My Lord, Tell Me Where To Keep Your Bribe: Niyi Osundare’s poem on Nigerian corruption

Nduta Waweru June 12, 2018
Professor Niyi Osundare. Photo: Guardian Nigeria

Corruption is a huge problem in Africa. And since art reflects life, it has been covered in many works of art whether novels, poems, visual arts and even theatre and movies.

Niyi Osundare is a prolific poet, dramatist and literary critic from Nigeria. The Professor of English at University of New Orleans, USA, has 18 poetry books to his name, tackling issues such as identity, politics and everyday issues affecting the developing world.

Osundare tackles the issue of corruption in My Lord, Tell Me Where To Keep Your Bribe? The poem is a satirical take on how corruption is perpetrated by the same people that are required to prosecute criminals and protect the people.

In the poem, he uses many references to the mindless flaunting of wealth in as well as the proliferation of crimes right under the authorities’ nose. He says:

The “last hope of the common man”

Has become the last bastion of the criminally rich

As the poem goes on, he highlights how greed has been prioritised over the common good. He also highlights hypocrisy and impunity that has seen the destruction of Nigeria, calling the country a ‘huge corpse; on which maggots prey on.

Read the poem here:

My Lord, Tell Me Where To Keep Your Bribe?

My Lord

   Please tell me where to keep your bribe?
Do I drop it in your venerable chambers
Or carry the heavy booty to your immaculate mansion

Shall I bury it in the capacious water tank
In your well laundered backyard
Or will it breathe better in the septic tank
Since money can deodorize the smelliest crime

Shall I haul it up the attic
Between the ceiling and your lofty roof
Or shall I conjure the walls to open up
And swallow this sudden bounty from your honest labour

Shall I give a billion to each of your paramours
The black, the light, the Fanta-yellow
They will surely know how to keep the loot
In places too remote for the sniffing dog

Or shall I use the particulars
Of your anonymous maidservants and manservants
With their names on overflowing bank accounts
While they famish like ownerless dogs

Shall I haul it all to your village
In the valley behind seven mountains
Where potholes swallow up the hugest jeep
And Penury leaves a scar on every house

My Lord
It will take the fastest machine
Many, many days to count this booty; and lucky bank bosses
May help themselves to a fraction of the loot

My Lord
Tell me where to keep your bribe?

My Lord
Tell me where to keep your bribe?

The “last hope of the common man”
Has become the last bastion of the criminally rich
A terrible plague bestrides the land
Besieged by rapacious judges and venal lawyers

Behind the antiquated wig
And the slavish glove
The penguin gown and the obfuscating jargon
Is a rot and riot whose stench is choking the land

Behind the rituals and roted rigmaroles
Old antics connive with new tricks
Behind the prim-and-proper costumes of masquerades
Corruption stands, naked, in its insolent impunity

For sale to the highest bidder
 Interlocutory and perpetual injunctions
Opulent criminals shop for pliant judges
Protect the criminal, enshrine the crime

And Election Petition Tribunals
Ah, bless those goldmines and bottomless booties!
Scoundrel vote-riggers romp to electoral victory
All hail our buyable Bench and conniving Bar

A million dollars in Their Lordship’s bedroom
A million euros in the parlor closet
Countless naira beneath the kitchen sink
Our courts are fast running out of Ghana-must-go’s*

The “Temple of Justice”
Is broken in every brick
The roof is roundly perforated
By termites of graft

My Lord
Tell me where to keep your bribe?

Judges doze in the courtroom
Having spent all night, counting money and various “gifts”
And the Chief Justice looks on with tired eyes
As Corruption usurps his gavel.

Crime pays in this country
Corruption has its handsome rewards
Just one judgement sold to the richest bidder
Will catapult Judge & Lawyer to the Billionaires’ Club

The Law, they say, is an ass
Sometimes fast, sometimes slow
But the Law in Nigeria is a vulture
Fat on the cash-and-carry carrion of murdered Conscience

Won gb’ebi f’alare
     Won gb’are f’elebi**
They kill our trust in the common good
These Monsters of Mammon in their garish gowns

Unhappy the land
Where jobbers are judges
Where Impunity walks the streets
Like a large, invincible Demon

Come Sunday, they troop to the church
Friday, they mouth their mantra in pious mosques
But they pervert Justice all week long
And dig us deeper into the hellish hole

Nigeria is a huge corpse
With milling maggots on its wretched hulk
They prey every day, they prey every night
For the endless decomposition of our common soul

My Most Honourable Lord
Just tell me where to keep your bribe.

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: June 12, 2018


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