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Culture Minister’s visit and other matters arising…

By McPhilips Nwachukwu
The first official visit of the newly appointed Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Abubakar Sadiq Mohammad to parastatals of the Ministry , penultimate week in Lagos was an important eye opener to the immensity of tasks   expected of the Minister  before the expiration of the 2011 national election year.

The facility check and tour round of parastatals, which has become an entrenched ritual for every newly appointed political or civil officer saddled with the responsibility of carrying out a State or National assignment, on its own terms, also is seen to provide for critical stakeholders a rare platform to understanding the visions and challenges that organizations face in the discharge or realization of their organizational goals.

Therefore, Sadiq Abubakar’s recent tour of  Lagos’s parastatals of the Ministry of  Tourism , Culture and National Orientation, which began  at the nation’s apex culture home, the National Theater at Orile , Igaunmu through the National Troupe, National Council  for Arts and Culture, National Gallery of Art, National Council for Museum and Monument and terminated at the Center for Black African Arts and Civilization revealed the enormous tasks at hand for the new Minister, expected  to be addressed before the expiration of the present regime.

First challenge to be looked into by the Sadiq Abubakar leadership is the problem of accommodation and facility rehabilitations faced by many of the parastatals in the Ministry. A tour of the physical facilities of the National Theatre, National Gallery of Art and the Centre for Black African Arts and Civilization revealed the dire accommodation needs faced by these agencies.

For instance, the tour round of the National Theatre complex conducted by the Acting General Manager of the Centre, Yusufu Atai exposed the sorry State, which the magnificent edifice still suffers despite some rehabilitation efforts undertaken by previous regimes.

Apart from the fact that various locations of the roof of that monumental architectural wonder built by Bulgarian architects leak profusely when it rains, most of the technical facilities in the building like the Central air conditioning system is in a state of disrepair and its technology, near outdated.

Tai told the visiting Minister, while conducting him round the complex that,” it is  also on record that electrical panels and facilities, public address systems, the central air conditioning system all went obsolete. Particularly, the water chilled central cooling system was out of vogue because the technology is not friendly with the environment as the Freon gas depletes the ozone layer and the companies that produced the facility have packed up.”

The situation of the National Gallery of Art is even more pathetic. Pathetic in the sense that it neither has a permanent home anywhere neither in Lagos nor Abuja. Not even, Abuja, where it has it’s headquarter. The situation at the Lagos office, where it is a tenant to the National Theatre is saddening and discouraging.

A close check of the facility of the National Gallery of Art reveals that it does not only suffer from a sever accommodation problem as members of Staff of the Centre make use of open spaces, some kind of make shift offices in the cultural hall and under the trees around the Aina Onabolu office of the gallery, while the few that have office spaces in the leaky building do neither have tables nor desk to sit and work, talk less, of enjoying the luxury of fans or air conditioning..

On assumption of duty as the Acting DG of NGA, Muku Abdullahi in the company of Chairman of Board of the gallery, Peter Eze literarily cried when on tour round of the facilities of the gallery, he found out that the roofs do not only leak, but that rains have destroyed most of the art works parked in very stifling compartments of the complex that is designated to serve as national collection of contemporary Nigerian arts.

It beholds on the new Minister, Sadiq Abubakir to look critically into the threatening accommodation problem of the gallery and use his good office to address the matter with the urgency it requires, even as effort is quickened to see to the approval of a permanent location for the National Gallery of Art office in the nations headquarter of Abuja.

The case of the Centre for Black African Art and Civilization, CBAAC is also as sever as that of the National Gallery of Arts. Since last year, when the agency established by the Federal Government to take custody of all the materials used by the 59 countries, which participated in the 2nd World Festival of Arts and Culture, popularly known as FESTAC 77 moved shop to Broad Street, it has become more imperative that the agency that  holds in its vault, rich material and immaterial products of that cultural fiesta needs a larger space against the present location, where it is still tenant of the National library of Nigeria, to showcase its fascinating cultural, historical and intellectual resources.

Being the intellectual power house of the Federal Ministry of  Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, CBAAC requires a befitting accommodation space to house its rich libraries for books and audio visual materials, exhibition halls for its arts, crafts and antiquities, a bookshop space as well as good conference halls.

As the Minister sits to reflect on these demands, which are in no way exhaustive of the problems of other parastatals like the National Museum and Monument, National Troupe, Nigerian Tourism and Development Commission,  National Institute for Cultural Orientation, National Council for Arts and Culture, he should also take it up as a historical challenge , no matter how short his tenure may last, to bring to a resolution the critical demands being made by stakeholders in the Ministry about the clamoring for the passage into laws of the National Endowment for the Art, the Tourism Master Plan and the National Policy on the Art.


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