Analysis of Not My Business by Niyi Osundare

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"Not My Business" is a powerful poem by Niyi Osundare that addresses the impact of political oppression and societal indifference. Through vivid imagery, Osundare explores the consequences of turning a blind eye to injustice, making a compelling commentary on the collective responsibility to challenge oppression. The poem was written in the context of political turmoil in Nigeria, emphasizing the universal relevance of its message.


The title "Not My Business" reflects the central theme of the poem, highlighting a pervasive attitude of apathy and detachment in the face of injustice. It suggests a mindset where individuals distance themselves from societal issues, believing that problems don't concern them personally. The title underscores the poet's critique of such indifference, urging readers to question their role in addressing social and political injustices rather than adopting a stance of passive noninvolvement.


The themes in "Not My Business" by Niyi Osundare encompass:

1. Political Oppression: The poem explores the consequences of living under a politically oppressive regime and the impact it has on individuals and society.

2. Apathy and Indifference: A central theme is the pervasive attitude of apathy and indifference among individuals who choose to distance themselves from societal issues, often at the cost of their fellow citizens.

3. Collective Responsibility: Osundare emphasizes the collective responsibility of individuals in society to address and challenge injustice, rather than adopting a passive stance of noninvolvement.

4. Fear and Silence: The poem delves into the fear that stifles dissent and the silence that results from the intimidation of those who might speak out against injustice.

5. Universal Relevance: While rooted in the Nigerian political context, the themes are universal, encouraging readers to reflect on their own social and political landscapes and their roles within them.

Tone and Mood

The tone of "Not My Business" by Niyi Osundare is both critical and reflective. Osundare employs a critical tone to denounce the societal apathy and indifference depicted in the poem. Through vivid imagery and sharp language, he challenges the reader to confront the consequences of turning a blind eye to injustice.

The mood of the poem is somber and contemplative. The oppressive political atmosphere described in the verses contributes to a sense of heaviness and reflection. The reader is compelled to consider the implications of inaction and the broader societal impact of remaining silent in the face of oppression. Overall, the tone and mood work together to convey a powerful message about social responsibility and the cost of indifference.


The imagery in "Not My Business" is vivid and evocative, creating a powerful visual representation of the poem's themes. Examples include:

1. "Nekede's useless arm": This image symbolizes the physical harm inflicted on individuals under political oppression, emphasizing the tangible consequences of injustice.

2. "trooping in, one after the other": This visual imagery portrays the systematic and relentless nature of the oppressors, suggesting a continuous cycle of persecution.

3. "sudden shadows": The use of shadows creates a metaphorical representation of the pervasive fear and intimidation that hovers over the society, illustrating the oppressive atmosphere.

4. "pewter spoons, stained with old soup": The mention of pewter spoons and old soup creates a tangible and grim picture of poverty and deprivation, highlighting the harsh living conditions of the oppressed.

5. "soldiers banging on his door": The sound of soldiers banging on the door adds an auditory dimension to the poem, intensifying the sense of imminent danger and threat.

Through these vivid images, Osundare engages the reader's senses and emotions, enhancing the impact of the poem's social and political commentary.


"Not My Business" by Niyi Osundare incorporates various symbols to convey deeper meanings. Some notable symbols include:

1. Nekede's arm: Symbolizing the physical harm inflicted on individuals, Nekede's arm becomes a metaphor for the suffering endured under political oppression.

2. The Mercedes: Represents the wealth and privilege enjoyed by those in power. Its use in the poem symbolizes the complicity of the affluent class in supporting or benefiting from the oppressive regime.

3. The loud silence of the neighbors: Symbolizes the widespread reluctance to speak out against injustice, reflecting the pervasive fear and apathy within society.

4. The clenched fist and the answering slap: Symbolize resistance and the brutal response to any attempt to defy or challenge the oppressive authority.

5. The sudden shadows: Symbolic of the constant and pervasive fear that looms over the society, emphasizing the omnipresence of political intimidation.

These symbols enrich the layers of meaning in the poem, allowing readers to delve into the complexities of political and social issues addressed by Osundare.

Metaphors and Similes

"Not My Business" by Niyi Osundare employs metaphors and similes to convey its themes more vividly:

1. Metaphor: "trooping in, one after the other": This metaphor paints a picture of the relentless, systematic nature of oppression, suggesting a continuous flow of oppressors entering the scene.

2. Simile: "like wet gloves, they got stuck in the paste": This simile vividly describes the helplessness of the victims, portraying their situation as sticky and inescapable.

3. Metaphor: "They picked Akanni up one morning": The metaphor of "picked up" conveys the arbitrary and forceful nature of arrests under political oppression, emphasizing the lack of agency and choice.

4. Simile: "like flies": Describing the neighbors' reaction to the arrest, this simile emphasizes the swarm-like, indifferent response of the community to injustice.

5. Metaphor: "loud silence": This metaphorical expression creates a paradox, underlining the contradictory nature of a silence that is so palpable and conspicuous.

These literary devices enhance the poem's imagery, making it more evocative and enabling readers to connect with the profound messages conveyed by Osundare.

Language and Diction

The language and diction in "Not My Business" contribute significantly to the poem's impact and conveyance of its themes. Some notable aspects include:

1. Colloquial Language: Osundare uses accessible, everyday language that resonates with a broad audience. This choice enhances the poem's relatability and emphasizes the universal relevance of its message.

2. Strong Verbs: The poem is rich in strong verbs that add dynamism and vividness to the narrative. For example, "banging," "picked up," and "stuck" convey a sense of force and urgency.

3. Imagery-driven Diction: The poet employs words that create vivid images, fostering a strong visual impact. Terms like "sudden shadows," "clenched fist," and "stained with old soup" contribute to the overall imagery of the poem.

4. Symbolic Diction: Osundare carefully chooses words that carry symbolic weight, such as "Mercedes" and "loud silence." These words serve as symbols that deepen the layers of meaning in the poem.

5. Repetition: The strategic use of repetition, such as the repeated phrase "Not my business," emphasizes the central theme of societal apathy and serves as a powerful rhetorical device.

The combination of these linguistic elements makes "Not My Business" a compelling and accessible piece that effectively communicates its social and political critique.


The structure of "Not My Business" by Niyi Osundare plays a crucial role in conveying its message. Some key structural elements include:

1. Stanzas: The poem is divided into five stanzas, each containing varying numbers of lines. This division allows for a rhythmic flow and provides a structured framework for the exploration of different aspects of the poem's themes.

2. Enjambment: Osundare utilizes enjambment, allowing lines to flow into one another without a pause. This technique contributes to a sense of continuity and urgency, enhancing the poem's momentum.

3. Repetition: The repetition of the phrase "Not my business" at the beginning and end of each stanza serves as a structural refrain. This repetition emphasizes the pervasive attitude of indifference and contributes to the overall thematic coherence.

4. Shifts in Perspective: The poem exhibits a shift in perspective, moving from a third-person account of Akanni's arrest to a more personal reflection on the part of the narrator. This structural shift adds depth to the narrative and engages the reader in a more intimate way.

5. Imagery Progression: The vivid imagery unfolds progressively, creating a visual narrative that builds upon itself. This structural choice helps to intensify the impact of the poem as it explores the consequences of political oppression.

Overall, the structure of "Not My Business" is carefully crafted to enhance the poem's thematic exploration and emotional resonance.

Sound and Rhythm

The sound and rhythm in "Not My Business" contribute to the poem's overall impact and effectiveness. Key aspects include:

1. Alliteration: Osundare employs alliteration, where the repetition of consonant sounds, such as in "soldiers" and "banging," adds a rhythmic quality to the poem and enhances its auditory appeal.

2. Assonance: The poem includes instances of assonance, such as in "door" and "clenched fist." This repetition of vowel sounds contributes to the musicality of the verses.

3. Rhythm: The poem has a rhythmic flow created by a combination of regular and irregular meter. This rhythmic pattern helps to maintain a steady pace while allowing for variations that emphasize specific moments or ideas.

4. Repetition: The strategic repetition of phrases like "Not my business" creates a rhythmic refrain that punctuates the poem, underscoring the central theme and providing a sense of continuity.

5. Onomatopoeia: Certain words, like "banging," carry a sound that echoes their meaning, adding a sensory dimension to the poem and intensifying the reader's experience.

By incorporating these elements, Osundare skillfully uses sound and rhythm to enhance the poetic qualities of "Not My Business" and to evoke emotional and intellectual responses from the reader.


The syntax in "Not My Business" by Niyi Osundare is notable for its clarity and simplicity. Osundare uses straightforward sentence structures and accessible language, contributing to the poem's accessibility and universal appeal.

1. Declarative Sentences: The majority of sentences in the poem are declarative, presenting statements or observations. This straightforward syntax allows for a clear and direct communication of the poet's message.

2. Interrogative Sentences: Interrogative sentences are strategically used to engage the reader and prompt reflection. For example, "What business of mine is it so soon?" invites the reader to question the narrator's initial indifference.

3. Parallelism: The poem incorporates parallel structures, repeating similar grammatical patterns for rhetorical effect. The repetition of the phrase "Not my business" at the beginning and end of each stanza exemplifies this syntactic parallelism.

4. Enjambment: The use of enjambment, where lines run into each other without a pause, contributes to the fluidity of the poem's syntax. This technique helps maintain a rhythmic flow and creates a sense of urgency.

Overall, Osundare's syntax serves to communicate complex themes in a straightforward manner, making the poem accessible while still allowing for depth of meaning and emotional impact.


"Not My Business" by Niyi Osundare was written in the context of political turmoil in Nigeria during the 1980s. The poem reflects the oppressive regime and the societal impact of political oppression during that time. It addresses themes of apathy, fear, and collective responsibility in the face of injustice.

Nigeria experienced various periods of military rule, and Osundare's poem captures the atmosphere of fear and suppression prevalent in such environments. The poet himself was a vocal critic of oppressive regimes, advocating for social justice and human rights. "Not My Business" is one of Osundare's many works that engage with political and social issues in Nigeria.

The title and themes of the poem suggest a broader relevance beyond Nigeria, resonating with people facing political oppression worldwide. The poem encourages readers to reflect on their own societal contexts and the implications of remaining passive in the face of injustice.

Summary of Literary Devices

"Not My Business" by Niyi Osundare employs various literary devices to convey its themes effectively:

1. Imagery: Vivid and evocative descriptions create powerful mental images, enhancing the reader's understanding of the political oppression and its consequences.

2. Symbolism: The use of symbols, such as Nekede's arm and the Mercedes, adds layers of meaning to the narrative, representing broader themes of suffering, wealth, and complicity.

3. Metaphor: Metaphors like "trooping in, one after the other" and "loud silence" provide figurative representations that deepen the poem's impact and convey the systematic nature of oppression.

4. Simile: Similes, such as "like wet gloves" and "like flies," contribute to the vividness of the imagery, comparing elements to enhance the reader's sensory experience.

5. Colloquial Language: The use of accessible, everyday language enhances the poem's relatability, making it more accessible to a broad audience.

6. Repetition: The repetition of the phrase "Not my business" serves as a refrain, emphasizing the central theme of societal apathy and contributing to the poem's overall structure.

7. Alliteration: The repetition of consonant sounds, like in "soldiers" and "banging," adds a rhythmic quality to the poem, enhancing its auditory appeal.

8. Assonance: The repetition of vowel sounds, as seen in "door" and "clenched fist," contributes to the musicality of the verses.

9. Enjambment: The use of enjambment allows for a rhythmic flow, maintaining a steady pace and creating a sense of urgency.

10. Parallelism: Parallel structures, especially in the repetition of grammatical patterns, contribute to rhetorical effects and reinforce key themes.

These literary devices collectively enrich the poem, making it a powerful and impactful commentary on political oppression, societal indifference, and the need for collective responsibility.


In conclusion, "Not My Business" by Niyi Osundare stands as a poignant and socially charged poem that addresses the consequences of political oppression and societal apathy. Through vivid imagery, powerful symbolism, and carefully chosen literary devices such as metaphor and simile, Osundare crafts a narrative that transcends its Nigerian context to resonate universally.

The poem's structure, sound, and rhythm contribute to its effectiveness, creating a rhythmic flow that enhances the emotional and intellectual impact on the reader. With accessible language and clear syntax, Osundare communicates complex themes of fear, silence, and collective responsibility in the face of injustice.

"Not My Business" serves as a timeless reminder of the repercussions of turning a blind eye to oppression, urging readers to reflect on their own roles within society and the imperative of standing against injustice. Osundare's work remains a powerful testament to the enduring relevance of poetry as a medium for social critique and awareness.

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