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Meet Paddy Obinna: Artist, genius, philosopher, Owerri’s folk hero

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An artist of multiple endowment, Paddy Obinna is a household name in Imo State. Author and scholar, NGOZI JACINTA OLUOHA had an encounter with the Igbo Culture Ambassador, art curator, writer and newspaper publisher in his art house at Emekuku, Owerri. She found a philosopher, an intellectual, farmer and an unaffected native. More so, a vision bearer and functional promoter of art in its finest purity. Excerpts:

They call you Ndaa Paddy. Who are you? Please introduce yourself.

  I am Paddy Obinna, fondly called Ndaa Paddy, a household name. I am of the Obinna-dynasty of Emekuku in Owerri North L.G.A. Imo State; the enclave that harbours the root of the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri, Anthony A.J.V. Obinna.

What do you do and why do you do what you do?

My life is art and art is in my blood stream. As an Aba-born boy, I started art by drawing on the sand surface and I have kept my good work for seven and half decades, near 80 years. That skill of yester years has today developed into a global industry. I eat, drink, work, walk, run, drive, feel, think, sleep, breath and dream art. I wear life like a loose garment. Life for me is a joke and a loud, mucus laughter. I create and recreate my own arts, my own artworks and artifacts and they are worthy of note.

What do you think is the society’s understanding of art in terms of awareness?

The society should know that I am flagging non-descript arm of the national museum at an obscure corner of Owerri; that I converted my modest country home into a gallery. In my house, you speak the language of arts from my bedroom, to the kitchen, to the parlour and to the sit out.

How do we sustain art and how do art sustain us?

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Paddy Obinna’s habitat is a million dollar museum! This gallery of arts at Emekuku is an institution you meet in an arena that beacons on its guests to stay longer. I preserve what is left of Imo Arts and Artifacts. Creative potentials are hidden under the belly of my Art Gallery. It’s Imo Silicon Valley or creativity hub that needs the attention of all.

There is need for friendship and partnership, good resource, financial, technical and material, build infrastructure to link Africans together, from West Africa to East Africa, from North Africa to South Africa and beyond, promote trade, tourism and regional economic integration.

 After all, development of Africa will come from within and not from Western metropolises, neither from oriental benevolence nor from outside aid. Africans reviewing each other, capitalising on our achievement and good best practices, knowing one another better and far more deeper than ever before.

Tell us about art and culture

I am a school of art, a movement by myself. My works range from painting artistic images, wood carvings, carvings on canvasses, literally outings, to articles, historical events and PAJOB Games. My gallery has made my nation proud and has placed the Igbo and the black race on a global exhibition.

Nigerians and ECOWAS Sub-regional Artists are proud of me. My art gallery is synonymous/for lovers of God’s natural talents, the divine gifts of artistry and paintings. My PAJOB Games takes you to the world, “Play and Learn” character game turned into a kind of Ludo Game, makes the child develop a knowledge based personal hygiene and character moulding initiative. The Soma Sum and odd games teach multiplication (x), division ( /), subtraction ( -), and addition (+). Way to God game brings the players close to their bible, to the various chapters and verses and eventually turns them into Bible students by teaching them morals; the next is the “sieve fight corruption game”.

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Talk about art challenges and give recommendations

Our fears are that the present generation of our youths have lost their historical bearings. They have been sold to perpetual slavery. The youths need an urgent return into their past to reconnect their future.

What are your pieces of advice to the youths?

Everybody like me is born creative. Young people must begin to discover the gifts God has imbibed in them and discover their creativity. When you discover your passion and develop that passion, it becomes creativity. If you have a passion for beautiful things, go for beautiful things.

 If you have a passion for value, you build on values. If you are an artist, you build an artist in many areas of life. It doesn’t end with being a painter or a sculptor. An artist can be a musical artist. If you discover your passion, you become a passion person. You start from the beginning to develop a passion. You apply knowledge of things that are in you, the gifts God has given you.

We must stop this idea of wanting to go to the university, passing through without university but the university passing through us as young persons. We are too many in this world and too many young people in this country. We graduate in a state by 100,000 people every year.

You have no skill, yet you have passed through the university. We must begin to develop skills that can employ us without our being employed by any other person. This country, as far as I know doesn’t have enough places of work for our very young people. Let me keep repeating myself until I am heard.

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All that I appeal to the government to do is to try and empower everybody in this country. Empowerment means, giving you the wherewithal. Bring every one of the 200million people of Nigeria to the starting block, forget dash money, trading money, school money, and call it anything.

Government should give every person in this country Nigeria N1, 000,000  and in a family of five, you have five million naira. You can start your own cooperative, a family entrepreneur cooperative in whatever commodity for consumption or industry and you, the graduate can now become ‘the manager’ because dependence on where you are going to be employed will be absolutely impossible.

 Since there can  never be enough establishments to place our millions of youth graduates, there will still be enough for public works and remodelled governance.

The idea should not be jaundiced with inflation theories or why should everybody answer a millionaire. We should apply the lessons of the master who gave equal talents (money) to his servants. Let’s try out new ways of giving everyone chance to live and survive in this blessed country, Nigeria.

You have no other country but this. Nigeria is your country and as far as we are concerned, and as far as I know, the best you can do for yourself is to help yourself because heaven helps those who help themselves. So expectations from the other person must be reduced to minimal because what you are looking for, some other person is also looking for it.

Thank you very much. Let your friend be your ear, as a young person. Let your hand be your skill and use your hand to feed yourself.

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