by Isaiah Adepoju
Ojo Olumide Emmanuel is a writer, teacher and a spoken word artist. He volunteered as a Radio Presenter with Ultimate FM 103.9, Campus Radio, College of Education Minna on the Poetry/Spoken Word Show ‘Voices of the Pen’. He is a librarian/ Mentor/Workshop Facilitator at the Hilltop Creative Arts Foundation in Niger State.
His works have appeared and forthcoming at Writers Egg magazine, INNSAEL, Bollman bridge Review, Fetal, Quills, The Nigerian Review (TNR) LitVo, Pictorial Poetry Coffee Book (Expanding Horizons), Raindrop of Love, Writers’ Space Africa (WSA) and elsewhere.
He was longlisted for the Nigerian Student Poetry Prize (2020) and shortlisted for the Arojah Student Playwriting Prize (2020). He is a joint winner of Poets in Nigeria 10-Days Poetry Challenge (May,2019) and winner of Poet Choice Award of the Rotaract Club of Churchgate, India.
He is currently the curator of Wakaso Prize for poetry and Abubakar Gimba Prize for Short Fiction, and is an alumnus of SprinNG Writers Fellowship.
Adepoju Isaiah: Good Day Mr. Olumide, I welcome you to Tribesmen Magazine, where we seek to tell the African story the African way. Speaking of the African way, tell us some African words you have learned aside Hausa and Yoruba.
Olumide Ojo: Na ƙù penda (I love you) in Swahili and it's my pleasure chatting with you.
Adepoju Isaiah: It's a pleasure too. Tell us about yourself in few words and whether you're political or apolitical.
Olumide Ojo: I am OJO Olumide Emmanuel. I am a teacher by training. A published poet and art administrator. I fancy politics but love to watch from afar.
Adepoju Isaiah: Do you enjoy politicalness in poetry– i.e, concentricity of poetry on politics? Is ascetic Protestantism as a form of supplication to self and society similar to political activism?
Olumide Ojo: We cannot pretend to ignore the fact that politics affect our personal and corporate existence. We all have political leanings and we try to propagate our views in line with what we consider nascent as far as politics is concerned. Poetry concentrating on politics or protesting against certain political anomalies is not out of place. Writers have been arrested and jailed for writing certain things that did not sit well with the leaders, or morbidity, therein. How do you expect poetry with quiet supplication? The writer is a standby mirror, a witness of/to the society and his duties include corking his quills in protest when tyranny threatens the solidarity of the state. You have heard that the quietness of the good people is insulin in the blood of a tyrant? This supplication is both to self and to society. You cannot eject an artist from himself and his society.
You cannot detach humans from politics. Our various families are the lowest form of politics. We may pretend not to have political affiliations but we share minor sentiments with those in governance so we are all social and political animals, according to Aristotle.
Adepoju Isaiah: Are those political poems resplendent in your poetry collection, Supplication For Years in Sand?
Olumide Ojo: Very well. Poems like Blacklives (pg25), Father Is A Silent Talkative (pg 46) and #End Everything Wrong (pg47-48) explored the issues mentioned above.
Adepoju Isaiah: I read Elliot's Aronson's analysis of humans as social animals; how prone to sociopathy and 'unhuman' we can be without the perpetual commandeering of legal institutions, or common way of social relation that control those acts.
When I read the first poem, Bizarre, I became as grieved as the persona. I realize that all through the collection, you've given preference to the urchin. While I detest humanism as philosophy, I believe all social classes deserve attention. Have you given preference to the lower class? And, how do you choose whom to write for?
Olumide Ojo: I like to explain that poetry as a vortex between man's consciousness and his soul. Since the soul is the most intelligent part of man, the voice in the poem is perhaps not representing anybody; rather it is speaking for itself. That grief is another way we can understand our humanity, that we are all broken at some points and healings may not even come handy even we don't strive to let it out in words.
Life is about breaking and growing our boundaries. If we must renew our world, the artist must aggregate the thinking of the society into a model that works for everyone. The artist is a surgeon for every sickness of the universe
Adepoju Isaiah: Beautiful answer. One universal truth all humans and animals answer to is pain, then we grieve, then we reminisce, just as all these things are inevitable, it's also imperative for the creative artist to question the status quo and try to forge new perspectives on things.
Adepoju Isaiah: Are the poems in your collection inextricably linked?
In your poem, Hearing the Wind, the 21st poem in the collection is not a Supplication for Years in Sand; it's rather a Prophecy for Years in Sand. Ritualistic; as Okigbo's Elegy for Alto. In writing the collection and choosing the poetic title, did you intend to follow a specific pattern of supplicating or is it just an eponymous title for the collection?
Olumide Ojo: Supplication is an intimate kind of prayer. Its prayers are sediments to prophecy. The work may not follow similar order but they are interlinked by the common purpose of a willing to live, be heard. The poems are people with voice, sharing their personal experiences. I was following any pattern in the titles; they are just different poems calling each other within almost the same period.
Adepoju Isaiah: You are a volunteer at Ultimate FM (103.9), Minna, how's the program? What do you do?
Olumide Ojo: I no longer volunteer with them. Nevertheless, the program is a spoken word and poetry program where we bisect, dissect and analyze everything creative. We talk about literary works, we meet the authors to discuss their works, we promote their works on radio and above all we attend literary programs and inform our listeners on the latest happening in the literary world.
Adepoju Isaiah: How have those periods influenced Supplication for Years in Sand?
Olumide Ojo: Supplication For Years in Sands didn't really come from my work as a radio presenter even though my work then made me read more and get to meet brilliant minds out there. I'd say the work came during my writers’ fellowship at SprinNG. I was attached to a mentor who'd see that I complete my readings, write and ensure they are corrected. I communed more with silence, listened to my inner self and it was easy for the poem to drip as an overflow of my life experiences.
Adepoju Isaiah: I find your choice of words in the collection rather exquisite. Examples as: I sun, I moon; we may Noah again etc. The latter line made use of metonymy and biblical allusion. For the latter – "We may Noah again" – has the question of interpretation bothered you, considering that your book is published in the North?
Olumide Ojo: Firstly, I wasn't writing for the north. I was writing for humans. Even in Islam the character of Noah exists. Noah represents flood in the work and within the context of the poem, one can deduce that.
Adepoju Isaiah: Do you have a poem in the collection that you have predilection for?
Olumide Ojo: Yeah. I think Adun on page 42 and 43. It captured my longing for love and what names mean to me in the overall interpretation of love. The poem was like a coronation for a woman I haven't met as at the time of writing the work.
Adepoju Isaiah: May you always find love.
Olumide Ojo: Amen