Reading and Analysing African Poetry “Ambush” by Gbemisola Adeoti 


Welcome to class! 

In today’s class, we will be talking about reading and analysing African poetry “Ambush”: By Gbemisola Adeoti. Enjoy the class!

"Ambush" by Gbemisola Adeoti  |

About the poet

Dr Gbemisola Adeoti is a lecturer in the English Department of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. His area of teaching and research includes Dramatic Literature, Poetry, Literary History/theory and Popular Culture. He is the author of Naked Soles, co-editor (with Bjorn Beckman) of Intellectuals and African Development and editor of Muse and Mimesis: Critical Perspectives on Ahmed Yerima’s Drama.

Content analysis

The poem, ‘Ambush’, is a work by Gbemisola Adeoti that captures the attitude of Nigerian political leaders toward governance. The poet settles for the title ‘Ambush’ as it dramatically tells how the Nigerian leaders lie in wait to attack the hopes of the masses. To depict the true nature of these leaders, he employs metaphor to x-ray the traits of the so-called leaders. He says, ‘The land is a giant whale/that swallow the sinker/with hook, line and bait’. In the above lines, the exact picture of the leaders is captured. They are only interested in siphoning public funds which would have been deployed to provide the citizenry basic infrastructure and social amenities to enable the masses to thrive in life. Instead of providing a conducive and thriving environment for the masses, the leaders engage in frustrating them. Hence, the leaders help in ‘aborting dreams of a good catch’. When the government fails in its responsibilities, it may be impossible for the masses to succeed. No wonder the masses are seen as ‘fishers turn home at dusk/blue Peter on empty ships/all Peters with petered out desires.’ To effectively expose the spate the masses find themselves, the poet uses biblical allusion on the case of Peter in the bible who fished all night and came back empty, to liken the fate of the people who toil all day and come back empty. This is as a result of the leaders neglecting the masses and failing to provide them with a fair playing ground.

In the second stanza, the leaders change nature into a more dangerous form in ‘The land is a sabre-toothed tiger’. He sees the leaders as tigers that devour the masses as preys. The selfishness and greed that characterize the leadership in Nigeria have devoured the possibilities of the ordinary man on the street to make it and survive. Due to the present carnivorous nature of leaders in Nigeria, adults are seen running away leaving ‘infant’ to ‘shudder home’ and ‘the grizzled ones snatch their gut/from bayonets of tribulation’. That is, the masses turn to crime and violence as alternative means of survival.

He continues in the third stanza: ‘The land is a giant hawk/that courts unceasing disaster/as it hovers and hoots in space’. For the masses not to organize themselves and question the leaders, the Nigerian leaders decide to provoke an unending crisis that will keep the masses in a spot. Also, the callous nature of governance breeds disaster as unsatisfied groups begin to rise against the government.

Finally, in the last stanza, these leaders begin to strategically attack those questioning their excesses as stated in ‘The land lies patiently ahead/awaiting in ambush/those who point away from direction/where nothing happens/toward the shore of possibilities’. The poet reveals that the leaders don’t want to give up in their selfishness, rather would attack anyone that wants to stop them.


  1. Give a detailed content analysis of the poem.
  2. Comment on the poem, ‘Ambush’, as a satire.

Poetic devices

The poem, ‘Ambush’, is characterized by the use of several poetic devices such as metaphor in the first line of the first three stanzas. Imagery is employed to visually capture the way and manner the leaders frustrate and terminate the dreams of the masses. Biblical allusion on the case of Peter in the bible is employed to show the helplessness of the masses who have been adversely affected by the corrupt practices of the leaders. ‘The land’ is used repeatedly to symbolize the leaders. Neologism is also another device deployed by the poet in the word ‘petered’. Other sound devices like alliteration, onomatopoeia and assonance are utilized by the poet to drive home meaning.

Thematic focus

  1. The theme of disillusionment and betrayal.
  2. The theme of corruption and insecurity.
  3. The theme of greed and selfishness.
  4. The theme of political instability and frustration.
General evaluation
  1. Comment on the theme of attack of the predator on the prey, using the poem, ‘Ambush’.
  2. Examine the poetic devices deployed in the poem, ‘Ambush’.

Weekend assignment

  1. “A black beautiful brilliant bride” is an example of A. pun. B. alliteration. C. assonance. D. onomatopoeia.
  2. The paragraph in prose can be compared to ____ in poetry. A. couplet B. line C. stanza D. verse
  3. The juxtaposition of two seemingly contradictory words is A. contrast. B. anti-climax. C. oxymoron. D. antithesis.
  4. In “I am so famished, I can devour a whole cow”, the device used is A. hyperbole. B. metaphor. C. irony. D. sarcasm.
  5. The repetition of initial consonant sounds in poetry is A. rhyme. B. assonance. C. oxymoron. D. alliteration.


  1. Examine Gbemisola Adeoti’s ‘Ambush’ as an x-ray of the Nigerian political trends.
  2. Discuss the major theme of the poem.

Reading assignment

Read the themes of the poem above in Exam Focus.


In our next class, we will be talking about Revision of Poetic Device. We hope you enjoyed the class.

Should you have any further question, feel free to ask in the comment section below and trust us to respond as soon as possible.

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