The Purple Review | Up Nepa By Iyanu Adebiyi

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Escape, A Short Fiction

What Many Nigerians Don’t Get

Imagine yourself in total darkness, no access to light or anything that will bring you electricity. After what seem like eternity, your light bulb laughed. There is light, what do you say? Up Nepa!

On October 1st, when I was still contemplating if I should make a blog post celebrating Nigeria or not, that was before I saw some disturbing green white green photos, I came across a brilliant spoken word piece, unique in its style with a bit of open curiosity. When Iyanu adebiyi showed us the teaser of this poetic piece on the shoreline of Facebook, I didn’t know what to expect. I wondered what she meant by Up Nepa and I was amused. Little did I know what was up her sleeves. 

First Eye: It looks like a film but it is much more. This is just something different. Was it because she used poetry and added dramatic dose of  word fun( Up Nepa,Up Nepa really does amuse me) I can’t really tell. Or was it that she focused the poem on a prevalent economic situation in Nigeria? I cannot succinctly describe the over all picture. One thing I noted is this, if Iyanu keeps up, she would be a  power force to reckon with in the world of Nigerian poetry. 

My High Five: Beautiful lines that sits on the shores of reality, a very good sound that flows with the richness of words and dramatic artiste that excellently conveyed words in subtle beauty. I particularly liked that the dramatics were not too serious, just two guys, one emphasising the need for his rumpled shirt to be ironed and another seeking help from a pastor. We see that the first guy is the same guy that acted as a pastor and that’s alright. I also noted that the poet acted as the mother of the shivering son. If this lovely poetic drama had probably infused more characters than this, it may have ruined the whole beauty.

That’s not all, the way the poet magically aligned the Nigerian lack of electricity situation with other problems existent in the country is damn attractive.

Her emphasis on “Up Nepa, Up Nepa” magically took me back to the days when I would beg the electricity company to give light so I can cook, do my high school assignment or watch my favourite TV series: superstory, telemundo things- second chance, Catalina and Sebastian. I was also reminded of saving funds to buy fuel and watching the clock tick 8pm so I can switch on the generator and avoid an  unpleasant night time of empty darkness. Those were the nights when NEPA shined the light, a flick or two, 30minutes delight and the power is gone, everybody curse.

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The poet reminds us of our worries as Nigerians and relates it to electricity, no amount of words can describe the rainbows of beauty in this poetic capture.  Let me take you through some. The opening line is too pretty not to be true.

“In Nigeria, we don’t have light, (outright truth, no need hiding the obvious and over all objective of the poetic piece) common sense is trampled upon and thrown into the bin so that to pick it up to wash and iron his rumpled shirt...”screenshot_20161006-111815-2

See how Iyanu infused her knowledge of the comatose state of Nigerian electricity with the problems associated with it. Of course, your shirt is rumpled because no light to iron. She went further to liken it to “a fire that burns to ashes” we all know what fire does. Iyanu justifies this statement in another poetic line ” it hurts” 

Another captivating detail that rings a bell to me is that the poet tells us Nigeria is dark and vision is lost, apparently where one is in darkness, no one can see. Not only does this tells us electricity is not an everyday joy, her next line corroborate the previous and  tells a lot about economic situation, leadership and governance in Nigeria.

I come from a land of  the night where vision has lost its sight”  (a)

“No human rights or a sense of what is right”  (a)

“No hope to re write our poverty streaked plight”  (a)  Iyanu is a genius in rhyme here. 

The hand gestures aligned with the pop up texts were perfect though at some tiny sec point, it didn’t quite make a perfect fit. That part where she says ” This is where darkness reigns…” She was probably consumed by the reality of her words, it showed she understands the situation and is deeply affected by it.

The dramatic poem focused not just on the lack of electricity but also how it affects the daily aspects of human life. We see a mother and a sick son, with the dawn of darkness comes sickness. I did not take this technically as stated in the video, I see it as lack of opportunities or desires a mother cannot find for her child. But she trudges on in faith that light will come. The poet’s sharply subtle voice smoothly narrates the whole epic tale.

The hmm Part: Nigerians know what Up Nepa entails but this is social media, with all the hullabaloo and it could go viral, even reach president Obama’s office or Mark Zukerberg. Yes oh, It would have been nice if the poet tells what UP NEPA( National electric power authority- Nigerians’ cliche elation to the sudden shower of electricity after a supposed long disruption ) really means to the unknowing person who stumbles upon the video while sipping hot cocoa or lazying across the internet space. We don’t want any disinterest or what does this mean? We want this foreigner to feel exactly how Nigerians felt while watching the video and possibly reach out to the poet. “oh lovely piece, I want to help light Nigeria” Trust me this poem can do wonders. Of course, I don’t picture the poet calling out National Electricity what have you in the poem, that would be awkward. An introductory meaning in text or at the ending would do. Notwithstanding, any smart internet onlooker should be able to grab a tangible thing or two and once again, Iyanu made up for this when she calls out PHCN, ( power holding company of Nigeria) 

I didn’t really feel the church line part, I think she should have scrapped it for something stronger. No light to power the mic? How about no light to prevent crime or accidents on highways where street lamps are in rickety fashion? 

The part where the man was sadly straining his eyes to read a book and then shouts “Up Nepa Up Nepa” was a bit confusing at first. I thought he was waiting for light to read and suddenly it came. You chant Up Nepa when light comes now? But the poet’s succeeding line didn’t project this. It said “…a prayer to the man upstairs to send us light just for a while” meaning the light didn’t come so why shout Up Nepa? Perhaps She could have used that line before the Up Nepa Up Nepa line even though the man wasn’t in darkness ( make believe must be real you know?). It’s okay because Iyanu made up for this part at the ending where candles were the only source of light and hey! light came and shouts of Up Nepa,Up Nepa echoed to bring the beautiful thought provoking spoken word to an end. An end with light. An end that shows, Nigeria will someday be fine.

Conclusively, the poet speaks to us as a nation. This is not just any kind of poem. I discovered that Iyanu didn’t just use the catch phrase “Up Nepa” to explain the lack of electricity. With hopefulness in prayer, she also used it to induce a call to let us make Nigeria great and stop heaping blames on Nepa and what have you.

Praying Up Nepa,Up Nepa, to awaken you from your death”

“A lamp unto your path to strengthen your heart. Listen Naija, serve the fertile land with love, sweat and faith…”

Plus, who wouldn’t remember the woes of staying in the dark in Nigeria? Up Nepa helped by throwing in some light on this darkness and that has made all the difference. And I wondered what exactly Iyanu was thinking when she came up with this.

 Meet Iyanu Adebiyi, a spoken word artiste with finesse.

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