TITLE: ECHOES OF CONSCIENCE
AUTHOR: KENN AMAECHI JNR.
NUMBER OF PAGES: 120
PUBLISHER: WORDS RHYMES & RHYTHM PUBLISHERS
DATE OF PUBLICATION: 2016
REVIEWER: AYOOLA GOODNESS
Politics is a determinant for the success or failure of a society— and society is the people.
With what goes on in our world today, one would agree that most of the crises experienced are mechanised by a political cause or the other. It is sad as this has become a societal plague. The situation is worsened to the extent that a vicious circle that promotes social violence on both major and minor scales (the political influence on religious crisis, tribal wars and the likes cannot be over-emphasised) is etched. The victims are always the hoi polloi—of abuse of power, dictatorial extensions—and the grave subjection to truculent intentions.
Bad leaders and poor leadership qualities are directly responsible for this cause. In most countries, especially African countries, the concept of leadership is/has been bastardised consistently and completely abused by men of no conscience. The so called leaders take the advantage of power to fulfil their corrupt interest and thereby make life difficult for the governed. They fabricate lies in their manifestoes during general elections and mobilise people through political gimmicks and in the long run not fulfilling any. And funnily, to reiterate that these unhealthy processes of leadership are recurrent since political powers, purposes and plans are rotated within a selected sect is pertinent. The case of class oppression is evident in this light.
It all boils down to the detriment of the masses still in that they are constantly traumatized and shut into shocking experience of silence—and suffering due to the acts of self-centeredness of wicked leaders.
Silence is a familiar parlance; of muffled voices.
One is not surprised to find out that the public is completely stereotyped, as they survive regimes of greed and corruption. In actual sense, corruption has become the order of the day in the political system of the world and this, conclusively, renders any system of government ineffective.
There is always that noticeable ubiquity of lack ; lack of security, lack of social infrastructures and educational facilities, lack of health facilities, lack of this and lack of that. What else do one expects in a system where looters are leaders?
Nigeria is a perfect example.
That poetry provides therapy through the power of words is undisputed. There is an experience of ease, somehow, a respite for the masses for telling their story of pains and suffering (to bring about comfort)—for lending a voice to their stiffened cries for succour— and here again, poetry is a delight!
Kenn Amaechi Jnr’s Echoes of Conscience has again come to the rescue of this growing muteness, as a voice— like other voices (past, present and forthcoming) to establish that poetry is an unrelenting voice to silence—and to silence the howling situations of discomforts from political forces in Nigeria.
The book opens with ‘Reign of Vampires’ (pg. 12), where the poet addresses the political oppression of those in power:
‘They are virulent vampires
Façade of decent being
‘To devour and destroy.’
(Reign of Vampires pg. 12)
Though, the thoughts in the poem are drawn from the Nigerian experience of the dictatorial leadership of Late General Sanni Abacha’s regime. The thematic occupation of the poem (power oppression) is relevant to virtually the political experiences of the Nigerian State to date.
The poem, ‘Our Leaders’ (pg. 30), portrays the constant abuse of power by ‘Masquerades’ (pg. 14) and ‘Assembly of Thieves’ (pg. 35); hypocrites in the irony of a ‘Messiah’ (pg. 18). The resultant effect of this is captured in the poem, ‘Burning Nation’ (pg. 21), where the poetic voice exposes the readers to the political orchestrations of self-centered leaders and thereby giving rise to societal conflicts. The era of hunger and poverty is also highlighted as a stimulus for militancy and ethno religious rivalry. The poet concludes to the heat of the political state as an unending disaster:
No sea can quench
not even the benevolent
Niger and Benue rivers
(Burning nation pg. 21)
Is there hope for the masses? ‘Vox Populi’ (pg. 32), ‘ Hunger, Pains and Misery’ (pg. 74) and ‘Echoes of the Times’ (pg. 60) pitch the laments on the hardship and suffering of the masses, they relay the incessant blows of discomforts consequent on the greediness of political leaders:
‘We are beaten
we are battered
we are bitter
that our common wealth
is their common loot
our joint inheritance
their sole inheritance’
(Vox Populi pg. 32)
‘When shall we learn’ (pg. 41) questions public ignorance on the continual trust in the insincerity of those in the corridors of leadership; why put confidence in leaders who had one time scourged us during their political regimes? Why fall again for their political gimmicks and intentions? And because we have refused learn from these past unpleasant experiences of leadership and still vote them into power; we would not cease becoming victims of political and power abuse. However, the poet’s clarion call for a redirection on political orientations, standing up for deprived rights, reestablishment of eroded African heritage and recreation of a better life is loud in ‘After the Insanity’ (pg. 16), ‘Let’s talk’(pg. 43), and ‘Listen’ (pg. 45). This intent is also established in ‘Echoes of Conscience’ (pg. 88), where the title of the collection is drawn from.
‘Ken’ (pg. 25), is a tribute to Late Ken Saro Wiwa who was unjustly executed during Late Gen Sani Abacha’s regime. ‘Ngige’ (pg. 91) and ‘The Verdict’ (pg. 95) are tributes to the Former Governor of Anambra State Chris Ngige whose election tussle was rightly judged. The relevance of these tributes is to discourage the act of injustice to innocent lives and the embrace proper exercise of justice.
Amaechi Jnr’s declares a writer’s confident creed in ‘Naked song’ (pg. 57), as a reliable voice for the masses. Perhaps, the poet’s importance attached to this point of ‘standing up to the rescue’ makes him lend his voice in ‘To you’ (pg. 98), where he condemns the nonchalant attitude and the preoccupation of political jingoism of those that are capable to stand up for the fundamental rights of the masses.
‘To you whose voice is still
When our people cry
To you whose face is unseen
In the mirror of our struggle
To you who has not lent a hands
To pull down the forces of oppression against our nation’
(To you pg. 98)
While ‘Our father’ (pg. 56) is a parody for the brutality and the exercise of western power, authority and superiority, ‘Abomination’ (pg. 46) and ‘Africa’ (pg. 51) are pointers to the Western influence on Africa’s political systems and failures, most importantly, Nigeria as a focus. Yet, the echoes of conscience here is the beckoning of Africans back to roots—a conscious rise to redemption—where leadership is carried out in all sincerity and for the general good of the masses.; the kind of leadership prospect described in the poem, ‘Sacrifice’(pg. 117).
Again, poverty is predominant to politics motivated by selfishness—the poet, through the eyes of the Almajiris system in the Northern Nigeria, readdresses this in ‘Born Trowey’ (pg. 71), ‘If they Know’ (pg. 62), ‘Bound to Bondage’ (pg. 66), ‘They are no Shadows’ (pg. 68), and ‘Lords of the Manor’ (pg. 70). The Almajiri system, here, is a metaphor for a failed society where the masses wallow in abject poverty and because of this; they become portent for societal conflicts and crimes. An example of such occasions is portrayed in the lamentations of the poet in ‘Cry Beloved Senior Science Potiskum Yobe State’ (pg. 115), where he sympathized with the victims of insurgency by the Boko Haram Sect. A sect that currently threatens the security of lives and properties in the northern states of Nigeria.
‘Broken’( pg. 85), ‘Academic Razzmatazz’(pg. 81), ‘Gidan Video’(pg. 76) and ‘Ogbanje’ (pg 89) are focused on the failed system of education in Nigeria; the reduced standard of education, the celebration of failures and the neglect of academic excellence, the little or no provision of educational amenities and the plague of incessant strike actions. The poems intend to bring about appreciation of the importance of education in the society.
The satirical state of the country is portrayed in ‘My Country Fine’ (pg. 99), where the leaders ‘Loot and Go’ (pg. 101) freely. The concerned and confused state of the poet is further expressed in ‘My Missing Muse’ (pg. 102), where he declares (perhaps due to the shocking revelation, the height and heat of corrupt leaders):
‘My muse have missed
My ink seized to flow
My thoughts searches for a song
To express the awesome fall
Of yesterdays men of unbridled power
From the heights of vanities
In the great arraignment’.
(My Missing Muse pg 102)
A dreadful state of a seared conscience is restated in ‘Turaki Wept’ (pg. 103) and this begs the question, for how long do we continue to have men like this on the seat of power?
Of the wraths of the sharia
And the loss
Because the key to sleaze
And the shade of corruption
Is seized from him’
(Turaki Wept pg. 102)
‘You Lost your Groove’ (pg. 112), ‘Long Live the King’ (pg. 93) and ‘Aso Rock is Falling’ (pg. 96), are likewise poems that satirize the state of shame and degradation in the political system of Nigeria and the power tussles among political leaders.
‘Our leaders have
Gone mad again…
Their sickness is contagious
The land await another
(Long Live the King pg. 93)
To the question of hope, Amaechi Jnr’s Echoes of Conscience sheds some rays in his transitions, somehow from the position of an eclipse in ‘We Know (pg. 104)’, ‘Let’s Move Forward’ (pg. 107), ‘Glory place’ (pg. 108) and ‘I See Hope’ (pg. 110) into the illumination of ‘The Quiet Tempest’ (pg. 114), and the prophetic declaration of ‘It shall Pass Over’ (pg. 118) ignited in the light of change.
We shall not wail with the wailing wailers
Because we Love you and believe
As the days of cluelessness passed away
So also these days of economic cruelties
Shall pass over!’
(It shall Pass Over pg. 118)
But then, the prophetic summation here is coupled with a heavy sigh, if this hope is hope indeed.
It is observed that Amaechi Jnr’s collection is flawed in the inability of the poet to use poetic language to drive the messages in some of the poems home. It is obvious that a majority of the poems in the collection are burdened with careless repetitions of ideas and banalities. There are also an overuse of enjambments and break of lines which as a result make some of the poems unnecessarily long.
This is no way to undermine the efforts of the poet, though; I feel it is important to state that poetry has a tone and a language of its own. To say the poems does not fall within any particular hitherto existing conventional or traditional poetic genre (as stated in the preface) is not an excuse for writing lines void of poetic components and as such taking liberality for granted.
To conclude with, Kenn Amaechi Jnr’s Echoes of Conscience, is a voice of revival to humanity—echoing a redefinition for political stability and social transformation—for every now and then—and now again!