Poetic Exploration of Political and Sociological Changes in Nigeria: The "Handwriting on the Wall" from Nigerian Poets

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Introduction

Aiyejina's work (1988), "Recent Nigerian Poetry in English: An Alter-native Tradition" and Sule's (2011) "Art and Outrage: A Critical Survey of Recent Nigerian Poetry in English," categorize Nigerian poetry and poets into two and three generations respectively. This paper sees this as too hasty and pre-emptive of on-going creative national works. It must be pointed out that it is too early to catalogue still-alive and still-productive creative artistes into different working generations. They still belong to half a century which represents just about a human life time in Nigeria where a man's life expectancy is 48.95 years and a woman's is 55.33 (Index-Mundi 2013). This is also just the life span of the entity called Nigeria--as at its last independence celebration in 2012, it commemorated its 52nd year. The two papers describe Nigerian poets, like the old war-horses, Wole Soyinka, Odia Ofeimum and J. P. Clark, as still producing works. This paper posits that poets like Tanure Ojaide and Olu Obafemi, who came after, can still be categorized with them while the more current poets like Ademola O. Dasylva, Joe Ushie, Femi Oyebode, Nnimmo Bassey, Uche Nduka, and Usman Shehu become part of the one big picture. There is an over-lap of period among these poets not only within the contemporary time they are living but also in their thematic focuses and stylistic discoveries and usages.

It is on this basis that the poets chosen for this paper have been randomly selected from across Nigeria's poetic landscape as representatives of the voice of the people. The latter are citizens who have, over-time, watched Nigeria, their country, raped by political and religious leaders (using politics and religion as covers-up). According to Aboh (2012: 2):

   "Nigerian socio-political development has presented highly
   political subject matter for these poets, and maintaining the
   tradition of their predecessors in terms of voicing their incenses
   with government's lack of focus but with a difference in stylistic
   presentation, this generation of poets engages their poems as
   avenues to register their contempt with a system that makes them
   slaves in their own country."

These poets--Obafemi (2001), Dasylva (2006), Ojaide (1989), Ofeimum (Soyinka 1975), Aiyejina (Solanke 2005) and Solanke (2008)--are regarded and treated, in this paper, as a group of one generation. Nigeria's independence is still under a century as she is just going towards its diamond age. Between them, these poets have seen the enthronement and overthrow of an elected parliamentary government, a few coup d'etats, and the installation of an American-styled presidential government (and its overthrow). There was another set of military palace coups d'etats and finally the fight and struggle for a just and egalitarian society against a military government that annulled a free and democratic election. It was this popular uprising, in the long run, which ushered in the on-going democratic experiment from 1999.

The poetry of these versatile but combative poets is not only historical, personal and national, it is such that entreats the people to stand, fight and acquire the type of nation they dream about. This paper examines the following six poets and their poems listed against their names: Obafemi (2001), ("Haba Habib", "Maradona"), Dasylva (2006), ("Compatriots Arise", "Dancing Sigidi in the Rain"), Ojaide (1989), ("No Prescription Cures A Country Nobody Loves", "For My Love", "Future Gods"), Ofeimum (Soyinka 1975), ("Resolve", "We Must Learn Again To Fly"), Aiyejina (Solanke 2005), ("And So It Came To Pass") and Solanke (2008), ("We are").

This paper sees this generation of poets, after the 1960 Nigerian independence, as chastisers, visionaries, inspirers and prophets of change in the country's political and sociological landscape. Through the portrayal of their dissatisfaction with various Nigerian governments' military and civilian--actions, and the implementations of various wrong policies and strategies in governance, these poets have allowed the people to have a peep into what a better country could be like. …