By Osa Amadi, Arts Editor
Jennifer Tokunbo Serrano describes herself as a second generation migrant because her Nigerian parents migrated to the U.K where she was born, grew up and had her education.
After her training as a lawyer and work as an artist she first returned to Nigeria in 2005. From that time she shuttled between Nigeria and the U.K until recently when she decided to come back home and do something for her country. In this interview with Vanguard she talks about an art & culture project she is facilitating in Nigeria:
Some ethnic groups do not feel that the current leadership is on their side. In 2017 it became a reality to me that we have problems in Nigeria. There are agitations everywhere. People are calling for disintegration of the country. All that became intensified by kidnappings, Fulani Herdsmen, etc. and I saw there are ethnic undertone to all these. The reason given for the agitation is that certain people are hurting other people.
I am worried that all these problems could degenerate into another civil war if not carefully managed. If there is another civil war today, majority of Nigerians will suffer, but the people of means whom we think we are fighting will escape to overseas in their private jets. We must understand that there are people who pushing us to hate one another and fight. When war breaks out, there are people who will benefit from it, not our people. So, even if we are going to separate, let it be in a peaceful way.
How Nigerians feel about their country
I did a two-month survey on social media asking people if they love Nigeria. I found out that the love for the nation is missing. Some will ask, is Nigeria even a nation? Nigeria is not a nation. It’s only a geographical entity. There is no patriotism. But they agree that there are some aspects of Nigeria they love and those aspects are entertainment, music, movies, food, arts, etc. These are things we can be proud of.
We have the Nigeria independence which we don’t celebrate like other countries. If you ever have the opportunity to go to US around July you will see how they come out on July 4. On a street for instance, some people will just do a barbecue and invite everyone on that street to come and eat. And such parties are held everywhere. But how do we celebrate Nigeria’s independence here? An average Nigerian knows it’s a public holiday and stays at home. In Abuja there is a military march past, but it doesn’t impact on the people.
So that spirit of oneness and love for country is missing. The question now is, how can we get Nigerians to feel good about Nigeria? When you love something or somebody, you will try to protect that person or thing. So this is what we are trying to do – to ignite the Nigerian spirit. I call it a project because a project has to do with a piece of work that has a definite time. It’s a project because there is a series of things we want to do. For the purpose of this we are focusing on the 1st of October, beginning from this year. We want to bring all the good things that Nigerians relate to, things that are unique to us, things we appreciate, and things we would like to preserve. So we have things like dinner, school visits, etc.
We want people to come and enjoy Nigerian music, food, art, etc. Just come and celebrate your country. Then you will have the opportunity to see the Igbo man and his culture on display; a Hausa culture on display, South-South, etc. So, we start with that and then there is a message we want to share with people. The message is: we here, we are stuck together here. Even if you are going to another country you will still have that Nigerian passport. We have to try to find a way to co-exist peacefully and not allow whatever force that is trying to lead us into war to win.
The Unity Festival
The Unity Festival will start with a carnival. We are trying to feature many ethnic groups as possible. We want to televise it nationwide so that wherever you are you will see your culture being recognized. We will also have a drama which will depict exactly what is happening in the country. On the 2nd day, we will have a dinner.
It’s not a dinner where people will just come and eat and go home. It is going to be a day we will tell ourselves the truth. It will be a combination of talks and interludes of songs and other forms of entertainment. The venue is Muri Okunola Park, Ozumba Mbadiwe, Victoria Island, Lagos.