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Friday, July 19, 2024

The Terrifying Night, By Niyi Osundare

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                 NIGHT OF HORROR*

    (When a cache of mine-size dynamite lives in a neighbourhood bedroom)

         I            

The year was young     Our woes were oldThe day plodded to a dusty twilight     Unfazed by the harmattan hassle

Then came the wails of a lampless night     When supper lost its way to penniless homesAnd the night masticated the moon        Like a hapless morsel

The minaret was mum     The bell tower loomed forlornIn its tongueless height     The wind wound a whisper

Round the restless lips of absent horns     Pigeons coed ceaselessly in their busy holes……And suddenly, so suddenly,     A blast, a big, battering blast

And the evening’s blissful quiet     Was shattered into a thousand bewildering shredsThe ground shook beneath our feet     Solid mansions crumbled like cardboard boxes

Flipped luxury cars littered the streets     Like piles of scrap yard junkThe road now is a running tale     Of broken glass and mangled metal

                II

It all happened in the famous part     Of a famous city; proud, gentle zoneOf the top cream, tempered by law and learning;     Mapped out and built once upon a very long time

When place-builders doubled as people-builders     And Statesmen were wise and just and cleanArchitects of multiple mandates who knew     How to turn a house into a home

That was once upon an epoch     When leaders THOUGHT before they actedAnd “life more abundant” was in every way     More than an empty slogan

Now, the Grand Old Dream     Has withered into a deadly nightmareWhere the Law is dead, the wrong is right. . . .     A mountain of military-type dynamite

Has become a furniture item     In a top-class residential havenA corrupt “carry-go” security conspiracy imperils     Our being even in our safest enclaves

A big battering blast has shaken us to our very roots     Behold venerable old men and women crawlingOut of their rubbled homes, their heads double-grey     From the ashes of their blighted bowers

Here they are in wreck and ruin:     Glorious legacies of Master-Builders of oldNow houses of horror     In this era of prodigal inheritors

 

* In the evening hours of 16 January, there was a massive explosion caused by loads of dynamite piled up in a house in a top-class Ibadan neighbourhood, resulting in human casualty and the destruction of many respectable houses. The vibration from the blast was felt 20 miles away. The most devastating peacetime blast in this part of Nigeria. Are you still wondering how deadly dynamite became a welcome domestic furniture item in a country of multiple laws and zero compliance. Ask the demon called Corruption and watch it come up with a thousand answers….

Niyi Osundare, one of Africa’s foremost poets and academics, is Emeritus Distinguished Professor of English, University of New Orleans.

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