Thursday, August 30, 2007

CORA STAKEHOLDERS' WORKSHOP ON NIGERIA PRIZE FOR LITERATURE

IMAGES FROM THE NIGERIA PRIZE

1. Sectio of the panel: from left Folu Agoi, Toni Kan, Nike Sdesuyi, Deji Toye (Moderator), Grace Daniel, Mrs Adenubi
2. Okediran
3. Mbanefo
4. Cross Section of audience
5. Mrs Adenubi, Raji and Ewenla











The COMMITTEE FOR RELEVANT ART, CORA on Wednesday August 29, staged a a StakeHolders' Workshop on the Nigeria Literature Prize, which is currently in its fourth year, and the end of its phase 1. the theme of the workshop held at the Oceanview Restaurant, Victoria Island Lagos with about 100 corporate executives, artistes, culture enthusiasts and workers in attendance, was "The Social Environment of Business: Cultural Promotion As Corporate Social Responsibility (The Nigeria Prize Experience)". The workshop featured three paper presentations and a discussion session that featured eight panelists. Moderated by CORA's Deji Toye, the panel included the writer, Literature activist, Mrs Mobolaji Adenubi; Dr Wunmi Raji, a writer and lecturer at Obafemi Awolowo University, Mr Tony Kan, writer and Bank executive, Ms Nike Adesuyi, Poet, Literature activist, Ms Grace Daniel, ex-chairperson Women Writers of Nigeria, WRITA, Mr Folu Agoi, Chairman ANA Lagos, Mr Chike Ofili, poet, Journalist and Marketing Specialist and Mr Ropo Ewenla, member CORA and a Culture Activist.
Below are the three papers presented at the event.

PAPER 1:

CORA statement at the review of the NLNG Award For Literature

When the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas(NLNG) Limited announced the institution of awards for Literature and Science in 2004, a lot of people could be forgiven for asking: What have these to do with Gas?
NLNG has maintained that this is about recognizing excellence in the intellectual sphere, but for a petroleum company, which showed up in Nigeria only in the twilight of the 20th century, two of the awards of the last three episodes can be used to re-calibrate the proverb that says: be careful about throwing a stone in the market place, it can hit your very own child.
The very first edition of the science award went to a thesis on leak detection in a network of pipelines carrying fluids. The study derived a criterion for detecting leaks in any network of pipelines transporting gas or liquid, storage tanks or processing systems and transport of blood in human arterial network.
Last year's award for Literature went to a drama piece that interrogates the militia question in an average family in the marshlands of the Niger Delta basin. That piece suggests to us, tellingly, that in every household in Ijawland and probably Itsekiri, Urhobo, Andoni, Ogoni, Ibibio, Ibani, there's a raging debate on the quality of governance in our country and how people ought to respond to it, all at individual, familial and communal levels.
In just three years, the NLNG award has thrown up significant ideas in both the science of monitoring fluid flow as well as the humanist aspect of engaging the rampaging militancy in the region.
This is important item in NLNG's CSR curriculum vitae. Let me make it personal. I have worked in the petroleum industry for 19 years, not as a Public Affairs personnel, not as an HR person but in the core area of geology and operations. At no time in these years in the petroleum industry, has the industry witnessed so much effort in either pipelay and pipeline maintainance on the one hand and an incessant militancy aiming to disrupt the flow on the other.
When Nigeria commissioned her largest power plant, the Egbin Thermal station in 1985, it was sufficient to simply feed it with High Pour Fuel Oil, which was hauled in by vehicular transportation, even though the cheaper feedstock was natural gas. It would take the commissioning of the Escravos Lagos Gas Pipeline (ELP) years later, to make that step change. Now, we are so used to gas that the nation goes into darkness whenever the gas bearing pipes to Egbin suffer any form of disruption. In the last eight years, we have changed from a net hydro electricity supply market to a gas -to -wire market. As we speak, 11 gas-wire plants are under construction, the largest electricity supply effort on the continent. Conversely, only one hydroelectricity plant is under construction. The key issue is delivering gas to these facilities amid the tension that the Niger Delta is today. The outlay for construction of pipelines, monitoring and maintenance are some of the most critical in facility delivery in the petroleum industry. The gas that is sold by NLNG is gathered in fields all over the 75,000 sq km delta basin and delivered at Bonny through a network of pipelines. Companies are engaging communities more than ever to monitor these pipelines. Which is why the work of Kingsley Abhulimen, a doctoral student of University of Lagos and his supervisor, Professor Alfred Akpoveta Susu, who won the first LNG science prize for their work on Real-Time Computer Assisted Leak Detection/Location Reporting and Inventory Loss Monitoring System is symbolic of the impact of the NLNG prize. As we also know, the National Question as regards to control of the resources and the economic health of communities that inhabit the delta basin, the largest deltaic store of oil and gas on the planet, is what Ahmed Yerima treats in Hard Ground, the drama that won last year's Literature award
So if the NLNG decides to stop the award today, it could jolly well say, well, we've made an impact in these years. We have contributed so robustly to ideas that shape our industry.
But the reason we are here today is to see that the NLNG continues the prize, in particular the Literature award.
Before this afternoon's discussion starts, CORA wants to make the point that, pipeline and militancy aside, this award has helped shape the award system in Nigerian literature. Our distinguished panelists here, including the President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, who was until two months ago, an elected member of the Nation's most representative legislative body, will discuss what this means.
CORA asks for the NLNG prize to be continued. The robust conversation that has grown around the prize has highlighted the challenges of the infrastructure of the book trade. The intensity of the debate has been such that NLNG staff might wonder "why have we gotten ourselves into this?". A glib response would be "what do you expect when you institute an award for the chattering classes? But a more fundamental answer to their misgivings would be: Congratulate yourselves for helping to galvanise the National Conversation.


PAPER TWO:

THOUGHTS ON THE NIGERIA PRIZE FOR LITERATURE

Being a paper presented at the stakeholders' workshop on the Nigerian Literature Prize on the theme: The Social Environment of Business: Cultural Promotion As Corporate Social Responsibility (The Nigeria Prize Experience), organised by the Committee for Relevant Art, CORA on August 29, 2007 at the Oceanview Restaurant, Victoria Island, Lagos. by DR. WALE OKEDIRAN, NATIONAL PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIAN AUTHORS, ANA.

A. BACKGROUND:
The Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Corporation on February 9, 2004 after a series of meetings with stakeholders in the Science and Literary sectors, formally inaugurated the Nigeria prize for literature and the Nigeria prize for science.
Apart from being part of the organization's social responsibility programmes, the NLNG also believed that the Literature Prize "will improve the quality of writing, editing, proof reading, and publishing in the country with spill over effects in newspapers, magazines and broadcasting".
The company also believed that promoting writers is certainly a way of promoting writing, literacy and good reading culture among Nigerians.
In establishing the science and literature prizes Siene Allwell-Brown, the general manager, External Relations had this to say on the vision of the NLNG "Our vision is to ensure that no scientist or writer is viewed with scorn and that those who aim at excellence in these fields will live and work with dignity, with a sense of self esteem and confidence in their future". In his reaction, the managing Director and CEO of the company observed thus: "the aim of promoting The Nigeria Prize for Literature is to stimulate authorship and scientific thinking, reward creativity and bring Nigerian writers to public attention".

B. WRITERS AND LITERACY PRIZES.
Perhaps, no other literary activity has created so much excitement, controversy and discourse than literary prizes. While some teachers of creative writing will quickly remind their students that a literary prize should not be the main reason for any writer to write, it is obvious that winning a literary prize has always been many writers desire. Apart from the financial support which such prizes usually give to their winners, literature is always enriched by the keen competition of literary competitions. It is for this reason that Literary Prizes the world over are keenly contested for and accompanied with a lot of publicity and commercialization. It is obvious therefore that even when writers don't write for prizes, winning such prizes can go a long way in elevating a writers literary credentials.

C. SOME CONTENTIOUS ISSUES ABOUT THE NIGERIA PRIZE FOR LITERATURE
Some of the criticisms against the four year old prize include the following.

i. THE NAME OF THE PRIZE.
At the onset of the award, the name of the prize was NLNG Literature Prize. However the decision by the NLNG to register the name of the Prize as The Nigeria Prize for Literature generated some controversy in certain quarters.
While two former ANA Presidents, Professor Femi Osofisan and Professor Olu Obafemi did not see anything wrong in this move, another former ANA President, Odia Ofeimun kicked against the decision. In his well publicized article The NLNG LITERATURE PRIZE CONTROVERSY; Before The Nigerian Prize, Ofeimun referred to the decision to register the prize as "selling national patrimony for a mess of pottage". As he put it, " Even if we are all now in the age of liberalization, privatization and deregulation, our identities have not yet been so privatized, liberalized and deregulated to the point where we must celebrate a private company's right to use the state apparatus outside the dictates of market forces to over-ride the capacity of other companies to compete with it" In saying this, Ofeimun emphasized his belief that any organization that has excelled in the promotion of a country's literary prize could be chosen by that country as its prime definer of that country's interest. This however in his view should be done after 'the proof' of such excellence and not 'by a crude resort to legislation outside due process'.
In looking at both sides of the argument, it seems to me that what the critics of the Legislation of the Literature Prize as epitomized by Odia Ofeimun wanted was an input by all Literary Stakeholders before the final legislation. This to me will be akin to the Public Hearing that is usually conducted by the National Assembly before a bill is passed into law. My take on this issue is that since members of the advisory council on the prize represented to a fairly good margin a cross section of the Literary sector in the country, one cannot accuse the Gas Company of having not consulted this very important sector of the Nigerian public. Secondly, before a company or name is registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission in Abuja, there are certain procedures that must be closely followed. One of these is the placement of a notice of intention in two national newspapers for a certain period of time in order to allow any criticism against such a move. It is also expected that the names of the Board of Directors and other officials of the proposed Prize body should also be listed. Once this is done as I expected it must have been done by the NLNG and no opposition was raised against the registeration exercise, then, the Gas Company can be said to have followed due process in registering the prize. Not being an act of parliament, registeration of names of companies and organizations are not expected to involve anything more than the aforementioned.

ii LIMITING CONTESTANTS TO WRITERS BASED IN NIGERIA.
Another contentious issue about the prize was the decision of the organizers to limit the prize to writers resident in Nigeria. A sizeable number of Nigerian writers and critics have advocated the inclusion of foreign based writers in the competition. While such arguments may have their merit, it is an established fact the world over that many Literary Prizes are instituted and administered for specific groups as such, the NLNG cannot be faulted for adopting its present stance.
For example, a cursory look through the Writers and Artists Year book in 2006 showed that out of the 180 prizes advertised for that year, more than 150 (about two thirds) were for specific writers writing in specific countries.
An important prize such as the Orange Prize for fiction is awarded for a full-length novel written in English by a woman of any nationality and first listed in the UK while the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize is given to an English Language writer of any nationality under the age of 35 years. The Somerset Maughan Awards are also for writers under the age of 35 who are British subjects by birth and ordinarily resident in the UK and Northern Ireland.
This same specificity exists in the Literature, Marketing and Places, the American version of Writers and Artists year book. Closer home, the Olaudah Equino Prize recently inaugurated in the US is meant for Nigerian writers based in the US.
If part of the aims of the NLNG to endow the Nigeria Literature Prize is to encourage and improve the local content of Nigerian literature, why must be the prize be opened to writers who are not based in the country?

iii COMPOSITION OF THE ADVISORY PANEL.
At the initial stages of the prize, some stakeholders in the Literary and Arts sectors were involved with the planning and subsequent execution of the prize. However, as time went on, some of these early collaborators soon left the fold under certain circumstances. This development has generated the assumption in certain quarters that the prize has been hijacked by the Gas Company. However, since some notable Nigerian writers, critics and teachers of literature such as Professor Ayo Banjo, Prof Charles Nnolim, Prof Theo Vincent, Abubakar Gimba, and Prof Zaynab Alkali, among others are still involved in the annual selection of the winners, it is obvious that the prize is still worthy of its name.

iv. THE PANEL OF JUDGES
Just as it is done by the some organizers of some Literary Prizes such as the Nobel Prize for Literature among others, the name of the judges in the Nigeria Literature Prize are still being kept secret. This has been done in order to protect the judges from being influenced by the contestants. Again, this decision has generated some degree of controversy. It is my humble belief that in order to maintain the confidence of writers in the prize, that the names of the judges be made public. This way, their competence and ability will not be in any doubt while their noble pedigree is a good antidote against protection.

v. THE 2004 PRIZE.
According to the panel of judges for the Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2004, none of the entries met the standard set by the judges as such, the 2004 prize was not given out. As the judges put it, "none of the entries was adjudged free of numerous faults observed because grave damage was done to the submissions through self publication with its attendant disabilities emanating from poor packaging". According to the panel of judges, 'the recourse to self-publication short circuits the traditional publishing processes and this gives rise to the numerous stylistic and grammatical flaws just observed" The panel further observed that many writers have not acquired the necessary education or undergone proper apprenticeship and training required for the high level performance expected from winning entries at this level.
The report of the panel of judges thus tallied with the various observations made by the jury of the Association of Nigerian Authors annual Literary Prize over the years concerning the carelessness in craft handling, poor editing, bad grammar, awkward constructions and general sloppiness in theme and techniques over the years. Matters even got to a head in two consecutive years when the prize for the drama was not awarded.
Strangely, however, rather than generate a critical reappraisal of how to resolve this serious state of Nigerian Literature many commentators were delirious with joy that they have been proved right about the poor state of Nigerian Literature without as much as diagnosing the problems and proferring solutions.
As if to corroborate the findings of the Panel of Judges, the Nasarawa State University Lecturer and critic, Sule E Egya in a June 2005 edition of The Ker Review did a review of the three shortlisted Novels for the 2004 Nigeria Literature Prize viz, CONDOLENCES by Bina Nengi-Ilagha, FATTENING HOUSE by Omo Uwaifo abd HOUSE OF SYMBOLS by Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo. After a detailed review of the said books, Sule concluded thus, "The three novels are plottally lame and cannot be called great novels. None of the novels, therefore, is a great work of literature. One of them, because of its language and style may be close to being so, and that is Adimora-Ezeigbo's HOUSE OF SYMBOLS. At least she has the conscious maturity of the novelist"
Putting himself apart from the self glorious array of literary critics, Professor Wole Soyinka mercifully diagnosed some of the problems causing the decay in the Nigerian Literature as a collapse of the Publishing industry in the country as far as it relates to creative works. It follows therefore that if Nigerian publishers refuse to publish creative works not because of their poor quality but because it is not as lucrative as text book publishing, it becomes therefore difficult to fault Nigerian writers if they have to recourse to self publishing.
It is also important to note that in the last decade or so, many publishing houses in the country have refused to recruit competent book editors due to the perceived economic downturn in the country. This development has no doubt robbed the writers of the invaluable input of these editors in the production of their works from ordinary manuscripts to great works of literature.
It should also be emphasized that the pervading problem of the poor state of the Nigerian Publishing Industry is a national problem which needs the urgent attention of all stakeholders in the writing business.
The main reason given for Nigerian Publishers for refusing to publish Nigerian writers is the high cost of books which has been dictated by the high cost of the raw materials that go into book production. For example, contrary to what was the vogue several years ago, no local Paper mill is producing any appreciable amount of newsprint in the country today. Secondly, having found it unprofitable to run, the Federal Government has just been able to privatize the three Paper Mills in the country at Oku Iboku in Akwa Ibom, Jebba in Kwara as well as the Iwopin Paper Mill in Ogun State. It is hoped hat these Paper Mills will soon be producing enough newsprints to make published books affordable and so make it profitable for Nigerian publishers to publish creative works.
It is equally important that the prices of other inputs that go into book production such as Printing ink, vehicles for distribution as well as printing plates and machines should be moderate enough for publishers to make enough profit from the final products.
Another serious problem is the poor skill of some of our writers which among other things is a consequent of the declining educational standard in the country. Again, just like the problem of publishing this is another national problem that demands urgent and quality solution.
We are all aware of the state of many of our public schools in the country viz-a-viz staffing, funding and over all discipline not only among students but teachers inclusive.
When a few weeks ago the Executive of ANA paid a courtesy call on Dr Jerry Agada, the Minister of State for Education who incidentally is the current ANA Vice President, we gave him a blueprint prepared by a sister organization, the Ibadan-based Educare Trust. It is our hope that the document which is a compendium on the pervading problems and possible solutions in the educational sector will be very useful in improving our educational sector.
Also, in reality of the observed shortcomings in the skills of our writers, the Association of Nigerian Authors has over the last two years embarked on a series of Writing Workshops in order to improve the skills of the writers. In spite of very limited funds for the exercise, ANA has in the last one and half years organized three Writing Workshops in different literary genres.
Apart from teaching our young upcoming writers the rudiments of writing, we have also attempted to educate them on the many possible gains of seeking proper editorial assistance before rushing their manuscripts to the press. It is our belief that even if a writer wants to self publish his or her work, every effort must be made to allow the document to be well critiqued and edited by a more seasoned writer or Literature teacher. It is on record that many of the successful authors especially in the western countries enjoy a lot of tremendous input from their editors without whom, we may not have some of the great books we have today. It is also a well known fact that the joy of many book editors and publishers the world over is to recognized for discovering and nurturing to stardom ward winning authors just like the great American book editor, Lex Mcloum who is credited with discovering four American Nobel Laureates!! It is for this reason that I strongly believe that every writer however seasoned can also benefit from the input of good editors who unfortunately are in short supply in many of our publishing houses today. It is hoped that as more and more of these workshops are held, the trickle down effect on the quality of our literature will soon be noticed.

vi. THE ABORTED READING TOUR
At the inception of the Nigeria Literature Prize in 2004, about thirteen writers on the 'Long List" were taken on a reading tour of the country.
Apart from the publicity that the tour gave to the competition, the tour also enabled members of the public to become more interested in Literature. In a country with a perceived poor reading culture, the tour improved to some extent the interest of the public in Literature. Unfortunately, this aspect of the competition has since been discontinued. It is hoped that with proper repackaging, the reading tour if reconvened, will go a long way in improving the overall success of the prize.
It is also important to mention the issue of the Poor Reading Culture in the country. Literary observers have given several factors for this development. These include, high cost of books, disconnect between the writers and the reading culture as well as competition between reading and other recreational pursuits among our youths such as football, home video and the internet. In the last few years the ANA as our own contribution to stem this ugly development a few years ago organized some Literary Campaigns all over the country. The project which involved reading sessions among secondary school students in the country as well as donation of books to school libraries unfortunately could not be sustained due to financial constraints. It is hoped that more stakeholders will continue to assist the government in this onerous duty of improving the reading culture in the country through the provision of books to schools and community libraries as well as organization of Literary campaigns all over the country.

vi. PRIZE ENDOWMENT
Having gone so far in running what has come to become one of the most successful Literature Prizes in the country, it will be advisable for the NLNG to put aside enough funds as a form of endowment for the continuation of the Prize. Apart from the fact that this will generate some additional funds with which to run the prize over the years, it will also insulate it from the vagaries of Company Managements which may not be very interested in continuing with the whole exercise.


CONCLUSION
It is obvious that the Nigeria Literature Prize as being organized by the NLNG despite the teething problems and a few shortcomings is a welcome development to our Literary milieu. As James Tar Tsaaior of the Centre for General Studies, Lagos State University put it in the June 2005 edition of The Ker Review, "In a fundamental sense, the institution of the NLNG Literature Prize constitutes a veritable testament of committed corporate citizenship on the part of the Gas Company and represents a rite of affirmation for the efflorescence of Nigerian Literature." It is the belief of Tsaaior and I agree that The Nigeria Literature Prize has come to challenge, stimulate and enrich the literary enclave and to send the imagination roaming wild on the vast landscape of our literature. As stated earlier, even though the main essence of writing is not to win Prizes, the NLNG Prize has come has "transformed the lean fortunes of Nigerian Literature just like an oasis in the Nigerian Literary desert.
More importantly however, is the fact that the Prize has been able to identify some of the problems militating against good Literature in the country.
It has also inspired the birth of a new wave of Literary Prizes in the country such as the Soyinka Prize, the Utomi Prize and the Olaudah Equiano Prize among others.
The organizers of the Prize have also been able to stimulate authorship, reward creativity and bring Nigerian writers to public attention
In its bid to improve the quality of writing, editing, proof reading and publishing in the country, it is hoped that the NLNG along with other stakeholders in the writing profession bring to the attention of government and other industrialists the urgent need to make the publishing industry viable and pro-creative writers. This way, the well identified self-publishing craze which has been identified as one of the causes of the poor quality of many of the entries for the Literature Prize will be substantially tackled.
The NLNG can also collaborate with other stakeholders especially the Association of Nigerian Authors in the organization of regular Writing Workshops which will also assist in improving the skills of Nigerian writers.


REFERENCES;
The Ker Review Vol 1 No 1 June 2005
The NLNG LITERATURE PRIZE CONTROVERSY; Before The Nigerian Prize by Odia Ofeimun, The Guardian 2004
LNG Literary Prize by Jahman Anikulapo The Guardian 2004
www.Nigeria LNG Prize




PAPER 2:

SO MUCH VENTURED; SO MUCH GAINED

Being a paper presented at the stakeholders' workshop on the Nigerian Literature Prize on the theme: The Social Environment of Business: Cultural Promotion As Corporate Social Responsibility (The Nigeria Prize Experience), organised by the Committee for Relevant Art, CORA on August 29, 2007 at the Oceanview Restaurant, Victoria Island, Lagos.; by IFEANYI MBANEFO; Head, Corporate Communications

Business cannot succeed in societies that fail.
There is no future for successful business if the societies that surround it are not working.
------- World Business Council for Sustainable Development

INTRODUCTIONS
The Lagos traffic makes me tremble. On some days, the traffic is so light, that you wonder whether people had quietly sneaked out of town or that some disaster had made people to abandon the town.
That is the good part, if you want to call it so.
The ugly part is that on most days, including weekends, the traffic is thick, heavy and, well, ugly. And for no good reason! On such days, I envy motorcades of government officials and the dreadful manoeuvres of bullion trucks.
Indeed, Lagos traffic passeth all understanding!
Wading through the Lagos traffic to be here underscores my respect for this august body. This notwithstanding, I will like to say how much it means to me to be with you today. And on behalf of Nigeria LNG Limited, let me express our deepest gratitude for the privilege of addressing the Committee for Relevant Arts (CORA) today, on a subject close to our hearts.
I am also quick to give thanks to the 24 eminent men and women currently serving on the literature and science committees and by extension the Nigerian Academy of Science and the Nigerian Academy of Letters. These eminent men, women and institutions have been our guide and pillar of support in this difficult, but interesting journey.

NIGERIA LNG LIMITED
Let me say a few words of introduction about Nigeria LNG Limited. NLNG is a company with a colourful history. Some would call it a paradoxical company, because:
It was long in coming, but enjoyed a short flight to the premier league of the LNG industry.
It is a global business located in a remote island on the tip of the Atlantic.
It is located in a country well known for its credit problems, but the company gets excellent ratings by world renowned credit rating agencies.
Its technology is known only to a handful of compatriots, yet 100 per cent Nigerian team started up the plant!
Indeed, the many seeming contradictions in the story of NLNG resolve themselves nicely to make the company a model and a beacon of hope in Nigeria, Africa and indeed the entire oil and gas world.
The story of its birth in the nadir of the military era and rapid growth is a lucent paradigm of economic resurgence in a leading Black country. Today, the success of Nigeria LNG Limited is celebrated in different circles for a myriad of reasons.
In the industry, NLNG is celebrated for:

Fast growth and high safety standards.
Building the projects in time and within budget. This was made possible by strong contractor consortium, strong shareholder support, proven technology, experienced technical advisers and continuous learning experience flowing to other trains.
Good operations run by experienced professionals complemented by quality recruitment.

In the community, particularly where we operate, it is praised for:
Excellent Community Relations activities that cut across key sectors of the economy, including education, infrastructure, health, and micro credit scheme.
Excellent Community Relations policies, which emphasise community good above personal benefits.
Right of way ownership maintenance contracts, which provide employment and sustenance for landowners for upwards of 22 years.
And its commitment to sustainable development

In government circles, for:
Commitment to Nigerianisation and Nigerian content practice strongly based on professionalism and competence
Being the arrowhead for putting out the gas flares in the Niger Delta
Being a huge source of revenue by monetising the country's abundant gas supply
Intervention in the supply of cooking gas to the Nigerian market to bring down prices
Being the arrowhead for diversification of the economy
Its leading role in technology transfer

PUBLIC TRUSTS (Corporate Social Responsibility)
Every citizen (ordinary or corporate) is expected to perform his civic duties. This, of course, includes payment of taxes and contributing to the growth and welfare of the society. This concept, for business, goes a lot deeper than meeting its civic obligations. It goes to the heart of business success, because business cannot succeed in societies that fail. The corollary is that the society cannot succeed without business. Put differently, the fortunes of business and society are tied together; neither of them can succeed without the other. Any surprise that countries spend so much time and efforts chasing foreign investments (please read business).
The society allowing business to carry on unhindered has been often misread as granting of licence to operate. It is not. It is society's contribution to mutual (business & society) good. On the other hand, business performing civic duties in the society (where it is, after all, a corporate citizen) has similarly been misread as philanthropy or Corporate Social Responsibility. It is not. It is business's contribution to mutual good.
These misclassifications have long stood in the way of progress, because both business and society continue to behave as benefactors rather than collaborators. They are often quick to withhold their grants for real and perceived slights.
On the whole, business has to earn its licence to operate, innovate and grow. The way business acts and is perceived is crucial to its success. Accountability, ethics, transparency, social and environmental responsibility and trust are basic pre-requisites for successful business and sustainable development. Society and business must create partnerships to deliver essential services. It is a shared responsibility.
The way to go about it is not in business making donations to the society, but treating community service as business. And for society to understand that a public trust cannot deliver public good over a long haul if it is not run on sound business principles.
At NLNG we are looking to better understand the inextricable linkages between business and community prosperity. We also seek to deploy the skills of business, flexible corporate 'philanthropy', and the rigour of the marketplace to develop systems-changing solutions to community problems. We believe that philanthropic capital, combined with large doses of business acumen, can build thriving enterprises that serve vast numbers of our people.
As a business, NLNG has developed rigorous methods for measuring the cost-effectiveness of its programmes and projects. And it similarly applies this rigorous measurement of cost effectiveness by conducting 'impact assessments' that measure society's progress and overall well-being of the community that can be attributed to its business. In doing this NLNG accepts that there may be results in the community that can't be accurately captured. These include such intangibles as the self-assurance, pride and hope that come with success.
So right from the onset, the company embarked on a bold experiment in social innovation to demonstrate that a different way of investing in non-profits would generate demonstrably superior outcomes to drive change in the sector. The ultimate judgment of its faith and investment in public trusts will not be known for years, but its efforts have triggered a quiet revolution that must be sustained.
It is this policy that underpins the legendary power supply in Bonny driven by NLNG. Power supply on Bonny Island which has remained at a consistent 98% availability for over five years is paid for by users, although there is a margin to accommodate those who are unable to pay and those whose electricity bills are less than N2000.
It negates the principles of sounds economic management to provide free utilities anywhere. It is impossible to sustain free utilities. This principle guides NLNG's investments in non-profits.
Here I would like to introduce the concept that in reality nothing is really free. Somebody has to pay for it.

THE NIGERIA LITERARY AND SCIENCE PRIZE
Recognising, therefore, that the country's education is in dire straits, NLNG sought to create conducive environment for learning and competition, reason why it promotes the Nigeria Prize for Literature and The Nigeria Prize for Science.
These awards were entrusted to The Nigerian Academy of Science and The Nigerian Academy of Letters and some eminent writers. These bodies assess the worth of scientific discoveries and contemporary works of literature and, in so doing, consolidate the needs of the publishing and academic worlds: boosting sales of the award winner and simultaneously effecting a change in the Nigerian canon.

SCIENCE PRIZE
The case for supporting science cannot be more urgent. Nigeria is a developing country with aspirations for joining the ranks of developed nations.
Only science and technology can make these dreams come true. And creating awareness, stimulating competition, rewarding and recognising excellence in these fields are conditions precedent, not only for realising these dreams, but for providing meaningful existence for the citizenry. Some of the reasons proffered by experts seeking greater recognition for science include that:
It will provide leaders with answers to crucial issues such as food shortages, fuel shortages, electoral malpractice, poverty, health and environment;
It will encourage the authorities to take science-based decisions;
It will bring about improvements in the standards of living;
Support for science in a Third World country will help resolve myths that tend to cripple development.
And by instituting a significant prize for science NLNG seeks to bring science and scientists to public attention, save them from their current low rating in national estimation and avail the nation of their immense benefits.
Science can only be relevant if it is supported to play vital roles in the society. A major pillar of support for science comes through recognising and rewarding excellence in science and creativity.
LITERATURE PRIZE
The case for instituting a worthy prize for literature was more straightforward. For decades, Nigerian writers bemoaned their fate. They griped in newspapers, conferences, and workshops about the neglect their noble profession had fallen into. They were unhappy with the declining levels of education and literacy; unhappy with the loss of a reading culture; and for good reasons, sad that writing and publishing in a nation that gave the African Continent its first crop of literary giants had all but become lost art.

FOUR YEARS OF THE NIGERIA PRIZE FOR LITERATURE
Now, let me deal with the issue on the agenda today. Four years of The Nigeria Prize for Literature, has it achieved its purpose?
It will be presumptuous of me to think that I know the answers, so I will not attempt that. I will however attempt to clarify our intentions in setting up this prize, hoping in the process, to instigate academic discussions on the gains of this prize. I will also, where I can, point out the similarities between our prize and other great prizes.
I am aware that four years is barely enough time for the gains of any prize to crystallise. After all, the great Booker Prize did not find its niche till early 1970s.
One thing all great prizes share is controversy. Let's take a count. There are people who think that Alfred Nobel was not a worthy man to institute a prestigious prize. There are those who think that Joseph Pulitzer was similarly unworthy to institute the Pulitzer Prize. There are those who think that the Man Group, a stock broking firm, has no business promoting the prestigious Man Booker Prize and the Man Asian Literary Prize. Do these remind you of the arguments by some of our compatriots that a natural gas exporting company has no business promoting literature prize?
I doubt if anyone is still wondering if NLNG is a fit and proper agency to establish a national prize. If anything, this prize has made a lot of impact, even if only to show our compatriots that sponsorship of science and literary prizes is a worthy venture. The rash of prizes coming in its wake attests to this.

A BUSINESS MODEL FOR THE PRIZES
What we set out to do
Writers, scientists, artistes, thinkers -- much like the rest of us -- bristle at being told what to do by people who supposedly didn't know better than they. This is why corporate organisations, not wishing to incur their wrath often make token gestures to them. But unlike these corporate bodies, NLNG decided that it was not enough to give money and then head off to choice seats in theatres and galleries. The company sticks around to make sure that its money goes to where it needs to go and does what it needs to do.
We set out with the idea that we could forge an equal partnership with the stakeholders. Our aim was to bring to the table our business approach that would generate a superior return by investing to build a strong, high-performing non-profit organisation, while the experts bring along their understanding and time-proven lessons learned from running arts and science foundations and non-profits.
In truth, the funding of the Arts is a delicate art. Unlike most other human activities, the Arts needs to preserve its integrity and still be able to reward its sponsors. It confers power and prestige on the benefactor. But it requires, even demands, patrons with cultivated tastes.
Because of the scale of wealth at their disposal and the sense of purpose they are expected to generate, the culture of philanthropy in Nigeria will change in the next few years, strongly influenced by the ways of some multinational corporations, like NLNG.
And in seeking to write the moral biography of their organisations, mega corporations will take steps to change the chemistry and character of philanthropy, by incorporating not just money, but also motives.
For The Arts, NLNG and others like it will represent the intersection of capacity and moral purpose. For the first time in history, the possibility and benefits of aligning broad material capacity of choice with spiritual capacity of character will be vividly defined for our people.
Many people believe that with mega corporations such as NNPC, SPDC, NLNG, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Total, UBA, First Bank, NBL, Lever Brothers, Coca-Cola the golden age of philanthropy is here. That is a possibility, but it won't happen without the thoughtful involvement of people on both sides of the supply and demand equation.
On the 'demand' side, running of public trusts will become far more professional and sophisticated than at any other time in history, based on the understanding that a golden age of philanthropy will not happen as a natural by-product of the growth in wealth. It will emerge as the result of an unprecedented growth in the quality and sophistication of managers of public trusts. This change in direction is what The Nigeria Prize for Literature represents.
The Nigeria Prize for Literature is intended as a public trust. And to be successful, it must avoid the current trend of 'living off its capital' by both the people in The Arts and philanthropic organisations.
Four years after its founding, The Nigeria Prize for Literature is turning our initial vision into a reality with tangible, compelling results and a clearer understanding of the truly formidable nature of this undertaking.

THE PRIZE
CURRENT STATUS
The following resolutions were reached with stakeholders (university teachers, writers, and journalists) at an exploratory meeting of 14th November 2003:
That high profile literary prize of significance and commensurate prestige be set up to stimulate creativity and promote indigenous literary culture
Cash value at take off $20,000 (now $30,000) to be reviewed regularly as occasion demands
Prize awarded yearly to alternate amongst four literary genres: prose fiction, poetry, drama and children's literature
NLNG to provide logistics and administration services, pending the time a BOARD OF TRUSTEES will be constituted
There will be publicity, advertising, press promotion and national promotional tours to promote the award
Prize will be awarded yearly at a prestigious ceremony to draw local and international attention to prize and winners
Only works published in Nigeria by Nigerians resident in the country qualify to participate.
In furtherance of these agreements, NLNG registered these prizes as charities with Corporate Affairs Commission pending the time the Board of Trustees will be set up.
Currently, the prize is run by a literature committee made up of 14 eminent writers, teachers, journalists and publishers.
Both prizes from call for entry to award ceremony costs a little over $400, 000 yearly. The breakdown is as follows:
Prize administration---judges' fees, committees' sittings, honoraria, external assessors, etc ($92, 000)
Advertisements in newspapers, radio and television ($76, 000)
Grand Award Night, food, music, entertainment, cocktails and hall rentals and decorations ($102,000)
Accommodation, for judges, committee members, special guests, transportation, etc ($63, 000)
Photography, still and video, documentary, etc ($12, 000)
Award ($60, 000)

FUTURE PLANS
In running the prize, Nigeria LNG Limited has adhered strictly to agreements with stakeholders. And has insisted on international best practice! For instance, in registering the prizes as charities, it emulates other international prizes such as:
The Nobel Prize administered by the Nobel Foundation with involvement of Swedish Govt.
Pulitzer Prize: Columbia Journalism School
Booker Prize: Booker Foundation
Caine Prize for African Writing: The Caine Prize Foundation
NOMA Award for Publishing in Africa: The NOMA Award Trust, UK
The next step may be setting up of an endowment to run the prize in perpetuity. To do this, the following conditions will be critical.
Adequate resourcing (both human & financial).
Management of the funds in such a way as to safeguard the economic base and guarantee the independence of the judges and Prize Committee
Engaging reputable local and foreign blue chip fund management companies that will apply field-tested investment approach that incorporates the strategy, rigour and analysis of private equity firms and apply it in a way that responds to the uniqueness of non-profit organisations.
To achieve this, the economics must be right and the right levels of investment and safeguards put in place. The last four years have served as learning curves for everyone. It brought a general understanding of the level of investment needed to build a strong prize and establish it as a major Nigerian brand. NLNG also worked in close collaboration with other world prizes to learn from their experiences and avoid pitfalls.
The Learning Curve
There are prizes that reward careers, such as the Nobel. There are prizes that reward promise, like the Whitbread first book. The Man Booker rewards the book that is published that year. But all prizes must aim at prestige, self-sufficiency and longevity.
In comparison, The Nigeria Prize for Literature is closer to the Man Booker Prize in that it rewards books rather than careers. The Nigeria Prize for Literature seeks to reward, every four years, the best books in prose, drama, poetry and children's literature.
Yet it seeks to establish a business model that imitates the Nobel Prize. NLNG has commissioned two consultancy groups -- IBTC and another team lead by consultants from University of Lagos -- to provide it with efficient business models and determine the level of investment that would endow the prize in perpetuity. When their work is done, and the Board of Trustees set up, competent fund managers will be engaged to grow the funds and ensure that it is well managed.
Similar to national trends, generating adequate funding to support arts activities is an ongoing challenge for non-profit arts organisations. So in response to funding pressures, arts organisations must make organisational adjustments and break with traditions and myths that hold them back. They should also be more willing to partner with business.
By establishing a strong financial foundation, arts organisations will be able to plan and prepare adequately for future development and economic ascent. Failure to adopt new business models or facilitate the expansion of the arts industry will inhibit its influence, detract from our quality of life, and adversely impact other industries such as tourism and creative services.
In Nigeria today, although the amount of public money invested in the non-profit arts is rather modest, reinventing the arts and presenting new offerings that speak to the public's evolving aesthetic tastes would stand the arts industry in good stead.
I therefore strongly believe that for the industry to grow and remain vital to the lives of compatriots, artists and arts administrators must strike a balance between arts and economics. Ignoring economics is no longer an option for writers. The degree to which the arts industry is supported by the community, business, and government will influence the kinds of developmental choices that are realistically available and their chances for success.

LAST WORD
I have presented all the facts of this great Prize as they are. I believe that some of us here are more enlightened than before on what this Prize is all about.
Even so, there might still a few among us who would still have need for some clarifications. I want to believe that I should be able to clear the doubts in any one's minds.
But we also have a listening disposition: I shall gladly go away with good suggestions from this gathering on how to advance the cause of The Nigeria Prize for Literature.
Maybe I can also open a debate:
Should the Prize strictly be a Nigerian affair or should it be expanded to include Nigerians in Diaspora?
Should we expand its horizon by making a West Africa affair, something akin to the West African Football Union (WAFU) Cup,
Or indeed a Nations Cup for all of Africa? After all it is the biggest prize on literature in the continent.

Thank you, dear friends.
Ifeanyi Igwebike Mbanefo

Thursday, August 23, 2007

NIGERIA LITERATURE PRIZE REVIEW



COMMITTEE FOR RELEVANT ART, CORA

NIGERIA PRIZE FOR LITERATURE: STAKEHOLDERS' REVIEW
WORKSHOP

THEME;
CULTURAL PROMOTION AS CORPORATE SOCIAL
RESPONSIBILITY
(THE NIGERIA PRIZE FOR LITERATURE EXPERIENCE)

DATE: WEDNESDAY AUGUST 29, 2007
TIME: 2PM
VENUE: OCEANVIEW RESTAURANT, (BY KURAMO WATERS, NEAR
EKO HOTEL), VICTORIA ISLAND, LAGOS

SPEAKERS:
1. REPS OF NLNG,
2. DR WALE OKEDIRAN, President of Association of
Nigerian Authors, ANA

PANEL
1. DR WUNMI RAJI (POET, LITERARY CRITIC)
2. MRS MOBOLAJI ADENUBI (NOVELIST)
3. TONI KAN (WRITER, LITERARY ENTHUSIAST)
4. CHIKE OFILI (POET)
5. NIKE ADESUYI (POET, FICTION WRITER)
6. FOLU AGOI (POET, CHAIRMAN ANA LAGOS)
7. ROPO EWENLA (ACTOR, POET, LITERARY ENTHUSIAST)
8. GRACE DANIEL (CHAIR, WOMEN WRITERS ASSOCIATION,
WRITA or Rep of the Organisation)




Four years ago, Nigeria LNG Limited invited writers,
journalists and university teachers to an exploratory
meeting, which gave birth to the prestigious
literature prize ---- The Nigeria Prize for
Literature.

At that meeting, it was agreed that the prizes will
rotate among four literary genres, namely: PROSE,
DRAMA, POETRY AND CHILDREN’S LITERATURE. This is the
fourth year of the prize, meaning that it has
completed the circle. It was also agreed that there
will be regular reviews with stakeholders.

The Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) is organising
the first stakeholder review workshop on the prize in
four years to examine its impact and to where
possible, make recommendations on changes and agree on
the way forward.

Being the biggest literary prize in Africa today,
panellists and discussants will be drawn from other
parts of the continent and other stakeholders in
Nigeria to ensure robust and fruitful deliberations.

As an esteemed member of the literary community, we
have taken liberty to request that you be a
participant at the event.
Other speakers include the representative of the
NLNG, as well as other notable members of the literary
community.
Thank you for your usual co-operation.
We count on your usual positive response to the
cause of our Literature and culture.


Jahman Anikulapo
Prog Chairman, CORA

FELA KUTI: A DECADE AFTER... HIGHLIFE PARTY

Monday, August 20, 2007

NATIONAL THEATRE CONCESSION: STAKEHOLDERS' MEETING, August 21, 2007

Images from the Stakeholders meeting on the proposed Sale/Concessioning of the National Theatre.

Caveat Emptor: PLEASE DISREGARD THE DATE ON THE PHOTOS

1. Cross Section of the audience
2.The Hightable: Dejumo Lewis, Hyccinth Obunseh (ANA), Deji Etiwe (NANTAP), Kolade Osinowo (SNA) Chairman of the meeting); and Jide Kosoko, President ANTP
3. Another cross section of the audience with the painter, poet, Chinwe Uwatse and Mrs Yetunde Aina of Jadeas Trust
4. From Left, former Administrator National Theatre, Dr Taiwo Ogunade, Steve James (GOND), Adebayo Salami (ANTP), Mufu Onifade, convener ,
5 Mufu Onifade, welcoming the meeting








COMMUNIQUE OF THE MEETING OF ALL MEMBERS OF SECTORAL ARTS BODIES UNDER THE UMBRELLA OF COALITION OF NIGERIAN ARTIST(E)S (CONA) AND STAKEHOLDERS HELD ON TUESDAY 21ST AUGUST, 2007 AT THE NATIONAL THEATRE, IGANMU, LAGOS.

1. Commendation of the Artists’ Community: The meeting commended and re-affirmed the concerted efforts of the Nigerian arts and culture Sector in the protest against the concession of the National Theatre by the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE).

2. Affirmation of the CONA Platform: The Meeting adopted the approval the Coalition of Nigerian artist(e)s under the aegis of CONA with a view to creating a united front to, among other things:

In the immediate term:

sustain the opposition to the concession of the National Theatre employing such media as one-minute adverts in feature films and reflection of campaigns against concession of National Theatre in body of work espoused in Nigerian films, plays and art exhibition.

conceptualise, articulate and propose to the Government a feasible action plan for the resuscitation of the National Theatre and its operations under a regime of governance and management that accords with internationally-acceptable standards; and

Employ legal options to restate and insist of Government responsibility to the Culture Sector
On the long run:
(i) Serve as a platform for the articulation of common agenda for the art and culture sector including the adoption of a National Cultural Policy, the establishment of the National Endowment for the Art.
(ii) Establish common fora to secure the welfare of arts and culture workers.
3. Restatement of Opposition to the National Theatre Concession: The Meeting restates the opposition of the entire art and culture community to the transfer of the National Theatre to a private concern noting as follows:
(i) The National Theatre is Nigeria’s national cultural centre
(ii) All over the world, human communities, including nations, states, cities and other communities set up official cultural centres to:
signalize the community’s cultural arrival;
embody its artistic values;
showcase its artifacts; and
incubate the progressive development of its creative expressions.
Because of the importance of the foregoing roles of a national cultural centre, national cultural centres are never:
Left in the hands of public bureaucracies without specialized training and hands-on experience in facility management and the business of art and entertainment venues; nor
concessioned to private entities to govern and operate;
operated with a view to profit
(Refer to the governance and operations of The Kennedy Centre for the Performing Art, Smithsonian Institution, The Barbican, Carnegie Hall etc)
Need for the Resuscitation of the National Theatre: The Meeting acknowledges the need for the resuscitation of the National Theatre for the fulfillment of its mandate as the Nigerian national cultural centre and the centre of arts and performances in the black world, as was conceived during the Festival of African Art and Culture (FESTAC). In this regard, the Meeting proposes the following:
That the Federal Government should review the proposed concession of the National Theatre;
a study group of stakeholders and experts should be commissioned to analyse the nature and structure of successful Public Private Participation in the operation and funding of National Cultural Centres world-wide and the appropriate legal and other frameworks for such a PPP established before inviting private participation under the framework. The framework shall define the roles and responsibility of (1) The State, (2) The Business Community and (3) The Art community in the sustenance of the National Theatre;
The adopted PPP model should delineate between the management and governance of the National Theatre by handing the governance of the Theatre over to a publicly sanctioned Trust constituted by reputable artist(e)s, art connoisseurs, business men and statesmen under an enabling national legislation;
The governing Trust should be empowered to define and oversee the margin of commerciality and profitability permissible in the operation of the Theatre, having regard to the need to maintain a balance between our national cultural interests and the commercial necessities of the private participation, especially in view of the funds expected to be mobilised for the resuscitation work;
Also, the governing Trust, working with the management, should be empowered to mobilise funds from private endowments, corporate tax-deductible sources, and government budgetary sources, to subsidise the operations of the Theatre;
The management, of course, should be concessioned to qualified private entities with demonstrable interest in the Arts and capacity to resuscitate the Theatre.
Cooperation & Participation of the Art Community: The Meeting agrees that the Nigerian art and culture community should actively participate in the processes for the conceptualization, articulation and implementation of the appropriate model for the productive resuscitation of the National Theatre.
6. Enlightenment of the Art Community: The Meeting agrees that a vigorous campaign of enlightenment should be carried out within the generality of the arts and culture community with a view to clarifying the position of the Coalition under the aegis of CONA and in reinforcing the position of the Coalition as the current campaign gets underway. Such enlightenment shall be carried out through regular All-Stakeholders’ meetings and through the different Sectoral groups.
Avenues for Pushing the Artists’ collective Agenda: The Meeting agrees that this Communiqué and a position paper containing detailed proposal of the art community should be prepared and forwarded to:
The President;
The National Assembly;
The Minister of Culture;
Governor of Lagos State;
Lagos State House of Assembly; and
The Press.
Signed today the __ day of __________________, 2007
Kolade Oshinowo (Society of Nigerian Artists) __________________________________
Hyacinth Obunseh (Association of Nigerian Authors) ___________________________________
Biodun Abe (National Association of Nigerian Theatre Art Practitioners) __________________________________
Steve James (Guild of Nigerian Dancers) ___________________________________
Jahman Anikulapo (Committee for Relevant Art) ____________________________________
Jide Kosoko (Association of Nigerian Theatre Practitioners) ____________________________________
Ejike Asiegbu (Actors’ Guild of Nigeria) _____________________________________
Mufu Onifade (Convener)  _____________________________________



AUGUST 11 MEETING Of HEADS OF ASSOCIATIONS
Photos:
CAVEAT EMPTOR: PLEASE DISREGARD DATE ON PHOTO

Images recorded at the heads of Artists Associations meeting at CORA HOUSE, 95 Bode Thomas Street, Surulere Lagos towar
onvening of an Artists Stakeholders meeting on the proposd sale/concesssion of the National Theatre:












































































Photo 1: from left (slightly backing camera) Mufu Onifade (convener of the meeting), Hyccinth Obunseh (representing ANA), Biodun Abe (President NANTAP), Kolade Osinowo (President SNA),Steve James (Chairman Guild of Nigerian Dancers, GOND)
2. Jide Kosoko, President Association of Nigeria Theatre Practitioners, ANTP; Deji Toye (CORA, Director Legal Services), with Ejike Asiegbu (President Actors Guild of Nigeria, AGN)
3. Convener of meeeting, Mufu Onifade, Obunseh (ANA Publicity Secretary), Abe, (NANTAP) and Oshinowo (SNA
5. Onifade and CORA Programme Chairman, jahman Anikulapo

NATIONAL THEATRE: COALITION OF NIGERIAN ARTISTS CONVENE STAKEHOLDERS's MEETING

On Tuesday August 21 at 10AM, a conference of stakeholders in the Arts, Culture and Tourism sectors will hold in the Banquet hall of the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos. The main objective is to further deliberate on the proposed Sale/Concession of the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos.
The Conference is sequel to a meeting of heads of sectoral bodies of Nigeria Artists, which met on August 11 on the platform of the Coalition of Nigerian Artists as convened by Mr. Mufu Onifade and Mr. Biodun Abe among others (see communique below).
You will recall that same Coalition of Nigerian Artists (CONA) had staged a massive protest few weeks back in the precinct of the Theatre complex, to protest the announced Concession/sale of the National Theatre.
Please assist in announcing the meeting in your various mediums as well as giving maximum exposure to the content of the resolutions at the August 11 meeting even as you grace the event with your esteemed presence or send a representative.

Communique of the Meeting of
Heads of Sectoral Bodies of Nigerian Artists
under the Umbrella of Coalition of Nigerian Artists (CONA)
Held on Saturday 11th August, 2007 at 11 a.m.
at CORA Secretariat, 95, Bode Thomas Street , Surulere, Lagos


Commendation of the Artists' Community: The Meeting commended the concerted efforts of the Nigerian art and culture community in the protest against the concession of the National Theatre by the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) noting, with delight, the public debate that has been generated by the protest, the overall tone of which suggests that the public opposes the transfer of the National Theatre to any private concern under the guise of concession or howsoever otherwise termed.

Affirmation of the CONA Platform: The Meeting approved the cooperation of Nigerian artists under the aegis of CONA with a view to creating a united front to, among other things:

In the immediate term -

o sustain the opposition to the concession of the National Theatre; and

o conceptualise, articulate and propose to the Government an a feasible action plan for the resuscitation of the National Theatre and its operations under a regime of governance and management that accords with internationally-acceptable standards; and

On the long run -
o serve as a platform for the articulation of common agenda for the art and culture sector including the adoption of a National Cultural Policy, the establishment of the National Endowment for the Art as well as the establishment of common fora to secure the welfare of arts and culture workers.


Restatement of Opposition to the Concession of the National Theatre: The Meeting restates the opposition of the entire art and culture community to the transfer of the National Theatre to a private concern noting as follows:

The National Theatre is Nigeria 's national cultural centre;

All over the world, human communities, including nations, states, cities and other communities set up official cultural centres to:

o signalize the community's cultural arrival;
o embody its artistic values;
o showcase its artifacts; and
o incubate the progressive development of its creative expressions.

Because of the importance of the foregoing roles of a national cultural centre, national cultural centres are never:

o Left in the hands of public bureaucracies without specialized training and hands-on experience in facility management and the business of art and entertainment venues; nor

o concessioned to private entities to govern and operate;

o operated with a view to profit

(Refer to the governance and operations of The Kennedy Centre for the Performing Art, Smithsonian Institution, The Barbican, Carnegie Hall etc)

Need for the Resuscitation of the National Theatre:
The Meeting acknowledges the need for the resuscitation of the National Theatre for the fulfillment of its mandate as the Nigerian national cultural centre and the centre of arts and performances in the black world, as was conceived during the Festival of African Art and Culture (FESTAC). In this regard, the Meeting proposes the following:

That the Federal Government should review the proposed concession of the National Theatre;

a study group of stakeholders and experts should be commissioned to analyse the nature and structure of successful public private participation in the operation and funding of National Cultural Centres world-wide and the appropriate legal and other frameworks for such a PPP established before inviting private participation under the framework. The framework shall define the roles and responsibly of (1) The State, (2) The Business Community and (3) The Art community in the sustenance of the National Theatre;

The adopted PPP model should delineate between the management and governance of the National Theatre by handing the governance of the Theatre over to a publicly sanctioned Trust constituted by reputable artists, art connoisseurs, business men and statesmen under an enabling national legislation;

The governing Trust should be empowered to define and oversee the margin of commerciality and profitability permissible in the operation of the Theatre, having regard to the need to maintain a balance between our national cultural interests and the commercial necessities of the private participation, especially in view of the funds expected to be mobilised for the resuscitation work;

Also, the governing Trust, working with the management, should be empowered to mobilise funds from private endowments, corporate tax-deductible sources, and government budgetary sources, to subsidise the operations of the Theatre;

The management should be concessioned to qualified private entities with demonstrable interest in the Arts and capacity to resuscitate the Theatre in line with the overall national cultural policy.

Cooperation & Participation of the Art Community: The Meeting agrees that the Nigerian art and culture community should actively participate in the processes for the conceptualization, articulation and implementation of the appropriate model for the productive resuscitation of the National Theatre.

Enlightenment of the Art Community: The Meeting agrees that a vigorous campaign of enlightenment should be carried out within the generality of the art and culture community with a view to clarifying the position of the coalition under the aegis of CONA and in reinforcing the position of the coalition as the current campaign gets underway. Such enlightenment shall be carried out through regular All-Stakeholders' meetings and through the different Sectoral groups (the first of which has been billed for Tuesday 21st August, 2007).


In attendance:

1. Kolade Oshinowo (Society of Nigerian Artists, SNA)


2. Hyacinth Obunseh (Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA)

3. Biodun Abe (National Association of Nigerian Theatre Art
Practitioners, NANTAP)

4. Steve James (Guild of Nigerian Dancers)
5. Jide Kosoko (Association of Nigerian Theatre Practitioners)


6. Ejike Asiegbu (Actors' Guild of Nigeria, AGN)

7. Jahman Anikulapo (Committee for Relevant Art, CORA)

8. Deji Toye (CORA)

9. Mufu Onifade (Member ANA, SNA, NANTAP Convener)


Sgd: MUFU ONIFADE
o on behalf of CONA, Convener of the Stakeholders' meeting .

Okay, let’s sell National Theatre to a church

BY AYODELE ARIGBABU
(As published in The GuardianLIFE magazine August 19. 2007)

APART from a few Lagosians who still reminisce about those days when they watched cowboy films at the National Theatre and a younger generation of a different class who still throng the cinema halls there on Sundays to watch Yoruba films, who else in the country knows this monster building and who cares whether it’s pulled down to its foundations to make way for an office tower?
Why have the Bureau for Public Enterprises and the community of artistes been squabbling over this decrepit, abandoned building that looks like an alien space ship for so long?
Well, for one, the Pritzker award winning architect and author Rem Koolhas who did extensive research on emerging mega cities with his team of graduate students from Harvard University at the turn of the millennium (and was perhaps the first to take a concentrated look at the possibilities in the chaos called Lagos) anchored a lot of his research on the National Theatre — quite literally, scouring through the mass of archival material in the belly of the beast and analysing its role in the development of the city, in tandem with FESTAC town, which was built at about the same time.

ESSENTIALLY, the National Theatre was not devised by the Federal Government as just a one-off event venue and cultural center, but was designed to be a bulwark against which a whole urban planning initiative for Lagos could ride.
In fact, it will not be wrong to state that the National Theatre, in combination with FESTAC Town and other developments that came up at the same time served a major role in opening up and connecting mainland Lagos. Unfortunately, the initiative has not been sustained, hence the current imbroglio, which warrants us asking certain questions:
• Has the Lagos State Government capitulated in its claim that the theatre is on land that is vested in the state government and therefore cannot be ‘sold’ by the Federal Government?
• Is the Bureau for Public Enterprises taking into consideration the tangible and intangible assets that make up the National Theatre, which include the expansive land on which it is built, the history behind the edifice; the value of the material it houses; its value as a national monument; and more importantly, its prominent role in the urban design matrix of a mega city like Lagos?
• Surely the theatre cannot be expected to function effectively without the cooperation and integration of the Lagos State Government’s urban planning initiatives as regards transportation and other social infrastructure?
• Are the parcels of land adjoining the National Theatre not meant to be developed into a proper cultural precinct that will include a five star hotel, impressive landscaping, an expansive shopping mall, more cinema halls, and other ancillary services that will support the National Theatre in drawing a constant crowd to Iganmu and will appropriate the adjoining Surulere community the same way the combination of MUSON Centre, City Mall and (to a lesser extent) National Museum in Onikan have appropriated the neighbouring Ikoyi community into a cultural precinct?
• Do people really expect the National Theatre to fare any better for as long as it is located in a largely decrepit and desolate part of town that is hardly seen unless while being conveyed across any of the network of bridges that’s about it?
• Can’t the Lagos State Government see a brilliant opportunity for a massive urban renewal effort with equal and perhaps better prospects than their efforts in the Lekki zone … albeit an effort driven on a cultural platform, but one which for once can attempt to connect the mainland and the Islands in one big developmental effort with all the accruable revenue?

HERE is an attempt at lateral thinking… how about selling it to a mega church? Churches make money, churches appreciate the value of big buildings that can sit lots of people, churches are fantastic crowd pullers and some churches have blamed all the nation’s woes on all the ‘juju’ that was invoked during the FESTAC ’77 at the National Theatre in the name of cultural rejuvenation; so they should be interested in forming a consortium to bid for the theatre so that they can embark on some spiritual fumigation, which will sort out all our problems by chasing the aliens away once and for all.
Imagine a mega church with the National Theatre as its headquarters building! And let nobody scream that it would be a subversion of the nation’s diverse cultural heritage; after all church going is now a valid national culture. It’s a fantastic thought… why aren’t churches falling over themselves trying to buy this building…?

QUITE frankly, if a church will buy into this idea and put us all out of our miseries by turning the National Theatre into a Mecca of sorts (forgive the pun), it will be a relief. If it’s so difficult working out a cultural precinct, then let’s make Iganmu a religious precinct… as a nation we seem to have fared better in that regard, what with the number of religious camp sites on the Lagos Ibadan expressway and the number of churches that have developed whole towns around their mega auditoria — case in point — Oyedepo’s Canaan Land in Ota and Adeboye’s Redeemed Camp off the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway.
You see, long after FESTAC, some people have successfully tapped into the idea of how large event venues with mass appeal can thrive with effective urban planning and development that incorporates all necessary ancillary services including housing and transportation, albeit at a macro scale.
The BPE and the artists should go to the churches for tutorials and spare us all this macabre dance. That is the design sleuth’s final submission on the matter.

-Ayodele Arigbabu
HYPERLINK "mailto:arigbs@gmail.com" arigbs@gmail.com
HYPERLINK "http://www.designpages.blogspot.com" www.designpages.blogspot.com

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Modest proposals on sale of National Theatre

By ’Lasunkanmi Bolarinwa
(As published in The Guardian Wednesday 15/8/07)

IN the wake of President Umaru Yar’adua’s assumption into office, virtually everything standing in Nigeria had been sold. Nothing was sacred. Those that were yet to be sold were counting their days. As a matter of historical fact, so obsessed was Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo with the urge to sell at no cost, or is it at all cost, that just as he was waving farewell at Nigerians with one hand, he was, with the other hand counting proceeds from the sale of two of our refineries. He was not just the President, he was the auctioneer. He sold buildings; sold the roads leading to them, sold the furnishings and mortgaged the domestic servants and their families. Such was the reign of the auctioneer who also was the president. We do not know yet if his successor would be – Auctioneer The Second.
If you are an avid follower of privatisation and commercialisation reform package of our government, you would know that as you read this, the National Theatre might have been sold. Do not mind all the hues and cries by stake holders in the industry. You agree with me that if the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is to have its way, all those who call themselves stakeholders in the industry and use their stakes to hold back and derail policies of government would be tied to the stake and shot. Simple! Stakeholders to the stakes! Stakeholders my foot! It is therefore the matter of the sale of the National Theatre that prompts me into this intervention.
Those who know me would testify that I am not very good at the business of buying and selling. But that is not to say, I am not entitled to my fair share of clairvoyant thinking; especially when I set my mind to it over a long period of time. I may claim to be a genius, a claim that I cannot prove except when I am in the beer parlour, but sometimes in a moment of flashing divine intervention, I am capable of some quasi ingenious ruminations. So give it to me, I have stumbled, No! found the perfect proposal to apply to the spate of selling going on in the land.
With all proposals, you should know that there must be a background. This, among other things would make us understand the problem statement better and then to appreciate fully the strength of the proposed solution. This is the background I proffer.
Let us face it, No matter how stark and ugly it may be. We come from a long tradition of buyers and sellers. Simple. A substantial part of the history of the African continent is that of buying and selling. There was nothing we did not sell. We sold our labour. We sold our intelligence. We even sold ourselves. Yes, we sold our brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers. We sold our artifacts and traded our culture in. And in each of these cases, what we get in return did not matter. Salt? Rum? Money? Mirrors? Slavery? Colonisation? Deprivation? Anything. Just provide an opportunity to sell and…. Gbam! We are ready to play ball. We must however put the texture and component of this trade in perspective. A major point of note here is that it is usually the powerful who capture and sell the weak and all they have. It is the haves who sell the have nots. It is the rulers who sold their subjects. Ironically, the rulers and the powerful also sold themselves into perdition. But before they knew this, it was too late. Maybe at a latter date, interested anthropologists would conduct studies into the nature of this trading bug that is eating into the African system.
If that glimpse into the past does not help you, what about the instances of how properties, houses, were sold – and are still being sold - off their owners heads by sellers who did not own the house and who knew next to nothing about the house and to buyers who were too greedy to find out the authentic owners of the houses? The emergence of billboards and graffiti on actively inhabited houses saying This House Is Not For Sale, Buyers Beware is one of the recent indications of our penchant to sell everything and anything, ownership not withstanding. So, without any attempt at being mischievously euphemistic, I put it to you that we are a very enterprising people. Take it as a compliment or take it with a pinch of salt. I cannot be bothered. I have stated a fact provable empirically.
It is strange therefore that those who claim to be stakeholders in the art and culture industry have done very little to show an understanding of the culture they are stake holding. They have therefore embarked on this huge protest calling attention to their ignorance about the imperative of selling. They have forgotten that there is no power in the world, no matter how great, that can stop a buyer from buying from a willing seller when it is in their blood to trade at all cost. I know for certain that this is one major reason why government and their partners in trading would not listen to them and that is why I have taken it upon myself to make the following proposal; modest as it may seem, I hope it will show all parties concerned the path of reason.
Why can we not just sell the National Theatre and throw a huge party? What is it doing for us now that we will miss if it is gone? Have other structures not been sold before the National theatre? Who cried foul then? What the hell (don’t mind my French) does it matter if we do not leave anything for generations to come? Can they not fend for themselves? Who says they (future generation) are not going to sell it off anyway? So, why wait for them if we can do it right away?
We cannot begin now to ask questions of whether or not government has been meeting its obligations to the upkeep of the structure of the place over the years because this is a land where such sensible questions are expected only from officially certified idiots. So, why bother ask? We see things differently. So, our reactions and attitudes to issues are different. Our definition of government, governance, leadership and followership among others are at cross purposes. To these other people at the other side of the divide of reason what is culture? It is that piece of entertainment you have on the airport tarmac when visitors come flying in. It is the assemblage of young pretty women and men costumed in traditional attires doing exotic dances to the delight of official human beings after dinner in the bouquet hall of a five star hotel. So, where is the place of the national theatre in all these art and culture business? The National Theatre is just a piece of property that can be put to better use by other sectors of the economy.
If we know anything about the average Nigerian politician, it is that they know the value of money. They spend a lot of valuable time accumulating (another word for obtaining inappropriately or simply stealing by stealth) so much of it to be able to stand a chance to contest elections. They spend so much of it ensuring that the elections are rigged. When they get into office, so much of it is expended to ensure that they garner more. This is where we must begin to understand that, for an economy that is as practically grounded as ours, where are our esteemed politicians recoup money that will either serve as their severance package or that they will use for the next election campaign if there is nothing to sell? Those who say the National theatre should not be sold should go and sleep and come back when they have alternative suggestion of where to raise pocket money for our leaders from? Am I the only one who suspects that the government officials in charge of the building will make more money on the transaction if it goes through that if it does not?
Now that all the banks we have in the country are mega banks, it makes sense to imagine what wonders it will do to have all twenty five or so of them map out the sharing of spaces in the premises of the Theatre. In compliance with the drive to ensure that everything in Nigeria brings money in the name of economic reform, what is the sense in pretending to be protecting some cultural heritage? Just like some musician in the past said ‘grammar no be money’, so also is culture no be money.
I will not be one of those shortsighted people who believes this is about efficiency and effectiveness of a sector. For God’s sake, not even government is effective or efficient in this country and we have accepted that with all sense of humility. If you take privatisation, commercialisation and consolidation in the banking sector for instance, you will find out that, N25m or not, some of them can still not run efficient toilets in their various branches. They cannot present staff members who understand their place against that of costumers. Their branches cannot be found in other places apart from the capital in some states. They advertise internet banking but they cannot deliver on it. They are quick to tell you there is no network when you go for your money. They are quicker to tell you in Ilorin to go to your branch in Onitsha in order to cash your cheque as if it is your fault in the first place that their network is not working. Those that were efficient before the commercilaisation are still the ones leading in the ratings of the person on the street.
I also know of one or two companies that has been privatised in the last eight years but has refused to get any better, at least in my layperson’s perception. If you doubt me, check out what is happening to Daily Times Newspaper or whatever its proper name is. If that is not enough, ask the person next to you what has become of NEPA/PHCN transformation. Maybe they were not commercialised, they were merely ‘reformed’. However, whichever, way you see it, nothing, absolutely nothing, has improved in that parastatal. Although PHCN has not generated any additional megawatt of electricity yet, it is jerking up its tariff at will. That is the way of Nigeria!
Yes, other countries, more economically advanced countries of the world, protect their own cultural heritage no matter how fluid it might be in the face of changing economic realities and the challenges of coping with imperialism. What is most interesting is that they are not just interested in their own culture, they are also interested in studying other people’s culture too. Take the example of the French people who even have a cultural centre in Nigeria! Maybe you can forgive the British for having their Council here in Nigeria. This is a commonwealth nation. They colonised us and the link tends to be stronger. But what about the French and the Germans? Talk of cases of classical busy bodies! Give it to these cultural outposts, some of them have done more for the promotion and positioning of the Nigerian art and culture than some of the people who are clamouring for the sale or concession of the National Theatre now have ever done in their collective history either as people in government or as people in the corporate world. While those who lead in global economic reforms are exporting their culture and promoting other countries’, we are in an annihilative mood under the guise of progress and reforms. But then we all have headaches differently. One man’s poison is after all another man’s breakfast.
In the recent past, those who drive against the flow of traffic in Lagos State were arrested and taken to psychiatric homes for medical examination. The basis for this was that there must be something wrong with your mental state for you to do things contrary to good reason and constitutionality. I think it worked while it was being implemented. But, as usual, instead of improving on it, we have since abandoned it. By now, all the drivers of bullion vans who blow illegal siren would have been put in their places, including big lawyers who think that by quoting the law a lot they have become the constitution. That is the way of our land. In a similar vein, I am not sure if it followed from the Lagos state case, somebody suggested that our political leaders should have their heads examined before confirming their eligibility for elections. Simply put. This would mean that as they publicly declare their economic assets, they are also expected to present a certificate of a clean bill of mental health. We ignored this suggestion. This selling spree is one of the consequences of such lack of attention to important details.
Nigeria is one of the biggest countries in Africa and it is also one of the most, if not the leading irresponsible state. Unfortunately, irresponsibility is a trait that cannot be traded in. Otherwise, I would suggest the outright sale of the Nigerian Armed Forces, as one of the most backward, reactionary, anti progressive institutions in the polity. I would suggest a plan to do a hundred year concession of the National Houses of Assemblies because, in spite of huge investments in time, money and trust, they have achieved only one thing; the grand incapability to serve the ordinary people of Nigeria.
It was over a couple of drinks that my friend and I stumbled on this novel idea of trading off leaders like football clubs, especially in Europe and the English Premiership, trade off players. Open a transfer window as they say and shop for the brightest leaders in the market. You can imagine the pleasure of loaning Obasanjo to the Americans and buying Tony Blair back from retirement? We can simply sack our national assemblies and go shopping for replacements in France, Italy and even the United Nations. That way, we would not have to be saddled with all these unproductive elected officers who give the effect of a bad bench and pitch combined. In a way, football seem to be more business like than governance and it is part of my modest proposal that we include ideas such as this in our reform package for the current dispensation. I can bet my better eye that the United Nations would, for this, acknowledge our contribution to world politics.
No matter how hard I try, I cannot ignore some of the age old sayings of our ancestors. They are just too apt. In certain circumstances they say that people who refuse to acknowledge the praise of their lineage in public would most probably take to their heels if they stumble on their father being beaten up in a remote corner. How else do you begin to understand people with little value for that which should matter most to their lives? Sometimes, it is the mere act of suggestion of an idea that implies the rationale of the maker of the suggestion. To mute the idea of selling, loaning or concessioning the National Theatre is a clear symptom of a peculiar type of thinking that one should be wary of.
It is for all these reasons and more that you and I know of but which we would not talk about here that I humbly propose that we sell the National Theatre as quickly as possible and go on with our business as usual. My proposal is a modest one. Just like my ambition in life too. I have no illussion about leaders who lack the foresight required of visionaries. Long live Nigeria!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Who Will Buy My Wife? Reflections On National Theatre Concession



Who Will Buy My Wife?
Reflections On National Theatre Concession
 
BY WALE ADEDURO

( As published in The Guardian August 13, 2007)

SSHH… My wife must not hear about my perfidious thoughts! I am certainly going to deny if she hears that I have conceived of an idea of offering her for sale (concession her to someone else, to use the new buzz word in our land).
As difficult as it is, I am constrained to take this step because I cannot afford to maintain her again.
The harsh realities of the economy and the devaluation of my manhood (no puns intended please) over the last 30 years have made a mess of my marital vow. 30 years ago, General Olusegun Obasanjo (Rtd) was directing the affairs of the nation when we married each other.
Coming a few months after General Yakubu Gowon’s administration behaved as if money was the 20th century manna falling from the sky, there was little or no financial pressure on me. I literally lived life on a binge with my lovely wife. Her Most Beautiful Girl In Nigeria-like vital statistics was an added advantage to me. More importantly was the fact that she was a simple home-girl, who came from our village to marry a city boy.
Everything excited her. She was just natural. Getting her to use perfumes or moisturizing cream was akin to getting an elephant to dance. She always preferred cooking without seasonings. How I relished her first class meals.
In those days, whatever amount I made available was always enough to run our face-me-I –face-you one room apartment. Since both of us were afraid that witches could kill us from our village we did not have a need to travel on holiday to the village or anywhere else.
 
THREE decades later, and after the second coming of General Olusegun Obasanjo, I have become a non-performing husband. I confess that my strength has failed me in all departments as a husband.
My body system is already tired though I have not reached the retirement age (I wish someone will sincerely show me how I will truly benefit from the pension scheme). My wife has simply grown into a city woman. With our five children I have to painfully finance yearly holiday abroad.
The other day, my teenage daughter told me that “ Ghana is not abroad. It is in West Africa ” when I suggested that they travel to the former Gold Coast.
You should have seen the face of my wife turning red from shock. Today, almost all my wife’s designer bags have giant sized designer padlocks.
That means that I can no longer take money from her bag without her consent. To worsen my personal economy, our first two children who graduated some four years ago are painfully employed.
Their salaries are often paid in arrears after so much dubious deductions. In spite of all these, my wife continues to accentuate her costly lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with this if I do not have to finance her from my diminishing resources.
Alas, nothing I say impresses my wife about my financial condition. She keeps reminding me that she is my responsibility. Oh! I agree with her but I have run out of ideas on how to improve my finances. If only she could be as simple as she was 30 years ago.
 
IN line with the practice in some modern countries, I decided to sell, I mean concession, my wife for the next 30 years. The immediate benefit of this decision is that my wife will now be able to afford all the pleasures that she needs as a modern woman.
With a successful concession deal, my wife will be able to compete with the advanced women of the world. I just pray that I will be able to find a kind- hearted man such as Mazi Carl Orji or a member of his class of economic philanthropists who will be able to spend seven times more than I can spend on my wife on a yearly basis. Personally, I will be free from the burden of being arm strung in living up to my responsibilities as a husband and a father. That way everybody is happy.
  The only challenge I have now is that my childhood friend who is already estranged from his wife (his wife left him and eloped with another man to Grand Caymans Island where there are more banks than registered companies) does not support my decision.
He thinks I will be courting the ire of the National Committee that is fighting human trafficking in Nigeria .
Secondly, he believes that all the stakeholders in my marriage will be up in arms against me. For example, my children will certainly kick against the idea of another man sharing a bed with their mother just as my Pastor will accuse me of leading my wife into the temptation of adultery. My wife’s siblings will withdraw their respect for me as an in law just as my wife’s friends will label me a callous and irresponsible husband.
Whoever is the Orji-inclined man who ends up taking my wife will be rightly perceived as a gold digger who is exploiting my inability to sustain the good work I have begun on my wife. Truly, she now wears size 22 dresses from the clingy size 12 dresses she used to wear when I married her.  Most importantly, how can I trust that a stranger will take care of my wife the way I would have done without leading her to an early grave?
 
HAVING considered my friend’s ground for objection I am forced to wonder who will buy my wife and give me joy?
  This is really the reason for the heat the concession of the National Theatre has generated. Regardless of the fancy arguments of Orji on the honest intentions of his fellow travelers on the platform of Infrastructica Consortium, the National Theatre Concession is worse than the idea of selling my wife of 30 years.
The National Theatre, just as my wife, was not conceived as a money-making venture and its depreciation ought to be expected. Every sensible person knows that a building needs to be massively renovated every 10 years. So, using the argument about its structural condition as a basis for its concession is specious.
To all intents and purposes, the National Theatre is a monument where our arts and culture live. It is the centre of our collective way of life, past, present and future. It is therefore dangerous to endanger its vitality on the economic altar of privatisation.
The National Theatre is too strategic to our social existence to be entrusted to some moneybags who neither have a cultural nor arts consciousness. I am yet to see a serious nation that sells or concedes her National Theatre from Ghana to Slovak.
 
UNFORTUNATELY, the jaundiced views of some of our immediate past leaders have foisted the cancer of privatisation on our national psyche. Little wonder that I also entertained the satanic thought of selling my wife of 30 years.
Selling off all the assets of a company that is going through cash flow crisis is unimaginative. There are some assets that are essentially strategic to the recovery of a business, let alone a nation.
Of course, the apologists of IMF will preach concessions and privatisation because that is the only milk they suck from the tired breasts of the neo-imperialists.
Recently, Jamaican government “concessioned” some of their major roads to a French company for rehabilitation on the basis of BOT (another buzz word for discrete sale).
The immediate gain of this arrangement is that all the roads are now motorable while the traffic situation in Jamaica has improved. Movement is now easy. Halleluiah! But that is just a part of the story. The French company handling the project will collect tolls for about 30 years from Jamaicans who ply the “concessioned” roads. Whereas the actual cost of rehabilitating the roads will be covered with interest within the first seven years.
Therefore, Jamaicans will pay for another 23 years to the French coffers. I believe that the whole idea of “concession” is an extension of the conspiracy to exploit the masses perpetually. This is why Orji’s sophistry is unfortunate. True enough, his group is going to spend seven times more than the yearly budget for the National Theatre.
What he did not tell the world is the multiple profits that his group will earn from this “patriotic investment”. Let us not engage in self deception. Whoever pays the piper calls the tune. If a group of people who have no known serious antecedents as arts and culture lovers or enthusiasts invest their money in an arts and culture edifice, I do not expect them to be faithful in promoting arts and culture.
The business imperative suggests that they will mind the things that will quickly guarantee superior financial results. The body language of the group is already a warning signal to the world. The group unwittingly thinks that the National Theatre is all about the building and the National Troupe. Read my lips: Anything else can be sacrificed for profit!
 
MY experience as a staff of MUSON Centre for over six years instructs me that we cannot take it for granted that arts and culture will thrive in the new dispensation of a “concessioned” National Theatre.
I witnessed many undercurrents and impatience of those who believe in “financial viability” of the MUSON project with scant regard for the expressed purpose of first popularizing classical music and the ultimate vision of perpetuating arts and culture in Nigeria .
The childhood passion and commitment of the of Pa Akintola Williams, the late Pa Ayo Rosiji, Loius Mbanefo, Rasheed Gbadamosi, Mrs Franscesca Yetunde Emmanuel, Dotun Sulaimon, Femi Williams, Femi Akinsanya, Femi Akinkugbe and others for the arts, more than anything else, has sustained the vision of the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON). These eminent Nigerians have explored all possible avenues including their relationships and contact at corporate and global levels to fire up and nurture the MUSON dream.
Their commitment has elicited the interest of their friends, partners, associates and relations to be part of the pursuit of the MUSON dream.
The yearly MUSON Festival remains a major statement on arts and culture propagation in Nigeria since 1996. A group that seeks the involvement of everyone in the sustenance of arts is what is really needed to move the National Theatre forward.
 
UNFORTUNATELY, the aritistes themselves did every unimaginable thing to frustrate the founders of the MUSON Centre in the past based on the myopic thoughts that “they are not artistes”.  This will explain why till date these personalities with the exception of Rasheed Gbadamosi are not really accepted among “professional artistes”.
Being a playwright, Rasheed Gbadamosi has enjoyed recognition which has occasionally been exploited to cheat the statesman. The lesson here is that the current travails in the arthouse is tantamount to self immolation where only those who patronize “abe igi” within the precincts of the National Theatre, or are stage actors are perceived as artistes.
That is why we were not able to mobilize ourselves to manage the National Theatre as a collective responsibility.
Of course, I know that career civil servants, with their limitations in dynamic management, have not tapped into the immense opportunities that those perceived as “ex-artistes” possess. It is pathetic that we have found ourselves in this situation.
Yet, a group of moneybags should not just be allowed by government and its agencies to rubbish our collective history. There is no nation that should put her arts and culture on the line because of the past mistakes of her leaders.
 
ZAMBIA, about seven years ago, sold off its Copper mines deposits for $25 million dollars based on the privatization scheme.
Less than six months the company that bought the mine generated the sum of $75 million dollars from the same Copper mine the government sold. Really, this concession stuff is a polite way of mortgaging the future because of inept leadership.
  In this era when banks declare billions of naira profits and when some executive directors in banks own individual shares in excess of N10 billion, a determined government can mobilise funds for the arts in a skillful way. Banks and telecommunication companies that declare billions of naira as profits must be made to commit a fraction of their profits to the arts endowment fund and the National Theatre.
If the government is sincere about using tourism as a pivot of economic growth, then we cannot afford to sell off our heritage. The National Theatre is also the future of our children who need a solid base to anchor their survival.  Besides, the silly experience of the past where exclusionism was the strategy of artistes and theatre managers must stop.
As for the concession, I pray that the, so far, forward looking government of Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’dua  will intervene in the concession of the National Theatre. In the meantime, the Carl Orjis of this world should appreciate the implication of buying my wife. There shall be endless acrimony until the feelings and opinions of all stakeholders are considered.

•waleadeduro7@yahoo.com
 
• Adeduro, a former Ag. General Manager in MUSON Centre, is the Founder of Centre For Productivity.
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