You Point fingers at me.

In the streets
You point fingers at me.
I melt into the crowd.

At the office
You point fingers at me.
With the Daily Independent in my hands,
I bury my eyes in the headlines.

At the bar
You point fingers at me.
With the drink on my table I bottle-up my face,
Pretending to be too drunk to let strangers get at me.

At the BRT bus stop
On a Monday morning in the City of Lagos
You point fingers at me on the queue.
I caught the wings of a flying bus
Just to avoid your gaze.

Now in the Church of God
From the corner of my eyes
Half-shot in a conversation with God
I see your forefinger pointing at me again
Like the Devil’s witness on judgment day.

But I will not move
No, not anymore! Not an inch would I cringe.

After Holy Communion,
The mass is ended. Let’s go in peace.
Your piercing eyes tearing me to pieces.
Now walking towards you
My eyes on your steps
Your forefinger shrinking slowly.

Still walking towards you
Your eyes widening like a smiley of shock on Whatsapp.
Getting closer and closer to you along the Church gate
I see you standing still now.
Between paralysis and death,
Can’t tell what had befallen you.

Oxygen ceased.
Plastic eyeballs popping out of your spectacles
Your Adam’s apple swelling into a ball of panic
Like a table clock about to cry out at 6am.

“For a long time now
You’ve been dying to get my attention.”
I said to him, my fingers counting the beads of my rosary
Not sure what I was asking God for
After this one had just been answered,
“I could bet there must be something written on my forehead
That you’ve been craving to tell me all along.”

Tongue-tied, still as scarecrow
Perhaps an image for idol worship.
God forbid.

“I’ve lived with AIDS every day of my life
Since the 90s
But you are the one dying of it.
Are you positive?”

Selected from a working edition of ‘Stranger in the Mirror of My Life’, a collection of poems for people affected by HIV/AIDS.


Sleeping Awake

Sleeping Awake

Sleeping Awake

Sometimes I scorch you
Like a naked Niger Sun
Your skin of love burning
With the madness of mid-day heat

I know sometimes I drench you
Like Benin rain at midnight
Your red-clayed heart is flooded

But before you switch-off that light And steal another kiss in bed tonight
Have you ever taken a moment to wonder
If sometimes it’s the tears you bring to my eyes
That evaporate to flood our love?

A broad back
Cutting off the silvery beams of moonlight across the blinds
Is all I see
All night
Till the alarm cries out at five
Louder than these sobbing eyes

(c) Senator Ihenyen, Stranger in the Mirror of My Life & Other Pieces

On Kukogho Samson’s “What Can Words Do?”, Parresia and Origami Books

What Can Words Do by Kukogho Samson. Image from

What Can Words Do by Kukogho Samson. Image from

A publisher’s reputation is as good as its business. Each time a publisher chooses to release a book, it’s name matters, or at least should matter. Publishers realise that to keep that reputation or improve it, they must put their best into giving the author a great outing. I believe it’s not different with Parresia, including Origami Books, its self-publishing imprint. It could not have intended that things get so bad when it took up Kukogho Samson’s “What Can Words Do?” under its Origami imprint.

Of course, every author also has a name to project, or enhance. An author usually has great expectations whenever his or her book is published. And it is a legitimate expectation. I also had that expectation when Odili Ujubuonu’s Coast2Coast published “Colourless Rainbow” my first poetry collection, in 2011. Till today, I’m still indebted to the publisher in every sense of the word “indebted”. But I digress.

I believe no author signs a contract knowing he might end up in court as a claimant or defendant. Authors want to be guest writers in readings. Authors want to gain some recognition in the literary community, and beyond. Samson must have had such expectations too. And he put his money where his heart was, and still is. He took the risk to bankroll his dreams.

Close to a year later, Samson didn’t get what he had expected- especially coming from “Parresia” (Origami’s mother-firm), a fast-growing publishing house that has gained some reputation in the business. Samson must have been disappointed when he finally let his frustration with Origami end up in social media on August 31. “Kobo Profit” he called it, from Parresia’s “magic tricks”. I saw it the second it was posted. I felt that no matter what it was not the right way to go about it. I quickly contacted him. It was too late- Samson had obviously had enough. I showed some understanding; I treated his opinion with respect. But I still believed there could have been another way.

So you can imagine how relieved I felt when I discovered Parresia’s Chief Operating Officer Richard Ali, had become aware of Samson’s post. Richard has been to me a reliable friend and colleague, especially in the past few months. Knowing Richard’s calm approach to issues, I was optimistic the matter would be more appropriately settled. Perhaps I was wrong.

Richard asked Samson to “write a proper public post”. I reasoned this was to enable Richard respond robustly. I found myself wondering if that was the best option open to Richard. Yes, Samson’s earlier “Kobo Profit” was full of innuendos, but I didn’t consider Richard’s express permission Parresia’s best option. I still don’t; especially so when one objectively considers Richard’s eventual response on Parresia’s (Origami’s) behalf. I think it threw business ethics to the wind, focusing more on Parresia’s reputation than the author’s frustration. It may be legally right but it doesn’t seem moral to me. Wonder why most members of the younger generation of poets who commented on the matter went with KIS on this? Wonder why I had to say something about the matter? No, it’s not just because Samson is a friend and fellow poet. It’s not also because of Samson’s popularity with this huge community of young poets and writers. It’s about the way a fellow poet has been seen to be treated like “trash” (as Samson puts it). And that’s exactly what I believe Richard’s Origami may have failed to appreciate for what it’s worth. Sniffing blackmail is Samson’s post is one thing, but one should not dismiss the main grouse here.

An author is frustrated. Legitimate expectations, understandably high, were not met. The publisher failed to communicate effectively and efficiently. There was a huge gap in communication. That gap created the vacuum for this dirty fight on social media- the author goes crazy on Facebook. And suddenly, the publisher has all the answers. There is something not right about that.

I agree that Samson should never have brought the matter to Facebook. Never. But having ended up in social media, damage control becomes paramount. Origami may never have intended any damage to Samson’s sale plans and projections, but that is clearly the result. I believe Samson’s disappointment and frustration are largely informed by Origami’s failure to meet its obligations adequately. Even Richard concedes to that inadequacy on their part, citing Azafi’s health condition at the time, cost projections, etcetera.

Samson wanted to know the book stores his books were available, it took months. He wanted to see the reviews- they were not forthcoming. There were reasons, but they hardly change the end result. In Richard’s own words: “In the final analysis, and relying on the 50% discount on the distribution and marketing fee, it was not possible for Origami Books to foot the bill for getting reviews into the papers.” If the discount given was going to negatively affect the distribution and marketing of the book, why offer any discount at all? IF the author was “begging”, it should have nothing to do with performance since Origami accepted. I think to expect Samson to bear the eventual result may be too much for him considering his understandable expectations.

And Readings? Well, Azafi’s letter shows there were plans for that but Samson was not prepared at the time. When (according to Samson’s response) he was eventually ready for readings, communication between Origami and the author was not at its best, to say the least. I believe Richard Ali’s team could have done better than that. If half of the reasons Richard has given in his response had been communicated to Samson earlier, I doubt if the matter would have gotten this far.

Let’s see this matter for what it really is. It’s not about money- that’s why the figures don’t bother me. It’s not about fraud nor is it about blackmail. The Samson-Origami matter has been the avoidable result of a gap in communication between a publisher and its author. And it should not be taken too personally by any of the parties. Samson went too far by posting the matter on Facebook, especially considering the allegation of fraud contained in the post. I don’t think fraud was intended.

Richard Ali, as the Chief Operating Officer, should not also have allowed the matter degenerate to this level. Samson is a client. His rights and privileges are also important. Origami must at all times respect its client’s reputation just the same way it cares for its own reputation. One side’s reputation is not exclusive of the other. And that’s why I find Richard Ali’s comparison of its other authors’ poetry with that of Samson most uncalled for. No matter the good intention behind such comparisons, it does not show that the publisher respects the author’s works. It’s most unacceptable to me as a fellow poet, and I believe to the generation of young Nigerian poets and writers. Even Richard Ali belongs to that generation.

I plead with Parresia’s team and Samson to try resolving the matter privately.

I respect Parresia’s wonderful contributions to the growth and development of Nigerian literature. I believe Origami imprint is one of the innovative ways Parresia is creating greater opportunities for writers. This episode should not cast any doubt on its commitment to this noble mission.

The Samson-Parresia-Origami episode should be a challenge to us all. It should challenge us as publishers, booksellers, critics, reviewers, literary journalists, and authors to raise the bar. It should challenge us all to learn from our experiences and become even better at what we do. It should challenge us all to appreciate our imperfections and learn to see things from the other’s angle. In this way, rather than drawing blood from swords of rage, we will be writing on the pages of history with the pen of our lives what makes us thick.

Senator Ihenyen

Broken Loose (Christ the Redeemer)

It’s 1:50am. GMT +1. I’ve just finished watching Italy get ahead of England. SuperSport, with a tourist’s lens, takes me to Rio de Jeneiro. Of course, the landmark statue in Rio de Jeneiro, Christ de Redeemer, did not escape its lens. A tourist’s delight any day. It was then I remembered “Broken Loose (Christ the Redeemer)”, a poem of mine.

“Broken Loose (Christ the Redeemer)” was inspired by the “Christ the Redeemer” statue at the peak of the Corcovado mountain, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is published in my collection, Stranger in the Mirror off My Life & Other Pieces. I thought sharing it hours after World Evangelism Day, and at a time the eye of the world is on Brazil was not a bad idea.

Broken Loose (Christ the Redeemer)

What you see
When you open your eyes
Is what you want to see

Like Christ the Redeemer
At the peak of the Corcovado mountain
Concrete and soapstone,
With open arms
The Redeemer,
Symbol of peace

Do you see Jesus?
Do you see a cross?
A crucifix?

Peak of piety? Icon for Rio de Janeiro?
Perhaps, a tourist delight?
Idol worship?
Raving romance between architecture and art –
Awesome and ageless?

What you see
When you open your eyes
Is what you want to see

For me, redeemed
Broken loose from your pupils of prejudice
Like the outstretched arms of the Redeemer at the peak
Feel like flying…

(c)Senator Ihenyen 2013

If Everyday Was June

I’ve always been fascinated by the appearance of rainbow in the sky. I don’t know exactly why. And of all the months in the year, I’ve discovered that I see more rainbows in June. It’s the time of the year when, often times, it would be shinning and raining at the same time. The natural phenomenon also wakes a lot of memories and thoughts inside me. Naturally. From the beauty of life, to the colours of love, and the transient nature of everything that we may now have. I wish June could last all year long. If only everyday was June…

If Everyday was June

If everyday was June
I would have sworn
That our lips will never path in this kiss
Of raving romance.

If everyday was June
I would have sworn
There will be no heartbreak
in our love affair

…the kiss of the sun and the rain
Paints the rainbow in June
and afterwards, leaves
an empty cloud for the earth.


‘If Everyday was June’ is selected from Senator Ihenyen’s Colourless Rainbow, Coast2Coast, 2011, 72.

May 29

MAY 29


….whirlwinds spinning slowly upward
heavy clouds gathering and darkening
lightning and violent thunder in the troubled sky…
Yet, not a single drop of rain on the brittle dryness of the earth
the raging harmattan fire in our hearts!

The surging sorrow that whispers wildly in the wind
The pains that gather with heaviness in our eyes
Like the gloomy overcast,
And these hearts of thunderstorms!

These tears rolling down
Instead of the rain that never fell…


…the rain that never fell!
The rain that never rolled on our falling faces!
The rain that never kissed the river,
that ripples of liberty may rise in our souls in a land so still!
It never fell to wash away the blood of brutality that poured
from the pillars of power. The chains of our hearts
that never let our wings fly.

Enslaved in these chains of corruption,
mutilated behind bars of brutality,
I hear the slain hearts of heroes thumping,
thundering in protest against the rumbling drums of our
decapitated democracy.
If it is democracy that gives tongues to mutilated mouths
Then let this tongue cry for Dele Giwa!
Let this tongue cry for Moshood Abiola!
Let this tongue cry for Yar’adua! Let this tongue cry for Saro-Wiwa!
Let this tongue cry for Kubirat and Bola Ige!
Let me cry out to the earth for the blood that,
like a rainbow, now paints colours in our bloody skies –

Like Wole Soyinka,
Let me be the prisoner
Scribbling poems with tears of sacrifice in these walls of despair.
Let me be Nelson Mandela jailed in the shadows
where deceitful suns blind the eyes of dreamers but not the vision.
Let me gather rain from the anguish of the lightning
and the terror of the thunder, the marauding madness of the wind
and the horror of the darkened clouds,
with a voice of my own…


as balloons are blown to the sky to make yet another merry on May 29
I hear drums rumbling without dances. Rainbow blood of those whose hearts
were silenced in the shadows of the night
now painting colours in our democratic skies.

Those who quenched the sun when its rays flickered with hope
have become the new messiahs
of our numbered days.

»May 29 is selected from Senator Ihenyen’s Colourless Rainbow, Coast2Coast, 2011, 89. It was first read by the author as the Guest Writer for the month of May at the Abuja Writers’ Forum (AWF) in 2011.«

May 27

Children’s Day
our innocence is still missing
Costus Spectabilis
lost of our yellow flowers to Sambisa Forest

We cry out in hashtags
Our gathering anger flooding the streets
Some say we sold our tears
Others cry sabotage.

Along two white lines
Divided we die
Across the black shield
River Niger, River Benue
rivers of tears
Fertile soil turn fertile ashes

In this myopia
the eagle is on errands
And stray like street dogs with no dignity
there go our two horses –
Coat of Arms for a coat of the Chief of Arms

Wonder why whenever the eagle returns
After yet another attack so vile and vengeful
It is mistaken for a vulture?



In my arms,
finger-dances on your Qwerty keys
In your eyes, your love for me
Blinking like cursor

Dredges of thoughts
Memories of us sweeten your nectars
Flowers of fondness powdered with pollens.
Fluttery feelings. Tickling tenderness. Waking wings.
The Pollination of longings. Whispers in the wind.

In distance’s drags,
Loneliness. Emptiness.
Intruded, screensavers of meandering memories.

When I’m away,
How can I keep the imaginations
of me on your Windows 7,
sending sensations to your soul like screensavers?


Valentine’s Day: Two Love Poems


Two love poems for Valentine’s Day. Have a great read.

“Dance of the Spirits”

Your kiss delights my heart
Meeting of our lips of love…
Atoms in the altitude atmosphere
High, so high
Like thermosphere

Magnet in your touches
Solar wind rushing with your shivering breath,

Climbing gasps
In your magnetic storms

My aurora zone expanding to lower latitudes
Like that diffuse aurora on a glow
Invisible to the naked eye
Even in the darkest of nights

Our love is not empty of meaning
Our love colours the night
Lightening the pathways of even the blind
Our love,
Like paintbrushes of the sun and the rain,
Rainbow kisses on the canvas of the sky
Heaven’s collection

I will love you, you will love me
Like the Aurora Borealis
Greenish glow, faint red,
Magnetic line
Fluorescent green
Our love
“Dance of the spirits”

Because I Love You (Hanging Gardens of Babylon)

How can they find the hanging gardens of our love
If with the wider wisdom of the world
They do not know where heaven is?

For the nostalgia and longing for your homeland
The green hills and valleys that knew you,
Meadows of your mountains away from my presence,
I will make in my heart, a home for your wanderings.

High walks, stone pillars
Pensile paradise planted in the palace of my dwellings,
Four plethoras on each side of my heart
Artifice of your Media greens
Hillside slopes, ascending terraces,
Galleries that held every weight of this garden
Rising little by little,
Undulating ascension along the parts To the pinnacle
Cubits high, meeting the circuit walls,
Bearer of the highest point of my love in this garden of love
Hanging in my heart for you,
Home away from home
Meandering like Media meadows on gathering mountains.

Of high walls against envious encroaches,
Far and near
Of this wide passage-way,
Pushing walls apart
Entrance for your willing love,
For your climbing doubts, exit

Layer of reeds
Bitumen above these beams
Our love, our fondness
Brick-bonded Layer of lead
Shield against the moistures.
Within, piled to the depth of my heart,
The earth is womb to the greens,
And out here
With trees atop the galleries in the garden
Green graces of every kind
Beauty is in the eye of the beheld – Forsake the beholder.

Hush, my love
Love is for two

Let the eyes of the earth behold our perfection too.
Between us
The openings in our hearts
Will remain rivers –
Sometimes from the abundance of secret kisses,
The rivers of love when you’re speechless
Floodgates of joy when love is unending
And sometimes, the broken flows of secret tears
Where this hanging garden of our love
Drinks from its springs
Fountains of freshness

‘Dance of the Spirits’ and’Because I Love You (Hanging Gardens of Babylon)’ are selected from Senator Ihenyen’s new collection of poems, ‘Stranger in the Mirror of My Life: Poems for Everyone Affected by HIV/AIDS’, an ebook released in December 1, 20to mark World AIDS Day.

You can buy thee ebook at for 474 naira (5% slash from 500 naira), or also internationally available at for $3.75.

Saturday Sun: A Review of Senator Ihenyen’s ‘Stranger in the Mirror of My Life’ by Osamede Osunde

Poems for Everyone Affected by HIV/AIDS

Poems for Everyone Affected by HIV/AIDS

Title: Stranger in the Mirror of My Life: Poems for Everyone Affected by HIV/AIDS
Author: Senator Ihenyen
Genre: Poetry
Publisher: Lulu
ISBN: 978-1-304-64806-8
Number of Pages: 93
Publication date: November, 2013

“Stranger in the Mirror of My Life” is a collection of poems about the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which tend to differ from the general norm essentially in terms of concept. In arranging the themes, the motive is to estrange the anthology away from the customary settings of periods and styles, to that of experiences and phases in the reality of the matter. Although the former is natural and valid, the latter guides the reader to a sense of awareness for those affected by HIV/AIDS and a feeling of compassion for those infected with the virus. The book offers a unique perspective to the campaign for HIV/AIDS awareness, control, and or eradication.

Poetry like every other form of art is a formidable and veritable tool for social mobilisation, emancipation and awareness. Over the years, from the era of great poets like Alexander Pope, Clare, Shakespeare, to more contemporary poets like Wole Soyinka, Denis Brutus, Chinua Achebe and a host of others, poetry has being used as an instrument of moral justice and societal upliftment. In this epic lineage of gifted literary scholars the world over, comes the erudite young Nigerian writer/poet, lawyer per excellence. Senator Ihenyen, as named at birth holds the view that with regards to the HIV/AIDS scourge, the cure that the world seek is hidden in the heart of mankind and that cure is love. “Stranger in the Mirror of My Life” is a clarion call to the human race for compassion and empathy in dealing with the epidemic facing humanity.

Up until the early 1980s, little or nothing was known globally about HIV/AIDS. Silent, yet ravaging infection- was the dominant feature in the earliest advent of the virus, owing to the fact that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was alien to the global community and its transmission was not followed by visibly noticeable signs and symptoms. However, prior to the 1970s, in rare cases, reports of AIDS alongside sero-archaeological studies have documented instances of the infection in humans. Available records tend to suggest that the HIV/AIDS pandemic had began in the mid to late 1970s. The early 1980s saw the rapid spread of HIV to about five continents which included: North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Australia. The spread continued due to lack of awareness and preventive measures, approximately 100,000-300,000 persons were infected at the time.
In the past three decades since the first cases of HIV/AIDS were reported, the figures have increased astronomically and global impact of the scourge has being alarming most especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

Global statistics showed that in 2011, worldwide figure of people living with HIV was estimated at 34 million, two-third of this figure was domiciled in the sub-Saharan African region. Significant discoveries have being made in medical research in the area of HIV/AIDS treatment and control. A cure has not being found yet. The introduction of antiretroviral therapy has greatly helped in reducing the number of AIDS-related deaths, especially in the last five years. However, the occurrence of new infections is still an enormous challenge the world over. Sub-Saharan Africa has seventy two percent of the world’s total population of people living with HIV, although the region has a little more than twelve percent of the world’s population. The epidemic has caused a colossal amount of suffering in the African continent. The most palpable effect of this global scourge has been illness and death, but the impingement of the pandemic has stretched across all spheres of life including economy, social capital and population structure and so on.

The extent of spread of human immunodeficiency virus has surpassed all expectations in the last two decades. Presently, an estimated 36 million people are currently infected with HIV, around the region of 20 million people have so far died from AIDS related illnesses, worst hit is indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Responding to HIV/AIDS at a level proportionate to the stupendous impact of the scourge is an urgent global imperative, sustained global mobilization is a sine qua non to combat one of the most severe crises facing human development. “Stranger in the Mirror of My Life” is a commitment to this global effort.

Stigmatisation, discrimination, alienation and antipathy are some of the societal ills that have made life extremely difficult for people living with HIV. The animosity in the chore of mankind against people living with HIV is stronger and even more infectious than the virus itself. Quoting from Senator Ihenyen’s poem titled “In a Free Fall”:

Why have you suddenly become
The virus
Ravaging the blood of my love for you
In my breaking heart

The expression above tends to suggest that the rejection faced by HIV positive people may be even more challenging than the infection itself. Misconception, ignorance and pre-conceived notions has been the bane of this pandemic, in typical human characteristics, what defiles understanding is ascribed religious and spiritual pigmentation. Quoting from the poem titled “I am HIV-AIDS” by the African poet Simon M. Matlou:

Saint Luke predicted me long time ago,
While the Book of Revelation warned you about me
I am raging like a wild fire,
I am growling like a lion,
I have spotted you and I will pounce on you!

Views like this and even more extremist views have complicated even further the HIV/AIDS challenge, labeling the infection a plague from a supernatural power will unjustly indict and victimize those who are infected. HIV/AIDS is clearly a global health challenge and any religious coloration, segregation, sectionalization and regionalization will lead the world to a Pandora’s Box. Without attempting to sound mythical, the panacea or catholicon to this nemesis is universal love. The hate virus has eaten deep into the fabric of mankind, perhaps, someday, the world shall witness a paradoxical twist when this HIV challenge that we all face becomes a catalyst for engendering global peace and universal love.

Like earlier mentioned, stigmatisation resulting from ignorance and prejudice has being one of the most challenging issues faced by people living with HIV, the fear of stigmatisation is one of the major reasons why a lot of people refuse to perform HIV test, a number of people living with HIV, for reasons of victimization and stigmatisation fail to come out in the open to seek help. “Stranger in the Mirror of My Life” is a conscious effort to inspire confidence and courage in people living with HIV to come out boldly in the sun set to face the challenges confronting their existence.

“Stranger in the Mirror of My Life” cuts across its readers as a delicate voice, with sober and poignant views often cryptical in nature. In x-raying this verse from the poem titled “Once upon a Simple Question” by Senator Ihenyen:

If there was no blood running in my veins
How would you be taking my life away from me now?

The expression above bears more depth beyond the immediate perception, perhaps something for the scientist and researchers to ponder upon, whereas, on the face-value, the expression suggests the lamentation of a dying victim.
An obviously conspicuous attribute of the poet like most African writers is his occidental indulgence as well as his Mallarme influence strongly represented in the poet’s persistent use of symbolism, a concept that is tentatively labelled in the African literary parlance as ‘animism”. However, as Prof. Soyinka would say, “A distinct quality in all great poets does exercise a ghostly influence in other writers”, reading the works of Senator Ihenyen does calls to mind the works of great African love poets like Denis Brutus who wrote such raw and passionate lines of love as well as of indictment, conveying the concepts of fundamental justice, indicting the society of outer defiance, preaching hope and resolve all in one breath.

History, the contemporary reality and the vision of an HIV free generation is the overriding interest of this collection, in introducing “Stranger in the Mirror of my Life” to readers across the globe, I would like to say that it is indeed a compendium and a companion for all people living with HIV and the rest of the world.
Osamede Osunde
Chief Editor-
Pen Aesthetics lit. Agency

First published on the Saturday Sun, January 11, 2013.

‘Stranger in the Mirror of My Life: Poems for Everyone Affected by HIV/AIDS’ is now selling in Nigeria at http:// for 474 naira (5% slash from 500 naira) this December. It is also internationally available at for $3.75 only!