There is one special thing about water – it is formless. It assumes and takes the shape of an object you pour it into and once you remove it from a particular object and pours it into another, it immediately take the shape of the current object. Hence a chameleon comes in this form too because it takes to the colour of the environment it found itself at a given time. Naturally, its adaptability to different environments helps it escapes many dangers, preys and many other things that should have harmed it. However, this is the same trait with some writers out there. They in their uniqueness can fit in into many places, situations, conditions, environments, problems and spheres. They know how to handle each character in their work. The crisis of that character, and how to keep up with the climax of a story and all that within a little time or no time at all. Therefore, in their own wisdom, they know when to move, hide, act quickly or remain normal in a given situation. However, one of such Writers is Obiageli Iloakasia, a special kind of thinker.
Obiageli knows how to come into different forms and take different shapes in different environments to make sure she delivers to her readers or rather her audience in such a way that keep her words in their imaginative eyes and, her words remain with her readers relatably. Echoing from Suzy Kassem in “Rise up and Salute the Sun: the writing of Suzy Kassem” — Humility is a virtue of the heavenly, not arrogance. Are we the most superior beast on earth? No, not in strength and not in intelligence. It is very arrogant to assume that we are the most intelligent species when we keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Both rats and monkeys have been shown to learn from error, yet we have not. More people have died in the name of religion than any other cause on earth…” Obiageli’ works are a replicate of humility, Society, persistence and hope. She tends to imitate what’s happening in her environment and tell a story from it. She represents the girl in the street, the boy on a bicycle heading home, the mother with a basket of pawpaw on her head and a baby on her back. She represents those massacred by the Nigerian Police; she represents those killed and those Innocent ones taken to prison wrongly. She represents home and the church, a mother and a father. She represents those abused, those frustrated, those rejected and those Innocent bodies littered here and there in Nigeria cemeteries and nobody cares about them.
“…two weeks ago,
death deferred its will to flesh
and whisked my brother away.
men draped in night hues abducted
and murdered him.
before he died,
he beckoned to me but we were worlds apart…
in no time, news of my brother faded
into thin air, and his remains was denied us.”
Obiageli, indeed, is an eye that watches when others are asleep. Through her book, she tends to mimic the society and speak against her evil ways towards her citizens. One can call her an observer but no, she is an amazing student of Life, a sailor who knows where her ship is headed. Very often have I told myself many times, that the only way to correct the ills of the society is by writing and acting against them and in so doing, we are documenting lives and evils done to us and those we did to ourselves, telling the generation to come that there were things that happened before they came and they should not go back to them rather they should make their own mistake and retrace their steps so that the ones coming after them will not make same mistake they have made.
Obiageli Iloakasia knows what is at stake and has taken a mantle of Albert Einstein’ words when he said “One should guard against Preaching to young people success in the customary form as the aim in life. The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result, and the knowledge of value of the result to the community” One of man’s biggest deals is his ego. In this vein, Men in their nature can forgive almost anything that comes their way but some men, when they are threatened, dared or openly provoked with taunting that makes them feel harmed, bruised in their ego, you’ll get a different man. Here, there is a different Ilosiakasia in anger. There is a different perspective of Ilosiakasia who is provoked and bruised and she fiercely inanes this anger in every of her line. “…In October, 2020, we were convinced that we were doing nothing but hunting shadows…” Speaking against religion bigotry, favoritism, nepotism, banditry, religion massacre, and young dreams that died at the moment they are seen, born or conceived in Nigeria in tears.
we are 60 years old
still, we wonder thoughtlessly in the cold.
foes dance in celebration.
friends die from intimidation.
we want to know what it means to dream
and how it feels
to have the Nigerian dream redeemed.
songs will cease and our clothes
will flutter in the breeze.
we did not choose this life
if we ever get another chance
may it feel like an emerald paradise.”
She was deliberate with her delivery and installation of every word. Angered by what she sees every day but she made sure that there’s a way that this angered words give pleasure to our ears or eyes. She in her mindfulness emphasizes the fact that it is not necessary to kill a hungry boy whose only means of survive was to steal from those that have many and could not share the many they have but allows it to get spoilt, then, throws it away when there are many people who need the food to live. You don’t kill a hungry boy.
“they traded his body for a pot of beans.
now, we wallow at dawn and dusk searching for what we might never find.”
The book October Blues, 143 pages, published by Libretto publishers; 2021, is divided into four sections in such a way that it helps to give the reader a very key mindset to understand every aspect of the book easily. Section one of the book which is titled — October 2020 — has about 31 poems in it. This part of the book is key to Nigeria history. October 1, 1960, was when Nigeria gained its independence from Great Britain hence this section opens up with a poem that talks about the Anniversary of Nigeria. “…today, we are 60 years old still, we wonder thoughtlessly in the cold./foes dance in celebration/friends die from intimidation…” The poet personae wonders what the country has achieved for the past sixty years as she went on to mourn what has become of her after the colonial masters left her shore. Yet, the section didn’t stop there. It went ahead to discuss about the happenings of 2020 from the COVID—19 to the end SARS protest and the Lekki tollgate Massacre which happened on the 20 October, 2020. “…that morning,/ I woke up to an empty home in ashes./ doubts and confusion became contraptions/ I struggled to unfold/for our home of peace was no longer a single fold…”
our home has been set on fire.
no one is talking about peace but war.
every victory starts with conflict.
our whole land is stain…”
“…even till now,
the authorities have not asked
what our demands are.
they have not looked our way…”
…today is the 20thday of October,
the 17th day since we started our songs
like every other day,
we have struggled to stay alive.
some of my brothers have died;
some of my sisters have died, too…”
The essence of this outpour of tears is that, regardless of what happens, that no man, not even an enemy deserve to be humiliated in public yet Nigeria has humiliated us in many ways and this humiliation has made many of us think that we are worth nothing but fools, wanderers like our Leaders have made us to look. That is why you see many Nigerians ready to leave this country every day because the land has no future for them and many of them have resulted to fraudsters and we are still battling to contain this in our society.
However, the section two of the book titled INTIMIDATION, is further divided into three parts or levels which are— Knowledge before 1960, Knowledge after 1960, National Pledge. With the total number of 39 poems, this section clearly presents to us the totality of what our country, Nigeria is from the day of its amalgamation to its independence and currently, where we are right now. The poems were all inspired by the first Nigeria national anthem as emphasized by the poet personae. Here, we see a different anger tailored in asking why our land is still the way it is till now. Why the hope we all aspired isnt coming to us. There are many questions people are asking which nobody have been bold enough to answer them. “…our own dear native land, /why do you not have lands to build on?/ on which soil would I tell the world, that you ruined the life of your child.
In the section three of the book which has 20 poems in total is titled TRIBUTE. It is a section dedicated to those who died in this chaotic country. “…For our brothers and sisters who died as victims of a failed system…”. It is not surprising that many Nigerians have died because power failure. Many of them have died because of Doctors strike. Many of them have died because of lack of medical facilities. This is a section for those who were massacred either by the police or the bandit or the SARS or the Leaders themselves or by Hunger or by Boko Haram or by the people around them — Neighbours. The names mentioned are names that echo when we remember how they died. Sometimes when we remember them, we’ll go naked to curse the sun or the leaders who see all that is happening but make no move or effort to stop them. This is for Ayomide Taiwo, For Tina Ezekwe, for Tiamiyu Kazeem, for Chibuike Anams and many others who died leaving us broken “…In my country/ you have no identity other than the one forced upon you. /this was your fate, and the pain lingers on/.
“…today is not a good day
for the sun to shine.
the sadness in my heart flows
like a river of tears,
and the pain numbs my senses…”
Furthermore, in the last section— RUMINATION — 36 poems, Obiageli observes that “…The typical Nigerian’s life is full of intricate realities; complex ideas, unanswered questions and in between feelings…” This is where her reality comes in. The emotional aspect of being a writer born and bred in Nigeria comes in. She writes “…when night comes and the world goes to rest/a pen and paper comes knocking and calls me friend/ write your pain away and the pain of the world they tell me/ but when you write, make sure you point no accusing fingers..” This is for a writer seeking balance, for a writer who is vulnerable and must listen to her muse X-raying her being. It is for the totality of her being. This is where the emotion of this book comes in and “… now, you must find away to let the world read this/ you must speak of the truth you see/ this is your heritage and your call for life/ through this will our stories be preserved/put down things that should be said and do not hold back truth from your lips/ tell tales that should be told but when you write/ make sure you point no accusing fingers…” This is the only way we could recreate and balance what have been created. Writers are wings, they fly with words to many places their feet may never step on till they die. Writers such as Obiageli are winds. They blow to the West, East, South and North amending things which were once destroyed.
This is a book that takes you back and forth with vivid imagination of what Nigeria has become or has done to us as Citizens. Historical, this is the first time different tribes in Nigeria — Yoruba, Igbo and Niger-delta are coming out to say they need to govern themselves, they want to break out from Nigeria because the doctrines of a failed system has gotten into their throats and they can’t swallow it anymore. Hence I’ll call Obiageli Iloakasia a kin observer or rather a prophetess because she was able to take us back to history and then bring us to the present and the future looks at us beautifully from her imagination. She is bold enough to handle what may seem like a treasure to the next generation in a different manner.