Islam, Identity, and Postcolonial Politics in Nigeria

Proselytization proclivities downplay the historical and cultural significance of Islam and its civilization in West Africa. This is a general introduction as well as an entry into the making of contemporary Islam in West Africa: its routes and reasons for expansion. Considering the fact that a postmodern discourse on Islam in the region tends to ignore ongoing spatial contests between the religion and its other dominantly axial partner, Christianity, in establishing presence and de-stabilizing essence of the ordered other.

The piece uses the case of Nigeria as an example of the use of religious expansionism for purposes that Vincent L. Wimbush terms scripturalization: the phenomenon and use of scripture [a freighted concept for power] in negotiating community and stakes.

Rosemary Graham-Naigba and the Feminization of Niger Delta Activism

More often than not, media representations and social portrayals of activism in the Niger Delta convey the characteristic Eurocentric chauvinism of geopolitical assumptions.
Activism is not a new phenomenon in the Niger Delta. During the colonial era, an Ijawman, Garrick Sokari Braide, became the face of social protest, when, through his religio-spiritual activities being his own reading and interpretations of the Biblical Holy Spirit phenomenon, preached won a large followership over to himself. His ministrations challenged status quo and had significant socio-economic impacts. As revenues from alcohol and other British trades dwindled, the colonial administration blamed Braide

The Ijaw Women Connect (IWC), founded by Rosemary Aken Graham-Naigba, conveys and articulates a radical alternative to status quo activism in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Although there are abundant justifications for social justice activism in the Niger Delta, for too long, most have not been founded or based lasting ideological principles. Hence, governments and other key players such as the multinational oil companies have taken advantage of this porosity or lack of critical philosophy.
Rosemary Graham-Naigba describes herself and the IWC as difference makers. In this piece, I intend to examine the intersections of gender, class, and culture in the categorization of activists in the Niger Delta. I also consider the historical roles of colonization and hegemony in the distribution of justice in Nigeria.

Why Comparative Heritage is Important

The reasons why “Comparative Heritage” is important are not immediately obvious, and for obvious reasons, too.  First, nearly everyone feels comfortable talking about the positive and nice sides about their history.  And again, that happens too often, for obvious reasons.  Conversations around “heritage” often always assume a monotonous definition about some distant past, woven around the fine memories of the heritage inheritors.  It feels like talking some nice things about an ancestor.   Or, in another way, with “heritage,” one might assume that by that is meant our collective memory of the past, and how those moments past had shaped (us into) the present. These are ways, but not the only ones, of looking at heritage.

Fundamentally, Comparative Heritage (CHER) transitioned from Living Effective Heritage, to accomodate some critical reflections and thought-provoking conversations on “what is often implied, meant, done, unsaid/stated with heritage.”

So what’s the significance of that?

While the Comparative Heritage in unable to claim that it has the perfect panaceas to the hydra-headed conundrums of psychosocial and econopolitical dilemmas,  CHER brings in a rather unique trajectory into the conversation on social and cultural formations, community understandings and transformations, as well as what humans do with themselves along the lines of defining heritage–individualistically and communistically.

Every culture of violence begins with the privileging of one heritage construct over and against (others).  Take some historical examples for illustration: Bosnia, Arab-Jewish, Nigeria-Biafra (Hausa/Igbo).  An even closer-at-home example is the subject of racism as a global evil domiciled in the United States.  While the dominant meaning/understanding of racism is often linked to color– many cultures around the world deem that “white people” are ghosts/spirits/apparations)–by racism here is meant racial bigotry, which is not exclusive to skin color imaginings!

Central, therefore, to understanding the work of the Comparative Heritage project and the conversations it facilitates are its inclusiveness of the subjects, social landscapes, and topics that fall beyond the center, straddling the peripheries, into the domain of human d/evolving and innovative capacity for invention; where there are no lacking in the foregoing, history is witness to the unrestrained will of the human person, not only to master nature or to conquer natural forces but also to desperately pursue after power for the ultimate subjugation of their fellow humans.

Comparative Heritage begins with the initial theoretical assumption that heritage is the cycle that wheels human beings. Due to the human imaginative power and capacity to draw from the past, both real or invented, heritage becomes a negotiating tool, which often develops into fully comprehensible suppressive political weapons of social ordering.

Whether for good or ill, “heritage” deserves a second, critical look.  It is this benefit of the doubt which permits us the opportunity to begin to develop basic initiatives for respect and understanding for the legitimacy of others who do not belong in our own circle of heritage.