So Long A Journey- By Ezike Kenechukwu
The poet writes about the faulty educational system that Nigerian students go through, in this poem of four stanzas. The pronoun “He” is used in two senses; first as it represents the writer, who is a masculine being, and the individual narrating his ordeal, and in the second sense, in an analogical manner, man representing male and female alike. So, “he” is used to represent the poet and other Nigerian students who are faced with same challenges as they journey through Nigeria’s educational system.
The first six lines of the first stanza of fifteen lines explains how the educational career begins, it begins with the nursery and primary session, rich in curriculum and practice. Niger delta an area rich resources, symbolizes the slate of the child’s mind, still very fresh, filled with resources ready to be utilized. (This section spans from the time of the poems generation in the 1990’s, for the poet does not consider the present day nursery and primary education rich). The education ends in the Sahara desert, the desert symbolizes the societal life of the graduated Nigerian. A desert is a barren land, not suitable for habitation because its living conditions are harsh.
It symbolizes Nigeria students who have gone through the education system of Nigeria, are now in the society of Nigeria and all they see is barren lands, which they were never prepared for in the system that is supposed to be a refiner. They cannot comprehend how they started from Niger delta, and ended in Sahara desert. The next five lines coming after that depicts how the sojourn should have known that he is ended for the desert when he reached northern Nigeria (tertiary institutions, the university precisely where lots of people are studying courses that they do not like but are without option and really need to get the paper certificate). In this sense, one who is travelling and suddenly meets an area of low vegetation should at least have a re-think of what the destination through that route will be like, though the argument will be inconclusive or undetermined, but that should prepare the sojourns mind for what is to come. The first eleven lines that begins the second verse talks about the inadequate training of Nigerian students throughout the formal education process.
They are not trained on the importance of resource management, like water- in the poem, water symbolizes life. Nigerian students are ill prepared to face life challenges when they are in school. The last fourteen lines that ends the second verse shows the different stages in the in the university. Northern Nigeria shows the first two years, while Niger and Mali represent the last two years in the university and also other years spent by students who study for about five to seven years. While they are in these last two stages, they express their initial desires to graduate with first class, and how the drill has got them wishing for a second class upper/lower as the case maybe. The old and young cactus in the third stanza symbolizes old leaders and the youths in Nigeria.
They cannot comprehend how they started from Niger delta, and ended in Sahara desert
The old leaders refuse to leave their positions in the office or in the politics and do not want to give the youths a breathing space, they practically do not want the youths to be a part of the system. The youths/students are made to believe that there is an oasis in the desert, oasis symbolizes entrepreneurial ventures, which is seen as a mini paradise. They suddenly start to crave for the oasis, but then entrepreneurship has its own rules and does not in the midst of limited resources create jobs on a wide scale neither does it eliminate poverty,
it only initiates capitalism and the enriches the owner of the venture.
Industrialization, good education, commercialization and the rest of such kinds are needed on a larger scale just like irrigation, afforestation and the rest of such change the climate of the desert/forest. Irrigation creates healthy growth for crops and trees. Annual crops that propagates, germinates, and is harvested within a year, to save cost of irrigation, rain trees could be planted, that will alter the climate and bring an increase in the amount of rainfall and shady trees. Oasis does not help a desert so much, it only helps those who are close to it just as entrepreneur does for the owners. The Nigerian government should create employment by building industries, commercialization and privatization of the necessary industries. Otherwise, the entrepreneur suffers as well, because if he succeeds, his venture becomes overcrowded (destination for all and sundry) some would want to take possession of his ventures, and others (family and relatives) will rebel as well, with the notion that wealth was created for them, this will probably result in laziness and nonchalance evident in their overt behavior (my uncle is this, or my family has that, while they have nothing for themselves). Finally the instructors and administrators of desert symbolizes the teachers, lectures and the Nigerian government respectively.
The Agitation -By Jombo Odilichukwu
The poetess in this poem of four stanzas writes on the political situation of the southern part of Nigeria from the time before its annexation to the present day agitation. The first stanza shows how the southerners, the Igbo’s precisely were without any form of centralization, except for the gerontocracy, which accords the eldest man in every family and clan the leadership mantle and respect, every man for himself, fending for his family and also the community (treasury of full sacks), until the colonization (annexation by white king) of Nigeria that started with Lagos in July 1861, history has it that the colonial master had come in guise of signing treaties with African countries (without a bell ring), and the Nigerian-British case was no different, and just before they could realize that signing the treaty was signing into captivity, it was dusk. The likes of king Jaja of Opobo, Nana of Itsekiri, Oba ovorenewem of Benin tried to oppose them but were thrown into exile. Though the people were sold into slavery, “there was an illuminating”.
Illuminating symbolizes civilization. “The heart piercing wailing was not to be ignored” (barbaric act of slavery, and exploitation, so the elites stood, using civilization to their own advantage, by writing, speaking, forming coalitions and parties). In the second stanza, trumpet sound symbolizes the 1957 London delegation that initiated the quest for independence in 1959, though history has it that the Northerners were not ready at the time so the independence was adjourned to Oct. 1, 1960. The liberating sound symbolizes independence. Black turning into white symbolizes mixed culture (the Lingua franca became English, there was high quest for white collar jobs and not farming or other traditional jobs, mode of eaten and food items changed, including worship system. There was acculturation). Luke warm symbolizes lack of full knowledge of any of the cultures (we did not learn their culture fully, and we had no firm grip on our culture after the independence).
“Treasury full of sack was not recovered in the pack” means that communalism was fading, and our resources were looted. With victory of Independence, Nigeria could feel hope in the air, a dream had come through. The third Stanza tries to synthesize the events happened during colonization and the Nigerian civil war. Coronation symbolizes the amalgamation of the Northern and southern protectorate, regardless of the conflicting culture and religion. “Seed of the white king” symbolizes Nigeria. The name Nigeria consequently led to the amalgamation of the Northern and southern protectorate and the Nigeria civil war was the fruit.
The fourth stanza explains the present day Biafra agitation, from MASSOB (movement for the actualization of the sovereign state of Biafra) to the IPOB (Indigenous people of Biafra) and the “ohanaeze ndi Igbo”. “They sing awareness” awareness refers to their claim to self-determination and knowing what they demand from Nigeria, as there is marginalization in the air. But their actions show ignorance, because the three groups are at loggerheads, they do not say the same thing, yet they claim to be speaking for the same people. They need to be informed, they need sit together and unlearn in order to learn, and only unity will make their dream come true. Nigeria could be what they want it to be if this agitators can unite with their leaders and themselves and speak with one voice.
From The Intellects Desk
Indeed, the journey is so long and unending until one closes his eyes in death. But while we exist, we must survive, is that not a part of our essence? We have not come here to just leave unnoticed. A lot has been expressed and explained already, if the old cactus cannot give way for the young cactus as nature demands, the young cactus must realize self-determination, grow stronger and deeper roots, sprout out and unseat the old cactus who have refused to give way for nature to take its cause. Power is not given, by anybody, it is eventually taken.
Every epoch has witnessed agitation and strive among nations, as long as man lives, there must be strive, for man is free and is everywhere in chains. Again, man is a political being whose interest is usually more egoistic than altruistic. Will splitting Nigeria to achieve Biafra really bring prosperity in the nation where three groups as shown in the poem analysis advocate differently for a people on one issue? At the same time, will marginalization, tribalism, nepotism and imperialism keep Nigeria as one? The federal government, the legislatives and the judiciary must cross examine the situation and proffer solution to the problem, a people should not be slaves in their hope nor there be preferred citizens before the law.
Our national anthem pleads freedom and justice.
Let the compatriots arise,
Let the labours of heroes past not be in vain,
Let our leaders be guided right,
Only then shall we build a nation bound in freedom and unity,
Where peace and justice shall reign.
So help us God. Amen!