Chris Jibero

(Ugbawka)

Adieu Jose Joseph


(A tribute to Mr Jose Joseph, aged just 29 years,
an Indian colleague of mine at Women Teachers’ College, Numan,
who died mysteriously in his car while travelling to Sokoto.)

Eardrums are shattered
Making us dumbstruck
Rooted where we are planted
Gaping like lifeless hapless stubble
In a violated African forest
For a monstrous bomb is detonated
Right in front of us
Leaving us incapacitated
And complaint to only sign language
As though we doubted Gabriel
As Zacharias

Gone, gone, gone too soon
A sudden departure with neither an inkling
Nor a notice
But an anxiety-creating
And speculation-engendering
Mid afternoon circular
That summons us to an emergency briefing
As though we are soulless zombies
Sets the tone for this miserable moment
A day laden with excess luggage of anguish
A breaking news that breaks our hearts
For a precious jewel, one of us,
Has left us unceremoniously

Is it an accident
A murder
Or a suicide?
No one can tell
Only questions, questions and many more questions
Without corresponding right answers
Conjectures abound
With gossip
That follows the scornful to funerals
Especially when a youth is the deceased
But none can make up for our colossal loss
For this is a heartrending exit
From a deprecating revolving podium

And like the deaf and dumb
In whose mouths is no reproof
We move in a motorcade to retrieve your remains
From your transit port
For your onward journey
To your final resting place
An eyesore is your charred Volkswagen Beetle
Standing morose as a defeated Are-ona-kakanfo
In front of Cham Primary School
What a life, a teacher kissing the world bye before a school!
Far from Sokoto, your scheduled destination,
Where a man’s property turns to his enemy
The heartless grill that roasts him
Like poorly prepared suya
And disgusting is the molehill
Which is your temporary custodian
That soon begins to attack our eyes rapidly
As numbing and repulsive bits and pieces
Of your decomposing members
Frolicking with flesh-munching maggots
The unabashed beneficiaries of our incalculable loss
Emerge with the excavator’s fiddling fork
After every rummaging in the pit of pain
Exhuming some despicable flesh which stabs
Our tear-sodden eyes ruthlessly with horror
Fit to replicate Gorgon Medusa a thousand fold
Having slain our appetite for barbecue
And depositing in a casket made for a giant
Remains reduced far below that of a dwarf
Now in the rank of a gaunt goat
Dressed during a severe drought
For a few malnourished infants
As their Passover feast

Gallons of disinfectant
And jars of perfume
Are incompetent to suppress the stubborn stench
Oozing from the hole of hell
Bombarding intimidated noses stripped of protection
And sense of smell
As torrential tears pour on rosy cheeks
From eyes combating terror
That erodes all comfort and comeliness

Lamentations fill the air
Your relatives ask amidst sobs,
Why? Why? And uncountable whys?
Your students shrill and whimper like babies
Jettisoned to perish in airless carton-chalets
By starry-eyed teenage girls of easy virtue
And your colleagues weep, wail and gnash teeth
Wondering aloud why every man is assigned a brief role
On the interminable whimsical stage of life

Grief quickly expands
Being as infectious as laughter
When sincere souls are gathered in mourning
Trees choke under tons of carbon dioxide generated by pain
As they stand at attention like soldiers on ceremonial parade
In honour of their general cut down by enemy bullet
And domestic animals harassed by palpable anguish
Go into hiding in solidarity with man
Wisely avoiding to invoke the wrath of their grieving owners
Who may cause them to be slaughtered, dressed and boiled
So their warm broth could be used to resuscitate their fainted appetite
Birds postpone their usual concerts without serving a notice
Because mankind, their favourite fans, have abruptly gone deaf
And Numan town stands transfixed
Gazing vacantly like a tilapia caught by a fisherman’s hook
In River Gongola
And cast carelessly onto its fiery bank
For religion and race are cast overboard by grief
Because a shining sun has eclipsed at dawn
Adieu Jose Joseph.

(c) Chris Jibero. 1984.

Submitted: Sunday, June 16, 2013
Edited: Tuesday, July 30, 2013

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