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Decrying the callousness and insensitivity of Nigerian Leaders

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Nworji Celestine Dibor

Decrying the callousness and insensitivity of Nigerian Leaders: As Portrayed in Myopia by Sly Cheney Coker

Coker is a Sierra Leonean born in Freetown and schooled early at Freetown later he studied at the University of Oregon, California and Wisconsin. During the regime of Dr Siaka Steven, he went on self-exile to Nigeria where he taught at the University of Maiduguri and later at University of Philippines. He had some poetry collections of which some are _Freetown_ he wrote to portray the oppressive rule of Dr Siaka Steven, _Road to Jamaica, Concerto for an Exile (1975). The Graveyard also has Teeth (1980) Blood in the Desert as well as Myopia._ Most of his writings are on the plight of the common man in the society, oppression and disenchantment his people suffer either — the slavery of the ancestors or the peasants at the hands of the repressive administrators.

In the poem Myopia, the poet X-rayed the plight of the poor peasants and the downtrodden yet these dejected peasants constitute the backbone of the nation’s economy. They toil and moil to harness the nation’s resources yet they are treated very unfairly by the leaders of the people such that their lives are laden with anguish, suffering and frustration which these leaders failed to see.

In reaction, the poet disdainfully condemned these leaders’ negative attitude to national life where people suffer amid plenty. So also all the public administrators who failed in their duties are condemned just like the groups in P.O.C Umeh’s _Ambassadors of poverty._

The first stanza presented to us the picture of misery, penury, difficulties, anguish, and squalor as he observed in lines 1 — 4
_”On rainy mornings
You will see them drenched
PEASANTS: Shivering in their emaciated bones along the boulevards of misery.”_
The emaciated bony appearance of these peasants shivering in the inclement weather as they toil for the well being of the nation’s economy and move in boulevards of misery can easily be visualized. For the poet, the place is rich with a broad road well decorated with trees, (boulevards), a sign of a wealthy environment but the people are in misery. (They suffer amid plenty a kind of elegance amid squalor).

He went on to point out some of these national monuments that ought to be preserved and become _’beacons of hope’_ to the people but are abandoned, neglected and dilapidated by the uncaring shortsighted leaders. Such include the _”railway tracks,” the rice pads,” the marshlands”_ all sources of national income worked on by the suffering masses which the myopic leaders failed to take care of at least through the use of magic fertilizers for _”Putrid marshlands.”_

According to the poet, the neglect of these, sparked off _” a train of anguish that runs on them, rage of hunger follows for a hungry man is an angry man._ Neglect and abandonment are portrayed and this prepared the stage for the reaction on what he is decrying.

He sees himself as an agent of change. For this, the persona calls for a revolution wishing to be part of that means to change things for better since most of the promises of their leaders for better treatment of the led (the masses) were stillborn and unfulfilled ones. Hear him,

_” Mountain if wind (revolution) blows tomorrow
make me a sabre of that wind.”_
He even calls for a violent revolution if need be to change the status quo because of the injustice, deceit and prevailing betrayal as he said,
_”If the skeletons of stillborn promises
dry up in the catacombs
make me an incendiary bombs.”_

He went on to identify with remedying the situation and emphasizes even his wish to be the one to do so or as a sacrificial lamb as he says,
_”If madness we must have
let me the hangman hanging myself
hanging them, hanging the day.”_

He means that if all continues, the government of the day that betrayed the trust of the people should be terminated — (call off revolution). C/f lines 17 — 21.

He wants a society where things will go well for all the people, an egalitarian society and not where very few will feed at the expense of poverty-stricken toiling masses. He does not want a situation where monkeys do the work but baboons eat the spoils —
“Monkey dey work, baboon dey chop.”

In general, Nigerian leaders are no less guilty of the above ills than the country talked about in the poem. There’s a clarion call for a change of status quo in the leadership of our country — Nigeria for the revolutionizing Nigeria will not come so easily but it’s a possibility even though it will take decades to be actualized. We look forward to an egalitarian Nigeria but all hands should be on deck for us to achieve this end in view if not for ourselves then for our future generations.

By Eminent Nworji Celestine Dibor

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