The Nigerian Art Of Self-Disgust

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Patriotism, contrary to deceive norms, flourish on cultural standards. The songs which all Nigerian knows by heart, the legend of nationhood, the politics of suburban and boondocks poetry, manifest the kernel of Nigeria’s culture and the substance of her sovereignty.

A similar dynamic undergirds our political and literary traditions. Politics thrives by literary culture and vice versa.

What shouldn’t we do for an evergreen story? What shouldn’t we give? Evergreen storylines make up the fabric of our collective narrative; when progressively spun, they are endlessly fascinating, yielding fresh insights through the imagination of the writer or filmmaker, who milks history and recalibrates reality to espouse a positive national lyric.

What is the Nigerian lyric? What is our reality? Nothing worth celebrating perhaps. In search of the proverbial elixir, we have drunk water from a noxious stream and filled our bellies with toxins.

The superiority of Western democracy is one of the supreme constructions of imperialism and the poisonous elixir of Nigeria and her neighbours on the African continent. Nigerians elevate it with obsessive love. It is the magic pill to the nation’s ceaseless headaches.

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Demagogues exploit its hackneyed tropes in a torrid caress of the vanities and base sentimentality of the gullible masses. Politicians chant its praise. Social commentators make extol its virtues in their vituperation in the mainstream and new media. Everybody is a sucker for its perceived benefits.

But the West must never be blamed for our collective ignorance – the United States in particular. The latter’s democratic enterprise is one of its most profitable constructions in its bid to make America great again, at any cost. It is both music and philosophy, a sensory stream of thought feeding generations of writers, political activists, filmmakers, politicians, gender rights activists, academia, and so on.

We must understand, however, that Western democracy and foreign policy, while deliberately presented as two tines on the same fork, are sustained by oft deceptive ideals and contradictory precepts of influence, crudely wedged into the nuclear powers’ global dominance stratagem. It is imperial politics without heart: ideologically deficit, dangerously manipulative, and Janus-faced.

Democracy and foreign aid do for America, what painting and sculpture did for the Italians. They are potent tools for wooing and recolonising the world. A few good minds with an intuitive grasp of the hard-edged imperialist designs of the Western agenda are spuriously labelled as conspiracy theorists.

Those who would die embracing and entrenching exotic doctrines must understand that there is no way this could be achieved without horror, given the marked differences in culture, temperament, and histories defining different nations of the world.

It’s about time we identified values complementary to our precepts of humane governance and development. We cannot dwell, for instance, like Americans or Brits in Nigeria. We can only assimilate aspects of their culture complimentary of ours. We must always synthesise, when need be, from the most humane sociopolitical cultures around the world.

The Japanese, Chinese, Bhutanese, Arabians, Europeans, Americans, Ghanaians, Rwandans, to mention a few, all have different aspects of their governance traditions and cultures that are worthy of emulation but not until we sieve and winnow them to make their preferred aspects amenable to our politics, economy and socio-cultural institutions. We must always remember that the Libyans, Afghans to mention a few, wildly embraced a dandy dream of freedom, but instead, they got trapped in a sinister nightmare. To date, they are paying dearly for it.

Back home, it’s even scarier to note that our arts and literature have become very weakened in our bid to entrench American and European Renaissance in our cultural frames. More worrisome is our artists’ rabid deconstruction of Nigerianness.

Writers and filmmakers, for instance, struggle to acculturate the Nigerian landscape with defective foreign mores. So doing, they corrupt their presentations and stifle the possibility of attaining homegrown, practicable solutions to oft politicised conflict. Nonetheless, they have a dedicated industry of cheerleaders and courtiers – journalists and so-called influencers – whose job is to romanticise their follies as the valiance sorely needed to reinvigorate Nigeria’s creative sector.

Themes glorifying repulsive gender wars, mindless youth rebellion, and the orchestration of social hierarchies are aggressively projected and patronised to the detriment of rational, progressive, and didactic art. This hurts us immeasurably.

While creative industries in America, Britain, China, India, Korea, Malaysia, Russia, France, to mention a few, commit genii and capital resources to constantly recreate and embellish their political narratives, with progressive outcomes, the Nigerian creative sector obsessively weaponises and projects vulgar themes of citizenship and romance.

The chthonic projection of Western depravities and virulent awareness has become a thing among local artists. We see it sprout across genres: drama, prose, poetry, and beyond. It seizes mainstream and indie filmmaking, corrupting Nollywood inside out, as you read.

Otherwise brilliant and perceptive filmmakers denounce patriotism and attack all it means to be Nigerian. Ultimately, they corrupt the artistic vocabulary of Nigeria’s literary arts, turning it into a meditation on society’s debauched nature as Nigeria’s secret truth. They celebrate degenerate spirit using aggressive cues of prurient art, promiscuity, gendered storms, and toxic sexuality.

While the consequences of such dross manifest in real-time, Nigeria welcomes from abroad, more insolent corruption of its media space by degenerate reality shows like the BBN without putting up a fight. The damage to cultural psyche is incalculable.

The United States had always appreciated the depth and promise of the arts, entertainment sector. Thus the US government and Hollywood’s symbiotic relationship. Washington DC provides intriguing plots for filmmakers and the latter reciprocates by glamourising the political class and reinventing America’s exploits on the global stage.

Between 1911 and 2017, more than 800 feature films received support from the US Government’s Department of Defence (DoD). These included blockbuster franchises such as the Iron Man, Transformers, and The Terminator.

On television, over 1,100 titles received Pentagon backing – 900 of them since 2005, from Flight 93 to Ice Road Truckers to Army Wives. The inclusion of individual episodes for shows with a cult following, like Homeland, 24, and NCIS, as well as the established influence of the White House and FBI, further establishes that the American government methodically supports thousands of hours of entertainment.

Aside from the profitable impact on the US entertainment sector, the entertainment partnership and offerings are oft deployed to foster a positive image for the United States on the international stage, while offering its citizens ample channels to exorcise their post-9/11 demons.

Films and literature could be used to foster national healing and patriotism. And they may also be used to destroy a people and ruin nations in pursuit of global good or the “enlightened self-interest” of a dubious superpower.

With very few exceptions, like Tunde Kelani and his Mainframe Studios, Nollywood churns out too many rabidly wrought revenge-fantasies in which the Nigerian female perpetually scores retribution over her treacherous male; lest we forget the increasingly base novel and TV plots by which Nigerian audiences are lured to nurse innate demons of toxic sexuality, ethnic intolerance, religious bigotry, virulent feminism, and sexist rage.

It’s about time the government partnered with the arts sector to reinvent the Nigerian story while channeling humane governance and patriotism.

It’s about time we refined the subtleties that make the Nigerian dream the fantasy of thieves, slatterns, and blinkered murderers.

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