The People Voted Their Stomach – Blues For An Arrested Renaissance, By Niyi Osundare

A-RICE, oh compatriots

Your stomach’s call obey

Say, A-RICE, oh compatriots
Your stomach’s call obey
Hold out your bowls for the golden grains
Pawn your pride without delay
Grab your bribe and dance in the street
To the Riceman’s drum and venal command
Yes, grab your bribe and dance in the streets
To the Riceman’s drum and venal command
Bend your back for his heavy ride
Your golden rice is your sole demand
The Riceman is here, your lord and saviour
Pawn your vote for his golden gift
Say, the Riceman is here, your lord and saviour
Pawn your vote for his golden gift
Eat your rice and belch like a bull
And give your guts the forgetful lift

The passage down the gullet
Is the fastest road to heaven
Yes, the passage down the gullet
Is the fastest road to heaven
To those held hostage by their shameless guts
There is no nirvana like the seething toilet
The people voted their stomach
And the dunghill usurped their future
Alas, the people voted their stomach
The dunghill embraced their future
The wounds from this blind affair
Defy the magic of the cleverest suture

II

The people voted their stomach
And the dunghill usurped their future
Alas, the people voted their stomach
The dunghill embraced their future
The wounds from this blind affair
Defy the magic of the cleverest suture
Cunning Riceman with bags
Full of tricks and daggers
Say, cunning Riceman with bags
Full of tricks and daggers
His first coming left us all
In ashes and fluttering rags
Brazen murders, strange disappearances:
His hands drip with unexpiated crimes
Yes, brazen murders, strange disappearances
His hands drip with unexpiated crimes
But he has an arsenal of cash and rice
Both so vital in these degenerate times

Rabble-rousing, clowning, scheming
Frightful intimations of Idi Amin’s pedigree
Yes, rabble-rousing, clowning, scheming
Frightful intimations of Idi Amin’s pedigree
Yesterday’s fruits still stir the leaves
On History’s bewildering tree

Here, once again,
The wild histrionics of a deadly actor
Say, here, once, again,
The wild histrionics of a deadly actor
Mindless applause from a captive audience
Chloroformed puppets of a wily victor

III

They sold their birth right
For a kongo* of rice
Alas, they sold their birth right
For a kongo of rice
This mindless commerce
Will come at a heavy price
Erstwhile Knowledge Fountain
Overgrown with Ignorance’s malignant weeds
Alas, erstwhile Knowledge Fountain
Overgrown with Ignorance’s malignant weeds
The Book, once robust, resurgent,
Has been voted out of our daily needs
They sold us a lemon; we emptied
Our bank of virtues to pay the price
Alas, they sold us a lemon; we emptied
Our bank of virtues to pay the price
The will powerful guns could not subdue
Now lies suborned by a spoonful of rice
Poverty so desperate, so demeaning,
It consumed our pride, our primal worth
Yes, Poverty, so desperate, so demeaning,
It consumed our pride, our primal worth
The pride we once extolled is vanishing fast
From the face of our stunned, corrupted earth
The people voted their stomach
And the dunghill usurped their future
Alas, the people voted their stomach
The dunghill embraced their future
The wounds from this blind affair
Defy the magic of the cleverest suture

IV

Too good for us, far too advanced
The reigning King is too high above our rot
Say, too good for us, far too advanced
The reigning King is too high above our rot
Too much bound to Excellence and Honour
And a public garment without a blot
He expends state funds on the road to the Future
He never paves the way to our bottomless stomach
Yes, he expends state funds on the road to the Future
He never paves the way to our bottomless stomach
Whoever doesn’t know in the eating world
That the gut is a grand, demanding monarch
We asked for rice, he gave us Reason
We asked for booty, he gave us the Book
Say, we asked for rice, he gave Reason
We asked for booty, he gave us a book
So we trooped all out to cast our lot
For the side of the dark and loaded crook
The Damaged Good has riced its way
To the top of the brand
Alas, the Damaged Good has riced its way
Right to the top of the brand
Our feet stand askew
On our dark and traitored land
Come again soon, oh brief Renaissance
This interlude forebodes a trembling twilight
I say, come again, brief Renaissance
This interlude forebodes a trembling twilight
Sow rainbow stars in our darkening sky
Divine another Dawn, new and bright

Niyi Osundare

*Kongo: a small tin, plastic, or calabash container used for measuring peas and grains in market sales.


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