When i learnt about the sale of the National Theatre,that iconic monument to arts and culture,i went through a whole range of diverse emotional responses,chief of which are anger and outrage at the implied desecration and lack of Patriotism.I reminisced upon the rich history tied up in that building especially the festac1977,then i though the symbolic meaning of that edifice to every Nigerian dead or living. The monument which was Constructed in 1976 during the military regime of Rtd Gen Olusegun Obasanjo in readiness for the Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in 1977, has been an enduring symbol of National Arts and culture,including a hub of social activities for Nigerians especially those in the Lagos area where it is situated who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s.
National Theatre Iganmu is one of the most enduring model edifice in the country till date.The Architectural master class is a joy to behold the all encompassing and intimidating view most especially from third Mainland Bridge,for people like me that grew up in Ibadan,it was always fascinating to view anytime i find myself in Lagos till date, it's a shame i never visited the Arena but mere looking at the building was always a delight for me. Fine it's said to be under utilised but selling it is not an option to explore, why not lease it out instead of selling,the Government can also go the route of Public and Private Partnership(PPP) where they will still have controlling shares of the edifice at least for posterity sake.It goes without saying that this outrage must not be allowed to stand for the sake of the present,but most especially future Nigerians even those yet unborn.The major players in the deal have to be investigated, loads of questions have to be answered including a careful investigation looking into the pathway of due dilligence as regards, to know if the sale passed through due process. Was it deliberated upon at the House of Assembly?
Going down memory lane how can we forget how Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had to mellow down when he tried to Privatise the Edifice in 2001 due to pressure from well meaning Nigerians associated with Arts & Culture,the likes of Prof Wole Soyinka, Prof Femi Osofisan and several Nigeria Entertainers at large. To think the Minister for Tourism Edem Duke, the General Manager of the National Theatre Kabiru Yar Adua and Society Lady Fifi Ejindu amongst other nameless individuals caught up in the murky deal have more muscle than OBJ is absurd or is it another case of corrupt practice with coverage from above? Surely the last has not been heard of our National Art Theatre Iganmu Lagos.It is imperative that all lovers of arts and our shared history of it tied in that building, will rise up and lend their voices to once again prevent soulless profiteers from selling off our national chattel for a pittance,unborn generation will never forgive our complacency if we allow this.
Kamil Giwa is a regular contributor,an entrepreneur who lives and conducts his business in Abuja.He tweets from @kamilgiwa