The Niche is a great online newspaper. On the 15th of October it held its annual lecture in Lagos. Ikechukwu Amaechi, big name journalist and MD of The Niche, delivered beyond expectation, with his team. Expectedly, this year’s gathering turned up a watering hole for the great and the mighty, the movers and shakers. Of course there were commoners, folks like yours truly, to report on the news makers.
Anyway, it so happened that amongst the great and mighty men at the high table was Dele Alake. Alake for the those who may have forgotten is one of the few tried and tested hands in image or, if you liked, propaganda management. Alake came into national prominence as the media sharpie for the then Governor Bola Tinubu. Alake’s performance places him alongside the pantheon of the immortals, like Comrade Uche Chukwumeriji and Okokon Ndem. Alake’s term ran through the very difficult days when General Olusegun Obasanjo, retired, was up against Tinubu. Obasanjo was the then all-powerful president of Nigeria.
More importantly, Alake was so good at his brief that the Lagos Ministry of information, which he presided over, was rechristened Ministry of Information and Strategy. It was from this Lagos Tinubu-Alake example or experiment, that other states took a cue. Today, several state information ministries are scaled up and styled Ministry of Information and Strategy. To the best of our knowledge, these states all have Alake to thank for that. Thus as a technocrat, Alake has been as hugely influential as any other in Nigeria. In other words, we hold a lot of respect for him and his accomplishments. For a disclaimer, we only know Alake by reputation.
And it came for Alake to speak. According to him and this is important, he was wearing ”two caps.” The first was on the behalf of his old [and extant] principal, Tinubu. And the second was that he speaking on his own stead.
Expectedly, Alake made a stirring speech, and it is well to remark, in his own name. However, judging that he is a well-imbedded brain-box in the Tinubu Power Machine, it is likely he remains a ”spokesman” of the group. So to a considerable measure his thoughts were largely those of the Tinubu Political Household, of which he, Alake, is one of the ”ruling princes.”
Of his speechifying, we noticed one glib comment. Perhaps, it is fair to state that the wit of the speech is not peculiar to him. It is a fairly common fare amongst a cast of Nigerian political wish makers. The surprising bit however is to have a man of strategy bring in unquantifiable assets into his calculations.
Alake claimed, un-strategically we did say, that Nigeria has not been lucky to have great leaders. Expectedly again, he made a caveat of how greatness at the regions were not allowed to scale up to the centre. And his example, again unsurprisingly, was the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Anyway, Alake did not go on to elucidate whether Awolowo emerged a great leader out of luck or other parameters. And if yes, was it Awolowo’s luck, or the luck of the then Western Nigeria?
However, has there ever been luck in the emergence of great leadership? Our considered opinion is that there are no metrics to so suggest. In fact, the ancient saw that every nation gets the leader it deserves, is unimpeachable truth. Leaders emerge, great or otherwise, from their enabling sociologies and related non-material habitats. Trans-load these sociologies and related habitats to Nigeria and great leaders will be supplied as readily as you have them in Singapore, etc. What makes countries sustainably great are not their great leaders. No, it is the enabling sociology and political habitat that engender and prompt the emergence of great leaders. Great leaders, so called, are merely productions of their host societies’ dominant worldviews.
Well, it is not really what Alake is saying that is troubling. What troubles is that the myth of Nigeria being unlucky with leaders and leadership is about gaining unstoppable momentum. That a successful man of strategy is now sold to the myth is sign and wonder enough.
Perhaps, it is time to remind ourselves of the implication of this emerging national dependency on luck. The Japanese having a saying, that is almost as true as a mathematical function. ”Waiting on luck is like waiting on death.” In other words, by the act of waiting on luck, a nation, a Nigeria, has chosen to wait for her demise.
Nigerians are thus like Okonkwo, when he came to the end of his resources. As Achebe tells in Things Fall Apart, the great but now fallen Okonkwo, took to the noose and hanged himself. Perhaps again, we are worse than Okonkwo. We don’t even have the courage to hang ourselves. Cowards, we await death, frozen as a pillar to nothingness. Frozen, but doped on hope that greatness can be manufactured by luck. That’s a crack and our dependency on her is our surest doom
Brave and swashbuckling, a new poet asks for his place under the sun.
Owerri, the capital of Imo State is in for a great cultural calendar. It is the birth of a new poet and writer. And he comes full of power and promise. As youthful as he is packed with dreams, Chima Ujunwa Ihebuzor, has followed up in the footsteps of the masters. He has put together a collection that will endure as the seasons. That’s my prediction.
Reading through his new book, The Power of Dreams: A Century of Poems one feels the power of an emerging major poet. Published by Eagleman Books, The Power of Dreams is a ”book of records” in poetic forms. The author puts to record his reflections, recollections and encounters with life in a language that is fresh, velvety and imaginative. He writes with the quiet lyricism of that reminds one of the Lebanese-American poet, Kahlil Gibran.
What makes the collection interesting, almost in the tradition of Gibran again, is its underpinning philosophy. Ihebuzor apparently has come to knowledge as all great poets must, that poetry is as much words as it is its payload. Lyricism has always remained a delivery system, and the enabling philosophy is the payload. Achieving a high point in both is what makes for a master. And reading Ihebuzor confirms he has a grasp of that mandate that distinguishes great writing from the rest. Thus, what one encounters is not just a poet of record, but also a visionary speculating, in philosophic terms, of the fundamental issues of existence. For instance,
In Sensation he writes: ”One loss is nothing//Two is barely worth a mention/Five might draw several more ears/Fifteen causes uproar/A thousand is a celebration for vultures.”
Beyond the musicality and flow of words, there is the frightening retort implying that numbers don’t count till they hit the threshold. Thus the warning ”A thousand is a celebration for vulture.”
And he deploys a style comes fresh. He tags each poem with a line of summary/footnote. For ”Sensation” he warns: Do not sensationalize tragedy.
In yet another, ”The Lion and the Flea,” the same philosophical drive reigns:
”It should be strange that something so small/Could terrorize something so large/That the cat called king of the jungle could fear/A little bug of mild discomfort/A roar that makes an antelope’s blood curl/Becomes a silly whine/The beast the jungle revered/Tormented by a mere spot/Who could have thought?” for this the tag line is: David trumps Goliath.
But life is not all philosophy. Poets are not spared of the many sorrows of our humanity or our mortality. However, as records show the poets have a greater knack for immortalizing personal sorrows as universal inspirations.
Of course, many have had to bury their mothers. But it is only the poets who embalm their loved ones, the far removed, as Christopher Okigbo calls them, in the most beautiful, most imperishable monuments. As Shakespeare reminded us, even beautiful marble monuments will come tumbling down, but not the inspired words of poets. Great poetry like the pyramids will defeat time.
Ihebuzor, in one of the most moving pieces of the collections recollects the death of his mother. The poem, ”A Tribute to My Mother – Nnenna Ihebuzor” closes the collection.
Movingly he writes: It is with no small amount of heaviness that we know you must be released/For as much as we wish to keep those we lose/We must embrace that they are not always for us to keep. …. So with this said, we let go of you and into the arms of our dear Lord/’Til we are united again in eternity/Farewell mother.”
The book will be publicly presented at Imo State Trade and Investment Centre [Ahiajioku], Concorde Avenue, New Owerri, Imo State. Date: Friday 1st November 2019. Time: 10am. Expected at the occasion are the big names of high culture and national development. Led by His Excellency Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, the Executive Governor of Imo State, it will be chaired by Paschal G. Dozie who is chairman of Pan Atlantic University. Visionary entrepreneur, Dr. Ernest Azudialu-Obiejesi, Executive Chairman, Nestoil Limited will be the Chief Presenter. Renowned scholar professor Onyebuchi Ile, of Nile University Abuja will be the official reviewer of the book.