By Iwelunmor Patrick

As the poet turns 70, I will attempt to stimulate his intellectual ego by juxtaposing some of his poetic regurgitations with the socio-political realities that have “twined my conscience like a snake” in a country that has always attempted to exalt nothingness above substance .

His vociferous misgivings against entities that attempt to stifle the freedom of self-expression shall be invoked in this tributary appreciation of his uncompromising tent-pitching with the ethos of nationalistic obligation.

As an unrepentant student on the altar of esoteric musings, playing acolyte to the deities of poetic endeavour, I shall attempt to interrogate the semantics of his revolutionary poetics.

How can I sing for the sage in the face of the many contradictions that have perforated a nation’s hypocritical claims to unity and nationhood when, in actual fact, some sections are regarded as less important in the scheme of things while others who muster nothing but political opportunism are elevated to high heavens? How can I sing for my mentor when truth is daily strangulated by those who are supposed to inspire us in our illustrious pursuit of equity and fairness in the sharing of the national cake?

If citizen Ofeimun did not blind himself “to the putrefying carcasses in the market place pulling giant vultures from the sky”, how then do I sing of justice when the man who presided over the fatal alienation of a self-determining race parades himself as a prayer warrior when he should be facing genocide charges at the Hague?

How can I sing for Odia Ofeimun when thieving administrators connive with lifeless entities to dethrone critical royalty whose intention was purely aimed at sanitising a region’s shameless resolve to perpetuate stagnation and a beggarly ideology fuelled by ignorance and incurable stupidity?

How can I sing for Odia Ofeimun when the political “emissaries of rift” have continued to divide us along ethnic and religious lines mainly because they know that their relevance will not and does not exceed the aspirations of their stomachs?

How can I sing for a man who in saner climes should have been a professor of literature but who unfortunately finds himself in a nation where education is seen as a festering and odorous sore that must be cured only with more and more doses of amplified illiteracy?

How can I sing for Odia Ofeimun when sworn enemies of our peaceful existence have desecrated our land by sending innocent damsels into undeserved oblivion yet receive pardon and juicy rewards for terrorising hope?

How on earth can I sing for a man of conscience with whose coded lyrics I have assuaged the national pains that I did not bargain for in the wake of all the seasons I have spent trying to bend the Philistines’ nature to my will?

I may give up this resurgent ambition to sing for a man whose thinking is watered by the fountain of literary inspiration on a day his decades of cerebral and artistic pontifications hit their seventh sky! Yet, if I cannot sing for my mentor, whose litany of deep verses I contemplate like decades of the Marian rosary, then shall I cry my beloved country whose soul is on the verge of eternal damnation unless we find the right leaders to steer us away from the present and precarious path of annihilation in which we find ourselves.

Iwelunmor Patrick, a Public Relations practitioner writes from Lagos.

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