Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Weep Thou Not, My People

Late Pastor Bimbo Odukoya who died in a plane crash on December 11, 2005.

“Death is so wicked. If he decides to strike … he does not ask for ‘particulars’; he does not take money”

Ladies and gentlemen, thanks for coming. Please, we shall make this wake as brief as possible so that we do not spend the whole day crying again. I know how you all feel about this tragedy and the wasting of so many flowers and gems on the tarmac of incompetence and corruption. So, if you permit me, this is not going to be a valediction of weeping. Rather, it’s going to be a literary fellowship forbidding mourning. I will now call on Magnus Ochai, SSS III student, to read the opening poem.
Thank you, sir. The title of my poem is We, the Children of Loyola:
“Tell them, tell it to them
That we the children of Ignatius are writhing in pain.
Yet, our tears cannot drop because the tear-balls are empty.
We have no mouths to say it
Because our jaws are interlocked...
Our friends took the chariot, the chariot with wings.
They say the winds cannot overturn it.
But strange things are happening in Niagara!
The chariot overturned and became a chariot of fire
That crashed on the tarmac of insensitivity…
And scattered our hopes and dreams.”
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s the prologue poem by Master Magnus Ochai. It’s my privilege and honour now to call on Femi Eleburuibon to deliver a dirge.
My own poem is titled Dirge for Bimbo and it is delivered on behalf of the Household of Fellowship:
“Bimbo, glorious woman of the Vineyard, hail!
And farewell to you, popular counsellor of Singles and Doubles.
It is goodbye, as when a stranger is seen off to the town’s gate.
Once dead and reborn, a person does not know the front of his
father’s house.
Goodbye, Bimbo. Goodbye!
The stump of the palm tree does not owe a debt to the wind.
Bimbo, who lies here, owed no personal obligation
Before she went to her creator…
Bimbo, I call you without stopping,
I call you again, won’t you please answer?
Your husband calls you five times, six times!
Your children call you seven times, eight times!
Your parents call you sixteen times!
Won’t you please answer? The congregation is also waiting…
Ah! Erin wo! Ajanaku sun bi oke! (The mighty elephant has fallen!)
Bimbo is gone! The okin of Fountain Life is no more!!
The ‘humble peacock’ is gone with all her attributes:
Beauty, brain, character and charisma… o digba. Goodbye!”
Please, please, stop crying. I say stop crying. Weep not. This valediction is not of weeping. Thank you, Eleburuibon for your moving dirge. Shall we now call on Mrs. Iyadunni Laraba Okonkwo, a parent and member of the Jesuits PTA to render her own valedictory poem.
Chief mourner, deputy mourner, all other protocols duly observed. The title of my poem is Death Is Cruel:
“Death is wicked!
If he decides to strike
No amount of entreaties can stop him.
He does not ask for ‘particulars’
He does not take money
He does not take kolanuts
He will not allow you to ‘shake body’
Ah! Death is wicked!
He kills anybody regardless of age, race, religion or sex…
See what he has just done… This death … hmmmm!
If even there were two chances to die, I would not joke with one.
Abi, tan fe ku? Who wants to die?
If you die, you will be put in a coffin.
The coffin will be nailed, everywhere will be dark.
You will be sent to the cemetery,
Put in a grave, covered with sand,
Hit by shovel and nobody will hear your cry of pain
You will be left there while they return home.
Even your family, friends and the faithfuls,
They will all abandon you to your fate.
Ah! Chineke! Death is too cruel!!”
Thank you, Mrs. Okonkwo. We shall now call on the people’s lawyer and human rights activist, Mr. Alfred Kayemo, to give us the epilogue, I mean the closing poem.
This poem is titled Drum Call to Aso Villa:
“They clink ogogoro glasses, what for?
To drink to our death?
But they don’t know
That one of them is also a victim…
I’m dizzy with wailing, O Niagara!
To what land do they journey, our brothers and sisters?
What is this land where our friends go and do not return?
He has gone forever to the earth.
He has gone to the earth that devours all,
Glutton earth, so greedy, so opportunistic!
It devoured the contents of Bellview, Sosoliso and, twice upon a time, those of ADC and EAS.
Yet, it’s still famished. / Is it turn by turn?
Morbid anatomists often prepare for the earth his meat.
Grave dentists always prepare the earth’s molars and incisors for his gory shish kebab… but who will rescue us from earth’s premature mastication?
Let us go and prick their conscience in Aso Villa:
Your Excellencies, when will this cycle of wholesale deaths stop?”

Weep Thou Not, My People is a tapestry of poetic fabrics from oral poems from Ghana, Nigeria and Zaire in Oral Poetry from Africa (1983) and Kofi Awoonor’s ‘A Dirge’ in Messages — Poems from Ghana (1971).

First published in TELL, December 26, 2005. Reproduced July 8, 2009, on the occasion of the passing away of Michael Jackson, the King of Pop.

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