Building The Nation

November 30, 2008 at 6:32 pm 75 comments

By Henry Barlow

Today I did my share
In building the nation.
I drove a Permanent Secretary
To an important urgent function
In fact to a lunch at the Vic.

The menu reflected its importance
Cold bell beer with small talk,
Then fried chicken with niceties
Wine to fill the hollowness of the laughs
Ice-cream to cover the stereotype jokes
Coffee to keep the PS awake on return journey.

I drove the Permanent Secretary back.
He yawned many times in back of the car
Then to keep awake, he suddenly asked,
Did you have any lunch friend?
I replied looking straight ahead
And secretly smiling at his belated concern
That I had not, but was slimming!

Upon which he said with seriousness
That amused more than annoyed me,
Mwanainchi, I too had none!
I attended to matters of state.
Highly delicate diplomatic duties you know,
And friend, it goes against my grain,
Causes me stomach ulcers and wind.
Ah, he continued, yawning again,
The pains we suffer in building the nation!

So the PS had ulcers too!
My ulcers I think are equally painful
Only they are caused by hunger,
Not sumptuous lunches!

So two nation builders
Arrived home this evening
With terrible stomach pains
The result of building the nation –
– Different ways.


Entry filed under: 2007 General Elections in Kenya, Africa, Crime, Culture, Economics, Humour, Jesse Masai, Kenya, Literature, Media, Missions, Persecution & Martyrs, Personals, Politics, Society, World.


75 Comments Add your own

  • 1. acolyte  |  December 1, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    A very old poem but still very very relevant in this day and age. Hope everything is well with you.

  • 2. KA  |  December 1, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Yup, high school gave it to me and Brian (Invo) just reminded me of it. Am well by His grace.

  • 3. charity njue  |  April 20, 2010 at 11:42 am

    I like this poem but i have an assignment which requires met o get the biography of the author..but internet search results aren’t leading anywhere …..could anyone please guide me of send me an email of the author’s biography??????

    • 4. Faith's daily reflections  |  February 28, 2016 at 9:49 pm

      Christopher Henry Muwanga Barlow
      Born Christopher Henry Muwanga
      1 May 1929
      Died 20 August 2006
      Occupation Civil servant, poet
      Nationality Ugandan
      Period 1929–2006
      Genre poetry
      works Building the

  • 5. judith  |  May 6, 2010 at 11:42 am

    its even more ironical to know that HENRY BARLOW actually wrote this poem when he was a PS !

  • 6. charles  |  August 2, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    i’ll like to know the summary of the poem, the theme ,the plot,the setting,the tone,the for my assignment

    • 7. Dan  |  October 12, 2010 at 9:10 am

      i too like the is ironical that the two nation builders have ulcers despite the fact that the ps had eaten.anyway that is how our political class behaves.

  • 8. David opiyo  |  April 21, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    Did it as a choral verse in 2007 national music fest and we emerged as the best group in that class.its one of a kind.

  • 9. Bawo Temisanren  |  June 18, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    The poem is of mush relevance to us today. it is not only ironical in that it exposes the facts about government and tells us what nation building truly mean in PRACTICE. hence it is a question of who build who and what?

  • 10. victor unachukwu  |  September 19, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    I love this peom very much…. It is in did very Ironical….. Xoxo

  • 11. MICHAEL  |  October 25, 2011 at 10:29 am

    I woke up this morning In East of Johannesburg i remembered this poem, in my secondary school days, did an internet search, and it made my day! Am now a nation builder!!! Mbote

  • 12. mercymeek09  |  October 26, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    I cannot forget this piece

  • 13. Herbkora  |  November 26, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    All time best

  • 14. Isaac  |  January 18, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Nice work

  • 15. Gladys Nyandika  |  January 29, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    I love the irony in the poem.

  • 16. Nembris Jackson  |  January 30, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Literature act as a mirror to the society bt politician never look themselves in use of language artisticaly,,i like it.

  • 17. bella bellams  |  March 22, 2012 at 12:59 pm


  • 18. judith  |  March 25, 2012 at 8:58 am

    Pls someone shud help tell me d theme of the poem BUILDING THE NATION

  • 19. victor turiabe  |  May 19, 2012 at 11:28 am

    great poem. high lights how the previleged take the advantage of those under the.

  • 20. Trust K Banda  |  May 20, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    help me with the biography of the poet, experience, theme and language of the poem BUILDING THE NATION

  • 21. matheu nuuyoma  |  June 4, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    This is a quite interesting poem,in the sense that i have learnt something from the poem.

  • 22. nipah fred  |  June 15, 2012 at 10:21 am

    next time explian why this poem is a satire

  • 23. deufilo  |  July 2, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    ow my goodness i just wrote now and this poem was in the exam

  • 24. kwame oppong  |  July 18, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    i really love the poem. I read it almost everyday because it always happens in Ghana.

  • 25. Futaa Mtaani – Supercalifragilisticexpalidocious | olekunyuga  |  September 14, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    […] straight after, sumthn about going to locate a space for a telecommunications mast or sumthn. Building the Nation. Gotta love it. And how could I forget our newest signing from Netherlands, Tom! And his friend, […]

  • 26. Irene  |  November 4, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    Exremely interesting poem applicable in today’s society.

  • 27. DAVIDSON . N  |  November 23, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Thanks for the poem!
    Uganda’s situation is worse than this , consider the way the first lady builds the nation by going abroad 8times a month and all those times in one country ! save the country , I mean let leaders be responsible

  • 28. ham  |  December 12, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    in tanzania the situation still present, we are tourtured by our leader thnx for the poem

  • 29. Eriq Omwenga Ontita  |  February 6, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    The poem reminds me my high school days n the same problem affects kenya my country,my Eng lit teacher enjoyed teachng student the poem,I like it.

  • 30. humphrey john  |  May 11, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    it should be analysed to make it more clear

  • 31. ANUOLUWAPO  |  June 19, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    Nice work,ironical that this still happen in Nigeria,yoruba a tribe in Nigeria will say Omo eleran ti o je egugun,decode that

  • 32. ugochi  |  June 24, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    I love dis tone of henry. I first came in contact in 1998. Since den I can sti remember d lines. Hussh ! We see” building the nation” everyday around us

  • 33. PAUL OTIENO AGUDHO  |  September 8, 2013 at 11:49 am

    wow what a nice poem you know, i like it and more so as a linguist it realy widens my scope of study but then ssomebody to comment language use evident in the poem

  • 34. Tewa jeremia  |  September 23, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Building the nation is a good verse that exposes leaders and the led of a particular state and how both differently contribute to the well being of their society

  • 35. Kevin Bosire  |  October 26, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Yap it explores the political underbellies of many african leaders whose interests are based on egosentric desires unlike the pple they govern.

  • 36. Josh  |  December 16, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Wow good

  • 37. Noby  |  December 18, 2013 at 1:20 am

    Old poem indeed, but it still reflect what our so called politicians are doing in the name of ruling us (Building the nation) or better still embezzling public fund.

  • 38. liberty  |  January 11, 2014 at 7:46 am

    My GF adored it, i had to type it for her always untill i was also electromagiced wen i read it sincerely, now i sing another song, building the Ugandan nation !!!!

  • 39. cyubahiro cya hakiza wa mivumbi ya bihire  |  February 24, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    hahah the title is more ironic than necessary.and the whole tone of the poem is satirical

  • 40. GODFREY  |  March 17, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Am in luv with the i recommend it 2ani serious , u will nt regret reading it , enjoy urself.

  • 41. Ngozi Chuma,-Udeh  |  April 17, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    Barlow is a man for all seasons in the body polity of most post independence African countries. A typical instance of Nation building as percieved by the leaders and the led.

  • 42. viola  |  May 17, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    those who preach the gospel of the love of God thru Jesus Christ also build the nation

  • 43. Maerk Kashyryngy Saeniez  |  June 14, 2014 at 10:06 am

    mahn i was given this as assignment… i liked tha poem, realy interesting


  • 44. Lamech  |  July 12, 2014 at 6:57 am

    The poem was my high school favorite.I admire the satirical humour the poet uses to expose true nation-builders.

  • 45. Kingsley Eze  |  August 4, 2014 at 2:15 am

    It is one of my best african poems in my secondary school days. A vry big satire on our political actors.

  • 46. Free dating in Kenya  |  August 6, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    You reminded me of my secondary school days. Thank you

  • 47. Emmanuel Kissa  |  October 18, 2014 at 3:43 am

    A trully revolutionary poem depicting the real nature of african leaders!

  • 48. Steve Boluwaduro (Stevestainless)  |  November 25, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    It’s always fresh.

  • 49. nakalema sarah  |  January 27, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    Henry Barlow was for sure a great man ironically he wrote all his matter,but the main theme would be “NATION DESTRUCTION”but why don’t big people have value for the mwanaichi

  • 50. mathias majinge  |  February 3, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    i like it so much.

  • 51. monicah mumbi  |  February 13, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    it is all about building the nation and others being enemies of development

  • 52. BINTA DAPHNE  |  March 16, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    indeed this is total destruction. In fact a new title arises now “deconstructionism.”

  • 53. Komen  |  April 2, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Mwananchi i too had none what a sarcasm. the statements we pick along in the process of building the nation

  • 54. oscar  |  July 26, 2015 at 11:56 am

    the poem is very awesome and encouraging i lv it

    • 55. Gilbert ondiro  |  March 26, 2016 at 8:34 pm

      I love this poem;its inspiring.

  • 56. oscar  |  July 26, 2015 at 11:58 am

    please would you help me in writing poems its a humble request

  • 57. elizabeth  |  October 8, 2015 at 12:16 am

    Remembered this poem this evening and just felt like reading it again and again cos each time I read it, I understand it more, it also reminds me of my secondary school days…just love them poem

  • 58. edwinewandera  |  November 16, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    That, ladies and gentlemen is a great piece. I re-read it every other time for the humour, irony and relevance to contemporary society.

  • 59. nyamweua evans  |  November 25, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    a nice work infact congrats

  • 60. violah jepngetich  |  January 26, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    This poem oooh my…i love it sooooo much…i cant get tired reading it..all around me i see the results of building the Nation diffently….

  • 61. Soch  |  January 27, 2016 at 11:25 pm

    there is something about the Vic that just screams important ……. nice piece.
    just loved it since i first saw it

  • 62. ibrahim sulait  |  February 13, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    please I beg you all to analyze this beautiful poem. I have an exam to write, you all will never be a failure. amen. you can email me with this address,

  • 63. Cleophas khaemba  |  April 17, 2016 at 7:04 pm

    Its real poem iremember this since 1998 and i read every back from my job

  • 64. Paul Murumba  |  May 24, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    The poem is soo gud and i love it, people in authorities/high positions can lean a lesson from it.

  • 65. The Deaths that Birthed Me | The Other Diagonal  |  June 29, 2016 at 9:21 am

    […] you remember the poem Building the Nation  by Henry Barlow? I still remember his pitch and intonation as he read the poem out to us time and […]

  • 66. Nahamya Deus  |  August 1, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    Avery touching and relevant poem to our contemporary society

  • 67. Elvin  |  September 6, 2016 at 10:25 am

    i love how satirical it is!!!! the irony in it makes my days

  • 68. ATEKOJA ADEDEJI  |  May 13, 2017 at 11:57 am

    Wonderful reminiscence of high school days, over 30 years ago. The choking nostalgia I felt reading this poem again was heightened by the relevance of its didactic thematic preoccupation even today.
    May God help birth genuine nation builders in Africa as we rid these charlatans legislooters and exeecuthieves off our leadership radar, Amen.

  • 69. trizah kinyanjui  |  September 19, 2017 at 8:43 am

    mmmh,dedication to leaders and aspirates.who between the two builders are you?which legacy wonna you leave?shem was my 2008 teacher that introduced it to me.

  • 70. esther mulwa  |  September 19, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    elaborate the styles used in the poem

  • 72. salim suleiman  |  January 30, 2018 at 1:30 am

    i really like this poem,it is ironical the two builder nation builder back home with stomach problem of diffrent type and this poem remind me during high school days my enhlish and litrature enjoy teach us this poem

  • 73. saleem suleiman  |  February 2, 2018 at 12:26 am

    i like this poem it is ironical that two nation builder back home with different stomach,every time i ready it remin me during my highshool days and it is my favoute nice work henry barlow

  • 74. Patriciah  |  February 20, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    Can’t get enough of this poem. It has been my favorite since my high school days.

  • 75. Bartholomew Masea  |  May 9, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    No Development Is To Be Had In Africa In The End Because The Government Executives Are Too Lazy To Do Any Work Development-Wise While The Rest Of The Populace Is Encumbered With Having To Support Their Lavish Lifestyles With The Taxes Remitted, Which Is Why The Poet Aptly Chose The Tax-Payer As The Driver Of The Car, (Very Symbolic).


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