Review of Abu Bakr Sadiq’s Midnight in Maiduguri
By Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan
Not everyone who knows so much about the level of insurgency in the Northern part of Nigeria, its adverse effects and damages, would easily mould beautiful and sublime memories out of it. But in this poem, Midnight in Maiduguri, Abu Bakr Sadiq captures the aftermath of insecurity in Maiduguri, the city capital of Borno, with a blend of jin-dandy activities and a brief glimmer of the impacts it left on the young boys, who once knew no blood. Presumably, the poem was written for someone whom Sadiq addressed as Af in the poem.
At the start of the poem, Sadiq walks into the years in the aftermath of the insurgency. Here, he meets his buddy, Abduljala, who resides in Maiduguri. On his visit to Maiduguri, Abduljala shares with him how his own friends who were once innocent boys, were now initiated into the insurgent armies. This is easily one of the side effects of insurgency on society, where young boys whose futures are yet to blossom, are being recruited into the soldiers of terrorism, thus, wrecking havoc and mayhems to the same society they should be part of its building. Here is how Sadiq captures this in the poem;
“years after the insurgence abduljalal
offers me an invitation to his hometown
in maiduguri sometimes he tells me
stories of how the insurgents built
their army some of the boys he grew
up on the same street with got
recruited before the dark days they
had been incapable of hurt had hands
untouched by the coldness of death”
On proceeding further with the poem, we witness a swift shift from what is supposed to be all dark, especially as it is a poem picturing the aftermath of a city that was once ravaged by terrorism. The swift course taken by the poet shifted the narrative into a serene scenery, whose intricacies are filled with the pretty dividends of nature poetry. The poet captures this in the account of his second visit to Maiduguri, in honour of another invitation by this same friend of his. It was Eid festival period, and the poet did not fail in capturing the eventful day, which later strolled into a colourful evening where they rode on horses, till the music filled night came upon them, where they all shared in the music which has remained the one balm that has helped the city heal. Below is how the poet captured this in the poem;
“the second time he invites me it’s for
eid festival he tells me it’s now safe
the celebrations there marvellous
as moonlight in winter we get to
ride on horses dressed in long flowing
attires our heads wrapped in horned
turbans trumpeters trailing behind us
while drummers drape the air
with ear-piercing music
and since the dusk has stopped being
a wet blanket dragging the shadows
of the past into their homes we will go
out to see the nightlife in town enjoy the
songs that helped them survive rays
of the black sun that rose before their eyes”
Generally, the poem is formatted in an experimental form devoid of punctuations; deliberate spaces were however, employed by the poet to achieve the effects that punctuation would have bestowed on the piece. The language of the poem is very accessible, and the poem itself is a blend of blood and flowers. We all witness in the poem how the poet made beauty from rubbles without discarding the impacts the rubbles made, and this in itself instilled a great level of beauty in its sublime and crystal form to the poem. Contrarily, Sadiq who is known to be very speculative in his approach to poetry, did not approach this particular piece from that lens; perhaps, he wanted all of us, the readers, to experience the poem in the most relatable and accessible way as possible.
Sadiq is an emerging poet from Minna, Nigeria, and is currently an undergraduate student at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He has already garnered recognition for his poetic talents, winning the 2023 Sillerma Prize, and the 2022 IGNYTE award for Best Speculative Poetry and being named a finalist for the 2023 Evaristo Prize for African Poetry. His poems have been nominated for prestigious awards such as the 2022 SFPA Rhysling Award and the Pushcart Prize. His works have also graced the pages of notable publications like Boston Review, Uncanny Magazine, and Fantasy Magazine, among others. The 2023 Sillerman Prize award will, undoubtedly, propel his career as a poet, and push forth his talent to a broader audience.
Nwuguru Chidiebere Sullivan (he/him/his) is a speculative writer of Izzi, Abakaliki ancestry; a finalist for the SPFA Rhysling Award, a nominee for the Forward Prize, a data science techie and a medical laboratory scientist. He was the winner of the 2021 Write About Now’s Cookout Literary Prize. He has works at Strange Horizon, Nightmare Mag, Augur Mag, Filednotes Journal, Kernel Magazine, Mizna, and elsewhere. He tweets @wordpottersul1.