Reflecting on Nigeria’s oil: A critique of Niyi Osundare’s ‘Oily Blues’

  • What will Nigeria do when oil has passed

    out of favour? What shall we hold as lasting

    gains from many decades of oil wealth?

    …very soon, the world will tell Nigeria to

    drink its crude oil

    Oil was discovered in Nigeria in 1956 at Oloibiri in the Niger Delta after half a century exploration. The discovery was made by Shell-BP, at the time the soil concessionaire. Nigeria joined the ranks of oil producers in 1958 when its first oil field came on stream producing 5,100 Pd. The discovery, in due course, revolutionised the Nigerian economy. Today, Nigeria has risen to become Africa’s biggest oil producer. However, what the Nigerian government has done with the gains accrued from many decades of oil wealth is a question on the lips of the Nigerian masses. The oil boom, thanks to the insensitivity of the government, has become a curse, rather than a blessing, to the masses. The oil wealth is only concentrated in the hands of few cabals. Rather than enjoying the natural gift, the Nigerian masses have only been victims of oil spillage, gas flaring, and so on.

    The irresponsibility of the leadership of the nation to positively utilise this natural endowment for the benefits of all is what Niyi Osundare captures in ‘Oily Blues’.

    ‘Oily Blues’ is a satiric poem lampooning the Nigerian government’s handling of the oil sector. The poem commences on a note of prophecy. The persona prophesies the invention of ‘the green car’ that consumes no oil—a ‘super-dry engine that gulps no gas’ and ‘drinks no diesel’. Moreover, the poet-persona hints on the death of the epoch of oil and the coming of another epoch, the oil-free epoch where oil becomes completely useless. Finally, the poem folds up with a rhetorical question demanding to know what Nigeria would boast of achieving with the oil wealth when the oil-free epoch finally comes.

    Structurally, ‘Oily Blues’ is a thirty-line poem garnished with apt imagery and repetition. A stimulating instance is the vivid tactile imagery that pictures the coming of the ‘green car’. The image is so vivid and gripping that one could feel the cruising of the ‘coming-soon’ car. Good use of repetition also helps emphasise the importance of the theme of the poem—it particularly emphasises the coming of an era when oil would become useless; ‘Another epoch is ending/ another world a-burning/say, another world is a-borning’.

    With this poem, one cannot but refer to Niyi Osundare as a prophetic poet. The current fall in oil price is nothing but an indication of the fact that the oil era is fastly fading. What some have comforted themselves with over the years is that the oil cannot dry off. Well, assuming it doesn’t, what if it becomes useless, as it is vastly becoming? The poet has spoken, the prophet has spoken: ‘…very soon, the world will tell Nigeria to/drink its crude oil’.

No Stickers to Show


Recent Articles

  • Nostalgia, flaw and fear: Recognizing red flags in a relationship

    Posted Jul 30

    Jenny met Hassan at a party, they clicked instantly, and before they knew it, their friendship blossomed into something else. After much persuasion from Hassan, Jenny finally agreed to move in with him. Everything was all roses and rainbows until it started; Hassan didn...

  • Domestic violence: Why the victims stay

    Posted Jul 29

    To what can we liken domestic violence? An insidious virus or a fast-acting poison? Either way, domestic violence has far-reaching, and often, fatal effects. This is why society always condemns it and also why we ask the obvious question every time, “Why does she...

  • Two souls in a single body: A journey into the mind of a solo writer

    Posted Jul 25

    The writer and I are two souls sharing a single body, and I can safely say it is the most confusing relationship I have ever been in my entire life; the same thing that gives me life seems to have a way of taking a little from everything it has given me. As writers, we ...

  • Data structure and algorithm: A brief explanation of binary search and arrays

    Posted Jul 25

    Data is all we hear these days. From our Facebook usage to our daily rant on Twitter, is a common knowledge that we input tons of data as well as get a lot of it every second we use our devices – even if it doesn’t make sense to us, at least that’s wha...

View All

Random Articles

  • How to stop students from harassing teachers

    Posted November 6, 2017

    An unwanted behaviour including nonverbal, verbal, written, graphic, sexual, or physical nature that is directed at an individual or group by race, sex, or national origin is termed harassment. But harassment is not about all about gender, race, color, or ethnicity but ...

  • Naming in the Yoruba culture

    Posted December 19, 2016

    “What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name shall smell as well”—William Shakespeare The above quote by the renowned English poet/playwright, William Shakespeare, underplays the significance of names. It sees the relationship betwe...

  • Tips for getting better grades in exams

    Posted November 17, 2016

    Every serious minded student feels dejected and frustrated with consistent poor grades in exams. Nevertheless, frustration or dejection is just a mere emotional reaction which cannot stop failure; it only causes what I call “multiple failures”—tha...

  • 10 postgraduate school survival tips

    Posted June 12, 2017

    The primary goal of a postgraduate school is to make their students expert in their chosen professional fields. Your graduate school is not only a unique experience, but it is also filled with stress due to deadlines, workload, grades along with other worldly ...

View All