Oloyede’s Lagos is Killing Me is not a cliché, even though Lagos strangles many souls. Even if Oloyede had titled this collection of poems, Nigeria is Killing Me, that will lay bare the current state of affairs in a nation of two contrasting ends, the nouveau rich and the poor who barely survive on less than a dollar a day.
Before I delve into the meat of this collection. The place of literature in retelling our collective history should never be downplayed. And Oloyede begins the collection with a powerful poem ‘I have learned how to Live.’ In this poem, Oloyede through verses assesses how the poor in society have learned to live. These lines resonate:
“I eschewed the ragged snares of regret with the plea of grateful
floated in the wind of outrageous dreams and contracted
succour from waiting-
waiting for an economic angel,
waiting for the cornrow of gladness to sprout,
waiting for the rainbow while drifting in the garrulous storm.
Like many Lagosian and Nigerians, who have learned to live in squalor amid plenty. This poem tells a story of a people who are in perpetual wait for succour. To put this in proper context, a former Governor of Lagos State, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, only just arrived in Nigeria after a prolonged Medical Tourism in London, United Kingdom. This is not a strange narrative when it comes to Nigeria and its political leadership, as the President of Nigeria also frequents the United Kingdom to treat undisclosed health-related issues. A luxury majority of the citizenry who are not provided with adequate medical infrastructure can barely afford.
The next poem that caught my attention was ‘Moribund Restaurant.’ And to contextualize this, the moribund restaurant in this scenario is Naija, an acronym for Nigeria. A country where Fulani herdsmen and ranching have been on the national discourse for some time rather than nation building and purposeful leadership. With stinging verses, Oloyede rains venom on the political class.
“Political Pests continually finger and break into the lump of
Our national pudding with their greed-infected
Economic rodents stool and run our resources aground.”
Oloyede through verses paints a picture of a nation left in comatose whose lot has been deadwood political leadership. The current governor of Kano State, Umar Ganduje, was caught on camera stuffing wads of American dollars into his Babanriga (Traditional Hausa/Fulani Wear) pockets. That is a classic example of the Economic rodent and many of his ilk with cases at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who have been let off the hook because of their allegiance to the government in power.
The poet also basks in his ‘blackness’ and has a message for the Whiteman in ‘Tell the White Man.’ Oloyede reminds the Whiteman of their cruelty and ends each verse by reminding the Whiteman that the Blackman will make their dreams work.
‘Sacrament of Bullets’ paints a gory picture of the lives lost during the #endsars protest. The poet ends the poem with the lines:
‘That at this solemn altar of peaceful protests,
Our bodies were desecrated with the sacrament of bullets.’
Like every poet of conscience, Oloyede has through literature addressed the many issues plaguing his motherland. One thing Oloyede can improve on for his subsequent works is his use of language, which could either be the beauty and albatross of any collection.
Overall, Oloyede’s debut is a worthy addition to the bookshelf.