Two paintings by the late Nigerian artist, Ben Enwonwu, have now fetched over N1billion at auctions in the UK.
The first that was auctioned in March 2018 was Tutu; it fetched $1.6million after it was discovered at a London flat. Nigerian novelist Ben Okri had described Tut as the “African Mona Lisa”.
Adetutu Ademiluyi, the subject of the painting, was an Ife Princess.
The second painting is named Christine. It was sold at a Sothebys auction on Tuesday for $1.4million. It was initially listed for $200,000.
Done in 1971 by Enwonwu in Lagos, the painting had been in the Texas home of the family of the sitter for decades.
Christine Elizabeth Davis, the subject of the painting, was an American hairstylist of West Indian descent. Christine travelled a lot in her life, working in Ghana before moving to Lagos with her British husband in 1969. There, they befriended Enwonwu and Christine’s husband commissioned the work as a gift for his wife in 1971 before they eventually moved back to the US a few years later.
The work was completed in under a week as Christine was able to hold her pose for as long as needed. Christine, who was in her mid-30s at the time, passed away in Texas thereafter. But the painting has remained in the family ever since.
Recently a family member stumbled on the paint and googled the name of the artist, only to find that it was Enwonwu, Africa’s best-known artist of the 20th century.
Altogether, the two paints have been sold for $3million, about N1.084billion.
It is not clear whether the survivors of Enwonwu will get any consideration for the works or whether all the proceeds will go to the owners at the point of sale.
Enwonwu, who died in 1994, is considered the father of Nigerian modernism.
He made three paintings of ‘Tutu,’ the locations of all of which had been a mystery until the recent discovery.
The works became symbols of peace following the clash of ethnic groups in the Nigerian-Biafran conflict of the late 1960s.
Hushpuppi’s death BY Sam Omatseye
It is Ramon Abbas he bears. Even that name puzzles. Some reports anglicise his first name as Raymond. But it is Hushpuppi we know, poetic, lyrical and even symbolic. Hush implies silent, furtive, conspiratorial, shadowy. Puppy, in this regard, means playful like a week-old dog. That makes him a sly dog.New Orleans
But then it has other origin stories. Some others date it back to the founding of New Orleans that gives the world Mahdi Gras, an unhinged carnival for pilgrims of pleasure. An immigrant woman invented a snack of a ball out of cornmeal and the city called it hushpuppy. Their own incarnation of akara. Even then, Abbas’ nickname is spelt ending with an i instead of a y.
The one picture that has trended of late features him in a shirt sporting a familiar brand Fendi. But another brand had been stalking him like a forest cat, slinking, longsuffering and calculating. It was a brand as counterforce: FBI. Nabbed in Dubai but caught in the United States, the sojourn of a colourful conman comes to an end. Behind bars, he will wear neither Gucci nor LV, but an orange top that will, at best, say INMATE.
Now he is no more Hushpuppi. He is now Abbas. He buried his real name in a casket of lies and deceit. He was reborn a glamour icon, one-named, abandoned home, and became a global Smart Alec. He was a man of means with no means of livelihood. He conquered cyberspace, dispossessed the gullible, stashed his global bank account, strutted the world, amassed dream cars, snored in palaces, dressed like a fop, preened like a peacock, seduced the young and befuddled the old.
He became a role model to a lazy generation that lapped luxury without labour. When he was caught, the FBI buried Hushpuppi and rebirthed Abbas. But where is the real Abbas though? Can he recognise Ramon again? He cannot. Like Sophocles’ Antigone, he “neither dwells among men nor ghosts.” He is in a dazed world, a wraith. He died twice; he is born again a jailbird, his third life. He was reckless. Now he is a wreck.
But Abbas is a tale for the moment, if in reverse. He was caught trying to denude a group of people in millions of dollars in palliatives in a time of pandemic. Abbas is a picture of avarice at a time of sacrifice. He was flaunting his shoes, cars, mansion, parties at a time when many hid behind homes, suffered in hospitals, coughed in misery, mourned or were mourned. He represented a heartless species when we were supposed to be our neighbours’ keepers, when many were suddenly whisked out of work.
When his fellow country folks lost their jobs, and men of means contributed their millions and billions to the poor, Abbas was a show-off. The thing with Abbas was no lockdown could stop his party. His extravagance was online. The world was his audience. He flourished and frolicked in real time and space, but his fans joined him virtually. His was a voyeur’s paradise. The young gawped and gawked, followed him, and commented. When they cursed, they did it out of smouldering admiration. He had come to represent a generation of Nigerians who did not trust their parents or their bosses or their leaders. They followed their greed. They followed Hushpuppi. He was a priest of a new goddess: money.
Abbas for them was a sort of escape. He had become the man who gamed the system and scored. All the stadia in the world applauded. They are like the character of the English novel Billy Liar, a young man who lived in his imagination where he had attained power, wealth and glory, although he had nothing other than living from paycheck to paycheck. Abbas embodied that escape for them. They lived in Hushpuppi. They wore his Fendi, lived in his palace, flew in his jet, caroused his women, or were his women, they sat in the driver’s seat of his Ferrari and Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce.
Here fellow Nigerians had no chance to host Owambes. Weddings and birthdays and funerals have been pruned to parlors and backyards. It is a time for humility, and it was only proper that the man who countered it be caught and put away.
These days no one has anywhere to go with Gucci shoes. No first class tickets to buy to London and take pictures for online vanity. No one has a chance to pile pockets with dollars and pounds to spray a celebrant. Those with big cars cannot drive them to anywhere for displays. No extravagances for the Mephistophelean or the harmless show man. The worst we can do is dress up at home, and flaunt it to our child or wife or husband, like Miss Havisham in Dickens’ Great Expectation who dressed every day for years in her wedding clothes and died in it without leaving her home.
Those with special cars only warm their engines and drive around the neighbourhood. These times are revealing our material constipation. Abbas, the man of constipation, has now left the building, his bowels rumbling with faecal waste.
Things are upside down. Those who see churches and mosques as avenues for amassing wealth are crowing that they want people together but they are tempting the Lord. It is possible that Abbas had some of these men of God praying for him, and he may be taking from this stolen money to feather the house of God. It is an irony we have people like this thriving when we hear men of God preaching. The point though is that this is an age where the Word of the Lord is trading places with the wealth of the Word. Quite a few churches give precedence to material splendor. It is a different kind of hypocrisy from a war-time play Mother Courage where Brecht says, “Whenever there’s a load of special virtues around, it means something stinks.”
Abbas epitomises the Yahoo Boys, and his fall is their fall. It is a comeuppance for a tribe of desperadoes who have demonised technological genius. The new frontier of progress is also their front for fraud.
It is not for nothing that he has been associated with some of our big-name politicians, even if they had nothing in common. He has had photo-ops with a few of them. If he were not Hushpuppi but merely Ramon Abbas, we might not have seen such pictures.
But our politicians have one quality in common with him: impunity. Where leaders promise and turn back on their word, it is as bad a lie as a Hushpuppi popping up on a person’s email and asking for one piece of information and turning the email into an opportunity to stalk and destroy. They are the monitoring spirits of the internet. They get the person’s account and they empty it.
We also see our politicians take away our money when others have nothing. Fraud is now familiar terrain of politicians. To be a politician is to seek avenue for self-service, not service to all. But the arrest of Abbas is hope, but not enough. It shows even the new frontier can be stalked and the crime encircled and ended. Our people are not doing well enough to catch those who are well-off by wrong means. A few have been caught. We want more.
Abbas is caught today, and no one is hailing him. His audience is now jeering. He is like Jay Gatsby in Scot Fitzgerald’s novel. He acquires his fable of wealth to get back a woman, and buys a big mansion just like Hushpuppi. Every neighbour comes to his frequent parties but not the woman he craves. He eventually dies alone and poor. Everybody comes to his parties but no one goes to his funeral. Abbas is alone now. So is Hushpuppi. Abbas looks on as no one comes to Hushpuppi’s funeral. Hushpuppi’s frozen eyes look without seeing as Abbas goes behind bars.
2023 isn’t Igbo’s turn for presidency — it’s Nigerians’ BY Fredrick Nwabufo
How much progress has Nigeria made with its ethnic-motility politics? Since 1999, we have had presidents of different ethnic extractions – Yoruba, Fulani, and Ijaw – who were largely elected on the portfolio of ethnicity and religion rather than on the content of their minds? But how have we fared?
The Obasanjo administration despite investing billions of dollars, estimated to be around $16 billion, in the power sector, did not crack a fire; the country is still trolled by the undersupply of electricity. And subsequent administrations, including the current one are yet to find the X of the power problem. Other sectors – health and education — suffer the same kismet.#
“Turn-by-turn presidency’’, which is strictly based on ethnicity and religion, will not turn around our ruined fortunes. The 2015 mistake was the fallout of this deprecating ‘’na-our-turn’’ arrangement. Becoming the president of the most populous black nation in the 21st century is not by character, qualifications, accomplishments, competence, and integrity but by the emulsion of ethnicity and religion. Tragic!
We cannot make progress this way.
Yes. I know I once made an argument for a president of Igbo extraction in 2023. My position was that we have to create a system which will engender unity, justice and fairness for all citizens. But this does not negate the very important place of competence for leadership. Competence trounces every other consideration in the checklist of leadership.
As a matter of fact, the current arrangement exacerbates corruption because whatever leadership that is trumped up by this orthodoxy will see power not as a means to build the nation, but as an avenue to corner resources to its own part of the country. That is what is happening now.
We have an administration, which without scruples and with defiance, peopled the security architecture with 97 percent of officers from a section of the country. And we have a president who has not flinched in letting everyone know that the section of the country which gave him 97 percent vote must be treated better than the section which gave him ‘’five per cent’’ vote. This is the consequence of ‘’turn-by-turn’’ political ordering.
We are likely to make the same mistakes of 2015 and 2019 in 2023 if we persist on this patched path.
This brings me to the question: What is really our national interest? Do we have a national interest? Or are there disparate interests? In essence, Hausa interest, Igbo interest, Yoruba interest and Christian/Muslim interest? Perhaps, our national interest is dependent on the religious or ethnic background of the leadership of the day. Whichever way it swings, it is predicated on the primordial.
Our ethnically-charged selection process influences all aspects of our national life. At a time of grave insecurity, there is no urgency to curb the incursion of armed herders from outside the country. This is despite reports that some of the bandits terrorising the country are foreigners from Niger Republic. The reasoning is that the leadership of the day is dithering because of the umbilical cord of ethnicity.
The way forward for us is obviously not ethnic politics, which has held us down for years. As I said in my previous article, ‘We must renounce our tribal identities; I’m Nigerian Not Igbo’, we must begin to erode ‘’tribal identities’’ and to build the ‘’Nigerian identity’’ to make progress as one country.
We need a Nigerian leadership to foster a sense of nationhood among the variegated peoples of the country. The more we emphasise ethnicity and religion in our politics the further we are divided along these devious lines.
Nigerians need a Nigerian president in 2023 not — an Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa or Fulani president — a leader who has been tested with responsibility and leadership; a president for all. These people are not in short supply here.
Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist
The trial of Hushpuppi BY Aremu Lukman Umor
The Nigerian-born international scamster and Instagram celebrity, Ramoni Igbalode Abbas’ (otherwise known as Hushpuppi) arrested by the E-police unit of the Dubai Police a week ago, might come to his admirers as a bolt out of the blue. But to the well-meaning Nigerians, it was long expected. Reason being that, despite the fact that his source of opulence was questionable, he would still go on social media to make noise. It was from him, most of his social media followers did see the latest designer clothes, expensive watches and costly cars.
The Police upon his arrest discovered that Hushpuppi and his accomplices had accumulated N168bn through corporate mails and sending fake messages to clients, and redirecting their financial transfers to their own accounts. And that 1,926,000 persons from different parts of the world fell victims. Some 13 luxury cars worth 3.7bn, 150 million dirham, computers, storage devices and hard disks containing data were recovered from the flat where they were arrested.
I was surprised that he was living such opulent lifestyle until his arrest, even though he knows his source of wealth is unclean. Proverbs 11:21 has it that: “The evil person will not go unpunished, but the children of the righteous will escape.” My people also say lies may never be discovered in 20 years but one day the truth will surely be revealed.
He might’ve been arrested in the past, and had his way. However, with the look of things, this one will not be business as usual. He has been extradited to the United States, where he is now being indicted for money laundering and other cybercrimes.
Hushpuppi’s extradition to the US has been revealing what he thought he had swept under the carpet. The Department of Justice of the United States published it on its website that he is accused of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars from business emails compromise (BEC) frauds and some other scams, which include targeting a U.S law firm, an English Premier League club and a foreign bank. However, if he is found guilty of the allegations, he will spend 20 years of his life in the US prison.
Meanwhile, chances that he will not be found guilty are very slim. If he is not lucky, once he is found guilty, all the wealth he fraudulently amassed will be confiscated. And that will end the reigns of his opulent and luxurious lifestyle. I hope his trial will serve as a deterrent to other scamsters and potential ‘hushpuppies’.
Aremu Lukman Umor,
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