Monday, October 1, 2018

The president’s speech: evident disharmony between theory and empirical data

Listening to the President’s Independence speech, I was gravely seized by the gross burden of mental pain. This is not because the speech was not a product of proficient rendition by the paid writer, nor because of the speech's defective elocution by the presenter, it is because of how the contents of the speech create an antithesis of the real. It is because of how the speech writer achieves a dramatic disharmony between written texts and fieldwork experiences.

Almost all the contents of the speech contradict Nigerians’ practical experiences over the past years. You keep wondering why the speech writer determinedly misrepresents and consciously distorts. No need ex-raying how each sentence distorts our collective and individual experiences over these years. Just read for yourself and answer the question. No time to do the entire exercise here.
But one thing is certain: every Nigerian Independence day is always foreshadowed by a certain misadventure that signals an ailing nation. This year’s own was preceded by a gruesome murder of an entire family in Jos, Plateau State. Yet it did not receive any mention by the president in the national broadcast. Some may argue that the life of a single family may not deserve mention in an all-important business as the Independence broadcast but the fact is that the life of a single individual is as important as the life of all human in a nation. Again given that this incidence just happened a day or two before Independence, the freshness of memory should have saved their plight from the misanthropic insensitivity of collective condemnation seen in the speech. Again, the manner of the murder which is an abrupt annihilation, a closure to the family tree, which included a two year old child, you cannot help but give in to an unbridled flow of tears.
Take it or leave it, the president’s last sentence in the speech which reads thus “I want to assure you that as President, I will continue to work tirelessly to promote, protect and preserve what really matters: a united, peaceful, prosperous and secure Nigeria, where all, irrespective of background, can aspire to succeed” is an encapsulation of the entire speech which as I strongly argued opposes the empirical data of his actions as we see it happening everyday. Unless those reading this are not living in Nigeria.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Osun: Tragedy and dreadful enactments of a failed state

I can authoritatively say that both INEC and the three leading political parties in the Osun election are not credible. Should I say that they are all incredible?

All epitomize the dreadful traits of a failed nation, not a failing nation! What other signs do we need to conclude that Osun has symbolically enacted the tragedy that will befall Nigeria in 2019? And what other signs do we need to prove that sooner or later Nigerians will be filled with a poignant sense of tragedy?

Tragedy has been theorized by many scholars yet one of the most striking is what Gritzner describes as a ‘dialectical structure of feeling.’ Big grammar here but I will explain: it means something close to withdrawal, indifference or ‘estrangement from life’. Again it could philosophically imply a sense of being a foreigner unto oneself and others. Simply put: aloofness.

What am I trying to say? PDP gave birth to APC and as some people have hinted, APC is beating PDP in the unscrupulous game.  ‘The child is now father of the man’ if I borrow from William Wordsworth’s poem “The Rainbow”. This poem also, subtly, mirrors the profound signification of tragedy itself in which the man is a consequence of his own damnable preoccupation from birth. So APC, the child is now the despicable father of the immoral PDP man.

I do not pity PDP at all. SDP is not even in the question. SDP is not a party. It is a group on a haggling mission to butcher and snatch the weightiest part of the kill which they have just done. So in essence whether you want to believe it or not, tragedy has constituted an existential condition of Nigerians and it is a metaphor with which I make sense of a failed postcolonial state. Simple!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

The visual message of Trump and Buhari's laughing photograph

by Okechukwu Nwafor

Many people have commented on the implications of Buhari's visit to the United States. Among the comments is a submission by Farooq Kperogi who praised Buahri's smart moves in the course of fielding questions from journalists. I am not particularly sure, and convinced, that Farooq exhibited a cautious articulation that corresponds to his erudite intellect as against his rather impetuous endorsement of the president.
On my part, I want to comment on the visual message of the photo showing Buhari signing a document amidst a smile while Trump also wearing a wry smile crouches behind him. This photograph is quite compelling yet many Social Media users would rather not reflect on the underlying nitty-gritty of both president's laughter or smiles as seen in the photo.
First, the image suggests that their smiles are mechanical. There seems no reason why both of them should exhibit that weird grin simultaneously especially at the instance when Buhari was just signing a document. While the content of the document was not made public one wonders how such signing should suddenly elicit the amusement that, in actual sense, looks curiously emotionless.
First reason: Buhari knew within him that Trump does not like him neither does he like Nigeria (ala shithole, and Christian sentiments), yet he was desperate for American backing in the face of severe widespread opposition by the Nigerian masses.
Second reason: Buhari knew that a smile for the camera means a lot: it is a chimerical strategy of hiding awkward and difficult bilateral relations. It is also a way to mock Jonathan loyalists, and other opposition, who think that their repudiation at the home front would translate to western rejection. No. He seems to say that no amount of killings, human rights abuse, corruption and bad leadership, could actually blight Trump's camera from perceiving him (Buhari) as a white angel instead of the black devil Nigerians portray him as at home. His smile, captured by the American camera, has indeed restored his temporary misfortunes and fixed the political catastrophes that would bear remote consequences for his future ambitions in his country, Nigeria.
On his part, Trump knew inwardly that he does not like Buhari, Nigerians and Nigeria but he needed to do this. He needed to force a smile no matter how spiritless. Despite his acerbic utterances he needed to do diplomatic job, imperial job and, above all, rapacious business with a deficient clientele. He is the only one who understands what Buhari was signing. And the smile on his face seems meaningless to him because he managed to squeeze it out for the purposes of imperial enrichment and postcolonial impoverishment. And we know that Trump has always made headlines for his mischievous smiles. This time around the mischief in the smile became even more pronounced.
Whichever is the case their smiles look unfeeling and detached and a case based on the fairy tale of the Lion and the tortoise. Yet, here, I am yet to figure who is the Lion and who is the tortoise.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Chimamanda's needless bickering

by Okechukwu Nwafor

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently responded to one of her traducers in Facebook over her comment on 'wife' during her interview with Hilary Clinton. The caption of her response reads thus: "Dear Unnamed Person Who I Am Told Is On Social Media Saying I am Her Family and Telling Me to Shut Up".
I read Chimamanda's response many times and I said wow, many times. I think her convictions are too eccentric or even esoteric. Quite unpretentiously, a tone of sheer indignation runs through the response. At some point it seems the delight one takes in reading her pleasurable and beautiful writing style would be marred by her wacky submissions. Not just that a somewhat misrepresentation in her text suggests an inwardly disobedient trait, or perhaps an inborn anomaly to revolutionize without actually knowing why.
She said "I am tired of Nigerians who read a headline and, without bothering to get details and context, jump on the outrage bandwagon and form lazy, shallow opinions." Yet she goes ahead to state that she stands by her word that Clinton goofed by starting her twitter page with 'wife'. So I wonder where these Nigerians read a headline and misunderstood her. What they read is her outright sense of repugnance at Clinton's choice, and placement, of 'wife' in her twitter page and nothing else. So I didn't see it as a headline. Now why should that apprehension constitute 'lazy, shallow opinions' in Chimamanda's mind?
When I read how Chimamanda used the word 'lazy' two times, to qualify Nigerians in her text, I said Nigerians are in trouble. I said that the difference between Chimamanda's use of 'lazy' and that of Buhari is that Buhari was more compassionate to qualify a segment of Nigerians being 'youth' with lazy. But Chimamanda was more malevolent to categorize all Nigerians who listened to her interview and felt uncomfortable with her submissions as lazy.
Again she said "Feminism is indeed about choice. But it is intellectually lazy to suggest that, since everything is about ‘choice,’ none of these choices can be interrogated". However, I still think that she might constitute part of that laziness because of her failure to appreciate the beauty of engagement that comes from Social Media users. In the manner she felt cross at Nigerians' altercation over her convictions on 'wife' so do these Nigerians feel over her avant-garde views that now seem to trouble the traditional cultural canons of certain individuals. So in essence while the 'unnamed person' asks Chimamanda to 'shut up,' Chimamanda calls her, and other Nigerians 'lazy.' So my question is who is more civil? This statement is at variance with her submission in her response. It also suggests that it is intellectually lazy on her part to assume that there must be a collective compromise on her feminist choices.
Her response throws up so many picky situations. For example she is again upset that this 'unnamed person calls her family. She rejects this association. She fails to understand the context of family in African cultural system. Indeed, any Igbo could be family to any other Igbo, depending on the contexts. Family extends to remote ramifications and she cannot undo that sensibility.
I conclude that Clinton's use of wife has no problems at all and should not, in any way, be an object of such uncompromising lamentation from a person as cerebral as Chimamanda. Whether Clinton starts the twitter page with wife or ends it with wife should not in any way cause Chimamanda severe headache. The most important thing is that wife is wife and husband is husband unless she prefers to delete the English word from the Dictionary. This is a human world, choices must be interrogated and there must not be any closure on levels of intellect meant to interrogate such choices. 

Okechukwu Nwafor. 25/4/18.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Resolving Anambra Political Arithmetic

I shall try to resolve the political reckoning of Anambra at the moment. In fair estimation the battle is between three powerful forces: APGA, PDP and APC.  Each of this party is standing on a foundational endorsement of formidable political agents. For example in APGA Ojukwu's photograph is constantly implanted at the rear of the photos of APGA's governorship candidate, Dr Willie Obiano and his running mate, Dr Nkem Okeke. By this visual gimmick, it is assumed that Ojukwu, the celebrated leader of  Biafrans, shot into prominence by the Nigerian Biafran war of 1967 to 1970, would invoke the medieval science that will ensure  victory for APGA come November 18. By this visual stunt, again, it is assumed that Ojukwu, the Oxford University graduate of History, being an acclaimed Igbo leader and a founding father of APGA  would evoke ethnic sympathy whereby APGA is seen as an Igbo cause that will enable a landslide victory. However, a critical assessment of the import of Ojukwu's photo into APGA's visual images and posters may provide a counter reading. Peter Obi deployed this visual strategy and won election as governor under APGA, for two consecutive tenures. The fact is that the circumstances that surrounded Obi's emergence then were far from what is currently obtainable today. APGA's legitimacy as at then was not in question. I may not want to delve deeper into the question of legitimacy at the moment for obvious reasons.

For PDP, the contender Oseloka Obaze has been described by many as a man of decorum, a man of letters and a man whose scholastic life disgusts the oracle  of ignorance.  He subtly stands on the supposedly superlative political demeanour, or antecedents, of Mr Peter Obi who is seen as his benefactor. However, a modicum of public observers believes otherwise: that Obi is just a political Mafioso, desperately canvassing to oust the incumbent governor for some narcissistic reasons. Yet, majority of Anambra citizens believe that Obi's political style remains an unresolved conundrum. And that Obi is, as described by High Chief Ndi Obi, "a young man who can conveniently sell sand in the desert". Whatever Ndi Obi means by that I do not know but I think he was overwhelmed by Obi's transcendent political prowess at a time Anambra seemed asphyxiated by some powerful forces of the PDP. Obi defeated PDP by invoking all the combative political arsenals of APGA to emerge as governor and now Obi has dumped APGA and is now fighting with all the pugnacious armoury of PDP to send APGA packing. Are you surprised? Don't be, for that is politics. In politics, they say there is no permanent friend or permanent enemy, only permanent interests. Again, some believe that Obi-Obaze amalgam is a huge miscalculation. This few sceptics believe that Obi does not mean well and that he is only coming back for vengeful recuperation where the current compromise with the incumbent seems to have been toppled by forces beyond Obi's control. It could be true, because Obi's compromise with the incumbent governor could actually be for the genuine actualization of the gains of democracy which he established in Anambra and wished to be sustained but which, perhaps, was mishandled. Obi is seen as a saint in politics by many.

For APC, Dr Tony Nwoye is  seriously basking under the hefty political weights of the leading national party in Nigeria, APC. APC defeated PDP to produce the Nigerian president and majority of the governors.  If APC could produce the president and majority of the governors in Nigeria, what with this Lilliputian called Anambra. Nwoye believes he is positively advancing his flotilla towards a win. Many Anambra people think in the obverse: they see APC as a mere joke. In the minds of many voters in Anambra APC  is a painful infliction on NdIgbo. Since the inception of Muhammadu Buhari as president, there seems to be an upsurge of baleful acrimony running in the veins of NdIgbo all against the president and his winning party, APC. Again, the president seems cognisant of this ill will and intends to penalize NdIgbo for their untoward feeling. His body language and actions proved this: the Nnamdi Kanu incarceration, the continuous human rights abuse, the dissenting presidential speeches and the consummate brutality of Nnamdi Kanu's house invasion. What else? NdIgbo in Anambra believe that no Jupiter can manoeuvre victory for APC. Tony Nwoye's determined confidence in the inexorable machinations of APC will play out on November 18. Then Anambra NdIgbo will know whether the Baboon and the Monkey will be smeared in blood.

On another level IPOB is counting on their Social Media wrangle to declare that there will be no election come November 18. They have asked all Anambra people and Biafrans to stay at home that day. For some individuals, IPOB members are not just cynics, they are political atheists in the eyes of November 18.  They neither believe in APGA, PDP nor APC. Their kind of politics is radical: declare Biafra an independent State or nothing else. For a handful of opinionated Anambra, and indeed, NdIgbo elites, IPOB is a psychotic set-up that must be dismantled. Tobenna Okwuosa​, Chigozie Anarado, Colin Oguzie Uju​ and Ikeogu Oke  belong to this group. Yet for others IPOB is the inevitable backwash of a historic mistake, the aftereffect of a thoughtless politics and the underprivileged subordination by the devilish political aristocracy. Yours truly, Chike Ofili, and co belong to this later group. What can I say again? My people, November 18 is decisive; let us await it with a prophetic mind.

Okechukwu Nwafor is an Associate Professor of Fine Arts and the current Head, Department of Fine and Applied Arts in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Thanksgiving Service and the gospel according to Saint James Ibori

by Okechukwu Nwafor

Chief James Onanefe Ibori returned to a cheering crowd of his townsmen and women on February 4, 2016, after spending four and half years in a UK prison for criminal charges. Ibori's kinsmen staged a performative, flamboyant welcome for him and organised thanksgiving church service and reception ceremonies in his honour. During the church event which took place on 12 February 2016 at a Baptist Church in his hometown Oghara in Delta State, Ibori declared: "I am not a thief and cannot be a thief". In fact, according to Ibori, "Today is the day they say I should give testimony to God. For those that know me, you know that my entire life is a testimony itself and I have said it over and over again that my life is fashioned by God, directed by God, sealed, acknowledged and blessed by God and I believe that since the day I was born."

One, therefore, needs to rationalize Ibori's recent pronouncement, and its attendant aftermath, against a prevailing Nigerian psyche: first the fact that Ibori did not accept being a thief after serving a jail term for criminal offence, second the dominant Nigerian behaviourism of corruption, third the significance of God to Nigerian Christendom and for Ibori as a Nigerian politician. Indeed, this sounds like a lecture outline but it needs dissection.

Firstly, one must be alarmed that Ibori made such a statement in the first place. After a rigorous court process and an uncompromising verdict Ibori (himself pleaded guilty of the offence for which he) was convicted. It is, therefore, surprising, and at worst, embarrassing, that having fulfilled the terms of the crime in prison he would come back to deny the charges. The implication is that the moral bastion upon which human character is built is lacking in Ibori. It also means that his mind could possibly be suffering from a dangerous form of amnesia for which he totally forgot why he was held in the UK.

Secondly, there is nothing wrong in welcoming Ibori back home by his people. There is also nothing wrong in the affable and cheerful sympathy with which his people accepted him. Being away for so long eluded Ibori's loved ones of his affectionate presence. However, one becomes worried at the manner Ibori's people celebrate his return: effusive show of public festivity.  The tragedy of the Nigerian socialscape is such that there is no distinction between ignoble events and dignified events. The bash Ibori's return was treated to is utterly unnecessary. His return is not an enviable mark of achievement rather it is an ignoble anti-climax that should be treated with secluded cocktail. Such actions, obviously, sound bizarre in normal human reasoning for it means that plunderers are celebrated and should be applauded. What type of moral lessons are the Oghara people teaching to their younger generation?

Thirdly, we understand that the event was a thanksgiving church service. The question for those who were present during the event becomes: what was the subject of the pastor's sermon? One would have been able to provide a more sincere analysis had one been present during the church service. But even without being present during the service, the usual Nigerian style is for church ministers to eulogize wealthy corrupt politicians and church members, even when their source of wealth and livelihood is indisputably nefarious and malicious.  One is not surprised, therefore, that the Baptist Church in Oghara would celebrate Ibori for his 'steadfastness.' It is shameful indeed that many churches in Nigeria are mere spaces where atrocious credo of evil are legitimated. Oghara church cannot resist the compelling gospel according to Saint James Ibori. It is a gospel of double-dealing, of hypocrisy, of disturbing and arrogant religiousity and above all a gospel of visionless churching among a teeming Nigerian public.

Lastly, I want to understand the type of God some Nigerian Christians worship. Or do Nigerians have their own God who understands their capricious ways? Do Nigerians have a God who understands that even a thief should be celebrated and allowed to declare self-acclaimed innocence in the church, even after serving jail term; do Nigerians have a counterfeit God, who can be bought and asked to exculpate convicted criminals in church and he does so instantly; a God who usually invokes the case of the penitent thief beside Jesus on the Cross of Calvary to exonerate every Nigerian thieving politician and clear his road to heaven. Last word for Ibori, his people and the Baptist church in Oghara: There is God and they must attempt to discern the difference between the gospel according to James Ibori and the Gospel according to Saint James in the Holy Bible.  

Okechukwu Nwafor is an Associate Professor and Head of Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. Email:       

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Nwanne’s creative oeuvres as social commentaries.

By Okechukwu Nwafor

Jimmy Nwanne’s works are eloquent testimonies to the crises that have befallen the entire human race. While his Diaspora sojourn may have promised a better living condition in far away Germany, his preoccupation with likely socio-economic issues in Nigeria is revealing of his passion to become a willing participant in a world torn apart by economic exploitation, political oppression and cultural degradation.  

The works, “Behind these walls” and “Lady with the veil” rendered in a somewhat realistic manner, make multiple statements about the world’s current threat. Whether they make remote allusion to the Middle East political crisis or a direct reference to the current threat posed by Boko Haram in the North East of Nigeria, Nwanne’s homeland, one can suggest that Nwanne has reconstructed the idea of ‘veils’ into a political battle for survival. While the works can serve as metaphors for an explicit critique of religion in a nation beleaguered by the tragedy of fundamentalism, the veiling could also suggest the silencing of dehumanised victims, whose narratives offer us an opportunity to revisit other dimensions of violence against women.  In these works, Nwanne seems to romanticise marginal life through a deft overlay of sombre colours, misty eyes and an aura of mystique around each physiognomic gaze. In both paintings the faces are broken into geometric shapes of colour, punctuated by interplay of silhouetted imageries built into the vertical veils.  Both the faces and the veils offer unending perspectives to a world of seemingly uneven topography; a battered landscape that defines our everydayness.

In the ‘Nation building Series’ Nwanne seems to accentuate the institutional constraints to thriving in Nigeria. He underscores the necessary ingredients needed to articulate new kinds of orientations towards nation building. These orientations suggest that nation building embodies two fundamental organs: the child and education. The pernicious effect of lack, of poverty, of deprivation can be substantially alleviated through proper investment in educating the child. If as the paradox goes that the child is father to the man, then Nwanne’s propositions are not merely idealizations but surely intend to resolve possible dangers of social and economic insecurity which an uneducated child may pose in the future. In ‘Nation Building II and III’, patches of colours progress in blocks of dark and bright hues around the entire figure. However, while the pencils and papers are highlighted, other figural elements are diminished. This may be for strategic reasons. On the other hand, the traditional ideal of classical beauty represented by the child figure points out the successful modernity of Nwanne’s style: strong extravagant colours signal Nwanne’s break with the radical conceptualism of the twenty first century. These works are strongly evocative of the emotional reality Nwanne has always been truthful to right from his student days at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. Nwanne never shed his cultural specificity, despite the overarching influence of politics of difference in the West where he has been living and working. Not interested to transcend the questions posed by ‘Diaspora belongingness’ Nwanne pictured home as a constant site of return. He saw ‘home’ as a place where his creativity would make loud statements of sincerity and peace.

Perhaps, for Nwanne, the thought of home must have inspired the work “to the promise land’ where he seems to make audacious attempt to preserve his agency and increase the scope of his freedom. This work is very successful in the manner in which balance and harmony are blended into a cool ambience of movement. If Nwanne desired home so much as to return to Nigeria to show his new works, then time has come, according to West (1994:22), “for artists of the new cultural politics of difference to cast their nets widely, flex their muscles broadly, and thereby refuse to limit their visions, analyses, and praxis to their particular terrains. The aim is to dare to recast, redefine, and revise the very notions of... the mainstream”. Perhaps, Nwanne has revised this notion of ‘the mainstream’ to arrive at ‘the periphery’ thus reaching a new stage in his constant search for freedom. This freedom enabled Nwanne to return to Nigeria and open his creative vista to his own people. 


Cornel West (1994). “The New Cultural Politics of Difference” in Maurice Berger, Modern Art and Society, An Anthology of Social and Multicultural Readings. New York: IconEditions.

Okechukwu Nwafor holds a PhD in Visual History from the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa. He was a former Research Associate in the Interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Global Change (ICGC), University of Minnesota, USA. He is currently the Head, Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State. Email:

Behind these wall. Oil on canvas.

 Against All Odds. Oil on Canvas.

 Lady with veil. Oil on Canvas

Nation Building II. Oil on canvas.

To the promise land. Oil on canvas.

Despair. Oil on canvas.