Spoken Word Poetry
By Dike Chukwumerije
MADE IN NIGERIA
‘Made In Nigeria’ is a metaphor for Bormi, where Attahiru the last pre-colonial Sultan of Sokoto was killed. It is a metaphor for Saint Vincent, the island in the West Indies where Jaja of Opobo was banished; for the gunboats that pacified Dosunmu, and Ntiji-Egbe, that restless spirit of resistance that roamed Igbo land, cornered finally and strangled to death by the implacable hands of British colonialism. But like those countless many in the long forgotten battles of history who also found themselves on the sides that lost, we did not die. No. We re-invented ourselves.
Yes. ‘Made In Nigeria’ is a metaphor for the starched moustache of Herbert Macauley, for the black bowtie of H.O Davies, for the pregnant classrooms of Hope Wadell Training Institute, and the ocean liner that brought Zik home from Howard University. It is a metaphor for Raji Abdallah and the call to action, for Obafemi Awolowo and the demand for freedom, for striking workers, and rioting women, and the rallying cry to boycott the boycottables; for that hope-filled day in October when Balewa, beneath the fluttering Green-White-Green, rose to speak, at last, in Independence.
But, poet I am, I speak in metaphors, of the clubs in Ebute-Meta where the dancing never ended, and the long and loaded aisles of Kingsway Supermarket, of the trains that went from Enugu to Kano carrying migrants and their fragile dreams. And when they returned on those same trains with knived and shot and matcheted dreams, victims all of a horror poorly recorded, overshadowed as it was by the Civil War, I will pause a little and tell it well. Yes. ‘Made In Nigeria’ is a metaphor, yes, for The Pogrom. Yes. If today muslims are stereotyped, if today the American negro is stereotyped, if today the Fulani herdsman is stereotyped, it happened also in ‘66. Perhaps, if we remember and re-learn, we can change the future. Perhaps, if we remember and re-learn, we can change the answers to the question, ‘Where are you from?’ Perhaps, if we remember and re-learn, we can all say, ‘I don’t know, born in the West, schooled in the East, living in the North, what can I say? I was made in Nigeria.’
Yes. For it is a metaphor for the Guitar Boy, for Baby Mi Da, for Cardinal Rex Lawson, and the immortal words of Sweet Mother; for our mothers in their afros and minis, our fathers in their labu-labus and beetles, for the melting pot of Fela’s Kakadu, and the heady mix of reggae and love that once upon a time was defiance. I will speak of Nkrumah, and invoke the names of Cabral. For they are still metaphors – Lumumba and Ahmed Ben Bella – of a time encoded in our DNA, when we had the balls to nationalize BP. But we shall not use these metaphors like marijuana, only to numb this truth, that in our greatness we were also dwarves. Yes. ‘Made In Nigeria’ is this metaphor too, for 9 coups and coup attempts, and the terrible lust for power that crippled all our freedoms.
See? I share this with you – the scars of WAI, the trauma of SAP, the disillusionment of MAMSER. I share this with you – the prayers mummy prayed over Sunday-Sunday chicken for fear a ravaged economy would turn her boys into Anini, or drive them too to check out. See? I share this with you – the breeding grounds for disillusionment that were otherwise known as university hostels, and that fraternity of thundering, roaring, chest-thumping, ear-splitting, indefatigable aluta! See? I share this with you – the palace coups and broken juntas and the nail-biting wait for morning. I fell in love too, and my heart was broken, like the start and stop of failed democracy; and when I brought her home at last, this woman I had long fantasized over, what did I find? That democracy had bad teeth and morning breath. But will I die? Tell me, on account of blackouts as old as me, of broken roads as old as me, of crooked governance as old as me, will I lie down this morning and die? No. No. No! Like Macauley before me, I will re-invent myself. For this is what it means to be made in Nigeria.