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June 12 And Its Children By Niyi Osundare

June 11, 2018

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?


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.      



   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 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 ...”





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





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





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





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






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?






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