Ijalobomo, an anonymous visual artist, has urged every Nigerian that is concerned about the future of the country to be relentless and make concerted efforts from their little corners for the desired change, especially come 2023 and beyond.
The anonymous artist is leading a campaign for change with his ongoing exhibition at Didi Museum, Victoria Island, Lagos titled, ‘PHCN’ (Please, Help Change Nigeria).
The exhibition, which was first shown at Red Door Gallery, runs until March 12, 2022, with a sub-theme ‘Braiders’ Not Raiders Wanted’.
The over 30 paintings on display, in sustaining the artist’s preference for watercolour, also bring his graphic art background to bear on the revolutionary theme of the exhibition.
Explaining the relevance of the sub-theme: ‘Braiders, and not Raiders, Wanted’ in today’s Nigeria, its society and politics, Ijalobomo said, “PHCN (Please, Help Change Niger) is a cry for us all to come together to work as “Braiders” not as “Raiders”.
Ijalobomo explained the ‘Raiders’ factor as he noted that Nigerians have transited from ‘the happiest people on earth’ to ‘the angriest people on earth’ going by the level of anger in the country. He argued that from the Independence period till date, it has been very lucrative being in government, as a short-cut to wealth.
Civil servants and politicians, he said, “come into office to loot and in some cases, empty state treasuries, and go on to flaunt the loot to the envy of the commoners.” Such public office holders, he labelled as “The ‘Raiders’, in the PHCN-II exhibition.
Whoever has no access to public treasuries, according to the artist, sometimes join the raiders, in another way by going into crimes using rifles/guns, like the dreaded AK47 to “take it by force”.
These sets of people such as the bandits, the yahoo boys, the yahoo plus, the kidnappers, the herdsmen, the known and unknown gun men among others,” he said, ironically, are among the commoners of the society, oppressing their fellow ordinary Nigerians.
On the ‘Braider’ metaphor, he stated: “The “Braider” is a person with a lot of patience and skills. She picks up bits and pieces, puts them all together with great care and dexterity.
“She puts different strands of hair attachment and diverse types of beads of different colours together with great patience, working with her client. She weaves all together, to create a beautiful whole new look. Such are the people Nigeria needs today.
“People who have the skills to pick up the pieces and put them together, no matter what parts of the country such people or resources can be found, use them for the good of all, in order to create beautifully whole matters now.
“When braiders create, they create a beautiful whole in which there are no agitations.”
Ijalobomo, whose career spans over 40 years, questioned the rating of Nigeria as the happiest people on earth.
“Are we still the happiest people on earth?” In 2003, the World Values Survey, in its World Happiness Report (WHR), after studying 155 countries, declared Nigerians the Happiest People on Earth. That report, Ijalobomo recalled, was a surprise to many people.
“Many wondered how they came to that conclusion, but we just accepted the report even when we felt that too many things were wrong with the country, enough not to make us the happiest people on earth.”
He further recalled how most people reacted to the survey within the context of Nigerians being seen as optimistic and persevering people. He argued that, even as at the period of the survey, quite a lot was wrong then, including the state of the economy. However, the survey then appeared to have confirmed late Afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti’s “suffering and smiling” mentality of most Nigerians.
Almost 20 years after, nothing has really changed, he said, particularly with what was seen during the 2020 #ENDSARS nationwide protests against police brutality.
However, being anonymous, for the artist, has nothing to do with the fear of incurring the wrath of the government or any individual politicians, rather it has to do with the ethics of his non-studio practice and current job that should not see him engaging in any work outside his official monthly pay profession.
The PHCN-II exhibition runs until March 12, 2022 at Didi Museum, Victoria Island, Lagos.