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Poetry from the heart of anti-graft man

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Abbia Udofia

Abbia Udofia

Curiosity! That is the word that would encapsulate the feeling of anyone who is familiar with the nature of job of the author vis-a-vis the content of the book.  When a lawyer with degrees in Criminology and Criminal Justice, Forensic Psychology and Criminal Investigation begin to talk about love and passion in the opening section of a book comprising 156 verses of poems, then one begins to wonder where the extra time to do such literary work emanated from.

It is not as if lawyers especially one with so much pedigree in criminal investigation is not capable of falling in love, after all the dedication of the book itself was to his wife Margaret, but to write poems as though he were a playwright/poet gave credence to the fact that whoever a child sees as a role model has a lot in shaping the live of such child.

Tracing back his interest in literary work to a teacher of his in his elementary school whom he said influenced his passion, Abbia Udofia, the deputy director/chairman of the special unit of the Independent corrupt practices and other related offences commission (ICPC) said he might not have been a writer at all if not for the passion one Mr Akosile, his literature  teacher in secondary school ignited in him.

In a collection of 156 poems titled Desires and Scaffolds, Udofia encapsulated contemporary issues in the society ranging from love, politics, injustice to other humans and of course corruption in the land, and as such some of the lines depict his experience at the anti corruption agency.  Where do the time to write comes from despite all the corrupt cases his work place pursue all over, Udofia registered that:You write not only when you are free, you write while travelling, on board aircraft, while waiting for a flight, while riding on the road.

As a writer, one can be inspired by anything in sight; you might just see someone passed by or inanimate objects and get inspired.  So it is not what one can say, okay let me have a specific time for writing. Some of the poems are dated years back but i just got the book published not quite long.’’

He said he gets frustrated most times with what he sees on a daily basis at work and there is no way for him to let loose some of the anger in him than to pen some of his thoughts down.

For instance in one titled ‘When rainmakers turn locusts’, he addresses the state of the nation in what is seemly an unending corrupt practices, while leaders who are supposed to be rainmakers watering the land suddenly turn to selfish and greedy vultures and hyenas devouring the land. Others such as Wolf City, Curfews and Cockroaches are also a piece to be reckoned with.

O my land, my once cherished queen,/I can’t look up to your broken eyes/I can’t look up to your grave devastation,/I can’t look up to your sons and daughters/Buried in the hills and rags of their shame.

On Curfews and cockroaches he said, “It summed the mis-governance between 1986 and 1993. It speaks of the seeds of corruption, greed, discord, strife which characterized that regime. It tells of bloodletting of attempted and failed coups and the executions of brilliant officers. It bemoans the huge potentials of a virile and rich country but skewed into a colony of misery and hunger. It’s a poem that summaries the endless deceits and abuses by leaders and the timeless aspirations of the dregs for a prosperous and peaceful country.’’

Udofia wasn’t angry throughout the work, in a humorous manner, he posited in the first four lines of ‘Woman’ that the female folks are:
Like all objects of beauty,
Was created strictly
For love
And veil against dust and storms.
Is the author saying that women should not be engaged in any work at all?  He went further,
A woman was made
To be worn proudly
Like priceless jewellery
Like an expensive perfume.
She was composed
To be sung repeatedly
Like a beautiful chorus.

It is not only about love affairs though, in a swift change of mood in the ‘mad one’, he again castigated the barbaric tradition of killing Albinos because of their skin pigmentation and the use of hunchback for some herbal cure.  He called these acts strange errors and resorted that the earth in response is endlessly in darkness, banishing light and laughter.

Readers would also appreciate that Udofia is a man of faith, apart from a poem he titled ‘Faith’, he simple titled another ‘G’.  Could he have been refereeing to God?  In it he talked about faith that could be amputated as a result of weak faith.  He talked of being taught how to pray by a being he called ‘G’ and the power of hope.

It is no longer news that majority of Nigeria youths are no longer interested in the long tortuous journey to stardom, the academia is an area they don’t want to delve into.  All they want nowadays is a quick fix to fame and money which showbiz offers.  The trend is scary even as multinationals and government institutions are not helping matters.  No one would make a best graduating student a brand ambassador except the ones in showbiz who may not have gone to school, even the state of Ivory Towers around the country beg for attention.  To this Udofia offered a piece of advice.

Nigeria youths are very creative, they can make mark in whatever endeavour they chose to engage in, that’s why it is important not to allow them to concentrate more in one particular area.  If every one of us give a little back into the society that produced us, then we are sure to bring into being more formidable society’’.

“Government and other corporate entities should go beyond showbiz in picking their ambassadors, they should look at sciences, Arts, best graduating students and so on so that youths can feel encouraged.  If a company has an ambassador like the person of Chimanda, i don’t think that ambassador can rank less than the music ambassador’’.

Udofia said it is imperative for the society to encourage youths into going more into the academia rather than showbiz which had taken more of their passion.  He said multinationals should come up with programmes to encourage literary works in other to encourage the youths.  He said the over concentration of multinationals in talent hunt had eroded the little interest Nigeria youths would have given to literary works adding that play writes too deserve to be acknowledged and encouraged.

To the government he said a lot need to be done in area of taking responsibility and accountability.  He said his schedule at the anti corruption agency had also helped at inspiring him to put his thoughts on paper.  Citing a situation where the fund that was supposed to take care of a widow and her children was taken over by some undeserving relatives, Udofia said such can be a source of inspiration to write on corruption if not at national level.

In an open show of admiration of our own Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka for his contribution to humanity, particularly in the arts and human rights, the author in a poem he titled ‘Laureate – for a young poet at 80’ practically admonished the literary giant to rub some of his writing virtues on writers like him.  He begged thus:
Wrap me with your divine cloak of songs
Clad me with your palpitating fronds
Of metaphysical valences
Groom us in your river of verses
As we take the arduous quill
On the sonorous track of songs.

Poetry is the only genre of literature that is subject to different interpretation depending on the perspective of the reader, this Udofia pointed out in his note.  The 183 pages piece of work ended with ‘poetess’ dedicated to the queen of verse, Maya Angelou.


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