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.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Remembering Festus Iyayi

Below is an excerpt from my article published in today's Guardian: 
"That is an apt analogy and serves, as initially suggested, to construct a theory of gruesome power in Nigeria. That the convoy of governor of Kogi State, Mr. Idris Wada, rammed into the vehicle conveying Iyayi and some members of the Union to Kano, killing Iyayi on the spot, is not just a typical example where political leadership devolves into brutal domination; it also suggests the collapse of governance in Nigeria. It suggests that there is disconnect between political power and the masses in Nigeria, a vexing severance between the leader and the individual whereby the individual is constantly objectified in the everydayness of the politician. Being the second similar accident involving the convoy of Kogi State governor, it becomes clear that in Nigeria, leaders are mysteriously ferried across the land like awesome gods. Moving with the mechanism of fierce monsters, rocket-speed bravado, deafening sirens and ferociousness, leaders have literally emasculated the masses, stripping them of the last hope of amiable affinity and increasing their inherent hatred in the political class. This is actually a case of internal conflict among Nigerian masses eliciting the grand question of whether it is actually a good idea to constitute the governed in a country like Nigeria." Read more:…/188259-nwafor-remembering-

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Vanguard’s Boko Haram reportage as propaganda

By Okechukwu Nwafor

It is necessary to cast our memories back to the Rwandan genocide of 1994 to understand more deeply the corrosive effect of acts of propaganda. In doing this we need to note very carefully how the Rwandan state framed genocide through the media. It is already well known that the Hutus’ willingness to take part en masse in the genocide had little to do with material calculations; it had everything to do with a ruthlessly efficient system of propaganda, and perhaps the misuse of Rwanda’s dangerous history to mystify the sources of social conflict in contemporary Rwanda.  

Historians eventually concluded that the perpetrators of Rwandan genocide understudied their history, and were skilful propagandists. Radio broadcast, for example, created an atmosphere of fear by repeatedly reporting that the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which comprised mainly of Tutsi refugees who came back from Uganda, were attacking unarmed civilians and wanted to wipe out the Hutu of Rwanda in a campaign of ‘ethnic purification’. This singular broadcast ignited the killing spree by the Hutus who massacred the Tutsis in their thousands.  In just 100 days, almost one million mainly Tutsi were murdered. It was estimated that about 70% of Tutsi population was exterminated in the genocide. It could be established that the search for a secure form of identity was not the sole or even the main cause of Rwandan genocide of 1994 but the government deployed this tendency to rally and coerce many Hutus to kill their neighbouring Tutsi, through acts of propaganda. The above analysis is very crucial in our understanding of what I have chosen to describe as ‘propaganda’ by the Vanguard Newspaper in their Boko Haram reportage. I have incontrovertible facts to back my proposition.

On 10 September 2014, while other newspapers bore captions promoting the gains made by the Nigerian military against Boko Haram, The Vanguard newspaper undermined these gains in their news. For example, while The Nation newspaper started its news article with, “Attempts by the insurgents to hit Vimtim, Chief of Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh’s village, were repelled by troops”, Vanguard started with: “The military, yesterday, engaged the Boko Haram terrorists in a fierce battle at Vimtim....”  Obviously the levels of severity in the two reports are anything but incongruous. The words ‘attempts’ and ‘repelled’ as used by The Nation and the phrase “ fierce battle’ as used by The Vanguard are disagreeable metaphors of calculated moderation and excessive distortion respectively. To further endorse their apparent bias, Vanguard went ahead and added, in the middle of the news: “We are in control of Bama, Michika, Mubi - Boko Haram”. This negativity was only found in the Vanguard report of that day and never in any other news print in Nigeria. The victory by the Nigerian military may have never been as potent as that of 10 September in the history of the fight against Boko Haram, yet Vanguard insisted on Boko Haram’s control over large territories. 

In a similar vein, Vanguard on its 15 September, 2014 news concerning the missing aircraft of the Nigerian army reports: “Sources told Vanguard that the (AA) anti-aircraft guns used by the Boko Haram insurgents may have been used by the terrorists on the aircraft.” This submission aims to terminate the least bastion of public faith in the Nigerian military. Not only that the major part of the 15 September report impugns the reigning narrative of victory by the Nigerian military, the journalistic mentality is conspicuously opposed to other news report on that same day such as The Nation newspaper’s which reads:  “Villagers in Lala State Development Area in Adamawa State claimed yesterday to have seen the wreckage. An administrative officer in Gombi Local Government Area of Adamawa State said villagers assisted a military search team in an effort to locate the plane after rumours that it crashed between Ngalga and Barda in Gabun ward.” The same Vanguard report also contradicts The Punch of the same 15 September which says: “An Air Force source said the plane was found through the help of some villagers.” Going through the entire report of The Punch, there is no indication of any tone of despondency as suggested by Vanguard reports. The question is why did Vanguard avoid a report suggesting that there were search efforts to locate the plane or why didn’t Vanguard show a slightest verisimilitude of hope expressed in the field as reported by The Nation, The Punch and others?  This is only if the Vanguard reporters are ever on the field to access primary news; does it mean that their journalists are armchair reporters who prefer to feed the public with secondary news especially as it concerns terror fighting in Nigeria? 

There is a problem in the Vanguard report on Boko Haram. It is obvious that their reporters are not happy with the glory the government enjoyed in the fight against terror, especially as it is credited to President Jonathan. Their terror reports resonate with an air of despair and pathetic vulnerability thus obliterating the slightest promise of credence the military would have enjoyed. They, thus, valorise Boko Haram’s deadly exploits. To prove this, on 20 September 2014, Vanguard reported thus:  “Boko Haram, which has seized swathes of territory in Borno and in neighbouring Yobe and Adamawa states, has been running short of food....Their insurgency has claimed more than 10,000 lives since 2009 and left more than 700,000 homeless”. The unfortunate part of this report is that it reminded us of the historical fatalities, in human numbers, of Boko Haram onslaughts without a veritable source that can be confidently cited.  While this may not be our worry, it is obvious that by amplifying the colossal human damage, it intends to degrade the military might and inject an air of discontent in the system. This is an act of propaganda. 

One can go on recounting such Vanguard’s unhidden predisposition towards the violent sect in almost all their reportage. While the general public is becoming discontented with this unwholesome journalistic tendency, it is necessary for the editorial board of Vanguard to have a rethink. Journalism must be balanced for it to make a meaningful impact in the society. Again, in critical and sensitive matters of national concern caution must be applied to avoid heating up the polity. This may suggest that the nature of reportage in our local fight against terrorism must be geared towards halting the spate of violence. This will enable Nigeria avert crisis similar to the Rwandan genocide which was obviously occasioned by the media campaign aptly crafted as propaganda by critical historians.

Dr Okechukwu Nwafor, a Senior Lecturer and former Research Associate at ICGC, University of Minnesota, is the current Head of Department of Fine and Applied Arts at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.  Email:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

John Odigie-Oyegun and Politics of Blame

IT is plausible to suggest that July 22, 2014 marked a penultimate date of an untoward dramatisation in Nigeria, especially for General Muhammadu Buhari. Then it is also even more plausible to suggest that July 23, 2014 would figure as the day of the unpleasant dramatisation proper especially, again, for Buhari and then for Mr. John Odigie-Oyegun, the national chairman of All Progressive Congress (APC). It is necessary to quickly substantiate the apparent analogies of these dates to a fatal dramatisation.
It was after the Nation newspaper, and several news media, reported on July 22, 2014 about Buhari's dismay at the spate of impeachments in Nigeria that an ominous cloud started to gather. "The gathering of dangerous cloud" is actually Buhari's own words during a public outing on that July 22, 2014. Then on July 23, 2014, in what seemed like the real gathering of this dangerous cloud, Buhari was attacked in a gruesome suicide bomb that claimed so many lives. That same day, Oyegun addressed newsmen in reaction to Buhari's attempted murder and "called on President Jonathan to institute a high powered probe to unravel the perpetrators of such heinous crimes, which left more than 75 persons killed and many more injured." The sic was as reported by Daily Times newspaper of July 24, 2014.
Mr. Oyegun sounded audacious. He urged Buhari's supporters and members of his party nationwide to remain calm, in the face of what he (Oyegun) describes as "obvious provocation". Oyegun's media verbalisation consistently charged Mr. President to get to the root of the bomb blast and unmask the perpetrators, with a warning that the bomb blast will not be "treated as one of the usual Boko Haram atrocities as there seems to be more to it than meets the eye." Oyegun made more pronouncements that may elicit a tinge of scepticism from a critical reader.
While we may not be in a haste to read Oyegun's speech as an impassioned submission from a vulnerable reactionary, we still reserve the right to interpret it as a deliberate act of incitement. In doing so we need to ask the question of why Oyegun would urge 'only' Buhari's supporters and members of his party to remain calm in the face of obvious provocation. The facts of this statement assume that only Buhari's supporters and APC members possess the emotional susceptibility that needed pacification in the face of violent attacks on the rest of Nigerians. The speech also suggests that agonising sorrow inflicted by terrorists is something that is painfully expressed 'only' by Buhari's supporters. In the end, instead of troubleshooting the violent engagement of terrorists, Oyegun's speech rather reinforces its divisive and unfeeling catastrophe. It imposes a vague distinction between the savage perpetrator and the vulnerable victim. This is a speech to many; a speech that rather polarises than it unites.
The remote signification of Oyegun's speech is still not farfetched: determined to construct an interface between savage degeneration of the system and the current administration, the speech fails to deliver on the mere precept of patriotic statesmanship. The speech is highly detrimental to the deep wounds of thousands of terror victims and their families, including the efforts of the present government to contain the insurgency. The speech has the potentiality to undermine genuine nationalistic efforts of terror fighters. In the same vein other APC leaders have spoken strongly against the twin bomb blast in Kaduna. Although some other party members such as the Senate President and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu have also condemned the attack, one still needs to understand the reaction of APC leaders from a particular perspective of politics of blame.
In the politics of blame cheapest political points are scored at the expense of factuality; the frontiers of discontent are fructified rather than mitigated. The promising platforms that underpin compromise and negotiation are further punctured. In this politics, fault-finding knows no boundary and every little opportunity to smear the opposition is exploited to the fullest. This is exactly what happened when a group of APC governors vowed to hold President Goodluck Jonathan accountable for any further violent attack on Buhari. One therefore wonders whether this group is insinuating that the current attack on Buhari is masterminded by the President. One also wonders whether their speech is pointer to the fact that thousands of people slaughtered by Boko Haram over the past five years were less human than any one single individual in Nigeria.
If Buhari's attack must elicit such blemishes from a political party, why wouldn't other deadly attacks on innocent Nigerians elicit same reaction? Can we now say that terrorists have exceeded boundaries sanctioned by the opposition? Therefore politics of blame must be deployed to re-direct the misguided gaze of terrorists to the boundaries admissible by the opposition. My conclusion: Jonathan's name has suddenly become a major asset in APC's politics of blame. The deftness with which APC leaders apportion blame in the wake of most unwholesome happenings in Nigeria is probably one of the most unfortunate incidents in our political life, at least, over the past few years.
ThisDay 'Sunday Comment' July 27, 2014 describes the reaction of some APC leaders to the Buhari attack as "irresponsible and callous" and went further to argue that "finger-pointing and apportioning blames over terror attacks... have done as much to stoke the tension and feeling of insecurity in the country...." It seems blame-generating politicians now abound in APC and they seem to also believe that Jonathan must, and indeed deserves to, incur substantial political blame over untoward issues in Nigeria. Considering Oyegun's speech - and within the narrow discourse of APC's spurious blames - Jonathan's culpability is needlessly insinuated while his innocence is literally constructed as non-existent. This is unfortunate. It may not sound outrageous to conclude that in APC's politics of blame achieving compromise is as difficult as a Greek puzzle.
- Dr. Nwafor, a former Research Associate at ICGC, University of Minnesota, is a Senior Lecturer in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka

Sunday, March 30, 2014

On Mother's Day Today.

Most often our plain interpretation quickly connects ‘mother’ to procreation. While motherhood is also about child bearing, it has far more remote implication. Whether a woman has a child, husband and partner may not really matter. To me she remains a mother as long as she has the ability to live up to the tenets of what I can ascribe to a ‘mother’. And these tenets are, but not limited to, a builder, a prime mover, a motivator, an organizer, an encourager. So if you are a woman out there, kindly accept my sincere acknowledgement and recognition of your disposition to transform lives, your constant craving for human rectitude, your insightful understanding of human foibles and above all your willingness to drive the course of human dilemma with the menfolk; your recognition, and acceptance, of the powerless in chauvinistic men also. I say many thanks to my wife who has lived up to the above responsibilities with love and equanimity, my mum whose outstanding hardwork and optimism elevated her family to the utmost realm of human endeavours, my mother-in-law whose positive strive and unyielding zeal constantly reassure the faith of her family, friends and associates. Indeed the list is endless, I say kudos to all the women I have come across for their astute perception of my hidden Achilles’ heels, for accepting my terms of an erratic emotional engagement that may, sometimes, shock! Ndi Nne Mama, I so kwa!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Going for a South African Visa

By Okechukwu Nwafor

IT seems Nigerian Visa applicants have become adept at dancing to tunes of disgrace constantly handed over to them by officials of the VFS (South African Visa Applicant Centre) in Abuja. Officials here craft unsavoury song of humiliation determined to compel Nigerian applicants to dance to the tunes even at the risk of slumping from exhaustion. On Monday morning of February 10, 2014, I arrived at the South Africa Visa application centre in Abuja, Nigeria, at 9 a.m. to submit my Visa application and a security man at the gate pushed me back with a wave of hand saying “we have closed for the day.” Astonished, I pointed at the notice board and asked the security man to read the notice which says: “For submission:  8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday-Friday.”  But he instead commanded me, and few others hanging around the doorway, to move further away from the vicinity as strangers like us are not allowed to loiter around the building premises. His menacing gesticulation quickly sent us afar to a place that looks like a car park where I saw many touts lurking to defraud unwary clients. I felt pity for myself for being an object of embarrassment by this security man but also for accepting an apparent script of humiliation, ostensibly intended for just Nigerians. 
            One imagines the South African High Commission posting on her notice board in, say, Washington D.C. that Visa application submission is Monday to Friday from 8am to 3pm and then goes ahead to turn back prospective American applicants who have arrived on Monday at 9am to submit Visa application. Reason: they have closed for the day.  Obviously litigation would have woken them from a reverie, that is, only if they are daydreaming. 
            In Nigeria, the embassy is not under any reverie as this misleading notice has been there in Abuja for months. What is annoying is the impudence of foreign nationals on Nigerian citizens; the taken-for-grantedness of citizens; and this temerity by foreign nationals to consign Nigerian citizens to the waste bin of third-class creatures in their own nation, or elsewhere, seems a tacit acceptance that Nigerian Visa applicants are ignorant.  Or is the action a vengeful recourse to punish the desperate, young Nigerian hustlers seeking to escape to South Africa? 
            I decided to hang around the embassy until it is 3 p.m. Other applicants came and the security man told them, “we have closed for the day”. Perplexed at the naked effrontery with which the security man flouted the notice of 3 p.m. closing time, these applicants accepted their fate, believing that perhaps the Nigerian factor will play out and an inducement would magically open the door, just in the manner a remote-control would open a door. But it was not so. We all waited until 3 p.m. It then means that laws are only meant to be flouted with rudeness and disrespect in Nigeria, that is, if we assume that the embassy is situated on a Nigerian land and manned by Nigerian staff, as directed by South African authorities.  If a foreign embassy in Nigeria could not exercise common civility to keep a law it instituted and brazenly displays on its notice boards, one must worry that other laws written on papers and hidden beneath the grasp of ‘non-literate’ locals would receive more cruel violation. One worries what happens when locals even flout such laws.
            While some Nigerians may wish to travel to South Africa to commit crimes or break the laws of the land, many are travelling to South Africa to share with colleagues in professional knowledge, to engage colleagues in symbiotic professional collaboration and sometimes to impart superior knowledge to less endowed South Africans in certain sectors Nigerians may be adept. This is same for South Africans travelling to Nigeria. Life is a constant adventure in possibilities and no single race, individual, ethnicity, nationality is exempt from the dire stakes life has to offer.  But when a certain nation exhibits unequal and insensate show of power and superiority with their Visa, it becomes unfortunate. To prove this unequal show of power relations, and to prove that a superior power has the right to flout a law, and even defecate on top of your head, while the embassy happily flouts their own laws on the notice board, a certain Nigerian young man who answered call inside the embassy was harshly dealt with. He was rudely handed over to a security agent who sent him out of ‘Heaven’s gate,’ for the embassy gate ranks as ‘Heaven’s gate’. This young man was asked by the security man whether he did not see the notice that read: “Please switch off your phones”. This is akin to the manner in which I asked the security man at the gate: “Can’t you see the notice of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday to Friday?” and still he kept telling me that they have closed for the day, at 9 a.m.! 
          It is possible to argue that going for South African Visa in Nigeria is similar to a cow passing through the eye of a needle. Indeed, the processes are rigorous, breathtaking, humiliating, embarrassing and a seemingly impossible mission. As one young Igbo hustler whom I met at the embassy put it: “It seems more difficult than the processes of going to Heaven.” It sounds hilarious but after passing through the humiliating and embarrassing process, I tend to believe this young man that going for the South African Visa in Nigeria seems like an impossible mission.
           By the time I finished submitting my Visa application documents in Abuja on February 11, 2014, I felt exhausted, drained of any last energy. My eyes sunk deep and a vein shot through my forehead. Obviously, the Visa stress has added an awful wrinkle of age to my physical looks. I felt older in this embarrassing world of Visa application.  I also felt like one who has been relieved of some strange overload. I quickly dashed into a cool cuisine along the street and treated myself to a can of refreshing Ribenna and meat pie. Shortly, afterwards, I felt resuscitated. It then means that South African Visa process is suffocating.
             For me, I will go to South Africa again, but before then, the High Commissioner must have offered me a Permanent Residency Permit so I can avert another menacing brush with their security men who are trained to relish in the embarrassing statement: “We have closed for the day,” at 9a.m. even when the notice read 3 p.m. as closing time. 


•Dr. Nwafor is an AHP Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape, South Africa and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

On Senator Ndi Obi's Eulogies on Governor Peter Obi

I have just read one of the most inspiring, emotional and eloquent commendations by High Chief Senator Ndi Obi (Ojeligbo) on Governor Peter Obi published in Sun Newspaper yesterday, 18 March, 2014.  His words are couched in extraordinarily expressive terms that endorse Peter Obi’s triumph over forces of darkness in Anambra state. Ndi Obi’s vivid and eulogising sermons elicit memories of the pathos and poignancy of ruins characterising Pre-Peter Obi Anambra.  Making several allusions to the sincerity of purpose, unparalleled poise and touching humility with which Obi  piloted Anambra affairs, Ndi Obi’s account comes as thoughtful narrative of how vision upturns the treacherous traps of desperado politicians of Anambra state. Emerging from the perilous terrains of awkward and reckless governmentality, Anambra is set, once more, on its lofty paths of glorious statecraft and exemplary administration by a man whom Ndi Obi described as “simply a young man who can conveniently sell sand in the desert”. He is Peter Obi.  He Just added a touch of finesse and elegance to the overwhelming ineptitude popularised by his predecessors. Obi’s predecessors prayed, preached and sermonized on the daily television that their political arithmetic is always about one minus one which always gives them zero amount of money making it impossible for them to pay salaries and provide basic amenities.  Their commonsense allows them to constantly allude to this problematic political formula as the reason for their failure. Of course any political arithmetic that arrives at zero amount of money is a failure.  Obi taught Anambrarians that political arithmetic is about one plus one to equal two. A constant addition would eventually give us billions of Naira for donation to the churches and less privileged and for building the road of Ndiukwuenu Town in Orumba North LGA which was last built by the colonial masters in the first decade of the twentieth century. Amazing, I must become a student of Obi’s School of Political Arithmetic.  

Okechukwu Nwafor, March 19, 2014.