This Day (Lagos)

15 December 2012

Nigeria: Jibe's Poetry of Innocence

Jibe Ologeh's new poetry book titled, Collection of Poetry for Secondary Schools, fascinates me enough to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes-reading children's literature.

The author gets my accolades for attempting to recreate interest in children's literature, a great art, which regrettably, is in decline in this Internet century. Yet, nothing moulds the character and personality of kids like literature; though the deluge of information on television and the ubiquitous Internet is competing fiercely for the souls of innocent children.

Perhaps by accident or design, Mrs. Ologeh, a veteran TV/Radio producer of popular children's programmes, is out to rescue our young generation from the embarrassing addiction with Facebook, and the Internet in general with the publication of this interesting collection of poetry.

Nothing best captures the present threat of food scarcity staring us in the face following the ravages of floods that have swept away farmlands in the nation's food production belt than the poem, A Dance of Famine: Gloom hovers, Pecking, Like locust, Devouring, Famine bounces, Dancing, Like worms, Wiggling. We cannot dance, We are lepers, Crippled and caged.

We can sing, We can cry, Our song high, Up shall rescue.

A born again Christian, Mrs. Ologeh never let the chance slip by to express her reverence for Almighty God in most of these 20 short poems that make up this 46-page collection. That's probably why the poems brim with optimism and hope, regardless of the melancholic bent of the message.

In the poem, We Shall Win!, the writer's satire on the hallow men, which best describes our morally bankrupt national leadership, ends with a dim assurance that though: "They drew our blood, Our flesh is alive, We shall arise, To give them, A befitting welcome..."

But for her strict Christian values, Mrs. Ologeh could pass for an existentialist philosopher because of her clever use of nature's attributes to drive home her message. Her capacity for packing captivating emotions into few lines of poetry must be applauded, as her clarity of thought.

That is not surprising, considering her background in creative writing. She was weaned off the great Nigerian classical literary tradition championed by Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, J.P Clarke and Niyi Osundare at the famous premiere university, the University of Ibadan, where she obtained a first degree in English.

Ologeh's tutelage under these masters came in form of attending their inspiring lectures, but her unique style ultimately evolved and it finds expression in the excellent use of imagery and felicity, reminiscent of the ancients. The fact that she is a housewife, business woman, TV/Radio producer, proving her mettle in a man's world is enough for us to celebrate this daughter of Zion, who has now added publishing of poetry and a magazine to her rich resume.

Children's literature, like paediatric medicine, is by no means an easy task. It demands extra effort to engage the attention of kids at the intellectual level. That is why symbols and illustrations are often used in instructional procedures for young scholars.

One of the Poems, The Avenger, may seem complicated for young students, but they need something like this to challenge their intellect. Not all maths are easy to solve. Difficult literature is, in fact, good for impressionable minds; it helps them to learn how to cope with puzzles, riddles and mysterious circumstances.

The writer has given us an excellent collection of short poems; one only hopes that parents would appreciate this work and recommend it to their wards.

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