Lagos Lawyer Summons the Ghost of Christopher Okigbo

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Bolaji-Ramos
Bolaji S. Ramos

His name is Bolaji Salaudeen Ramos. He is a lawyer, a writer and a poet. He has written across the three literature genre as well as on topical subjects in law. Bolaji recently published a poetry work “The Battlefield Poet;  Elegy for Christopher Okigbo”. In this interview with DNL Legal and Style, Bolaji spoke on the work which has become a sensation among poetry lovers.

Excerpt:

Can you tell us little about yourself and your genre of writing?

 My legal name is Bolaji Salaudeen Ramos. I have been referred to as Bolaji St. Ramos in various anthologies from 2005 to 2016. This one is more popular among colleagues and friends. In 2004, I was published in a United States online platform as Bolaji Salau Ramos. Now, for the first time I published my first full-length book as Bolaji S. Ramos. I am one and the same person. By profession, I am a lawyer and I am still very much in practice. But writing is a forte that even Law cannot take away from me. I am first and foremost a poet, although I have written across the three genres of Literature and my intention is to publish across the genres. I do academic writing as well. I have some published academic works to my credit.

What is the book “The Battlefield Poet: Elegy for Christopher Okigbo” all about?

“The Battlefield Poet: Elegy for Christopher Okigbo” is my first full-length book. I have published in various anthologies in the UK, in South Africa, in Nigeria and online in the US. But then, my first book is The Battlefield Poet: Elegy for Christopher Okigbo. It is performance poetry with some stage directions, and it is fully dedicated to the late Christopher Okigbo. Briefly, the book is best qualified as philosophical, fictional performance poetry. It is poetry—but then it has elements of fiction (because it tells a tall story) and it has elements of drama (because it is to be performed). So, you can view the book as a poetic hybrid.

The book has a fictional storyline just like prose. It has stage directions and characters (poets) just like drama and it is ultimately presented in the form of poetry (performance poetry). It is about a circle of three poets who embarked on a journey from the physical realm to the metaphysical realm in search of answers from the late Christopher Okigbo. The three poets are portrayed initiates who had to perform some rites and ceremonies in order to be able to summon Okigbo from the dead. That is what they seek to achieve— to revive Okigbo and pose questions to him regarding his enlistment in the Biafran Army in 1967 and his eventual death. To want him to put the record straight, as speculations continue from all quarters as why he did what he did. T

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What should the reader expect from the book in terms of content?

 The writing of this book started over a decade ago. It started in 2005 and I completed the first draft in 2005. Ever since then, the draft went through different additions, deletions, amendments and restructuring, until it was published just last month, June 2017. The book was published by Legandaire Books on 23rd June 2017. Legendaire Books is an imprint of Legendaire Theatre. The preface to the book is written by Dr. Lekan Balogun, a multiple award-wining playwright. The book opens with a stand-alone poem written and dedicated to the only daughter and child of Christopher Okigbo, Obiageli. This is followed by a prologue that sets an atmosphere for the coming war. After that, we have the main five parts of the book. Parts 1, 3 and 4 were set in the physical realm while Parts 2 and 5 transpired in the metaphysical realm.

What genre is the book, and why Christopher Okigbo?

 Like I said before, the genre is poetry. What I attempted in the book, however, is to combine elements of prose and drama in the poetic presentation. A lot of philosophies about death, destiny, reincarnation, continuous existence of the soul and existentialism go into the work. One can easily spot the three main divisions of Philosophy in the book. I read the works of Christopher Okigbo very well, and I can say to you categorically that he was a philosophical poet. So, I believe that for a poet like Okigbo, his nature is best represented in poetry. That is why writing about Okigbo in poetry is more important to me.

Are you saying Poetry as a genre is the best genre of literature through which another poet should be represented?

 Hmm…to me, yes! Others may have a different opinion.

In recent times, the agitation for secession is seriously trending, especially by supporters of self-determination and recognition of the sovereign state of Biafra. Would you say this book is a political book to support or go against the struggle?

 To me a political book is a book that reflects on politics. Should it be the case, you can call this book a political book, as it reflects on politics of intellectualism. You can also liken this book to a book of history because it makes some references to Nigeria’s political history, especially pre- and post-civil war history. But one thing this book is not is that it does not hold a position either for or against the present struggle for recognition of the sovereign state of Biafra. It only reflects on one of our own that was involved in the Nigerian Civil War and got killed in the process. Yes, it is a book that has the trait of being given consideration whenever the issue of the Nigerian Civil War arises (as it relates to Okigbo). But then, it is a book that treads carefully and does not hold a position. Funnily, this book ends with the Biafran item, ‘Land of the Rising Sun”.

Talking about Christopher Okigbo brings to mind the thought of how he died as a Biafran Army during the Nigerian Civil War. Is this book a condemnation or justification of Okigbo’s enlistment in the Biafran Army and his eventual death?

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 This question brings Professor Alli Mazrui to mind. It was Dr, Lekan Balogun that said (and I totally agree) that Alli Mazrui was the first to have a full-length literary work dedicated to Okigbo after his death. I read Mazrui’s The Trial of Christopher, and it was one of my very very relevant reference points in starting off this book in 2005. In Mazrui’s book, Okigbo was made to stand a trial in the metaphysical realm to defend himself on why he left his literary calling for war. That would appear to tilt toward questioning Okigbo’s involvement. The Battlefield Poet: Elegy for Christopher Okigbo is not out to condemn or justify Okigbo’s enlistment. Neither is it out to make him face a trial. It is out to summon him to come and put the record straight. The book toils Alli Mazrui’s path. But there are points of divergence.

Is The Battlefield Poet: Elegy for Christopher Okigbo your first published work?

The Battlefield Poet: Elegy for Christopher Okigbo is not my first published work. It is only my first full-length published book. My poems were published in variously in UK by Forward poetry in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011. Also, I was published by the South African Institute of Poetry in 2007 in an anthology titled Venturing Vista.  Five of my poems were also published by Bulkybon Publication in Nigeria in 2016 in an anthology titled Poems on Corruption. I was also published on a UN website as one of the United Nations Peace Poets 2011. I got published also in a US online platform, and I remember the Nation Newspaper has also published some of my poems. These are the ones I remember.

As a lawyer by profession, how do you manage your time to write and at the same time attend to your clients and other personal issues?

 It has been very very challenging. By virtue of the Legal Practitioners’ Rules of Professional Conduct, your clients’ interest must come first. So where spending time to write will affect the interest of your clients, you must burry your own personal interests, and attend to the interests of your clients. This has made writing challenging for me. However, I have said before that writing is my forte that even Law cannot take away from me. I try often to manage my time very well to the best of my ability.

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 Would you say this book is a landmark or just another additional to existing literature on the subject?

 Every good book that opens a room for discussion with an intention to create a positive innovation is a landmark book. This is part of what The Battlefield Poet is out to achieve. It is not just another book. It is a book that reflects on our political history; a book that explores and analyzes certain existing philosophies; a book that propounds its own new philosophies—such a boom can only be classified as landmark. Dr. Lekan Balogun mentioned in the preface that this book is the first published  full-length performance poetry book on Christopher Okigbo in the last fifty (50) years since Okgibo’s death. The existing literature on Okigbo covers prose works, collection of articles or essays and collection of Okigbo’s poems. The Battlefield Poet is a stand-alone book. For now, it is sui generis. My conclusion is that it is landmark.

 The book is performance poetry. Do you have plans to have it staged any time in the future?

 Very well. The beauty of any performance work is best seen when it is staged. I have plans to have it staged. I am already talking to stakeholders on that.  I am also looking at having it in form of a television documentary work that will go hand in hand with pictures and scenes from the Civil War and from Okigbo’s village, Ojoto. There will be many adaptions of this book in the future. As performance poetry, the book also comes under the category of spoken words. I will soon start talking with the stakeholders and other people interested in the projects. The Okigbo Foundation is never out of mind and sight.

 What future awaits this book?

 I foresee a great one. We are making moves to make it reach a greater height. The book has been listed already on Amazon. Both the e-version (Kindle eBook) and the paperback version are now available on Amazon.

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