In the Tradition of Military Poets: Umar Abubakar Sidi’s Like Butterflies Scattered About By Art Rascals
Umar Abubakar Sidi’s second book of poems has been generously praised by early reviewers, lending credence to his burgeoning place in Nigeria and Africa’s literary firmament. He made his first promising impression three years ago when he notched his literary bow with his debut collection, The Poet of Dust. The creative Naval Commander has created an exquisite balance between military duties and intellectual persuasions. And that commitment to the arts has berthed his acclaimed second poetry collection, Like Butterflies Scattered About By Art Rascals.
But Naval Commander Umar Sidi is on a familiar terrain traveled by his uniformed forebears. One has in mind the late Adolphus Nwabara, lawyer and former soldier, and founder of Nka literary club at the University of Calabar in the south of Nigeria. Sidi’s foray into poetry also calls to mind the literary history of Poet Chris Okigbo, who fell with his boots on during the Nigeria civil war while fighting on the Biafra side of the struggle at the Nsukka front.
In the same inspiring attitude, the poet follows the tradition of military poets like Major General Mamman Jiya Vatsa of the Nigerian army. Military poets often mine their military experiences to form poetry. For instance, Ossie Onuora Enekwe’s poem, “To a Friend Made and Lost in War,” bear these lines: God saved you/At Ihiala, Ozubulu/And Eluama where/You lay on the tracks of enemy guns. Sidi also draws parallels with Dr. Peter Onwudinjo, author of Women of Biafra and Other Poems, who drew heavily on his military and civil war experiences in his book about the Nigeria civil war, where he was an active combatant on the side of the breakaway republic.
The poet is not bothered about the anxiety of influences some writers worry about while writing. This demonstrates creative confidence rooted in self-belief, intellect, and a deep well of inspiration. He reads a lot and reveals his influences. An admirer of the poetic masterpieces of Chris Okigbo, Umar also finds meaning in the aphorism of the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. He takes the view of Borges, who has said that “reading is more civil than writing.” Umar confesses his affinity for Okigbo’s writings: “Okigbo is one of my favorite poets, so I knew the kind of poet I wanted to be, and I knew that to become that person, I had to read a lot of books. I did not plan to use them in my works, but they show up.”
Sidi Umar has demonstrated an irrepressible commitment to a poetic and literary culture by choosing to write despite the pressures of his urgent national security assignments. He has creatively used his off-time from duties to craft a book rooted in talents and promise. This has led the academic, Dr. Ismail Bala of Bayero University, Kano, to submit that: “Sidi writes a kind of poetry that I believe is non-conventional.” He further says, “it means you have to be very good at it (poetry).” Like Butterflies Scattered About By Art Rascals is published by Masobe Books: https://masobebooks.com/books/like-butterflies-scattered-about-by-art-rascals/