Enigmatic Olumide’s “I Count” is a two hundred and forty-two seconds spoken word video, directed by Kayode Babalola and Enigmatic Olumide, with a salty symphony and theatricality that calls for social change. Watching this spoken word video reminds me of Albert Camus’s Philosophy of Revolt. According to Camus, in a revolt, “cosmic absurdity tends to retreat into the background, and a moral idealism comes to the fore; a moral idealism which did not call for the production of an elite, an aristocracy of higher men, at the expense of the other, but which insisted on freedom and justice for all, real freedom and justice, moreover, not oppression or enslavement masquerading under those honoured names.” Thus, it seems the poet hopes for a moral idealism.
This video, which captures the socio-political history and the present of Nigeria, begins with an image of a very skinny, starving child, one of the victims of the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) on the front-page of Daily Mirror. This gruesome image foreruns more saddening images about the Civil War with a cacophony of gunshots. There is also a pictorial journey from the historical Nigeria to the present Nigeria. Then the spoken word artiste (or poet) shows his patriotism by infusing the Nigerian National Anthem before he begins to pour out his “troubled spirit.”
A candle loses its light to connote the hovering darkness of corruption and oppression that has enveloped Nigeria. And it is in this darkness with a black attire and a mournful mien that the poet speaks rhetorically and rhythmically. The poet begins with a question that demands reason or explanation: why? The repetition of the why-question shows the poet’s (extensively the people’s) demand for a justification for the trebling and troubling rate of corruption and oppression in the country.
This video is an interplay of symbolic images with a dominating scene of a candle light procession and a couple of mime dramatic performances of the poet’s lamentation. However, “I Count” is not just a poet’s lamentation, but also a call for self-realisation and significance. At the end of the spoken word, the candle that lost its light at the beginning of the performance, regains its light, signifying hope, a hope that can only be attained through activism void of greed and dishonesty. The poet also suggests that a people should know their history, quoting Edmund Burke: “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”
Although, this is an interesting spoken word video, it is important to note that this spoken word seems so prosaic that it may lose its pulchritude if it is strictly confined to the pages of papers.
Chinua Achebe writes in his “The Novelist as Teacher”, “Here, then, is an adequate revolution for me to espouse – to help my society regain its belief in itself and put away the complexes of the years of denigration and self-denigration.” Achebe’s statement seems to affirm the authorial vision of the poet.
Therefore, I, you, we count for the voice of the people is the voice of God.
Watch Enigmatic Olumide’s spoken word video “I Count” below:
NB: This review was first published on the 3rd issue of Expound.
By Samuel Oluwatobi Olatunji