River of Voices (for Chinua Achebe)

This poem, River of Voices, was written sometime in 2005. Published in my collection of poetry, Colourless Rainbow, I wish to dedicate it to the Father of modern African literature, Late Chinua Achebe, who to my delight, was also a poet himself.

I have specially dedicated this poem to him because having died unfulfilled as a Nigerian citizen, the eventual disillusion expressed in River of Voices seem to portray the picture of that feeling of unfulfillment on his part.

I hope you will find it engaging!


I saw
the rays of the sun
as I watched
by the riverside.

I saw
the drops of rain
as I watched
by the riverside,

and I saw
the rays of the sun
kissing the raindrops,
as I watched
by the riverside.

I saw
colours of the rainbow
in the sky
as I watched
by the riverside.

But I saw no reflection
of these colours on the rippling river –
as I wondered
by the riverside

Throwing a probing stone,
I see ripples –
ripples of voices rising on the river –
troubled tides rushing to my feet,
as I waited
by the riverside –


(“River of Voices“ selected from Colourless Rainbow, Coast2Coast, Lagos, p. 104)


Senator Ihenyen: Chinua Achebe Died Unfulfilled

Chinua Achebe, the Father of Modern African Literature is gone. I find it very saddening. Not because dying at the age of 82 as an accomplished author is not worth a celebration of life. Not at all. It is a sad event because though an accomplished iconic novelist celebrated worldwide, the late Chinua Achebe died unfulfilled.

It is that feeling of unfulfillment that brings one down when things fall apart and the falcon no longer hears the falconer. It is that feeling of unfulfillment that kills you slowly when you are no longer at ease with the state of your own country, wherever you are. It is that kind of feeling that makes you reject national honours from the government of your own country because you had the courage to stand for what is right.

In a country like Nigeria where anthills of corruption have taken over our lands, and there is no longer a man of the people, vision dies. In a country where shameless leaders grant pardons to corrupt ex-convicts, corruption begets corruption. A promised breath of “fresh air“ becomes national poison. In a country like ours where our leaders accuse us of “sophisticated ignorance“ in its demonic desperation to justify its sophisticated myopia, where lies our hope?

The death of Chinua Achebe is painful. Very painful. Especially at this time in our national life when we need men of integrity and conviction. And that must be why I find Wole Soyinka and J.P. Clark‘s recent tribute to the late Chinua Achebe very moving. The two literary giants did not fail to find a strong nexus between his unfulfilled life as a Nigerian, and the failing state of our country, Nigeria.

Although his own words have immortalised him, we all owe Chinua Achebe a debt. That debt is to begin to rebuild all things that have fallen apart with the honour, integrity and conviction for which he was known in his lifetime. Chinua Achebe‘s integrity and conviction had always moved me, as it did in a recent interview: