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Abstract

Poetry is a literary genre that gives poets the opportunity to mirror the society, addressing socio-economic, political, religious and security issues. Over the years, the issues of African unity, identity and development have been of great concern to Africans. This explains why the Organisation of African Unity (OAU); which later metamorphosed into African Union (AU) was formed. Obviously, some Igbo poets like other members of the African society equally express their interest in contemporary issues in Africa through their poetic works. Although, many literary scholars have been done some researches on the Igbo poetry, but it is observed that some of their works have not addressed some contemporary issues in Africa extensively. It is against this backdrop that this study examines some contemporary Igbo poems that address contemporary issues bordering on African unity, identity and development in general and Nigeria in particular, so as to determine the extent to which the poets have addressed them. The study adopts the Marxist literary theory. The theory is employed to enhance the analysis of the selected poems. From the study, it is observed that the selected poems really address contemporary issues in Africa such as unity, identity and development by satirizing, criticizing, correcting and admonishing Africans. Therefore, the paper recommends that the teaching and learning of literature especially African literature in African languages is indispensable and should be encouraged. This will no doubt, awaken the reading culture and interest in the society at large.
36
AFRICAN UNITY, IDENTITY AND DEVELOPMENT IN
SOME CONTEMPORARY IGBO POEMS
Nkoli Mercy Nnyigide*
&
Martha Chidimma Egenti*
http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/og.v10i 1.3
Abstract
Poetry is a literary genre that gives poets the opportunity to mirror
the society, addressing socio-economic, political, religious and
security issues. Over the years, the issues of African unity, identity
and development have been of great concern to Africans. This
explains why the Organisation of African Unity (OAU); which later
metamorphosed into African Union (AU) was formed. Obviously,
some Igbo poets like other members of the African society equally
express their interest in contemporary issues in Africa through their
poetic works. Although, many literary scholars have been done some
researches on the Igbo poetry, but it is observed that some of their
works have not addressed some contemporary issues in Africa
extensively. It is against this backdrop that this study examines some
contemporary Igbo poems that address contemporary issues
bordering on African unity, identity and development in general and
Nigeria in particular, so as to determine the extent to which the poets
have addressed them. The study adopts the Marxist literary theory.
The theory is employed to enhance the analysis of the selected
poems. From the study, it is observed that the selected poems really
address contemporary issues in Africa such as unity, identity and
development by satirizing, criticizing, correcting and admonishing
Africans. Therefore, the paper recommends that the teaching and
learning of literature especially African literature in African
languages is indispensable and should be encouraged. This will no
doubt, awaken the reading culture and interest in the society at large.
Introduction
African unity, identity and development are topical issues that attract
the attention of some patriotic individuals in African society. These
Ogirisi: a new Journal of African Studies vol 10 2013
37
concepts have been viewed by different scholars from different
perspective. Wehmeier (2005: 1614) defines unity as “The state of
being in agreement and working together; the state of being joined
together to form one unity”. Erikson (1963) views identity as “… an
individual’s sense of placement within the world- the meaning one
attaches to oneself as reflected in the answers one provides to the
question, “Who am I?” and “Who am I to be?”. Atchley (1989) also
drew on the work of Erikson when he suggested that identity is “…a
set of characteristics that differentiates self from others and that
persists over time. People are distinguished and identified from
others by their characteristics, feelings, and beliefs. Obviously, every
nation, culture or individual has its own identity which differentiates
them from others. Hence, Kidd (2002) identifies three forms of
identity viz: individual, social and cultural. The social form of
identity is the interest of this paper because social identity according
to him is a collective sense of belonging to a group, identifying
themselves as having something in common with other group
members.
The concept of development on the other hand, is viewed by
Odimegwu (2004:86) as:
a many-sided process. At the level of the individual,
it is physical, material and economic; it is
psychological, affective and intellectual; it is moral,
religious and spiritual. At the level of human
society, development could be scientific and
infrastructural, technological and economic, social
and political
Following from the above conceptual explication, this paper
attempts to look at the various ways African poets have addressed
the issues of African unity and identity and how much impact it has
on their development. The Marxist literary theory was adopted in
analysing five contemporary Igbo poems that address the issues of
unity, identity and development in Africa. The poems are: “Afrka
Enwerela onwe ya” (Africa is liberated) by Nnamdi Olebara in Akpa
Uche edited by R.M. Ekechukwu, “Naijira b Enyi Mba” ( Nigeria
N. M. Nnyigide & M. C. Egenti: African Unity, Identity & Devt in Igbo Poems
38
is a great nation) by Goddy Onyekaonwu in Uche bu Afa, ‘Naijira’
(Nigeria) by Nkechinyere Okediadi in Ije Uwa, ‘Najira’ ( Nigeria)
by Inno Nwadike in Echiche Miri Emi and k n’ Uju” ( scarcity
in the midst of plenty) by Nolue Emenanjo in tara Nti . This is to
determine the extent to which the poets address the issues as afore-
mentioned. The concept of African unity and identity before
colonialism will be discussed alongside a review of literature on
contributions, challenges and the role of Igbo poetry. The analysis of
the poems and conclusion will form the latter part of the paper.
African Unity, Identity and Development
Before colonialism in Africa, some Africans especially the Igbo
people were really aware of the concept of unity, identity and
development. They usually express some of these concepts, as well
as their norms and ethics through their literature, especially the oral
tradition as in some proverbs like: “Igwe b ike” (unity is strength).
“A nyk maamr n, gbọọ ff” (unity is strength), “egbe
bere, ugo bere, nke s ibe ya ebela, nku kwaa ya” (live and let live),
“onye kp ba ya mkpkr, agbataobi ya ewere ya kporo ahha”
(if anyone belittles his identity, others will mess it up/play with it),
etc. Besides, their poetry serves as a medium through which they
express their philosophy, norms and beliefs. Nwadike (2006: v)
says, what can be regarded as the Igbo poetry is that which
represents the Igbo worldview in an artistic language. Before
colonialism, a typical African man is easily identified by his dark
colour, language, clothing, etc. But it is obvious that colonialism has
tampered with their sense of unity and identity.
Agashi (2012: 226) agrees thus,
The plague of colonialism cannot be removed or
disassociated from the present pandemonium of
underdevelopment in Africa. Our culture and
identity were mutilated and at best mixed up or
perhaps replaced with the western civilization and
culture through acculturation and exploitation…
Basically, African identity is inestimably relevant
for African development, because it gives ground
Ogirisi: a new Journal of African Studies vol 10 2013
39
for the African to be beyond egoistic and utilitarian
needs of self.
From the above view, it is obvious that colonialism really tampered
with the African identity. Besides, Okolo as cited in Agashi (2012:
229) observes, “Contemporary Africans are becoming more and
more Europeans and less and less Africans in their values mentality
and general outlook…”
The most important thing that can be used to identify an
individual, a group or tribe is language. But it has been observed
that some Africans particularly the Igbo have been underutilizing the
language. Some Igbo people show negative attitude to their
language. They prefer the colonial masters, i.e. English language
than their indigenous language. Because of the underutilization of
the Igbo language by the Igbo people, it was reported that the
language occupies the second position among those that will go into
extinction in the next fifty (50) years. In support of the above view,
Maduka (2007) says,
The educated Igbo elite generally prefer using
English to Igbo in their daily communication. This
is because they find it extremely difficult to think in
Igbo. In rural communities, illiterate dwellers who
speak only Igbo now feel deserted by the Igbo
language… The taking of the oath during
installation ceremonies of some of the traditional
rulers of various Igbo communities is often done in
English… an attitude of mind which makes a
mockery of the ceremonies which are
quintessentially cultural activities whose spirit can
only be captured and articulated in Igbo language.
Even in the presentation of African literary works, some African
indigenous languages are underutilized. Some factors are responsible
for this. Eme and Mbagwu (2011: 121) observe government policies
that could encourage the use of African languages in African
literature are absent. For instance, no African language is the only
N. M. Nnyigide & M. C. Egenti: African Unity, Identity & Devt in Igbo Poems
40
official language in any African country. African languages that are
official are regional. This is the case of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba in
Nigeria.
Emphasizing on the need to enhance identity in Nigeria,
Achebe as cited in Mbunda (2007: 178), says,
If the leadership hopes to develop and sustain an
awareness of nationhood and a sense of national
pride based on the cultural heritage of the ethnic
groups in Nigeria, it must enable Nigerians to
imbibe the fact that they “did not hear of culture for
the first time from Europeans; that their societies
were not mindless and primitive, but had a
philosophy of great depth,… poetry and above all,
that they had dignity.
Based on the concept of African development, Odimegwu (2004:
89) says that
African development then would refer to the
realization of the potentialities of the African
continent and peoples in the principles and values of
our Africanness in the course of the interactions of
Africans and other peoples in the pursuit of the
realization of African nature and African end.
Obviously, colonialism really influenced some Africans negatively.
But in recent years, African unity, identity and development are
issues that attract the attention of some Africans. Presently, some
African scholars, writers, artistes, poets, etc. show great concern on
these issues through their creative works. Equally, some
contemporary Igbo poets do use the instrumentality of their poetic
works to address these issues as they do on other societal issues.
However, in order to rekindle consciousness among Africans, to
promote unity, identity and development in African countries, the
Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was established on 25th May,
1963 in Addis Ababa with the aims among others; to promote the
Ogirisi: a new Journal of African Studies vol 10 2013
41
unity and solidarity among African States, co-ordinate and intensify
their co-operation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples
of Africa; defend their sovereignty, territorial integrity and
independence and to eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa
(International Relations and Cooperation, 2013).
Theoretical framework
This study adopts the Marxist literary theory and its focus is based
on using Igbo poems as a medium for representing class conflict and
reinforcing class distinctions. This theory also champions and
recognizes authors who have sympathy for the working classes and
whose work challenges economic inequalities as it is found in
capitalist societies.
The Marxist theory springs up in the 20
th
century due to the
Soviet Union’s social-government system. The theory is associated
with a German philosopher and economist Karl Heinrich Marx
(1818-1883). Friedrich Engels (1820-1883); a political economist is
also a proponent of this theory who in collaboration with Karl Marx
put together the principles of communism which was later called
Marxism.
This theory argues that the means of production structures
the society. Dobie (2012:87) points out that a society is shaped by its
“forces of production” and the methods that is used to produce the
material elements of life. In other words, as Ogene (2010:33) puts it,
Karl Marx and Fiedrich Engels claim that “the historical evolution of
man and his institution is determined by changes in the basic mode
of its economic production. Other claims as enunciated by Abrams
(2005:155) include,
changes in the fundamental mode of material
production effect changes in the class structure of a
society, establishing in each era dominant and
subordinate classes that engage in a struggle for
economic, political, and social change. Also, that
human consciousness is constituted by an ideology
i.e, the belief, values, and ways of thinking and
feeling through which human beings perceive, and
N. M. Nnyigide & M. C. Egenti: African Unity, Identity & Devt in Igbo Poems
42
by recourse to which they explain, what they take to
be reality...
However, the principles of this theory revolve around these
concepts: economic power, materialism and class conflict; the theory
is based on a system of thought that sees inequitable economic
relationships as the source of class conflict. As such issues such as
inequalities in social classes, imbalance of goods and power among
people, and the manipulation of the worker by the bourgeois are
focus of this theory.
With regard to the place of literature in Marxism, Joseph
Stalin is known to have founded and headed the soviet writer’s
union which provided a new way of reading and understanding
literature. Prominent among the major critic of Marxism is George
Lukacs, a Hungarian who is associated with concept of
reflectionism/vulgar Marxism which sees the art as a mirror that
reflect society class structure or economic base; it assumes that a text
will reflect the society that produce it. It claims that literary works of
the last century have been dominated by bourgeois ideology; hence,
they call for social realism to replace this sort of influence. On the
contrary, Louis Althuser opposes Lukas’s view that literature is not a
reflection of a society but that literature and art can affect the
society, and even lead it to revolution by the proletariat (i.e workers
in a society) that can change the society’s base (methods of
production). The concept of ‘production theory’ is associated with
this scholar. The economic base as exemplified by Dobie (2012:89)
is depicted in the story the ‘Diamond Necklace” by Maupassant who
paints a picture of economic power, inequalities in social class and
class struggle between a minor clerk; Mme, Loisel’s husband and his
employer who controls Liosel’s social relationship with him and his
professional life as well while, on the other hand, is Liosel and Mme
her Covent friend who belongs to the upper class. In the words of
Dobie (2012:89), the story has it that,
The bourgeoisie give elegant parties, while the clerk
and his wife eat potpie. The “petty clerk” is not
expected to fraternize with his betters except by rare
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43
invitation (so eagerly sought after by him) that
comes his way. And on such occasions, it is with
difficulty that Mme. Liosel can achieve the
appropriate appearance – dress, jewels, wrap. As
they take on less attractive jobs to pay back what is
owed, they are even less acceptable in the corridors
of wealth and power. In the end, as noted, Mme.
Liosel’s friend does not recognize her
From the foregoing, it is quite obvious that the Marxist theory lays
emphasis more on the political and economic aspect of literature. Its
strength lies in the fact that it connects literature with life i.e. with
everyday concerns about economics, class and power. However, it
does not take aesthetic matters into account which is essentially non
literary. Kennedy and Gioia Dana (2007:654) assert that there is
“imposition of the critic’s personal politics on the work in question
and then evaluating it according to how closely it endorses that
ideology.
Contributions, Challenges and the Role of Igbo Poetry
Some literary scholars have contributed to Igbo poetry through their
works. Their aim is to enhance the development and growth of the
literary genre. Here, some of these works are reviewed, so as to
determine the extent to which they have explored it and to show how
the present study differs from their works.
Ugonna (1982: 23) examines the extent to which the Igbo
poetry has grown. He observes that a thorough examination of Igbo
poetical works will reveal that Igbo poetry has grown not only in
quantity but also in quality and with the growth of Igbo poetry
standard Igbo is being firmly rooted. From the above observation, it
is revealed that the growth of Igbo poetry will help in the promotion
of standard Igbo.
In his own contribution, Uzochukwu (1982) highlights some
problems facing the appreciation of the Igbo oral poetry, classifies
the Igbo poetry and examines how the features associated with
poetry are manifested in the Igbo poetry. Ikwubuzo (2001: 217) in
his analyses of some Igbo poems highlights some conditions that can
N. M. Nnyigide & M. C. Egenti: African Unity, Identity & Devt in Igbo Poems
44
help to achieve unity and sustainable development in a nation
according to him, “for national unity and sustainable development to
be achieved in Nigeria, there is no alternative to peace and harmony
as a necessary conditions”. Obviously, peace and harmony are
indisputable conditions that can attract unity and development in any
nation.
Based on the effort of some Africans in promoting and projecting
the African culture and identity, Ikwubuzo (2006) analyses one of
Chukwezi’s poem and observes,
Chukwezi’s allegiance to Igbo culture, his
advocacy for its dignity and potentiality of the
black race do not find expression only in his
dramatic works but also in his poetic creativity.
His literary expression depicts him as an
uncompromising Africanist who believes that the
African heritage should be guarded rather than
deformed or distorted by the influence of an alien
culture.
The above observation shows that there are still Africans who are
really proud of African culture and identity. In addition, Ikwubuzo
(2007: 55) makes a brief appraisal of the growth of written Igbo
poetry in terms of extant texts, the factors that have contributed to
the growth as well as the factors that militate against it. He also
considers how the study of Igbo poetry has fared and suggests some
steps that can be taken to sustain the growth of written Igbo poetry
in the 21
st
century thus, “Igbo literary studies should be made
compulsory and the teaching of Igbo poetry should start from the
Nursery school so that interest in poetry can be developed in time”,
among other suggestions.
Nwokoye (2012: 154) analyses some poetic devices in some
Igbo poems. She observes, “… learning the elements and poetic
tools used to build a poem will help to understand and analyse
poems”. Furthermore, Nnyigide (2012) identifies some philosophical
and satirical elements in some Igbo poems. She observes that some
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45
poets employ satire in the poetic works to ridicule some societal ills,
with the intension of correcting them. In addition, Nnyigide (2013)
observes that some Igbo poems can be used as tools to promote
national unity, identity, security and social stability.
With regard to the role of poetry in the society, it has been
observed that poets are important members in the society. They play
an indispensable role. They mirror the society and use their poetic
works to criticize, satirize and correct some societal ills. This
supports the fact that poems are not created in a vacuum. Their
society forms the framework of their poetic works. Some literary
scholars have examined the issue of poor leadership, some roles of
poetry and contributions of some poets to the society.
Based on the issue of poor leadership in Nigeria, Acholonu
(2003: 13) observes,
Our collective predicament is both caused and
compounded by our societal ills, as many Nigerian
leaders seem so careless about the welfare of the ruled
majority. The many development problems facing
Nigeria today include the fact of a disintegrated
bourgeoisie or middle class, the near collapse of our
socio-cultural and political system and structures,
seriously weakened by the roles of many of our
incompetent, dishonest, corrupt, selfish and unpatriotic
leaders.
But Ikwubuzo (2002: 176) opines,
A poet, a novelist or a playwright is not insensitive
to the socio-political realities of his time. He is
affected by them like any other member of his
society. During the apartheid era in South Africa,
for instance, a number of independent African
countries identified with its struggles. Within the
apartheid enclave itself, freedom fighters were not
only those that carried physical arms. Others like the
famous lady singer, Mariam Makeba used satirical
music to agitate for political and social change. The
lyrical content of her music disparaged the while
N. M. Nnyigide & M. C. Egenti: African Unity, Identity & Devt in Igbo Poems
46
minority regime and reflected the political aspiration
of her people.
From the above observation, it is very clear that a poets, novelists,
playwrights and singers can use their works to bring freedom,
liberation and social harmony in their society.
Similarly, Jenkwe (2007: 165) observes, “… contemporary
Nigerian poets have successfully played the role of participating
actively in offering solutions to the socio-political and moral
problems of the nation through their advocacy”. The above
observation shows that poets really play significant role in the
society.
Akporobaro (2008: 37) examines the relationship between
poetry and society thus,
While the poem originates from the heart of the
poet, it is also in one-way or the other, the
expression of the socio-political realities of its
word. The experience of the poet is very often a
mirror of an aspect of the life and socio-conditions
of the society in which the poem is written.
The above view states that poetry can serve as a mirror through
which other members of the society view, socio-political realities in
the society.
The study of the relationship between poets and society
cannot be complete without mentioning some contributions of
Ezenwa-Ohaeto; a renowned African literary scholar, who has used
his literary works especially poetry to address some societal ills in
Africa in general and Nigeria in particular. However, Nwachukwu-
Agbada (2009: 8-9) examines how Ezenwa-Ohaeto uses some of his
poems “I Wan Bi President” and If to Say I Bi Soja to address the
issue of poor leadership in Africa. He observes,
Ezenwa-Ohaeto’s contribution to national
development is particularly noticeable in his
constant harping on the poor leadership evident in
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47
the running of our polity. In his I Wan Bi President;
collection of poems (in both formal and pidgin
English), he leaves no one in doubt as to what he
thinks of the leadership of his country…. It is also
for such an uncaringness that the poet sarcastically
regrets not being a soldier, a soldier in Africa being
a highly privileged fellow wielding a gun and
serving as a ruler…
From the foregoing, it is evident that Ezenwa-Ohaeto has made very
outstanding contribution in addressing some societal ills in Africa.
In addition, Okodo (2009: 157) analyses one of his poems, “I Wan
Bi President”. He observes that Ezenwa – Ohaeto,
…Satirises bad presidents who would not work,
who would make enjoyments; who would
disregard price increase, non-payments of
salaries, sanitation exercises and religious crises.
He would like to be a good president that would
provide for all the people and no area should be
termed special.
Still on the importance of poetry to the society, Nwokoye (2012:
274) makes a critical appraisal of the interventionist role of literature
in the society and precisely Igbo society especially with poetry. She
observes that a poet can use his poetic work to ridicule some societal
ills with a view of correcting them.
Similarly, Nze (2012: 700) says,
The relevance of any writer is premised on his ability to
reflect the social needs of his community. It is his
responsibility to interpret the aspirations of the society
in which he finds himself. At all times therefore, his
work must be a reflection of the social values, norms
as well as the problems which his society faces. Not
N. M. Nnyigide & M. C. Egenti: African Unity, Identity & Devt in Igbo Poems
48
only this, the writer must offer suggestion on possible
ways to regenerate his society.
The above view also point to the fact that literary writers, especially
poets play significant role in the society. In support of the above
view, Nwamuo as cited in Nze (2012: 700) observes,
All literature is derived from society as depicts the
values of a people within a particular period.
However imaginative a writer may be, the
framework of his writing must always be the society
which he knows and is familiar with… His
responsibility is to explain and interpret the nuances
of his society to others, to the extent that his
enlightenment concerning the values and activities
of that society can be facilitated by studying its
literature.
Obviously, creative writers, especially poets play an indispensable in
the society. They serve as a mirror through other members of the
society view the situation in the society. However, the society can be
the poet’s framework of writing. Furthermore, Obi (2012: 719)
opines,
Literature plays important role in the lives of people
in the society. By its nature, literature offers
training… and critical reasoning and also develops
the reader’s analytical mind. Literature being a
mirror of its time makes it a useful instrument for
educating people in the society….
From the above opinions it is very glaring that literature, especially
poetry can be used as a wonderful instrument in addressing societal
issues. Besides, the above observations reveal that poetry has gone
beyond entertainment.
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49
Data Presentation and Analysis
One of the poems selected for this study is titled “Afrika enwerela
onwe ya” (Africa is liberated) by Nnamdi C. Olebara. The poet is a
renowned Igbo literary writer who uses his literary works especially
poems to address societal issue. In the first stanza of the poem, the
poets states that Africa is liberated and rejoices over the freedom of
Africa. But in stanza two of the poem, the poet observes that the
freedom of Africa is ironical. He laments over the slavery of some
Africans. In fact, the poem reveals that Africa is still under the
negative influence of colonialism. According to the poet,
Ihe ma Afrka enwerela onwe ya
Site na Verde ruo na Horn
Site na Gibraltar ruo na Cape Good Hope
Nra Afrka
Ee, anr maka nd isi ojii
Ma Afrka, olee anr g ?
Olee is ii nwerela onwe g?
Ebe tt m Afrka b ba n’ala ha
Ebe a chpr m nne g n’ala ma ha
Chga ha ebe ala kpr nk ?
Afrka, ba n’ala ya
Gee nt na South Afrka, Zimbabwe na Mozambique
N olu m nne
Ka ihere onwe g mee g
Tfa! Afrka ndo.
(What a good thing Africa is liberated)
From Verde to Horn
From Gibraltar to Cape Good Hope
Rejoice Africa
What a joy for the blacks.
But Africa, where is your joy?
What is the essence of your freedom?
When many Africans are strangers in their land
Where your siblings were pursued from their good land
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50
To a dry land?
Africa, a stranger in his own land
Listen in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique
Hear the cries of your siblings
Be ashamed of yourself
What a pity! Africa, sorry).
The poet frowns at unfavourable situation and poor condition of
some Africans. He uses the second stanza of the poem to address
some societal problems in Africa like exploitation, dehumanization,
unhealthy relationships that exist in Africa, etc. The poem reveals
that many Africans are really exploited and dehumanized.
In one of his poems titled “Nigeria b Enyimba” (Nigeria is
a great nation). Onyekaonwu, another renowned Igbo literary
scholar, employs irony to ridicule some societal ills that are
prevalent in Nigeria. The poet addresses some societal ills like
dehumanization, unlawful killings, insecurity, injustice and
discrimination.
According to the poet,
Najira b Enymba
Obodo achgh mmegbu
Lee! nw m akwkw
Nd uwe ojii gbagbusiri
Na Soweto
Na-agba ya anya mmiri
N’ihi na ahbegh
Ihe d otu a na ya.
bụụz ikewap mmadu
N’ihi ass ya?
Na Najira nke a bu ar
(Nigeria is a great nation
A nation where there is no oppression
Look! The death of students
Killed by the police
In Soweto
Makes her to shade tears
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51
Because such incidence
Has not been witnessed in it
Is it discrimination of a person
Due to his language?
In Nigeria, that is abomination.)
The poet has used his poetic work to satirize some societal ills,
oppression, unfair practices and poor conditions in Nigeria. The poet
also reveals that some Nigerians are oppressed and discriminated
due to their language.
Similarly, Nwadike, a renowned Igbo literary writer in one
of his poems titled “Najira” (Nigeria) observes the extent of moral
decadence, poor leadership, bribery and corruption, immoral
practices, inequality, unfair and careless attitudes among the
President, Governors, Ministers, Commissioners, Senators and
members of the House of Representative thus,
Najira,
Obodo President na nd Gvan,
Nd Minista na nd Kmishna
Nd Sinet na nd l nzk
Na-adwa nara na pukunde, pukunde
N’l ha, ma were ag tinye n’n
Na-agwa nd r na ihe e jigh kwụọ gw
B na ego adgh
Najira odogwu nwoke!
(Nigeria,
A nation where president and governors
Ministers and and commissioners
Senate members and members of house of Representative
Share Naira in billions
In their house, and yet deny it
Continue to tell workers that the reason for non-payment of their
salary
Is lack of money
N. M. Nnyigide & M. C. Egenti: African Unity, Identity & Devt in Igbo Poems
52
Nigeria a great man!
Leader of Africa indeed.)
The poem reveals that those at the helm of affairs in Nigeria are
corrupt and self-centred. They enjoy Nigerian Naira in their different
houses. They are careless about the citizens, to the extent of
depriving them of their salaries. One can describe the situation
depicted in the poem with this expression “monkey dey work,
baboon dey chop”.
In addition, Okediadi; another Igbo literary writer, in one of
her poems titled “Najira” (Nigeria) satirizes the problem of poor
leadership in Nigeria. Poor leadership is a major problem facing
Nigeria. The poem depicts that some leaders do establish some
agencies for the purpose of assisting the poor masses. But instead of
assisting the poor citizens through such establishments, the leaders
in turn utilize and monopolize all the benefits from such agencies.
The poet refers to them as greedy people. The poet says,
Nd oke chch
n hiwere amma d iche iche.
b nke gn?
I nyere nd wa na-at n’n aka.
Onye ka o rukwaran aka?
N’akpa n ka ha bachara.
Nd chch nchgbu ndoonu!
(Greedy people
You established many agencies
For what purpose?
To help the poor masses
Who benefited from that?
You monopolized everything
Bad leaders sorry!)
The poet has used her poetic work to address the problem of poor
leadership in Nigeria. She observes that the poor masses are not
Ogirisi: a new Journal of African Studies vol 10 2013
53
cared for. The leaders monopolize all the agencies created to assist
and improve the condition of the poor in the society.
Besides, Emenanjo; a great Igbo literary icon employs
rhetorical questions in one of his poems “k n’uju” (scarcity and in
the midst of plenty) to reveal the extent of suffering some poor
Nigerians experience, even in the midst of abundant resources in the
nation. He says,
Kedu zi ka a ga-esi nd n’anym
Were as na-akw aka?
Ked kwan ka a ga-esi nd n’iyi
Kwere ncha baa any n’anya?
(How can one be in the ocean
And wash his hands with saliva?
How can one be in the river
And allow soap to enter his eyes?)
Ugbu a,
Mmiri na-afabanyezi any n’eze
Ebe any na-ach mmiri a ga-aṅụ
(Now,
Water penetrates our teeth
As we search for drinking water…)
From the poem, “anym” (ocean) and iyi (river) symbolize the
immeasurable resources in Nigeria. It is impossible for one to be in
an ocean and wash his/her hands with saliva or for one to be in the
river and allow soap to enter his/her eyes. But from the poem, these
situations exist. The poem depicts a very horrible condition in which
some Africans find themselves. It is obvious that Nigeria is really
blessed with immeasurable resources but many Nigerians are still
living in abject poverty.
N. M. Nnyigide & M. C. Egenti: African Unity, Identity & Devt in Igbo Poems
54
Summary and Conclusion
From the analysis above, it is obvious that some Igbo poets are
really aware of some prevalent issues in African society. The poets
of the selected poems analysed for this study address the issues of
African unity, identity and development by criticizing and satirizing
some prevalent issues like insecurity, bribery and corruption, poor
leadership, exploitation, oppression, discrimination, mismanagement
of resources, lack of basic amenities, etc. The study reveals that
some African societies are still under the influence of colonialism.
But from the analyses, the poets do not only satirize the African
leaders, but also admonish them to live up to expectation. Besides,
the poets use their poetic works to rekindle African consciousness,
beliefs, identity, ethics, etc. among Africans. Obviously, their aim is
to reinforce peace, unity, social harmony and development in Africa.
However, collective efforts should be made to promote national
unity. This will surely help to enhance the safety of all citizens.
Obviously, the study has helped to clear the misconception that the
Igbo poetry is purely meant for pleasure and entertainment.
Adopting the Marxist theory to analysing the poems, it reveals
that the main tenet of the Marxist theory is very glaring in the
selected poems. In a society where the leaders monopolize the
resources to the detriment of the poor citizens, class struggle is
inevitable. In a society where there is insecurity, social and political
instability abound. From the poems selected for this study, therefore,
there are enough instances to show that much is still required from
the African Union (AU). It is very clear that some of her objectives
are not yet achieved in some African countries like Nigeria as
revealed in the selected poems. However, this paper makes the
following recommendations:
1. Some prevalent issues in Nigeria like insecurity, kidnapping,
negative activities of the boko haram sect, unlawful killings,
bombing, unemployment, lack of basic amenities, bribery
and corruption, poor leadership, etc. which trigger social and
political instability should be given urgent attention.
2. From the study, it is very clear that the Igbo poetry is an
indispensable genre of the Igbo literature. It serves as a
medium through which some societal ills are addressed.
Ogirisi: a new Journal of African Studies vol 10 2013
55
Therefore, the study of African literature in African
languages should be made compulsory for Nigerian youths
in their various institutions of learning. This will not only
promote the languages but will help to promote healthy
interaction and relationship among them.
*Nkoli Mercy Nnyigide is a lecturer in the Department of Igbo,
African and Asian Studies, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.
nkolimercy@gmail.com
*Martha Chidimma Egenti is a lecturer in the Department of
Linguistics, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.
egentinma@gmail.com
N. M. Nnyigide & M. C. Egenti: African Unity, Identity & Devt in Igbo Poems
56
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Thesis
Full-text available
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