26 C
Friday, September 22, 2023

Poetic Devices in The Leader and the Led [with Examples]

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

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.

1. Symbolism

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
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE TO READ: Language and Style in Unexpected Joy at Dawn by Agyei–Agyiri

2. Simile

Another poetic device that runs through the leader and the led is simile. This is found in lines 16, 21 & 22. The poet makes use of this direct comparison as an effective description of the Nigerian reality. Simile is often marked by the use of “as” and “like.”

For instance, the poet uses simile and describes the Nigerian masses as thrashing around
“like a snake without a head.” This expression does not only point of to lack of good leadership, but also the vague state of the masses.

See also  Ecofeminism in "Yellow-Yellow"

Other evident use of simile in the poem include: “Tough like a tiger, compassionate like a doe” (line 21) and “Transparent like a river, mysterious like a lake” (line 22) which the poet uses to propose the leadership traits and virtue that an ideal Nigerian leader must have.

See also  Creative Use of Language and Style in "The Lion and the Jewel"

3. Metaphor

Niyi Osundare also makes efficient use of metaphor in the leader and the led. Here are a few examples from the poem:

  • Hybrid of habits (Line 17): This refers to the ensemble of leadership traits and virtues that a good leader should have.
  • Forest Sage (Line 18): This represents the “voice of reason and wisdom” who knows what is best for the suffering masses, as a result of his vast experience and age. The “forest” is also used as a metaphorical term to refer to Nigeria in the poem.
  • The Lamb (Line 20): It is used metaphorically to mean the flexibility, temperance.
  • The Paws (line 4): This connotes the oppressive and unfavourable policies and decisons of the Nigerian government which plungs the masses into more woes.

4. Paradox

The last stanza of “The leader and the Led” is a very good example of the paradox. This poetic device seeks to establish a fact, even though it appears to be self-contradictory. The reader may even term it nonsensical or ridiculous, but it is the reality.

“A leader who knows how to follow
Followers mindful of their right to lead.” (lines 23 & 24)

A question that comes easily to the mind is, how is possible is it for someone to be a leader and still be a follower at the same time? Well, that is supposed to be the case in any society, including Nigeria where the poem is set.

Political leaders, and of course anyone who wants to occupy leadership positions must first see themselves as a servant of the people before they considering themselves as leaders. This again adds humility to the good qualities that an ideal leader possesses.

5. Parallelism

This is easily one of the poetic devices that contributed to the structure of the poem. The stanzas 10 and 11, especially are significant in this regard. Let’s examine them below.

“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”

When you study the above lines carefully, you will see that the lines are patterned exactly the same way. The only difference is the separate words and the meanings they convey.

See also  Alapata Apata: Dramatising the Nigerian Saga (Themes)— Review I

6. Couplet

Also, among the poetic devices used in The Leader and the Led is couplet. This simply refers to a stanza of two lines. Apparently, this poem has 12 stanzas, each stanza is made up of 2 lines; making 24 lines altogether.

7. Alliteration

Niyi Osundare is popular for the musicality of his poems. In the leader and the led also, he uses alliteration as a poetic device to create a kind of rhythm when the reader reads it aloud.

Below is the list of alliteration found in the poem:

  •  “Pounce … paws” (line 4)
  • “rhino … riotous” (line 14),
  • “hybrid … habits” (line 17)
  • “tough … tiger”   (line 21)

8. Irony

Another important figure of speech found in the poem is Irony. The poet exemplifies this poetic device using the Giraffe. Obviously, this kind of animal has long neck and stretches it to whatever length.

However, its significance to the poem lies in the fact that the representative of the people are far from the people; they are disconnected from the people’s reality, and practices absentee leadership. This particular aspect of the poem is making reference to Nigerian legislators who only visits their constituency once every four years.

See also  Art for Activism: A Thematic Analysis of "Purple Hibiscus"

SEE ALSO: Detailed Analysis of The Lion and the Jewel by Wole Soyinka

Full Poem: “The Leader and the Led” by Niyi Osundare

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.

Did you like this post? We hope so. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. You can also tell us the book you want us to review next.

- Advertisement -
Naija Banquethttps://naijabanquet.com
Naija Banquet is a Nigerian website that publishes quality content on Literature, entertainment, lifestyle, people, and places. It is a platform that dwells on the rich culture and artistry of the NIgerian people across genres.
Latest news
- Advertisement -
Related Post
- Advertisement -


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

%d bloggers like this: