Chinazom Chukwudi Otubelu is the winner of the February edition of the BRIGITTE POIRSON POETRY CONTEST (BPPC) 2018 themed: ‘FREEDOM’. This is his third BPPC trophy in as many years.
The poet, who presently studies Electrical/Electronic Engineering at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), won the contest with his entry entitled ‘Dead Men Walking’. He beat Ayeyemi Taofeek Kehinde’s ‘We Must Be Free From Free-Doom’ and Ikenna Igwe’s ‘A Different Earth’ to first runner-up and second-runner-up positions respectively.
Chinazom, a Nigerian poet from Isiekwulu Village of Anambra State, is a serial winner of the BPPC— emerging tops in August 2017 and May 2016 backed up with two 1st runner-up positions in September 2016 and February 2017, and other TOP 10 appearances. He was also a finalist in the 2016 Albert Jungers Poetry Prize. He has received several other awards for his writings, including the FUTO WRITERS’ AWARD (2011) and the maiden edition of the KOLA MAGAZINE AWARD (2013).
Below are the top 10 poems:
- DEAD MEN WALKING by Chinazom Chukwudi Otubelu
- WE MUST BE FREE FROM FREE-DOOM by Ayeyemi Taofeek Kehinde
- A DIFFERENT EARTH by Ikenna Igwe
- WHATEVER HAS WINGS by Ngozi Olivia Osuoha
- THE TRAGEDY OF THE RUNAWAY BOY by Kolade Malik Ademola
- PUTRID EDOM by Mbagu Valentine(Vabec)
- WORTHLESS IMPRISONMENT by Abdullahi Halima A
- EQUATIONS by Titus Adeolu Adekunle
- STANZAS OF FREEDOM by Ndifreke George
- THEN ‘TIS NOT FREEDOM by Thamsanqa Job Mzamo
DEAD MEN WALKING by Chinazom Chukwudi Otubelu
Before the western winds, our bald beards scald in sad mud
To hear the famished flood thunder like a metal thud
These green lands we married have become a nagging wife,
Grazed upon by footfalls of a leprous pregnant knife
Amadioha! Where is the clash of thy rumbling flash?
Sweet-voiced damsels have dug their deathbeds afar
To wail morrow hopes that linger like a scar
Thou brave brothers of black ancestral soil
Do heavens weep not that we boil like oil?
Ani! Thy sacred earth now sucks the breasts of a dog
Our soft shrivelled hands bake cake crumbs in midday sun,
Beneath the beastly feet of a peeled-pawpaw-skinned gun
Our mute mouths melt like snow to the roar-like whistling whip
Yet, the vain rain refuse again to unzip its locked lip
Ogwugwu! Have you gone for a lame walk in the woods?
Our clan is but a ghost smeared with pots of rotten ash;
A pungent pin that pricks the soul and flees like a flash
Nothingness has bought the magic boot that bears our foot
Upon troubled mountains that stain our grains with soot
Idemili! Have thy rivers given birth to deaf deserts?
Have we not, before streams, sored our knees on hills and stones
That we may feel the breath to praise thy immortal bones?
Are these flames fragments of a forgotten past;
These walls that stretch farther than a radio mast?
Young men, please, tell the gods that bedtime is long gone!
Maidens, please, strike the chords of freedom once again!
WE MUST BE FREE FROM FREE-DOOM by Ayeyemi Taofeek Kehinde
There is a sun beneath every dangling tongue,
Like a near gale pregnant with whispering song.
It rises when the heart is intoxicated with courage,
Casting fear and voicelessness into bondage.
Freedom begins with the liberty to keep my hair today
And the undisturbed decision to go bald the next day.
It is when the finger picks the mucus of the eye to its face,
And walk away without the meeting of palms on its face.
Yet, today sees sky raining icy hell on ill-named avengers:
Where are Issa and Farid, the Palestinian right defenders;
Tanner; Tep Vanny; Mahadine and the Chinese Ni Yulan?
Speech is expensive, not by scarcity but for its boomerang.
Freedom, the blind archer has shot them into a free doom
Where rulers seize the voices of scattered steep broom.
Why is “freedom fighting” a green ink on the death warrant?
Why has beseeching for rights worn the lapel of war rant?
You may cage us, castrate us and strike us with your rod;
The wounds are places where freedom enters the world.
When there is ruin, there is hope for profusion,
And we have jugged the virulent vigour of liberation.
We must be free without oppression – the echoless oven,
Why should we hibernate when the door is so wide open?
We beseech a society and world where words are heard
And the next day we won’t be heard to have been dead.
A DIFFERENT EARTH by Ikenna Igwe
Seated, relaxed, atop the cool, grass-covered rock,
Stoutly jutting over the tranquil azure ocean, I stared –
Transfixed, transformed, and eternally enthralled,
By the magically momentous rising of the ageless sun,
Ascending, gracefully, along the serene scenery,
And ushering in the eagerly-expected new earth;
A planet, liberated from the shackles of creed,
Unhindered by the manacles of ethnicity,
Eyeless to the discriminating differences in color;
A globe meticulously wrapped in the cozy covers of peace;
Overshadowed by the immutable display of inestimable love;
A unified earth, tongue-deep in earnest equality;
A cerebral civilization where the segregating walls of status are buried;
Where no denizen is poverty’s prisoner; a violence-free empire,
Woven with morality – scoring superbly in every ramification;
I see an earth empty of foes and burgeoning with friends;
Where the lambs lie securely beside the lions –
Caring and sharing – all rapturously cherishing one another;
A world where the natural embraces the
Supernatural to form a universal positive whole –
Powered by truth, painted with justice, and pulsating with freedom.
WHATEVER HAS WINGS by Ngozi Olivia Osuoha
I am a pigeon
With the blade of a surgeon
To cut loose this dungeon.
I am a raven
Tamed and wild, I was given
To reach the heaven.
I am an eagle
I am one, I cannot tangle
For here is a dungeon.
I am a dove
Always on the move
To consecrate love.
So wherever the cage
I am not in bondage
For I am on rampage.
Though I am dry
I belong to the sky,
Though I cry
I must always try,
For whatever has wings
Is destined to fly.
THE TRAGEDY OF THE RUNAWAY BOY by Kolade Malik Ademola
He slaves away the earth in fright
And toils the yard at night
He has laboured hard in the light
For hope of a day when freedom will be on sight.
His wish is to be the Aves
That soar in the vastness of the skies
And not of the caged Ibises
Whose shrieks only call for freedom.
He admired the beauty of the Pisces
That dive freely in the shallow seas
And not of the family of the Loaches
That swim round the borders of the aquarium.
If freedom cost a fortune
He would break the bank to get it
But to the runaway boy, freedom is a mirage,
A reality that tornadoes of bombs have shrouded.
In the cozy cave that drips of bane
The runaway boy speaks of pain
Of the freedom that deprives him to be sane
And configures his limbs to be lame.
He speaks of freedom that lies not in the food he eats
Neither in the water he drinks
Nor in the air he breathes
But painstakingly, freedom that lies in the lines of the books he reads.
PUTRID EDOM by Mbagu Valentine(Vabec)
From t’is fair’st carcass call’d bondage, we desire freedom,
That we by all means, might taste liberation and ne’er die;
Thus shall we no more feed on the wretch’d putrid of edom,
But by all certitude drink from this empty river which canne’er dry.
Though it be that we were once captivat’d from seeing the light,
Now feed’st we our eyes on the flaming flames of liberation,
Making out a famine where abundance lies, to our eyes so bright
And a befitting feast of freedom fit for a fitt’d feast of celebration.
Thou oh freedom ‘rt the most treasur’d of all precious ornaments,
And only thine name shall herald to the gaudery stem of the spring,
In thine own bud shall sprout out many seeds of sweet merriment,
And tender, thy softness, which giv’st increase in times of Spring.
From t’is fair’st carcass call’d bondage, we gain’d freedom,
Thus shall we no more feed on the wretch’d putrid of edom.
WORTHLESS IMPRISONMENT by Abdullahi Halima A
Those wings on the falcon cease to fly,
My heart aches for ever asking why.
How could luxury be confine in penury?
How could such strength become so lowly?
As the world daily changes her garment,
We get confined in worthless imprisonment;
Incarceration of struggling souls,
Left for dead in shams called homes.
Our identities and legacies seem inactive,
Made to think that our skin tans are less impressive;
Racism reigns in every kingdom.
How do we sleep on the laps of freedom?
Martin and Malcom birth a dream,
That still lives but shines so dim.
Our hosts gladly erode the mission,
And blurred our every vision.
We saw them vanished with every iota of liberty;
And left behind the pangs of misery,
But at the end of every tunnel lies a glint of hope,
Where we shall rise again to cope…
EQUATIONS by Titus Adeolu Adekunle
There is the first equation –
a sum of two of the many variables.
And then a second –
the variables have coefficients and raised to powers.
The manual to her freedom are equations.
“But mathematics is a language she cannot speak”.
She was barely done with basic arithmetics.
So it is okay to be tensed beyond units.
Like the first equation, It didn’t quite add up
How after only a dozen years since her first cry,
She should be traded to a man already digging his grave.
Her freedom is a mystery puzzle to be solved
But like I said,
“Mathematics is not a language she can speak”.
The second equations only shows her the powers –
the ones that built brick bulwark of sorrow around her,
Casting a spell of shadow over her young glow;
And the power driving through her thighs,
trickling raindrops from her eyes every other night.
And like the helpless coefficients,
Her parents were willing merchants –
a product of poverty and illiteracy,
Dependent functions of coveted cattle and strong ties.
Her freedom is a mathematical puzzle to be solved
But like I said,
“Mathematics is not a language she can speak”.
And like her, there are many like terms.
STANZAS OF FREEDOM by Ndifreke George
Freedom is water rushing down the staircase of hills
through rocky banister to moisturize the earth;
zillion drops from the sky like angel’s spittle
funneled into the crannies of the thirsty parched earth
and the green rejoice in colourful blossom;
the rising of smoke from Dad’s cigar in a psychedelic dance
to weight up the canopy of cloud suspended by word of mouth.
Freedom is a music we all love to dance—
whoosh of the guiltless wind,
chiming of birds skating outside the cage;
splatter of raindrops like drums of festivals
snapping of chains tired of holding back;
melodies of two hearts beating as one
and solo from the nocturnal on permanent night shift.
Freedom is a girl child cuddled in the arms of a male,
unhurt, untouched, un-abused, unharmed—
and she’s free to pour on him the perfume from her yawn;
old men dancing in the rain
and children gather to cheer and clap.
Freedom is picking my biro to write
and the inspiration is greased by the truth living in me.
THEN ‘TIS NOT FREEDOM by Thamsanqa Job Mzamo
If I can’t express my vote
Give it to whom I like,
Then I’m still a slave.
If I can’t kiss your white lips
Then ’tis not freedom!
Freedom is just an illusion,
A bursting bubble
In the eyes of men
And women bound;
‘Tis a fool’s delusional Paradise!
If corruption can prevail,
Fraud runs rampage
And i can’t detain it,
Tame its wild trot,
Stem its destructive pace,
Then sorry, ’tis not freedom!
Otubelu takes home a N8000 cash prize, and his poem, along with all the other poems in the TOP 10 shortlist, will be automatically entered for the ALBERT JUNGERS POETRY PRIZE (AJPP) 2018 and published in the BPPC 2018 anthology. The finalists will also each receive a certificate and free copies of the BPPC 2018 anthology, to be awarded at the Words Rhymes & Rhythm Literary Festival 2018.