By Lari Williams

Who will be the guests in the ‘five-star hotel’ built in the national theatre complex? My guess is as good as yours, Businessmen, Tourist, Politicians. Let’s stop there, suppose all these people want to unwind before they turn in after the day’s work, what do they turn to before they turn in?

*A cultural performance by the National Troupe of Nigeria
*A cultural performance by the National Troupe of Nigeria

Nothing, nothing whatsoever because the stage would have been buried as the thing of the past. The five hundred [500] main bowl of the national theatre has been unused for two decades. That would have been of interest to the private producer.

The other two six hundred [600] seaters are unrealistic and would make no sense nor hope for the producer to invest five hundred thousand naira [500,000] for a six hundred seater auditorium to entertain the masses, what do you charge as gate fee? To recover that amount per night? So no private producer would touch the national theatre for business. So with no business, the management made sure the coast is clear for hotel business and the clientele is mobile and ready.

Are we promoting culture or destroying the art? Without the arts, Tourism is a mere desert walk. There is so much that could be done to keep art alive and vibrant, and swell the economy of this nation as it has done for America, Japan, India, Italy where the art provide so much and attract so much.

I suggested in my open letter to the president while thanking him for his interest, support and generosity to the art sector, that the money should go towards the building of a national hall of fame, this singular move will provide work for thousands of artists E.g. Sculptors, Painters, Architects, Interior decorators, Movie makers, dancers, Musicians, on regular basis for at least five years opportunity for restructuring of the industry as it concerns the practitioners.

The stage which is the cradle of entertainment and performing art will get a chance to embrace the sophistication of theatre tradition as the American stages commercial flavours of ‘Broad way’ to ‘Off Broad way’ and to Off Off Broad way gross annually over 75 billion dollars from ticket sales, bookings, daily regular shows in several theatre auditorium keeping the performers working on stage and feeding the screen with seasoned actors.

The screen, big and small are kept busy with artists ruled by the powerful ‘Equity’ the actors union Europe and America.

It is sad that the government has not been interested enough in the arts. Nigeria loses no less than twelve trillion naira every year by not exporting our culture around the world. That could be done if the culture minister could liaise with our ambassadors all over the world. If 50 fine artistes’ could be invited to exhibit their works yearly in the different cities in the countries where they serve.

Performing artists invited round other parts and sculptors, musicians, tours linked with other embassies or what better way to introduce the country to the world? And perhaps a better and honourable way to make the extra from travels and allowances rather than planning contracts for hotels and killing the culture.

There are several other ways to improve the Arts sophistication ready for the commercial demands of today’s world art market. The world needs the artists more so, for therapeutic reasons as well as information about her people and their style.

The country Nigeria herself needs the artists to continue the nation building information and entertainment which i describe as ‘Edutainment’.

Nigeria needs rebranding and the Arts can do it best. The social growth of the nation will be stunted if we do not restructure the entertainment industry and invest in the growth of it. Save the industry from sinking into nothingness. Spare part dealers took over with the proliferation of home movies. That should be treated along with copyright matters, pirating e.t.c.

We need the art minister to fight for the artists’ future. What with no gratuity, no insurance or assurance for the lives of artists who give their lives and soul to the service of pleasure for humanity. Does any minister of art or culture know the grave of Ambrose Campbell?

The man who entertained Nigerians into independence. The official musician at the independence ball. Fela Sowande, the first Nigerian classical musician who scored the Nigerian folk music symphony, died and buried in America.

Orlando Martins, the foist Nigerian professional film actor who performed alongside an American president, Ronald Reagan. Do we remember Hubert Ogunde? Nigerian father of modern theatre.

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