Postcolonial Conditions in J.P. Clark’s State of the Union
Furthermore, JP Clark goes on to question the morality of those who appear to be moral but are immoral. He says:
“Where so much counterfeit
Adorns the market”
The above excerpt portrays a society that has failed on the principle of morality, a society where people appear to be upright but unfortunately fail. They are a mirror of what we can refer to as people living a life of appearance versus reality. While they appear to be moral, they are clouded by a lot of immorality that transcends to downward movement of the state of the nation. In conclusion, JP Clark addresses the youth of the nation. We must not forget to note that JP Clark specifically addresses the youth because of the strategic importance of the youth towards the revival of morality and also towards nation building. Contextually, in the status quo, we find a teeming youth population that occupies a huge fraction of the national population. In a country like Nigeria, the youth are seen as the future of tomorrow and also as the custodian of the values of the country. Due to vast inequality in the allocation of resources, low political representation and continuous corruption amongst the members of the old brigade, the youths have been strategically sidelined from the riches of the country. They wallow in abject distrust towards constituted authority. Due to this alienation, the youths have been used as means to an end. It is on the negative premise that JP Clark calls on the youth to find themselves, pull themselves together and draw positive plans towards nation building. JP Clark says “will the youth ever find it”. This excerpt depicts the continuous quest for the missing fabric in our society. It depicts for the youths to rise to the fore and take charge of the responsibilities of the nation. The rhetorical nature of the excerpt solidifies the assertion. It is an inquiry into the doubts of the youth and an avenue to critically think and draw up pragmatic and proactive solutions to the problems of uprightness in the society.
Furthermore, JP Clark addresses other societal issues that are mainly and primarily postcolonial in other poems. In his poem “One Country”, JP Clark raises the issue of nativity and other related topics. In the poem, he addresses various topics ranging from environmental degradation to tyranny of the majority. The first postcolonial condition we find in the poem is the exploration of natural resources from the soil of the aborigines. The aborigines in this context refer to the indigenous of the society. This refers to the native tribes that occupy the areas where these natural resources are dominant and residual. The poet discusses the negative effect of the exploration of those natural resources. In the context of the article, which is Nigeria, we find awful situations in the Niger Delta where the effect of the exploration of oil has caused a lot of harm to the native people who occupy the creeks and the islands of the Niger Delta. The poet depicts these effects when he says that “they cannot even sleep, for flares above”. This excerpt exposes us to the endemic problems faced by these native people. He gives insight into the effects of gas flares that pollute the air by allowing escaping carbon dioxide to dominate the atmosphere. This dangerous gas is known to be detrimental to people’s health and also to the environment. It is on this note that we have radical movements like the Climate Change Movement who seek to change human behaviour with regards to the climate.
Also, we find depictions of the negative effects of the actions of these corporations on the livelihood of the aborigines. The poet makes mention of wood and water which depict the sources of livelihood for the natives. It is widely known that the inhabitants of the Niger Delta are people who are primarily fishermen and lumbers because of the nature of the topography of their society. Unfortunately, the intruders in this poem, mostly foreign oil corporations, are known to have diluted and polluted the river bodies that exist in these climes. These dilutions have sparked up radical revolts in form of terrorism and economic sabotage in form of bombing and deliberate destruction of pipelines and other oil facilities. Furthermore, the anger of these people has been fuelled by the tyranny of the majority that do not subscribe to the sufferings of these people. These people, even though they contribute to the national purse in large quantities, are alienated politically, economically and socially in terms of welfare. They do not enjoy the riches of the state in terms of proportional distribution of resources. The title of the poem also poses another provocative question. The title one country depicts an ideal society where everything is going fine. Unfortunately, we find the opposite in the status quo where what is supposed to be a country – a united sovereign state – is disunited. There are instances of alienation of a particular set of people; we also find instances of foreign exploitation and the desecration of indigenous lands. These examples depict a systematic dysfunctional postcolonial country that needs a lot of structural adjustment. The endemic postcolonial conditions do not stop with “One Country”, these issues are also raised in other poems in the anthology. In “Epitaph for Boro”, JP Clark uses the words oil and guns to depict the post colonial conditions of Nigeria. He starts by telling us how the discovery of oil and the market value of oil as an expensive and valuable commodity. He tell us how this sudden boom in the oil sector has shifted focus from guns to wealth. He depicts the situation of military handover of government to civilians when he mentions politicians. However, the poet is not satisfied with the attitude of the politician towards nation building. He sees them as a replica of the military government. In the context of the setting of this poem, we find a country which, in the course of history, experienced some decades of military dictatorship. Those military governments were characterised by excessive looting, corruption, mismanagement of public funds and no respect for human rights. In a bid to correct the wrongs of the military regimes, people found solace in democratic regimes where politicians controlled the affairs of the nation. Unfortunately, the same endemic syndrome portrayed by the military government repeats itself under civilian rule. We find cases of bribery and corruption, mismanagement of public funds, etc. Both parties go after the riches of Nigeria for their personal gains. This salient question now pops up; is one of the postcolonial condition problems in Nigeria the system of governance or the people who occupy the system? These are the provocative questions JP Clark asks in his poems.