This House Must Not Fall, By Niyi Osundare

(Fateful cracks in the wall of The House Lugard Built)

              1

This house must not fall
Though brick after brick
It creaks like a hapless shack
Weighted down by History’s burden

Once Sphere of Influence
Of foreign conquerors who foraged
Distant lands for God and Country;
A fiercely treasured booty between

Treacherous ocean and insatiable desert
A cynical assortment of parts, random, raw,
Which have never mastered
The art of bonding into a steady whole

Bumbling bedlam of tribes and tongues…..
Eating each other’s spleen
Shibboleth-shouters at hellsgate,
Incapable of hearing

“My tribe is triber than yours”

“My tongue is home to more divisive verbs
You surely need an expensive passport
For the country of my madness….”

The devil in the difference
Borne of a misbegotten sameness
A century-old sore festers
On the wound between our minds

Victims of a map
Which forgot its compass
Unable to live with one another
Because we cannot live with ourselves 

              2

Drums of discord
Shouts of war
We heard these noises not long ago
In the war which produced no Victor

But countless Vanquished.
The wounds are legion;
The scars still live in our songs
Memoryless, mad, and utterly blind

Our nation is the toad which forgot its tale
That mindless nanny goat whipped countless times
For repeated transgressions: season after season,
We drown in the same river of unknowing

Always, wrong wo/men in the right places
Hideous, hidebound, insufferably haughty
Medieval in their methods, dark in their deeds
Deaf to the throes of a nation dying in their hands

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And so, another season of songs of severance:
Incapable of the wisdom to build the house
We crave for the folly to tear it apart
We act first, and think later

But into how many parts this time?
How many more wars over the spoils of office
How can a land so brave and blessed
Spawn a genealogy of rulers so blind, so blighted

Victims of a map
Which forgot its compass
Unable to live with one another
Because we cannot live with ourselves

             3

Can a country of wise wo/men
Be ruled by a Confederacy of Fools
How foolish must those Ruled be
And how wise the Fools?

Africa’s Sick Giant
Laughing stock of the world
Nigeria thrashes around the jungle
Like a snake with a trampled head

This odd, accidental assortment of
Fierce, dangerously unequal parts
Riled by riot, threatened by rift,
Legatees of a Dubious Imperial Mandate

Too dim, too divided, to RE-make History
And UN-make its errors
Scared of that tough, regenerative Vision
To RE-build this House and make it stand

Every nation is nothing
If not a-work-in-progress
RE-thought, RE-shaped, RE-calibrated
In answer to noble necessity and moral imperative,

From Lord Lugard’s lemon
A jar of regenerative lemonade
For if we let this House fall
We all may fall with it

Victims of a map
Which forgot its compass
Unable to live with one another
Because we cannot live with ourselves

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

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