Poem review ~ A Reading of Mujahyd Ameen Lilo’s BORNO ~ Atoyebi Oluwafemi Akin

Pic: Aminu S Muhammad

The essentiality of any literary piece is in its accessibility to readers, for the writer anticipates that there are readers for his work. However, poetry is often considered to be one genre of literature enjoyed by a cerebral few, who often than not are armed with the mechanical requisite for its appreciation. This supposition is drawn upon the assertion that poetry is esoteric in nature and as such can only be enjoyed by a limited group of readers who are sometimes fellow poets. Although, there are others who believe that since poetry reflects and represents emotion and reality of human societies, it is only rational that those who constitute the influences of such representation should be able to partake in the appreciation of the poeticization of their lives rendered in poems. It is lieu of this assertion that Niyi Osundare in his meta-poem “Poetry Is” avers that a poem should be accessible to the layman on the street, the laborer, market woman and farmer. For only in the masses’ accessibility of a poem would the poet be said to have truly communicated. In other words, since literature is a rendition of a society with its attendant complexities aimed at engineering consciousness in the readers, it becomes imperative that the reader is able to enjoy and understand the poetic representation of his society, since the poet provides an alternative perspective to how the world is viewed.
Mujahyd Ameen Lilo
In the light of the foregoing, Borno by Mujahyd Ameen Lilo can be appraised base on the existential issues it raises in a simple language and sturdy metaphors. There are many qualities to be considered in Lilo’s poem.  Borno is a pastoral poem that reminisces on the pleasures of rural life in contrast with the pretentions of urban or city life. One of the many uniqueness of the poem is the poet’s genius achieved by the careful conception of the title of the poem and ensuing conversation that takes place in the poem. The reader, at the first encounter with the title of the poem could conclude that the poem is going to be another lamentation of the chaos that has become synonymous with the ancient empire now regarded as Nigeria’s theatre of war. In a pleasant surprise, the poem disappoints the reader who approaches it with prejudice, as the poem instead x-rays the existential issues occasioned by the imbalance caused by the conflict in the state. It succeeds in raising the consciousness of the reader through the persona of ‘Adamu’ as a synecdoche for Nigerians, it employs situational irony to remind its reader of the real issues when the persona says;

Write me not of the
chameleonic nature of Lagos
nor of its seeming a spiderweb…

Also, the poem is rich in its use of images to allow for a luxurious interpretation of the challenges, socio-political and economic banes. With the employment of the ‘twin hills in Kano’ ‘spiderweb’ ‘smell of Biafra’ ‘green grasses in Plateau’, the poem passes great images that could really spur the reflectivity of its reader. He reveals Adamu as a Nigerian, born and raised in the locality ‘Plateau’. Subsequently, the poet repositions his poetic lens back to Bornu to first speak about its natural/climatic ordeal in several seasons like the raining season in August and its consequential effects on the environment. He was able to capture this when he said;

Its August that is greenish
With spirogyra sprouting on uncommented

The poet likewise portrays the accompanied difficulty and unpalatable scenery that ensues during the dry season; the harmattan scourge, meningitides among others. The poem captures the attending drought that marries their plantation and how their river and water banks are gulped by the native beast of the land –dry season. Again, it is important to note that the attendant images employed in the poem transcend mere articulation of the ordeals that defines Northern Nigeria. What intellectual or economic value can the reader draw out of what has already been established by the geographers, astrologists and weather forecasters repeated in the poem, if not the synonymous characteristics of the images employed as the socio-economic and political woes that have bedeviled the region? The poem ends on sad note in what could be regarded as an extended metaphor;

Write me about how it now becomes a
House where ghosts play hide and seek,
Spiders weave webs

The note on which this poem ends speaks on how the land –Borno has turned to a theatre for the evil ‘ghosts’ and good ‘ghosts’, hence becoming a desolate land;

Spider weave webs

In conclusion, the aesthetics elements in the poem are inexhaustible. The attendant simple language, thematic preoccupation, style and the enormous deployment of images are testimony to its uniqueness and the genius of the poet.


Atoyebi Oluwafemi Akin
Atoyebi7@yahoo.com; 07033748882
Center for Performing Arts and Film studies in Education Osogbo


  1. Adepoju Isaiah (Ijaya)13 April 2020 at 13:55

    The reviewer (I believe) must have been ouched every nook and cranny of the poem, though I haven't read the poem twice or thrice, but I believe in evidences of this genius reviewer, he touched those wounds that the poet sought to heal, and he wasn't going easy on those hard grounds the poet wished to break.


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