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The White Elephant…

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By Denrele Animasaun

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?” – Mahatma Gandhi

A week or so ago, news filtered through that the 37-year old National theatre in Iganmu, Lagos is to be converted into a five-star hotel. It is understood that President Jonathan has approved the development of the National Theatre land, in writing. So, it seems if it is to be believed the plan is to have in the theatre’s place, a five-Star Hotel, shopping mall, multi-level car park, land and water restaurant and offices…

Who would have thought that this proposed plan will gather such speed and polarise different camps, those for and against. The National Theatre has come to represent all that was once good but now decaying and ruined in Nigeria. Am I being dramatic? Perhaps not, take a  good look around you, we do not maintain our buildings to a good standard, once it’s up and  standing, there is  no commitment to maintain and ensure for future generations.

It comes crumbling down and we just move on to the next best thing. We have become a disposable society, we do not stick to things too long, we use and then abuse. For the uninitiated, the National Theatre was  the  pride of Nigeria and the black nations. The world sat up and noticed when Africa is united and put on a show of such diversity and pride. Nigeria played host to the World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture in 1977 (FESTAC ’77) and it was our nation’s pride.

No wonder the art and culture camp are up in arms against the sale of the structure, they argue that the National Theatre was primarily established for the preservation, promotion and presentation of the nation’s art and culture.But like I said,we use and abuse  then every intention goes out of  the window. For the these Art and Culture custodians they feel aggrieved that the  President does not grasp the appreciation of arts and culture in  Nigeria.

Take  it anyway you  want, but the theatre has been in decay and ruins for so long and it fails to be used for the purpose it was originally created. And yes, it’s true that we don’t know what we’ve got until we lose it. But it’s also true that we don’t know what we’ve been missing until it is lost. Whatever, the final fate of the National Theatre, the decline of a once loved structure have clearly seen better days and that no one can argue with that.

In its hey days,the National Arts Theatre had a main hall, a conference/banquet hall, exhibition halls, two cinema halls and a VIP lounge. For us during that time, it was a grand affair and we always make an event of going to the Theatre.We picnicked on the grounds,we meet and socialise around the Theatre.

I have been to the theatre many times in the past, watched films, plays and even organised one of my fashion shows in the very place. I remember it was a  place to be  seen and there were many creative people and groups who came in to showcase their work but that  was in the  past. Now it stands derelict and desolate.

The ground has become a dumping ground and a no go area. Most of the facilities have broken down, I mean really, broken down. The complex had no power for many months, it plunged the place into eerie silence, the roof is sinking and structurally it is unsafe. So what is left for this grand old building? It is on a prime site, with   a great view and it has got a lot of history.

Whoever is taking this on, I really hope it is for the right reasons, not for enriching some individual pockets or exchanging hands for political favours and that the undertaking should be clear that is an area reserved for the  appreciation of  Nigerian arts and culture. It is only right.

I do hope that it does not end up  in the personal portfolio of one of  the political grandees. These should be for the people of Nigeria and not for the few and over privileged. Most importantly,we cannot and should not replace one edifice with another. This is a chance to build anew and make the area heritage site. This takes careful consideration and consultations by the interested parties and all transaction has to be transparent   and above board

For the love of  posterity and history,those who have decided to take on this task of replacing the National Theatre with whatever building, must know that we are losing a part of  our  heritage  and it will be just to have a lasting building in its place that will last over  three decades.

Can’t we consider the Lagos State Governor as an owner as a first option? They should know what to do.

Encore -More of a good thing…..

“By lifting the weakest, poorest among us, we lift the rest of us as well.” – Bill Clinton

There is a lot to be said about Rauf Aregbsola. He has changed Osun state and for the better. The Governor’s administration has and continues to deliver significantly on the six-point Integral Action Plan to transform the state.  So I heard that the 322 ward chairs of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) have endorsed him for a second term. Well,why won’t they? He has showed an outstanding performance and the party will be misguided not to endorse him.

I think majority of Osun State people would have clearly done that anyway come  next  election. If the Ogbeni has to be rewarded, he has earned every bit of his salary.  With the  success of  ; O’YES, O’REAP, O’MEAL, O SCHOOLS programme, the O’RENEWAL, the  road construction, and the maintenance projects .

The  governor, to me, seemed very driven and will not rest on his laurels and continuously make more improvements and development to the lives of  the people of Osun State. The last time I wrote about the governor,many of the readers agreed that he has transformed the state and while there are some still grumbling of his  way of  working but his track record which I think ,it speaks for itself. More people are in work,better transportation, school children have a better quality of education and the economy  has improved manifold.

If anything,the other state governors should follow suit. Nigerians deserve capable government; and we have the right to use our vote as we see fit.

The people of Osun should be proud that they got it right and they have the right man at the helm.

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