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Poet Niyi Osundare

Nigeria has everything except leadership – Niyi Osundare

Nigerian poet Niyi Osundare, while attending the Kein shoner Land poetry festival in Berlin, spoke on the state of the Nigerian nation.

Some excerpts: “I don’t know, our country, Nigeria, [a] country we all love so much, but a country that is so abused. There is nothing we don’t have, except leadership. Our people have to learn to take their destiny [into] their own hands, by, one, turning themselves from mere subjects into citizens.

“There is a difference between being a subject of a country and being a citizen. Citizenship is a qualitative attribute, it means you are a person who knows your rights, who knows what is due to you, who also put himself or herself in a position to criticise the leader and to say we are not taking this any longer. In Nigeria, we don’t have that yet.

“Why? We are too easily boxed up into ethnic cages. Somebody steals my money, the money that should have been used for constructing roads, for building schools, putting medication in hospitals and so on, steals this money and everybody is shouting this is a thief. He goes to his ethnic enclave and people say, ‘Yes he is our son, he has stolen and so what. People in your own ethnic group have stolen too, what did they do to them?’ That is the kind of predisposition that breeds impunity. Impunity happens when people do things and there are no consequences. This is the problem with Nigeria. I can’t remember any prominent politician that has stolen our money and has been tried and jailed.

“A very important episode, there is a new organisation in my name, it is called, Niyi Osundare International Poetry Festival, they held the first edition in the University of Ibadan in May last year. The vice chancellor of Kwara State University was one of the keynote addressors, there and then, he said, ‘My university is bidding for this, it is going to be with us 2016.’ Everybody clapped. He hit the ground running, set up a local organising committee and they did a wonderful job, but one week before that festival was to take place on May 19th, I was in Sierra Leone, when he called me and said that some people were protesting that they should not host someone like me because I had written a poem to criticise Senator [Bukola] Saraki, their son.

“Now, what happened was that in June last year, that Senator Saraki moved from his party, which had just won the election, joined the opposition and they made him Senate President overnight. That was not what his party wanted, he boycotted his party and went to the party that had been defeated and they made him Senate President. He didn’t go to his house, he didn’t allow anybody to know where he was, so he hid behind the Senate building. 10 o’clock when the place opened they rushed him in, within 10 minutes, everybody said ‘Yay’, that is how he became Number Three Citizen in Nigeria. When I heard it, I felt assaulted and insulted as a citizen. I said ‘Nigeria has become a Banana Republic’, how can anybody do this? So I wrote a poem ‘Blues for the New Senate King’, which went viral. I must tell you when I was writing that poem I knew it would have consequences, I knew they might not allow this thing to happen, because he is a very prominent politician in Kwara State, where that festival was to take place, but I didn’t care a hoot”.

This interview was first published on the Notes from Berlin website.

Blues for the New Senate King

Behold, the People ask:

Who will save us from our Prostitutes in Power?
Part 1

He wanted so desperately to be King of Senate

He left the Path of Honour behind

Haba! He wanted so desperately to be King of Senate

He left the Path of Honour behind

He stabbed noble Faith and Trust in the back

And put the Traitor’s knife on the bonds that bind

Power-intoxicated, blinded by ambition

He only cares for three big people: “I, Me, and Myself”

Say, Power-drunk, blinded by ambition

He only cares for three big people: “I, Me, and Myself”

A renegade old book with phoney letters

Vacuous, thumb-stained on History’s shelf

His feet never know the way to the house of Honour

“Integrity” is visibly missing in his diction of Deceit

Yes, his feet never know the way to the house of Honour

“Integrity” is visibly missing in his diction of Deceit

He sold us cheap in the commerce of the backroom caucus

Coming back later with a false receipt

Cocky without conscience, rude without restraint

He traded away a victory won with our sweat and blood

Say, cocky without conscience, rude without restraint

He traded away a victory won with our sweat and blood

A discredited enemy behind his tarnished banner

He trampled the people’s Hope in the shameful mud

The fruit never falls far from its tree

True scion of a cold and crooked clan

Ha ha ha, a fruit never falls far from its tree

True scion of a cold and crooked clan

Broken banks, broken dreams, and broken lives

He’s a fitting heir to a dubious pedigree

Part 2

PDP in the morning, Labour at noon, APC at night

Wind-vane politicians with multiple tongues

Say, PDP in the morning, Labour at noon, APC at night

Wind-vane politicians with multiple tongues

They plod through life like shameless masquerades

Their trails are littered by a litany of wrongs

Our rulers stink like festering corpses

Their crimes choke the startled world

Say, Nigeria’s rulers stink like festering corpses

Their nuisance chokes the startled world

Honourless, truthless, with hearts of stone

In league, all times, with treacherous forces

Prostitute dealers, perfidious scoundrels

They sell us short in every market

Say, prostitute dealers, perfidious scoundrels

Selling us short in every market

They tilt the till to their bottomless pocket

And cripple the nation with their ruinous racket

Devoid of scruple, averse to sense,

They blight the ballot and steal our vote

Alas, devoid of scruple, averse to sense

They blight the ballot and steal our vote

They cast us adrift on the swindled oceans

With tattered sails and leaking boat

And WE THE PEOPLE are the absent factor

Bought, sold, disdainfully discarded

Agbaga!* WE THE PEOPLE are the absent factor

Bought, sold, disdainfully discarded

Servile servants of mindless masters

We forgo our right to be well regarded

*Horror of horrors!

Niyi Osundare

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