By OLAMIDE BABATUNDE
Bolaji Salaudeen Ramos, popularly knowns as Bolaji St.Ramos, is a Nigerian lawyer and poet, first published in a US online platform as Bolaji Salau Ramos. With the publication of his poetry book, The Battlefield Poet: Elegy for Christopher Okigbo (2017), it is the first time he has published his first full-length book as Bolaji St. Ramos.
“Writing is a forte that even Law cannot take away from me,” he declares. “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.”
The Battlefield Poet: Elegy for Christopher Okigbo is first full-length book, though he has been published in various anthologies in the UK, South Africa, Nigeria and online in the US. “It is performance poetry with that some stage directions, and it is fully dedicated to the late Christopher Okigbo,” he explains. “The book is best qualified as philosophical, fictional performance poetry. It is poetry —but, then, it has elements of fiction (because it tell 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.”
St. Ramos’ book has a fictional storyline just like prose, with stage directions and characters (poets) just like drama, presented in the form of poetry. The author explains further, “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.”
The book, which was began in 2005, opens with a poem dedicated to the only daughter and child of Christopher Okigbo, Obiageli, followed by a prologue that sets an atmosphere for the coming war. After that come the main five parts of the book. While Parts 1, 3 and 4 were set in the physical realm while Parts 2 and 5 transpired in the metaphysical realm.
The author doesn’t hide his fascination with Okigbo, “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.”
Recently, the agitation for Biafran secession has been trending, would he say his book is a political one to support or go against the struggle? He says, “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’.”
If you are curious to know whether the book is a condemnation or justification for Okigbo’s enlistment in the Biafran Army and his eventual death, the lawyer-writer has a different purpose, “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.”
Still, he wants to prove a point with this book, “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 analyses certain existing philosophies; a book that propounds its own new philosophies—such a boom can only be classified as landmark.”
Future plans for the book include staging it as a performance, 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. He will soon be talking with the stakeholders and other people interested in the projects. “The Okigbo Foundation is never out of mind and sight,” he hints.