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President and other poems

Poets For The President

The President And Other Poems edited by Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga, Bulkybon Books, Lagos, 2015, 160pp

Uzor Maxim Uzoatu

There ought to be life outside power. The fear of most sitting presidents is that their exit from power almost always signals an end to their relevance in life. It was indeed unbelievable to most Africans that former Nigerian president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, conceded defeat well before the final result was announced. Jonathn famously said: “If you scuttle a system for personal ambition, it becomes a collective tragedy.” Throughout the heated campaign for re-election, Jonathan made bold to inform the world: “My ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian.” To give him his due, Jonathan left office peaceably such that the doomsday prophets who had predicted the breakup of the country were put to shame. Some books have thus deemed it fit to honour the president who left on a high with an anthology.

President and other poems

In his preface to The President And Other Poems, the editor Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga reveals: “Bulkybon Publications and the Editor of this book had prepared to publish this anthology in honour of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2012, but put it on hold after the pump price of fuel was unexpectedly increased on the 1st of January 2012. However, following the president’s all time commitment to peace and development of the country by conceding victory to his opponent during the just concluded 2015 presidential elections, Bulkybon management decided to publish the anthology as a mark of honour for his statesmanship and magnanimity as the first Nigerian president who encouraged reading culture nationally, and also for peacefully acceding victory to his opponent in a seemingly biased election with underage voters in the north even though such discrepancies were also said to have happened in some eastern states.”

It is not as though Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga is unaware that in undertaking this task he is leaving himself open to criticism by people who may feel he is engaging in hagiography. The irrepressible Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga has no apologies whatsoever to render to anybody, as he writes further in the preface: “I don’t owe anybody any apology for publishing this anthology. Critics may have a field day criticizing it constructively or destructively. They are entitled to their own opinions. But history has been made whether anybody likes it or not as President Jonathan cannot be denied of being the first Nigerian President who used the Internet social media to interact with Nigerians and used excerpts of the proceedings to publish a book titled My Friends and I on Facebook.”

The President And Other Poems contains 128 poems. The poets represented in the anthology include: Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga, David Ishaya Osu, Apeh Alexandra Ojima, Julius Boyenle Ipoola, Uzonwanne Austine Michael, Ursula Ngozi Uzoeshi, Kennedy Egoke, Ken Efeh, Ovie Cross c, Muhammad Abdullah, Olugbenga Seyi Hodonu, Uche Uwadinachi, Ngozi Nnenna Onwuchekwa, Gabriel Obaje, Eriata Oribhabor, Jimoh Ibrahim, James Eze, Adebayo Akinlolu Babatunde, Dada Oluwaseun Michael, Onuchi Mark Onoruoiza, Victor Okechukwu Anyaegbuna, Adeniyi Adegbilero Idowu, Dauda Muideen Lanre, Razaq Malik, Dada Oluwagbemisola, Joseph Felix Osaeghemede, Aigbokhaleode K. Asimiafele, Theodore Janet, Njoteh Ifeanyi Richard, Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso, Dr. James Raphael (Hon). It can be said from the mix of names that the anthology pays due regards to the federal character of Nigeria. The early image of President Jonathan as an unshod lad growing up in the Niger Delta informs the first poem of the anthology, that is, the title poem, “The President” by Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga:

You came unheralded devoid of silver spoon,

Shoeless to school but plucked Patience from milky moon;

You smile harmlessly like Aurora’s sun,

But inner fire licks up lake with fiery burn…

In his other poem in the book, “Beginning

of Wisdom”, the theme for Adjekpagbon

Blessed Mudiaga shifts to the Boko Haram

menace as he starkly asks:

Are your colours of death not like

chameleonic war

Maiming Muslims, Christians alike in jams?

For David Ishaya Osu in the poem “Salute to a Sun-baked Urchin”, the harsh front of the Niger Delta is laid bare:

Born of the oil-furred delta

An urchin

Born in a howl-furred delta

From his naked lids

Dribbles shivery tears

Pregnant waters to seduce

So his deceased and caged cries

Grow bread

A lullaby for thorn-stained wombs

Born of that delta

With oil in his bowl

Oil for that blistered lamp

Amid roars of silent baking night

Brimming with blustering bullets

An urchin…

Kennedy Egoke in his entry “Wasting

Foods” is full of unvarnished lament:

Prices of foodstuff

With all their energies

Running and jumping high up

In broad day light to inhabit the sky

What a slap on purchasing power’s face?

In “A Harvest of Blood”, a poem dedicated

to Ken Saro-Wiwa, Ken Efeh grieves:

Only yesterday,

I lost my voice

to a gust of wind

that stifled their innocent presence

leaving shreds of broken humanity

to rubble…

The notable promoter of Nigerian Pidgin writing Eriata Oribhabor does not write in his brand of pidgin lingo here, as he bemoans a pathetic fate via normal English in the poem “The President’s Book”:

We must roll back the books only if we skin all our crooks that poisoned our streams and crannies.

For Onuchi Mark Onoruoiza in “My Fatherland”, the verdict is plainly damning:

The primal ethos of our

communal bond

That once thrived with moral


Was murdered in the wake of western invasion…

Victor Okechukwu Anyaegbuna does not garnish the hurt in “Those We Voted”:

Those that we trusted to lead us To the Promised Land betrayed us…

The last poem in the anthology, “The Man and his Good Luck” by Dr. James Raphael (Hon) somewhat sums the sweep of the book about the betrayed good man:

He trusted them, for he believed they were like him

They beat Judas to his game,

By selling out our humble man’s right,

And with his money they paid for it…

Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga has in The President And Other Poems offered the reading public a homely anthology of contemporary social verses. It is a twice-told tale that if one throws up a pin in the air in Nigeria it will eventually fall on the head of a poet. To that extent, poetry is a Nigerian. Have a pen, must write; and have a computer, must write even more!

The trouble with writing a poem that starts out with a message is the danger of submitting to preaching instead of honing the poetry. Given the purpose of The President And Other Poems there is indeed a good measure of messaging. Even so, Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga has the courage of his conviction by sticking out with his beliefs in a land where most of the people end up as quibblers and ventriloquists. Every offering deserves a hearing, for as Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga quotes Mark Twain in the back of the book: “There is no difference between a person who won’t read and one who can’t read.”

To help the reader, Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga ought to have placed the poems under each contributing poet’s name on the contents page. This would help easy reference. There should also have been an index of first lines at the back of the book.

In all, Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga deserves commendation for his enthusiastic spirit in courageously championing the cause of the written word. It is from tiny spittle after spittle that the mighty ocean forms. The anthology The President And Other Poems edited by Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga has served the necessary purpose of helping some virginal poets to break into print for the very first time.

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