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Coup or conspiracy in the culture house?

By McPhilips Nwachukwu
EFCC’s swooping of parastatal heads on allegation of misappropriation of funds and subsequent arraignments in courts without regards to due processes only but point to the fact that there is either a conspiracy from some quarters to achieving some selfish agenda or that the actions are intended to carry out a clean sweep exercise in the Ministry with the aim of replacing present professional administrators with political cronies.

Last week, the director of the National Gallery of Art, Joe Musa was according to our source invited to the EFCC’s office in Abuja for interrogation, which according to this source, has been going on with the director general since January.

The National Theatre.. centre of intrigues?
The National Theatre.. centre of intrigues?
On getting to the office of the high profile crime fighting body, the director general in the company of four other of his directors including, the director, education, research and publication, Dr Tandoh Kweku, director of finance, Olusegun Ogunba, deputy director administration, Elizabeth Oparaugo and special assistant to the director general, Chinedu Obi, were delayed for about two hours after which, it was said that court charge papers were handed to them as they were there then driven in a car straight to Lugbe High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja Judicial Division.

At the Court presided over by Justice Olukayode Adeniyi, the five of them were arraigned on a 12 count charge of criminal misappropriation, criminal conversion of over N1 billion, falsification of accounts and illegal opening of accounts. While nobody questions the power of the highly respected EFCC in the probing and arraignment of persons suspected of criminal offences to court, the fire brigade approach, with which these presumed innocent citizens, who lawfully visited EFCC on invitation were subsequently charged to court without following laid down legal procedures is an action that gives room for suspicion.

The question becomes, why would these people be arraigned in court without giving them the privilege of seeking legal assistance from their lawyers? Why would they be charged so hurriedly to court on the last day of the legal year? What was really intended to achieve by that action? Be that as it were, the concern of this view point, is to point out some of the damages that the present actions, which from every indication point to an orchestrated plan towards general firing and possible replacement of present parastatal heads with pencilled down names from some highly placed political quarters and power managers portend for the culture establishment.

Starting with the arraignment and possible firing of Joe Musa to the rumour of intended splitting of the National Theatre with the intension of appointing a new executive director from a sister parastatal to head the split National Theatre, the hand writing on the wall becomes very clearer that there are some hatched ugly plans to again, snuff life out of the already revived comatose culture ministry.

It is important to reiterate here that one of the gains of the reform policies of Yar’Adua led government; and especially for the culture sector, is the realization of the importance of appointing professionals in the headship of some critical sectors of the nation’s businesses. And one of the sectors that benefitted immensely from that decision is the Tourism and Culture Ministry.

That Yar’Adua’s innovative policy produced the calibres of Professor Ahmed Yerima, renowned academic, theorist, playwright, actor/director as the chief executive officer of the newly merged National Theatre/ National Troupe, Tunde Babawale, renowned political economics, manning the affairs of the Centre for Black African Art and Civilization and Joe Musa, young dynamic professional artist, a first class graduate of fine art of Ahmadu Bello University with immense innovative and creative suave heading the National Gallery of Art.

The appointment of these three people to head these three critical parastatals of the Culture Ministry have really proven that the affairs of intellectual establishment, such that these prarastals represent are better handled by those, who are not only trained in related fields of study but also have deep knowledge of what the industry is all about. For instance, from 2006 to 2008, a space of two years that Musa took over the headship of the National Gallery of Art, every stakeholder
in the sector, who is not economical with truth will testify that there have been positive revolutions in the visual art industry.

International limelight

For the first time in the life of the parastatal, the visual art has been taken to international lime light. Beside taking Nigerian artists to international art programs like DaKart festival and international art expos like Chicago, New York and Las Vegas expos, a regional art summit was also introduced last year called, African Regional Art Summit and Exhibitions, ARESUVA, which brought together more than 50 African countries to the capital city of Abuja for a robust international art exhibition, conference and business. Through activities of the Musa led Gallery, a third tier art market has been created for Nigerian art industry and artists and stake holders now see potentials in the business side of their artistic productions.

So also are achievements recorded in CBAAC, with both local and international programmes taking place in the spirit of the establishing philosophy of the centre. Since the inception of Babawale, international conferences have taken place in Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Cameroon, Republic of Benin and Niger Republic, where international scholars have brain stormed on different issues on pan African history, culture and development.

Interestingly too, the merging of the National Theatre and National Troupe of Nigeria on the advice of former minister of culture, Amb. Frankline Ogbuewu, has made it possible for the hitherto under utilized facility breathe new lease of life as the new merger partner, National Troupe becomes the revenue engine that now services the financially atrophied National Theatre.

It is to the credit of Yerima that the merger story has so far recorded some success because he brought to the merger project his own wealth of experiences to bear on the job. While nobody questions the power of the minister or Presidency to affecting changes, it will however be disastrous if the successes so far recorded in the sector are allowed to be rubbished because of organizational politics as one is want to believe in the case of the National Gallery or because of the tall ambition of some people , who want to lay pipes for the syphoning of public fund with which to finance political ambitions.

If there must be adjustments and replacements in the Ministry, it will be better for the current Minister, who appears not to have any deep knowledge of the Ministry to maintain the status quo by appointing professionals with relevant experiences to continue to man the affairs of these parastatals.

If he allows himself to be swayed by the arguments of Civil Servants, who feel that they have been shot changed through the appointment of members of professional bodies or because of some hidden or overt political ambitions, he would be doing a great disservice to the culture establishment. Ambition is important , but legacy is more important.


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