Africa As A political symbol In Gbemisola Adeoti's AMBUSH

Politics remains an integral element that helps determine the pattern of growth and development for any society. In Africa, it has however, played an unenviable role and has led to a downturn, thereby negatively affecting the standard of living of her ever increasing populace. The lack of political willingness to tow the part of positive change remains a challenge that is yet to be conquered. However, there is hope of light at the end of the tunnel as change remains a constant factor; but what is bothersome is the question of when this much anticipated change will eventually happen.

Gbemisola Adeoti, a renowned poet and a professor of Dramatic Literature uses literature to expose the follies and wobbles of the society. His consciousness on what an ideal society should be, led him to produce several works of art and his penchant for excellence has strategically placed him as one of Africa’s finest poets and a harbinger of hope in the literary world. Regarded as a poet of justice, Adeoti’s unwavering stance on societal issues, through his poems and other writings, continually open our eyes to the ills of the society, while also proffering practicable solutions.


Gbemisola Adeoti

Professor in the English Department and Director of the Institute of Cultural Studies at the Obafemi Awolowo University , Ile-Ife, Nigeria.

Whale swallowing school of Fish

Africa in Gbemisola Adeoti’s “Ambush”

In the poem “Ambush”, Adeoti makes an improbable comparison in the introductory part of the poem as he asserted that:

“The land is a giant whale
That swallows the sinker,
With hook, line and bait”


Here, the land symbolizes the elites or the constituted authorities as some would say, of the society; and in a shocking comparison, Adeoti called them a giant whale that swallows. Imagine a whale swallowing all fishing tools – sinker, hook, line and the bait; this tells the sorry state of our continent. According to Transparency International, “corruption in African countries is hindering economic, political and social development. It is a major barrier to economic growth, good governance and basic freedoms, such as freedom of speech or citizens’ right to hold governments to account.” All of the needed tools (resources) for the growth and development of our society has either been misappropriated or swallowed (embezzled) in its entirety. And of course, it obviously has effects on the ever growing population; thereby:

“Aborting dreams of a good catch
Fishers turn home at dusk
Blue Peter on empty ships
All Peters with petered out desires”

Extreme poverty continues to increase in sub-Saharan Africa

The World Bank’s latest Poverty and Shared Prosperity reported that “sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where the overall number of extremely poor people is increasing rather than decreasing.” However, with the fishing tools all being swallowed, every dream gets shattered. Political recklessness has aborted the dreams of several young enterprising minds, as the needed resources for their uplift have been misused by the ‘powers that be.’ This has led to frustration for many youths as their desires in life get crushed, with little or no hope of resuscitating. And of course, they return home empty handed – this is a major cause of poverty in the continent. Jobs and opportunities that are meant for the populace are handed over to a selected few (powerful), who in turn, pick those close to them for such opportunities. It is now a game of who you know!

Again, Adeoti made another daring comparison in the second stanza as he believes that:

“The land is a saber-toothed tiger
That cries deep in the glade
While infants shudder home
The grizzled ones snatch their gut
From bayonets of tribulation
Halting venturous walk at dusk”

The land, that is, the political elites, is directly compared to a tiger, which is a dangerous wild animal that seeks to devour anything that comes its way in the forest. And shockingly, its tooth is called a saber – a heavy cavalry sword with a curved blade and a single cutting edge, meant to cut or wound. The terrifying sight of these political elites have scared the infants (feeble minds), while those we consider grizzled (brave) still try to challenge the status quo but retreat later on. Politics has been used by politicians in Africa as a tool to consume every barrier that surmounts itself to challenge their atrocities. Many strong-willed individuals have been bought, either by positions or financial rewards. One begins to wonder the veracity of the claim that – everyone has a price!

Sabretooth Tiger
Sabretooth Tiger
Hawks Bird of prey
Hawk Bird of Prey

Comparing the land (the political elites) to a giant hawk is highly symbolic as they always watch out for their prey. Could Adeoti be talking about the selective witch hunt by political figures in the continent? In several African countries, such as Nigeria and Rwanda – there have been several reports of opposition voices disappearing or being detained without trials. Many a times, court orders for the release of the detained political prisoners are disobeyed.

Adeoti believes the political elites are all eagerly waiting as he rightly puts it:

“The land lies patiently ahead
Awaiting in ambush
Those who point away from a direction
Where nothing happens
Toward the shore of possibilities.”

 In a bid not to get caught up unaware, the political elites comes up with several plots to preserve their political structure while also ensuring that no one is allowed to get ahead of them in the scheme of governance. The populace is conditioned to take certain things as truths – even if they are false in the real sense. Opportunities are placed away from the reach of the ordinary people, who have no connection to power or wealth whatsoever. Only a few are allowed to get close while others follow the dictates of the ruling class.

While politics is referred to as a dirty game, we all must ensure to be the ‘detergents’ to clean up our political space. Despite all challenges faced by the continent currently, there is still hope for a better future. Though the task to gain freedom would be daunting but in the words of Elbert Hubbard – “Freedom cannot be bestowed –  it must be achieved.”

Other Publications By Gbemisola Adeoti

Interlectuals and African developement


co Author Gbemisola Adeoti

Inside African Forest


Gbemisola Adeoti

Africa literature and the future


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