By Henry Akubuiro
Signs of the good old days at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, are here again. The new Manager/ CEO of the National Theatre, Professor Sunday Ododo, has made a flying start to his tenure with an ambitious plan of action to resurrect the moribund national, cultural edifice.
Early this week, the leadership of the National Theatre, in conjunction with BCI, organised a two-day workshop entitled “Repositioning and Marketing the National Theatre in a Post Covid-19 Era” meant to equip the National Theatre workforce to key into the vision of the new boss.
Professor Ododo’s action plan, stated in his address of welcome, included upscaling the commercial viability of the National Theatre, especially, along the lines of entrepreneurial partnerships that will enhance maximal utilisation as against isolating, shrewd economics.
Besides, the action plan was committed to giving impetus to national and economic development “as our theatre, culture, literature and civilisation are thriving revenue generating industries.” It also had a provision for making the National Theatre become, once again, a beehive of arts and culture programmes and activities.
He said: “In view of our mandate, we shall work out collaborations with relevant agencies of the federal government, the states and local governments to ensure that we are inclusive and robust with the agenda of the presentation, preservation and promotion of the arts and cultures of Nigerian people.”
“We shall collaborate with cultural units of foreign missions, independent artists, scholars, and the corporate world to ensure that the National Theatre is not only a beehive of arts and culture programmes and activities showcasing our rich diversity and its advantages, but also through deliberate and innovative programming, providing an enhanced platform that revives the performing arts as a vehicle orchestrating avenues to navigating our common contemporary challenges as a nation and signposting our way to the future.”
Emphasis, said Professor Ododo, must also be paid on creative skills acquisition programmes for our teeming youths, women and children “ so that they can find fulfillment through their latent talents and also contribute to the national economy”.
Solidarity for the lofty programme came from stakeholders in the theatre fraternity. Israel Eboh, on behalf, on NANTAP and the board of NA, threw his weight behind the epoch making event: “We will liaise with the National Theatre to make sure its vision of the theatre is realised”. Other goodwill messages came from Prof Duro Oni, former technical director of the National Theatre at inception, who said: “This is a timely intervention”.
Speaking in the same vein, Dr. Rotimi Oladele of Megavon Nigeria Ltd, said: “For us to have Prof Sunday Ododo as the General Manager/ CEO of the National Theatre is the best decision in human capacity this regime must have made. You can see where he started from —repositioning and marketing the National Theatre.”
Prof. Tunji Azeez of SONTA celebrated the appointment of Professor Ododo at the helms of the National Theatre, describing him as a round page on a round hole,” so we have no doubt that the future of the National Theatre will turn around for good.”
The workshop itself was coordinated by Prof Emma Dandaura amid teasers and bouts of laughter. He began with “Environmental Scan of the National Theatre, Lagos”, which was also a participatory exercise involving majority of the participants.
Amid misconceptions about the state of the National Theatre, rumoured to have been concessioned, the Business Development Manager of the National Theatre, Biodun Abbey, in his paper on the CBN/ Bankers’ Committee initiative for the National Theatre, said the edifice was still the property of Federal Government of Nigeria.
With pictures, he detailed affected areas in the gigantic edifice to be renovated and refurbished by the financial czars. They included Exhibition Hall 1&2, Cinema Hall 1&2, Conference/Banquet Hall, VIP Lounge, replacing the thunder arrester and repairing the dilapidated roof. The most problematic of their job, he hinted, was the Main Hall of the National Theatre, which hadn’t been used since 1993.
Part of the agreement with the CBN/Bankers’ Committee initiative, he informed, was developing 44 hectares of land belonging to the National Theatre into Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre, which would house a massive car park, music hub, fashion hub, IT hub, film hub, police station and fire station.
Reacting to the presentation, Prof. Duro Oni emphasised that the developers must ensure they got the roofing right, for if not done properly, “we will come back here ten years after to complain about this structure”. In response, Prof. Ododo said a special session would be held with the consultant handling the roof “so that we can find the best option for the roof”. For Prof Olu Obafemi, “there must be an assemblage of end-users in the process of renovation” to add their expertise and advice.
Abbey clarified that the CBN/Bankers’ Committee arrangement would last for 18 months, while Prof Ododo added that the banks were not handling everything about the National Theatre, as his office was still obliged to run the affairs of the national cultural monument, its staff, yet maintain affiliated structures like the Artiste’s Village.
Paper presentations continued during the second session after Dr. Rotimi Oladele had spoken on “Leadership Communication: Perception Management and Developing Loyalty for the National Theatre Brand in the Post Covid-19 Era”. Professor Ododo now expanded his “Vision, Action Plan and Implementation Strategies”, including but not limited to public enlightenment advocacy, improving the theater’s tourism potentials, instituting an annual Theatre festival, instituting a calendar of state-based exhibitions, enhancing drive to enhance patronage of the facilities. everyday film screening, and yearly artist showcase programmes. Strategies for implementation, he said, would involve partnerships and corporate sponsorships.
Other papers presented on the first and second day of the workshop included “Staff Motivation and Emotional Management in Workplace” by Prof. Duro Oni; “Change Management in the National Theatre of Nigeria” by Professor E. S. Dandaura; “Leadership, Team Building and Crisis Communication in Post Covid-19 Era” by Prof Olu Obafemi; National Theatre Brand Repositioning and Marketing Strategies in the Digital Age” by Prof. Sola Fosudo, among others.
Stephen Ogundele, PR, National Theatre, told Daily Sun: “This is the first time in the history of the National Theatre that a new GM has started his tenure with a capacity building workshop for staff and management. It’s a sign of good things to come.”