Tuesday, 4 March 2014
The Embattled Man -A Poem For Mokwugo Okoye OFR
Mokwugo: one sent by God to compensate his parents for the loss of children born before.
The fearless freedom fighter and firebrand
strode on to the independence stage in his twenties,
with the confidence of one who had found his calling.
He read voraciously and wrote relentlessly,
searing words that struck at the heart of colonial might
and threatened its very existence
Crafty and cunning colonialists used refined repression
to uphold their rule of law.
They charged the young man with sedition
and sentenced him to 33 months in prison,
in a faraway town.
“Sedition”, the man said, “is nothing but an offensive truth which is supported by no stronger force than hope."
His disdain for the seditious charge was evident in court
as he stood defiant before the British law enforcers
who feared his words would ignite widespread dissent.
Some have said Nigerian independence was easily won,
that it was ‘handed on a platter’.
People who say this were not involved in the independence movement
Nor would they have wanted to be.
And they probably never asked the man how easy it was to serve a 33-month sentence in solitary confinement,
as a twenty-something intellectual man,
imprisoned up north, far from family and friends,
deprived of opportunities to read or write,
They did not ask him how easy it was to stay sane,
wondering whether he would ever have a future -
marriage, kids, the whole nine yards.
Would the man have said winning independence was easy?
Would he have paid the price he did for independence if he’d known
Nigeria would be hijacked by Johnny-come-lately or JJC interlopers,
and wrecked without remorse and with eyes wide shut,
in utter disregard for the sacrifices made by the man and his fellow freedom fighters?
If he could have foreseen the future,
would he have put up with imperialist rule for a little longer?
In his words:
"To be silent in the face of so many evils crying for action is to give consent to their continued existence, for progress demands discussion and action."
The man was obsessed with telling the truth -
he called it like he saw it every single time.
He spoke out against injustice and other ills,
without concern for the consequences.
He was fearless to a fault.
Like the time he spoke out against secession.
Having fought for freedom of the entire nation,
he would never call for separation,
and so he refused to do as the rebel leader asked.
He would not solicit weapons for a senseless war.
In return for asserting his right to freedom of opinion and expression,
He was branded a saboteur by the secessionist leader,
and he could have been killed by misguided rebels,
or anyone who wanted to show support for the Biafran cause.
But the man did not flinch, or restrict his movements in any way.
You might say his sense of self-preservation was weak,
for even rebel leaders have been known to flee.
The man was taken with truth and for this,
he was crowned King of Truth in Enugwu-Ukwu.
Honesty and consistency were his middle names.
He would not dissimulate
or engage in corrupt practices,
or anything remotely underhand.
Not for anyone, not at any price.
The man was incorruptible as they come,
and his reputation for integrity remained intact
right up to his earthly release.
~ chichi layor