‘Nightmares in Paradise’ comes with a captivating title and an attractive cover design reminiscent of hell on earth. A supposedly heaven on earth has within it, images of fear. Dreaded animals like leopards, elephant, snake, buffalo, and spooky birds that signify misery, hopelessness, pain, and eventual death, which are quite contradictory to a paradise, evokes scare from the book’s cover. Perhaps this is the reason Dr. Patrick Oloko, says in the appraisals column of the book that: “A paradise is a perfect place. It is the ideal. If this paradise is ‘giant,’ then it has a flaw and ceases to be paradise.”
It is in the light of the above statement that ‘Nightmares in Paradise’ (Collection of poems) can best be described as a mirror of the flaws, ills and ironies, which the poet satirises in terms of socio-political, economic and psychological spheres in the Nigerian society and the world. The book contains eighty-nine poems written over a period of 15 years, from 1998 to 2013, according to the date at the end of each poem.
The volume is divided into three sections- Political Poems; Spiritual/Religious/Sociological Poems; and Love Poems, satirising the activities of individuals as well as groups in both political and social circles in Nigeria and the globe. Some poems in all the sections are also specially dedicated to individuals. Section One mirrors the ills in the society, especially among the ruling class in Nigeria, Africa and the world. Corruption, looting, dishonesty, greed, maladministration, hypocrisy, name it, are the bane of Nigeria’s politics. The masses, who voted politicians into power, live in abject poverty.
An average politician’s utmost aim is to get into power, after which the people’s mandate is written off- so sad indeed. For instance, in the poem, ‘The Ocean weeps,’ the poet metaphorically sees Nigeria as a weeping ocean. The political climate has been in disarray overtime, due to bad leadership system. Both past military and civilian administrations did not live up to the masses expectations.
This has been responsible for discontentment, misery, poverty and the likes. The present administration that promised to right the wrongs’ have disappointed the masses as these lines in ‘The Ocean weeps’ satirise: “…A Sandaless chameleon came promising to restore care /…Of all civil maladministration, this is the boss /…” at page 19. ‘Discordant rainbow’ is another political poetic masterpiece where the poet x-rays the fact that Nigeria’s mess could also be traced to its tribal/dialectical sentiments, which is inimical to the realisation of a united country as these lines depict: “…
An average ngbatingbati is inherently deceitful / An average container-on-sea is mostly money ritualistic / An average buga shi is an incurable murderer…” at page 31. Moreover, the Spiritual/Religious/ Sociological Poems section has two poems I find most interesting amongst others. ‘Wiser than the oracle’ (Dedicated to all Boko Haram’s victims) is an excellent piece.
It satirises the believe of a particular sect who decided to take over power from their object of worship, by maiming and killing innocent people in the guise of religion. According to the poet, the killers by their actions tell God in the following lines: “…Go to sleep and leave universal administration for us /… We also want to help you to kill all blasphemers / Of your holy name because you are too mute /…”
This is laughable as it shows their ignorance. In the same vein, ‘The most patient oracle’ is another piece on the religious angle, describing the insatiability of hu-man beings vis a vis changes in weather; some want it hot while others want it cold or warm- a vivid irony of life. The poem says: “…The Oracle brought rain / Some said it is too much / He sprang sun / Some said they don’t like such /…”
In the midst of all these complaints, God is still patient even above human comprehension. Section Three (Love Poems) dwells on romance. One poem I find interesting here is the one titled ‘River of life’ which beams light on the life of a woman in terms of procreation. Some of its lines read: “…You swam, I swam, we swam / From a river / Both species / Comes from a river /…”
The most dominant stylistics trait of the poet in Nightmares in Paradise is his artistic mastery and use of rhyme schemes, as evidenced in the poem, ‘Peculiar madness’ first stanza as follows: “O madness, O madness, O madness / The world is a city of madness, O what a sadness! / A man mad does not know / Though he paints his house as snow / Until a hater of snow is mad / To point the colour is bad…/ But she especially owns the river…” As all the poems are dated, it could be assumed they relate to significant events in the life and experiences of the poet. The commonest feature of all the poems in the book remain the fact that they delve into issues of common interest. A presidential award-winning poet in 2007 and a prolific writer, Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga has to his credit about eight different publications in various forms- poetry, novel and short stories. Some of his published works include ‘Dynamic Verses’ (2001), ‘Rhymes from the Nile’ (2006), ‘When the king cries and other stories’ (2007) and ‘Domestic Daddy’ (2012), amongst others.