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’Today na today’: Biko Agozino sings from abroad in Naija creole

Saturday 1 June 2013

Emmanuel Boyinta

2013-05-30, Issue 632

With the release of his latest poetry book, entitled ‘Today na Today’, an anthology of poems written in Naija langwej (pidgin English), a waning subsector of Nigerian literature gains a vent Book: Today na Today Author: Biko Agozino Publisher: Lulu Marketplace Year Published: 2013 No of pages: 97 Price: Not stated

In the new work, veteran academic don and criminologist, Prof. Biko Agozino, serves a collection of poetry that adds meaningfully to the growing foray body of literary works in pidgin English. The anthology is a mirror of society with the view of building new bridges of a better future.

In the 97-page book, divided into many titles such as Them Them, Dialectical Dialogue, Yabbis, Capital Offence, Ego Trip, Poor People Pay More, Fire the Devil, Pepper Soup, Too Much General, Na Wetin?, Coconut Crown, To be Human etc., the scholar poet and Director of African Studies at the Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, United States of America (USA), shows that he is in touch with his roots in his native Nigeria.

Dr Agozino comes across as a voice to reckon with in capturing the bitter pills which Nigerians and other African society have passed through for years.

The writer weaves the lost dreams of the masses in the fatricidal Nigerian civil war in the poem entitled, Forgive (Nigerian Civil War), he raves for Nigeria where past hurts are kept behind to build a good future. Through it, the author’s versatility in polemics.

The anthology somewhat aggregates the writer’s vast scholarship experience as a researcher who has taught in such renowned institutions as Liverpool John Mores University London, Indiana University and University of West Indies, Trinidad and Tobago leaving the reader in no doubt about his grip of socio-political realities.

The poet lampoons the failure of dreams and expectation sometimes associated with democracy, especially among elites.

One of the poems in the collection, Black for Black is dedicated to blacks in South Africa. It evokes images of black humiliation during Apartheid rule in South Africa. The beauty of the poems lies in the universal ethos and natural phenomenon they bring to the reader’s mind, especially the oppressed.

Agozino writes like a Pan-Africanist who has been left forlorn by a system of colonially-inherited injustice that is reaping from where it did not sow. “The people wey been deny us colour plus canvas/ Done dey sub-let the dirty work wey them do for frontline/To take hide the violent hands of bloody order/Make we defeat them with we masterpieces “Unity it no be uniformity abi unanimity/We dey hear the ventriloquist upon them lips/Them dey boast say them sharp brushes na cultural blades/Wey go prove say we be primitive cave painters/Wey no fit paint the portrait of the future/Make you open the gallery gates to them/Make everyone show the critics them work/Whether them use water colour, oil, abi charcoal/Take different petals paint the land different colours Give equal space and paint for everyone/To draw for colour abu na for black and white/We no want see another hand wey them paint black/As himdey paint the hungry and angry black.” This is a symbolical penetration to the inner recess of the black mind.

The anthology contains other poems such as Again Born Again, Water the Garden and Odyssey. Here, Agozino comes out of himself in riddles – weaving to a more open direct exposition of burning memorable issues on his mind and in human society. He urges that human beings should be honest to themselves.

In the poem, Brain Drain, a vivid picture of the painful experience of hardship forced down on Africa and how Europe is continuously under developing Africa, is described with electric clarity. He writes: “As we come reach paradise, them give us shopping basket/To take fetch the water to quench we thirst/But wetin we fetch dey flow comot/We point am to the sky and patch am with mud/But as we dey patch na so it dey leak/We be the children of the rainmakers/Wey dey scrub paradise him street to shine like gold/Heaven done take vapour drain mother earth finish/Come pay back with the aid of acid rain storms/Weey dey bleach the skin of mama earth

Come slaughter and share we green shelter/For inside the theatre of plant surgery/And turn rainmakers into money doublers/Because brain drain better pass brain for drain/Our papa’s papa been slave for this land/Our mama’s mama been weep tears for this soil/The sky wey dey rush fly come meet

Dey shine bright because of stars like we/Big brother na him dey run the circus show now.”

After chronicling of the mountains of the African betrayal of hope by leaders who are supposed to make the society better for all in several poems the author wraps it up with some rhetorical questions in the poem, Wetin we go do?: “Some people dey shack brukutu/Wey them dey enjoy to feel high/But many others dey manage with kainkai/When them no fit buy odeku/Some people wash mouth with holy water....”

Issues concerning Abuja, Federal Capital Territory in Nigeria, the corruptions of various so-called leaders that bestrode the capital and milks it to the detriments of the poor masses in the names of democracy is portrayed vividly.

A noticeable trait in the work is the poet’s candid view on not only issues concerning Nigerian and Africa, but universal occurrences. Agozino tends to characteristically scope the joy, sorrow and challenges in his issues. He also occasionally drops memorable romantic lines.

However, everything in the Today na Today, is not about the contrast of losing hope and hoping again. The don makes his reader savour his points through the wonderful pictures he paints in words about society and the future. There are several poems in the work that dig that veracity.

Today na Today, is not the first book of the author. He has written several works which present him as a gifted writer with remarkable promise. Given the poet’s background in sociology, his command of language and social issues is commendable. He weaves through figures of speech, metaphor in scholarly manner.

Other titles that will attract any reader in the collections includes, - Seducin the Sun,The Lion Done Return, Rushian, Knowledge be Privilege? Black Sperm, Slum Dwellers, Below Sea Level, You be Witch, Time be Money, (Following Oriki’s radio Jingle) Master Sargent Dog, Say Sorry, Massa Day Done, Con and Blue Moon

Among the things that a future review should look are the occasional prosy long lines and the cover of the book. Apart from that, the author has a good material not only for poetry lovers but for lovers of good writing who will enjoy the book.

See online: ’Today na today’: Biko Agozino sings from abroad in Naija creole