Verses About Life



Yinka Olatunbosun

After playing along the Nigerian theatre corridors some years ago with the performance of his first play, “The Siege’’ in 2014, the keen eyes of veteran journalist, Sam Omatseye had rested on another artistic expression in form of a new poetic collection titled, “Tribe and Prejudice”. Prior to this piece, Omatseye had published four volumes of poetry namely Mandela’s Bones and Other poems, Dear Baby Ramatu, Lion Wind and other poems as well as Scented Offal.

This relentless social commentator needs no die to cast on the future of Nigeria as his years of experience rooted in culture and informed by global news amount to something. The 30-poem collection serves as a door scope into the myriads of issues he had observed in our socio-cultural lives. Some of these include corruption, tyranny, migration and more.

For the most parts, the underlying message in each poem is subtle. Let’s consider “Songbird”. The poet seems to lament the faded days of well-articulated opposition to government. The opposition does not necessarily foment trouble in the polity but are usually the mouthpiece of the oppressed and societal watchdogs.

A very daunting tale is told in the narrative poem titled, “The Immigrant”. The protagonist is developed through his relocation from the village to the city and finally arriving at a foreign land where he yearns to have his dreams fulfilled. He returns to his homeland as an unfulfilled man.

Trialing cautiously around the controversial statue of Chief Obafemi Awolowo is another poetic piece titled, “The Statue”. It is the poet’s response to the heated debate around the newly commissioned ‘Awo’ statue which had been a subject of critical assessment in the past year. The poet acknowledged how the debates had inadvertently revived the spirit of the elder statesman.

Finally, the theme poem “Tribe and Prejudice’’, amongst other things, is a commentary on the “bastardised” use of English language, the language of the coloniser and its effect on our use of indigenous languages. The poem also calls to question the impact of ethnic sentiments in deciding who really qualifies to lead the nation. He condemned the brazen theft of innocence occasioned by the kidnap of schoolgirls who were writing certificate examinations in the North east and forced into sex slavery. The poet’s tone of outrage mirrors those expressed all over the world in solidarity protests against the agonising revelation of a nation’s helplessness in the face of terrorism.

Other signposts of history that were referenced by the poet in the collection include “Susanne Wenger”, “Asaba Massacre” and “Obama in Kenya”.