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The Leader And The Led By Niyi Osundare: Poem & Summary

The Leader And The Led By Niyi Osundare
The Leader And The Led By Niyi Osundare

“The Leader And The Led” by Niyi Osundare is one African Poetry the WAEC body selected for Literature students for 2021-2025. In this blog post, we will help students to provide some insights into the work of art, including the poem, introduction, summary, and about the poet.

The Leader And The Led Introduction

“The Leader and the Led” is a poem by Nigerian poet Niyi Osundare. The poem is a commentary on the relationship between leaders and the led. It describes the role of leaders in society and how they ought to guide and inspire the people they lead. 

The poem also explores how leaders can sometimes fail to live up to their responsibilities and how this can lead to the suffering of the people they lead. 

The poem also touches on the theme of power and how it is used and abused by those in positions of authority. It is a thought-provoking work that delves into the complex dynamics of leadership and the responsibilities that come with it.

The poem serves as a call to action for leaders to be accountable for their actions and to work for the betterment of their people.

Poem: The Leader And The Led

The Lion stakes his claim
To the leadership of the pack

But the Antelopes remember
The ferocious pounce of his paws

The hyena says the crown is made for him
But the Impalas shudder at his lethal appetite

The Giraffe craves a place in the front
But his eyes are too far from the ground

When the Zebra says it’s his right to lead
The pack points to the duplicity of his stripes

The Elephant trudges into the power tussle
But its colleagues dread his trampling feet

The Warthog is too ugly
The rhino too riotous

And the pack thrashes around
Like a snake without a head

“Our need calls for a hybrid of habits”,
Proclaims the Forest Sage,

“A little bit of a Lion
A little bit of a Lamb

Tough like a tiger, compassionate like a doe
Transparent like a river, mysterious like a lake

A leader who knows how to follow
Followers mindful of their right to lead”

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The Leader And The Led Summary

In the poem “The Leader and the Led” by Niyi Osundare, the speaker presents a commentary on leadership and the qualities a leader should possess. The poem begins by describing various animals, such as the Lion, Antelope, Hyena, Giraffe, Zebra, Elephant, Warthog, and Rhino, who all stake their claim to the leadership of the pack.

However, each animal is criticized for various shortcomings; for example, the Lion is remembered for its ferocious pounce, the Hyena is criticized for its lethal appetite, and the Elephant is dreaded for its trampling feet.

As the poem progresses, the speaker presents the idea that the pack of animals is in search of a leader, but none of the individual animals is suitable. The speaker then introduces the idea of a “hybrid of habits,” a leader who possesses a combination of qualities that are both strong and compassionate, transparent yet mysterious, and able to lead while also knowing how to follow.

The speaker concludes by suggesting that the pack needs a leader who can balance both toughness and compassion and that followers should also be mindful of their ability to lead.

Overall, the poem is a commentary on the importance of having a leader who possesses a balance of qualities and not someone who is too extreme in any one direction.

The poem also suggests that followers have a responsibility to be aware of their leadership potential and mindful of the qualities they want in a leader.

Themes Of The Poem

1. Leadership

“Leadership” is one of the main themes of the poem “The Leader and the Led” by Niyi Osundare. The poem uses different animals, such as lions, antelopes, hyenas, and zebras, to represent different types of leaders and their characteristics.

The poem highlights that leadership is not solely based on physical strength or power, but also on a leader’s ability to be compassionate, transparent, and mysterious. It also suggests that a good leader should possess a balance of traits and not just one dominant trait.

The poem also implies that a leader should know how to follow and the followers should be mindful of their right to lead.

2. Followership

The poet explores the theme of “followership” through the idea that true leadership is not just about the qualities and characteristics of the leader, but also about the qualities and characteristics of the followers. The poem presents a variety of animals, such as lions, antelopes, hyenas, giraffes, zebras, elephants, warthogs, and rhinos, each of which represents a different type of leader or potential leader.

However, the poem also highlights the importance of the followers in determining which leader is best suited to lead the pack. The poem suggests that true leadership is a balance between the leader’s strengths and the followers’ needs, and that a leader who knows how to follow is just as important as a leader who knows how to lead.

The “Forest Sage” in the poem speaks of the need for a leader who is a “hybrid of habits” and that a leader who knows how to follow is just as important as a leader who knows how to lead, this theme of followership is central to the poem.

3. Balance

“Balance” is a theme in the poem “The Leader and the Led” by Niyi Osundare. This theme is evident in the way the poem presents the idea that a leader should possess a balance of qualities that are typically seen as opposites.

The poem suggests that a leader should be a “hybrid of habits,” possessing both “tough” and “compassionate” traits, and being both “transparent” and “mysterious” at the same time.

The poem also suggests that a leader should be able to “follow” as well as lead. The poet emphasizes the theme of balance through the use of animal imagery throughout the poem, with different animals representing different qualities. By depicting a variety of animals with different strengths and weaknesses, the poem illustrates that the ideal leader is one who is able to balance these qualities.

About The Poet – Niyi Osundare

Niyi Osundare is a Nigerian poet, playwright, and literary critic. He was born on April 20, 1947, in Ikere-Ekiti, Nigeria. He is one of the most prominent poets in contemporary Nigeria and one of the leading voices in African poetry.

Osundare received his primary education in Ikere-Ekiti, and later attended the University of Ibadan, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in English. He received a Master of Arts degree from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Ibadan.

Osundare began his career as a teacher and lecturer, teaching at various institutions, including the University of Lagos and the University of Ibadan. He is a professor of English at the University of New Orleans.

Osundare is a prolific writer, and his work spans several genres, including poetry, drama, and literary criticism. His poetry is known for its strong social and political commentary, often addressing issues such as poverty, corruption, and human rights. He is known for his use of traditional African imagery and oral forms in his poetry and was honoured with several awards and honours.

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