“Sòròsókè: An #EndSARS Anthology,” is a collection of poems written by Nigerians both at home and in the diaspora. The anthology is a compilation of the poetic solidarity of the activism of Nigerian youths during the #EndSARS protests of 2020 against the reaction of the Nigerian state to the protesters, especially the alleged murder of innocent protesters at Lekki Tollgate, Lagos.
The #EndSARS anthology was edited by Jumoke Verissimo and James Yékú, and published by Noirledge in 2022.
This anthology, according to the editors, is to “to preserve the memory of those who stood, fell, and died as they sought a better country”. Essentially, the anthology is to collect the voices of Nigerian poets as they attempt to preserve the event of the #ENDSARS protest as it happened, “so that we will never forget it”. (p9) Thus, that is the background upon which 46 poets poured out their hearts in the collection’s 57 poems, denouncing state bullying and state oppression.
Sueddie Agema opens the anthology with the metaphor of death which takes the form of a ritual that takes lives away in whispers and silences and harvests hopes. He also gives the verves which Jumoke Verissimo echoes in the poem, “Nigeria will not end me”, by lamenting about this land which delights in drinking young blood (p21). In this poem, the poet sees perpetual harassment of young ones by the state and its agencies, a state which gives nothing, but takes from its children and cuts them down. She wonders why the state takes delight in taking where it did not provide, and concludes that death is the surest thing in this land.
Rasaq Malik sees a menacing government of bullet whose leaders take delight in ordering soldiers to murder. He sees a government of bullet holding sway over a land where there is a continuum of unrest. The leaders in this land take delight in ordering the mass murder of citizens at Lekki, and burying them in unknown places. Rasaq can only sing a dirge for the missing, and for those whose blood are shed and whose identities are shrouded in silent darkness by gun-toting men whose agenda is to erase the hope of the masses.
In Sòròsókè: An #EndSARS Anthology, we have an admixture of songs of hope dashed midway, songs of lamentation, dirges and odes – odes to the young fallen children in a country where those in power and their co-hunters and gunmen have no regard for life and cannot tolerate peaceful protest. In this poemL “Soldierman Strong,” Tayo Bello is shocked by the uncaring, impassioned attitudes of soldiers who shot at unharmed flag-waving, national anthem-singing citizens. He addresses (p24) the soldierman this way:
But Soldierman, alas, with orders strange you came
And proved yourself, commander of our souls.
We sat, but you shot
We sang, but you shot
We ran, but you shot
But no gun we held
But no knife we took
You held up your tool and sent down the rain
Soldierman Strong, you did not cry
You splattered on a flag the bearer’s blood!
For Ndubuisi Martins, Lekki is an undeniable tragedy of a nation whose men in khaki shot at “kneeling mass of youths” asking to live “but bowed in plastic silence”, and “a farce of a country in search of its flag in the carcasses of its future.” (P27)
And on his part, Tosin Gbogi sees this nation as a republic (p29) where everything stinks, including dreams, diligence and design because monstrous men lurk around. And Kola Tubosun concurs, noting that these monstrous men have made the land a butcher’s slab (p30) rather than a land of promise for the people. This thesis is extended by Olajide Salawu in the poem, “Lambs of the Republic” (p31). The young ones have here become the biblical metaphor of a lamb required as propitiation for the perpetuity of the country. So in order to keep “the unkempt heart of my country clean”, bloodshot-eyed men cuff the hands of the children and make them “scream like large animals bleating for life” as they make them pay the ransom of keeping the nation alive.
To be continued next week.