Reviewer: Solomon Williams Obotetukudo PhD
Title of Book: Coming Undone As Stitches Tighten
Author: Iquo DianaAbasi
Publisher: Sevhage- Kikya
Karu, Nasarawa State
Year of Publication: 2021
Number of Pages: 131, excluding front materials like title page, table of contents, etc all totalling xii pages.
This is a book of poems that is divided into 4 parts namely, The Staccato Verses; A Neccesay Word; Love Amidst the Staccato; and In Memoriam.
I have opted to review section one— The Staccato Verses, because the 25 poems individually and thematically address the topics of patriotism and nationalism. And given the recently concluded Nigeria’s 2023 presidential elections, and my inclinations to comment on 250 million Nigerians sitting in limbo, I believe this pointed tunnel visioning is craved, cued, and courtesied.
Staccato is defined by The American Heritage College Dictionary, Fourth Edition as ” cut short”, “detached”, and ” marked by or composed of abrupt disconnected parts or sounds.” I hope Nigeria is not a perpetually fragmented country of disconnect persons drifting and habitually waiting.
In 25 entries of reflective and bitingly incisive dictions on conscience and consciousness, Iquo DianaAbasi presents as well as represents succinctly, clear and present voices of abuses, impunities, nonchalance, arrogance of power, brutalities of uniform men, islamists, religious fanatics, crusaders-turned rapists, killers, abductors, marauders, extortionists, harassers, executioners, and much more derelicts and ‘infidels’ to the Nigerian National interests.
As I read through these poems, my mind goes back to Fela (Ransome) Animulapo Kuti in the 1970’s when I came of age. It is disheartening that at near seventy years old, Iquo DianaAbasi is chorusing and chronicling the atrocities of the same ” unknown soldiers”, echoing the machinations of ” vagabonds in power”, and “coffin (s) to the head of state”, is/are now coffins to every Nigerian.
Nigerians are dead people walking in Iquo’s staccato verses because these detached, aloof, emotional and spiritualless Nigerians have become “zombies.” In the opening poem, Iquo pens vividly the images of ENDSAR:
“Taking to duty post that night, he worried neither about wife, nor about son’s impressive drawings, nor about secondary school- bound daughter. Dawn would soon come and find him homebound, for late celebrations.
“The guard’s vow was sealed with uniform and cutlasses; but his blades, though sharp, were no match for the marauders’ guns. Then, with a bullet to the back the guard learnt too late, the staccato in Logo was no fiesta.
“The staccato from afar was too violent to be New Year day fireworks, drawing out fear so palpable it left her impaled for the longest seconds.” (p. 5). I see the poet’s liberty to twist words to suit her or his intent. Here, I see Iquo giving ‘staccato’ a new meaning; a metaphor; a pun. She is playing on the word ‘staccato’. It is her poetic license to do so.
This collection is a paradoxical parade of existence in Nigeria, even under a plural democracy under a former military man ruler-turned democrat. In a rich- poor, leisure- hustling, hating-loving, suffering- smiling, pains- pleasures Nigeria, humans have become scavengers, beggars, loafers, prostitutes, bandits, religionists, cultists, just to survive; and the president does not give a hoot!
In an entry, A Daughter Coming Undone, Iquo epitomizes the violence and killings, “You were cut down defending your own, my hopes melted in a blinding fire that rid me of home, hearth and peace. I knew not where we were taken, what nightfall had not blanketed from view, teardrops ensured I did not see.”( p. 8).
The strings of lamentations, fear, and displacements, wrap a reader around the havocs of living in Nigeria. Iquo has the words.
Words matter. Words bring all of the human emotions into view. In words we see, feel, live, love, hate, aspire, inspire.
Iquo DianaAbasi creates in her collections the powers of kinesthetics in Pain fingers my insides; Answers that will not be swallowed; We Refuse to remain silent; Surviving a war in Nigeria. I, as Nigerian-American, was thrilled at her entry, “Nwam No Amerika,” which I label a requiem; but also a mirror to the atrocities of a settler state like the USA, that kills its citizens because of the colours of their skins.
I dread the tendency for Nigeria to immitate the worst of the United States. Nigeria is not a settler colony. Nigeria does not have natives in reservations.
Now Arabic Muslims are cramping and herding free-born Black Nigerians in internally displaced camps and barracks in their homelands!
Bob Marley comes to mind here, “How long shall they kill our prophets while we stand aside and look… Redemption Song, Songs of Freedom” !!!
I am hoping Iquo DianaAbasi would come to Uyo for the next Ibom Books Fair, and then put the other modes of communications — visual, vocalics, and kinesics into effect. I have read ( verbal); and I recommended she does video renditions of her masterly collections in multiple fora that appreciate her contributions to the dream that is Nigeria, in wait.
Poets see, think, feel, write, and act on thoughts. Poets feel and communicate their feelings through words and non-words. An artist, a painter, a photographer, a writer, an author, a dancer, an editor, choreographer, are all in the realms of human emotions who ” speak” the worlds as they see, experience, feel, hear, and talk these worlds.
Some of these perspectives are personal and private. In putting these worlds in music, prints, poems, songs, dances, and so on, these “poets” are exposing and expressing their inner selves to the publics.
Iquo exploits vocalics in “We Refuse to remain silent”, again elaborating on the powers of the human voice to protest and assertively tell the injustices of the Islamic judges in Nigeria, “We are citizens, not slaves. To honour those slain at the dawn of our awakening, we will undo this socialization of SILENCE (my emphasis), we say ENOUGH! (her emphasis)” (p.13).
I would be remised if I did not mention the dedication of her work: ” For the many unnamed victims, the faceless, the unrecorded; those whom we and the state have failed; those who continue to hope that one day we will cease to say: MAY NIGERIA NOT HAPPEN TO US; …AND US ALL.” ( my emphasis).
As I was writing this, I saw two messages: one that Peter Obi won Nassarawa State; the second was that Tinubu is advised to write his inaugural speech or address. This is the conundrum of Nigeria, a country coming undone. But in the throes of becoming.