Book title: Nigeria’s Ungoverned Spaces
Edited by: Richard A. Olaniyan and Rufus T.
Publishers: Obafemi Awolowo University
Pagination: 154 pages
Year of publication: 2016
Reviewer: Badejo Adedeji Nurudeen
The term “Ungoverned Spaces” actually drew my attention to this book. Ungoverned spaces are those spaces in which officially recognised state institutions cannot exercise their full sovereignty, areas of limited or anomalous government control. In fact, an ungoverned space is a territory of violence and insecurity.
The book, Nigeria’s Ungoverned Spaces – Studies in Security, Terrorism and Governance, edited by Richard A. Olaniyan and Rufus T. Akinyele, has come at a right time due largely to the festering security situation in our dear country, most particularly the continued insurgency by the Boko Haram sect in the north-eastern part of the country. The 154-page book is divided into eight chapters, with nine contributors, mostly professors with diverse backgrounds, including history, legal, sociology, international relations, military intelligence etc. A compelling read is chapter three, aptly titled Eco-Violence or Transborder Terrorism: Revisiting Nigerian Pastoral Nomadic Fulani Question by the trio of Awogbade, Olaniyan and Faleye.
This chapter is illuminating on the dangerous trend of trans-border influx of pastoral Fulani groups into Nigeria. Despite the wide media publicity of the pastoral nomadic violence in Nigeria, it is rather disheartening that there seems to be a dearth of literatures focusing on understanding the pattern of behaviour within the context of ecological history and geopolitics. It is stated that the incessant clashes involving Fulani pastoralists can be associated with dwindling grazing lands.
It is dangerous and should be a concern to the government that, according to intelligence report, in comparison with the Boko Haram insurgency that kills an average of 2, 500 people annually, over 2, 000 people were killed in conflicts between the herdsmen and different host communities in 2015 alone. Indeed, the herdsmen menace has led to the death of about 3.7 million people in a period of 16 years in Adamawa state, among others. A well-known case is the kidnapping of Chief Olu Falae, an elder statesman, who was released after payment of ransom to his captors who were Fulani herdsmen.
This chapter highlights the environmental and ecological perspectives of the perennial pastoral Fulani crisis mostly between nomads and sedentary populations. In the study of ecological violence, it was asserted that large populations in many developing countries are highly dependent on four key environmental resources that are fundamental to crop production: fresh water, cropland, forests and fish.
The scarcity or shrinking of these resources as a result of misuse, overuse or degradation under certain circumstances will trigger off conflicts. It must be observed that though there are over 3.1 million hectares of potential fadama lands found along the flood plains of Niger, Benue, Sokoto, Rima and Yobe river systems, the nomadic pastoral Fulani violence indicates a breakdown of the traditional eco-social linkages due to climate change, population growth and land use.
On the economic and political sides, security and development in the northern region requires the attention of the government, while meaningful economic policies must be propagated and implemented to mitigate illiteracy, unemployment, poverty, vulnerability and infrastructural development. The political class, on the other hand, must stop patronising religious sects for electoral purpose. Also, ethnic division across modern state boundaries, a legacy of colonial rule aided by the porosity of the Nigerian borders, has made it possible for foreigners who share ethnic and religious affinities with Nigerians to slip into the country and enlist or otherwise join the fanatics’ army.
A case in point was the Maitatsine rebellion led by Mohammed Marwa, a Cameroonian. Indeed, a whole book is required to do a definitive study on hard-line religious preaching in Nigeria, particularly in the north.
In Chapter 8, written by an expert, Tanwa Ashiru, a former intelligence analyst, United States Department of Defense (DoD), aptly titled Fixing Nigeria’s Broken Intelligence Agencies, the Nigerian intelligence community’s performance is the focus.
Also, the chapter looks at the lack of information on Nigeria’s intelligence agencies like Department of State Services (DSS), Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) and National Intelligence Agency (NIA), particularly on their websites, very unlike the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which has 267 entities in its World Fact book, providing trusted information on every country and geographical entity.
More than any aspect of the book, the chapter on intelligence gathering showcases our wrong tactics in the war against the Boko Haram insurgents. Counter insurgency is an intelligence-driven endeavour which focuses on facilitating understanding of the operational environment with emphasis on the populace, host nation and insurgents.
Anti-insurgency, on the other hand, involves more kinetic tactical operations necessary for dousing the insurgency. We should have geared our efforts towards focusing on improving the cultural awareness of the region that encouraged the Boko Haram movement due to extreme poverty, socio-economic challenges, high illiteracy rates, ethno-religious sentimentalism, poor border controls and nationalistic devotions.
The performance of our intelligence organisations leaves much to be desired. DSS in particular needs to move from just providing security to government and very important personalities, to a full intelligence gathering mechanism. DSS should not involve itself in prosecution but pure intelligence gathering. All of our intelligence gathering agencies are expected to perform optimally.
This is the best way we can win the war against insurgency. This is a well-researched book on security, terrorism and governance coming from the academic environment. It is well-packaged and edited; easy to read with references. This book should be a guide to our security and intelligence apparatus, and also generally as everyone needs to be security-conscious. With tact, planning and proper intelligence gathering, we will win the anti-insurgency war.
Values, morality as panacea for unity, development
Title: Music of the Muezzin
Author: R. Adebayo Lawal
Year of Publication: 2014
Reviewer: Mahfouz A. Adedimeji
Against the sorry state of our world that has lost its moorings, resulting in the Hobbesian conception of life as being “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” Adebayo Lawal in his second collection of poems, Music of the Muezzin, offers us a way out of the miasma. Through a blending of soulful sounds, delicious lines of pure poetry that offer us sense from the pervading nonsense beclouding our global horizons, the poet draws our attention to the need to uphold morality and promote character in our lives.
Basically, Music of the Muezzin is a collection of 38 poems divided into six unequal parts: “Pro-Song: Symphony of the Lonesome Lark”, “Invocation: the Cock’s Mystical Music,” “Smiles of Sorrow,” “Exhortation: Cryptic Clauses of Counsel”, “The Snail’s Courage” and “Epi-Songs: True Time is but Timelessness”. As common to most works of poetry, the themes are as diverse as the poems artistically woven in the compelling collection, but one thesis that reverberates across the work is the need for values and morality in our society. This the author does by distilling messages that tantalize or religious, moral, cultural and ethical sensibilities.
The first poem in the collection is the “eponymous” poem (i.e. the poem that gives the collection its title) where the poet explains the impact of the muezzin’s call to prayer on him. The rationale for putting the poem first is most likely informed by the fact that when a baby is born in Islam, the first thing he hears is the adhan or call to prayer. We then have the poet’s interpretation of the magnificence of His Creator, Whose majesty he celebrates in “The paradox of your presence” (p.12).
However, the first two parts are not about Islam and faith alone. There is a striking poem, “Lines for a don”, dedicated to his teacher, Prof. David William, with which the poet decries the decline in the academics, which is of interest to every lecturer or don. In his usual inter-lock of sense with sound, a major stylistic feature of the collection, our poet takes a swipe at academic shoddiness and intellectual laziness, a cankerworm that seems to have seeped, or sneaked like a thief in the night, into our ivory towers. The sense is compelling in describing various types of dons in lovely lines and repetitive sonority before upholding the standard as symbolised by the teacher: “There are dunces / And there are dons. / Dons by distinction, / Dons by connection / Dons by compassion / Dons by constipation. / The mafia don, / Done by cruel connection, / Is the Don Juan / Thriving on a code of terror.” … (p.20)
There are interesting poems in Part Three, which begins with “The multinational tycoon’s theory”, a witty and humorless poem that ascribes the black man’s tragedy to the accident of creation. He lampoons the archetypal politician in our era of politics without principle describing him in powerful imagery using the bat metaphor: “Bird by day/ Rat by night/ The bat vies with the vulture/ And races with the rodent.” (p.25).
In “Damsel of the ivory tower” (p.31) and “City damsel” (p.32), Lawal has urgent and pungent messages for the students who waste their present and future on illicit sexual adventures.
For the latter poem (i.e. “City damsel”) that exploits the computer imagery, the warning to men is that the city damsel is not more than a lovely laptop with a caveat: when you “insert a randy flash-drive / You end up with a vicious virus” (p.31).
The third part under consideration contains the longest poem in the collection, “Smiles of sorrow” (p.34), which drives home the need for character and morality in our society.
In Parts Four and Five, the author offers antidotes to our troubled and troubling times while canvassing the virtues of love (i.e. “True love”(p.38); “We are all one” (p.39)) reason (“Who are you? (p.40); “Rat race or human race? (p.41)), religious tolerance and righteousness (i.e. “The cannibals” (p.42), “The bubble shall burst” (p.48), “Blessed are they” (p.52)) and other poems of similar thematic concerns. There are also well-crafted poems in this section like “Ilorin” (p.45) which offers a food-for-thought that everyone would like to relish and “In the long run” (p.47) which gives poetic expression to the maxim, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Generally, this collection is “larger than its frame” in terms of the profundity of the timeless messages that make good sense for our troubled season in a world that is going amok. It is a call to action to eschew what is morally bad, religiously sinful and ethically repugnant in our day-to-day interactions.
Unravelling the mystery of Tola Wewe’s ‘stolen’ painting
A mild drama played out mid last month when renowned Nigerian artist, Tola Wewe’s oil on board painting titled ‘Iye Boabo’ surfaced at the auction house, Arthouse Contemporary Limited 29 years after its production and disappearance. ‘Boabo’ is an annual cleansing festival at Igbobini, an Apoi-Ijo community in Ese Odo Local Government Area of Ondo State. In this community, contemptuous flouter of socio-moral order and hardened committers of taboos are cleansed with a ritual during the festival; and this is meant to rid the community of any burden of deviant or flagrant upsetting of societal order. Wewe was then a young lecturer at the Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, and the painting was among some works kept in the Ile-Ife home of his colleague, Moyo Okediji, after a group exhibition held at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Ibadan.
On Wednesday, 18th of April, 2018, Tola Wewe received an image of the painting and a message from Nana Sonoiki of the Arthouse Contemporary Limited, requesting him to authenticate the painting, which was submitted by “a client” to the Arthouse for their next auction already slated for May, 2018. The artist was shocked to see the image of his painting, which was “stolen” 29 years ago. He then quickly responded to the enquiry, “It is one of my missing works. I will give the title, stories about the work, etc. But I must earn my remuneration.” Apart from appreciating his response, nothing else was heard from Sonoiki for two days until Wewe broke the silence: “Still waiting for your response on the work,” and Sonoiki quickly replied, “I forwarded your mail to the owner and no response yet.” Wewe then reacted again: “We need to act quickly because I may be forced to make this public o.”
“How? That we stole your work?” Replied Sonoiki. “Arthouse has no problem,” buttressed Wewe, “In fact, you are my saviour now. If not for an institution like Arthouse, how would I have seen this work? Kindly tell him to link up with me so that we resolve the issue or I go through my own way.” And silence took over from the Arthouse, for 10 days, which then prompted Wewe to go public.
The story of this missing work, according to Wewe at the media briefing of Thursday, April 26, 2018, occurred in 1989. The Ona Movement, which was just birthed at the time, had had its maiden exhibition at Ibadan. After the show, all works, including those of Wewe, Okediji, Kunle Filani, were taken to Moyo Okediji’s home at Ile-Ife. Soon, Okediji relocated to the United States with his family. Unknown to Wewe, the house was burgled and many paintings carted away. Seven years later, Wewe went to the then Fenchurch, a frame gallery at Onikan, Lagos, to frame some works. There, he saw two of Okediji’s paintings brought to the Fenchurch for framing. As at the time, he had no idea that Okediji’s house had been burgled. Neither did he know that even his own works had been stolen. Wewe only saw Okediji in later years, and got to know about the burglary and the stolen works. In fact, apart from Wewe who lost about 30 works, and Okediji who lost all his works, Kunle Filani also lost many works to the burglars.
On her part, Nana Sonoiki expressed disappointment in Wewe and condemned his hasty run to the public. She confirmed the conversation between her and Wewe, but that the reason she didn’t get back to him for almost 10 days was because “the client” who submitted the work had taken ill and so could not read the mail she had sent to him. She, thereafter, divulged the name of “the client” as Mr. Mike Oduah.
Mr. Oduah later confirmed that he had been contacted by a few media men who were concerned to know the true position of things. He said, as a regular art collector, he had in his collection more than 1,200 artworks by over 240 artists, and therefore had no business stealing any artwork. He claimed to have patronised Tola Wewe severally and had had the work in question in his collection for more than 20 years. On the question of where he acquired the work from, he said it was a little difficult to recollect. In his words: “We always have families clearing out their collections, and agents seeking patronage of artworks. Such families probably have lost the family head, assumed a new life of being born again and decided to sell the works they suddenly tagged as fetish. So, through such processes, works are acquired. “Such families and artists hardly give you receipts when you buy directly from them. That’s why I love to buy works from galleries and at exhibitions.”
The visual art industry is getting stronger and more attractive by the day. It has become a money-spinning industry that demands absolute cooperation among all stakeholders: artists, galleries, and collectors. If receipts, as evidence of acquisition, are possible with galleries and certificate of authenticity signed by the artist can be obtained from exhibition venues, the issue of art vendors, agents and dealers is a different ballgame. Many of these so-called agents or vendors have no reliable forwarding contact, and thus can easily heat up the art market. And this can easily upturn cases of originality, provenance and authenticity. That the Arthouse, by their standard practice, often reaches out to artists for authentication or verification, is a way of placing the auction house on a pedestal of integrity. Perhaps if Nana Sonoiki had reached out to Mr. Mike Oduah on the telephone two or three days after sending an email message with no response, there would have been no lacuna that stagnated action for 10 days. Perhaps contact would have been established between them and there probably would have been no reason to bring the case to public notice.
On a larger format of cordiality, artists, collectors and galleries must be careful not to allow uncertified agents and vendors ruin their beautiful dreams of propagating Nigerian art.
Sam Dede supports PHLS Poetry Slam
The PHLS Poetry Slam has received a major boost from acclaimed and award-winning actor, Dr. Sam Dede, with the institution of the Sam Dede Prize for Best Spoken Word Artist.
Dede made the announcement in Port Harcourt when he spoke with the Resident Poet of the Port Harcourt Literary Society, Chijioke Amu-Nnadi. He commended the Society for energizing literature in Port Harcourt.
“What you guys are doing is quite remarkable and deserves the support of every well-meaning artist and sponsor of the arts,” Dede said.
The actor, whose inspiring performance in Isakaba earned him Africa’s top acting honours, stated that the Prize comes with cash and a plaque.
The Sam Dede Prize is in addition to the N100,000 already set aside by the Society for the winner of the PHLS Poetry Slam. Other prizes are N75,000 for first runner-up and N50,000 for the second runner-up. A fourth prize of N25,000 will go to the best Spoken Word poet from one of the secondary schools which have benefited from the Society’s monthly PHLS Literature for Teens programme.
The PHLS Poetry Slam, already described as Nigeria’s biggest Poetry Slam, will be judged by award-winning poets, Efe Paul Azino, Andrew Patience, Obii Ifejika and Graciano Enwerem.
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