By Magnus Eze
There is no way creative arts could grow as a major revenue earner for the country without a functional theatre in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
In the same manner, literary art would not blossom in the absence of a befitting National Library in the nation’s capital.
These were the words of members of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Abuja Chapter, when the body in collaboration with the Abuja Art Collectives hosted the newly appointed Executive Secretary of FCT Social Development Secretariat, Alhaji Ladi Hassan to a cocktail reception.
The event, which took place at the Sinoni Chinese Restaurant, Area 11, Garki Abuja, attracted every name that matters in the creative industry in the FCT, including arts enthusiasts.
Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, whose debut novel, “Season of Crimson Blossoms” won the 2016 Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Nigeria Prize for Literature, in his remarks hit the bull’s eye when he raised the all-important issue of no functional theatre in Abuja.
Ibrahim described the situation as a huge disgrace to Nigeria, as a nation that stage performances are held in makeshift venues instead of modern theatres as obtainable in other climes.
He wondered how government could make the creative industry one of the major drivers of its economic diversification agenda when Abuja residents throng cinemas on daily basis to watch foreign films and dramas.
The NLNG winner noted that people visit Italy to watch arts because of what the country was able to build over time. He therefore, charged the new executive scribe to see his current position as an opportunity to leave a legacy by giving the FCT a modern theatre.
In the same vein, Abuja Chapter Chairman of ANA, Ben Ubiri said the appointment of Hassan should be a new dawn in the sector.
He lamented the abandonment of the National Library for over 10 years; noting that writers go cap in hand to some hotel owners whenever they want to hold readings.
To him, the completion of the national library, which he described as a beautiful edifice, holds the key to full exploitation of the creative industry in the territory.
Abuja Artistes further expressed concern over the condition of the Cyprian Ekwensi Centre for Arts and Culture in Area 10, Garki, supposedly devoted for development of creative arts in the FCT; urging that the place be reversed to the hub of creativity that it used to be some years ago before it was turned to office complex for the Social Development Secretariat.
Responding, Alhaji Hassan said Nigeria is endowed with highly talented people that can turn around the economy now that focus is being shifted from overdependence on oil and gas.
His words: “ANA is a body that should be worked with to lift literary and creative arts. The economy is down; everybody is down but we need to lift ourselves up because not everything can be down; human beings are not down. This is a body that should be encouraged; they lift up our souls. Once a soul is removed from the body; the person is gone. So, we need to get it back; it’s like we’ve been sleeping and when you’re sleeping, the soul disappears but once you wake up, it returns.
“Abuja has been sleeping; Nigeria has been sleeping, so we need to wake up. This is an opportunity for us to partner to move the country forward. Nigerians are highly talented; we have to go back to the days of the Achebes; Soyinkas, there are many of them that can be produced in this country.
“We need to harness the abundant resources in the sector; encourage young talents in performing arts. When we were growing up; we were used to seeing people performing on stage even in the secondary schools but suddenly, all these things are dying. What we see in return is foreign import of events; theatre and cultures. So, our own heritage too should be polished and made attractive not only to ourselves, but to the outside world. And luckily enough, the outside world is interested in what is happening in Africa but we the Africans are not proud of our culture; because we have not encouraged it enough.”
The Executive Secretary also agreed that the territory deserved modern theatres, noting that the administration would work towards developing the sector depending on the available resources.
He disclosed that there is significant improvement in budgetary provision for the sector in the 2018 appropriation bill; adding that to encourage young artistes, the secretariat would continue to make available its facilities at the Cyrian Ekwensi Centre for Arts and Culture, to them.