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Re: Let’s save Nigeria now

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FROM THE LIVE STAGE with Patrick-Jude Oteh

0803  700  0496, 0805 953 5215

A rejoinder to Eddie Ugbomah’s article in Clapperboard of Friday, March 23, 2012 on page 34.

Dear Sir,

I have read your article of the above title with keen interest. Please permit me to defer from your thoughts. First, I think we are still doing the business of theatre in the old ways which have continued to lead us into a dead end. I believe we should start exploring new ways of doing the same old business.
Let me briefly go into the idea of what you set out to do – you have this challenge and commission from the General Manager of the National Theatre, Kabir Yusuf to produce a Nigerian musical titled “Save Nigeria Now” which will be staged for four months in the first instance at the National Theatre. Your idea of going about this idea is to constitute committees which you have identified as four, comprising who-is-who in Nigerian theatre and music and you also mentioned some famous musicals like “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Evita”, “Sound of Music”  as some famous yardsticks for what you want to do.
In pursuance of this idea, the above musical will tour Nigerian cities with the ‘National Troupe waiting for handouts for doing nothing’ but you will ask the Minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation to support the idea by funding it because it will be a big project. This judgement I think we should leave for the audience. Also, I think it sounds ‘one kind’ for you to denigrate the National Troupe. But I think they have enough staff in their PR department to handle this.
First,  must everything we do have an unimaginative title like Save Nigeria Now for it to be deemed as patriotic? Evita is an Argentine story. Why was it not titled Save Argentina From The Perons Now! But Evita on Broadway and film captures the rise and rise of Evita Peron while encapsulating the very story of Argentina. Has it occurred to a lot of us on the field that it is high time we really got away from such piteous  sounding titles for our plays and stage works? If the idea is to capture an audience’s imagination, I doubt how sustainable this will be. What is new about Save Nigeria Now?
Second, has it occurred to us all that the very idea of musicals on Broadway or Covent Garden has a commercial bent to it? This brings me to the point we all should avoid. Why involve the government in the first place? Why must we create a role for the government in the very things concerning the arts when the government should be avoided in the first place? Any wonder why the government continues to treat the arts with disdain and levity?
For a lot of us the government has and will continue to be our first and last option for arts funding. This is wrong. Let me give you a recent event – the issue of the $200m intervention fund for the arts which we all listened with glee like school children and which we all heard on national television when the President announced with all seriousness and which we all fought ourselves for both physically and psychologically, who amongst the tribe of artistes has been able to access this fund? Does this paint the picture of a group of people who should be involved in our planning to fund the arts? We are all complaining about the government not creating an endowment fund for the arts – why will the government do such when in the estimation of those in the bedrooms of power, artistes are like pampered children who should be given crumbs and let go? My answer to this is that each arts organization should as a matter of urgency create individual funding for the arts which will be their own sole support for their work.
This brings me to another thought in your piece – ‘that multinationals will be invited to participate’.  For what? And what is in it for them? Have they just started throwing money into pipelines?
To be continued.

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