By Henry Akubuiro 

Seven years after an anonymous signature, Ijalobomo,  made a debut on the Lagos art exhibition scene, the masked artist is back, continuing his series of save Nigeria contents.

 In 2015, Ijalobomo launched his art of revival with a solo exhibition entitled PHCN (Please, Help Change Nigeria), shown at Red Door Gallery, Victoria Island, Lagos. From February 26 to March 12, 2022, Ijalobomo will show PHCN-II (Please, Help Change Nigeria), at Didi Museum, Victoria Island, Lagos, with a sub-theme woven around the ‘Raiders or Braiders’ mentality.

 Ijalobomo, in the sub-theme announced: “Braiders, and not Raiders, wanted.” He explained that PHCN was a cry for us all to come together to work as “BRAIDERS” not as “RAIDERS”.

 The artist, whose career has spanned over three decades, queried: Are we still the happiest people on earth? He recled that 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, he noted, surprised 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 country.”

He argued that most people concluded that the survey must have mistaken the fact that Nigerians were a bunch of optimistic and persevering people, who often preferred not to make negative declarations about themselves but confess the positive for a sign of happiness.

“Quite a lot was wrong then,” he insisted, including the state of the economy. However, the survey then appeared to have confirmed late Afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti’s  “suffering and smiling” that captured the Nigerians› attitude.

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“Today, 19 years after, things have got much worse. Almost everything that can go bad has gone bad, and one wonders if the World Values Survey, after witnessing the 2020 #ENDSARS nationwide protests, would still pronounce the same verdict today.”

Explaining the ‘Raiders’ analogy in the PHCN-II exhibition, Ijalobomo noted that Nigerians had transited from “the happiest people on earth” to  “the angriest people on earth” going by the level of anger, for example, as expressed nationwide during the #ENDSARS protests of 2020. The artist recalled how, from Independence, being in government had been seen as a short-cut to wealth. He argued that “people 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. He explicity described such public office holders: “These are the ‘RAIDERS’”.

In all the crowded generations of ‘raiders’, what spot do the ordinary people take? “The commoners, who do not have the benefit of the office or the pen, strive to restrain themselves but only for a while,” Ijalobomo said. “After a while, they join the raiders, employing deadlier tactics and tools like sophisticated rifles/guns, like the dreaded AK47. They “take it by force”. Such commoners, he said, included the bandits, the yahoo boys, the yahoo plus, the kidnappers, the herdsmen, the known and unknown gun men, etc.”

How did Ijalobomo arrive at the ‘BRAIDER’ metaphor? “The “Braider” is a person with a lot of patience and skills. She picks up bits and pieces, puts then 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, using them for the good of all in other to create a beautifully whole. When braiders create, they create a beautiful whole in which there are no agitations.”