Monday, May 7, 2012


Betty Abah, Gender  Focal Person Environment Rights Action (ERA) reading her poem

It couldn’t have come at a better time. A time when the reading culture in Nigeria is nose-diving and public exams such as WASC and UME are producing unthinkable mass failures, the US Embassy in Nigeria appear to be coming to the rescue.
A few months ago, the embassy started the READ-IT-LOUD programme, an initiative that would bring budding Nigerian writers to a few hours of literary fiesta. There, poets, short story writers, playwrights and novelists bring their works to read and to be critiqued. It is held every first Thursday of the month.
The third edition of the programme held on May 3 at the Whitney M Young Hall at the embassy, attracting a full house and brimmed with enthusiasm.
The reading session was preceded by a small talk from an embassy official. Typically American, there was no waste of time as the writers, mostly young men and women, took turns reading from their works.
The first was Ajibola Adeoya, with the poem, PASSER-BYE, which centres on extra-judicial killing by the police in Nigeria, a poem which was very well received by the audience and also sparked a debate. A young lady, Omidan Kemi-Sola Badejo read LONELY PATH. Then came VULTURES OF GOD by Adetoba Adeoye, which sparkled another round of heated debate. The poem itself dwells on a heated theme—killing in the name of God. He later read another poem, THE CUTLASS.
One of the poems with which the audience fell in love was CREATION by Maya Olufemi. Infact, Ter Agbedeh, a literary editor with National Mirror Newspaper and one of the audience members said ‘This is the first (real) poem I have listened to today. The audience were captivated by its delicate and dexterous nature.
Isaac Emordi recited THE GOLDEN JUBILEE in which he re-affirmed trust in Nigeria while Oluseyi Macaulay, one of the embassy officials who coordinate the program, presented his poem DEUS EX MACHINE, which centres on military dictatorship in Nigeria. He explained that it was inspired by an experience about a decade ago when he was detained for one day by a military general. His offence: standing in the way of a convoy of the general!
Olayemi Ayo read from his poem LET US PUT OUR HEART TOGETHER (a love advance). The poem was written in a prose form.
Then came Iyam Daniel who read an excerpt from his novel, FOREIGN DREAMS,  the story of a Ghanaian forced into prostitution in Libya and Europe. As with some of the poets, audience suggested a few editorial advice for him.
Last but far from being the least was Betty Abah who read two poems from her new collection GO TELL OUR KING. First, she read, PERMIT PEACE,  poem which deals with the consequences of global conflict, and attracted a protracted reaction from the audience, followed by SIGHT IN SCHIPHOL,  inspired by her sighting the glass-case-smoking room at the Amsterdam Airport in Schiphol.
It was an exciting evening. Many saw their experiences reflected in the poems and prose works read. Notably, the works express anger and sometimes frustration with the state of affair of the nation. One of the audience members who would easily identify with military oppression was Elvis Irenuma, who was incarcerated unjustly for 15 years over the Pa Rewane murder saga, only to be ‘discharged and acquitted’ about two years ago, after undergoing untold torture alongside two others who were similarly freed, while five others arrested with them were tortured to death. Elvis, 44, is now happily married and works as a marketer with a petroleum products marketing company in Lagos.
Others in the audience include Richard Mammah, a reading promotions experts and MD of Sunbird African Media Limited.
Besides the literary entertainment, members were given several copies of the embassy publications, links to its free library services and other opportunites.
The next event holds on June 7, 2012. More information can be found on: To participate. Send your poems to:, or call: 08074601731.

One of the poems read at the event is Betty Abah’s PERMIT PEACE, seen below:

(For Mr. President)

The choices are yours
To save the sovereignty
To serve the Sovereign
That earth may know peace
That men may mingle minds
In mutual matrimony.

Shells minced meats
Hot blood spilled
On sacrificial mounds
To appease malevolent gods
To inflate noble egos,
Beaming lights dimmed.

To inflate noble egos
Japan was jeopardised
Biafra burnt
Liberia looted
Iran ruined
Iraq cracked
Haiti halted
Somalia summed earth’s sorrow

Last night,
Afghan fagged
Liberia lumped
Sudan shrank
Pakistanis panicked
Sierra Leone still sings our summed sadness

Heavens bleed the sacrilege
Nomads turn numerical
Now, Death grins, gloats over
Macabre’s magnificent monuments

Did the nations’ Lords
Through glassy palaces
From cool conference caves,
Not see…. Feel…
The martyrdom of the earth?

Did they see
When…. While
Biafra burned…
Iran cracked…..
Haiti halted…..?

They brace still for noble egos
They did not see,
Have you not seen
The rubbles of the earth?

--BETTY ABAH (An excerpt from ‘GO TELL OUR KING’)

A United States embassey official addressing the audience before the reading started

A line up of writers who read their poems at the US embassey

No comments:

Post a Comment