Thursday, June 3, 2010

‘My studio is my labour room’
By Ozolua Uhakheme
Raqib Abolore Bashorun is an artist with multiple talents. Apart from being a creative graphic designer and art teacher, Bashorun expands the frontier of design concepts beyond paper and canvas to wood, a medium he constantly explores with various power machines as a tool of creative visual expression. Today, he has shifted further in opening up fresh vistas to new possibilities of creative wood application that accommodates functional and aesthetic values.
A childhood encounter, at a carpenter workshop owned by his Uncle, had inspired his strong passion for wood as a medium of visual interrogation. Little wonder his passion got skewed towards graphic design and later to art education through to two master degrees in Fine Art and Art Education at the University of Missouri, Columbia, US.
An ardent follower of Bashorun’s creative experimentations with wood will certainly appreciate the artist’s strong belief in offering sculptural pieces in their natural state. But at a time when most people including his artist friends are abandoning wooden objects, he is busy scavenging them to recreate and recycle the objects for a new life. "My focus since I was beginning again was on renewal and most of the materials used as a vehicle in realisation of this feeling were recycled, making deliberate moves to recreate the abandoned, abused and discarded, neglected and lonely everyday familiar materials begging for attention", he said in his Rhapsody’s brochure.
One other strong reason for this new feeling is in response to global concern for preservation of the world’s natural resources. In achieving this, he used soda cans from around the world to explore the value of colour and the reclaimed wood to provoke memories and connect man with his past whereby he sees through the layers of time.
"I saw among other things, the charm of nature in the variety of wood I used; I wanted to ignite questions in the way I generated my forms with qualities of mysteries and surprise such that make the viewers want to take another look at the pieces," he added.
Inspiration to create
‘The period of my exhibition is very important. It’s a period when I discuss about my works in the open. I started putting these works together some time last year October. And the energy behind putting these works together is just the environment in which we find ourselves, which is Nigerian environment. With the many problems and obstacles that we all talk about, I believe very strongly that these obstacles will always be there. It is just a question of us deciding which way we want to take ourselves; your works, your ideologies or whatever you have in mind that you want to achieve.
When I was coming this morning, I was listening to music by Dolly Parton in my car, saying that everything in this world is beautiful. She was talking about something that I’ll be addressing in my works. That is when something happens, there is always something beautiful about it if only we can see it and not just look. I see the environment we are as one that is inspiring, an environment that can motivate you, and I keep wondering what is happening to Nigeria as a whole in terms of our government that keeps promising us but they never fulfill what they promised us.
We can do it
‘I read that few determined individuals can change the course of history for good or for bad. If you compare the population of those in the National Assembly to the population of this country of 150 million people, it is so insignificant. But, because they are determined to take us to where we are today, that is where we are. If they so wish, they are going to do something good for this country, I’m sure they can do it. It’s just a matter of determination. So, it’s that sheer determination that I have invested in putting these works together under six months.
And I believe that what is happening in Lagos today is one of the things that is affecting me as an individual. What the governor Lagos State is doing to change the environment is something we can always be proud of. And when I look at the changes, and if we so much love what is happening in Lagos , we should be proud of the change that is happening.
I don’t have a big generator to run my machines. The small generator I have is just 3.5 kva that can only carry my power tools. And what I do each day is to map out strategy before I put on my generator and between 30 and 45minutes I will finish the job.
Sometime, I find myself working on three, four pieces at the same time. And the meaning of that is that what you are doing now will tell you what you’ll do next. And that’s why I urge my fellow artists or students not to wait until they are comfortable to do something. That comfort will never come in the real sense of it. Now is the time to start. Whatever you have now should be able to move you to which ever level you want to go. Don’t wait until you have a large studio before you start working.
Packaging art exhibition
Art exhibition should be a total package because it is your show, which should be your birthday. So, you look at what is available and do whatever you can to make it a success. It’s not the money we make that is important, but the fact that we have people around to view what I have been labouring to do in my labour room. I wake up in the morning and go straight to the labour room and I labour for 12 hours. Nothing is easy and nobody ever told me it’s going to be easy, so I should not expect it to be easy.
Introducing colours to wood
The introduction of colours to my works is a function of clamour from people that I should introduce colours. I still don’t want to put colours directly on the wood because I cherish the natural state of the wood. There are ebony, ayunre, akala, mahogany etc that can reflect different colours. I am still thinking of how best I can add colours to my wood. Sincerely speaking, I’m still looking into that and that is one thing I was struggling to achieve. I’m still addressing that kind of problem, only that I am still looking for better ways of doing it. However, it has to be at my own time.
What is happening today in the wood industry is that the wood will start falling apart three months after you bought them. What is the problem if some woods survive for more than 70 years? We don’t allow wood to mature enough before we chop them off in the forest and we start using them. And whenever we do that, we don’t plant new ones to replace those that are over 70 years.
There are some wood I bought some four to five years ago that I have in my studio. Even when I want to use them, I don’t buy and use them immediately but allow them to season.
Treatment of wood
Naturally, wood has its own in-built preservatives. If you allow wood to mature by itself in the forest, nothing will happen to that wood. But because we don’t allow the wood to be preserved in the forest, that is when we start thinking about preservatives. And if we don’t allow wood to mature by itself before we fell it, no amount of preservatives will salvage or rescue any wood because it is a natural thing.
Among his works at the exhibition are Black Roses, which is the soul and signature piece of the exhibition. The reason being that he started working with Black Roses and it was the first thing he made and all other works started coming in.
This has to do with what you and I think about ourselves as black people. Some people believe that blackness is a bad thing. As an artist, he does not believe that blackness is anything bad and he sincerely believes that if you search very well, you will find black some where on the surface of the planet. It’s not only white or pink, it’s just a function of what you see and how you’ve seen is what probably informs us on what we believe in. So, I believe you can find Black Roses some where. The woods have natural colors so this is Black Roses,’ he said of the Black Roses.
Frozen Past is a work that looks protected from time till now. That is why it has a frozen past. Past Brought Forward and Frozen Past are from the same family of wood but one is looking pale, the other one is looking fresh. It’s like bringing it forward but they still can co-exist and complement one another.
Contemporary Shrine looks at contemporary time, in relation to religion and why should contemporary shrines be scary? The piece is addressing co-existence of every religious belief and the need to live peacefully and harmoniously with one another.
Mega Dream is a work done in appreciation of the changes that are taking place in Lagos State, especially the infrastructural development and the go green campaign embarked upon by the Fashola administration.’

Preemptive: July bouquet for Soyinka at 76
By Ozolua Uhakheme

Until December 25, 2009 when Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, 23, attempted to bomb an American aircraft, not many Nigerians realised the psychological torture of being on the United States terror watch list. Ever since that Christmas day incident, war against terrorism and the Muttalab issue in particular, have gone beyond politics, economics, social factor to culture. This was the concern of some Nigerians who used live drama presentations to examine how terrorism had affected man, his colour and race as well as how international policies affected the Black, especially his culture.
Preemptive, a play written by a US-based Nigerian writer, Niyi Coker Jnr, is the choice of Z-Mirage Multi-Media Limited, organisers of the travelling performance that will kick off at the Muson Centre, Lagos on July 13, in honour of the Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, who will turn 76 this year. According to the Chief Executive Officer of Z-Mirage Multi-Media Limited, Mr. Teju Kareem, Preemptive, is a six-man cast play that will go on stage to address peoples’ lives, which is the traditional role of theatre. The cast include Dr. Ahmed, an African Muslim psychologist working in the City of New York; Vivian, a psychologist with the New York City Police Department; Ted, a retired police officer at the New York Police Department, Mama, Ahmed’s single parent in Senegal; Fatima, Ahmed’s fiancé in Senegal and a judge at the District Court for the State of New York.
Kareem explained that the theatre presentation is being put together as a transnational project partly in commemoration of Nigeria’s 50th independence, adding that it would move from Lagos to Calabar and Abuja. The Lagos show, which will run for three days at the Muson Centre before moving to the National Theatre, Lagos, is expected to attract about 76 top Nigerian movie stars on the red carpet displaying the photograph of Wole Soyinka. Beyond Nigerian cities, Preemptive will be performed in the United States with the support of strategic partners like Southern Illinois University under the aegis of Africana Theatre Laboratory; the Theatre Tabernacle in UK for three days and Barbados.
The travelling performance, according to Kareem, will cost the organisers about N35million. He noted that given the support from strategic partners, the play would achieve a minimum of 50 per cent gain from gate takings. On the use of a foreign cast for the play, Kareem said the issues addressed in Preemptive were about humanity and world peace; adding that they were not purely about Nigerian theatre alone, but to use theatre to address diverse experiences on terrorism.
Preemptive is set in New York City, United States and Zanzibar in Africa, against the backdrop of an impending city-wide racial unrest caused by police brutality and systemic paranoia. A charged space of diverse histories and competing world-views, the characters must wrestle with inter and intra-racial demons, even in this age of Obama. Rather than come to the meeting of the minds, is a preemptive strike against the opposition justified? The prevailing climate and undercurrent of paranoia and xenophobia create a gulf between humans that the technology of cellular phones fails to bridge. This is a theatre of angst and optimism even in the face of xenophobia and ignorance, the likes of which have recently foiled our global aspirations for human dignity and peace. It is also a theatre of magical transpositions.
To further increase the awareness on live theatre and Preemptive in particular, the organiser of the play is putting up an essay competition on the title of the play. The competition is open to journalists, writers and students who are expected to submit online their entries of not more than 1,500 words. Deadline for entries is May 15, 2010. Winner of the first prize will get a cash award of N100,000, while second and third place winners get N 75,000 and N50,000 respectively. The last 15 winners will get consolation prizes.

‘In US, menial jobs kill dreams’
By Ozolua Uhakheme

Can an artist really survive on his art in US?To say that one can’t survive as an artist in America is a big lie. You can survive, but it takes sacrifice and paying your dues to survive. First, you must understand how the city and the art business are run. Unlike in Nigeria, artists don’t hawk their works here nor gate crash galleries. They use the Internet to network and fix appointments for meetings. Again, you could be frustrated by many gallery owners who will snub your emails. How was your first six months in America?
I came into the US in August and by November I went for a show in Temple University, Philadelphia, full of promise as a successful Nigerian artist. Behold, I did not sell a piece. At the close of the three-day show, I met a lady who advised me that my works do not belong to the American society. She even bought some works which she did not pay for, but gave me little money as advance. I was so happy because somebody showed interest in my paintings. She, however, paid the balance three months later.
But to make ends meet, I took up a menial job. The job required my standing for 12 hours every four days with three days as off. After my first three days, I told myself that I would start painting, but it was not possible because it took me longer time to recover from that 12 hour-standing job. After eight months, I told myself I must quit. When I told my wife I was going to quit the job, she asked how we were going to survive. Luckily for me, I had some commissioned jobs I sold for $20,000. With my little savings, I took off to Nigeria for a solo show at Nimbus Art Centre in Lagos, from where I made some money. That was how I started a new phase of life and living on my paintings.
Interestingly, I came back to the US and participated in a group show in Chicago that was a sell-out. That was the real turning point. Nnamdi Okonkwo, a sculptor was the second Nigerian artist on that show. At that show, I was introduced to the owner of Nicole Gallery. The gallery was interested in my paintings and I had to drop one painting which it sold for $7,000 instead of the $5,000 price I put on it. With this sale, I told myself, yes, I have got the confidence to go ahead and paint. It was great to make such money unlike when I was working. I could only earn about $600 in two weeks.
Before this sale, a lady sent me a cheque for one little painting she took from me some weeks earlier.
My real major outing was the New York Art Expo where I featured as solo artist. And I found that New York is the biggest city in the world in terms of art. In fact, it was more fulfilling for me that I took my works to New York Art expo and collectors responded to them. It was a different level of achievement for me. What informed the shift in content of your works?
Style was the same, but the content had to change to meet the needs of American collectors. As a Nigerian artist, I painted lots of figures, but I later moderated those figures with subtle colour scheme and style in such a manner that the figures are not real. At the end of the day, my figures and their colours meet the taste of both black and white collectors. Also, I had to turn the face of my figures away from the viewers. Did all of these give you any challenge?
Not really a big challenge. Even back in Nigeria, I realised I could paint my figures in such a manner that it soothes and not task the viewers eye to eye. I did this because it is always easier for viewers to appreciate a piece better if the figures’ eyes are taken away from the viewers. But, I still paint works like market scenes. Market is market any where in the world where buying and selling go on. How about titling your works?
Sure, I still do that. But I will not title to a work Oshodi market here in the US because it will not make sense. In one of my last paintings of market scene, I titled it After the rain. I am simply capturing the fact that no matter how bad the weather or situation, the market must hold. And morning time might be slow, but the evening will pick up. That is, after the rain, comes sunshine. Any form of discrimination from collectors or gallery owners in US?
Let me tell you the real fact, I have not experienced any discrimination since I came to Atlanta. I have heard series of such allegations. There are shows it took me four years to get listed, so I don’t see that as discrimination. In your first major outing in America, did you feel intimidated exhibiting alongside big artists?
There was this US movie star, Epathra, who featured in an art show in 2005. And she was itching to meet with me having seen some of my paintings, unfortunately I came late. Behold, when she came back to my booth, she was all over me, hugging and embracing me. She commended me for the paintings, describing them as fascinating. There was a series of paintings entitled Simple Rest, which thrilled her. And she bought the work for $6,500. That mild drama between Epathra and I, sent every other viewer scrambling to take another look at my paintings. In fact, it elevated me in the US art market because it was like receiving a testimonial. But I made Americans realised that my clientele go beyond the US movie star and that I have painted the ‘who is who’ in Nigeria, from former president Obasanjo to Goodluck Jonathan, Senate president, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and top traditional rulers in Nigeria. I remember I flew a business class to present Okonjo-Iweala’s portrait to the bank that commissioned me for the painting. As a young Nigerian, did the name ‘Nigeria’ hunt you in your dealings with American art collectors?
Not at all. In fact, I am on a field that is much appreciated here. When American collectors see modern Nigerian artists’ works, they marvel. Many a time, buyers of my paintings give me their credit cards to charge and I never abused it. I have my studio on the net and I can’t run away because of small money. Do you have a manager that handles the marketing aspect of your art business?
I do, but managing here could be done in different ways. Personally, I have galleries, Nicole Gallery in Chicago and Reign Gallery in New Port, Rhodes Island manage my paintings. These two galleries cover enough ground for me, but I handle the Atlanta environment myself. However, I go for specific shows that are global in perspective. Which pays you better, commissioned jobs or selling via galleries?
You can’t live on commissioned jobs alone because it does not come often. So, it will be ideal to paint and send to galleries as well as enrol for big shows like art expo. How will you describe the US appreciation of art works by Africans, especially Nigerians?
Our works are highly rated here. They see many of us as well read and talented. In most homes of collectors that bought my works, I still find other Nigerian artists’ works there. An example is Bruce Onobrakpeya. What are your daily runs like?
My day starts at 4.30 am everyday. And each day I paint is like destroying my studio because I am very messy. I virtually turn it upside down. Then, I take my kids to school at 6.45 am get back around 8.30am. I start painting from 9am till 4pm. I pick the kids from school by 4.30pm and help them with home work till their mother returns from work. I return to the studio by 9pm to paint for another two hours before going to bed. Sometime, my schedule changes, especially in summer when there are lots of art events that make me travel and when children are on vacation. In summer, I can be away to Chicago, Rhodes Island or New York for two months. For me, winter is time to prepare the works while summer is time to show. Do you still get inspiration from by those rural Nigerian settings you are used to?
Sometimes I find it difficult to paint because there is no inspiration. But when comes, I will not know whether I am in Nigeria or America; the whole thing will be flowing. However, after a while, I still go back to Nigeria and I return loaded and refreshed. For you as an artist, what is the missing link between Nigeria and US?
It is the resource material I wish to use and things I wish to see. Everything here is too orderly, so what do you paint of that? You attended Auchi Polytechnic where colour is supreme. How did you tone your colours to meet their taste?
After a while, the US environment changed me. The colours I see outside, dress colours, what people keep in their homes in a way, affect my psyche. Though my colours are still brilliant, it is kind of subtle and this also comes with age. To me, it is like a little boy wearing red or arrange colour shirt, which may not be attractive to an adult. Having practised in both societies, if you are asked to make a choice of practising in the US or Nigeria, where will you choose?
Practice wise, I will choose America. Thougha lot is happening in Nigeria and I am happy about that but America has it. Business in America works and, unfortunately, Nigeria is a very small place to operate. After Lagos and Abuja, it is all over, unlike in America. Don’t ask me why are bigger artists practising there? Note that I am not comparing myself with great artistssuch as Onobrakpeya because they are established institutions. Collectors from across the globe seek them wherever they chose to live. In a show in New York, one of Onobrakpeya’s works was protected from viewers’ touch and it was not for sale. For me, is like I have to be in America to make such big name. Again, the city of Dallas is as big as Nigeria and there are more art fairs and galleries there than in Nigeria. In the US, opportunities are wider and bigger for the artists. In the last six months, I have not made any show, yet it is better than the earlier six months. But, with the economy picking up, I hope to hold shows this summer.There is the belief that some Nigerian artists do not find the US environment conducive to practise. What are the challenges?
First, it is the challenge of becoming a legal resident. Again, even at that, they keep procrastinating that after one year of working, they will go into full time studio practice. I tell you, they never realise that dream. I was told this before leaving Nigeria, so I fought against that spirit. That was why I dumped the menial job after eight months and faced the studio. So, it is not going to be easy for a growing artist from Nigeria to find his feet immediately on arriving US. He can’t have enough time to paint because of the dirty job. I told my Nigerian friend, Ehi Obinyan, who came to US recently that for him to be somebody in US, he must paint and not clean American gutters or streets to earn a living. He listened and abandoned his job. I tell you, it takes lots of guts and courage to achieve it. Unfortunately, some Nigerian artists come here and get lost.
In America, you can’t be a professional artist and be a security guard in a gas station. You are just hustling. After 12 hours of standing doing menial jobs, you are exhausted and the brain will be dead. So, you can’t be a true professional artist end at the same time working elsewhere.

Adeniran’s mission to Germany
By Ozolua Uhakheme
Who is Prof. Tunde Adeniran? This question would have been asked many a time by some admirers decades ago, when the University of Ibadan trained political scientist just returned from the US to his alma mater as a young teacher. But having served for 20 years at the premier university where he rose to be head, department of political science, and later served as Nigeria’s Minister of Education, such question on his identity among political class will be a rare one at least on the local scene.
Today, same question will also be a rarity in the diplomatic world having served as Nigeria’s ambassador to Germany between 2004 and 2007. The former ambassador who lost his second ambassadorial posting to the US no thanks to his son’s alleged misdemeanour, reluctantly recorded his diplomatic mission to Germany in a 361-page book, My Mission to Germany, thus joining the league of few diplomats that have written their memoirs. He has lots of stories to tell. In his remedial measures and policy prescriptions, he notes that the gap between promise and performance of our system and disconnect between individual aspiration and the objective conditions and social realities of national existence propelled the culture of reckless migration. Importantly, he among others urges the federal government to repatriate Nigerian destitute in Europe before they become rejects, dregs and pitiable miscreants as this dents the nation’s image. Also, he stresses the need for a strategic framework, a mechanism through which to work with Nigerian nationals abroad to ensure positive disposition to Nigeria by foreign governments. Good governance, peace and stability, and the consolidation of democratic values, policies and practices and promotion of social justice and human rights at all levels top his minimum prescriptions to remedy migration problems facing the country.
In My Mission to Germany, a 13-chapter memoir, addresses many topical issues. From economic diplomacy: searching for investors, to mobilizing the Nigerian community, presidential visits, African connection and image of Nigeria in Europe, the scholar-diplomat recalls the retreat the ambassador-designates had at the Protea Hotel, Abuja in January 2004, which he said, was a most rewarding experience, full of educative presentations and some form of amusements. Before departing for Germany, one issue that was agitating Adeniran’s mind beyond how well to reposition the Nigeria-German relations was the unending Halliburton scandal that began on December 6, 2006. But when Nigeria-German delegations met on March 16, 2004 during President Johannes Rau’s visit to Nigeria, the Halliburton issue was not topical. Today, given the renewed efforts at prosecuting corrupt personalities involved in the mess, Halliburton scam may be hard to ‘kill’.
Adeniran, author of Introduction to International Relations, International Violence and African Security and World Politics, talks about his fascination with the way Germans elect their chancellor, the Bundes (federal) president and president of the Bundestag. Though using the common phrase, ‘economic diplomacy’ like a creed, he had a compulsive hunger to tackle the image hangover created by the Abacha administration when Nigeria was a pariah state.
"Every move and statement of Nigerian envoys was suspect and, as the relationship manager and promoter, all bilateral issues would have to be micro-managed even when visualized from a macro perspective. And this called for initiative, imagination and proactive steps which could only work in the right environment and atmosphere," he says. The former ambassador to Germany observes that the crippling crisis of values faced by Nigeria in the past decade had not disappeared when he assumed office in Berlin, Germany’s capital. However, he is fascinated by four aspects of Germany: Bundestag (supreme law making body), Bundesrat (federal council), Laender (legislature) and the relationship between the central government and states.
On whether his mission to Germany was accomplished, the professor of international relations and strategic studies has a long list of ‘harvest of goodwill’- awards, exchange programmes, scholarships and research fellowships.

Nigeria through women’s eyes
By Ozolua Uhakheme

The tortuous journey of the Nigerian visual artists, especially the womenfolk in the campaign for equality and empowerment was recently captured in a group art exhibition, 50 years ahead through the eyes of Nigerian women held at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Organised by the African Artists’ Foundation in partnership with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Schlumberger Nigeria Limited, the group exhibition which will also hold at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja from tomorrow till Saturday April 24, featured six Nigerian women artists, Unoma Geise, Zemaye Okedeji, Priscilla Nzimiro, Taiye Idahor, Chineze Araka and Aisha Augie-Kuta that used different media ranging from photography, new media, sculpture, painting and video art to tell the story. Beyond the aesthetic appeal, the collection is a representation of the everyday Nigerians’ struggle to survive against the deplorable state of infrastructure, disregard for culture, racial, cultural and socio-economic divides as well as women’s struggle for equality and self actulisation.
Unoma Geise’s Double caste is a multi-racial visual representation of races like Japanese, English, German, American, Australia as well as other tribes in Nigeria. But Kuta’s Versus is one strong series collection that plays on contrast in development of man and his environment. In specific, she places education against entrepreneurship, leaders versus the led, pedestrian versus machine, religion against development, fashion versus culture and young against old. She simply dwells on the dualism of life.
Like a satire, Idahor represents Nigeria’s 50 years of existence in the form of a hollow Ludo dice that each player throws without any certainty of its outcome.
Again, she uses the works to decry the hope and faith with which most Nigerians result to when confronted with challenges. "Life in Nigeria is often like a game of chance, you roll, shake, but there is no real strategy,’ Idahor says of her works.
Second Secretary at Netherlands embassy, Mr. Ronald Sonnemans, described the exhibition as expression of Netherlands belief in human beings being born free and equal in dignity and rights. He noted that issue of rights does not matter the religion, gender or colour of skin adding that unfortunately, the road towards real equal economical, political and social rights for women in Nigeria is long ‘and we are certainly not there yet.’
"The development of female empowerment is often associated with social, political, economic and even physical struggle. I believe that emancipation should be seen as a process by which public opinion gradually reshape the dominant culture. Art can play a vital role in reshaping culture, and thus provokes socio- political change," he said.

Artist who sees human images in trees
By Ozolua Uhakheme

You are the only photographer from Nigeria. Do you think photography can compete well with other popular media at this expo?

As a visual artist, I have three means of expressing myself. I use photography, video and painting. In photography, you can capture lots of things happening around the world that you can’t sit down and paint. Through photography, you can record a lot of unlimited issues. That is why I chose the medium for this art expo.
But, why wood or trees as a vehicle to express yourself?
Wood is one of my big sources of inspiration. Once I see them, there are always lots of things to capture in them. In fact, I see form that ordinarily many won’t see. With them come the messages of different sorts. The most glaring one is about women. The trees are there, very natural and bare without anything to hide, unlike humans who will not show you their real self. I see everything I want to see in the trees.
Do you feel disturbed by viewers perceiving your theme as obscene or sexually motivated?
At times in art, the more you look the less you see and sometime, the more you look, the more you see;. The disconnection is that human beings are so busy that they can’t sit down and look deeper and meditate. That is also the challenge when artists use art to bring issues to the front burner, yet many still can’t see the issues. However, most people are beginning to appreciate my works, saying they are amazing, sexual, and unique. Anyway, the works are there to tell these issues and many are appreciative of the methodology too.

How effective are these works to change people’s views about women rights?
Surely there are many people who after seeing my works, stopped to think about how they have been treating women. There was an art enthusiast who after viewing my works on women, said ‘Lucy, I will from now on be calling you Oluwalucy’, a Yoruba word meaning God Lucy. I told him, no, you can’t call me by that name, because I am only expressing my heart through my art’. In fact, he felt guilty of these abuses against women. My works on women make many men to stop and ponder about issues of abuses raised in the works. I can tell you that many are beginning to be sensitive to all these issues.
Are the issues addressing function of personal experiences?
The issues raised in the works are not from my experiences per se, but from reading and observing of happenings around the society. Also, I learn from different sources like films because I watch movies a lot. I have never been a victim of these abuses. But there is that thing in me that makes me focus on these issues.
My works such as Shine your eyes, simply warns everybody to be on the alert and never allow any hindrance or obstacle to keep you down or from realising your dream. It is a universal appeal to all, irrespective of sex. Still a victim, is another piece that is very touching to me. Each time I find these woods that reveal lots of issues, I always look around me to find if other people are seeing what I see in the woods. Unfortunately, I found nobody. But immediately I find the woods, the impression I get inspires me a great deal. In fact, when I saw this wood in Abuja, the impression I got was that of a rape case, and a victim that was used and dumped. The instinct gives me what to do with the wood and to be interested.

Do you reorganise or sculpt any part of the wood to get your desired form?
No, not really. It is the form that tells me what to do. For instance, there is a piece entitled Amadiuwa … I decided to dramatise it using cloth to cover part of the wood. This is to tell the many stories of married women who are actually not happy with their homes. But when the cloth is off, you see the real agonies they are passing through. These agonies or pains are depicted in red colour flowing down their bodies. Also, in the same realm, is With Love from Africa, which shows a smiling face despite the deprivations from colonialism. It is another way of lending my voice to the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s song, Suffering and Smiling.

Did you ever think of going into sculpting?

Well, there was a time I was advised to go into sculpting while in school. But, in my school then, except you have money you can’t go through it successfully. There were cases when some students had to pay others to chisel their woods for them, so that was a setback. To me, an artist is always an artist any moment irrespective of specialty. You are the only photographer from Nigeria at this year’s New York expo.
What is your impression of the expo?
The art expo New York is a wonderful experience. But I will not say it is an eye opener because I have participated in many foreign shows such as France, Johannes Borg and Bamako. In France in particular, I saw larger than life size canvasses paints of18th century. Unfortunately, back in Nigeria many artists are considering how to feed, which affects their creativity. For me, art is not all about money making. You must create what is in your mind first and money will follow later. First thing first, every artist must listen to his inner mind first. I love large canvasses.
You are into photography, painting and video, which is closer to your heart?
Virtually all of them. I love all of them and they have a way of making me fulfilled. What are your next projects?
I am working on my collections for my next show at the French Cultural Centre, Lagos. Also, there is a group show on off the beating part, a women-related show that will go on world tour. The invisible border project to Dakar, Senegal is another pending programme for May/June this year. You were part of the Invisible Border project to Bamako. What were your experiences?
It was my most memorable experience on the road. It was an eye opener. What lesson did you learn from the trip to Bamako?
I took it philosophically by saying that this too shall pass. Whatever it is in life shall pass. Unfortunately, the group became the victim of the quest it went to unravel. However, it was a very big performance for me.

Creative push for Nigerian artists
By Ozolua Uhakheme
With over 450 artists, galleries, collectors, arts enthusiasts and publishers, this year’s 32nd Art Expo in New York, that held between March 25 and 28 provided fresh window for the celebration of creativity from across the world. From the naive to contemporary, mundane, weird and modern art, the exhibits showcased by the participants were an aggregate of global art trends.
For the six Nigerian artists; Fidelis Odogwu Eze, a metal sculptor, Lucy Azubuike, photographer; Stanley Agbontean, painter; Chinedu Onuigbo, painter; Wale Ajayi and Sussan who partiicipated in expo, the opportunity could not have come at a better time than now in their career as young artists.
According to Stanley Agbontean, a 2003 fine art graduate of Auchi Polytechnic, the outing is a lovely experience for Nigerian artists, as it provided platform for other participants, especially gallery owners and collectors to savour works from Africa. "Our works have given them the opportunity to see Africa from a positive perspective through the artists. I am impressed beyond imagination. I have not attended an exhibition as big as this before and this is a big one. I have been exhibiting in the US but this is a bigger one. Also, I have been able to see from the eyes of other artists, their culture, their artistic impressions and so far, I have seen different techiniques and materials. The cultural exchange is wonderful."
The only photographer among the exhibiting Nigerian artists, Lucy Azubuike who was at last year’s Bamako photography biennale, described her experiences at the expo as explosive. She said there are lots of works atthe expo that would inspire her to improve on her works noting that it is not all about sales, but exposure. "You see works from serious artists; how they dedicate their time to their works aside the materials and framing. When I return to Nigeria after the fair, I shall be thinking more on how to package my works and put more efforts to excel rather than just taking my works for granted," she added. Azubuike’s works (photographs of trees) at the expo dwell on gender equality and freedom of the womenfolks. They include Female Mutilation, Ready To Defend Myself, Waiting to Excell, My Gift to You and Shine Your Shine. She said women don’t come out to tell their stories but today, such stories are being told through trees in a more glaring and obvious manner - using cut down trees as metaphor for maltreated women. Continuing, she said: "When I see the trees, I feel the impact of mutilation, I can feel the real pains the cutting brings. I chose trees as my medium because they are interesting and they give me the real and true pictures of what women go through - their hopes and aspirations." She presents Still the Victims to depict a woman that lies in the mud, filty environment, where she is dumped. Still, some women wear hopes that tomorrow will be better even in the midst of challenges.
Despite his first time appearance at the expo, metal sculptor, Fidelis Odogwu Eze sees the platform as eye opener having met with lot of artists with different ideas, media and beliefs. In one of his exhibits, Compatriot, he tries to identify the major ethnic groups in Nigeria, highlighting the repetition of patterns, motivs to paint the picture of what he has in mind. Argungun tells the visual story of a conventional cultural festival holding in Kebbi State of Nigeria. "I am hungry for the next show, this is an eye opener. I have done shows outside the country, but this is a different one altogether, I have exhibited in Venezuela in 2008, featuring artists but it was nothing compared to the magnitude of works and artists we have here. This is great," Odogwu said.
Art teacher at the Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo, Mr. Wale Ajayi said the expo would not have been impactful for him if he was not present at the opening noting that the expo has been very interesting. "It is an experience that will remain in my memory for years to come. Most of these artists, I have seen their works in magazines but here I am with them, face to face. I have met with them, discussed with them and we have shared ideas. In my closet, I felt I was inferior but what they said about my works encouraged me," His works include Faces of Africa, The King and the Subject, Savanah Landscape, Celebration and Under Water.
He said most of his collections are to develop on what his mentor - Late Gani Odutokun started before his death. This, he said, is a liquidized form of art, which when you work with makes it easier for to express yourself. "There are colours that come together and flow naturally and at the end of the day, you will disover you are making more impact and expressing yourself more than you would have done with brushes," Ajayi noted.
Chiedu Onuigbo, described the art expo as an ideal platform for younger artists to grow and get exposed to global trend.
To him, the most important thing is the ability to meet artists from across the globe becuase this is the biggest art expo in the world and there are many countries participating, especially Europe and America. "Also, I have been able to see new techniques that are contemporary, which I could use to make my works better. My works talk about Africa and I use African motifs and materials. In mixed media, I use ethnic things like cowries and combs. My titles include Welcome to Africa, which talks about the hospitable nature of the African people. The brightness of Africa as compared to the impression that Africa is a dark continent. The Land is Good depicts that our land is blessed, we do not experience natural disaster, but all that is required is to make the best out of it. Yellow Gele goes to show our rich dress culture," Onuigbo added.

Harmattan workshop showcases young artists
By Ozolua Uhakheme

A model, Destiny Agbroko, was unmindful of multiple eyes as she poised before a class of 14 artists for several hours on the middle floor of the workshop and exhibition building of Niger Delta Art and Culture Centre, Agbarha Ottor in Delta State.
The session was one of the life-drawing classes conducted by the former president of the Society of Nigerian Artists, Mr. Kolade Oshinowo, at the just-concluded 12th Harmattan art workshop organised by the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation.
For almost an hour, every aspect of her frame was being sketched on paper by the artists, using charcoal and pencil. The drawing exercise, which is a core course in Fine Arts, is often taken for granted by many student-artists. Expectedly, the session became a herculean task for participants who battled to bring their drawing skill to bear on the exercise.
From the single model, the 14 artists produced various perspectives ranging from close up, silhouette, semi-abstract and reality. But not without frequent directives from the renowned art teacher, Oshinowo, who observed that life drawing is one of the most challenging aspects of Fine Arts curriculum, which many often avoid.
"If you leave life drawing one day, it leaves you for one month. It requires constant practice and perfection. Interestingly, it is the hub of every artist’s training. Unfortunately, many artists are embracing abstract as an escape," Oshinowo said.
The former deputy rector, Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, who is a first timer at the workshop, said the forum deserved every support from all, especially the local, state and federal governments. He added that it has become an institution many artists look up to every year. He admitted that he was inspired by the creative environment at the workshop, describing the efforts of Prof. Onobrakpeya as praise worthy.
"One must praise his vision, and how many Nigerians can do this? It is a load he has been carrying. Though there are shortcomings here and there, the workshop is what artists must be encouraged to attend. I learn from artists as a facilitator. "The workshop provides for the opening up of one’s horizon. It has become an institute people look up to. I don’t want to see a year pass without the Harmattan workshop. The workshop deserves some support from local, state and federal governments," he said.
According to the art teacher, issues like power generation and accommodation can be improved upon, if adequately funded. He stressed that there was no reason why artists-in-residence programme should not hold every six months at the centre. "I have a strong feeling that it will get there because the seed has been sown. We just need a government that is apolitical in taking it up," he added. For Onobrakpeya, this year’s workshop adapted for Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary is on course. He disclosed that since the workshop opened on February 14, lecture presentations were used to analyse the movements of art from independence to date. Contributions of icons, such as Sussan Wenger, were also used as a case study to examine the role of artists in the socio-cultural development of the nation since independence. Slide presentation on the life and works of Munich-based impressionist artist Vassily Kandinsky also added global flavour to the programme, while contemporary issues affecting exhibiting artists were discussed with a view to broadening the horizon of the artists, especially in planning for exhibition, relationship with collectors and press, personality building and networking, relationship between art and religion and the role of drawing in a painting. Among artists that participated in the first and second sessions of the workshop were Jide Adeniyi-Jones, Sam Ovraiti, Bode Olaniran, Godwin Onobrakpeya, Mrs. Stella Awoh, Taiwo Sullayman, Folu Folorunsho, Ifeoma Anyaeji, Destiny Agbroko, Ademola Balogun, Kunle Adeyemi and Harry Bazunu.

‘I have consistently condemned coup plotting’
By Ozolua Uhakheme

As a former governor of the defunct Western State, I have the right to comment on issues within my experiences. But to start citing role models far away from Nigeria is not my kind of option. As a matter of fact, there are several of them locally, be it in entertainment or sports. And Obasanjo is my role model. He may be your own antagonist as a journalist. Governor Gbenga Daniel is my role model but the most superior role model in this country is the Ooni of Ife.
Baba Obafemi Awolowo was to me a father, not that he is not a role model but he is a father figure and sage. He was a leader of people not just of men. But before we start going outside our environment and making me sound or look like an authority on African behaviour and misbehaviour, I will want us to restrict ourselves to my own environment.
"For instance, for most Nigerians elected into the National Assembly or state House of Assembly to serve, once they get there, they make themselves masters of the people who elected them. I cannot single out anybody that is truly serving this nation but to enrich himself, as they see it as an opportunity. These are within my environment and those are issues I can comment on.
"In my military days, I don’t like anyone making me what am not. I am not an authority on anybody’s role modelship. I am a concerned Nigerian citizen. As a retired service chief and former military governor, I feel disturbed when elected governors turn themselves into executive governors, which to me, is a meaningless designation. It is not in the Constitution because nobody was sworn in as an executive governor. Everybody in service of this nation that is elected or appointed will say he is executive. What about executive? One will soon find executive messenger or executive secretary to a goddamn local government? All these executive titles are meaningless. It is the fault of the press. All these were as a result of press creations. No governor will come out and say, I am the executive of any state, but the fault is from the print media.
But why accept the tag? After all, the governors can correct the press if they don’t find it appropriate.
I am very sorry to say, this is the most annoying question to answer. It always upset me hearing it from learned people. For example, it is like somebody dips his hand into his pocket and gives N50 to a policeman at a road block and you are asking why did the police man receive it. Are you talking of the cause or effect? Or better still, when a politician plans a coup and using surplus money to fund it. Whose fault? Is it the military?
Why don’t the military refuse to accept such an offer? It is like coming in here and I spelt your name wrongly. Would you take it from me? The title "executive’ to me, is like a name or a tag.
Misspelling of names is quite different from that. However, the former governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Agagu said in a press release that he should not be referred to as executive governor and his wife should not be called first lady. All these titles are from people who are seeking favours and the press took it over and amplified it.
You were described as a perfectionist during your days in the Navy and that you had a tag on your table that reads: Why not the best?
When I became a military governor of Western State, people started publishing all sorts of things on the pages of newspapers describing me as visionary leader and God sent messiah. I had to issue a press statement directing them to channel all the money for such advertorials to motherless babies’ homes. After I issued that statement, nobody sent me such greetings any longer. And it is because Nigerians glorify in all these titles and I trust only one person that cannot tolerate that in Nigeria, that is, former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Though I suffered from him, that is my true opinion of him. I was the governor with the shortest tenure (30 days) in Nigeria under Obasanjo’s administration for refusing as a principle, to hand over the University of Ile-Ife to the Federal Military Government in September 1975.
On the issue of perfection, is it humanly possible for man to attain that level of performance as indicated by your slogan? Again, it is a common saying for people to declare that ‘I did my best’ even when their best is not good enough.
Then you are covering up, which means you are not honest and not straight forward. At a stage your boss will find out that you are not reliable. So, what you are saying now is that, what people are saying about me in the Navy could never had happened because one day people will say ‘Ojo gbogbo ni ti ole and ojo kan ni ti oninkan’. One day, you will be judged and for me, I can say, for the four years I was honored and graced by God, I did my best and that best was, in fact, by the grace of God, not man that saw me through. That introduced me to a man I had never met, never spoken with in the person of President Shehu Shagari to have made me Chief of Naval Staff

Mary eyes Easter feast for Love
By Ozolua Uhakheme

After an initial rave that trailed the release of her debut album, Love, Port Harcourt-based upcoming singer, Mary will make an entry into the music industry this Easter season. The launch, which will also witness the official opening of the record label, BJ Records, on April 5 at Aladumo Miracle Hall, GRA Junction, Port Harcourt, Rivers State is expected to host the release of another new album from a new artiste, Chibani on the same label. There will be a red carpet reception preceding the event.
Expectedly, video clips for Love are being shot in Lagos, Port Harcourt among other locations, which will be concluded this month.
According to the Director of BJ Records, Mr. Joel Nwachukwu, the three events are rolled into one during the Easter celebration as part of strategy to offer lovers of music the ideal music for the season.
Mary’s name might not readily ring a bell but her velvety voice will strike you with her simple delivery, composure and all that is evident in her 10- tracker collection. The thrusts of her songs border on love, compassion, freedom, struggle and appreciation.
Born, Agbani Obiekotoma Mary, who is a member of staff of the Rivers State Council for Arts and Culture is an emerging gospel artiste, who hails from Rivers State. She is signed on to BJ Records and she loves singing, reading and listening to music. Her songs are a fusion of Reggae, Rock and R & B. They are delivered with carefulness, tenacity of purpose and fluidity which is all evident in her voice.
The slim built singer takes her challenges as a student, singer and performer with the State Arts Council as more of inspiration than burden.
"I am a civil servant with the Rivers State Council for Arts and Culture. It has never been easy combining performing for the State Troupe and exercising my God’s given talent of singing. At the same time, I am currently in school and into modelling too. It’s the grace of the Lord that is seeing me through all of these," she said shortly after her performance at last year’s Abuja Carnival as a member of her state delegation to the annual carnival.
Her 10-tracker includes songs such as Love (Remix) featuring Perez, Ginikamugarime, Spread my wings, I appreciate, We dey hail you featuring Space G and Paul Nature, Imela featuring Eze Ekegwu, Love, Beta (Jaration), Love (Remix) instrumental and We dey hail you (instrumental).
The album variously features artistes such as Perez, Space G, Paul Nature and Eze Ekegwu.
"At present, my debut album is being promoted in all of the radio and television stations in Port Harcourt. It has got to Lagos and arrangements are on ground on how it will go round other states in the county and outside Nigeria as well. My performance in the last year’s CARNIRIV 2009, held in Port Harcourt went a long way in promoting my album, where the likes of the Governor Chibuike Amechi and other top dignitaries, visitors within and outside Nigeria were all in attendance. Also, I am undertaking a playing tour of major churches as well as attend social gatherings for performances."
On why she went into music, she said: "To me, it is hereditary; my dad sings and I was born a singer. I started singing right from childhood. I was the leader of the junior choir (Angels without wings) in my church. From there I grew to the adult choir and finally to the church’s band.
My primary and secondary school education went on well alongside music. When I am back from school, I go for my music rehearsal and travel for shows too. However, the reverse was the case when I got into the university and it was tough. But, I was careful enough so as not to miss out my lectures and examination as well."
Mary said she also performed as back-up artiste for many artistes, adding that her experiences all through the period, though hectic, went a long way in building her musical career. "I composed my songs, did my back-up, rap and did my solos. Indeed, it is a productive experience," she confessed.
She disclosed that foreign artists such as Laurel Hills and Nigerian 2face Idibia, and Asha are her favourites.

Auction house nets N60 million
By Ozolua Uhakheme

For the fourth year running, the annual art auction by Art House Contemporary Limited will hold on Monday March 1, 2010 at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos by 6pm. It will feature 108 art works by 73 renowned and upcoming artists from Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya. Expectedly, British auctioneer, John Dabney will direct proceedings at the auction. According to the director of the auction house, Mrs. Kavita Chellarams last year’s auction recorded a total sale of 75 per cent amounting to N60, 070,000 against a total estimate of N77million.
She explained that this year’s edition of the auction is expected to generate more interest in the Zaria school as rare works by Gani Odutokun and Jerry Buhari are included for the first time. Also, works by some of their younger contemporaries are included alongside those by the celebrated groups associated with Nsukka, Osogbo and with the Lagos art scene during the 60s and 70s.
She however noted that getting quality works and choosing the right works that represent the best of the art are some of the challenges organizing the auction since inception three years ago. Also, of concern to the organizers, she said, is the need to discover new artists who would use the platform to grow in their profession.
Mrs. Chellarams stressed that female artists are strongly considered for the auction hence the inclusion of artists like Ndidi Dike, Peju Layiwola, Peju Alatishe, among others.
But among renowned Nigerian artists whose works are regularly included in the auction include Ben Enwonwu, Uche Okeke, Bruce Onobrakpeya, and Ben Osawe. But the likes of Sokari Douglas-Camp, Osahenye, Ben Osaghae, Peju Laitshe, and Lemi Ghariokwu are featuring on the auction. Ghana is represented in the auction by Ablade Glover, Amon Kotie, Ato Delaquis, George Hughes and Kofi Agosoor while Peter Elungat. To facilitate widespread participation, telephone bidding will be used during the auction.

Idoani: One community, many tongues
By Ozolua Uhakheme
The three-part twelve-chapter book, Idoani: My Historical Jottings, by Alfred Bandele Alabi is one of the few authentic and holistic publications on Idoani, a town in Ose local government area of Ondo State. Beyond being a detailed account of the historical, socio-political development of the people of Idoani, the 257-page book is rich in factual evidences of the author’s sources, unlike earlier reports by others on the community. Since the book also doubles as an autobiography of a sort, the author undertook researches on his personal family roots in the community, as well as the origins of the six communes (Ido, Amusigbo, Isure, Iyayu, Isewa and Ako) that form Idoani. The strength of the book can be found in an indigene telling his story without undue bias.
Consequently, the author presents to the readers a carefully crafted report of his years of tireless research into the origin, circumstances, events and personalities, past and present who, through their lives, ministries, professions, occupations and uncommon commitments, sowed and nurtured the seed of Idoani’s development.
In Chapter One, the book introduces the different communes that form Idoani, as well as the other sub-groups highlighting the origins, the relationships between the quarters and their cultural traits. Chapter two dwells on the nature of confederacy operated in Idoani dating back to 1880, the evolution of the present day Idoani, and locations of the old sites before the famous merger of 1921, the making of the first confederate traditional ruler following the death of Alani Atewogboye on January 3, 1921. This chapter also reveals one interesting aspect of Idoani, which is the presence of two rulers in one community or settlement. For instance, in page 51, the author states that "evidence indicated that there were two rulers in Isure, the Olupefa and the Olusure.
Evidence also showed that there were two rulers in Amusigbo, the Oniye and the Alamusi, as also in Iyayu headed by the Olupara and Oludosi." In fact, Idoani is a peculiar confederation. And there were serious efforts to harmonise the variations in socio-cultural matters. As there were more than one traditional ruler in a community, so were chieftaincy names duplicated in many of the communities.
Such efforts were directed at, among others, on the duplication of chieftaincy names in Idoani. The author explains that there were confusions at meetings of the council of chiefs in reference to individuals during deliberations. This, he says, resulted into efforts at reducing the anomaly in the 1970s. "It was suggested that, upon the death of any chief with duplicated title, the successor would be conferred a new chieftaincy at Idoani level, that would carry all the rights and processes of the old quarter title."
Apart from some specific instances, Chapter three simply covers the beliefs, cultures and traditions of Idoani people, which share similarities with other Yoruba communities. Good examples are matters like belief in deities and Supreme Being, belief in the ancestors and the relevance of Ogboni, Aje and Ogun are not a far departure from other Yoruba towns. However, the author provides incisive accounts of how age groups are administered within the gerontocratic set-up using the Isure age groups example and their responsibilities. ‘
The economic pursuits of the people of Idoani, the impact of the inter-tribal wars as well as the British exploits in the early 19th century, form the thrust of Chapter four, which also covers the educational growth and adventure of some Idoani people for opportunities outside their community in recent time. But the rural-urban migration that has become a recurring decimal in the economic growth of most towns also takes its toll on Idoani. The author, worried by this trend, says: "For economic development and prosperity, there is great need for a major return to the land and tapping of the endowed, natural resources. That is where the hope of a prosperous Idoani lies."
Chapter five is dedicated to the 19th century Yoruba wars and the impact on Idoani. The author also offers the reasons for the wars, the characteristics of the people, how the war started and the key players. Interestingly, the author goes beyond his jottings to carry out a comparative analysis of the Ogedengbe/Idoani war in a tabular format, showing the strength and weaknesses of each combatant. Without prejudice, the author acknowledges the overwhelming strength of Ogedengbe and the resultant victory, which he says, had great impact on the people of Idoani ‘and changed the course of history in several ways. "Men, women and children were forced away by the victors and while the greater majority went to Ijesha and Ekiti lands, a good number went off to Ondo Benin, Ibadan, Ijebu and elsewhere where most found new homes, never to return to Idoani even after the Ekiti parapo war."
Expectedly, the author did not fail to write on the Christianity, economic life and the attendant conflicts between traditionalists and the Christian converts in Idoani, which according to him, gave rise to the likes of Pa Isaac Tenabe, who got baptised by Rev. S. M Luke in 1892. With a Bible in one hand and cocoa seeds in the other, Tenabe made impacts on both Christianity and economic prosperity as an evangelist and a farmer. This aspect of Idoani life is treated in Chapter eight. The author takes readers’ attention to the great and sterling contributions of individuals like Bello Akure, a sergeant major in the World War 1, to the growth of Idoani, the influence of World War 1, the West African Frontier Force, the seized Idoani crowns, the relevance of farmers in the life of Idoani, and the challenges ahead of Idoani of tomorrow in Chapters 9 through 12.
The book which was inspired by a friend of the author during his (Alabi) 70th birthday celebration in 2003, like the subject, Idoani, is a unique piece that will be of interest to many history students, sons and daughters of Idoani and lovers of good literary and factual works. Alabi’s profile as an Idoani high chief, a seasoned public servant and a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, and Nigerian Institute of Management, provides a rich reservoir for the writing of the book.
But, there are few typos and editing errors that do not undermine the quality of the content. For instance, in the preface to the book, the author states "war leaders that resisted the combined forces of Ijesha, Ekiti and forced them to seek for assistance from Ibadan army in 1879" instead of seek assistance. In reference to one of his sources on page 230, a Benin historian of note, Egharevba was wrongly spelt as Eghareuba. Like other researchers, the author did not answer one of the major lingering questions on Idoani’s culture: why the Ani was easily accepted by the Asewa and how the crowning arrangement that has survived to date was consummated. A paragraph on page 175, "The partitioning of the HAO people’s area of Ondo State…" was repeated on page 176 as third paragraph.

It will be miracle for Nigeria to achieve the MGDs’
By ozolua Uhakheme

Former district governor of Rotary International, District 9125, and founder of St. John and Mary Hospital, Akure, Ondo state, Dr. Bayo Oni, has doubted Nigeria’s capability to meet the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the year 2015. He said it would be a miracle for Nigeria to achieve the set goals. His fears came on the heels of a recent UN progress report saying that more than half way to the 2015 deadline to achieve the MDGs, major advances in the fight against poverty and hunger have been too slow or even in the reverse as a result of economic and food crises.
The assessment, launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in Geneva, has also warned that despite many successes, overall progress has been too slow for most of the targets to be met by 2015.
Oni said the implication of this is that Nigeria would not witness any significant socio-economic growth, as the people would continue to live in poverty and ill health. He noted that at local levels across the country, there are not enough functioning primary health care centres that should complement the tertiary health institutions in urban communities. "Even where there are such primary health centres at local levels, they are either without drugs or equipment and manpower needed to run the facilities," he added.
He lamented Nigeria’s current listing as one of the four nations in the worldstill ravaged by the dreaded paralytic disease, wild polio virus, five years after Rotary International initiated the polio vaccination programme across the globe. He said of the 125 countries with cases of polio infection at the ouset, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria are the countries still having cases of polio virus. He said that Nigeria, regrettably, accounts for 68 percent of polio infections in the four countries put together; blaming it on the setback caused by some northern states that refused to accept the polio vaccines as genuine. Over the years, there were myths and misguided fears about the polio vaccines, such as that they were the Western world’s plan to sterilise Africans or give them HIV/AIDS.
Speaking to The Nation in Akure, Oni described the Mother and Child Hospital project being executed by Governor Olusegun Mimiko’s administration in the Ondo State as a good concept towards the realization of the UN goals. But warned that such project must be backed by sustained planning- construction, training of manpower and equipping of the hospital. He noted that for a specialist hospital of that standard, the twin issues of manpower training and equipment should be top priority because professionals that would man the hospital cannot be produced within a short period of time.
He added that but for the corrupt tendencies in the system, which could truncate the survival of such hospital, it would have been an excellent health project everybody would be proud of.
The 22nd Rotary District Governor explained that in practice, the four-way test of Rotary Club is an ideal creed for good leadership and governance capable of preventing conflict and violence if it is observed to the letter. Asked to reconcile the increasing rate of corruption in the society with the size of Rotary Club’s members in leadership positions across the country, Oni said corruption is a human trait not peculiar to a race or ethnic group, but that it is unfortunately endemic to Nigerians.
"Rotary’s four-way test cannot work in Nigeria. If you come out to reform the society, you will meet with lots of obstacles. Getting the society to toe the line of sanity is a big problem. However, there has been a push for Rotarians to go into politics; but the political climate is not clement enough for the thriving of the four-way test," he said.
Oni who recalled that he turned down an offer to be appointed commissioner for health in Ondo State during the tenure of retired Navy Captain Abiodun Olukoya, (1990-92) described politics as no go area, saying he would never be a politician at any prize. "In Nigeria, it is too murky and dirty because you must be prepared to tell lie and kill to get there. In fact, my father warned me to keep off politics. Again, most Nigerians do not go into politics to serve the people, but themselves. I refused to accept the appointment as commissioner of health in Ondo State under Navy Captain Olukoya," he stressed.
On his tenure as district governor between 2007 and 2008, Oni admitted that his programmes, which were functions of funds he raised during the year were executed in line with the Rotary International’s theme- providing portable water- for that year. Of the five million naira raised, he funded the borehole water projects at the Aleshinloye market, Ibadan, Oyo State; Ishinkan market in Akure, Ondo State; toilet facility at Okene General Hospital, Kogi State; as well as micro credit schemes at Karu in FCT and at the Emir market in Ilorin, Kwara State.
The governorship of the district, he said, afforded him the opportunity to visit other states of the federation under his district, know the diversity of Nigeria’s culture, to understand man the more thus making him a better manager of man. But he however regretted that though he loves serving people, but the one year tenure was at the peril of my hospital business because ‘I was almost on sabbatical.’

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