So My Big Brother Wrote a Book

Writing a book is a noble act, up there with paying your debts in Nigeria (Yes, an average Nigerian hates paying their debt; when they do, usually it is because they want to borrow another day.) Writers are a bunch of smart people and they own a lot of debts, so whenever they write a book and publish it, they have paid one of their debts. And they keep paying till they die. This is the burden of being a writer.

Ogundare Tope is a fine writer and he has paid his debt. He wrote The Book of Pain. It is a book of poems which makes it a special one. Poetry is a difficult genre of art. So difficult yet so easily seen as simple, that is why there are so many bad poets around and why the internet is littered by very poor attempts at poetry.

Topazo is one of the few good poets in Nigeria. He is among the school of poets who understands that poetry is about meaning, making meaning of situations, of emotions, of life. Words that make beautiful appearances on paper, words that mean something. Topazo is not a poet for poetry sake. He doesn’t delight in weaving webs of enigmas for the readers. He picks mostly simple words and creates giant imprints on paper.

This poetry collection accomplished many things. There are 38 poems in all. Speaking and connecting many fields.

This collection speaks of love. The poem “Smitten” dwells on lethal love, the kind that drives a lover to put their head in a cooking pot.

“She danced on nimble feet,

Pranced and jabbed

You parried

Twisted

Pounced”

Then “You loved her/It killed you.”

There is also the “City of love”, but Topazo will not just talk about love. No, the low key sadist-poet had to talk about “Rivers overflow from broken heart springs” and “Searing pains” and “Demons with claws unleash the stench of death”.

The poem “Impedance” is one poem where the poet showed a glimpsed of his medical cloth. “Soon, there will be no rise

Fibrosis of the Corpora Cavernosa

Loss of girth –

Peyronie.”

The writer also spoke of dead affection and zero “Intimacy” in the face of love, façade of love to say. This is life, our life, of pretenses, of appearances, of patching, what Igbos refer to as covering the world with a George wrapper.

“Sleeping on the same bed

Bodies touching

Hearts separated by a wall –

Traveling in different directions.”

The Book of Pain is a collection with a strong philosophical hip. The poem which most connects to me in this regard is “Toilet musings”.  It reminds me of my service years, me and my guy in the middle of the Osun, relieving our bowels and swapping gist about the lodge, who is crushing on who, who is crushing the other, what the crazy LGI wants, what the tricky future hold.

“Jungle Morning poo comes/In pairs like eyes,” the poet muses. “We make haste to/Dump waste Rush into the /Waiting arms of the day…” He paints how life can be like using the toilet, never in a hurry, except for an emergency—“Diarrhea”. This poem in explaining the inexplicable nature of life produces my best quote in the book: “Life works in selective inhibition.”

The crucial 2019 election is around the corner and the poet didn’t leave us hanging. In “Hopes of a thousand nights” he talks about

“The earth has embraced darkness

Cold now rules with the rod

Of despair”

If this is not APC then it is APC for me.

Tope went on to declare:

“Nightmare has returned from the abyss

Look, how fast the darken Lord has overthrown the sky!”

If this one is not Lai Mohammed, let goat eat palm fronds from my thigh.

The poem equally weighs a big wand of emotion as amply seen in the poem “Catharsis” where the poet-persona aches for an emotional release: “I want to scream,/To hit something,/Anything but sit calmly/And smile” and pretend that everything is going well while “A storm roils within” while “Fierce winds are raging” while “I see red”.

In the title poem, Topazo opens with a powerful question: “Can you tell the colour of pain?” I have never thought of pain as a matter capable of such attribute. I have always seen pain as a wilderness of agony and regrets and self-pity. but the poet expands on these, takes the reader into many features of pain but not in a way that forces it down the throat; he presents them in a series of rhetorical questions, calling out pains without calling it out, describing it while confessing that “The pain you feel is indescribable,/Words do not do it justice, and fall short”.

I have seen pain but thankfully the pain my friend describes is one I have never suffered. That is the merit of literature, it takes you to a world you have only imagined which you might never experience personally and makes it your shared experience.

“It fills your heart and squeezes your chest,” the poet says of pain, “Till breathing becomes a chore”. This one is strange to me but it exists, thousands if not millions are passing through it as I type this. People I will never get to know but whose woes I have now been made aware of. By Ogundare. By the power of words.

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It is disservice to this book to give each poem a singular meaning. While most of the poems have diverse meanings, “Emerald” speaks to me of the diversity more than most of them. In one breath the writer talks about singing a song “In words of worlds/Where magic lives:/The magic of love”, on the other breath, he muses about Fate:

“Destinies are set in stones,

Hidden in the sky

Among the stars;

When the stars align

Destinies are merged as

Designed by Fate”.

You know how we all glorify handwork, dedication, persistence and all those one-liners they throw at you in seminars, well, the truth is that these things are man’s attempt to make sense of success. But these amount to the single story of success. You start a pig farm; your friend starts a pig farm. You guys buy impigs. Your impig gives birth to four; your friend’s impig gives birth to twelve. No amount of hardwork and dedication will make a pig carrying four piglets turn to a pig carrying twelve.

You go to an interview with your third class, the HR falls in love with your carriage and you get the call. You

Christians call this favour and grace.

You study literature, like I did, you don’t know how to do poetry, Topazo who studied medicine kills poetry. This one is not Fate. This one is mastery, talent, some study. In a way, Fate. Because if when he was a boy somebody came and hit him on the head with a bottle and he goes to the hospital and they tell him to avoid literature, he wouldn’t have done this. So for nobody hitting him with a bottle on the head, as a boy, Topazo’s stars aligned and we are the winner.

I am beginning to ramble.

All I am saying, in essence, is that this is a collection to be read and enjoyed and learn from, that would echo the reality, and the scam and the ache called life. If you are a beginner, this is a book of poetry to inspire your art.

In most reviews, you have to say what you do not like about the book. I don’t like that I am getting this book for free. As a boy, I remember my mother’s women association come to our place for a meeting and sing “let good thing eat my money” when someone presents them with a gift. Like King David, they understand that items that cost you money have a special place in your value-scale.

I got this book because Topazo is my brother. Yes, all wealthy people are related. We writers too are. Me and Topazo drank from the same breast of Muse. Don’t be like me, go to Okadabooks and buy this book. Read it, keep it, and bring it out from time to time and read it some more.

 

Apostle Suleiman and the Politics of ‘Defend Yourself’

I wanted to post this on Facebook but, on the last minute, I decided to put it on the blog in order to have a better conversation. By putting it on the blog, I have cut off a large number of people who are less likely to click on a link and are too lazy to read but who are very quick to start a fight in the comment box.

I sometimes think of this blog as an exclusive club where I come to share more delicate things. Viral is not usually more useful. In fact, the more philistinism you put in your work the more likely you are to go viral. I am beginning to suspect that there is an acute lack of willingness to engage in intelligent arguments in Nigeria. We are too breezy, too gossipy, too pictorial, too jokey, too dismissal, too impatient to really make a difference. I, you and the few of us who have sense, have a lot to do to salvage Nigeria from the siege of deplorability.

That is not my problem in this particular post. Apostle Suleman’s sermon is.

I have watched the video for quite a few times and I have also read the comments condemning him. At first, I shrugged off the whole thing by reposting Elnathan John’s tweet that the average Christian or Muslim sermon contains hate speech. But the arguments and name calling have continued. And a tweet of 140 characters couldn’t have covered it all. I have now decided to develop my points.

I will discuss the points in two parts. The first part is on what I believe in; in the second part, I will pass my verdict (yes, this blog is a court and I am the chief judge).

PART ONE

1, I am a Christian. I am a Christian who has a strong clarity about the deity of Jesus Christ as a Prince of Peace.

So I find the sermon of the apostle curious and troubling. Self-defence, which the Christian Association of Nigeria has endorsed, is not a Christian way. It doesn’t matter how many Christians say it. It doesn’t matter how many times they say it, or how highly placed they are placed; the weapons of Christianity are not carnal. Period!

2, Nigerian government has failed Christians.

One of the perceptions of Christians and southerners about Buhari during his many attempts to become president is that he is a religious and ethnic fanatic. Even Atiku implied this during his campaign for the APC ticket. Buhari is now president having been polished by the media powerhouse of Tinubu. But Buhari’s appointments, utterances, actions and body language have proved his critics right. He is biased. He doesn’t take the incessant attacks of Fulani herdsmen seriously. I don’t think it takes sleep away from his eyes.

3, Self-defence is a natural law.

It’s acceptable to every international, civil and human rights group. But it is not a Christian tenet. I am not against self-defence but I am against advocating self-defence on the altar. The Christian altar should be disengaged from this sort politics. Why,

a) Because it is not Christian.

b) Because it robs Christianity the power to tap into the supernatural defence they   believe in.

c) It energises their adversaries who would take it as a call to arm themselves the more.

d) It is meaningless because anyone who is resolved to take up self-defence will do so whether the clergy condemns it or not. And those who will run away will run away even if Apostle Paul of Tarsus comes in person blandishing a machine gun.

That takes me to the second part.

PART TWO

What is the way forward? I, Justice Kingsley Okechukwu of Hard Voices Supreme Courts, rule that,

1, Christians must tap into their real power.

They serve a God who walked on water, who raised the death, who resurrected Himself from the death, whose servant’s shadow healed multitudes (except you don’t believe these in which case you are not a Christian). If a Christian with as little as a tenth of the faith of the least disciple of Jesus Christ of Nazareth stands up today and says, ‘As long as I live, there will no longer be any Fulani herdsmen harassment’, it will be the end of herdsmen terrorism. He may say, if he is the angry type, ‘Any Fulani herdsman who lays his hand on a weapon will fall and die instantly’, and it will happen. But where is such man?

2, Christians must stop playing home and away.

If you believe in God, you do, if you don’t you don’t. Once a Christian starts making statements like ‘Pray but don’t be stupid’ he is invariably saying, ‘Pray but get AK47 in case your prayer fails.’ And such attitude is against the faith in God. If you don’t trust, in totality, the power of God, then you better have a powerful plan B because you will need it. Once you put God as plan A you have lost it. God doesn’t do plans. He is your saviour or he is not. He is not one of your saviours.

3, If Christians decide to go with plan B, then the likes of Apostle Suleman must step down the pulpit and lead the way.

There should be offerings for weapons and congregations should be encouraged to sow a seed of weaponry. Going on Plan B stealthily won’t work because Christians are against a well-organised group with the tacit if not overt support of their elites both in government and outside it. I urge you Christian not to do this,

  1. Because it will destroy Nigeria. We’ll wake up someday and there is no more country called Nigeria.
  2. Because it is not a clear cut battle between Muslims and Christians. Although Christians are near 100 percent of the victims of Fulani carnage, the terrorists are a minority and in mobilizing for self-defence there is no way it won’t spill-over into a free for all fight.

4, Nigerian Government must protect Christians.

They should stop endorsing Fulani terrorism. They should start arresting these evil people, try them and jail them. They must raid their hideout and recover their weapons and go after their sponsors. The nonsense talk of ‘We will deal ruthlessly with perpetrators of this bastardly acts’ is nonsense talk, we are no longer buying. Buhari and his agents must show that they are not only against law-breaking but after law-breakers. How can, as Suleman says, ‘212 people died in Kaduna and nobody is prosecuted, nobody is prosecuted. Not one.’ Yet we have Biafran agitators in prison; Niger delta avengers in prison, Shia Movement members in prison and not a Fulani herdsmen in detention. This stinks of bias, of cover-up even.

They can start by re-arresting the killers of Evangelist Eunice and the woman beheaded in Kano. How can we be trying a man who named his dog Buhari and say we have no evidence against people who kill people?

5, Nigerian Government must rebuild the communities destroyed by the herdsmen.

I don’t mean rebuilding just the burnt houses and churches, but using the opportunity to electrify the localities, bring tap borne water, build more school blocks, tar their roads, empower the people financially etc. It won’t bring the death back but it would ease the mourning of the living. Doing this will pass a message to government that they stand to pay a huge price if they do not protect their citizens.

6, Influential Nigerians must continually hold government to their duty.

It pains me when politicians of the opposition join APC. It robs Nigeria of the needed dissenting voice. But non-politicians like Pastor Adeboye, whose complaint caused the sacking of the FRC executive secretary and the suspension of its alleged anti-church law, Uma Ukpai and Father Mbaka must use their influence to the limit (except they are silently involved in verdict one above, which is not evident).

Finally, we must keep the conversation going. It doesn’t seem to change anything but it has put us one conversation forward. You may also want to read Too much bloodshed and Don’t let the devil use you. My groaning for the good of Nigeria, no matter how flawed it is, did not start today. It won’t end anytime soon.

God help us.

Tweets to @Oke4chukwu