Shirt and Shoe



hands to till

Find us a few good women, a few good women

To rouse the soul

Awaken flagging spirits

“Find us a few good men”, she said

Eyes scouring mine

As if to empty them

And then we held hands, touched fingers.


Find us a few good men, a few good men

To build the house, hold it up

To fill the stores and kindle the fire

“Find us a few good women”, she said

We touched cheeks, rubbed noses

But the questions hang, ponderous,

In the air.


And so I went, I looked

Amongst my people and our friends

The folks I know

And among the strangers

Crowds small and thick

Up in the hills

Down in the gutters

Within the walls

Even amongst my kin

And lo, I find none to call.


Find us a few good souls

To renew the land, lead the way

“A simple task”, she said

Rubbed noses and touched fingers

Sad rains and merry droughts

Many months, still on the job



(poetry is of the people, from the people, by the people, for the people – Ibadan, 2006)

Poet: We pay homage to the sun

Bright shiny rays piercing the darkest gloom

The People: We all pay homage!

Poet: We pay homage to the moon and stars

Our mothers and ancestors, guides of the night

The People: We all pay homage!

Poet: We pay homage to the rain

And fiery Sango1 who rides the rolling thunder

The People: We all pay homage!

Poet: We pay homage to the winds,

Friends from the east to the west, north and south

Soothing breath of the creator, angry belch of the gods

The People: We all pay homage!

Poet: We pay homage to the earth

And Orisha Nla2, clad in white, father of all

The People: We all pay homage!

Poet: We pay homage to the heavens,

Mysteries beyond the grasp of little minds,

Endless cover encircling the earth

The People: We all pay homage!

Poet: We pay homage to the waters,

                        Omi l’abu we, omi l’abu mu, omi o se mu l’ota3

Greetings to our mothers in the ocean depths

Greetings to all the spirits of the rivers and streams

The People: We all pay homage!

Poet: We pay homage to all the gods of the land

The elders and custodians of ageless wisdom,

Knowers of riddles and masters of time

The People: We all pay homage!

Poet: We pay homage to Olodumare4,

Lord of the one thousand seven hundred divinities

Whose breath gives life,

You whose shrine is in our hearts

The People: We all pay homage!

(1 Yoruba thunder deity; 2 Yoruba arch divinity; 3 Water is essential – no one can make it an enemy; 4 Yoruba Supreme Being)


The Roofs

The roofs of Coaltown –

They speak of ages gone

And visitors bid bye

In a flurry of fiery blasts

The streets of Umuahia –

Their single tars are coarse

Like the hearts broken,

Lonely and grief-swept

When the man of the house


The towns of black gold –

Their rivers spewing fortune

Are agog with misfortune;

Tiny deaths filling the air

Where a “nation” draws its breath

The fledglings of “Motherland”,

Hatched on a spurious night

When patience and love hugged their mats

Who will teach them

The trueness of truth,

The justness of justice,

The primacy of work,

And the place of honour?

There is a monster abroad

Dagger unsheathed, its fuel is blood

And cancerous anger,

Its cyst a film incubating discord

Diverse turbulence curdling in this melting pot.

We fear for the land of promise

And we should;

For if the roof falls,

Whose head is safe?

“The Roofs”Segun Akinlolu, Enugu, 1993



There will be no justice for poor Eric Garner

Choked by The Law, murdered by The Force

In no time, his memory will fade, and his passing

Only another footnote to a life worth little

In the larger nefarious scheme of things.

There will be no justice for ‘Big Mike’ Brown

In this place it is a crime to steal smokes – yes

It is a crime to walk the middle of the road – yes

It is a crime to engage the Voice of Order – yes

Take a bullet in the gut and beat it –

Don’t turn around, don’t ask questions.

Mothers, raise them right; teach them to run when they see the cops

Son, don’t bother lifting your arms in submission – Just run!

Like a bereaved mother’s tears – Run!

There will be no justice for the 298

Roasted in a fireball and strewn upon an Ukrainian stranger’s field

Blame that country, blame Russia, blame the West

Blame the killers purportedly fighting for freedom

Or heap it all on Putin, Superman of Moscow,

Obama’s alleged groin boil, irritant beyond compare.

There will be no justice for the Children of Gaza

Endless instability and fear – it will never be over you know

You sow the seeds of hate and anger, and someday

A decade later? It explodes in your face, and the cycle repeats

Blame the nationalists of Israel, or the unquenchable fervor of Hamas,

Blame it on Ramadan, on Islam, on The Pope,

Those who go to church on Sunday and those who go on Saturday,

Or those Koranic schools, the Rabbis and the Mullahs

And their Graduates who speak for God

In tortuous treatises, soporific songs, and holy violence

Blame it on the forces that manufactured a home

For Europe’s despised and victimized,

A people decimated by a pogrom so extreme

They earn the eternal right to visit tragedy upon others?

Blame it on parched holy books, and the convoluted history

Of this laughable holy ground polluted by the blood of innocent children

These holy books – all sides have them,

The ones etched on stones in deserts, on scrolls in caves,

Found by Wandering Shepherds, kept by the Guardians of Ancient Secrets.

Lost in translation is the essence of love, the sanctity of life

Blame that on missing verses – those lost to time, and those lost to grazing sheep

Blame it on a world gone crazy, on the imminent Apocalypse,

Or on old man Nostradamus for his silly predictions

We know better now – we have science, zero-tolerance for superstition,

We have Tablets (not the ones you swallow), GPS and the Wonders of Dubai

We are advanced you know –

We, who kill, maim and destroy with drones and bombs, chemicals and rockets

With machetes and knifes and poison

“We who kill with words” – ode to our friends in the Media

Who aid and abet with daily lies and distraction.

There will be no justice for the ones written out of the News

The young and the weak, the voiceless and the vulnerable

Who disappeared in the bogus Arab spring,

None for the impressionable and the strong

Who gave their lives for an ideal hastily thought out

And those who had only a moment to choose life or death

Blame it all on Jesus, on Muhammad or those who fight in their names.

Should Heaven indeed come, they will ground you for defamation,

For taking their words out of context and living large on their copyright.

There will be no justice for Moammar G.

Faux emperor caught like a rat in a sewer,

No rest for those who acted NATO’s script

And surely, no closure for the kin of those he supposedly killed

Poor Libya – resurrective demise, bloody rebirth

There will be no justice, no matter how many poems we write

How many doctrines you expound on

In your defeated, corrupted ivory towers.

Intelligence is in flight, and emotional debauchery, your god, decrees:

Dumb them down; begin with you!

There will be no justice, not in this life or the next

For the original dwellers of the lands of the North

Massacred by the Spanish

Forcefully tamed by hymn-singing fortune seekers

The stars and the scums of the British Isles,

The French and the Dutch, and their agents of various extractions

These conquerors, yet to quit their quibbling over land, sea and air –

European Union or not, their storms are always brewing.

Those were strange times – you savages, tending your land,

Fighting your skirmishes and paying Nature her due

You welcome the strangers with a curious love;

They hug you with toxic blankets

And then with guns and a dose of civilizing religion

Kill them off!

Grab the land!

Give thanks! (Do it every year with turkey-meat)

It’s all in the family now and you people of the past

Will come out to dance in your feathers and wail your ageless song

Whenever commanded – by force, money or political expediency

You shall live separate but not apart, in your circumscribed communities

And your stories of failure shall only confirm what is already known –

These people are not smart enough to manage their own affairs

But the venoms of the years trickle down

The survivors find comfort in drink and drugs

The young, filled with anger and frustration, seek an outlet

In poetry, metal-music, violent demos

Deep inside reigns a sense of confusion, displacement

And injustice, that time cannot erase

The children of the other – the victors, usurpers and newcomers ask,

But why can you not move on?

The children of the vanquished reply,

Because we no longer have the language for legs

And the shackles of unresolved history lay around our ankles.

This apology – from Australia, Canada – comes too late

It rings hollow – will not restore the lives and the way of life

Smashed, stamped out, obliterated, beaten out

This limp gesture, on paper, and financial compensation,

May seem proper, but no amount can restore

A people’s broken pride and thrashed sense of being

Alas, what is destroyed is dust, and the future cannot be built on regret

Gallant Tecumseh gets a few memorial statues,

Residential school survivors get their ‘sorry’ and conscience money

And the rest dissolves into a muddled trance-dance.

Justice it is not, but still, “sorry” is not such a bad thing –

Rapacious Rhodes never gave one to the ones he called

The most despicable specimens of human beings

Duvalier never offered one to those he bestialized

Neither did Mobutu nor the bellicose, plundering King Leopold II.

The African slave, torn from his roots and sold like cattle,

Hasn’t got one yet, and any talk of restitution

For the more than 10 million souls lost in that age of dehumanization,

Meets a brick-wall of excuses and hand-wringing counter-theories

Reparations, who really wants that?

So they pay you some billions…(party time!)

You will fight over it and further tear yourselves to pieces.

No justice there either.

There will be no justice for Lumumba, killed by the Belgians,

The Americans, the British, the French, the people of the Congo,

And his own brave, unregulated mouth

Sometimes (perhaps most times) having no opinion keeps you alive

Tell that to Patrice, to Sankara, tell it to poor Steve Biko,

The prince laid out bare in the back of a truck

Naked, defiant even in death, “Black is beautiful!”

Even more so when unclothed and manacled.

There will be no justice for the millions of hapless Africans

Shackled and tortured, irreversibly damaged,

Silenced and murdered, on the slave routes,

The harrowing pain and abuse suffered by those who made it over

Continues to haunt their children and extended offspring

And yes, lest we forget, insignificant Eric was one of them.

Who will cry for you now? Who will get your due?

A million online campaigns will not,

And CNN already closed your chapter in a brief, symbolic, staged debate

You are small fry, though,

In a world of inequity, controlled by the rich and the powerful few,

The owners of endlessly networked corporations,

The ones who make a profit from each conflict,

Who sell the guns and the bandages; train the doctors and the snipers,

Fund groundbreaking research and create new diseases

New vaccines and cures which must be sold, be sold, be sold

The shadowy men who hide under the guise of philanthropy

To inflict pain, disease and death on others,

The tech barons who support the development

Of agro-seeds that do not re-grow

Who, with their celebrity friends, love Africa more than the Africans

And who, one day, we will celebrate as saviours

Due to our communal blindness, greed and selfishness

Oh, and let us not forget their agents –

Homegrown collaborators and gene-bearing returnees,

Set upon the land like locusts at harvest

You, who rape your mother at night and massage her wounds in daylight

You will get away with it; it’s written in the books.

There will be no justice for the unfortunates

Whose lives pay for our comforts – in the Congo, the Niger Delta,

And those other corners of the earth

Where natural riches have become a curse

A garland for those martyred

To line the pockets of a few.

There will be no justice for them as well –

Those killed and raped by the powerful, rampaging Assyrians;

By the British in the quest for empire –

Cloak and dagger in the Middle East, massacres in India

By America in the ongoing tyranny,

By the Germans, the Russians and the Allies in WW1 and 2

For the bestiality of the Turks upon the Armenians

And the unimaginable horror of life in apart-hate South Africa

No questions for you China, queen of the Orient –

You’ve been demonized truly and well enough

And much of it proper.

There will be no justice for the children of Biafra,

Caught in a battle between immature, cocky belligerents –

Little men to who power fell without adequate preparation,

Pawn in Europe’s game

Heady times, man, those were heady times

What’s the loss of a few million children? Fewer mouths to feed, man.

Crush them all I say, Black Scorpion, crush ‘em all

Shoot them all, Ojukwu, the bloody federalists and saboteurs all together!

Ironic, how ruthless Murtala became a hero

And we are not allowed to sing Nzeogwu’s name.

“History is a mongrel”, you say?

There will be no justice

For the victims of the many border, ethnic and religious wars

That belittle Africa in the eyes of her sister continents.

Those who carved her up, blinded by avarice

No longer walk the earth; their progeny keep up the pressure

They give you a tenner and grab a million.

Fools of the Dark Continent, may your tribes increase –

No, actually they won’t, not with your frequent wars of attrition

And belly-first model of social engineering.

There will be no justice for all these abused women

Cradle of conflict, item of plunder

Maiden of vengeance, recumbent spoil of war

Mother of combatants, you bear the scars don’t you?

And you pass them on to the children

That the cycle of violence, in the name of liberty and glory,

May never be breached.

There shall be no justice for Cannabis, the food of mad men and geniuses

Coffee makes you thin, keeps you sharp (and it is not a controlled drug!)

Coca Cola makes you fat, keeps you trendy

It fuels the Olympics, makes you go faster, higher, further, etc.

Makes you believe any falsehood; you feel good

Someday, you Cannabis, will be free too of your jailers

But it may be too late for the revolution, you see…

There will be no justice (or equal rights) for you

Monsieur Pete, commander of cannabis, champion of it.

You were smart enough not to demand peace,

For there shall be none of that either.

There will be no freedom, no truth, and no justice –

(When, in the long history of the world,

Did you ever hear of their existence?)

In limbo, the reluctant newborn peruses the idiocy

Of an existence blighted by hate and shackled by gluttony

The Leader of the Free-World smiles from the screen

He sends out his bombs and killer squads in the name of justice

Hurray! The Free-World smashes the Un-Free-World into smithereens

The child knows better – freedom is a mirage

Those who seek its shape must travel in time

Go back in Ma’s womb if you know what’s good for you.

There will be no salvation, no deliverance…

Courage, like a noose around the neck,

And all that can be hoped for is the opportunity

To face one’s demise like a man

See you in Hell then!

“There is no Hell,”

What d’you mean there is no Hell?

We live in it, man!

Face to the future then, whatever it brings.


Make your life a seed of love that you sow in this blessed earth upon which you were born. Spend all your living years watering and tending it, until it grows into a massive tree providing shade and sustenance for future wayfarers.

A well-lived life has meaning and purpose. Beyond the quest for personal achievement at the expense of other people’s happiness; beyond our cancerous greed and selfishness; and beyond our divisive ethnic and religious bigotry, there is a path that leads to personal and communal rebirth, and the social change and development that we all crave.