Form and Content of Poetry of Restive Regions: A Critique of Select Collection of Poems from the Boko Haram and Bandits’ Occupied Northern States

Citation: Alhassan, A.S. & Hadiya, A.U. (2024). Form and Content of Poetry of Restive Regions: A Critique of Select Collection of Poems from the Boko Haram and Bandits’ Occupied Northern States. Dynamics in the 21st Century Hausa Prose Literature. Tasambo Journal of Language, Literature, and Culture, 3(1), 95-104. www.doi.org/10.36349/tjllc.2024.v03i01.011.

Form and Content of Poetry of Restive Regions: A Critique of Select Collection of Poems from the Boko Haram and Bandits’ Occupied Northern States  


Aliyu Sambo Alhassan
Department of English and Linguistics,
Federal University Dutse, Jigawa State  


Amos Umar Hadiya
Department of Languages and Communication,
Federal Polytechnic Mubi, Adamawa State


Modern African poetry is characterized by shifts in both its form and preoccupation. It began with a call for self-governance in an amateurish language. Then came the Soyinkas (the disillusioned poets), whose poems are crafted in a rather difficult style that suggests colonial hang-ups. A major turnaround came in the 1980s when the Osundares’, criticizing the Soyinkas for their untold difficulty, provided a staple, known as the Alter-Native tradition. It seeks to address African conditions using African allusions. They, unlike the largely Greco-Roman, Euro-centric and Biblical form of the Soyinkas, provide an enative alternative. Both Othman and Okpanachi, (then lecturers in the far North-Eastern Nigerian University of Maiduguri) belong to the latter and they write amid the terrific Boko Haram insurgency that threatened to extinct the region. This paper seeks to uncover their style in exposing some of the most horrific acts of both the Boko haram and the herdsmen’s unleashed terror on innocent souls. The paper, harping on the postcolonial discourses of the Palestinian Said, Caribbean Fanon, Indian Bhabha, and Nigerian Chinweizu, looks at the factors and motives behind the assailants’ missions as presented in the collections. It shows how they reveal the misgivings of the current African democracy as embedded in evil acts. These Poets seem to unravel the brazen incompetency of the modern African democratic governments, citing Nigeria as an example. The paper also offers a critique of some other collections of poems from northern Nigerian authors. From 1999 to the mid-2000, the region was ravaged by Boko Haram mayhem. And by 2015 to date, it has been faced with a series of terror activities that range from banditry, and cattle rustling to kidnapping. The region is absolved in fear of terror everywhere. Thus the paper also attempts to critique some of the accounts contained in the poems.

Keywords : Form, Content, Postcolonialism, Banditry, Boko Haram


Conflicts and crises leading to war, wanton and indiscriminate killings and senseless loss of lives and properties are almost always traced to injustice, miscommunication or intolerance in human history. As such, wherever any crisis emerges within human societies, certainly justice, fairness and equity are threatened.

Thus, what Nigeria, especially northern Nigeria, and indeed its neighbours are witnessing as terror-laden nations, is directly connected to the brazen injustice of the various Governments on the subjects, (denying them access to functional education and all sources and means of humane livelihood) on one hand, and the suppression of the minority (ethnic groups) by the majority on the other, and subsequently the misgivings of the colonial west, who governed the areas in some of the most high-handed manners in human history. Kuna (2003), in Muhammed (2010:05), provides that:

…the recurrent conflicts in northern Nigeria bring to a fore the colonial legacy of the ‘relationship between these conflicts and the reality of colonial domination.’ The foundation of the conflicts lies in the ‘centrality of the process of differentiation and ‘centralization; the two major components of British ‘coloniality’. They divide territories in space and culture, within and between colonized peoples and societies, to ease the problem of their administration engineered on the basis of the ‘divide and rule’ definition; the result is a fragmentation of an otherwise unified group, into boundaries, identities, that are spatial, cultural and symbolic, with sociopolitical and legal implication. …what had taken place was in effect a process of …’ othering’ which constituted the kernels of coloniality while instituting an enduring source of conflicts that persist today.

Thus, one understands that the multitudes of conflicts and restiveness that dominate Nigeria and other parts of the sub-Saharan African region are directly connected to the violence committed on history, culture, religion and political settings of the people occupying these territories. The British Colonialists artificially amalgamated Northern Nigeria; (which was hitherto, predominantly Muslims and Hausa speakers, and whose cultural, social, political and economic systems were entirely alien to Southern Nigeria) with the Southern Christians, whose languages and all other systems were completely alien to the North! Even within the North, there were very pronounced and diverse differences, which were suppressed by the colonial government and they created suspicion, contempt and hate among the inhabitants. They used force and internal mechanics of control like indirect rule to bring the hitherto, warring factions under one roof (government). They compelled them into recognizing the new authority, thereby paving the way for the majority ethnic groups to trample on the rights of the minority ethnic groups! Thus, with time the minority rights became threatened by the majority might. This essentially leads northern Nigeria, Nigeria as a whole and indeed parts of the African sub-region into the very troubled situation they find themselves in today.

The so-called independence gained from the colonial powers could not proffer any solutions to the very glaring discontents lying all over the colonized areas. Early enough, into the new self-governments all over the African sub-region, protests arising from intra and inter-religious (mis) interpretations and (mis)practices began to be recorded and protests against the dominations and suppressions of the larger ethnic groups on the smaller ones in Northern Nigeria was witnessed all over. An example is, that Islam came to Kanem Borno some two to four hundred years before it arrived in the Hausa land. But the colonial masters made the headquarters of the Danfodio caliphate superior in rank to that of Kanem! Although they were all Muslims, the kanems were not comfortable with this rob of history. It was a similar discontent that gave birth to the famous United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) created by the minority ethnic groups of the middle belt region against the then-largest northern political party, the Northern People’s Congress (NPC). Even the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), which was largely seen as a core Hausa people’s party was created out of discontent based on intra-ideological differences.

Thus, the incessant and ever-escalating violence and terror unleashed on the unsuspected citizens of the largely Northeastern Nigerian geopolitical region and indeed, the long-standing feud bitterness, killing of each other and brazen animosity between Fulani herders and farmers, kidnappings, abductions and banditry being witnessed in all the other parts of Northern Nigeria are not without historical antecedents and misgivings of the far and near past, arising from records of injustice, unfairness and inequity.


In his text titled , The Terror of Terrorism (2016:05), Ezeugu attempts some definitions of the term, with a self-admission that, like most terms, terrorism has no single united definition. He nonetheless submits that from 1936 to 1981, there are not less than 109 various definitions of the term as provided by various committees and agencies of the United Nations and elsewhere. Ezeugu therefore defines it as “Wilful violence resulting in carnage and destruction of lives and properties’’. But Article 1(2) of the United Nation’s Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Terrorism of 1937 defines it thus:

In the present convention the expression ‘acts of terrorism’ means a criminal act directed against a state intended or calculated to create a state of terror in the minds of particular persons, groups of persons or the general politic.

Apart from the elaborate definition provided above, there is the famous definition provided by the United Nations Security Council in 2004, in its resolution 1566 (2004), which states:

Identified elements of a definition, referring to criminal acts including and/or against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostage with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act.

These few working definitions have proven among other things that, the territories covered by the two collections of Othman and Okpanachi and a few other authors, which are the Northeastern and some northern regions of Nigerian cities and villages are seriously enmeshed in the act of terror. Thus this paper intends to study the style and message(s) of the two collections as they expose the acts of terrorism.

Post Colonialism/Postcolonial Discourse:

Postcolonial theory, Postcolonialism or Postcolonial study, is essentially an amalgam of thoughts, views and opinions of the scholars and critics of the formerly colonized societies or other scholars who venture to write on the subject. These critics are classified into two broad groups following their line of arguments on the impact and consequences of colonialism and the way and manner these colonized societies would possibly escape from the hang-ups of the elements and traces of the evil of colonialism or even what could now the termed as imperialism. Gikwandi in Olaniyan and Quayson (2007, p.614) provides that:

On one hand, there are those critics who would like postcolonial theory to account for the specific conditions in which colonialism emerged and functioned and the role of decolonization as a specific narrative of liberation…to them…the pitfall of postcolonial theory inheres in its inability to periodize and historicise the colonial experience and to account for the role of colonized subjects as active agents in the making of culture and history…for them, postcolonial theory’s primary failure in its inability to account for the history and process of decolonization.

The above groups are essentially concerned with those specificities that led to what made the Orient be termed as such and delineate those steps that could be followed in combating those ills and hang-ups left behind by the colonizers.

But the second group of postcolonial critics reject the claim that theory represents the separation of culture and political economy, or that the acts of reading that are informed by the shifting of theoretical notions of hybridity and difference compellingly negate the categories of nation and nationalism to post-colonialist scholars like Homi Bhabha post-structuralism and or postmodernism is a very strong shield against “the prison-house” of European humanism and the decolonized mind as a polity that is no more legitimate to this age of globalization and migration. To Bhabha and his foot soldiers this concept of post-colonialism, is:

rather than being ahistorical and apolitical, detached from the concerns of the postcolonial subject, a postcolonial discourse informed by -post-structuralism provides a powerful vista into the modern world system and its moment of crisis… postcolonial criticism “bears witness to the unequal and uneven forces of cultural and social authority within the modern world order.

Diverse as these two arguments on what constitutes a postcolonial discourse may seem, their area of convergence is their agreement that postcolonial discourse emerged within the larger institutions of European theory or theories that evolved after structuralism. This union also raised further unsettled questions. But as Bhabha would later provide a rather encapsulating definition of the concept as “the language of theory merely another power ploy of the culturally privileged Western elite to produce a discourse of the other that re-enforces its own power- knowledge equation’’ The Location of Culture, 1994:20-1). It is an attempt to come to terms with the nature and implication of colonial modernity from the dual vantage position of decolonization and migration. In a nutshell, this brief description of what constitutes postcolonial discourse and its major concerns, coupled with Habib’s (2011:272), submission provides the basis for considering post-colonialism as the theoretical framework of this piece. He submits that:

…to cover all cultures affected by the imperial process, from the moment of colonialism to the present day on account of continuity of preoccupations between the colonial and postcolonial periods…to determine the economic, political and cultural impact of colonialism on both the colonized peoples and the colonizing powers; to analyze the process of decolonization; and, above all, to participate in the goals of political liberation of forms of domination and articulation of political and cultural identities.

Boko Haram as a Terrorist Group

Perhaps among the consequences of the colonial masters’ violent occupation of the then city-states and other ethnic settlements, the forceful and artificial amalgamation of the hitherto independent and warren communities (who shared nothing in common in culture, religion and languages) together under one roof – authority – and/or government, is the sad emergence of dissenting voices, protests and revolts. Nigeria and more particularly, northern Nigeria is one of such victims of forceful Europeans’ marriage of convenience.

Although both the historic Sokoto Caliphate and the Kanem Bornu Empire were predominantly Muslims, there has been a long-standing political standoff and other sentiments that never allowed for peaceful coexistence between them. Among them were ethnic entities that were not Muslims and were not peaceful neighbours either. These resentments coupled with an initial outright rejection by the natives, of the Greco-Roman and Indo-Christian European system, the European colonial masters left behind hibernated disenchantments that were waiting to germinate. At independence, the native rulers only watered the ground for the revolts to germinate into a full-blown crisis.

Thus, even during the colonial era, conflicts between the Tijjaniyya and Qadiriyya Sufi sects were on the ground. The Almajiri (male Muslim children, youths and adults) who leave their homes, villages and towns to far places in search of the Qur’anic and other Islamic knowledge) also had their discontent with the European/Christian system. Therefore little wonder that the Maitatsine saga that began in the middle of the 1970s culminated into a full-blown security challenge of the new Nigeria state then. The Maitatsine was calling for the replacement of the Western system in its entirety, with the Islamic system. The Nigerian military engaged in the movement in Bulunkutu, ‘Yan Awaki, and Jeka-Da-Fari of Maiduguri, Kano and Gombe respectively in the early 1980s.

As if that was over, soon in the late 1990s, northern Nigeria was confronted with yet another religious and ethnic uprising. There was, from the late 1980s to the early 1990s series of religious and ethnic crises in the north that almost engulfed the whole of Nigeria. The Kafanchan (1986), the Zangon Kataf (1990), the Numan/Tinno Tafawa Balewa and Bauchi (1992), the Kano Bonke (1992) and many more religious and ethnic crises were witnessed.

Boko Haram, loosely defined as ‘Western education is unlawful’, and properly and formerly named ‘Jama’atu Ahlussunna Lidda’awati Wal Jihad’, emerged in the late 1990s to the early 2000s. Like the Maitatsine, they also preached against modernism and all Western civilizations, thoughts and ways of living. Initially, they attacked the Nigerian government by killing the police and all other security agents. They attacked police stations and Commands killing all the inhabitants, by either bombing them or setting them ablaze. The military, the immigration, the Nigerian customs and the Prison services barracks and offices were also not spared. During that period and owing to the deep-rooted hate and resentment of the governments at all levels, the inhabitants hailed and praised Boko Haram for those cruelties. In a major combat with the military in Maiduguri in 2009, the headquarters of Borno state, the group’s leader was captured alive by the military but the police executed him along with many of his followers after they were handed over to the police hale and herty extra judicially. This act was to spark and ignite a major resistance that forced the remaining members of the group to go underground and regroup to fight a guerilla war on the whole of Nigeria.

They bomb mosques, churches, markets, banks and gatherings of people at weddings and other social gatherings. They kidnap unsuspecting villagers, farmers, fishermen, herders, businessmen and women, rich people, school girls and boys. They spread to places like Damaturu, Gashuwa, Buni Yadi, Nguru, and other cities and villages in Yobe state; Madagali, Gombi, Song, Hong, Mubi and Yola in Adamawa state. They ravaged Azare, Misau, Alkaleri and Bauchi town in Bauchi state. They were in Bajoga, Ashaka, Dadin Kowa and Gombe in Gombe state. The group was able to kill the emir of Goza, a first-class emir, and shut down Bama city, the second biggest city after Maiduguri, in Borno state. Boko Haram extended to some parts of Kaduna and Katsina states and bombed the Nyanya garage, Wuse market, police headquarters, United Nations office and other places in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Within a space of a very short period, Boko Haram was a household name in Northern Nigeria and Nigeria as a whole. It claimed responsibility for the assassination of some famous Islamic scholars (Albani in Zaria, Ja’afar Mahmoud Adam in Kano etc.). They kidnapped secondary school girls in Chibok and Dapchi in Borno and Yobe states respectively. They killed secondary school boys in Buni–Yadi in Yobe state, and at a point, schools were compelled to vacate indefinitely in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. They captured 17 out of the 27 local government areas of Borno state. Time and space will not permit a detailed account of the Boko Haram terror in the north. It is to this terror that the two collections dedicated their verses. Thus, the paper essentially offers an exposition of the devices used and messages of Othman’s Bloodstream in the Desert (2014) and Okpanachi’s Music of the Dead (2018).

Banditry, Kidnapping and Senseless Carnage as Forms of Terror.

By the dawn of 2015, Nigeria and especially Zamfara, Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Nasarawa, Plateau, Benue and the FCT witnessed heavy and terrible cases of kidnapping of schools children, and university students in boarding schools. In the cities and on the highways, road users are stopped and taken to the bushes en-mass. There are reports of bandits in their hundreds on motorbikes visiting villages only to set the whole village on fire, killing the men and taking hundreds of women as captives. In other instances, they cordon off a town’s Central Juma; at a mosque or market and open fire in a killing spree. Most often they spend hours without any security men attacking or counter-attacking them. They issue threats and levy villages and towns and give datelines to pay certain amounts or they will be attacked and these threats are carted out unchallenged.

People in the affected areas have to abandon their weekly markets and their farming. Herds of livestock are rustled in their hundreds and are whisked away forever. Girl students of the secondary school of Yawuri in Kebbi state and some in Niger and Kaduna have been in the custody of kidnappers to date. At some times, prisons or correctional centres were broken in Abuja and other places and inmates were freed. As if reaching the pick, the convoy of Mr President and CinC was attacked. It is just so scandalous, and poets capture some of the most awful scenes.

 Othman’s Bloodstream in the Desert: A Clarion Call for Rescue

Othman has three collections to his credit apart from individual poems that were published both locally and internationally. The Palm of Time (2002), The Passion of Cupid (2008) and his latest Bloodstream in the Desert (2014).

Even from the title of the collection, the word blood is written in red ink, followed immediately by flowing streams in the desert suggesting, among other things, a clarion call, an announcement of a sort, a kind of yelling and yearning for external help to save a people in despair, a people that are at the brink of the precipice. It tries to tell the world that Borno state which is largely dominated by desert that is dry and sandy is, yet bedeviled with war of terror. The desertification has caught up with the larger part of the northeast geographical zone of Nigeria. Borno, Yobe and Adamawa are the worst hit. The area Kanem Bornu was known for its fame in the traditional Islamic scholarship. It was equally known for its hospitality and accommodation. The major ethnic group, the Kanuri (Barebari) were known for Qur’anic memorization. Suddenly the uprising of Boko Haram ravaged the long-standing peace, and it gave way to despair and terror. Fear caught up everywhere. The once vibrant city of the famous and very big Monday market turned into a mournful graveyard. Substantial parts of the important cities in the northeast were deserted. The great city of Baga known for its fishing business that feeds the whole north and elsewhere, suddenly turned into a shell of its former self. It is now a place ravaged by war. Before long, the northeast has been declared a war zone.

The citizens of these terror-occupied territories got themselves into a double jeopardy, a quagmire of a sort. They would get killed, maimed and massacred by the insurgents after which those who narrowly survived the carnages would be subjected to yet a greater terror by the government’s security agencies – the police and the army. This ambivalence and confusion are aptly captured in two of the poems in Otman’s collection thus;

‘’Doomsday in Maiduguri’ (Sept. 10th 2012).

The poet's persona reveals in greater detail what is happening to the inhabitants of the ancient city.

Such a dreadful day

We woke up to

That day, brother

When bomb-blast flung us

Out of our beds

And the ensuing gunshots

And shrill shrieks of children

Lit the fireplace for breakfast


Wisps of crimson smoke

Mixed with grey dust

From crumbling buildings

Formed a smoggy shield

Over the smouldering city

Barring it from the glint

Of God’s compassionate eye


The smog whirls up the air

Gracefully be menacingly

Not like smokes from fire place at dawn

But like cumulus cloud just before rain


And such a heavy rain, that day brother,

Torrents of bullets drenched the city

Flooding the streets in cold blood


Early traders to the markets

Returned home soaked in blood

Punctual children to school

Fled back home in disarray

Missing their ways in pools of blood

Mothers defying the deluge

Waded through the bloodstream

In search of the children

Men in search of them,

Rushed mettlesome

Into barricades of bullets


Such was the day, that day brother

We all woke up to

When a blast tore us out of bed

And the soldiers shot out their tents

In mad pursuit of the blast (60-1)

The above stanzas aptly and vividly describe the nature and the degree of wanton destruction of lives and properties by the assailant Boko Haram members. More so, they expose the innocence and confusion of the victims. It was an attack at Dawn! And as if that was not enough, immediately the dust of the aftermath began to die down, and the security agents – the police and the army- who were meant to repel the attack came with a fresh pandemonium. Thus, while the poet's persona describes the extent of despair, he is making a call to external hands to be aware of their responsibility to help out. The following stanzas of another poem in the collection further elaborate on the disenchantment and hopelessness of the inhabitants of the terror-occupied territories.

“After the blast”

After the blast

Came the carnage

Barricades of bullets blocked

All exits and entrances

200 meters round the scene of blast

 Locked up stores and superstores

 Went up in flames

 Lighting the way into

 The dark dwellings at dawn



 And wailing sirens

 Compete with

 Frightful screams

 Of slumbering soul

 Smoldering in their slumber


 Fleeing corpses

Chased by billets

Float in their blood

Fated faithful

In their genuflect

Slouched in silence

Without salaam

Drenched in their own blood


Helpless children and

Frightful women

Corked up in the quagmire

Became faggots for the gunfires

Devouring the town.


After the blast, then

Came His Excellency


The politician and

The chief executhief

Of the state,

With garlands of blood

Around his neck,

Walking stately

Through the carnage

Charred remains of

Bones and skulls scrunched

Under his majestic steps


But his blood-blurred eyes

Saw no casualties around

“Wallahi I saw no corpses here”

Only the blasted remains

Of the soldier

Wrapped in his camouflage

Caught his attention and action

Placing the life of the dead soldier

Above the lives of citizens

Slaughtered after the blast

This is an in-depth description of a quagmire. The citizens, the electorates are trapped amid the Boko Haram senseless killers and the pogrom of the security agents. The military would, after an attack on public places, initiate a shoot-at-sight and a house-to-house search claiming that the innocent and terrified citizens are harbouring the infidels and therefore they would then be subjected to all forms of maltreatment, killings and rape all in the name of searching for the fleeing Boko Haram attackers. There are mounted roadblocks and barricades, motorists and unsuspected fleeing passengers must be subjected to four to eight hours of hold-ups and are being extorted by the army on duty at the roadblocks. There are reported cases of attacks by both Boko Haram and the military on the internally displaced people’s camps, not to mention reported cases of defilement and sexual abuse and rape all in the IDP camps.

Othman’s collection of 43 poems expresses in more ways than one how the reign of terror overwhelmed the inhabitants of northeastern Nigeria. In some places, he established the insincerity of the government and its security agencies in their commitment to curb the menace of terror. For instance, in his poem titled ‘Who are they’, the poet persona describes the police as in times of crises, they always face the people not to protect but to confront/ their backs are always on the authorities not in defiance but in defence/. This suggests that the security is never to secure the poor but the people in authority. The poet's persona also indicts the leadership by accusing it of betrayal. In his ‘A Breath of fresh blood’, he submits that the masses “… Gave him our ballots/ He paid us with bullets/ Our polling units his shelling units/ Giving us a fresh breath of blood/ From the butchery of the electorates/ In the blood-soaked sands of the desert. The poet persona further asks a rhetorical question, when it becomes obvious that only the slums and the poor settlements and villages are attacked by these terrorists, “Is poverty a sin” You carried your guns into the hovel of the hoi polio/ Killing the living dead in their squalor, accusing them of sinful life/Must we all live in the greedy residents’ area/ Where opulence is not a sin/ Where your guns do not go to disturb the residents in their rests? It is rather overwhelming and alarming to discover that the poor and barefoot who hardly secure a meal in a day are the worst hit. In the poem ‘Yerwa’, the poet persona describes vividly how the poor’s settlement is a target of incessant inhuman and wanton attacks; Eerie sounds of wailing, screaming/ And dispersing of the restless dead/ Seeking justice for their live/ Substitute for the hitherto/ Hilarious sounds and rhythms/ Of the metropolis of peace/ Now a necropolis of restless dead.

The above and more poems embellished the degree and contour of terror unleashed on innocent citizens by insurgents that are believed to have been created by the government, either by its failure to do the needful or in trying to hide its glaring failure or by the government’s insensitivity to the plight of the governed, and worst still, its security agencies that are meant to protect the citizens, are found to unleash terror on them.

Every critic of this collection cannot but capture the extreme fear and excessive scare of terror expressed by the poet. Up to the end of these poems, no mention of Boko Haram by name, it is rather mentioned in personal pronouns and other references. There is also so much use of personifications, similes, metaphors and other literary terms, perhaps not only for beauty and aesthetics but also for the ardent need to save his neck from the overzealous knife of the killers and their merciless stray bullets, the truth be kept safely in the hidden play of language and literary exploits.

Okpanachi’s Music of the Dead: A Call in Metaphor

Dr. Idris Musa Okpanachi is, like Abubakar Othman, an academic from the early 1980s to 2013. He had to flee the terror territory along with his family. Many of his colleagues did the same. The University of Maiduguri, Yobe State University, Damaturu, Modibbo Adama University of Technology Yola, Adamawa State University, Mubi are witnessing unprecedented brain drain. Academics are forced to flee for their lives, to safer places. Many have changed from academics to another profession. This is because there are reports of terror attacks inside the universities and some academics were kidnapped, while some lost their lives to the glory of these terror attacks.

And like Othman’s Blood Streams in the Desert, Okpanachi’s Music of the Dead is equally an interesting craft and play of words to express the angsts and troubles of the inhabitants of the terror-afflicted areas and it also describes the level of neglect and abandonment of their governments, the leaders that are voted to protect lives and properties and to guarantee security.

Okapanachi’s Music of the Dead has a total of over forty poems and they are largely innate descriptions of the excruciating terror the poet and the persona witnessed in the area where he lived for a better part of his youthful age. Most of the titles of the individual poems bear the names of domestic and wild animals. Perhaps that has to be, to hide himself from the aggression of the killers! Hence the need for titles like ‘Dogs and Angels’ I, II and III, ‘The Gazelle’, ‘Scoundrels’, ‘Spider’, ‘The Sharks’, ‘The Black Flower’ and many more.

The title of the collection must have been stolen from the poem ‘Dogs and Angels I’, where the persona urges the terrorists to:

Bathe your brows with tears

Spatter the wall with my blood

As mural count pointing

You repaint people

With acid to cleanse them

Playing the game of butchers

To give them new complexion


The peace mongers

Play lutes with toys of war

Making Music of the Dead

To frighten even the undertakers


The silent nemesis

Has delivered swords

To blind executioner

Of pilate’s mob


A male child must perish

Rivers must run blood

Vermin must take over the land

So pharaoh must be born


Pharaoh must be born again

To extinguish rights and minds

To beautify people with blood

On gallows of love.

In the poem ‘Democracy of Cemetery’, the poet persona presents the story of how a child dies from a gunshot one morning and clad the story with the wishes and will of the child for us to note:

A child dies this morning

From gunshot wound

The bullet(ing) comes from

The council dog


He asks the poet

If I die turn my blood to ink

Plant a fig on my grave


One day the fig would

Become a pen and the ink

Would write the tale in musk

On the last page of your diary


One-day mom would come

In search of firewood

Only to find a bone wondering

Where it comes from


There is no shroud

The earth has disappeared

From under my feet

My life is stolen from the pall

As I travel on bleeding rocks

And broken casseroles


Bless the undertaker

Adam’s soul was unwilling

To enter the clay so Allah

Commanded it to enter unwillingly

And come out unwillingly.


In the foregoing, the police and other security agencies are referred to as the local council dog. And like Othman, Okpanachi also has every reason to blame the government fully for all that is befalling the citizens. It is a seriously disturbing and helpless situation. But the persona is hopeful that these terrors must not be here for eternity. One day, things would be history, one day the nostalgic past would resurrect and capture the future. One day peace shall reign.


Both the form and ideology or theme(s) of the two collections capture, in the most glaring of all terms, the extent of the senseless and human acts of the terrorists and the heartlessness of the government and its agents. Having successfully and succinctly exposed the undertones and the hidden reasons for the terror, which are neglect, corruption, abject poverty, squalor and above all ignorance at a grand scale. They showcase to all critics the need to appreciate that both the act of terror of Boko Haram and that of the security agents are the handiwork of the government.

Finally, as Abdu (2018), would conclude, these poets have suggested among other things, that the degree and sophistication of the attacks which caused blood streams and music of the death in our lands have some political machinations beyond the alleged culprits. The terror is a consequence of an injustice planted somewhere in the past and that has become a threat to justice everywhere.

As such, the collections:                  

…at once a mirror and a lamp held up to reflect and also illuminate the traumatized northern Nigerian society. The volumes’ spatio-temporal relevance attests to a couple of dicta long credited to literary critical gendarmes. Theirs are thus, proverbial ‘voices of vision’ and they are barometers which read and follow the northern Nigerian society and life. The lines capture and express the society’s pulse that speaks of the trembling forages of members of the Book Haram group and the deprived and disgruntled Fulani herdsmen… any crafted piece that fails to apprehend and capture the twin sources of societal turmoil in the north will be the work of the hypothesized owner of the burning house in Achebe’s Fable, Who, instead of helping his neighbours to put out the fire in his house. Indeed Nigeria as a whole is on fire, and its resident writers, even diaspora authors, are expected to respond and offer a creative and refracted perspective for putting down, living with or containing the inferno. (2014:09).

Thus, the post-colonial and postmodernist African poets have a new challenge confronting them. This is the brazen reality that terror and scare have engulfed the whole of Africa and they must leave no stone unturned in exposing this new trend that threatens to eat up the whole of Africa. Once again, it is a moral responsibility that a postcolonial African writer anywhere in the world, and fact all scholars of conscience, must pay their utmost attention to.

Works Cited

Amali, I. ( 2020 ). Tears of Desert War. Ibadan, Crafrgriots.

Okpanachi , M. I (2008), Music of the Dead. Lagos, Parresia Publishers.

Othman, O. (2014), Blood Streams in the Desert. Ibadan, Kraft Books Limited.

Secondary Reading

Abba, S. (2003), Poet of the Peoples’ Republic: Reading the Poetry of Niyi Osundare. Kano, Benchmark Publishers Limited.

Achebe, C. (1983), The Trouble with Nigeria. London, Heinemann.

Chinweizu, (1987), The West and the Rest of Us. Lagos, NOIC Publishers (Nig.) Limited.

Alhassan, A.S (2016) “Ideology and Form in the Poetry of Abubakar Gimba and Idris Amali: A Comparative Discourse. In Sule E.E (2016), Lapai Research in Humanities. Markodi, Sevhage publishers Vol. 3 no. 2, pp 189-204.

Egya, E.E (2007), In their voices and Visions: Conversation with New Nigerian Writers. Lagos, Apex Books limited.

Ezeugo, I, N (2016), The Terror of Terrorism. Ibadan, Scripture Union (Nig.) Press and Books Limited.

Galadima, H. and Aluaigba, M.T (eds.) (2015), Insurgency and Human Rights in Nothern Nigeria. Kano, CITAD.

Gikandi, S. (2007), Postsructuralism and Postcolonial Discourse. In Olanujan, T. and Quayson, A. (eds.) (2007), African Literature: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory. Malden-USA, Blackwell Publishing.

Goring, P. et al, (2014), Studying Literature. London, Bloomsbury Academic.

Habib, M.A.R (2011), Literary Criticism from Plato to the Present: An Introduction. UK, Blackwell Publishing.

Ibrahim, J. et al (eds.) (2017), Understanding Community Resilience in the Context of Boko Haram Insurgency in Nigeria. Kano, CITAD.

Muhammed, A. (2010), The Paradox of Boko Haram. Kaduna, Moving Image Limited.

Na’allah, A. (ed.) (2003), The People’s Poet: Emerging Perspectives on Niyi Osundare. Ibadan, Africa World Press.

Olaniyan, T. and Quayson, A. (eds.) (2007), African Literature: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory. Malden-U.S.A, Blackwell Publishing. 

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