MKO Abiola

June 12 possesses the baffling characteristics of Ajantala, that Mystery Child in Yoruba folklore: birthed under extraordinary circumstances, reared in impossible conditions, catalytic in the most unimaginable ways, troubled and troubling, survivor of countless assassination attempts, waxing stronger and more defiant after each attempt, triumphant in the end to the utter consternation of its adversaries, bequeathing a confounding conundrum and profound moral lesson.
 
This past week the Buhari government shocked  the nation by deciding to revisit the June 12 Phenomenon, a clear 25 years since General Ibrahim Babangida, then military president, committed one of the foulest crimes against Democracy when he annulled what has now come to be regarded as the “freest and fairest” election in Nigeria’s history. Understandably, the pronouncement of this historic Presidential order has been trailed by a mélange of different opinions. Has this order finally carried out  the annulment of the original annulment? Are we witnessing the righting of a historic wrong in a country with a chronic notoriety for repeated offences? Indeed, June 12 has many children, each of whom appears to be older, more intractable,  than its parents.  I am joining this fray by reproducing (with minor amendments) the poem below which made its first appearance 14 years ago.      

JUNE  12 AND ITS CHILDREN

         I

   KUDIRAT      (i)

They caught her mid-morning

Between the wet whisper

Of the roadside grass

 

And the shy intimations

Of a sun still preening

Behind the clouds

 

The market was just

Donning its wrapper of crowds

The hawker’s voice had

 

Not yet fully paid its debt

To the goddess of sleep. The day:

Too young for this crossroads

 

Of blight and blood,

The quarry too  sinless,

The clay-pot too pure for this barbaric breaking

 

       The date was four

       The year was halfway

       Through its turbulent journey

 

And the gunmen sprang from the crook

In the arm of the street, grabbed the road

By its neck, riddled a day so new

 

With a volley of fury and fright.

A startled country sought answers

In perforated metal and crystal showers

 

Of glass and gore. Sunset so sudden:

The nation lost its sight, then its right;

Murderers walked away, so conspicuous, so unseen...

         

            KUDIRAT       (ii)

Her beauty chastised the ugliness of the times

Her Truth the tyranny of their falsehood

There was a glowing grace in the egg

 

Of her eyes that un-

Hid what their night concealed;

An aura to her presence which dis-

 

Spelled the awe of monster clouds

Hopesongs dripped from her lips

Like magic gold from the honeypot.

 

A stubborn faith, a righteous resolve

A mothering mirth, immortal mettle

There was fire in her flower

 

Muscle in her music:

“The Mandate freely given the sun

By the unanimity of the day,

 

      Let

      Let it

      Let it be

 

Let trees wave their leaves, freely,

At the urging of the wind

Let grassroots enfranchise the migration of ants

 

Let CHOICE triumph over chance

Let yearning hearts reap the bounty of the ballot

Let him rule who won the sanctity of our vote

 

Let death die

Let hunger flee the land

Let our tears depart and join the sea

 

Let houses link roofs beneath the sky

Let dwarfs reach out and touch the sun

Let     let           let ...”

 

     II

GOON-MAN  (aka THE GOGGLED  FIEND)

 

But Night Errants descended

Nooses in one hand,

In the other an arsenal of seething swords

 

They put the edge to Freedom’s throat

At the confluence of wailing waters

Hacked peace into pieces at the crossroads

 

Of broken pots.

And, saddle-crazy,

Indulged their pleasure on the people’s backs.

 

A goggled goon called the shots

From the hollow of an ancient rock,

Sprawled out on a throne of skulls

 

Bantam-brained, stone-hearted,

He swam each morning in a pool of blood

An infant nation between his teeth

 

Dull though he was and utterly dreadful,

Pundits ran his errands,

Licked his (bloody) boots

 

Schemed him into a “consensus candidate”:

“Rule us for ever!”, their chorus

Chilled a swindled nation

 

Their eyes on juicy cabinet designations

And the assorted stack of cash

Standing imperiously behind the palace door

 

     Vulture-politicians who carrioned the state

     And sent Hope on a lengthy exile

 

But Death caught the despot

Between the silky laps of imported whores

And the seething serpent of forbidden apples

 

             III

       THE TORTOISE’S SECOND COMING?

 

Flying turtles, midnight noons

Strange like a seven-headed penis...

 

People of our land,

Have you heard the news?

    

Remember the gap-toothed Prince of Tricks

Grand Annuller, Proscriber of Prophets

 

     Make way for his second coming

 

He who dribbled the country into dross

Granted Graft a cabinet post

 

     Make way for his second coming

 

Who killed our Hope

Abolished our Laughter

 

     Make way for his second coming

 

His trumpet-blowers are filling the streets

His mouth-pieces are threatening like crocodile jaws

 

     Make way for his second coming

 

His dispatch-riders are trampling our grass

His moneybags are rolling in the dust

 

     Make way for his second coming

 

His flags are flailing

His anthem is supreme anathema

 

     Make way for his second coming

 

His thunder is renting our sky

His storm is wracking our roofs

 

     Make way for his second coming

 

He flayed us with whips the first time

He will skin us with scorpions the second time

 

     Make way for his second coming

 

 

Tail-less we are, tribe of amnesic toads

Dry like a dinosaur’s scars, headless like crabs

 

     Make way for his second coming

 

The rain which beat us many seasons ago

Will drench us to death in a second deluge

 

     Make way for his second coming

 

He who killed the country in his first gallop

Is coming, horse-high, for the funereal finish

 

     Make way for his second coming

 

All hail the gap-toothed Tortoise

Mess-iah Monarch in a jungle of fools

 

     Make way for his second coming

 

          IV

 
THE FORTUNATE INHERITOR

 

Widows wail, orphans lament

The people cry from their lowly roosts

 

Another Emperor swaggers in appropriated power

From inside the rock, the same old rock

 

Beneficiary of votes cast and votes un-cast

Fortunate inheritor whose legator’s name

 

Now burns his lips like a dreadful spell

(He says he was busy tending his farm

 

When they offered him the golden crown;

But unlike good old Cincinnatus, what kind

 

Of Re-public will this one bequeath?)

His own second term, too, and multiple terms

 

In his first coming he wielded an open sword

This time the sword hides under a flowing robe

 

Talking, never listening, hectoring hardly heeding,

All-knowing, all-mighty, an oracle beyond restraint

 

 

Like the tortoise in the tale, he will climb the palm tree

With the gourd of wisdom tied to his chest

 

Widows wail, orphans lament

The people cry from their lowly roosts

 

His is the era of want and worry

Of lean shadows and swindled dreams

 

Gari is untouchable in the market

A grain of rice costs a handsome fortune

 

Rent-gatherers fill the streets with homeless hordes

Hired killers hit at ten corpses for twenty kobo

 

The Naira melts

Like wax in a tropical furnace

 

Dark days, dark nights,

Roads spot potholes like thirsty craters

 

The land rots and reeks like a NEPA-less morgue

But it’s all power and perfume to the imperial nose

 

Chronically hard of seeing

The Emperor romps around in majestic indifference

 

His ward bursting with designer robes

His mocking foppery an affront to the people’s rags

 

Widows wail, orphans lament

The people cry from their lowly roosts

 

Trounce- trance-parency Incorporated

Deadly deeds dark as night

 

The land drowns in dire decay

The Emperor assays a placebo of platitudes

 

Clever Chichidodo, our Emperor hates shit & all its stench

He only feeds on the maggots from that forbidden mound

 

Co-,  co-rupture,  co-rupt,  CO-RRUPTION

When the Emperor met that foe in the battlfield

 

He trembled, then executed a four-star retreat

Sacred cows have grazed the land into baldness:

 

Can a soiled finger really clean up its sullied mates?

The Caucus Leader is magician by day, marauder by night

 

He and Dirt call each other by the first name

Famous Factotum, he can fix a fart!

 

Ashes. Ashes. Grey intimations of foregone fires

Where are the hearths which endured their heat?

 

Behold these motley feathers

Where are the nests bereft by their plunder?

 

 

Widows wail, orphans lament

The people cry from their lowly roost

 

 

      V

 

The Right Honourables

 

In the Capital city, their capital crimes

The Law Makers shock the land

With tales of venal horrors

 

Cesspool of intrigue and rancid rancour,

The Honourables think with their stomach

Their “sacred mission” is secreted

 

In bulging traffics of Ghana-Must-Go

Constituency allowances vanish into personal projects

Voter interests are pummeled under the gavel

 

The people, the people, who are the pee-pull?

We’ll tread on their shadows on the way to the toilet

Meanwhile, here we go on our usual “study tours”:

 

Legislative sight-seeing in Singapore

Kangaroo proceedings way down in Canberra

Management of the Maradona malaise in Argentina

 

Esther-code, Ngozi-code, Jumai/Jumoke-code:

Our rulers are bound for the skies

The only bills they pass are those the people pay

 

Emergency De-mock-rats, “new and improved”,

(Former) minions of the Trickster-General

Proud mess-engers of his goggled successor

 

And the present Emperor has a Dolphin in Sin-ate

Polluting all the waters with his stolen mandate

Mouth stuffed with cash, the House is honourably dumb

 

Behold how we drift, a race on a rickety raft

The sea so sad, the tempests so unsparing

The temples burst with prayers, the taverns with curses

 

Here, then, the vultures who thresh the sky like eagles

Ojelu, Orunlu, sworn enemies to our nation’s dreams;

We craved a cure, we got a curse

 

The gavel has become a gamble

The Mace is now a maze

Burn-again De-mock-rats have set our dreams ablaze

 

        VI

 

      CHILLS

 

Chills and Shadows

Whispers and Omens

 

The long-expected rain falls in shingles and showers

And a hen pecks clean its precious drops...

 

Is this, really, the long-awaited hour

Is it for this that men were maimed

 

Women wasted, babies prammed off to jail

In lieu of dissident parents

 

Is it really for this that corpses discoloured the streets?

 

I hear MKO asking

I hear Kudirat asking

 

I hear Rewane asking

I hear Kaltho asking

 

I hear the countless thousands

Who wrote our L-I-B-E-R-T-Y with their blood

 

Is it for this that corpses littered our streets?

 

           VII

 

          ROPE

 

They say Hope is not a long rope

Which dances round the neck of the nearly-lost

 

It is a long, long string by which the strong

Climb to the sun above the trees

 

Wasted several seasons,

Almost at our tether’s end

 

Some say we are on the thresholds

Of a long-awaited dusk

 

Others insist

Dawn cannot be far behind

 

Widows wail, orphans lament

The people cry from their lowly roosts

 

 

             Niyi  Osundare              June  5,  2004

 

 

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