Ambush - Gbemisola Adeoti Summary and Poetic Analysis [African Poetry]

African Poetry: Ambush by Gbemisola Adeoti  Summary, Setting, Author's Background, Themes, Language and Style for JAMB, WAEC and NECO Literature Students 2016 - 2020 Syllabus.

It is no longer news that the above selected poetry is among the selected texts for literature students in the WAEC, NECO and JAMB Syllabus for 2016 - 2020.

Well we have decided to help students by providing some insights such as summary and poetic devices and analysis of the poem to aid them understand and prepare ahead of their examination.


Ambush is written by none other than Gbemisola Adeoti, a professor of English Language at the Obafemi Awolowo University, (OAU) IIe-Ife (Nigeria) and the director of the Institute of Cultural Studies of the same institution.

He is a seasoned poet, a social commentator and has many works to his credit.  In the years after Nigeria's independence, the problems that confront the citizens on a daily basis are terrible and awful. Corruption, war, impunity of leaders, unemployment and administrative inefficiency among a host of others, have now become the major attributes of the Nigerian government. The present state of the country offers no hope to the common man.

It has become apparent that the democratic rule which the citizens thought would respond positively to their clamoring has grown to be much worse than the military dictatorship. This unpalatable ignominious situations in the Land, evidently influenced Adeoti's "Ambush".


The land is a giant whale
that swallows the sinker,
with hook, line and bait
aborting dreams of a good catch
fishers turn home at dusk
blue peter on empty ships
7 all Peters with petered out desires.

The land isa sabre-toothed tiger,
that cries deep in the glade
while infants shudder home
the grizzled ones snatch their gut
from bayonets of tribulation
13 halting venturous walk at dusk
The land is a giant hawk

that courts unceasing disaster
16 as it hovers and hoots in space

The land lies patiently ahead
awaiting In ambush
those who point away from a direction
where nothing happens
21 toward the shore of possibilities


Considering the choice of words employed by the poet, we cannot specifically attribute the physical setting of the poem to a particular place. But the picture the poet painted suggested the nation where the poet resides, Nigeria. A word that lends to this fact is 'giant', which is a constituent of the phrase which is often used to describe Nigeria as 'the giant of Africa" due to her population size. Also, it should be noted that the temporal setting is apparently post-independence and contemporary Africa, where there are no modicums of good governance,adequacy and improved standard of living. The atmosphere of the poem is dismal, bleak and gloomy.


The poem offers a metaphorical representation of a nation as destroyer of the hope and aspirations of her citizens. The poet uses some predatory animals to describe how the nation which is referred to as "the land", often frustrates her citizens attempts to survive and make progress. The predatory animals presented in the poem are sabre-toothed tiger (terrestrial), a giant whale (aquatic) and a giant hawk (aborreal), this expresses that "the land" is a truncator of destinies in every region.

The poet metaphorically describe the nation as being selfish, covetous and cruel.  Lastly, it should be noted that "land" can be seen as "the leaders and elites" of the country while "citizens" can be interpreted as still "citizens".

Stanza One

Lines 1 — 7: The poet, in this stanza, metaphorically refers to the land as 'a giant whale' to express how powerful and almost invincible it is. By noting that it "swallows the inker with hook, line and bait', the poet conveys the message that the land frustrates totally, the effort of her citizens without leaving behind any vestiges. The use of 'swallow' depicts that the dreams and aspirations of the people in the land are totally aborted through fishing imagery. By "all peter with petered out desires", the poet means the citizens are drained of the enthusiasm, energy and optimism required to dream and set goals.

Stanza Two

Lines 8 - 13: The poet, in this stanza, likens the land to a sharp-toothed tiger. As we know, the tiger is a large predatory mammal of the cat family, which dwells in the jungle. His sound/cry is known to evoke fear in other animals around him making them to run. This is what the poet talks about when he says "infants shudder home". This infers that th land even scares away the citizens from every location that seems to be productive as they do this to escape from "bayonets of tribulation". So the writer is still saying that the writer cuts down the hope and aspiration of the people.

Stanza Three

Lines 14 — 16: This is the shortest stanza of the poem. In this stanza, the poet expresses that the land is "a giant hawk". We know the hawk, also, is a predatory animal, hence when it hovers and hoos, the interpretation is that there is an impending dangers. So for this reason, the mother-chicks tries to hide their children to prevent them from the claws of the hawk This metaphorical relation attempts to explain that the land discourages and sends into hiding young talents who are willing to survive independently. This still balls down on the fact that the land tries to kill the hopes of her citizens without any aim to cease the disaster.

Stanza Four

Lines 17 - 21: Whoa!, this stanza concludes the poem pointing that the land "lies patiently ahead". This means that the land is always ahead of her citizens. The poet stresses further by pointing out that the land lies in ambush with the aim to attack any of her citizens heading towards the direction of success and significance, and by so doing, killing the hopes and aspiration of her citizens.


- Intimidation
- Frustration
- Destruction
- Despondency/Hopelessness
- Abuse of Power


— Metaphor
— Repetition
— Alliteration
— Personification
— Imagery.