Niyi Osundare is a prominent Nigerian writer, activist and professor of literature. Most of his writings dwells on theme of leadership failure, man’s inhumanity to man, oppression of the masses, etc. Being a skillful writer, however, Osundare attempts an analysis of Nigeria’s leadership and events that mark every election year in the country using various poetic devices in “The Leader and the Led.”
This post discusses the poetic devices and figures of speech in “The Leader and the Led”; these include, Symbolism, Metaphor, Simile, Paradox, Alliteration, etc. Hence you are in the right place to get a detailed analysis of the poem.
But before we begin the analysis, do not forget that the poem is a satire. Hence, it does not only aim at exposing the flaws, follies and vices of Nigerian leadership, but also tries to build a better society.
Now, let’s get into it!
Poetic Devices/Figures of Speech in “The Leader and The Led”
Below is the is the explanation on the figures of speech found in the poem by Niyi Osundare.
Symbolism simply means representing abstract ideas with concrete objects, people or animals. In the poem, Niyi Osundare describes the kind of politicians and leaders that contest for public offices in Nigeria.
In the Leader and the Led, the poet uses animal symbols like Lion, hyena, Giraffe, Zebra and the Elephant to represent the calibre of politicians that contest in Nigerian elections. According the poem, these sects of leaders are not only oppressive, self-centered, and inept, they are also an enemy to the masses.
Here is a summary of the use symbols in the leader and led poem by Niyi Osundare:
- “Lion” represents military leaders in civilian uniform
- “Hyena” is a symbol for
- “Giraffe” refers to absentee leaders
- “Zebra” points to brutal and oppressive leaders
- “Elephants” represents the seasoned and “veteran” politicians
- “pack” refers to the suffering masses
- “Antelope” also refers to the vicitim of the military brutality
The Lion stakes his claim
To the leadership of the pack
But the Antelopes remember
The ferocious pounce of his paws
The hyena says the crown is made for him
But the Impalas shudder at his lethal appetite
The Giraffe craves a place in the front
But his eyes are too far from the ground
When the Zebra says it’s his right to lead
The pack points to the duplicity of his stripes
The Elephant trudges into the power tussle
But its colleagues dread his trampling feet
The warthog is too ugly
The rhino too riotous
And the pack thrashes around
Like a snake without a head
“Our need calls for a hybrid of habits”,
Proclaims the Forest Sage,
“A little bit of a Lion
A little bit of a Lamb
Tough like a tiger, compassionate like a doe
Transparent like a river, mysterious like a lake
A leader who knows how to follow
Followers mindful of their right to lead”
The Leader and the led is a satirical poem by Niyi Osundare; It dwells on the state of oppressive leadership and poor governance in Nigeria. Using appropraite poetic devices and figures of speech, the poet is able to expose the face of leaders that bring Nigerians woes every year. These include, symbolism, metaphor, simile, paradox, irony, alliteration as discussed in this post.
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