Boko Haram: Appreciating Abstract Art

Enough is enough! Foreigners seem to have a clearer picture on the decline of Nigeria as a state. May be Nigerians are just too artistic that we subvert a picture (clear as unlabeled biology drawings) to an abstract art.


Abstract Artists

I can’t stand this but many Nigerians can’t either, that is why they sit down and get a jolt of excitement when the occasional bomb-story sparks an imagination in their minds; which makes their favorite abstract art take semblance. Abstract art has its powers in its ability to resemble different things to different people. But whatever image(s) it resembles is a product of the memory of the observer. Therefore Nigerians’ collective memories and harbored-sentiments seem to shape the picture they see from the abstract art; that is Boko Haram.

Nigerians still argue against Boko Haram menace with popular remarks such as “If they don’t like western education how come they use phones, the internet and even electricity”. While it is easy to use this single-statement attack to dismantle the Boko Haram ideology, it suffice to say this statement is way off. It shows how people lack the most basic understanding of the Boko Haram agenda; which ironically their unofficial nickname (Boko Haram) clearly captures. More insidious is when the aforementioned assertion is not stated but can be found as implied in a more sophisticated argument. The latter is what overwhelms media reports. It is difficult to take serious arguments that assume such primitive, yet rudimentary, understanding. We seem to be lost in the world of abstract arts while foreigners seem to get a clearer picture.

I am referring to three analytic articles recently written by foreigners with insight in to the Nigerian recent problems. They articles are, in chronological order: “Boko Haram is not the Problem by JEAN HERSKOVITS“, “Nigeria’s Battle for Stability by JOHN CAMPBELL” and “On The Trail Of Boko Haram by ANDREW STROEHLEIN“. (The last of which was published 12th March 2012)


Non-Abstract Artists

Jean Herskovits is a professor of history at the State University of New York. Her article highlighted the lack of evidence in most of the Boko Haram rhetoric and promotion of unnecessary complexities regarding the threat which culminated in the exorbitant security slice of the annual budget. She cautions the US government from embarking on the Nigerian war on terror; which she made to look more like a child’s call for attention by the present Nigerian administration.

 John Campbell was the US ambassador to Nigeria from 2004-2007. The article starts from the death of the former president to present day crisis with Boko Hram. He laid out the two popular narratives concerning boko haram: the first portrays the President as a hero who saved the country, promises a bright future but is hindered by the unforeseen tentacles of Islamist terrorist; the second portrays the president as dishonorable opportunist who’s inability to deal with the country leads him to unsubstantiated accusations. The first narrative is favored and promoted by present administration (and probably more supporters in Southern Nigeria) and the Obama administration while the second is only harbored in discontented minds (most from Northern Nigeria). He advices on how the Obama administration can do its part in fighting (or at least, not supporting) corruption which he believes is at the heart of Nigerian problems.

Andrew Stroehlein is the Communications Director of the international Crisis Group. He laments about the omnipresence and concurrent absence of the menace that is Boko Haram. He attempts to make out a discernible outline from the murky media/mass-painted picture of Boko Haram. He sees the government as a hindrance to solving the problem for its incompetence. The other two major contributors, he felt, are the unskilled police force and the rumor-mongering media. He feels good governance is promptly required to prevent a failed state; Boko Haram being a symptom.


Art Critique

Do we lack publishing analysts of similar insights? May be I haven’t come across them. I have read a few interesting pieces which deceptively start as analysis then seamlessly alternate to and from sentimental accusations. It doesn’t help too that most of the vocal commentators (that draw mass attention) are not without their political allegiance. In a society where sentiments & allegiance reign over critical thinking, it is so easy to dismiss the most valid argument with an accusation of an attack. Not that the two are mutually exclusive; an attack could be a valid argument.

I think I am objective, but that is an oxymoron. On many issues, Nigerians lack creativity; content with whatever. But this is a place I think they have overcompensated for their lacks. Their imaginations runs wild around this Boko Haram issue and what each has is a different picture of the situation shaped by sentimental memories. This is no parochialism, it is an Abstract Art exhibition where what you see is only limited to your mind’s imagination. Let Nigerians move away from Abstract Arts and deal with objective diagrams. The psychedelic past-time must stop!


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