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When We Hear the Name of President

Nigerian poet Tanure Ojaide evokes a language of high stakes, hi-jinx, and hybridity, combining code switching with scathing poltical critique to down ‘Mr. Big Belle’. 



Wetin our eye never see?
Dey don see Oba!

President na butcher e be
for khaki or agbada—

cobra-o, viper-o, na snake dem be;
murderer na killer no matter im dress.

From im big big house, one president
send plenty plenty soja come kill us.

ABC, alias Death Squad, send e own
come seize our pickin and hang am.

And Mr. Big Belle send lightning
come sweep Odi with fire.

We don tire de cry,
na inside hell we de—

gas de burn for our sky whaam whaam,
our river rotten (Shell de shit inside)

because oil boku for our land;
because gas boku for our backyard;

all the green God take cover us de go,
the water the Almighty give us dey poison.

nobody wicked pass our president
wen de siddon kampe for Abuja

de wack wack with our oil,
de swell like pregnant woman.

E no know say we de self—
who dash monkey banana?

Hutu massacre no reach Odi,
Kosovo na play-play for Ogoni.

Babi Yar, Wiriyamu, and Srebenica
na im we de suffer for here.

River and creek full for dead body,
blood don drive water comot.

Na so we Govment be-o—
e go kill you for your property;

e take our land with decree
e seize our oil with gun

wetin armed robber be?
Dey no fit take our soul.

Instead of dis suffer suffer we de,
make God just take oil go dem farm

but make im twist neck of butcher
wen de call imself Presido!

Wen we hear name of president,
na run we de for our life

because e de come with soja
e de come with gun to kill

because e worse pass Hitler—
e de smile de kill us

baby, papa and mama
e de kill with smile

our animal and crop
e de kill with smile

na plague e be for our land
na death e de bring.

First na lagoon be graveyard,
den hillsides of our new capital.

Who know where they learn
say to be president na to kill?

Im wen think say e strong well well,
God go knack am for ground

we go dance say death don die
vulture don die, Hitler don die.

We no de cry again,
we don see blood boku

child-o, old papa-o, old mama-o
we don strong now

everybody for our land
enter bush—na Mau Mau

we de fight for our land;
na ANC guerilla we be now.

Dis fight better pass refugee
for our own land—

na only one life man de live,
we go defend am with our power;

we go fight get back wetin dey rob
from us—by God’s power we go win!

Make God punish president wen sabi
only to de rob and kill im people!



Tanure Ojaide latest collection of poems is titled The Beauty I Have Seen: A Trilogy (Lagos: Malthouse, 2010). He has also published a memoir, a novel, as well as several more poetry books, short stories and critical works. This poem previously appeared in Chimurenga Vol.8: We’re All Nigerian!.

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