Although not simple to define, corruption is a major impediment and barrier to Nigeria’s progress. For many years the country suffers lack of infrastructure and poor condition of living because of corruption, which not only stagnates the nation but also derails it from the path of progress.
Although more endemic now than ever before, the story of corruption in Nigeria is at least very old. A missionary teacher in Kano, Madam Ethel Daniel Miller (who came to Kano in 1917), in her book, ‘The Change Here in Kano’, complained of a prince from the emirate who sent her the gift of a set of clothes simply because she was a sister to Dr. Walter Miller, thinking that she could influence his choice as a successor to the throne. Other examples can be found in fictional works such as ‘Magana Jari Ce’ (1937), where Dan’iya bribed a police officer to deceive his friend Daudu in a story titled “An Ki Cin Biri An Ci Dila.” The case of Obi Okonkwo in Achebe’s ‘No Longer at Ease’ (1960) and that of ‘Incorruptible Judge’ (1962) by Ola Olagoke are just few out of many similar cases.
These are clear indications of how writers used their pen to expose and sometimes fight corruption since the beginning of Nigeria.
This anthology of poetry edited by the indefatigable Khalid Imam and the awesome Ola Ifatimehin contains 51 poems contributed by 45 poets. Nearly half of the contributors are female writers, which is a clear indication that women have come of age in terms of literature in northern Nigeria.
The title of the book, ‘Kwaraption’, is a Hausa and English attempt at pronouncing the word “corruption”. While the first part, “kwara”, is just the Hausa sound of first four letters, “corru” (in the word “corruption”), the second part was derived from the last for letters (ption) of the original word. In other words, “kwaraption” is a corrupt way of saying corruption.
Instead of the editors to use the Hausa translation of the word “corruption”, which is loosely translated as “cin hanci” or “rashawa”, or just wrote the Hausa variant of “corruption” as “kwarapshin”. They decided to retain part of the original English words.
This is to portray the uniqueness of the work as an anthology of poems written using Engausa, which involves coding switch or mixing of languages (English and Hausa) with a view to achieving artistic beauty and increasing the richness of literature.
An Appreciation of Some of the Poems in the Collection
Looking at the anthology, one can understand that the poems cover a wide range of issues as far as corruption in Nigeria is concerned. Some of the issues are:
1. Recognising Nigeria as a rich country, blessed with both human and material resources, but whose citizens are poor because of corruption and other social vices. “Ƙasa mai albarka da albarkatu, mai attajirai, masu ilmi da ‘yan siyasa”, Hafsa Ja’afar, in a poem titled “Rashawa” (p. 30).
2. The state of the country as far as corruption is concerned. For example, Ameer Nasir, in “Cutar Zamani” describes the country as one having expertise in corruption to the extent that it is difficult to separate us from corruption “tamkar jini da hanta” (p. 17). Basheer Adam Gobir assumes that “almost everyone” in the country is corrupt (p. 23). Similarly, Farida Mohammed Shehu, in “Abin Takaici” (p. 24) and Khalid Imam (p. 37) see corruption as a hazard whose impact is everywhere: mosque, church and in all places, and Imam particularly describes corruption as a ‘flood’ that destroys (“Corruption Everywhere”, p. 39).
Khadija Hanga, in her poem titled “Despicable Disease”, sees corruption as a marriageable girl, however dubious, whose main goal is to deceive “a fool”. In fact, as captured by Ola in his allegory, “Kukan Kurciya”, corruption is now a “new education”. Because we are so accustomed to corruption that we are given it good names and the corrupt persons are assumed to be philanthropists as captured in the poem “Philanthropist na Fangan” (p. 26) “barazanar ɗan ta’adda ba ta mayar da shi gwarzo”.
Also, YZ Ya’u corroborates this in his “Sai Mai Taimako”. Umma Aliyu educates us on different forms of corruption that we don’t see as such due to the level of societal decay.
3. Looking at corruption as a cause to many problems this country witnesses. For example, in the poem “Tick” by Abubakar Isah Baba, corruption is seen as being responsible for poverty and insecurity:
In a “Lamentations for a Country,” Adesina Ajala blames corruption for dividing the country along many social layers: “Corruption is the common denominator that divides this land without fractions.” The division is along religious, ethnic, regional and even occupational strata.
In “Gobarar Daji”, Yahaya Abubakar sees corruption as “alpha and omega”, hence the chance of getting out of the current quagmire is very slim:
“ta yaya za mu yi rayuwa sustainable, tattalin arziƙin mu disabled.”
Bashir Umar blames corruption for bankrolling the country such that it cannot meet its basic needs. He sees it as embarrassing that the country now relies on foreign aid for its development: “wai yau ni ke neman aid from foreign organisation”. The writer believes that Nigeria has taken a poisonous venom whose effect is transmitted to the children, making them engage in killing one another: “mun ɗauki kansakali, maimakon magani.”
like an expecting mother.”
4. Trying to understand the dynamism and causes of corruption is one other focus of the poets in the anthology. Amatullah Saulawa, in her “We Shall not be Afraid”, boldly says: “yes, it is our faults, if dictators shift gears, we bring them back” (p.15).
as stated by Hafsa Ja’afar in “Rashawa” (p. 30).
Lynda Mustapha, in her two poems, “Write It Down” and “Buhu-buhun Iskanci”, blames politicians for perpetrating corruption in the country.
Moses Odozie writes on corrupt civil servants whom he nicknames “Ɓarawo Mai Biro”. Murtala Uba Mohammed, in his poem, “A Corrupt Nation”, believes that the corruption is not limited to politicians, there are also the police, the courts and parents (p. 51).
5. The writers are tired of corruption and eagerly want it to end. Adesina Ajala wrote:
Corruption is here seen as a wound that needs to be cured and the darkness that should put in light. In “The Oak Tree”, Aliyu voices out: “yet we hope for betterment”.
6. The authors not only lament over the problem, they also recommend some solutions to the problem. Madinah Abdussalam, in her “Yours and Mine”, sees the solution as public, that every person should do it himself. He says: “who will end corruption in ba mu ba?”
In “Soyyayar Corruption” by Elizabeth Zephaniah, the public is seen as the solution. She metaphorically asks: “yaushe za mu ga eagle na fighting corruption?” Musa Adam has a similar view in his “My Father’s 61st Rebirth”.
Some of the poets express unity as an important factor in the fight against corruption: “dole we have to be united” as stated by Haneefa Musa Isah in her poem, “Mu Haɗa Kai” (p. 31). Also, Sani Abdullahi Salisu, in his Kwarapshin (p.61).
It was not surprising when I saw this anthology. This is because of my prior knowledge of the debate that started in the page of APNETi when Dr. Ola began to release his poems in a fashion of code switch, mixing English with Hausa language, which Khalid and some other members called ENGAUSA and opined that it was new and welcomed development.
kowa ka duba very happy…”
Khalid and his likes were not convinced, arguing that the example given is INGAUSA, different from ENGAUSA. They said INGAUSA is a Hausa poem where words and phrases are used to complement writer’s inability to come up with the right words based on context or meaning as opposed to ENGAUSA, which is a poem written specifically with two languages blending and it is purely artistical.
In the introduction of this book, the editors maintain this view, indicating that they had not shifted their position. In an interview fielded by Ola, he stated that this Engausa is almost his own daughter.
While this anthology may certainly be the first collection on ENGAUSA poetry, the view that ‘new ENGAUSA’ is different from the ‘conventional INGAUSA’ is very weak. This is because language swap in Hausa poetry are not just triggered by weakness or inability to come up with the right phrase or word in a context, it is equally deliberate.
Also, when we look at recent popular Hausa songs, we can see Engausa. In particular, hip-hop singers such as Billy O, gave a good example of Engausa in his song “Rainy Season”:
ni ko so na ke a san ina da reason”.
In recent times, northern Nigeria’s film series such as “Son of the Caliphate” and “Gidan Danja” are also full of Engausa. In addition, Aliyu Idris, aka Abdurabbihi, is another poet whose poems are in a mix of Hausa, English and Arabic languages even before seeing Ola’s “Sarauniya ta” which appeared first in the APNETi platform. Agreed, Ola and to some extent Khalid can take the accolades for popularising the Engausa and APNETi for holding the first workshop to teach it. It is another issue as to whether the new Engausa has a rule or not. But it is important to state that Engausa is an attempt to mimic how we (particularly the educated elite among us) talk at home and other places.
Finally, I wish to congratulate the editors for the first Engausa anthology and the All Poets Network International (APNETi) and Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) for sponsoring the publication of an important literary work that can help in Nigeria’a corruption crusade. The text is truly a noble of a kind.
While wishing to see more literary work of this format, I wish the editors will do more in editing the Hausa language in the subsequent publications. I noticed many orthographic errors with respect to Hausa language, which our indefatigable Imam will share the larger blame for his expertise in the area. I also conclude with following lines:
Yau kwaraption mun rejection.”
Dr. Murtala Uba Mohammed is with the Department of Geography, Bayero University, Kano. E-mail: [email protected]