World Poem Day, Abuja,

Poets, activists and leaders, who converged on Abuja towards addressing Nigeria’s security and leadership challenges, say there was the need to reflect and draw moral lessons from the poem “The Casualties,” by legendary J.P Clark.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the stakeholders gathered on Wednesday night at an interactive forum aimed at proffering solutions to the nation’s many challenges using poetry, which held at the Thoughts Pyramid, Abuja.

The event was put together by The Arts and Civics Table (TACT) Organisation, an NGO that promote civic engagement culture through discussions and debates on issues of public interest.

Mr Ose Anenih, a co-founder of TACT, said that the event with the theme, ”We Are All Casualties”, was in commemoration of the World Poetry Day (March 21).

He noted that although the acclaimed poem by J.P Clark, was written over four decades ago, its timeless lessons were still relevant to Nigeria’s current situation.

”Happenings in our country today show that we are all are casualties in one way or the other, both the rich and the poor, leaders and followers, Christians and Moslems, and something needs to be done quickly.

”In line with the vision of the TACT, this panel of conversation, with literary icons and people from other background, is to decipher The Casualities in other for everyone to learn some lessons and change”.

Dr Isaac Nnadi, a septuagenarian and leadership expert, noted during the discussion that J.P Clark wrote the poem to stress the fact that everyone suffers during crisis.

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He therefore advised leaders at all levels to learn from the nation’s ugly past by shunning sentiments that could disrupt national peace and development.

Nnadi said: “The Nigeria Civil War which lasted almost three years, took its root from various political, ethnic, cultural and religious crisis which continued on unchecked.

“The poet tells us that the casualties of this war are not only those who are dead because they are well out of it.

“The dead are no doubt victims in this brutal war, but death in itself is the ultimate escapism from the pain and anguish in war,’’ he said.

A poet, Gimba Kakanda, noted that the poem addressed injustice, oppression and looting, adding that leaders should always be selfless and objective.

He noted that Nigeria today was being polarised along ethnic and religious lines which was not healthy in building a strong and united nation.

He said : “Why should someone look at your name or where you come from before taking a stand with you or against you, even if you are doing the right thing?”

Another Panelist, Veronica Bakan, said that for Nigerians to avoid being casualties, they must deliberately identify and build unifying factors and shun hate speeches and actions.

She said: “we have focused so much on what divide us; it is time we find those things that connect us and strengthen them as a nation.

“The tribe of humanity is one, and there is no tribe or religion that is older than being human”, she said.

However, an activist, Maureen Kabrik, noted that ordinary Nigerians have become the actual casualties in the hands of their leaders over the years.

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“The political class are the ones making casualties out of the people they are meant to serve, and unless they change we are going nowhere as a nation.

“They divide us along tribal and religious line just for them to maintain their dominion over us”, she alleged.

High point of the event was the recitation of the poem “The Casualties,’’by a young poet Umari Ayim, followed by other performances by upcoming poet poets Cech and Iyana.

NAN reports that the poem”The Casualties” written by J.P Clark, one of Nigeria’s foremost literary icons, points to the time of the Civil War.

The poet asserts that the casualties are not only the ones who are wounded, and the dead, for they are far from the devastating consequences of the war.

It is not only those who have lost their material assets and property, it is also those who have irretrievably lost their dear ones.

He noted that the casualties include those who started a fire and that cannot now extinguish the same.