With the incessant uprisings in virtually all sectors across the country, it is no secret that this is one of the most troubling times to be Nigerian (NIGER-AREAN), especially if you live in Nigeria. We are all aware of this and Amina Ayodeji-Ogundiran recognizes that.
One thing that stands out about Amina Ayodeji-Ogundiran’s God Made Us Niger-Areans, is the poet’s recognition and belief in a supreme being, God. More so is the genuineness the author demonstrates in her author’s note about having questions:
As a believer of God, I have had many questions about my pre-creation. Since there are little answers about our existence before birth, I succumbed to the vulnerability of the unknown, allowing in-depth wisdom to overwhelm my conscious mind. If I wish another form, or if another was best for me, maybe God would have given.
The first poem in the chapbook, “Before the Beginning”, reiterates the author’s religious belief as she re-enacts the creation story but with a unique twist that centers being born Nigerian. The poet begins by highlighting God’s original plan for the Niger-area and juxtaposes it with the current situation, using expressions such as “wealth of unique helplessness”, “smooth roughness”. Still, she recognises the supremacy of God and futility in questioning His decision to make us Nigerians. Like her author’s note, she succumbs “to the vulnerability of the unknown” by concluding with “God made us Niger-Areans”.
In “We Have A Boat”, Ayodeji-Ogundiran further stresses on the extent of gloom perpetuated by Niger-areans on the Nigeria-area. Even though the poet does not state it outright, she reiterates God’s supremacy and wisdom in giving us an almost perfect world, by saying, “We have a boat/ Riddled with many holes/ When we were given/ It was almost perfect”. In this first stanza, like in every other of the five stanzas, the poet emphasises the extent of damage done by Nigerians to Nigeria. One notices how she does not selectively apportion blame to one group of Nigerians such as the ruling class as is usually the norm in Nigerian Literature when societal issues are explored. Instead, she posits that ALL Nigerians have played a role, whether with their actions or inactions, in destroying the “almost perfect thing” that God gave us charge of.
Nonetheless, it is not all blame and lament in Amina Ayodeji-Ogundiran God Made Us Niger-Areans. In her poem, “The Ants”, Amina Ayodeji-Ogundiran seems to offer a solution to the unending corruption and decay that has ravaged the Nigerian society. Like George Orwell’s Animal Farm, she uses ants to teach a necessary lesson to Niger-areans, especially the ruling class. The poet extols enviable values of diligence, unity, and determination exhibited by the ants which Nigerians should emulate to ensure we fix the mess we have created. She concludes by stating that because of these necessary values that ants have, “If their captains were men/Their abode should be, in the rocks of Aso,” which is the Nigerian seat of power.
Yet, the poet is hopeful for and about Nigeria. In the eponymous poem, God Made Us Niger-Areans, the poet Amina Ayodeji-Ogundiran, teaches a message of hope. She still believes in Nigeria if we take the important steps of, “saying prayers,” “sprinkling hope,” “thief no more”, and “guide the children”. She also insists that since God Made Us Niger-Areans, He will “heal this land”. This is a sentiment echoed by several Nigerians within and outside the country, of which Amina Ayodeji-Ogundiran is one.
Conclusively, Amina Ayodeji-Ogundiran’s God Made Us Niger-Areans is a dissection of the Nigerian condition; a mashup of endless twists and turns which are a consequence of our actions and inactions. Still, we have no choice but hope for better days.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Temitope Abigail Larayetan, a three-time Nigerian Students Poetry Prize (NSPP) outstanding entrant, is a graduate of English Language and Literature from the University of Lagos. Temitope’s short story was published by Farafina in the International Sisi Eko anthology. She currently blogs at “Medium” where she wrote every day of 2019 as a personal challenge.