The leader and the led by Niyi Osundare

“The Leader and the Led,” by Niyi Osundare tells the story of an animal kingdom lacking leadership based on rivalry and imperfection.

The most powerful animal in the kingdom saw the reason and right to become the ruler yet their power seemed to be their flaws (the reasons for them not to be voted). The trouble prolonged until the “Forest Sage” (in line18 stanza 9) proffered a solution.

According to the forest sage, strength alone isn’t the yardstick for becoming a ruler. The balance of strength and weakness is the needed quality for any animal that will rule the pack well. (Naija Poets)


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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
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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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Niyi Osundare (born in Ikere-Ekiti, Nigeria, in 1947) is an essayist, writer for the theatre, lecturer, and one of Nigeria’s most celebrated poets.

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