BOOK REVIEW (ISSUE 5)
Emmanuel Inedu is a new voice in Nigerian Poetry. He holds a Masters degree in Literature and B.A in English from Benue State University. His background has indubitably influenced the style, form and content of his poems. He experiments with form, content and voice assuming divergent typographic forms. It is also glaring that he wasn’t concerned with the western traditional form of meter and rhyme but a form that could be called Nigerian.
Considering the throes Nigerians are facing as a people, the poem, “Too Many Whys” is the first poem being taken a shot at. It captures at a glance, Africa, bedeviled by all kinds of inanities ranging from the undying ghost of apartheid in South Africa, terrorism, cultism, war and tribal conflicts, dictatorships and senseless extermination of lives. The poet asks: “Why Biafra, Rwanda, Darfur/Why the bestiality.” To answer these question, we have to go down historical lane. But the deed has been done and the dead buried. Can answering the poet’s questions bring the dead back to life? No answer can pacify the traumatized, maimed and dehumanised. Thus, answering the poet becomes a voyage in futility. Using, however, the poetic tool, rhetorical question, his questions prick the consciousness of the living whilst inducing meditation. The poet comes to the contemporary and poses questions: “Why Al Shabab, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, ISIS” (13). These are international merchants of destruction and death. There must be something wrong with man. If not, why such inordinate bestiality and brutality in a century that is the most advanced scientifically and technologically?
In the poem, “Third World War,” the poet is both prophetic and realistic. He envisages a third world war and also mentioned that the world is at an international war. The war is “A war like never before/Terrorism all over/Terrorism the mother of all wars” (37). From the day Osama Bin Ladan struck America until now, the world has never been the same and safe for all mankind. In Nigeria, Boko Haram has killed numerous lives, maimed and raped women en mass and has turned Nigeria and West Africa as a whole into a war zone; the same with Al Shabab and ISIS in the Middle East and Al Shabab in east Africa. Men are today paranoia. Countries and states are at war with a potent but invisible enemy.
“Executioners” (26), “One Good Term” (28), “Missing” (40), “Bring Back” (41), “Autopsy” (42), “Legislative Rascality” (51), “Cabals” (53), “They have Come” (54), “Amnesty” (51), “Land of Absurdities” (64), “Immunity” (70), “Common Wealth” (71), “Jaga Jaga” (75), are amongst the poems that make obvert political statements and could be a yardstick in measuring the political consciousness and leaning of the poet. The poet uses poetry in exposing the evils going on in the sociopolitical strata of the country. In “Our Boom is our Doom,” for instance, he laments that, “Our moonlight shines darkness” and “Our harvest is disappointing” (93). Why is it so? “Why is this giant a dwarf?” The poet answers the question in the poem, “Jaja Jaga” which was written in Pidgin English:
Na agbero them come be our leader
Na mumu people come be our wise man dem
Na arm robber dem come be our chief (75).
The people who should galvanise the resources of the state and utilize it for the progress of the nation and uplifting of the people have turned into cogs in the wheels of the country’s progress, looting, stealing, plundering the national and natural resources without a pint of the fear of God in them.
In poems like “Our Earth” (23), “Benevolent Earth” (12), Earth is Vomiting, “Despondence,” “The World is Aging” (73), the poet calls our attention to the earth/nature. Man’s activities have constituted an anathema to the health of the earth. The theme has been amongst the enduring themes treated by Niyi Osundare in many of his earthpoems. In the poem, The World is aging,” the poet laments that: “The world is aging with speed/It is getting grey haired.” Using personification, the poet calls our attention to the assault on nature by man’s actions and inactions. It reminds us of the poem, “Ours to Plough and not to Plunder” by Niyi Osundare and “The World is too much with us,” by William Wordsworth. The poet insists that, the world is aging fast and it has lost its “teeth,” “sight,” “gait and gusto,” and above all it is “getting feeble and senile.”
In poems like “A Cock crowed at Noon,” “Indifference” (43), “Cockcrow at Noon” (59), the poet shows indifference to what is going on around him. It seems by caring about the absurdities going on in the political domain of the country, he was losing his mind. To stay sane in an insane country, the poet has to look without seeing, to hear without understanding. In a situation where a politician steals two billion US dollars at a time when Nigerians were dying or where they misuse large chunks of money and nothing happens to them, it is a clear indication that something is amiss. But the poet prays that may we never see our ears. It may be shocking to remind the poet that Nigerians have seen more than their ears. They have seen the back of their heads.
The poetry collection is well edited. The poet Emmanuel Inedu is a sociopolitical realist, a poet-philosopher (poesieopher – my coinage) who grapples with the existential, sociological and political realities of his society using poetry as a mode and tool. He adopts the critical realist mode in interrogating his society, profiling its ills albeit without proffering solutions. It is left for the reader to make his own judgment. Nevertheless, some of the poems in the collection are terse and lack profundity in form and content. In other poems, the poet is too preoccupied with the message or content that he failed to realise that he was churning our naked poems devoid of artistic fleshing. The poem “Cabals” (53) for instance, lacks metaphors. It is too naked for refined readers.
Inedu Emmanuel. Cockcrow At Noon. Lagos: Word Rhymes & Rhythm, 2015. Pp.96.