A Government Driver on His Retirement Analysis

I’ve named this tutorial “A Government Driver on His Retirement Analysis” instead of my preferred “A Government Driver on His Retirement Analyzed: Subject Matter, Themes and Poetic Devices”. The only reason for this is to shorten it a bit. As you can see, the title of this particular poem is quite long. So that is it. Beyond that, the value of this analysis of “A Government Driver on His Retirement” is the same as the others.

Do you need a complete analysis of “A Government Driver on His Retirement”? Then you’ve just come to the right place. Because this is the sole purpose of this WASSCE/SSCE Literature-in-English African Poetry tutorial.

You can rest assured that the kind of analysis of Onu Kingsley Chibuike’s poem, “A Government Driver on His Retirement” you’re looking for is exactly what you’ll get right now.

Table of Contents

Key Points

Onu Kingsley Chibuike is one more important poet to have come out of Nigeria, the land of African literary giants. Below are the key points we shall focus on in our analysis of his poem, “A Government Driver on His Retirement”.

  • Meaning and subject matter of the poem
  • Themes of A Government Driver on His Retirement
  • The poem as narrative poetry
  • Poetic devices
  • Likely examination questions

SEE ALSO:

PDF Version of the Full Text of the Poem

Please, find the download button further down to have a FREE PDF COPY of the full text of A Government Driver on His Retirement by Onu Kingsley Chibuike. In fact, it is a complete compilation of all six African poems in the 2021- 2025 WAEC/SHS elective Literature-in-English syllabus.

So you will find the texts of all these poems there

  • Black Woman by Leopold Sedar Senghor (Senegal)
  • The Leader and the Led by Niyi Osundare (Nigeria)
  • Song of the Women of My Land by Omar Farouk Sesay (Sierra Leone)
  • The Grieved Lands by Agostinho Neto (Angola)
  • Raider of the Treasure Trove by Lade Wosornu (Ghana)
  • A Government Driver on His Retirement by Onu Kingsley Chibuike (Nigeria)

Now, if it is a single PDF document of all the six WAEC/NECO Literature-in-English non-African poems that you want, I’ve got good news for you. You can get all of them right here.

All that is just by the way. We are starting the complete analysis of the poem, A Government Driver on His Retirement by Onu Kingsley Chibuike.

Are you ready? Let’s go get it!

Background Information

It is a common practice in Nigeria and the rest of Africa for the government, which is the single most important employer, to send retirees home with gifts. These rewards are in appreciation of the public servant’s long unblemished service to his country.

It is striking that in the case of this government driver, he is going home with a gift car. Because, the usual practice at the period within which the poem’s narrative is set, government workers hardly go on a pension with such expensive gifts. Usually, it is either a very large wall clock or a loud, wooden transistor radio. Again, most such retirees are known to be sent home very quietly to die quickly in misery.

If anything at all, it is high-ranking civil servants that may get a car for a gift on their retirement. That’s if they are lucky.

Significance of the Reward

This is why a reward of a brand new car to our man, the government driver, on the occasion of his retirement, is extremely significant. Among others, it shows the kind of dedicated and dutiful government driver he has been for 35 years.

Thus, this government driver in Onu Kingsley Chibuike’s poem, A Government Driver on His Retirement is, indeed, a very lucky man. A truly happy day for him.

Let’s now go forward to find out the meaning and subject matter of A Government Driver on His Retirement. I mean we want to know what is in the poem itself.

Subject Matter Summary

Let’s put together a brief summary of the subject matter of Onu Kingsley Chibuike’s poem, A Government Driver on His Retirement.

A Government Driver on His Retirement is a short narrative poem. The period covered in the narrative is apparently a single day.

So this is exactly how it all unfolds on this fateful day.

Key Incidents

There are three major incidents in this short narrative poem. Here they are.

Stanzas 1 and 2: Retirement and Freedom

A government driver has successfully come to the end of his working days. He has just retired from a long service to his country. This is a man who has diligently served his country for 35 years. He has been a driver for all this time without a single fatal accident.

Now he has finished his duty to his fatherland.The government, which happens to be his employer, has rewarded his patriotism and dedication to duty. His reward is a “brand new car” for his “undented service”.Retirement is significant to the Government Driver because it also marks the beginning of his freedom.

From now on, he has no rules to obey, no regulations to restrain him, and no boss to answer to. He is now at liberty to do what he wants. No longer will he have to make an effort to make his behaviour conform to rules.

Many years has he pummeled his boozy throat

In obedience to duty rules and regulations

Today he’ll go home a Freeman

Eligible for his country’s services

Stanzas 3, 4, 5 and 6: Celebration

The now-retired government driver decides to celebrate his “freedom” with a bang. He thinks he deserves it for, he has, for more than three decades, patiently controlled his natural inclinations to drink heavily. It is all for the sake of obeying his employer’s rules and regulations.

Clearly, it has not been easy for him. But he disciplined himself enough to get this far. So, to him, this is a huge achievement that calls for celebration in equal measure.

He is happy that his patience has been rewarded. So he organizes a big send-off party for himself. He invites his friends and loved ones to come and share in his joy. They must join him to mark this big day in his life with style.

True to his intentions the government driver drinks heavily at the party, throwing caution to the wind.

“Come friends, rejoice with me

I shall booze and zoom myself home

Away from duty rules

Come celebrate my freedom”

Early to duty tomorrow holds not

Thirty-five years of faithful service

I’ll booze to sleep away my sufferings

Today I’ve long waited for

Stanza 7: Accident and Death

At the end of the party, he gets into his brand new car and drives recklessly towards home. Unfortunately, he never gets there alive. Since our government driver is stupidly drunk, he easily loses control of his vehicle. The obvious result is a fatal car crash that sends him to his grave – a needless premature death.

On his way home on wheels

Booze boozed his vision and clear judgment

He boomed his brand new car

And it sent him home

Home to rest in peace.

Analysis of A Governement Driver …

It is now time for you to have an analysis of A Government Driver on His Retirement.

I’m going to give you an analysis that will cover areas you may never have come across before. I’m certain that the examiners at the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) or NECO are capable of setting questions that can unsettle even the most serious Literature candidate. I’m talking about questions that relate to any of the areas I’ll be addressing.

So I’ll recommend that you take all the areas with equal seriousness.

Shall we now have our analysis of A Government Driver on His Retirement by the prolific Nigerian poet, Onu Kingsley Chibuike.

Characters in the Poem

We can point to at least a couple of characters in the narrative.

The Government Driver

The main character in this narrative is a professional government driver. He has, therefore, been working as a public servant or civil servant for 35 years. We don’t have his name. This shows that he is a representative character. His experiences must be a common phenomenon in Nigeria and, by extension, the rest of Africa.

Character Attributes of the Government Driver

  • Former public servant or civil servant
  • Advanced in age – on retirement after 35 years of service
  • Diligent
  • Patriotic
  • Disciplined: He appears to have been forced by circumstances (employer rules and regulations) to avoid drinking heavily. His real self comes up when there are no more rules to obey. He considers that as “freedom” to go back to his natural tendencies.
  • He develops into a character who naturally lacks self-discipline or self-control. Apparently, he has, all along suppressed (pummelled) his natural tendency toward heavy drinking: “pummeled his boozy throat”.

It could also be that the demands of duty and strict rules have just denied him his personal freedom for far too long. So it is only normal that anybody in his position will easily go overboard with his celebration in this new fresh air of freedom.

  • He lacks sound judgment. And the excessive alcohol intake only makes his problem worse.

Friends and Fellow Revellers

We can also mention the other revellers. These are the friends he invites to come and party with him. But they also never get mentioned by name.

Setting

The events take place on the day of his retirement

This party may have been held at his old residence in the city- the place he is about to say goodbye to after 35 years. It could also be the official premises of his workplace he is about to leave for good.

At the beginning, the mood is one of happiness. The atmosphere is filled with joy. This is a day of unequalled celebration and merry-making to remember.

“Come friends, rejoice more.

Joy till no more joy to joy

Today frees and makes me a king

My patience rewarded.”

Later, on that same day, the atmosphere will turn into one of pain and sorrow, especially for those loved ones, whom, by his accident and death, the government driver may have left behind.

Themes and Lessons

The themes in A Government Worker on His Retirement are about the lessons that the poet is teaching his audience. These lessons make the poem a didactic literary work.

Below are the major themes in A Government Driver on His Retirement.

BY THE WAY. Remember Lade Wosornu’s poem, Raider of the Treasure Trove? That’s another piece of didactic poetry. Check out the analysis of Raider of the Treasure Trove.

The Theme of Freedom

The poet seems to be questioning what people mean when they talk of freedom. Is it an opportunity to do right by oneself or it is a concept that has been misunderstood to mean a licence for reckless behaviour? In this narrative poem, the protagonist’s failure to behave responsibly when he no longer has external rules to control him sends him to an early grave. Freedom, if not handled properly, can be the cause of personal ruin.

Theme of Retirement/Service/Duty/Patriotism

At the core of the theme of retirement in the poem, are issues that have to do with duty or long service and patriotism. The poet spends a good deal of time and space to show us how important one’s day of retirement from duty to fatherland can be. It is an occasion that rightfully calls for celebration. At retirement, the citizen’s dedication to country is recognized and rewarded accordingly.

Then the question comes up, what kind of reward should one, who has proven himself to be a dutiful patriot, get? Can the form of reward turn out to be the retiree’s undoing? It looks like this is very likely. For the newly-retired government driver, it is clear that the gift of a car has gone to his head.

And, coupled with his joy at finally gaining his freedom, his sense of achievement (epitomized by the sheer joy of owning an expensive brand new car) literally turns him into a different person within minutes.

Maybe, employers will have to watch how they treat employees who are going on retirement. Their well-intended reward systems for such patriots could be counter-productive.

Theme of Celebration (or Over-Celebration)

The greater part of the poem describes the celebration that follows the government driver’s retirement. In fact, out of the 7 stanzas, 4 are used to showcase the activities of the revellers at the send-off party.

It is important to note that it is this over-celebration of his freedom, marked by uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic drinks, that sets the stage for the untimely death that follows soon after.

Celebration is good. But too much of it can cause unnecessary problems for everybody.

The Theme of Instant Gratification

Instant gratification refers to the tendency to want it all now. Naturally, human beings are wired to desire pleasure as soon as possible. The earlier, the better.

For the retired government driver, he cannot wait, just a few more hours. His patience has been stretched to its full elastic limits. So how can he wait to get home to enjoy the fruits of his long years of labour and self-sacrifice with his loved ones?

As we can see, this lack of patience to postpone enjoyment a little is what has resulted in his demise. Hurried self-indulgence is mostly a recipe for disaster.

Theme of Rules and Regulations (Discipline/Self-Discipline)

Another theme that the poet explores in A Government Driver on His Retirement is that of the efficacy and effects of rules and regulations.

The poet appears to raise concerns about whether rules are able to achieve their purpose of promoting lasting responsible behaviour in people. The experiences of the retired government driver give an answer to this question. And it is an emphatic no.

Yes, rules will be effective in controlling behaviour for as long as they are there. But, like in the case of the government driver, they become almost useless when one is free from them.

Thus, one’s own ability to discipline oneself and cultivate long-lasting positive habits is more desirable. Self-discipline, not external rules, is better at ensuring true personal freedom. It promotes peace as well as law and order in the larger society.

Other Themes

  • Appreciation/Recognition/Reward
  • Alcoholism
  • Road Accidents/Fatalities on the Roads
  • Patience
  • Personal Responsibility

Topic for a Lively Class Discussion

Here are some pertinent questions to think about.

  • COULD THIS POEM BE REGARDED AS A METAPHOR FOR NIGERIAN OR AFRICAN INDEPENDENCE?
  • IS IT ALLUDING TO THE RECKLESS HANDLING OF THE FREEDOM GAINED FROM COLONIAL RULE?
  • IS THE FATAL ACCIDENT A SYMBOL FOR THE DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES OF INEFFECTIVE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP WE ARE LIVING WITH NOW?

Poetic Devices in A Government Driver on His Retirement

It’s now time to look at the poetic devices or literary techniques in the poem. These, of course, include the poet’s use of figures of speech.

Diction and Imagery

The poet’s choice of words has largely been effective in developing the themes in the poem, A Government Driver on His Retirement.

It is the careful selection and use of words and expressions that powerfully evoke such images as freedom, duty, celebration or joy/happiness, alcoholism/revelry and accident/death in this poem.

Simple, Everyday Expressions

Much of the diction in the poem is very simple to understand. Because they’re quite familiar to the average person. Here are some examples.

Faithful service

Retires

Today

Duty

Rules and regulations

Come, friends,

Rejoice

booze

Send him home

Brand new car

On his way home

Celebrate

freedom

Contracted Forms

The frequent use of contracted words in the poem has at least two effects. It makes the tone conversational. Therefore, it is easy to familiarize with and understand the poem.

Examples include I’ll, he’ll, I’ve,

You can now have a look at the key images evoked in the poem. Then check out the words and expressions that the poet has used to register them on our minds.

Imagery of Celebration

The poet craftily uses many words as verbs, then as nouns and adjectives. These add more flavour to the light-hearted atmosphere. They depict the mood of joyful partying that he tries to put across.

  • Joy till no more joy to joy
  • Celebrating the celebration
  • Booze boozed his vision

Other words that show the celebratory mood in the early part of the poem are

Boozy throat

joy

Freeman

Rejoice

Frees

Come, friends,

Imagery of Alcoholism

Booze

Boozed

Boozy throat

Booze boozed his vision

Bottle booze

Transportation Imagery/Imagery of Driving

Zoom

Wheels

Imagery of Duty and Discipline

Duty

Obedience

Retires

Faithful service

Rules

regulations

Suffering

Thirty-five years

Services

Many years

Rules and regulations

Duty rules

Imagery of Appreciation/Recognition/Reward

Fatherland

Country

Service

rewarded

Personal Freedom Imagery

Freeman

Freedom

Frees

Celebrate

Go home

Away from duty rules

Makes me a king

Me/I/My/Myself (repeated often)

Imagery of Instant Gratification

Today (repeated often)

Tomorrow holds not

Patience Imagery

Long waited

Patience

thirty-five years

Other Literary Devices

Let’s take a quick look at other literary devices and figures of speech present in the poem, A Government Driver on His Retirement

Contrast

The poem begins on a happy note but ends sadly.

A very close look at the structure of this poem shows that there is a movement between at least two contrasting moods.

First is the celebratory mood and tone of the narrative. After a long period of service to his fatherland, the retired government driver has every cause to be joyful. It is this expression of joy that dominates the early part of the poem running almost to the end.

But, the mood changes later. In fact, right from the point where the narrator begins to describe what is clearly a rather dangerous style of celebration, a sense of foreboding begins to build.

The loud sounds made by the alliterative “battled with his bottle booze”, the “booze and zoom” as well as the repetitive “boozed and boozed” keep warning us that all is not well. They foreshadow the sad and needless end of the retired government driver.

The contrast becomes very clear in the last stanza. The celebration is over. And it is replaced by an accident and death. While we expect the retiree to go to his earthly home and rest peacefully, we’re also aware that he might just be too drunk to pull it off. Unsurprisingly, the journey ends fatally.

Country vs Person

Another way to look at the poet’s use of contrast is to consider the change in the diction from one relating to country to another one that centres on the individual.

Note the movement from the use of such words as “country” and “he” in the first two stanzas to that of the more first person personal pronouns “I” and “me” and their derivatives “my” and “myself” in the subsequent stanzas.

This contrast follows the change in focus from duty or service to one’s country (country first/patriotism) to a desire to attend to one’s personal needs (me now).

Incidentally, the moment this change in tone and attitude occurs, the government driver, somehow, sets himself on the path to personal destruction.

In effect, a key question arises. Should we always surrender our private individual cravings in the interest of a greater public good? At the risk of trying to take this too far, I daresay this appears to be the message.

The Irony of “Home” in the Poem

We cannot ignore the use of irony in this “A Government Driver on His Retirement” analysis.

“Home” in Onu Kingsley Chibuike’s poem, A Government Driver on His Retirement has, at least, two meanings to it.

On one level, home in this poem represents the family home or hometown. This is where people return to after many years away from their loved ones.

“Home” is an Example of Euphemism

Besides that, among Nigerian and African people, there is another meaning assigned to home. “Home” is used to refer to the hereafter. The spiritual world of the ancestors. So when someone is said to have “gone home” it could mean that they have passed on – dead.

In this poem, the poet keeps using “home” for both the earthly family home and the world of the dead.

The irony is that while the Government Driver is believed to be celebrating in preparation for his return journey to his hometown, it is rather in the land of the dead that he’ll finally end up.

This, unfortunately, happens to be the way of life. It is unpredictable and full of double meanings and unexpected outcomes. This is why we can only have some sympathy for the poor man.

His intention is to celebrate till there’s nothing more to celebrate. Then he will drive his brand new car “home”. Since his days of duty are now over, he can “sleep” any time he likes. Surely, he can now enjoy a long “rest” after many years of “suffering”.

“I’ll booze to sleep away my suffering”

But what he is not aware that he’s telling us is that he’s on his final journey out of this life of suffering. He is going to a more surreal, peaceful place where there is no need for the cares of this world. This car will drive him to a completely different kind of “home”.

He boomed his brand new car

And it sent him home

Home to rest in peace.

Words that Show Irony

Other words and expressions that have an ironic twist to them include the following. Note that the irony also foreshadows the fate waiting to befall the government driver.

Freeman

Freedom

Sleep

Rewarded

Retires

Go

Away

SEE ALSO: 100+ Literary Devices and Figures of Speech

Metonymy

Many years on wheels

bottle booze

Repetition

On wheels

Faithful service

Service

joy

Many years

Booze

home

Inversion

  • Today retires he home
  • And a celebration he holds
  • Early to duty tomorrow holds not

Alliteration

Bottle booze

From faithful

Assonance

Booze and zoom

Euphemism

Home (used to mean death, grave or the hereafter)

Personification

  • Today frees and makes me a king
  • My patience rewarded

Metaphor

  • Makes me a king
  • He battled with his bottle booze
  • Sleep away my suffering

Onomatopoeia

  • He boomed his brand new car
  • Zoom myself home

What Makes the Poem a Narrative

Our analysis of A Government Driver on His Retirement won’t be complete without this section.

This poem is a narrative because it contains many elements that are typical of every narrative.

It has a plot.

There is an exposition that deals with the background to the events in the poem. This is the subject of the first stanza in particular. It tells us why there is going to be a celebration.

Suspense

The plot continues with the celebration itself. The events at the party keep us in painful suspense. We know something terrible could happen.

Sad End

Then comes the sad end This is when the retired government driver loses his life in a fatal car crash.

There are characters.

None has a specific name but we know them by the references made to them. These are the government driver himself and his friends at the party.

The story has a setting

Setting refers to the place, time and atmosphere. (Please go back to have a look.)

Dialogue

The language is conversational. For example, some parts are rendered in reported speech.

“Come friends, rejoice more.

Joy till no more joy to joy

Today frees and makes me a king

My patience rewarded.”

Transition Expressions

“And so he boozed and boozed…”

“On his way home …”

There are also contracted forms like “I’ll” and “I’ve”.

Title

Just like every narrative, this one has a title. The Title of the Poem is an apt summary of its subject. It’s all about the story of a retired government driver who has chosen to take his celebration of his freedom too far.

The title reminds us that the government driver is personally responsible for all the events of the day. It is his choices that end up creating a problem for him, and, clearly, his loved ones.

Some Likely Examination Questions

  • Comment on the poet’s use of sound devices in A Government Driver on His Retirement
  • Discuss the theme of celebration in the poem.
  • Comment on the use of irony in A Government Driver on His Retirement
  • Discuss the use of irony in the poem.
  • How effectively has the poet employed contrast in A Government Driver on His Retirement?
  • Describe the tragedy that befalls the government driver.
  • Comment on the poet’s use of diction and imagery.
  • To what extent is the Government Driver responsible for his demise?
  • Discuss the theme of the uncertainties in life.
  • Examine the various meanings of “home” in the poem.
  • Compare and contrast the use of contrast in A Government Driver on His Retirement and The Grieved Lands
  • Give an assessment of the character of the government driver
  • Comment on the significance of the car as a reward in the poem.
  • A Government Driver on His Retirement is nothing more than an indictment on African leaders for their terrible handling of political independence. Comment.
  • Would you say that A Government Driver on His Retirement is an example of narrative poetry?

Here ends our analysis of A Government Driver on His Retirement. Thank you!

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Ralph Nyadzi is the Director of Studies at Cegast Academy. He is a qualified English tutor with decades of experience behind him. Since 2001, he has successfully coached thousands of High School General Arts WASSCE candidates in English, Literature and related subjects. He combines his expertise with a passion for lifelong learning to guide learners from varying backgrounds to achieve their educational goals. Ralph shares lessons from his blogging journey on BloggingtotheMax. He lives with River, his pet cat, in the Central Region of Ghana.

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