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Subject: Literature In English
Topic: Summary Analysis of the poem “The Leader and the Led” by Niyi Osundare.
Lesson Objectives: This lesson is aimed at helping learners understand the poem “The Leader and the Led ”. So by the end of the lesson, the learners should be able to:
- In few sentences describe the author;
- Discuss the style and mood of the poem;
- Identify poetic devices used in the poem;
- Explain the thematic structure of the poem;
- Recite the poem.
Lesson Summary Aids: see reference materials below content.
Lesson Summary / Discussion
The the poem ” The Leader And The Led” happens to be one of the selected poetry for 2021-2025 WAEC. So the analysis below will help our readers and candidates who may be taking WAEC, NECO, GCE and JAMB examinations to understand the poem and prepare for the exams. Below is the poem:
“THE LEADER AND THE LED” NIYI OSUNDARE
The lion stakes him calm
To the leadership of the pack
But the antelope remember
The ferocious pounce of his paws
5.The hyena says the crown is made for him
But the impalas shedder t his lethal appetite
The giraffe craves a place in front
But his eyes are too far from the ground
When the zebra says it’s his right to lead
10. The pack point to the duplicity of his stripes
The Elephant trudges into the power tussle
But it’s colleagues dread his trampling feet
The warthog is too ugly
The rhino to riotous
15. And the pack thrashes around
Like a snake without a head
“Our need calls for a hybrid of habits”.
Proclaims the forest stage,
A little bit of a lion
20. A little of a lamb
Tough like tiger, a compassionate like a doe
Transparent like a river, mysterious like a lake
A leader who knows how to follow
Follower mindful of their right of lead”
Meet The Poet
Niyi osundare was born in 1947, in Ikere Ekiti, Ekiti State, Nigeria. He obtained a degree in English from the university of Ibandan, therefore, he proceeded to the Leeds university and York university, Toronto, for his masters degree and doctorate degree respectively. He has been a professor at the English institute, university of Ibandan . he is currently a distinguished professor of English at the university of new Orleans. His notable publications include: the eye of the earth, songs of the market place, moon songs and village voice.
This poem brings to mind , “the animal farm” by George Orwell. It is a satire on the political struggles and calculations by the major linguistic groups in Nigeria, and by extension other countries in Africa. Is it either through a ” bloodless coup” by rigging the election, with the vote buying or by military coup. This will enable the the political actors , to impose an incompetent ruler in the governance of the county. Nigerians are good at celebrating their best leaders after their death. ” Here lies the best president intrigues that further underdeveloped this country.
He main theme of this poem is the struggle for political power and relevance at the centre of government by the major linguistic groups in the country. It is simply a rat race for the oil money and political power. The rulers in civilian flowing clothing, have shown that they are as venal as the military in power .they cash – in on the level of abject poverty at the rural area, to perpetuate their vote buying and Even use foodstuff to “win” themselves into power. Anyone who is poor in the country is faceless, nameless and voiceless. As a result, he can easily be manipulated by the unscrupulous power hungry politicians with money.
The Nigeria’s battered image is an continuous state of flying half-mast as a mourning flag, for the political process that throws up the imposed rulers. The best ruler are denied the opportunity to prove themselves at the central stage of governance. In the words of Catholic bishop kukah, “Nigerian rulers are simple accidentail tourist”. The canonization of the wrong political process in voting the rulers of this country, leads to the proliferation of poverty in the midst of plenty oil money. Since the rulers are poor in the art of governance, they help to create ” mystery index” by making some Nigerians miserable to the extent of committing murder without thinking twice.
Niyi also explores the theme of poor governance and poor followership. The satirical poem symbolized by the animals, examine the process of electing a good leader in power at the Central government. Besides, it also sees the need for the leader to have the ability to follow the ” follower mindful of their right to led”. Nothing is wrong with the geographical area occupied by Nigeria yesterday, today and in the future. The country is simply a victim of years of poor governance, which flow throw the political process and election of the ruler at the centre of government. Poor governance has affected the national orientation of most Nigerians, especially those at the grassroots. This group of Nigerians have accepted the fall-out of bad governance, lawlessness, bad behavior and corruption exhibited by the political rulers Even in national television, as part of the nation’s culture and way of life. It is a reproach to region and government to suffer much poverty and excess” William Penn. Poor governance breeds poverty and very persons super magally rich, from the common wealth of oil resources.
There is also the theme of corruption, a fallout of poor governance. It weakens the socio-economic system and brings about unemployment with other related crimes. It is a known fact that the epileptic power supply has crippled the industrialization of the nation. The cost of generating power to provide service and manufacturer manufacture goods, has forced many manufacturing companies to relocate to nearby countries. It is a great irony that some of these countries get their power supply from this country. Corruption has not allowed Nigerians to enjoy the use of electricity for service delivery, production of goods, entertainment and personal enjoyment. The problem of power supply is as old as Nigeria, with no solution in sight. A poorly paid worker will resort to sharp corrupt practice to survive in a tough economic situation. The level of inflation is on increase and workers salaries can not take them home. Besides, there is huge disparity between the nation’s economic situation and living standard of Nigerians.
The poem is made up of (12) twelve stanza of two lines each. Ina stanza 1(one) the lion States his manifesto and intends to contest for the leadership position of the animals pack. However, in stanza 2 (two) the antelopes fault ” the ferocious pounce of his paws.” Which is not required of a leadership at that level.
Similarly, In stanza 3, the hyena express his wish to contest for the highest office in the group. Whereas, “the impalas shudder” and his lethal appetite is seem by the other animals. As a challenge to his candidacy, in stanza 4, the giraffe, another leadership candidate campaigns to be elected as the leader of the pack. He is disqualified on the promise that his eyes “are too far from the ground.”
In stanza 5, the zebra joins the race for leadership position at the centre. The group ” points to the duplicity of his stripes” as a major a factor for his disqualification. Furthermore, in stanza 6, the elephant, the biggest of the pack, sees his size as an added advantage to the claim of leader position of the group.” But is colleagues dread his trampling feet “. Accordingly, his is disqualified from the leadership race.
Also, the warthog and rhino in stanza 7, are also asked to withdraw from the leadership contest because of their ugliness and riotous nature respectively. In stanza 8, the political struggle between the members of the pack, for the leadership position at the centre. Makes the group to look ” like a snake without a head”.
In stanza 9, there, is a call for hybrid of habits by the sage in the Forrest, As a result, in stanza 10, they is a call for caution by some wise member of the pack. For a leader who is ” A little bit of lion” and a “little bit of lamp.” Such a leader is viewed as having the capacity to lead the (members of the pack) and bring about positive development in the animal pack.
In stanza 11, the qualities of a good leader is further highlighted. The wise ones, further state that the he should be “tough like a tiger, compassionate like a doe.” Besides, he must be transparent ” like a river, mysterious like a lake.” In stanza 12, the pack demands and resolve to vote for ” A leader who knows how to how to follow ” and has the ability to make the” followers mindful of their right to lead.”
Diction: the poet prefers the literary device of satire, using the animals pack to symbolize the political struggle for power at the central government. Niyi is advocating for the best leader either from the minority or the majority linguistic group. As long as the leader has the capacity and ability to ensure good followers hip and leads the country towards positive development.
Mood: the poet’s mood is that of disappointment, following the poor governance of the country, that is rich in human and natural resources.
Tone: the poem has the tone of ” calls for hybrid of habits ” as advocated by the forest sage. The poet subscribes to ” A leader who knows how to follow the followers and ” mindful of their right to lead. ”
Satire: Niyi employs the literary device of satire, like George Orwell of the ” animals farm”. He satirizes the political struggle for the control of the central government, by the linguistic groups I the country, Nigeria. He does not see the need for Nigerians to celebrate their best leaders after their death. He appeal to the major ethnic groups in the nation, not to see governance at the centre, as a do or die political struggle. Hence, the electoral empire should be allowed to conduct a free and fair elections and campaigns devoid of the use of money to influence the choice of votes to elect their major leaders. Consequently, the leader can be from the minority or the majority linguistic group.
Symbolism: it is very obvious to the reader, that the poet applies the literary device of symbolism in the poem. Niyi uses the animals pack struggle for leadership of their group to symbolize the political human struggle for the control of power at the central government.
Repetition: there is the use of repetition in lines 19 and 20 ” A little of ….. ” these lines are repeated for the purpose of emphasizing the kind of quality that is expected of the desired leader.
Alliteration: this literary device is used in lines:
4″… Pounce of his paws
10 “the pack points.. ”
14 ” the rhino too riotous”
16 “….hybrid of habits”
19 “a little bit of a lion”
20″ a little bit of a lamb ”
Simile: the literary device is used for comparison. Example are: lines
21 “tough like a tiger, compassionate like a dove”
22 ” transparent like a river, mysterious like a lake”
Personification: Niyi personifies the Animals pack by giving them human quality, in the act and struggle for the control of the central government.
This poem is Niyi’s protest about the poor governance in his country, Nigeria. He feels it high time someone talks about it, though everybody knows about it. The rate of crime and criminalities is worrisome and the poor feels the pains and suffering more.
The satirical poem at first reading may appear to be a cartoon story for children. However, after a deep reflection, the subject matter will dawn on the reader. Niyi, treats a serious matter, using the animals pack in a funny way to present his protest against the unnecessary struggle for political power at the central government of the country.
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Take Some study questions from this lesson
1. Examine the poet’s mood in the poem.
2. How does the poet treats the theme of struggle for political power at the central government in the poem?
3. Discuss the effective use of satire in ” the leader and the lead.”
4. How does poor governance contribute to poverty in the poem.
5. Examine the theme of corruption in this poem.
6. Examine the use of symbolism in ” the leader and the led.
7. Examine the poet’s use of diction in the poem.
8. Comment on” the leader and the led” as a protest against the unnecessary struggle for the political power at the central government.
9. In what ways does poor governance affect the lives of the poor people in the country.
10. Comment on the style and theme of ” the leader and the led. ”
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