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Friday 5 June 2020


Whichever way poetry is defined (whether from the elitist/ esoteric view anchored on the Aristotelian cannon characteristic of Shakespeare, Soyinka and their likes, or the populist theory endorsed and experimented by poets like Wordsworth, Osundare, Okinba Launko etc), it can never be separated from the poet and his or other people’s environment. It is one of the powerful outlets employed to unfold the miseries that plague the heart or ravage society on one hand, and the gratifications that make the world rejoice. This, in other words, asseverates the social or utilitarian function of the art.  In this respect, poetry, being an arm of literature, is the soul of society without which society cannot survive. The poet, therefore, in the course of meeting up with his responsibility as the conscience of society, need purge the existential realities with which his heart bulges. Achebe’s verdict quoted by Egya (2012, p.81) that “an African creative writer who tries to avoid the big social and political issues of contemporary Africa will end up being irrelevant.” gives credence to the foregoing.   
Similarly, experiences in the literary parlance across ages show that sinister socio-political, cultural and economic realities have served as a fulcrum against which the writer leans for creative vigour. The above is very representative of Kehinde Akano’s poetry because horrible experiences of the children of Awongaga are catalytic in propelling the poet’s muse. In like manner, the bitter and melancholy saga trailing the Niger Delta region in Nigeria triggered powerful poetic agitation from poet Tanure Ojaide. Suffice it to conclude that Emirate Blues and Home Resistance unfurls Akano as a protagonist in whose the legendary resistance or agitation of his community finds a trail of sustenance or continuity and fertile land for its regeneration and fecundity to consummate the freedom crusade the heroes from the community had been hitherto championing. But his own approach is a weaponry in pen. 
Two major motifs are concomitant to his poetic oeuvre. Shared experience of anguish unleashed by the heinous feudal Ilorin emirate onto his native land and the manifesto of resistance which the latter has over the years resorted to, and the elixir through which the agitators are marching towards liberation recurrently receive the poet’s painstaking efforts. Emirate Blues and Home Resistance is not the artist’s debut in his commitment to indurate his people’s struggle for emancipation. To awaken the reader’s memory, Songs of Awon Gaga and Invoking the Emirate Spirit were together published in 2014, two collections canvassing the same motifs of emirate scourge and the anti-emirate force staged by the dissidents. Traditional of his works, Akano launches his pen into an exploration of oppression and agitation, pointing out freedom-fighting legends even in his prose works like Oba of Jebba: A Biography of HRM Alhaji Abdulkadir Alabi Adebara (the 5th Oba of Jebba) (2018) and others.
Akano’s Emirate Blues and Home Resistance is embroidered with the Marxist orientation, it is garnished with rage, obstinacy and linguistic rhetoric of flora and fauna provoking emotional outburst.  Thinking along the redemption cause championed in the collection, Tanure Ojaide (2019) says the poet is on a mission to rescue “hosts” from “their abusive guests”. With Ojaide’s submission, Akano in the poetic piece is literarily attempting what George Frazer describes as “quest motif” to deliver his people from the obnoxious hands of feudalists.
Divided into three parts, the first two sections of the collection are respectively representative of the two prominent motifs typically and overtly loud in the artist’s poetry. The first part adroitly chronicles the series of injustice odour otherwise identified here as “anguish” that the “hosts” encounter on daily basis as a result of the greed, power avarice and sheer heinous practices or man’s inhumanity to man being perpetually perpetrated by the oppressing oligarchy. The poet devotes energy on satirically exposing the ravenous exploits, which his people’s oppressors are fond of. He captures the ugly encounters as “emirate blues”. On the poetic alter, Akano echoes to the international community the suffering and menace his people go through.  The second part of the collection obviously and bluntly situates the poetry book within the realm of protest literature as the poet bitterly castigates the excesses of the feudal kingpins. Here, the agitation programme of the children of Awongaga and the descendants of Laderin are lyrically unfolded. Further exposure of despicable dispositions of the fief dominates the third part. 
Interestingly, Akano opens up that he has a muse in “awoko” (a bird adept at singing), so, poetry will be naturally dropping from him as “leaves stem in trees”.  Being a progeny hailing from the lineage of chanters blessed with the pedigree of classical eloquence, he is ready to respond to the emirate menace with the missile of words which is in tandem with modern sensibility, not the option of ammunition in the age when conflicts or issues bothering on injustice are to be resolved with diplomatic gadgets.  With “I have a song” and “Awoko, my muse”, Akano pronounces his assumption of a griot’s responsibility for his community. His tunes are an assemblage of cacophonous chants, which the poet ironically says will allure the defenders of the unjust system. Contrary to the poet’s sophistry, the piercing tracks, considering their harshness, volatility and rhetorical magnitude, will disquiet the oppressors. 
Prey-predator dialectics runs through the poems in the first segment as the tempo holds preponderance on the infliction suffered by the hosts. Readers are made to see in the hosts lovers of peace and champions of tolerance but detesters of oppressive schemes, while unrepentant cannibals surface in the abusive guests. The poetic items that come after “Awoko, my muse” like “Emirate casualties’, ‘Feudal caste”, “Their mogaji’s Cali-Fate”, “Here in Oke Aimora”, “Our Arole, your identity”, Woroworo’s “sonspiration”, “Feudal rake”, “Who else rates us?”, “Emirate blues”, “Emirate virus” and other serialise the invasion of the land of the innocent natives with attendant burning barbarism, cruelty, brazen gluttony, cannibalism, usurpation etc.  Sparkling fauna collocates and images are assembled to depict depravity of the hibernating feudal elements. In some ways, the satiric arsenal of the poems lambasts the ignominious and infamous exploits and the untoward contradictory representations of the ruler of Oke Aimora (city of infamy) and the antics of his hireling – “Woroworo” (the servant with a running mouth). Also, the poet questions the amoebic trait as regards the actual ethnicity of the oppressing lord who is nothing but a fugitive.   
Climactically, the heat of the impunity pilloried by the poet becomes unbearable with the explication of “Emirate virus” revealing the unspeakably huge devastation of the innocent people’s resources, traditions, culture, which is dangerous to the people’s socio-political life, economy and spiritual sanctity. For all these atrocities, the poet likens the occupant of the seat of Oke Aimora or the system he represents to Ebita or and animates the musing with a biblical allusion revealing the archetypal biblical serpent whose coming to the human race brings calamity to the world.  At the symbolic level, emergence of the emirate system is heinous to the world of the descendants of Awongaga. It should be noted that the emiratism is an alien and inimical to the children of Awongaga.
The audacity, resistance the poet inherits from his land is catalogued in the second part of this collection. At this juncture, he stands an anti-virus to the virulent oligarchy.  He believes that it demands him to ax the brandished gun of the oppressors. It is here the audience begins to feel the unwavering stubbornness of the descendants of Awongaga and the descendants of Laderin, assuring the oppressed that the plunder of their treasure will soon be avenged by Awon goddess who is also an inspirational deity to the poet. 
The bitterness of the poet’s anger dwells on imprecations to bewitch those who torment his territory. This is captured with vitriolic diction and classical incantatory imagery. The poet also extols the daring contributions of a group of “avengers” (known as Concerned Moro Elders) to the revolutionary crusade against the feudal exploitation, identifies a legend in late Oba Afolabi Yusuf, who is said to reincarnate in Oba Adebara and Oba Adegbite, the monarchs that now champion the freedom struggle initiated by the former. He also draws the reader’s attention to the “Wonder signpost” erected by Awongaga children in a bid to revive the ‘spirit of resistance’ typical of them for ages.  He notes that the signpost is an insignia of the ethnic affiliation and mystical armory. 
As the community’s griot he has demonstrated, the poet recounts the history of his land which precedes the coming of the feudalists, this exposes the superiority of the people over the raiding migrants, commending the land’s gods for their ever alertness and protecting the ancient city against the scourge of feudalists. All these portray the people’s reasonable obstinacy, gallantry and splendor.  The poet partly ascribes the challenges of his people to the foreign influence. According to him, what the fugitive characters are rejoicing over now was a booty from the “British colonial apologists/Who had partitioned our territories disproportionately/And ceded unmerited portion to the feudal lords”. It can be implied that the factor of colonialism empowered the imperialists.  
The concluding part is a pasquinade lampooning the ugly example the fief is setting. All manners of ungodly behaviours are highlighted and derided in “Odious words”, “The Fief@70”, “How beautiful your titles are?” and others. The shameful sobriquets like Wobia meaning “glutton”, Olojukokoro meaning “kleptomaniac”, Alaimora implying “shameful” etc are vituperatively exposing the filthiness of the fief.  
In essence, the summary of Akano's poetry collection is an acknowledgement, in a poetic posture, of Obafemi Awolowo's observation that "Freedom is not voluntarily given by the oppressors. It must be demanded by the oppressed." His poetic ministration is laden with both factual and fictional characters. The fictitious names in the poems are used as tropes with corresponding characters in real life.

On Àwὸko’s Golden Jubilee (For Poet Kehinde Akano)  
 When a hunter is invoked 
He answers with gun shots
 Awoko, word is your knack
As I call you thrice like a legendary warrior
I know you will respond with poetry
If I give you kola,
You’ll reject it
They say word is the most precious gift a progeny of chanters like you deserves
As a premium bash, I give you poetry to celebrate your golden jubilee. 

The word-sword that threatens oppression,

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