I see children,
The Tailor’s children
Roaming the streets
With their innocent teats
Flamboyantly and obliviously naked.
I see Children
The meat seller’s children
Sitting round the dining table
Licking the vegetable
Salivating for the meatless menu.
I see a man in uniform
With his gun come.
Trying to protect others
But totally vulnerable himself.
This is the case of my country. The Heart of Africa.
A Giant among countries
A blessed nation
But not to worry
The earth continues to rotate
Alas One Day!
Nigeria shall be great again
The road to greatness is indeed rough
But I, Nigeria, will struggle
To get there.
Though there be hurdles
I shall overcome.
I shall be great, and be an envy of all Nations.
Background of the poet
Adewumi Arowolo is a teacher by profession and passion. He has taught as an English language teacher in different schools. He currently teaches English Language and Literature in English in Model Learning Secondary School, Zaria, Kaduna State. He owes part of his success story to 2019/2020 SS 1 A and B students whom he humorously call his children.
He is an inspirational writer, a poet, a computer technician, and a driver.
The poem was written at a time Nigeria was facing a lot of difficulties. A time when the rich got richer and the poor, poorer, a time of recession and economic doom, a time when all hope had been lost internally and globally, a time when the unspoken voices of citizens cry after the white colonialists to come back. It was a time when poor and hustling citizens risked their lives over the Atlantic only to do menial jobs for the whites, for they look up to them for survival, a time when diseases were endemic on the coasts of the great Nigeria.
Subject matter and summary
The poem is about the dilapidated state of a country in West Africa, Nigeria. In the first three stanzas, the poet laments about the ironic state of his country which name was not mentioned at first. He symbolised ‘Tailor’s children, butcher’s children and police officers’ with citizens of the country so endowed with numerous resources still lacking what they have.
In stanza four, he gives a more vivid description of that country as ‘The Heart of Africa’. On Africa’s map, Nigeria is positioned at the heart of Africa indeed, hence the description.
In the fifth stanza, the seemingly lamentable poem changes tone to a hopeful one. The poet asserts ‘But not to worry… ‘. He believes in the saying that no condition is permanent, therefore he hopes that one day his country which has been buried under the debris of her own ruins shall take courage and rise again to be the giant among countries that it used to be.
Analysis of the poem
The poem opens with children, apparently the tailor’s walking the streets naked. This stanza is ironical. Irony is when the literal sense of a statement is different from its intended meaning. In a natural sense, Tailor’s children should not walk naked but the poet here has portrayed them to be not just naked but ‘Flamboyantly…naked’ which simply means boldly naked.
The second and third stanzas also portrays irony. A butcher’s child shouldn’t eat without meat and police officers who are charged and saddled with the responsibility of protecting citizens should not be vulnerable themselves because they have the trainings and weapons to protect. Rather, the poet stated here that the butcher’s children are ‘salivating for the meatless menu’ and the police officers are vulnerable to what they are meant to protect people from.
In stanza four, the poet reveals to the readers that ‘this is the case of my country’. He further describes his country as ‘the heart of Africa…’. The heart is a very important organ in the human body. If it fails, the whole body shuts down. However, to signify the importance of his country among others, the poet has used ‘Heart’ as a symbol to connote the significant role his country plays.
In the latter part of the poem, the poet suddenly becomes hopeful. He says ‘the earth continues to rotate’ to suggest that his country’s current predicament will roll away with the earth’s rotation and a new dawn will appear literally. Here, for the first time in the poem, the poet mentions the name of his country, Nigeria. He believes that ‘Nigeria shall be great again’ irrespective of the inevitable challenges that plagues whoever is willing to make a positive change in this life.
With a strong sense of hope, the poet concludes that ‘Someday, I shall be great and be an envy of all Nations’.
Poetic Devices explained
- Irony: When the literal meaning of a statement is different from its intended meaning, it is said to be ironical. The first three stanzas are ironical thus: ‘Naked Tailor’s children, the meatless menu of the butcher’s children, and the vulnerable police officers’. All these are ironical.
- Symbolism: This entails using symbolic representations to signify ideas. ‘The Tailor’s children, butcher’s children and police officers’ are all symbols signifying Nigerians who ironically lack what they have in abundance. Also, ‘Heart’ is used in stanza to represent the position of Nigeria on Africa’s map and the role it plays in the continent.
- Personification: When the attributes of a living thing are accorded to non living thing, it is said to be personification. The poet gives Nigeria the quality of a human by asserting ‘I Nigeria… ‘, ‘I will struggle to get there’, and ‘I shall be an envy… ‘.
- Metaphor: A metaphor is a direct comparison of something with another. The poet compares his country, Nigeria, to a giant in stanza four. This is metaphorical.
- Anaphora: Anaphora is the repetition of a phrase at the beginning of phrases, sentences or verses used for emphasis. The poet repeats ‘I see children’ twice in the poem. This is to emphasize on the successive statements made after the repetition.
- Rhyme: The first three stanzas have a rhyme scheme of a a b b c. Subsequent verses or stanzas are written in free verse.
- Repetition: The poet repeats ‘I see’ in the poem three times and repeats children several times. This is for the purpose of emphasis.
- Imagery: Imagery is a literary device used by poet’s and writers to create images or imaginations in the mind of the reader. In the first stanza, there is a visual image of naked children roaming the streets. In stanza two, there is an image of people eating on a dining table. Also, there is an image of police officers seen trying to protect people.
- Enjambment : This is a technique in poetry whereby a sentence is carried over to the next line without pause. Lines 2 and 3, 8 and 9, 14 and 15, and lines 29 and 30 are all examples of enjambment.
- Assonance: This is the repetition of similar vowel sounds in poetry. ‘The heart of Africa’ repeats the /a/ sound.
- Alliteration: This is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words. ‘meatless menu’ is an example from the poem.
- Apostrophe: Apostrophe is an exclamatory statement addressed to something or someone absent. ‘The poet states that Alas, One Day! Nigeria shall be great again again’. Here the poet addresses an unknown listener who is not present.
Themes in the poem
- The theme of Hope (Hope is like a light at the end of every tunnel) : The theme of hope is evident in the poem. The second part of the poem portrays hope for Nigeria. The poet stated that ‘Nigeria shall be great again’. This is a statement signifying a possible revival which the poet does not dispute about.
(If you are a current SS 2 Literature in English student at Christ College, Zaria, I CELEBRATE YOU)