Skulls being damaged
Hands being scattered
Let me see blood pouring
Like the vomit of an angered ocean
Let me see bit and pieces
Of ears here, eyes and noses there
Let me hear the cry and agony
From the high Iselbergs of Rigasa                                 570
To Sultan Road, Dawaki Road and Kinkino Close
Let me see the stones shattering
The ultra-paradise
On earth buildings by Jabi Road
Let me hear the music of glasses falling
And breaking
Buildings collapsing

I say unto us
Be men and fight                                                  560
Let me see the cars racing
And being bludgeoned by the waysides
Smash the windscreen and tinted glasses
Bring out the master and his wife
Stand at attention
Drop a leg over their pampered loins
Let the stick poke into their gray hair
Let me see the colour of their
Modular oblongata
Death! Why care                                                  570
When thousand die in silence!
From the slums of Epe
Let the train moves on
The first wagon makes a halt
By Ikoyi, very near the barracks
The others, at Victoria Island
Meet the rest at Broad Street
Never come together
Until you have done the damage
All over the nation                                                         580
Razed down mansions
Destroyed buildings and corpses
Move with care my people
You have nothing to lose
But your poverty - stricken condition
Move, before it is too late
From every corner
Of this nation
From the desert regions
To the aridified sections                                       590
To the arable landed regions
Where ever you are
Out and fight
The spirit is there, add the will
Never again shall we live
A timid life
We are tired of social inequality
By man against man
They say by God                                                  600
What a deceit
Our God is not a human god
Who stays up there in Aso Rock
Or many of the state houses
Or the banking and business sectors
Our God is not a god
That lives on the throne of authority
Passing decrees and edicts
Our God’s way of governance
Is by mercy through guidance                                        610
Not by terroristic soldiers and policemen
Not by hoarding and shoddy dealings
Now take it, granted it is by their god
I say hit them hard
The mansion owners
The government parasitic officials
Let them die, and lets see
If our situation does not improve
Then we are made the way we are
By their god                                                                   620
But if we change the situation
Then we have killed them and their god
I say move, it is urgent!

The cries came through the window
Of my neighbour
I heard someone saying
“I hate my hater
I am going to maim my maimer,
Oh, I am full of sorrow”
The smile showed on my face                                        630
From the mirror
A very hard smile, as my mouth etched
Looking from a far
I see the flies as they buzzed along
The ants scuttled into hiding
As the raging fight ensued
Between the husband and wife

“Why should we continue to suffer?
For years I have been producing                                    640
These suffering young ones
Who we cannot feed nor cloth
And now you want me in bed.
I am tired, don’t you have sense
Of justice and fair play,
Why should we continue to bring
Forth children who have no future
Why don’t we live the way we are
Without dragging some innocent ones
Into despair and dejection?”

The tears dropped with force                                         650
From my eyes, I could not resist
I saw him coming, towards me
I hastened to him, comforting
And patting him on the back
Like a small child
He collapsed in my outstretched arms
Raising the head up, looked at him
The tears came again
Looking again into the eyes                                           660
I saw things
And they tell me
The squirrel, however hard it digs
Some earth it must leave for others
The antelope, however fast it ran
It must leave some bush behind
The frog, however good it can swim
It can only do that in cold water
Very soon I see it happening
Swarm of heads, all over the places
Death everywhere                                                670
On the telly, the gnome
“Why the turmoil? Why the killing?
Why the ranting? Why the shouting?
Why the flag cutting? Why the rebellion?
Why the abusive words?
Why the youth and even the elders?
Why the hatred? Why the animosity?
I say                                                                     680
Hunger! Poverty!! Death!!!
Then the news came
My heart beating, blood clotting
Mind lost, eyes closed, hands shaking
As they tell me
The government has been ousted
Everywhere, I see the people
With armour, tanks and pistols
With an escort, death
Taking their souls                                                690
The tanks rolled in pieces
The masses all over the places
Singing songs and dancing
The court could not hold
Co courtiers
The ministries, no work
No ministers
The churches could not congregate
No vicars                                                              700
The mosques deserted
No Imams
The vehicles could not move
No drivers
Only the masses
On their two - wheel canter
They move, singing
Clapping, shouting, smiling
As they move in unison                                       710
Singing the freedom song
“We have overcome the tyrants
We have indeed
Overcome the tyrants!”

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