BLACK FRIDAY

Yesterday, the sun forgot to shine on Paris
The clouds held rain from Ethiopia
Japan was shaken to its roots
Nigeria remains in denial
And Lebanon cannot sleep

It seems the nights are no longer lit by the stars
Even the moon seems to have fallen asleep
The days are filled with screams of disbelief
At the infinite cruelty of the heart of man

The earth is spinning on itself and rolling over
Like a gambler’s dice carefully tossed
To determine the next nation, the next war,
It’s a game of chance

The prince of this world ravages on
Roaring, seeking whom he may devour
Leaving a trail of broken bones
Stirring up in the hearts of men
The power to hate and propagate evil

We’re tempted to believe the illusion that
Darkness is winning
And God is asleep,
Oblivious to our pain

Like a woman in labour,
Earth groans with many tears
What then is our hope?
In whom do we place our trust?

Mama’s Voice

From turkeys stolen by an elderly man, who probably thought eating tomorrow’s turkeys would make the festival of garri and groundnut in the days to come more palatable; to the inhumane burning to death of human beings due to the explosive tendencies of our nemesis and savior, PMS. On to the exploitative tendencies of terrorists and religious extremists who have no code of conduct in the dark books of their imaginations, and who have exchanged their God-given consciences for a heap of stones and without batting an eye-lid would use the innocent purity of children to whet the appetite of the grave once more. The news is no longer shocking, we have been shocked one too many times.
It would appear that just like yesterday, Mama is once again at the brink of death spurred by the destructive and sometimes suicidal tendencies of her children. The ones who were supposed to redeem her and cultivate her land after the colonial masters seemingly gave it back. It would appear that the Nigerian situation is no different from that of the world at large, after all almost all countries are plagued by wars; for some the battlefield is marked by the incessant spread of the Ebola virus, for others it is the pot bellies of young children which is at a gross discordance with their thin arms and legs accompanied by dry cracked lips and red-brown hair caused by too little of the important parts of a balanced diet, yet for others it is a research laboratory searching for the cure to cancer and the other exotic diseases that the developing world cannot be bothered about. We are yet to fully master the art of curing and firmly eradicating malaria. For the other countries who are the heroes of the entire world whose battlefield is against the big boys of terrorism, the battlefield is marked by soldiers who never make it home, the ones who make it home without a limb, and the once who are physically whole but internally as scarred as the rest.
Mama is groaning once again for the children who have failed again, she weeps, for the beautiful ones yet unborn, she yearns. Dreams of golden streets paved by the oil money well spent, devoid of beggars and mentally unstable people who could be better cared for if anyone cared. Of schools with windows and classrooms filled with students who are eager to learn because they had a goodnight’s sleep and a good breakfast, and teachers who are eager to teach because they have passion and they are not owed their used-to-be meagre salaries. Perhaps, the day is coming when the fire raging through a country which lives in constant denial, eyes closed to the charred remains of what used to be relatively peaceful, what used to be relatively good, what was relatively cheap. When the sinking naira will rise again from the bottomless pit of useless currency, and petroleum will no longer be her sole source of survival.
Mama’s children claim to love her, they claim to cherish her, and they make empty promises daily, with their enchanting optimistic chants of ‘better tomorrows’, yet they know nothing of her history. How she was sold by her royal parents to the oyinbo ‘misssionaries’ how the folly of the oil boom was the progressive doom of the cultivation of her land. How the health sector became a death guaranteed sector with teaching hospitals marked by never-ending strikes; simply moving from one aggrieved category of staff to the next, each protected by unions with stubborn leaders . The wards became full of ‘what if’ stories, “what if doctors were not on strike when my father was ill?”, “what if the drugs were available?”, “what if the government had paid?” ‘What if this was a country that worked’ became the constant rhetoric amongst cynical adults on the balcony of joblessness and pain.
They know nothing about how the travails of Obafemi Awolowo which has become a story told to naïve public school students taught beneath the falling leaves of good education, the classrooms transforming rapidly from beautiful well-structured buildings to those with no louvres and fences marked by ghosts of bricks past.
They do not remember how Ken Saro-Wiwa was killed for being a poet for truth and justice for his people, and easily they forget Dele Giwa’s death by letter bomb at a time when speaking the truth was dangerous business, those who fought for the place you now occupy knew that. Yet they chose the dark and lonely path of martyrdom for descendants who would not appreciate the value of the freedom that was purchased with the blood of men and whose weak backbones cannot fight for truth and justice once before gained. If the dead could see, these men would roll in the grave, they would wonder why we parade ourselves as being resilient; resilience being the ability to be beaten with many blows without fighting back and still be alive and apparently well.
Easily, like only children can, they forget the many explosions caused by inflammable pipelines and oil tankers and they are steadfastly unable to prevent it or adequately compensate those affected by it.. Forgotten as soon as the headline changes to something more entertaining and less graphically disturbing as the display of charred remains generally is. Perhaps who the next ‘Miss World’ is, although they will only ever remember Agbani Darego, our own Miss World.
Mama’s children are plagued with a disease characterized by; an inability to fight for rights which belong to her, a constant drive to work under the harshest of conditions without breaking, and amnesia, the inability to remember what was and what now is threatening to be. Some call it a blessing because the alternative is a depressive tendency for suicide.
She awaits the awakening of these sleeping children or the birth of another generation whose name is ‘Hope’, earnestly wondering which would come first. Her eyes brighten at the news that her children in the diaspora are doing well, ignoring the bad eggs that threaten the names of the good. However her shores await their return, the ones who have tasted comfort and blatantly refuse to let her go, until it is time to be buried. God forbid that they are buried in another man’s land. American in life, Nigerian in death. Her eyes brim with tears at the children that her ashamed of her, who deny her and who sometimes wish they had been born by another. Come home will you, till my lands and build my roads, light up the cities and rid yourselves of those who profit from the thick darkness that has become a part of the Nigerian situation.
Behind the dark gloominess of what we know to be Nigeria, a beacon of hope shines forth in new leadership and chants of ‘change’ reinforced by a 50% slash in the salaries of the President and his deputy and the bailout money for the broke states. We hope as we always do, that tomorrow our streets will be paved of gold, our streets free of beggars and the mentally unstable and that finally, the menace called Boko Haram will be a myth told to children to keep them on their best behaviour.

(c)Olamide Oti
July 10, 2015

Cold Fire

Yesterday, everyone that hates us was tried and convicted
For stealing and looting
For the bombs that dropped on Baga
and the girls of Chibok
Today the sun will rise upon the graves of those who rest
Upon the hearts of those who endlessly hope

My name is Fatima and I live in a town
where peace is in prison and sanity is mad
There was a time when I was happy
When children were just children
and peace was free
Until they came with fire and fear the size of our town
I survived, you might say
But what is life when hope barely lives

Let us start a cold fire
A bloodless revolution
We have suffered far too long
In silence,
Voiceless

(c) Olamide Oti

NI BAGA (I Am Baga) — A Poem

image

I am not alone, I know: never alone
The corpses littered herein are my own
They keep me company while asleep peacefully
Today, their struggles have ended finally
Ye children left standing, come around!
I will tell all of ye a tale as familiar as sound:
The day upon which sorrow lost its bitterness
And the cries only became shouts of gladness

Rejoice! Son of this desolate city — the heir
For thine walls of ruins become monuments of despair
The rubble will be fed upon by good grief
Because your joy has been snatched away by the thief
The sun shall spare thee not, all day long
The night’s cold winds will comfort thee with song
At the very brink of thy uncertain nurture
Thou hast become one and soul with nature

Ye shall not see me shed another tear
For I spoke the truth that all men may hear
And though it has brought about my humiliation
It will one day bring me salvation
Ye shall not see me breathe in tepidity
All fear of death, I see as stupidity
Stand, my children, for ye can fall no more
Valiant in truth and service like never before.

© Luke Ogar

Luke Ogar also blogs at https://nerdsandnovices.wordpress.com

Luke O. Ogar

Welcome to Baga

Welcome to Baga
where nightmares live
and dreams go to die
I had heard the men talk in low tones about what they did to Chibok
and how the nation stood still for a day and moved on

Mama never thought they would come
we have soldiers here, she would brag
oh but you see, they did
last night while men slept, they crept in on us 
plundered our lands and set our homes on fire

It burned so beautifully that it reminded me of the fireworks last Christmas 
mama and papa were taken away in that van
perhaps they will be back tomorrow 

my shoes were left behind
the ones mama bought me for school
but my life is worth more
and so I ran through the forest until I came to a temporary place of solace
where a million other children dwelt

Every night since Baga
I wake up with screams that drown out the screams of the other tortured souls
perhaps, our brothers in the south would help us
or today, the world will end
and I will finally rest where peace lives

(c) Olamide Oti

I am She

I was doomed from the beginning.
Before I got a chance to know my family,
I was sold into slavery.
My father was royalty,
but when my new parents came,
He sold me off like a bale of cotton.

So, I became one of them.
Dressed like them,
Talked like them.
Ate, what they ate and quickly, I forgot my roots.
I was perfect at birth they said,
Ten fingers and toes all wonderfully made,
A headful of coarse black hair.
And no identity.

Throughout adolescence,
I was at war within myself.
I had many vices;
The love of money,
Of all things glittery and sweet
Of murder, drunkenness, and pride.
Many have died for me,
“For you”, they said, all for you.

I had an inheritance, but they took it all away, and called it theirs.
They named my streets after their sons while my father looked on unable to stop them.
My lands, my people, my crops…All gone!
My oil was my nemesis
It bubbled from within me
And came forth black, sweet and pleasant.
For a moment, it was my salvation,
Now, it seems it will be the death of me.
It is all I have left,
Until there is nothing left of me.
Today, I am coming of age
I weep for my sons, who have squandered it all,
For my daughters, who are struggling to rebuild me.

There is much to be grateful for,
For peace, however fragile,
For the seasons and for time,
For time, heals all wounds
I am in labour, while the world looks on
Each birth pang piercing through my core.
The world awaits a generation who will rejoice in my heritage,
Who will take back all that I have lost,
Who will reclaim my lost glory,
A generation that would not be ashamed to call me ‘mama’.

I am of many cultures woven loosely together.
Beautiful on the outside
Broken on the inside
Many wars rage on in my heart,
Those caused by beliefs, tribes and tongues that never agree.
The odds are against me, it would seem.
But, I am Nigeria,
I will thrive.

(c) Olamide Oti, 2014

Blessed Nigeria!

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Hello, my name is Olamide and I am proudly Nigerian, on some days; but on others, not so much. Our characteristically green coloured passport could get me into a lot of trouble at any international airport. I would have to wait for hours to go through the rigors of getting searched by airport security like a bomb-carrying terrorist just for owning that little green document.

When I was much younger, I loved to read the papers. I would pore over every column and take in every word at the breakfast table in my over-sized nerdy glasses and homemade pigtails. I would read about news of market places burning to the ground, a few kidnappings here and there and on a few occasions, plane crashes. Each time I came across news of terrorism and insurgency in other countries like Iraq and Afghanistan I would shrug and think to myself, “that’s never gonna happen here.” I could not have been more naive and childish. I knew there had been religious uprisings in North but I had never imagined that I would hear news of bomb blasts or that sacred word ‘terrorism’ spoken with reverence in a country that I had just begun to know and love.
Nigeria my Nigeria, O how the mighty have fallen. Now that I am all grown up, I almost never remember to read the news because I live in a bubble, a ‘med school induced bubble’, my life now revolves around those large sized texts that I sometimes cannot get my head around. I love my country and I want nothing but the best for her. Although I may not be involved in any peace keeping or humanitarian tasks, I can only hope that I can make a difference in my immediate environment. I will admit that when I heard about the first bomb blast in Abuja, I was stupefied! My young mind could not comprehend such barbaric acts, and then I thought to myself, ‘nobody deserves that’ but then I shrugged, and thanked heavens that it didn’t affect me or my family. I couldn’t have been more wrong. If my motherland sneezes, then I sneeze as well.

 

For so long, I, like millions of other young Nigerians have lacked a true sense of belonging and patriotism for a nation that we have pledged to serve. I have been cynical about Nigeria mostly because I had grown up listening to conversations by disillusioned and disappointed adults that only told of hiking fuel prices, unemployment and insecurity, and I would silently wish that I had been born elsewhere. I am probably not courageous enough to be the Nelson Mandela of my generation but I dream of a nation where things actually work like they are supposed to and where leaders are not in an endless battle of wills while scrambling for their piece of the national cake.

I am not a citizen of any other country, and I have no place to run if things spiral completely out of control. The land of my birth is hanging on by a thread. Storms are brewing and nothing short of a revolution can save us now.
Complacency and nonchalance are the worst of our many weaknesses. News of bomb blasts and kidnappings of innocent school children shock us for only a minute, and then we shrug and move on. I long for a peaceful Nigeria where I can take an evening stroll with my lover without fear of being attacked or blasted to pieces. It is no longer enough to complain for a minute and move on for that makes us no better than the perpetrators themselves.

Hope is all I have now, hope that Nigeria will rise and fight for her life and win too. Then like a phoenix, she will rise from the ashes of corruption, violence and moral decadence.

So help her God.