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Tribe and Prejudice: Omatseye’s musings in service of humanity

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Tribe and Prejudice: Omatseye’s musings in service of humanity

Title: Tribe and Prejudice
Author: Sam Omatseye
Publisher: Parresia Publishers Ltd, Lagos
Year of Publication: 2017
Pages: 63
Reviewer: Tony Okuyeme

 

“Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.” The above statement by Plato, one of the world’s best known and most widely read and studied philosophers, underscores the essence of poetry.

 

 

Sam Omatseye, award-winning Nigerian journalist, poet, novelist and playwright, in his latest collection of poems titled ‘Tribe and Prejudice’, demonstrates his commitment to the making of and desire for a better Nigeria, where though “tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand”.

 

 

 

In this collection, titled ‘Tribe and Prejudice’, Omatseye takes the reader, indeed Nigerians, on a reflective journey. While the last collection, Scented Offal, looks at Nigerian history with a view to “capturing some of the essence of the conflicts, crises, and challenges of our history over the years”, in this latest collection, Tribe and Prejudice, Omatseye interrogates further the sundry ills that have plagued the nation. He wants us to look at ourselves critically and realise the kinds of social ills that have bedevilled our nation for so long.

 

He laments the tribal psychosis and ethnic rivalry pervading our society. In this 63-page book containing 30 poems, the poet reminds us, with clarity of expression and vivid imagery, that “a nation which normalises evil can never make any progress”.

 

 

This is clearly captured in the eponymous poem – the first in this collection of 30 poems – Tribe and Prejudice. In it, Omatseye looks at the metropolitan city of Lagos, home to variety of people from different tribes and culture, living together happily, united by a foreign language, which they have adopted to suit their purpose. In the words of the author, “Tribes knitted beneath a tent/All tongues tied by one thread called English…”

 

But as politics and election came, ‘things began to fall apart’, tribal and cultural differences too centre stage. For, according to the poet, “but in that poll the cosmopolis/came apart one part at a time / One pact was one pact. / The Yoruba past / I jaw past / Igbo past and so on / But past make the present tense / Yoruba of the west / Igbo of the east / Were no longer at ease / The twain met in

Lagos / Not as friends or foes but as / Foes feinting as friends. “Suddenly all our past no longer met / In the pidgin English / We no longer convene in / one tongue.”

 

 

He laments the antics of the key politicians, especially Obafemi Awolowo and Nnamdi Azikiwe, two of the prominent political leaders of Yoruba and Igbo descent respectively. In the third poem, Massacre, 1967’, the author laments the invasion of Asaba by the Nigerian Army and the massacre of unarmed people – old and young – who had come to welcome them with songs and dance for liberating them.

 

 

Again, in another poem entitled ‘The Fart of War’, the poet expresses his personal view of war. He sees war as a foolish and destructive venture, an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

 

 

The poet notes: “A war does nothing / But build up / A ruin… Cities become fragile like / Human bones / Fields once green recoil to grey…”

 

With vivid description and haunting imagery, the poet captures other areas of tribalism and its attendant prejudice which are no doubt nauseating.

 

These include the supremacy battle in Niger Delta, among the Ijaw, Urhobo, and Itsekiri, the Ife and Modakeke case in Osun that raged for years until peace returned; and the activities of the Niger Delta militants and that of the Boko Haram insurgents. They also include Strangers Invocation; ‘Indolent beauty,’ ‘Girl Bomber,’ ‘Corruption’ Almajiri, Tyranny; ‘The Sham I Am’, ‘Wretches’, ‘The Vultures’ and others.

 

 

 

The collection is not just about historical events. The poet looks at some current issues such as the Awo statue at Alausa, Lagos, the Almajiri phenomenon, and some glorious moments such as the victory in the Under 17 World Cup Final in 2015 which he also celebrates in the poem, ‘A Mexican Tear’.

 

 

In all of these in Tribe and Prejudice, Omatseye shows us, with a deep sense of patriotism, his desire for a better Nigeria. Notes the Executive Editor of TheNews/PM News, Kunle Ajibade, author of ‘Jailed for Life: A Reporter’s Prison Notes’, Omatseye’s Tribe and Prejudice is passionate honest descriptive lyrical and reflective.

 

“The arguments here are empowered with measured rhetorical flourishes.

 

We are roused to rage, shame and pity as the poet confronts us with stupidities, madness, and calamities. We are roused to joy as he celebrates with us moments of glory and triumph. We are roused to value tenderness and to love even in our castle of miseries. We are admonished to consider constantly the futility of life. The poet reaffirms his faith in the goodness that will make humankind endure.”

 

Reading this collection, you cannot but agree with Ajibade when he also notes that the poet reminds us that “a nation which normalises evil can never make any progress”. Omatseye’s Tribe and Prejudice is a must read.

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  1. Pingback: Tribe and Prejudice: Omatseye’s musings in service of humanity - Naijaray Headline

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