Monday, 07 June 2021 05:17

This house must not fall - Niyi Osundare

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Niyi Osundare Niyi Osundare

(Fateful cracks in the wall of The House Lugard Built)

              1

This house must not fall

Though brick after brick

It creaks like a hapless shack

Weighted down by History’s burden

Once Sphere of Influence

Of foreign conquerors who foraged

Distant lands for God and Country;

A fiercely treasured booty between

Treacherous ocean and insatiable desert

A cynical assortment of parts, random, raw,

Which have never mastered

The art of bonding into a steady whole

Bumbling bedlam of tribes and tongues…..

Eating each other’s spleen

Shibboleth-shouters at hellsgate,

Incapable of hearing

“My tribe is triber than yours”

“My tongue is home to more divisive verbs

You surely need an expensive passport

For the country of my madness….”

The devil in the difference

Borne of a misbegotten sameness

A century-old sore festers

On the wound between our minds

Victims of a map

Which forgot its compass

Unable to live with one another

Because we cannot live with ourselves 

              2

Drums of discord

Shouts of war

We heard these noises not long ago

In the war which produced no Victor

But countless Vanquished.

The wounds are legion;

The scars still live in our songs

Memoryless, mad, and utterly blind

Our nation is the toad which forgot its tale

That mindless nanny goat whipped countless times

For repeated transgressions: season after season,

We drown in the same river of unknowing

Always, wrong wo/men in the right places

Hideous, hidebound, insufferably haughty

Medieval in their methods, dark in their deeds

Deaf to the throes of a nation dying in their hands

And so, another season of songs of severance:

Incapable of the wisdom to build the house

We crave for the folly to tear it apart

We act first, and think later

But into how many parts this time?

How many more wars over the spoils of office

How can a land so brave and blessed

Spawn a genealogy of rulers so blind, so blighted

Victims of a map

Which forgot its compass

Unable to live with one another

Because we cannot live with ourselves

             3

Can a country of wise wo/men

Be ruled by a Confederacy of Fools

How foolish must those Ruled be

And how wise the Fools?

Africa’s Sick Giant

Laughing stock of the world

Nigeria thrashes around the jungle

Like a snake with a trampled head

This odd, accidental assortment of

Fierce, dangerously unequal parts

Riled by riot, threatened by rift,

Legatees of a Dubious Imperial Mandate

Too dim, too divided, to RE-make History

And UN-make its errors

Scared of that tough, regenerative Vision

To RE-build this House and make it stand

Every nation is nothing

If not a-work-in-progress

RE-thought, RE-shaped, RE-calibrated

In answer to noble necessity and moral imperative,

From Lord Lugard’s lemon

A jar of regenerative lemonade

For if we let this House fall

We all may fall with it

Victims of a map

Which forgot its compass

Unable to live with one another

Because we cannot live with ourselves

  • Niyi Osundare, one of Africa’s foremost poets and academics, is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of English, University of New Orleans.