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Beware the Drives

2008, author(s)-editor(s) Sammy Oke Akombi

This collection of verse, which has mostly short poems, some of which are two-liners, is an outcome of several years of keen observation of the very nature of man. The observation brought this writer to the conclusion that man is dominated by fear and in his effort to conquer it, he resorts to unbridled aggression. Such aggression has been very instrumental in much of the success that humanity has been able to achieve, so far. But at the same time, the same aggression in man’s nature has been responsible for the pleasure he takes in the ruthless destruction of his own kind, the environment in which he cushions himself, plants and animals.

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ISBN 9789956558858 | 76 pages | 203 x 127 mm | 2008 | Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon | Paperback

3 Book Reviews

  • Book Review: Beware The Drives 26 May 2009 00:44, author(s)-editor(s) Azore Opio

    This book of verse, which is on its way to the printing press, is aptly woven at a time when human character and developments have fulfilled most of the Biblical prophecies; from Moses to Jesus - from revival of interest in Satanism and witchcraft to the brink of a devastating war.

    Beware The Drives comprised of 127 verses, is not a complex evangelical treatise, but a direct plea, with thin poetic disguises, to human conscience to turn from bad to good. It is a search for answers to the larger problem of living, answers to the miserable conditions in the nation, and, most of all, the visceral question of man.

    Akombi, in a serene mood and supplicating tone, captures the superficiality and existentialism of the age with intricate but unfussy verses penned in simple, laconic words. But so much remain hidden between the words. From the poem that reads:

    Quite depressing When a kid points At another kid, born of his father And says: ’there goes my enemy for life’ Even more so

    When people of the world Children of one God Get so scared about their enemies for life

    Akombi’s manuscript is a major event. Humanity is pitted against humanity. Man has overlooked the most authentic voice of all - the voice of reason - and now leaves in fear, like the Zulu in Patti Waldmeir’s "Anatomy Of A Miracle" where the author says "life for a Zulu is short, militarist and brutish."

    The poem "Whither The Claims" illustrates this frightening situation: Whither the claims of humanity When humans’ve lost their sense of dignity And treat humans unlike humans Rile humans

    Rob humans Rape humans Rip humans Whither the claims of humanity…

    Beware The Drives is human drama - man’s follies and by way of a brisk twist, a moral tale. Akombi wants his poems to fully engage with the world of poverty, corruption, injustice, materialism, love, hate, forgiveness.

    The poems are as clear as a school bell; nifty snippets of wise sayings loaded with philosophical nuances. "A Fervent Wish" says all about how the world would be better off if humans were more reflective:

    How I wish The world were tranquil It’ll make humans Hear the heartbeat of others And the bidding of God

    How I wish Every folk were kind and gentle It’ll make humans feel concerned about the mess That’s spilling out How I wish

    Time, for a second, stood still It’ll make man and woman Check their steps In the dance

    Towards the unknown At Ahmadou’s Deathbed, the dying dictator succumbs to a catatonic self-pity as he tries to relate his sinful past with shock realisation. "…to keep a seat, so hot, so much dirt had to accumulate The people, whose leader I was grew more and more feeble and I liked it

    They called me their Draco and I liked that The fear I had sowed in their hearts, had made them toe the lines I forged… But see me now compatriot, I’m unable to do what I’d done Quietly, I’m dying on an alien bed in an alien land

    The guards in their thousands that I used to have, Not even one stands by my death bed… As I make my exit, I can hear death knocking with so much urgency… Now that I die in this dismal room, I’ve learnt many a lesson…"

    Akombi begins and concludes that man is dominated by fear, and in his "effort to conquer it, he resorts to unbridled aggression." This aggression, according to Akombi, is double-edged - can be used for the success of humanity at the same time, it is responsible for the ruthless destruction of mankind. Thus, fear is good if used properly but can have terrible consequences when misused.

  • Book Review: Beware the Drives by Sammy Oke Akombi 15 July 2009 13:23, author(s)-editor(s) Peter Wuteh Vakunta, Ph.D, University of Wisconsin-Madison, (...)

    Beware the Drives is a rich collection of poems intriguing in several aspects but the quality that captures the reader’s attention the most is the book’s depiction of Cameroon’s socio-political realities. The poet wields language deftly to represent human interests— the tribulations of a people taken hostage in their homeland. In his attempt to problematize the ramification of megalomania, power-mongering and moral degeneracy on developmental retrogression in Cameroon and Africa as a whole, Sammy Akombe has resource to sexual innuendos as seen in the following verses: “An entire nation is raped/ And left reeking in pain/ O, What cruelty.”(42)

    The poet’s linguistic verve is manifest in his predilection for oxymoronic expressions: Over the decades/ We’ve been so used to being/So undemocratic/That/ Our own process of being/Quite democratic/ Is such a ridiculous rigmarole.”(45) These poems are an indictment of the abuse of democratic tenets .They resonate a clarion call to a collective soul-searching:“Count on conscience /At all times/ It loses patience/ And goes to sleep/ When evil gets the grip.”(16) The poet decries the prevalence of falsehood in a land yearning for candor: “Suppress the truth/And it’ll succumb but not crumble/ It’ll never die.”(45)

    Beware the Drives capitalizes on vantage point. The poet has the conviction that a prey has the capability of becoming a predator depending on the vagaries of the wheel of fortune: “Oftentimes, an enemy/of the state / Is a darling/ of the people/ In a state like that/ I’m at pains whom/ to state/ as the real enemy.”(46) This book of poems is a documentation of troubled times; a panegyric written in praise of freedom fighters. The poet eulogizes the quest for freedom and justice in the following resounding terms: Most of the time/fighters of freedom/ Fight as much for themselves/As for others.”(46) Like Jean Jacques Rousseau in Les Confessions (), Akombe contends that man is born good but is corrupted by society; free but everywhere in chains: “It’s hard to believe/ That the perpetrators of the deeds/ Were once innocent babies/ Fragile and vulnerable” (42).

    His angst is not limited to domestic emasculators of justice. He casts interrogating eyes on those who aid and abet the neo-colonization of the continent of Africa as these lines lucidly indicate: “I knew by name all the players/of Olympique Marseille/But knew none of those playing /For Olympique Mvolye/Who says we’re are done with colonialism.”(38)

    Beware the Drives pits God’s omnipotence against man’s puny endeavors to undo divine volition. “Beware the drives. They take you to the top/The same drives, drive you down the bottom.”(4) The reader is left pondering whether Akombe is a servant of Satan or an apostle of God: “When the gods watch a race/They watch out for its pace…/So there’s no race /The gods look forward to/ Like the race with hurdles.”(3) His willful toying with the reader’s emotions is palpable in the following lines: “There’s no greater awe/Than that a squalling toddler/ Shoots up to be a Jesus…/ or An Adolf Hitler.”(6) These lines bring to the fore Akome’s pensive reflections on the dualism characteristic of our humanness. His gratification derives from knowing that his message has attained the desired target: “The goodness of writing/ Is in the goodness of knowing /That someone out there/In the maddening crowd/ Can step aside/ And give your work a nod.”(11)

    The didactic undertones of this book of poems endow it with the strength of an existential blueprint. Heed the poet’s sagacious admonition in the following lines: “Modesty can cope/With both prosperity and adversity/ But vanity can cope/ Only with prosperity.”(13) Or the following lines pregnant with meaning:” The living like a traveler on foot/ Must from time to time put down their load/ to pause and ponder for some rest.”(13)

    Akombe does not gloss over the futile squabbles that continually wreak havoc in his native land: “In Norfolk, some folks/ spat on me/Because I’m African…/ In Yaoundé, some folks/ Spat on me/ Because I’m silly Anglo/Where then and when /Will folks stop/ Spitting on me?”(15) It is tempting to brand this poet a misanthropist. Nothing is farther from the truth! He sees much good in the woman beings who he perceives as paragons of virtue: “Women go down as beings of great tolerance/ They can cope with/Both ugliness/of the heart and that of the face.”(18) His fictionalization of romantic love is manifest in the following lines: “Love is neither wealth nor poverty/ It is neither ugliness nor beauty…/ Love is simply love.”(30) Tongue in cheek, the poet chastises the macho mentality of men who resort to physical abuse as a modus operandi for obtaining feminine affection: “Wives shouldn’t be appalled/When husbands resort to beating/They do it for want of giving something.”(18) His poems are a hymn in praise of moral rectitude: “When you are upright, everything is all right.”(59)

    Beware the Drives is a medley of praise and remonstrance. It is a rap on the bellicosity flaunted by belligerent pretenders to the ‘throne’ of Bakassi: “A bite of the Bight of Biafra/Once provoked a terrible war…What a waste!”(23) Notice the alliterative melody produced by Akombe’s conscientious choice of words in the verses above: bite, Bight, Biafra. Or this interesting one: “Avoid the back as you do the plague/ For of course not much good comes off it/ Backache/ Backward/ Backwoods/ Backwaters/ Backfire/ Backbite/ Backstab.”(34)

    Akombe debunks endemic corruption: “Corruption is like sinking sand/On which no solid foundation can stand.”(49)

    In a nutshell, Beware the Drives qualifies as a multifaceted piece of instructive writing with the potential to stand the test of time. Each poem is an entity sufficient onto itself, harboring a specific theme. The language is clear and free of sophistry. The didactic value of the book resides in its suitability to readers of all ages. It is hoped that it will be commissioned to fulfill the didactic function it was meant to perform.

    Reviewer: Peter Wuteh Vakunta, Ph.D [University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA]

    Source: www.postnewsline.com

  • Re-Mark Lilleleht’s Appraisal of Beware the Drives 6 January 2011 22:06, author(s)-editor(s) Sammy Oke Akombi

    I hate to do this (it’s taken me quite a while) but a work of art is like a vulnerable baby born to a world of cordiality and hostility. No parent aims to produce an unacceptable baby. Baby like art production is usually, if not always, for the good of the world. Before Beware the Drives went to press it had been subjected to numerous trials including the negative voice of judgement (VOJ). And Langaa was by no means under pressure to produce the work. They were the willing midwife who delivered the baby. Before doing so, they must have found in it something worth the trouble.

    If the work is read with some degree of mindfulness, the reader will find that it is a collection of snapshots expressed in a deliberate obvious manner to ring and keep ringing a bell in their mind. When I talk of mindfulness, I expect that a knowledge of the artist’s background is very necessary.

    If socio-politico-ideologico-quakes doesn’t make sense to Mark, it makes much sense to this artist and the people he represents. He is concerned about a society which is tearing itself apart because some people are hell bent on reversing the very essence of life, where a man and woman should relate with one another in such a way as to make their communities flourish in love, peace and dignity. He is concerned about the political and ideological differences that have been responsible for much, if not all, of the bloodshed around the world. This artist is so concerned that he could not help asking: ‘Is that why they ( the children in all their innocence) were born?.

     I am glad Mark referred to Globalization as a suggestive trope. It is one of the snapshots that is intended to ring and keep ringing a bell in the minds of mindful readers. The rest of the world may be embracing globalization with much enthusiasm but it should be known that this artist and his likes find it very confusing. He comes from a corner of the world where electricity is a luxury and even movement between two villages that are eighty kilometres apart takes days. To this artist, who is still grappling with the frustrations involved in imbibing western values, globalization is unwelcome and he does not mince his words in expressing this:

     It’s yet unknown
     Where to place my napkin at meal
     Which hand for the fork
     Which for the knife and which for the spoon
     And here comes the chopstick.

    I’d rather Mark Lilleleht weren’t weary at the end of this piece. It is a very strong message on the plight of a big slice of the world.
    No need to lose blood like many other pieces in the collection is a wonderful piece of poetry that condenses huge volumes into nineteen lines. All it takes to appreciate its worth is a mindful approach to the rather simple lines. The most useful of ideas have been expressed in the most simple of words.

    Sammy Oke Akombi
    Buea Cameroon.