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Good Night, Nike Adesuyi: So Long a Night!

Image courtesy Unoma Azuah

Image courtesy Unoma Azuah

CYCLES
(For Nosa)

Days come,
Days go,
Each writes a distinct
Paragraph in the essay
of our lives.

Some wield knives of disillusion; lacerate
the skin of fate and
every drop of blood
imprisons the light of life

These sombre-purple days
Our dreams like cotton
Balls scatter in the wind
Untouchable,
Ungatherable,

Cotton-ball dreams flit
Across our heads,
Above our reach.

But these days die.

And some days
Wear crowns
Of rainbow promises

Plant hopes seeds
In the valley of our hearts
And faith’s lacerated skin
Heals, tended by hope

On these days
We know we can

Touch the moon,
And the sun,
Grow lengthy grass
On the sky’s unending face

On such days
We re-word living
With metaphors of silver
And these days live

And die…


By Nike Adesuyi
—————

I first met Nike Adesuyi at the University of Ibadan (U.I.) in the mid 1980s. I may not remember the exact occasion of meeting her but there was something magical about that meeting that I looked forward to seeing more of her. She was quiet in a loud kind of way; beautiful in a subdued fashion that called attention more to her being than to her appearance. Her unpretentious personality belied her crackling wit and shy imagination that crept out of their shells once she was comfortable enough to let her guards down with you as a friend. And I was fortunate to call her my friend, to have been up-close with her, and to have shared some significant chapters of our long, and as yet unwritten story, as undergraduate students at Unibadan’s Department of English.

Nike was very much a girl, and some kind of feminist, but she was more “masculine” than some men whose claim to manhood rests on their restless crotches. She was, as the balladic R&B singer Lionel Ritchie would croon, “two-times a lady”. Not only was Nike the pillar of her family having lost her dad under mysterious circumstances. She was also a cornerstone of our male-dominated literary circle at U.I. those days called the Thursday Group, of which our dear lecturer and patron saint then, Harry Garuba, had formally introduced in the anthology, Voices from the Fringe (1988). And no one thought of her as a girl. We seemed to have been gender neutral, and would spend endless nights talking poetry, reading poetry, debating ideas and dreaming the future. Those were long nights escorted with fine wines and the newest lines some member had written. But above all, there was that halo above our heads that Harry Garuba identifies as “tortured souls poets” held hostage by “tortured sensibilities.” The poems produced by members of the group were so profoundly somber and haunting reflections on life that they could have fitted into songs for funeral processions. The greatest influence on the group was the mythmaker and towncrier at Heavensgate: Christopher Okigbo, who stood naked before Mother Idoto, a prodigal.

Besides the Shadow and Dream with which Harry Garuba knitted the group together in the 1980s and early 1990s, other members who contributed to the Group’s memories include: Chiedu Ezeanah; Remi Raji; Sesan Ajayi; Afam Akeh; Frank Uche Mowah;  Onookome Okome; Godwin (Amatoritsero) Ede; Emevwho Biakolo; David Diai; Sola Olorunyomi; Lolade Bamidele; Simon Berete; Nehru Ode; Franklyn Ikhinmwin, and other moonwalkers who graced the Thursdays poetry readings of the Ibadan Poetry Club and the annual Christopher Okigbo poetry festival.

remembrances-for-nikeLooking back now, it was an extremely masculine group. And I am straining to recall the female members of the group besides associate members such as Funmilayo Dukiya, Yebo Ademolakun, and Ogom Aniemeke, etc. Of the sprinkling of female members of the group, the most visible and perhaps more memorable in terms of her presence in the group was Nike Adesuyi. She was not just active in the group; she was its powerhouse at some point, as Dave Diai, poet and publisher of Flashpoint newspaper recalls in a chat with Chux Ohai for an article recently published in The Punch: “She was one of our best and brightest students; a leading member of our English Dept Debate team, the Idoto Magazine Editorial Board and the Poetry club.”

It was no surprise, then, that when some of us graduated from Ibadan and moved to Lagos where Nike lived for the most part of her life, our literary paths continued to cross. We met at the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) House in Surulere, Lagos, and even more regularly at Iya Ijebu’s Bukka in Apapa, where we held impromptu literary salons with a string of writers that included Uzor Maxim Uzoatu, Adewale Maja Pearce, Toni Kan, Obi Nwakanma, Chiedu Ezeanah, and so many others. I was the founder and Editor of The Post Express Literary Supplement (PELS) then, and later, General Secretary of ANA. I counted on Nike’s support, and she was happy to support with editing, a skill that she was so blessed with you wondered why she didn’t choose to make a living from it. Nike, had a bird’s eye view on scripts, and would enrich any copy you gave her with refreshing insights and her mastery of English syntax and grammar.

Nike’s sensitivity to the feminist question was most manifest in her association with guys in what some may have seen from a tomboy-ish lens—with no pun intended. She was hardly ever defensive in the male-crowded company in which she often found herself; a measure of her success in carrying herself with dignity was in the fact that she was hardly ever disrespected. Yet, her “womanist” sensitivity was acute enough that she was an active member of Women Writers Association of Nigeria (WRITA), and indeed held an executive position.

The outpouring of tributes to Nike on social media has been so remarkable that until her demise, not many people realized how deeply and how widely such a seemingly quiet and self-effacing woman had touched many hearts. In death, she is like a rock star; in life, she was a scented flower you smelt before sighting. Why diseases do not respect even the most precious bodies I do not know; oftentimes we are confronted by the sad cliche that bad things happen to good people.

The news of her passing came to me from our common friend, Utibe Ukim, with whom Nike worked at Workstation, an excellent one-stop media production company that some of us have enjoyed their services. It seemed inevitable that Nike would remain in a career that required continuous challenge to the imagination. The creative arts were the veins that coursed through her body, and it was no surprise that she married another creative spirit and photographer, Amaize Ojeikere.

Incidentally, it was at Workstation that Nike and I had the last and closest working relationship just before I left Nigeria for Canada in 2006 for a second life after a one-and-a-half decade career in journalism. Initially, we worked on some editions of ANA Review during my years as General Secretary of the Association; then on the publication of the anthology Camouflage: The Best of Contemporary Writing from Nigeria which I co-edited with Odoh Diego Okenyodo (published by Treasure Books, managed by the poet and journalist, Nengi Ilagha). In those instances, I experienced Nike’s loyalty to friendship and sacrifice to excellence. She would spend production nights with the production crew that included Matthias Achibong and our “boss’, Utibe.

It’s hard writing a tribute to friends you have closely associated with, knowing how much their death reminds you of how the death knell perpetually tolls for you as well. Nike’s passing around the same age as I lost my precious sister Phil via the agency of Nigeria’s notorious roads and crashes, is an eloquent testimony to the transience of life. What is even more disturbing about her death is the idea that she could have had better care had she lived in a country with the appropriate medical infrastructure for citizens’ health and well-being.

Birthdays should not be for dying. But our most dear friend, poet, and Workstation goddess, Adenike Adesuyi Ojeikere (1968 – 2016), left this tortured plane virtually on her birthday. Nike, forever smiling and lighting up a scene as if she were born without worries, died to create more awareness about the cold claws of Cancer in a country with little care about it. Today, we celebrate her heroic life and fight. Today, we sign her name on the leaves of fate and sing her memories to a thousand echoes from beyond. Nike may have passed on, but she lives in our tongues and hearts! In death, as in living, Nike’s voice still rings with that quiet wisdom that defines the best of humanity.

Now I invoke you, Nike, as you write in the haunting lines below that I am glad I secured from you for Camouflage—given your regrettable capacity to lose your poems. Rest in Peace beautiful soul as poetry extinguishes the diseases and pains that punctuate life on our ethereal plane. Rest in peace.

(This tribute was read on behalf of the author by the poet and journalist Nengi Ilagha at REMEMBERANCES: An Afternoon of Readings & Tributes for Adenike Adesuyi Ojeikere. The event was held on Saturday, October 22, 2016 at CCA, 9 McEwen Street, off Herbert Macaulay Way, Sabo-Lagos.)

—————

SELECTED POEMS BY NIKE ADESUYI OJEIKERE

remembrances-for-nike-sm

THE AWAKENING

1
Dawn sauntered into the clouds
A mischievous yolk of gold
With it you came adorned as dawn
In gilded anklets of nonchalance

Dusk rides a sober horse today
And your eyelids cannot conceal
Their antimony of guilt
The unfilled cups of desire waiting
for fulfilment in the patient dusk
Now run over with the vinegar of hurt

How will you right your wrongs
Now that bile smears the sun?


By Nike Adesuyi
—————

ONCE NOT SO LONG AGO

Our mornings carnivaled

Splashed colours in
A renascence of suns

Our nights dream deaths
In toxic winds

Our suns do not wake
Our moons do not rise

We now hung shadows
As our joy recedes

But even they are faded
like jeans – gone–grey

Who will mend the tear
Dye the dream, robe the shame?

The haystack overpowers the needle
And Iyalaaro’s ways are a riddle to hounds.


By Nike Adesuyi
—————

SOLITAIRE

far away from the rhythm of Thursdays,
away from the pleasures of rhyming nights
deep in the maddening warmth of solitude
I sit silently wrapped in the comfort of a lonely night
thinking of you, the moments of meaning
the starlit nights, the sun sprayed dawns and
wishing you were here to invoke your rhythm and
your rhyme


By Nike Adesuyi
—————

YEARNING

I want to be bathed
in the sweet refreshment
that the earth knows
after prickling needles of
rain have sewn moist
stitches in the yearning garb of earth

But I am caught
In the tentacles
Of an arid storm…
And my springing tendrils
Choke in the fury of bastard winds


By Nike Adesuyi
—————

THE NEW TESTAMENT

I walk the coasts of Ibeju Lekki
White sands, a blue sea and a
Happy sun distils putrid visions

I run into the winds;
A kite buoyed on the wings of fun

I race the wind to infinity of sands and shells
Until my feet are shocked by the magic of Mammon:
Asphalt scarifies the polish of the sands like tribal marks

beyond the billowing wrapper of the sea,
in places secret to the coastal eyes,
Principalities and powers are violating
Our maiden of mercies

In Ogoni the fishes are fevered
from the typhoid of crude
Greed paints the sea black
And all the winters mourn.


By Nike Adesuyi
—————

TREASURE

In the loveboards of my heart,
I store the crockery of your affection
They will be stainless like my childhood memories
For eternity


By Nike Adesuyi
—————

MEANING COMES TO ME

When… life is like faded cloth
Steeped in the indigo of boredom

Every minute of my breath
Is a sentence of sterile sighs

my rainbow is robbed of colour and cannot arch
its bridge across the sky’s landscape

Exhaustion cramps the muscles
of my feet and they quake
at the mystery of the road,

My pores congeal with waste
And grief threatens to explode
The spaghetti-thinness of my veins

And when caterpillars of hate
Devoir the love – leaves of my heart,

I think of you
And meaning is multiplied again.


By Nike Adesuyi
—————

MOTHERING LIKE YOU

I watch you:
You make beancakes from quicksand
I watch you.

In your kitchen of dreams possibilities
Bear the infinite savour of conquest
I see you pluck clouds, tame them into beads of glamour

We are adorned with glory
With you,
Madness is a palm fruit,
Bearing the soothing
Oils of melody;
The whirlwind is but broom
Relieving the streets of its shame

Again and again,
You defy the algebra
That confounds reason

I watch you O mother of tireless fires

And in my den of doubts
Where possibilities are like game
Daring my hunger of denial
I eat the glow of you
Someday, I will be Mother Superior
Like you.


By Nike Adesuyi
—————

FREE SPIRIT

Don’t tell her to
Plough her hair into
rigid furrows of suku*

Don’t tell her to knot
Her dreams in a bun

Behind her head
She wants the wind
To whip
Her hair
And lash
And sting
And singe
Her fears
And fly
Her soul
On wings


By Nike Adesuyi
—————

SISTER SCARLET

Yours is not the aroma
That draws bees to nectar

So you smear the
Streets with myrrh
You flush gangrene
Gutters with camphor

Still murk marks you
Sepsis pollutes your secrets

I watch you pour one-way
Histories into rumour ears.

You tickle them with
The wine of astonishment

But I am astringent

I am the bile in the bees
bazaar of buzzes

I inflame memory’s hive
With the sting of recollection

I am the hidden eye
I read your deep-structure

You are as dust.

By Nike Adesuyi
—————

* Suku is a traditional hairstyle of the Yoruba of Western Nigeria

(Poems from Camouflage: Best of Contemporary Nigeria Writing. Edited by Nduka Otiono & Odoh Diego Okenyodo, Treasure Books Ltd, Yenagoa, 2006. pp 65-71)

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3 Comments

  • The journey of life is never too far when you know what happens to those who are in the front line: They die… till it gets to you.

    Nike Adesuyi’s ‘The New Testament’ which I read over and over again is a well crafted statement against the ecological disaster blooming in the Niger Delta… and yet, no symposium will be held to mark her demise on the land where rabbits and fishes and clear skies, and good breath, and clean water ‘once were’. Only impoverishing oil rigs are honoured there.

    ‘Free Spirit’ too caught my attention as a gorgeous and a non-combatant’s approach to the tough issue: Feminism.

    May her poetic soul rest in Peace. May we not stop pronouncing her name and giving libation to her works.

  • Nike; Brillant, a tour-de-force, argumentative, assertive, principled,funny… all together an amazing person. Rest In Peace Dear friend. It is well.

  • What a soul; flying away so soon on the wings of bardic angels. Maybe God wanted her to read her poems in heaven.