The Sun News


YJ Itopa, a poet and journalist hails from Ihima, Okehi Local Government Area of Kogi State. Itopa wrote the song to mourn an Ebira sibling of his, Adinoyi Ojo-Onukaba, who died last month in an inexplicable armed robbery attack on his return from Abeokuta where he attended the inauguration of a presidential library owned by Nigerian Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, his friend and associate.

Lament for Arrow Onukaba

The world had seasoned the arrow with holly poison

And was luring the lair with fair stalking

O death has plucked the laurel from the quiver?

Owner of plenty powerful plays

You also have furnished the field with bejeweled


A playwright that sired works of luminous plumage for which

Kings visited you with royal staves to hail your name as hallowed

While Gods’ divine feathers are hoisted in your crowded crown

Owner of a mighty mind

For our planting

You have sought the sun to suckle the seeds we spread

And for our night to be benign to night

You became kind like a sky

Seeking the moon to make a lasting lantern

And this gave you The Fire fly in a sullen sky medal

A mighty man of bounteous missionary bone

You have swollen the sea

To cool the canal

To spread her countless tentacles

To make verdure of a miserable meadow

For which you are now the

Oasis of a flaccid flora and fauna

The world had seasoned the arrow with holly poison

And was luring the lair with fair stalking

O death has plucked the laurel from the quiver?

Humbled by sincere civilisation

From your toothsome travels around the world

You returned to meet in every vein a deadly decay

And this decay you stubbornly fought to

Plant your banner saddle on the sterile polity of the land

Was it not with the speed of light

They turned your flaming flag to shamed shreds?

And the pieces

Looking like useless pile in a tailor’s shop?

I remember how they kissed their coffin:

To vote for a man of panting pocket is suicidal

He had worked with many wealth weaving looms

Around the world

He had formed a federal government with people of power

And sat with the most opulent

And saw where wealth was born, bred and

Drained in sky-piercing silos

Yet he scratches the soil for miserable grains like a compound cock

To vote for a man of panting pocket is suicidal

Who will teach this Onukaba the saint

To know the election here is bargained and bought

Cheaply like weevil owned bowls of beans

A trade where the highest bidder buys our conscience

Bidding us a four year old farewell

Who will tell this Onukaba the saint?

Is it a crime to serve without blemish

Is it a crime to work for welfare of citizens

Is it a crime to plant good tree for morrow’s men?

You had always wondered before you left the quiver.

The world had seasoned the arrow with holly poison

And was luring the lair with fair stalking

O death has plucked the laurel from the quiver?

O death of many killing devices

In our case today you came

In a formidable form

In the form of armed robbers, the owners of all our roads

In the form of an escaping car veering off the road

With a mission to end a golden life returning from knowledge hunting

He saw your sign and sought safety in the bosom of a far flung forest


Some deaths are dressed in naked mystery colour

A bare termite has eaten the grain and the hoe

The world had seasoned the arrow with holly poison

And was luring the lair with fair stalking

O death has plucked the laurel from the quiver?

I wonder why we know our heroes when we

No longer can see our heroes

When idols are dead

Onto the spreading arms of the sky we hurl our

Heroes’ songs drums and dances:

We regret we didn’t make a sincere son the king

We have invited a ruinous reign on our head

We have used our needle to sew our shroud

We knew you were the ideal arrow in the bow of God

We knew you were sublime in thoughts and deeds

We have gone to war without armour

Killing our conscience on the altar of quick but baited gains

Ah! The fish has swallowed a homing hook

Onukaba is gone

The quiver is emptied of a prized possession

O the arrow is gone and the sky has sorrowed

Drowning the earth from sole to scalp

Mourning with thunder clap

Mourning with flashes of lightening tears

The mother has halted her tears for the one she felt beholden to

To travel home in peace and peat

The arrow we seasoned for the lair is gone

And we wept till the end of time

When we see the savanna, o come and see the savanna

When we behold its beatific hills and their jubilant ants

When we wonder how the ants mould their mud for the shelter

When we wonder how the ants sink the stream for the hill work

Then we know Ihineba remembers every grain of His sands

The world had seasoned the arrow with holly poison

And was luring the lair with fair stalking

O death has plucked the laurel from the quiver?



Sam omatseye

Sam Omatseye is a multiple award winning columnist and an honourary fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters. He has published two novels, The Crocodile Girl and My Name is Okoro. He also published three volumes of poetry, Mandela’s Bones and Other Poems, Dear Baby Ramatu, and Lion Wind and Other Poems.

Scented Offal

We could swear that our loins never


From old times

In the rhythms

Of dances

Or in accents

Or in songs

Or in the patterns of the village square

Or the way kings hollered

In the marketplace

We could deny the hue in which our ancestors clothed their Gods

Or mourned

Or let libations drop

Or in the rains

Or the pithy moments of surrender

To the unyielding wills of prophesies

Even if we forswore our bonds or embraces

We could never deny the blood they spilled

Out of gourds of war

The blood of our brothers

The saliva of sisters

The teary treasure of friends

The blood that answered the cries of slaughter

Our blood, flowing with zest

And intoning in gushes

The voices that are ours

In this blood we saw the cousin

Who is us but who is not

The blood of the Yoruba spliced with

The arteries of the Afemai,

The jugular of the Igbo speaking half-accented Fulani

Suddenly we turn blind with our bold faces

By lying about our blood ties

We inhabit a brood of denial

In that dawn of independence

The bards wept over a deflowered shoot

But the rythms and the songs inspired

Wiggles of multi-ethnic ectacy

Show me your Itsekiri dance

Or show me the Ijaw minstrel and I will see

The lineaments of Yoruba beauty

But for so for us

We have inaugurated a confusion

As though ancestrally ordained

We joy in a babel more comfounded

Than when the Old Testament propounded

Many tongues to excite a lonely race

But we are born from

The snap and flare of conflict

In blood shed and shared

We fought for land and brides

Fierce and fuzzy like prides of lions

We cowered kings of fellow kinsmen we named foes

Slaves fell who became fathers under our eaves

They bore girls craved by kings

Loins teased slaves into freeborn royalty

Bonded yesterday, blue blood thereafter

So fluid was our kinship

We never were a race until war made us

We wrestled into one

Even the Yoruba

In the nineteenth century

Dueled into brotherhood

Kiriji, Latosa, Ekitiparapo, Kurunmi

Made myth out of spears and fears

The Bini never bowed to a foreign invader

But drew majesty out of travesty

To mark

Their place in the pantheon

Historians call it massacre

But the indigenes

Who fell because they marched

Rename it resistance

Though futile

They wove pride out of their pyre

Not far away

Inch by inch

Nana inked his Itsekiri print

In blood and strife

They all fought for a country they

Did not know grew limbs

In sacrifices

Dripped as blood

Dribbled on maps hourglass shaped.

From their rapine spears

What can we say of the warriors of Jukun

With eyes and skins skeined in

The lore of warriors

When Nigeria came

The tribes embraced with averted faces

Suffocating bear hugs

Nigeria was not even known then

No one named it

Nor craved for it

They did not even own it

Its fruits were

Nourished in foreign ether

White hosts hoisting guns with a god.



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May 2018
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