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TITLE: A Government Driver On His Retirement

POET: Onu Kingsley Chibuike

OTHER POEMS: Without Thee

GENRE: Poetry

CATEGORY: Life and Death

DENOTATION: A retiring civil servant chauffeur took his freedom for granted and his foolishness led to his death.

POINT OF VIEW: Third person

FLOW: Climactic

THEMES: Disobedience, Freedom, Endurance, Servitude, Death,  Imperfection, etc

STRUCTURE: Eight (8) Stanzas

POETIC DEVICES: Repetition, Synecdoche, Alliteration, Anastrophe, etc.


TONE AND MOOD: Sarcastic tone and Sympathetic mood

SIMILAR POEM: A Taxi Driver On His Death by Timothy Wangusa


Onu Chibuike wrote the poem "A Government Driver On His Retirement" to address the matters relating to road traffic regulations.

From the context of the poem, non-adherence to the road traffic regulation is disastrous.
Few of the rules are to observe speed limit, to avoid drunk-driving, and so on.

Onu Chibuike employed the medium of poetry to hammer the fact that experience doesn't guarantee perfection.

"An appreciative symbol
For undented thirty-five years of service to fatherland"

As noted in line 19 - 20 of the poem, the government driver has been in the job for 35 years yet a single neglect of traffic regulations cost him his life.


The poet is a vibrant Nigerian writer, a member of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) and a civil servant.

It is no surprise how he could paint the picture of a retiring government driver in the poem A Government Driver On His Retirement.


Let’s write the context of the poem in prose form.

Today, a government chauffeur celebrates his retirement after his many years of faithful service.

For a very long time, he had stirred clear of alcoholism in order to obey the rules and regulations of driving but today, he's eligible to become a freeman.

He urged, "Come, friends, rejoice with me I shall booze and zoom myself home_ away from duty rules come, celebrate my freedom"

"Early to duty tomorrow holds not, thirty-five years of faithful services I'll booze to sleep away my sufferings today I've long waited for"

A brand new car is given to him as a reward for his diligence_ which aggravated his joy of retirement. He drank and suddenly drank to stupor.

On his way home, while driving, alcohol blurred his vision. He crashed his brand new car and died.


A Government Driver On His Retirement by Onu Kingsley Chibuike is a free-verse.

A free-verse is form of poetry that is void of planned rhythm and planned rhyme scheme.

Those in such category are Piano and Drums by Gabriel Okara, Parable by William Soutar, etc.

The poem ( A Government Driver On His Retirement ) is a total of 33 lines void of planned end-rhymes and rhythms.

Through a climactic flow of event, the poem is relayed from a third person perspective.

The driver's identity isn't revealed but the event of his down was narrated by the poem persona addressing him with third person singular masculine pronoun and also complemented the narration with quotation found in stanza 3 - 4:

"Come, friends, rejoice with me
I shall booze and zoom myself home
Away from duty rules
Come celebrate my freedom"

"Early to duty tomorrow holds not,
Thirty-five years of faithful services
I'll booze to sleep away my sufferings
Today I've long waited for".

To be noted as well, is the fact that the diction of the poem is as simple as water.

The poem persona doesn't narrate for the purpose of mourning the driver's death but to make fun of the driver's foolishness. This is why the tone of the poem is sarcastic.

On the contrary, the mood pushed out of readers is sympathetic.


There are many themes in the poem, such as (a) the theme of disobedience, (b) the theme of freedom, (c) the theme of endurance, (d) the theme of servitude, (e) the theme of death,  (f) the theme of imperfection, etc.

As regards the theme of freedom, the whole poem resonates freedom because the celebration of retirement is synonymous to celebration of freedom.

The poet expressed the importance of freedom by employing words like "freeman" in line 7, "Today frees" in line 23, "Celebrating the celebration of his retirement" in line 26.

And now to the theme of death.

The poem "A Government Driver On His Retirement" also reminds the readers that no matter how long humans hunger for freedom or even get to the point of celebrating it_ death is a boss to freedom (no human being is free from death).

Another theme in the poem is the theme of imperfection.

Humans lack perfection in the same way the government driver in the poem. Unexpected actions or events could transform to error. A mere celebration of job retirement became the downfall of the government chauffeur.

The theme of endurance. Endurance and patience are siblings and both are very rewarding.

The reward for endurance in the context of the poem are freedom and gift (a brand new car).

As seen from line 17 - 24:
"More joy to send him home.
A brand new car in his name
An appreciative symbol
For undented thirty-five years of service to

"Come, friends and rejoice more,
Joy till no more joy to joy
Today frees and makes me a king
My patience rewarded".

The theme of disobedience.

The theme is absolutely nothing but warning.

The government driver's refusal to obey the regulations which he foolishly thought was only guiding his duty, made him kicked bucket of untimely death.

The theme of servitude is obvious in the poem.

Servitude is a state of being subject to a powerful authority.

Serving or being in civil service can be viewed from different perspective.

The character in the poem considered it to be a yoke or bondage which was why he craved freedom.

To be candid, thirty five years of engaging in a routine is not a joke.

Probably, that could be the reason why he considered himself suffering in line 15:
"I'll booze to sleep away my sufferings"


The obvious and simple to remember  among the poetic devices embedded in the poem are (a) synecdoche (b) euphemism (c) repetition (d) imagery (e) anastrophe (f) alliteration (g) enjambment (h) irony (i) onomatopoeia (j) assonance

Synecdoche; representing a whole with part or part with whole. In the poem, there's "like a snake without a head" in line 10, " Tough like a tiger, compassionate like a doe" in line 19, “Transparent like a river, mysterious like a lake" in line 20.

Euphemism; is a practice of replacing a harsh word with a very mild one in a work of art. Example of euphemism in the poem can be found in line 32 - 33:
"And it sent him home
Home to rest in peace".

The word "Home" is used as a replacement for death.

Repetition; is a poetic device where certain words, phrases, lines, or verses are repeated twice or more to create a sing-song rhythm or emphasis in a poem. Just for mentioning sake, few words repeated in the poem are “wheels” in line 1 and 29. “home” in line 3, 10 and 17. Repetition of phrase such as “...faithful service to his fatherland” in line 2 and 27. "Come, friends, rejoice..." in line 9 and 21.

 Imagery; using words or expressions to created mental picture in a poem so the readers can see, smell, feel the event clearer. Few in the poem are "faithful service" in line 2, "his boozy throat" in line 5, "Eligible for his country's services" in line 8.

Anastrophe; reversing the word order as to add some levels of effect to expression or line in a poem; it can also be called inversion. In line 3 is "Today retires he home" and in line 13 is "Early to duty tomorrow holds not".

Alliteration; successive use of consonant sounds within a line or two in a poem. "In faithful service to his fatherland” in line 2, “he home” in line 3, “In obedience to duty rules and regulations” in line 6, “Come celebrate my freedom” in line 12, "Booze boozed his vision and clear judgment" in line 30.

Enjambment; flow of idea from more than a line in poetry (run-on-line). This poetic device is evident in the poem "A Government Driver On His Retirement".

Irony; expresses one's meaning by employing a language that normally signifies its opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect. In the poem A Government Driver On His Retirement, the emphasis placed on going home is an irony.

Onomatopoeiaforming word from a sound associated with what is named. In poem, "zoom" found in line 10, which is a sound made by car is used to represent the word "drive". "Boomed" found in line 31, which is a sound for explosion is used to represent a crash.

Assonancerepeating vowel sounds within lines. "I shall booze and zoom myself home" in line 10.

Pun; also paronomasia, is a form of word play that exploits multiple meanings of a term, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect. An example is in line 26 "Celebrating the celebration..." and in line 30 "Booze boozed his vision..."


A Taxi Driver On His Death by Timothy Wangusa is a poem similar to “ A Government Driver On His Retirement ”. Both poems address the importance of obeying road traffic regulations.

In Timothy Wangusa's poem, the voice of the poem foresaw himself been killed in a car crash when his metalic beast (his car) suddenly decides to malfunction.

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Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo With Wings Flying)

Cheney-Coker picked his pen and paper to write about how Africans are trying, in every form, to change their African color and race to something else. 

As a wise African poet, he began his poetry by showering praises on Africa while accepting the fact that he had been far away from home like the biblical prodigal son by comparing himself to a wandering Fulani cow:
"Africa I have long away from you
wandering like a Fulani cow
but every night
amidst the horrors of highway deaths
and the menace of neon-eyed gods
I feel the warmth of your arms
centrifugal mother reaching out to
your sons
but all calling you mother womb of
the earth" (from line 1-8).

From line 9, Sly Cheney-Coker generalized that Africans were living with differences_ not excluding himself. Though he didn't condemn civilisation but he felt it was part of the sins, Africans had committed. 

Part of the things he complained about were that he had been fond of travelling out of Africa, African ladies and women were bleaching their black skins to white, black African men were not living the African way; he put it like this "and I think of my brothers with ”black skin and white masks” ( I myself am one heh heh heh)". 

The poet's heart was so heavy because he could not describe Africa, the African way:
" my heart becomes a citadel of disgust
and I am unable to write the poem of your life
my creation haunts me behind the mythical dream
my river dammed by the poisonous weeds in its bed".

If you do not understand the structure of this poem "Freetown" by Sly Cheney-Coker, then let me try and table it based on my own understanding. 

The poem is not broken into stanzas, it has simple dictions with more of enjambments, the setting is Freetown, as suggested by the title of the poem and the context. 

Figuratives in the poem; the phrase "Black Englishman" is a sarcastic oxymoron, African is personification and metaphor in the poem: "I feel the warmth of your arms/ centrifugal mother reaching out to your sons/ but all calling you mother womb of the earth", "this third anniversary of my flight" symbolized travelling in airplane, "citadel of disgust" is a metaphor used by the poet to compare the feeling in his heart, "shadow of Freetown" is a metaphor as well, ( I myself am one heh heh heh) "heh heh heh" is an onomatopoeia which means laughter.

Looking at the poem, the following themes are evident:
(1) Africans and civilisation
(2) Devaluation of the African black skin

In many African poetry, the issue of Africanism and Civilisation is very common and it is no surprise that such exist in this poem. 

Sly Coker was so concerned with the way Africans are embracing civilisation far more than their own culture. 

He also stated in the poem that they were not satisfied with having a black skin.

Syl Cheney-Coker is a poet, novelist, and journalist from Freetown, Sierra Leone; he was born on 28 June 1945. 

He spent much of his life in exile from his native country, and wrote extensively (in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction) about the condition of exile and the view of Africa from an African abroad.


Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings flying)

Two Look At Two by Robert Frost is a love-family-relationship poem. 

The poem begins with first three lines suggesting that if the couples in question, still cherished love, sacrifices and the heart to forget spouse wrong actions, they might have been able to press a little further in their matrimonial journey:
"Love and forgetting might have carried them
A little further up the mountain side
With night so near, but not much further up"(line 1-3)

“They must have halted soon in any case
With thoughts of a path back, how rough it was
With rock and washout, and unsafe in darkness;
When they were halted by a tumbled wall
With barbed-wire binding.”

The quoted lines above suggest that at a point in most love relationship, couples take a break when faced with a very difficult situation even thinking of letting go of such relationship but few other lines in the poem explain that the journey of a love relationship is like treading a very dark path at night; where the journey has been very rough and going back is very dangerous alone.

Later in the poem, the human couples were faced with two animals (maybe couples_ not so sure of it). 

The animals were met on the mountainous hill the human couples were travelling. The animals seemed more comfortable on mountain than the human. 

The poet created the scenario to serve as a motivation to human couples in a love-family-relationship.

As said before, the poem is about love but considering the use of nature in the poem; it can also be called a poem of nature like many other poem of Robert Frost (Birches, The Road Not Taken, etc). 

Apart from the pair of lovers all other references concern nature_ the woods with its animals, its trees and stones. These provide the setting or the engagement of the lovers with the animal world represented by the doe and the buck.

In the poem, nature is represented as a great reconciler. By bringing down the artificial wall, it allows the lovers to confront their animal counterparts and learn from them the lesson of tolerance. 

Nature is also presented as a soother of passions. The lovers find the woods beginning in their romantic adventure. Finally, nature is presented as opposed to any form of restriction which impairs understanding. 

The poem demonstrates that man-made restrictions cannot endure where nature intervenes. Thus the lovers discover their true selves in the woods where the doe and the duck gave them the opportunity for self-assessment.


Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings flying)

Ours To Plough, Not To Plunder by Niyi Osundare is an agricultural poem using the rewards found in planting and harvesting as the reasons to encourage people to embrace farming. Based on natural phenomenon and the words of the poet, farming is a very useful investment. The poet or the poem speaker is of the faith that people's engagement in agriculture and farming will divert their attentions from wrong implementations of the huge material rewards the Lord God have kept in the soil for humans benefit.

The poem has the following theme: (1) the God's treasure in the soil (2) the benefits of farming to humans (3) humans' choice to use or waste

The stanzaic structure of the poem is a free verse of unequal stanzas. The poet was preoccupied with the need for people to embrace farming, so he used the third person point of view in expressing his feelings.

The poem very evident poetic devices in the poem are repetition, alliteration, ant

According to Pass Question And Answer by Johnson Publishers Limited, "At the strange meeting, the soldier who has had the upper hand in the battle tells 'strange friend' that 'here is no cause to mourn', to which the soldier agrees. However, the victim regrets 'the undone years', the curtailed joys, hopes and aspirations.

The victim soldier pours out his regrets of the lost opportunity of experiencing love. Priding himself on being affordable and a comfort to others by his cheerfulness, he regrets that he will not be able to make people laugh. But then, his sorrow lies buried with him as the truth about the gloomy side of war does not get told completely.
The slain soldier thinks it unfortunate that men will not learn from the bitter lessons that war teaches. Men, he laments will continue to antagonize and fight each other continually.

The best aspiration of the strange friends has been to change the world through sheer honest labour and humane actions or deeds. Knowing that there is pain enough without the inflictions of physical wounds, he would have aspired to assist in resolving matters without acrimony and 'not on the process... of war'. Man has the capacity to hurt his fellow man badly enough without fighting him in battle. Yet, regretably, man selects armed confrontation with his fellow man. He drives this point home by declaring his identity as 'the enemy you killed', and resigned himself to his fate.
This is a young man who has had his whole life ahead of him. So, as man die for nothing, there is nothing to it but to rest when once one fallen. 'Let us sleep now...'"

Do You Want More Poetic Analysis

Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings flying)

Professor Remi Raji is a teacher of Literature at the Department of English Language, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

The themes of the poem are (i) victimization (ii) silence (iii) destruction (iv) killing and torturing (v) pain and panic

[Also Read: Toast by Remi Raji]

Setting, style, and diction:-
(i) chaotic setting (ii) free verse (iii) simple diction aided by enjambment

Poetic devices:-
(i) symbolism in line 1 "Beast" (ii) metaphor in line 2-3 (iii) alliteration in line 7 (iv) simile in line 12 (v) metonym in line 13 (vi) irony in line 14 (vii) rhetorical question in line 16 (viii) run-on-lines in the poem (ix) repetitions of "who sings".

The poem captures the total gagging of protests against arbitrary rule. The beast is a symbol of a tryrant ruler i.e Abacha.

Line 1-2: who protests when the tyrant prowls because those that tried to are dead. At night, we only dream of blood.

Line 3-5: Sorrow, fear and hardship have choked the remaining lean happiness.

Line 6-8: who will sing when the drums to be used have been split and used as podium for public protests.

Line 9-12: We now only grumble our disapproval like amputated tongue.

Line 13-15: people that tried to shout their protests against misrule and tyranny are treated like criminals by soldiers. "Boots barrels" and "gifts of grenades" kept people in silence.

The poem:-
who sings when the Beast prowls
when Night thickens
with dreams of blood
when Sorrow's scent suffocates
the remains of lean laughter
who sings
when slit drums stand spent
and deaf in defiled groves
who sings
when rhyme's winds
run amok
like amputated tongues
when boots barrels
and the gift of grenades
chase the choir into silence.

More Poetic Analysis >>>

Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings flying)

Lullaby is a soothing song intended to lull a child to sleep. In the poem "Lullaby" by W. H. Auden, two crucial subjects were placed side-by-side; love and lullaby.

With the notion of the poem, lullaby is the best way to love which surpassed outward appreciation, nighttime sensual moments and cohabitational responsibilities. Auden saw no certainty in other things than lullaby.

He believed that time and sickness destroy youthfulness and its accompanied hopefulness through aging and dying; that's why the night his lover lie on his arms was worth everything to him.

Auden accepted the strong emotionality within romantic ecstasy but failed to attach importance to such ecstasy because it was gravy. Such ecstasy leads to other things like parenting:

"Soul and body have no bounds:
To lovers as they lie upon
Her tolerant enchanted slope
In their ordinary swoon,
Grave the vision Venus sends
Of supernatural sympathy,
Universal love and hope;
While abstract insight wakes
Among the glaciers and the rocks
The hermit's sensual ecstasy."

In stanza 3, Auden explained that although lovemaking as a means of quenching the cry of boredom, only last a very short period of time "like vibrations of a bell" but nothing will deny him such moment with his lover; not even the scary future.

In the last stanza of the poem, Auden re-ascertained that "Beauty, midnight, vision dies" but that night spent together with his lover will serve as substitution for other things:

"Let the winds of dawn that blow
Softly round your dreaming head
Such a day of sweetness show
Eye and knocking heart may bless,
Find your mortal world enough;
Noons of dryness see you fed
By the involuntary powers,
Nights of insult let you pass
Watched by every human love."

"Lullaby" is a 40 line poem divided into 10 lines per stanza. The setting of poem is nighttime and the poem can be categorized under love and life. Love is the central theme of the poem but other themes such as death, growth, beauty, surfaced.

There are no planned end rhyme scheme though the title suggested  a song. The tone is sweet and wooing with the multiple use of images of sight. Other poetic devices in the poem are alliteration in line 15 and 16 respectively "vision Venus sends" and "supernatural sympathy" then simile in line 23 "Like vibrations of a bell" then metonymy in line "fevers" which was used to replace sicknesses then litotes in line "swoon" which was used by Auden to undermine love.

"All the dreaded cards foretell" even though Auden mentioned "faithless" in line 2, this show that the poet related with soothsayers to a certain extent.

Wystan Hugh Auden commonly called W. H. Auden was an English poet born 21th February, 1907. He later nationalized to an American citizen but departed earth on 29th September, 1973 at the age of 66.


Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings flying)

Among other poetic devices in the poem The Anvil And The Hammer by Kofi Awoonor, metaphor is very paramount.

Based on the email requesting the metaphors embedded in the poem: The Anvil And The Hammer, naijapoets.com research has come up with few of the metaphors found in the poem. It must also be noted that the best way to fish for metaphors in the poem is by understanding the definition of metaphor itself.

Here are the metaphors in the poem:
(1) the anvil and the hammer are metaphorically compared to African and foreign culture.

(2) new flags and anthems are metaphorically compared to the birth of a new nation.

(3) the pangs is used to mean the struggle for freedom.

(4) outlaw is used in place of foreigner.

(5) new garment is a metaphor for western culture or civilization.

(6) jargon of a new dialect is metaphorically referring to the western policies and philosophies.

(7) whirlpool of many rivers' estuary refers to the complex culture from overseas.

(8) perpetual search is a metaphor for keen interest to acquire.


  1. what-are-the-theme-in-the-anvil-and-the-hammer-by-kofi-awoonor
  2. compare-and-contrast-piano-and-drums-by-gabriel-okara-with-the-anvil-and-the-hammer-by-kofi-awoonor
  3. analysis-of-the-cathedral-by-kofi-awoonor
  4. song-of-sorrow-1-and-2-by-kofi-awoonor-imagery


Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings flying)

We are going to kick start this article by looking at the style and figurative. Based on naijapoets.com opinion, Nightfall in Soweto by Oswald Mtshali, is a very easy poem to comprehend. It is of 8 unequal stanzas with dictions revealing fear and rage (tremble in line 28, ravaging in line 5, victim in line 9, marauding beasts in line 21; are prove of fear).

Aside the personification in line 22-23, "let loose by cruel nightfall/ from his cage of death". The poem has an interesting figurative end:
"Nightfall! Nightfall!!
You are my mortal enemy.
But why were you ever created?
Why can't it be daytime?
Daytime forever more?"
(apostrophe in line 32 and rhetorical questions from line 34-36)

Other poetic devices in the poem are simile in line 1, alliteration in line 2, synedoche in line 6-7, anaphora from line 16-18, litotes in line 26, symbolism where "cruel nightfall" is the symbol of the white oppressing the black, imageries in the poem (deafening knock, rabid dog, mortal enemy)

Looking at the plot of the poem, the poem shows what the victims (the black) face whenever "the whites" appears at such time of discrimination and apartheid. The oppressors use such dark period to launch attack on targeted victims, they even knock at victims doors compelling the to open up.

The poem has the theme of brutality and injustice (the blacks are brutalized), theme of apartheid (lack of equality as a human right), theme of panic associated with nighttime attacks, theme of oppression and discrimination, theme of helplessness and lamentation.

Oswald M. Mtshali is a South African poet born 1940 in Vryheil, Natal. It was recorded that Mtshali resolved to manual labour when he was not admitted to University of Witwatersrand due to apartheid. The Soweto in the poem means South West Town, during that evil era in South Africa, the blacks lived to serve the whites and there was no freedom for them at all. The time for rest became scary time where they must not shut their eyes.


Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings flying)

The theme of love

Horace Walpole didn’t fail to employ the thing called love among his characters (both paternal and romantic). The strong bond between Lady Hippolita and her children were due to love undiluted while the romantic love between the likes of Theodore and Maltilda leave readers with goosebumps. They loved each other so much that they blindly took risks for love_ though they couldn’t marry each other following the untimely death of Matilda.

The theme of masculinity

The author indirectly questioned the supremacy of the male gender over the female gender. In the novel Castle of Otranto, men took rash decisions concerning women as if women were mere puppets to toil with for fun. Without seeking the opinion of Isabella, she was betrothed to Conrad. Matilda was also denied chance of becoming heiress or inheriting the political estate of her father. Manfred was more bullish to the feminine than masculine; undermining, divorcing, remarrying, just to mention a few. Walpole used Isabella as a character to challenge such masculine supremacy. She refused to marry Prince Manfred.

The theme of supernatural

Horace Walpole proved in the novel that some inhuman forces were capable of controlling the existence of humans. Those forces played on both objects and human emotions. Besides other actions such the ghosts, giant, the fulfilled prophecy that the rightful heir of Otranto will possess their possession is a big evidence.

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The Continent That Lies Within Us otherwise called The Meaning Of Africa is a poem written by Abioseh Nicol, a Sierra Leonean poet. Africa is personified in the first verse of the poem leaving Abioseh Nicol with the opportunity to confess to Africa as if a Catholic confessing to a Reverend Father. The poet told Africa that he now got a perfect picture of her. He also confessed he had now realized that the freedom he naively seek for her in the far oversea, the continent already had it more abundant.

Similar to the poem "Dry Your Tears Africa" by Bernard Daddie, Abioseh Nicol also exhausted the whole second stanza of the poem listing the abundant blessings his brain could contain about Africa [the poem will be seen below_ at the end of this article]

According to the poet, every human being is from Africa. When a person visits Africa and strolls the African bushes, one will reunite his/her ancestral spirits. Not only that, the names of African cities, as said by the poet, typified freedom: "Whose very names hold promise_/
Dakar, Bathurst, Cotonou,/ Lagos, Accra, and Bissau;/ Monrovia, Freetown, Libreville,/ Freedom is really in the mind."

"Happiness, contentment, fulfilment,
And a small bird singing on a mango tree" are the true meaning of Africa.

TITLE: The Leader and the Led
POET: Niyi Osundare
OTHER POEMS: They Too Are the Earth
GENRE: Poetry
DENOTATION: Quest for leadership in the animal kingdom.
POINT OF VIEW: Third person
FLOW: Climactic
THEMES: Leadership, Nature, Imperfection, Balance, etc
STRUCTURE: Twelve (12) Stanzas
POETIC DEVICES: Antithesis, Simile, Alliteration,
FLOW: Climactic
TONE AND MOOD: Rivalry, unrest and disagreement
SIMILAR POEM: Ambush by Gbemisola Adeoti


The Leader and the Led is a poem crafted by Niyi Osundare in form of a fable. It tells a story of an animal kingdom lacking leadership based on rivalry and imperfection.

Most powerful animal in the kingdom saw the reason and right to become the ruler yet their power seemed to be their flaws (the reasons for them not to be voted). The trouble prolonged until the “Forest Sage” (in line18 stanza 9) proffered solution.

According to the forest sage, strength alone isn’t the yardstick for becoming a ruler. The balance of strength and weakness is the needed quality for any animal that will rule the pack well.

Line 17 – 20:
“’Our need calls for a hybrid of habits”,
Proclaims the Forest Sage,
“A little bit of a lion
A little bit of a lamb

Tough like a tiger, compassionate like a doe
Transparent like a river, mysterious like a lake’” 


The poet Niyi Osundare was born 1947 in Ikere Ekiti, Ekiti state, Nigeria. Professor Niyi Osundare is a teacher of language, a mild activist and a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA). 

Other poems written by the poet are They Too Are The Earth, Not My Business, Earth's Eye View, Ours To Plough Not To Plunder, and many more. 


Let’s write the context of the poem in prose form.

The antelopes aren’t in support of the lion becoming the leader of the jungle because of the ferocious pounce of his paws on them. Likewise the impalas are scared of the hyena’s lethal appetite.

The whole forest stood on the fact that giraffe eyes is too far from the ground; therefore, he’s not fit for the crown. They saw the fact that zebra possesses too many stripes; therefore he’s not fit for the crown. They saw the fact that strides of the elephant is too deadly; therefore, he’s not fit for the crown.

The forest doesn’t want an ugly king, which is why warthog is not an option and they do not want a riotous king, which is why rhino is not an option as well.

The pack continued to live without a king until the Forest Sage proffered a solution.

The throne should go to any animal with a hybrid of habit. An animal with little quality of a lion; and little quality of a lamb. Such animal must be tough, compassionate, transparent and mysterious.

The pack will remain peaceful, once there is a leader who knows how to be a follower and followers who are mindful of their leadership rights.


The Leader and the Led by Niyi Osundare is a fable.
A fable is a style in literature where animals are the characters and mostly crafted for the purpose of teaching a moral lesson. Instances are Animal Farm by George Orwell, Fable by Ralph Waldo Emerson

The poem (The Leader and the Led) is a 12 stanza couplet void of planned end-rhymes and rhythms. The first part of the poem juxtaposed varying animals’ choice to lead and those of followers against their leadership. The final four stanzas of the poem are solution to the hovering choice of leadership problem.

The diction employed by Professor Osundare was as straight as arrow; no employment of grammar too hard for an English language beginner.

The poem was narrated through a third person view and the flow of event was climactic; starting with problem of who-fits-the-throne to the solution proffered by the forest sage. The tone and the mood can be described as of unrest, rivalry and disagreement.


There are many themes in the poem, such as (a) the theme of leadership (b) the theme of nature (c) the theme of imperfection (d) the theme of balance.

In the theme of leadership, the title and the context of the poem are fully about leadership. The title of the poem “the Leader and the Led” creates juxtaposition between two subjects (leading and following). The whole poem is about who wants to lead and who doesn’t want to be a follower of a certain leader.

The characters and the setting in the poem, reveal the theme of nature. Such characters and environment send a feeling of freshness and greenness to the readers of the poem.

Memory of the zoo or that of the jungle book is revived. The forest where every event happens, the giraffe, the zebra, the lion, the impala, the antelope, are words portraying living natures.

Another theme in the poem is the theme of imperfection.  The poem sends the message that perfection is not the recipe for leadership. The animals that felt they are worthy because of their strengths and powerful qualities are disqualified like those who possess weaknesses.

In line 11 – 12 (The elephant trudges into the power tussle/ But his colleagues dread his trampling feet), the elephant strength disqualified him while the weakness of warthog was his certificate of disqualification, as seen in line 13 (the warthog is too ugly).

The theme of balance shows that half strength and half weakness is the guaranteed trait to leadership. Professor Osundare revealed the solution via the forest sage because it takes wisdom to arrive at any solution to a problem.

Line 17 – 20:
“’Our need calls for a hybrid of habits”,
Proclaims the Forest Sage,
“A little bit of a lion
A little bit of a lamb

Tough like a tiger, compassionate like a doe
Transparent like a river, mysterious like a lake’”


The obvious and simple to remember  among the poetic devices embedded in the poem are (a) simile (b) antithesis (c) symbolism (d) imagery (e) alliteration (f) repetition (g) metaphor

Simile; creating comparison with the use of like or as. In the poem, there's "like a snake without a head" in line 10, " Tough like a tiger, compassionate like a doe" in line 19, “Transparent like a river, mysterious like a lake" in line 20.

Metaphor; is an indirect comparison in a work of art. The poem The Leader and the Led was built on a metaphorical ground. It is a metaphor of things that happen in a human democratic setting whenever it comes to the issue of electing a new leader.

Repetition; is a poetic device where certain words, phrases, lines, or verses are repeated twice or more to create a sing-song rhythm or emphasis in a poem. Just for mentioning sake, few words repeated in the poem are “pack” in line 2, 10, 15. “lead” in line 9 and 24. Repetition of phrase such as “A little bit of a” in stanza 12.

 Imagery; using words or expressions to created mental picture in a poem so the readers can see, smell, feel the event clearer. Few in the poem are "But the impalas shudder at his lethal appetite" in line 6, "And the pack trashes around" in line 16, "The pack points to the duplicity of his stripes" in line 10.

Symbolism; using word or expression to represent a status, event, or idea. In the poem The Leader and the Led, the term “Forest Sage” symbolised a wise person which in a normal human democratic setting represents the poet.

Alliteration; successive use of consonant sounds within a line or two in a poem. "hybrid of habits” in line 17, “far from the ground” in line 8, “pounce of his paws” in line 4, “The pack points to” in line 10.

Antithesis; creating an opposing or contrasting opinion or character in a work of art. This is the dominating poetic device because most line of the couplets share opposite characters. Hyena versus impalas in stanza 3 “The hyena says the crown is made for him/ But the impalas shudder at his lethal appetite” and the elephant versus the colleagues in stanza 6. Another instance of antithesis is in stanza 11.


Ambush by Gbemisola Adeoti is a poem similar to “The Leader and the Led”. Both poets are Nigerians belonging to the Yoruba ethnic.

In a metaphorical manner, Ambush by Gbemisola Adeoti buttressed the prevailing hardship and insecurity in a given community as a result of bad governance; dwellers were left with nothing but helplessness and hopelessness.

The characters in the poem “Ambush” are animals such as giant whale, sabre tooth tiger, etc.

The Fascination:

Fascination In The Poem Stanley Meet Mutesa by David Rubadiri

The Poem:

Such a time of it they had;
The heat of the day
The chill of the night
And the mosquitoes that followed.
Such was the time and
They bound for a kingdom.

The thin weary line of carries
With tattered dirty rags to cover their backs;
The battered bulky chests
That kept on falling off their shaven heads.
Their tempers high and hot
The sun fierce and scorching
With it rose their spirits
With its fall their hopes...[Details from the Source]

The Overview:

The poem talked about a group of explorers like in the case of Mungo Park. It reproduced what came before the attainment of colonialism. The readers were shown how explorers suffered on their journey, at the end of the poem mere visit turned into colonization ("The gate of polished reed closes behind them/And the west is let in") due to the lax of the owners( Mutesa) who joyfully welcome the visitor(Stanley).

[NOTE: Have you read Jack Mapanje's When This Carnival Finally Closes]

Most readers are bound to be fascinated by the proper use of symbolism:
1 they bound for a kingdom (referring to Africa)
2 the village looked on ( village was used to show the level of African civilization)
3 the gate of polished reeds closes behind them ( referring to African architecture in the colonial era)
4 Stanley (symbolizes European) while Mutesa (symbolizes African)

[Recommended: David Rubadiri: Growing Up With Poetry Anthology]

The unequal stanzas of the poem also added a funny look to the poem which made it so fascinating not to mention the indirect reminder of historical event which the poem brought to the readers memory

There is personification in line 15 and 32
Alliteration can be found in line 9
The use of simile was present as well
The poet made use of strange language in the poem:"mtu mweupe karibu" in line 59 maybe the statement means "whiteman you are welcome" in line 60 such usage can be called vulgarism.

The Poet:

Stanley Meets Mutesa was written by David Rubadiri, a Malawian born in 1930. David Rubadiri was also the Malawi's Ambassador to the United States in the year 1964 and later year in 1967, his novel No Bride Price was published.

Other Interesting Articles:

(1) How To Understand The Anvil And The Hammer By Kofi Awoonor

Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings flying)

Poet; this is generally known as a writer or composer of a poem. This subject can be explained in diverse ways as inspiration directs. From the African perspective (Yoruba people) precisely, were originally oral composers referred to as Akewi (or Alagbe which seems derogatory). Most professional ones were found in the palaces amusing the king and serving as a first hand informant to the king as to which visitor approaches the palace; some people call the Akoda-Oba and their early morning poetic chants are referred to as Rara.
Enough of the Yoruba ideology of poet, in the western world, according to Wikipedia, poets were found working for the royals. As time goes on being a poet became a part-time thing.

"The Renaissance period saw a continuation of patronage of poets by royalty. Many poets, however, had other sources of income, including Italians like Dante Aligheri, Giovanni Boccaccio and Petrarch's works in a pharmacist's guild and William Shakespeare's work in the theater.

In the Romantic period and onwards, many poets were independent writers who made their living through their work, often supplemented by income from other occupations or from family. This included poets such as William Wordsworth and Robert Burns." says Wikipedia.

Author: It is not a crime to call an author a creator. An author is the writer of literature whether poetry, prose or drama. Author can further get their works published even then, not all authors get their work published and not all published works are pioneered by the written author.
Being an author can be very lucrative; in terms of reward, royalty and acceptance. Eras affect the reward rate of being an author. This period of ours, pedagogical authors, internet-famous authors and religious authors reap higher reward of publishing. Some heads have channeled the blame of dwindling profitability of being an author to claim that readership has drastically declined but I'm of the believe that the decline only affect the reading of paper publications while the online or perhaps the internet publications keep witnessing higher and higher readership as days come by.

Critic: Critiques are written by critics; in other words, a person who appraises the works of others or a specialist in judging works of art is referred to as a critic. They do go through a work of art carefully and create a review about such work. Though critics are found in all aspects of art but let's concentrate a bit on literature which can be divided into prose, drama, poetry. Today on the internet, there are many platforms devoted towards reviewing literary works (anthologies, novels, dramatic books, not excluding movies and TV drama series).
Here few list according to specialization:-
(1) enotes; a general literature analysis website.
(2) shmoop; a general literature analysis website.
(3) poemanalysis; a poetry analysis website.
(4) naijapoets; a non-african and african analysis website.
(5) genius; a poetry and lyric analysis website.
(6) rottentomatoes; a movie analysis website.
(7) yahoo movies; a movie analysis website.
(8) tvline; a tv drama series analysis website.
(9) variety; a tv drama series analysis website.
(10) tvfanatic; a tv drama series analysis website.

The Novel

Aliya has to constantly remind her father that she is not a child but a “young adult”. He does not always agree with her. But now that she turning sixteen, he is sitting up and taking notice. The expected birthday card from him is replaced by a present and no holds barred letter_ a page for each year she had lived. It chronicles the lessons and the wisdom he has attempted to pass to her, and unburdens the burning questions she has about life. Aliya questions who she is and why she is; with her father as a guide on the journey. An engaging coming of age guide on life and loving for the teenage girl.

The Author

Bolaji Abdullahi was Commissioner of Education in Kwara state and Minister of Youth Development and Sports in Nigeria. He obtained a Bachelors of Science Degree in Mass Communication from University of Lagos. He also holds a Distinction Masters of Arts Degree in Governance and Development from University of Sussex in UK which he attended as a Chevening Scholar. A former Editor with Thisday Newspaper, Abdullahi has written extensively over the years a politics, policy and development. “Sweet Sixteen” is his first book.

The Chapter Summary

Work (Sweet Sixteen by Bolaji Abdullahi)

It was a Saturday morning, Aliya Bello decided that her father should further buttress some ideas in the letter sent on her 16th birthday. The chapter began with tutorial on how to make tea that is perfect for Mr Bello. To prove that she had mastered how to make the tea, she took the one she made to her dad and that way, the daughter-to-father interrogation commenced. Aliya told him she was no more interested in becoming a doctor in the near future_ what she now craves for is to become a lawyer (she had been reading many of John Grisham’s books lately). Funnily, Aliya had jostled career choices in the past; from pilot to the passion to become a musician and then to fashion designing and so on. Mr. Bello encouraged his daughter once more to choose whatever career path she was passionate about with the motive that only hard-work leads to success; not the kind of career chosen. He quoted Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”. Not to yield is the major key. Aliya told her dad about a girl she caught cheating in physics examination. The girl cheated to impress her parents who had always compared her with her brilliant brother. Mr Bello condemned the act of engaging in examination malpractices and also noted that it's unfair for any parent to compare children in a bias manner. He then shared the lessons he learnt about how parent should view their children in the book title "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran;a Lebanese poet who died in 1931.

The Drive (Sweet Sixteen by Bolaji Abdullahi)

While reading her father’s letter, part of the letter re-narrated a given Saturday morning when she was 12; she had a drive with her dad around the city. They saw hustle and bustle, traffic jam, people struggling with poverty, two young girls hawking in traffic (the na├»ve Aliya even envied the girls freedom) but her father reminded her that she shouldn’t take anything she has for granted, no condition is permanent_ no matter the level in life, one must always work harder because it is easier to climb up with empty stomach than a full stomach. In the course of the drive, Aliya bought ice cream from Aunty Gigis (a fast food joint) which opened opportunity for Mr. Bello to bestow 5ex education on his daughter (starting with enlightenment about menstruation, avoidance of illicit materials such as Cosmopolitan Magazine which belonged to Auntie Molara, stop watching House of Cards on Netflix, High School Musical, stop associating with friends always discussing having intercourse with boys, and more importantly, Aliya should never allow anybody touch her private part).

The Letter (Sweet Sixteen by Bolaji Abdullahi)

Bello Aliya turned 16 years old on a given Tuesday. He had always wanted her father to accept her as a “young adult” instead of been called a child. She described herself as the only child and she was fat but not too fat. Her dad (Mr. Bello) was a public relation officer, a Yoruba Muslim. Mr Bello is a lover of chess game, a very funny but strict man. On the other hand, Mrs. Bello was a nurse and a very supporting as a mother. The Bello family only celebrates achievements including weddings excluding birthday parties. Aliya further described herself as brilliant student with “A” except chemistry where her best had been “C”. She attends a boarding school and her hostel was a 2-block of 8 rooms. In her class was a boy named Bobo or Tokunbo (her admirer who bought her red teddy on Valentine’s Day). There was also a description of Akin (her classmate) who was very smart, but loved to joke with every matter_ including classroom teaching ( in a particular occasion, Miss Salako wrote Mensuration on the board but Akin pronounced it loud as Menstruation!) Until her 16th birthday, the usual birthday gift from her dad had been birthday card. On her 16th birthday, her father sent to school a gift box containing (i) a portable digital camera, with LCD monitor (ii) a birthday card written Happy Sweet Sixteen (iii) a spiral bound document with blue cover that has a bold inscription “Letter to My Daughter”; it was a 16-pages letter from her father. Each page represented yearly events from the day of her birth.

Stereotype (Sweet Sixteen by Bolaji Abdullahi)

Aliya notified the readers that Chelsea Football Club won the match Mr. Bello hoped to watch and he was good mood the rest of the day. The following day, in the morning, Aliya woke to find her parents discussing downstairs on the dining table while nursing their cup of tea. She knelt and greeted "Ekaaro ma, ekaaro sir". "Kaaro o, oko mi Ajike. Se a ji daadaa?" her mother responded (Yoruba morning greeting). There was news of Boko Haram killing on the TV which made Aliya asked opinion regarding the claim by a certain Rebecca in her class that "all Muslims will go to hell, because Muslims do not believe in Jesus and they like to kill people". Mr. Bello called it stereotype. No religion encourages the act of killing though many criminals hide behind religion to perpetrate their crimes. "The most beautiful garden is the one that has different colours and flowers". There is beauty in diversity. Mr. Bello said, "Aliya, you need to guard against it (stereotype). Don't make up your mind about people before you have had the opportunity to meet them and assess them fully. Chances are that you might be wrong." Mr. Bello then told a story of European slave traders who forcefully took people on the coast of West Africa and sailed them away but when the ship wrecked, the two survivals were the slave chief and a male slave. Though the wicked slave chief was in bad injuries almost dying, the male slave nursed him back to life and when the chief asked why he saved him, he told him that his duty is to help people not destroy them therefore "I am who I am, You are who you are".

Beauty (Sweet Sixteen by Bolaji Abdullahi)

Bello Aliya had been made fun of, because she was fat. Her biology teacher once called her latiFAT and FATima (with stress emphasis on "fat"). Bunmi in SS3 always picked on her, "Hey you, how do you even fit into that dress?" Mr. Bello said "I remember another Gandhi quote: 'Nobody can hurt me without my permission'. You see, my darling, no matter what you do, you would not be able to control how other people behave towards you. But you know what? You can control how they make you feel". "Beauty is total. Physical beauty, however it is defined is very important. But we see a truly beautiful person is one who is beautiful in character and comportment. If you speak kindly of people, you treat everyone with respect, you are not vulgar, you carry yourself with grace and self-confidence and you are generous. To me, these qualities are even more difficult to find in people than the physical beauty". "A queen is treated like a queen because a queen behaves like a queen. Respect can only be commanded by self-respect. If a queen behaves like a tramp, she would be treated like one". Mr. Bello ended it all with the story of a hunter who hunted long into the densely thick forest but to no avail. In his state of hunger, thirst and fatigue; he found a place where food and drink were free because his ancestors have paid. After the hunter ate and drank and satisfied his hunger, he wanted to go, but he was asked to pay so that his coming generations could eat freely. He told Aliya to endeavor to pass his lessons to her children.

The Gandhi Test (Sweet Sixteen by Bolaji Abdullahi)

Bello Aliya saw "the Gandhi Test" in the letter sent by her dad and she wanted him to shed more light on the subject.

They had the discussion in the family living room (though hardly used). They lived in an apartment 5 bedrooms. A huge mahogany cabinet in the room had mementos of Mr Bello travel round the world.

Aliyah also exposed that her dad and her mom had a different background: father attended village secondary school, mother attended federal government girls secondary school. Father had university education in Nigeria, mother had a degree in nursing in UK. They both met when the dad was writing a story on road accident victims as a cub reporter who was hardly paid salaries and mom was well paid nurse working in the Accident and Emergency ward of the hospital.

Mr. Bello told Aliya that it is better to always do the right thing but whenever in doubt whether an action is wrong or right; she should apply the Gandhi Test. "He (Gandhi) was the one that said you can tell that what you are doing is good or bad if you want other people to know about it or not".

Aliya thought Mahatma Gandhi was once an Indian President whereas India only has Prime Minister because India was colonized by Britain. He told her that Gandhi was an ordinary man respected by people and regarded as a leader_ he was never interested in politics. The first Indian Prime Minister after independence is Jawaharlal Nehru, the father of Indira Gandhi, who also became Prime Minister. Finally, Mr. Bello explained the difference between ethics and morals. "Ethics are rules that guides a person's behavior based on moral principles".

Dating (Sweet Sixteen by Bolaji Abdullahi)

Now that Aliya is 16, she asked her dad if it was the right time to have a boyfriend but Mr. Bello advised his daughter that relationship of such at her age is based on infatuation and wouldn't lead anywhere but derailment. The weight of emotion in relationship is very heavy for immature heart to carry. Anyone who doesn't learn how to delay gratification will derail. Mr. Bello noted that every gratification comes with price which might be hard to afford.

Before the Chelsea match commenced (Aliya had described her dad as a strong fan of Chelsea football club), she told him the story of two students caught by the school security on the basketball court having intercourse. The boy felt no shame but the girl was so ashamed on the morning assembly. He told Aliya that such cheap girl cannot be taken home as a future wife by the boy who sleeps with her on a basketball court; she would forever be a play-toy to the boy.

Mr. Bello further reminded her that relationship at age 16 is never love but infatuation with aftermath been jealousy, hatred, teenage pregnancy, heartbreak, distraction, etc.

The Structure

The novel is a simple to understand one. The author employed an omniscient narrative technique. He also added beauty with the use of dialect, brief story telling, letter, flashback, etc.

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