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Reactions trail decision to privatise the National Theatre

01 August 2012, 12:00

Lagos - Mixed reactions on Wednesday trailed the decision by the Federal Government to accept private investment in the National Theatre, Lagos.

Some stakeholders said the decision was a move in the right direction while others were of a different opinion.

The Minister of Tourism Culture and National Orientation, Mr Edem Duke, had on July 28, stated the willingness of the Federal Government to accept private investment in the theatre to enable its turn around from years of neglect.

Mr Yunusa Tanko, Deputy Director and Head of Corporate Affairs, National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), said it was a wise decision but called on government to partner with the investors.

Tanko said that government should be a partner in the investment, and argued that giving the theatre completely to investors was not be the best idea.

He said the National Theatre was one of the largest monuments in the country and urged the government to bring in partners who could hold some percentage while it sat on the rest.

He suggested that the partners should invest in most of the resources since government could not completely fund it due to competing demands for resources.

Tanko noted that the National Theatre generated a lot of resources and needed adequate attention to revive it.

Prof. Jenkeri Okwori, a lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU) Zaria, said that privatising the theatre would be a costly mistake, as it was akin to privatising the soul of Nigerian culture.

According to him, countries that have developed and advanced economically, and are able to exist in relative peace are nations where culture is taken as the basis and foundation of development.

``The likes of Cuba, Brazil, South Korea, even neighbouring countries like Ghana and South Africa are examples where cultural edifices like the National Theatre are serving a deserved national course.

``Everything may make economic sense, but economic sense is not the only sense. Cultural sense is equally good if not more important,” he said.

Okwori emphasised the need for government to give attention to the theatre, which, he said, was a cultural edifice and an arena for the development and production of national consciousness.

``It is unfortunate that a civil administration that should better understand the unique position of culture in development and shaping of national consciousness is the one that we wish to experiment and diminish a national icon like the National Theatre,” he added.

Okwori, advised that instead of privatising the theatre, government should rather view the possibility of building a theatre in the FCT.

Mr Jonathan Lyamgohn, head of Cool FM, Abuja, said the theatre had over the years brought to the lime light Nigerians like the late actor and comedian, Sam Loco Efe.

He noted that if it remained in disrepair, the dreams and aspirations of some theatre graduates and Nigerians would be shattered.

``The theatre is a national edifice that should not be allowed to go like that; if it is privatised we are not at a loss because we are the ones that will still use it” Lyamgohn said.

Mr Brian Etuk, the Head of Public Affairs, Nigeria Film Corporation (NFC) said the decision of the government was good as the theatre was being underutilised.

Etuk called on government to exercise its resolution with caution in order to avoid any loss.

He said that although the decision was a move in the right direction there was decay in all sectors and a lot still needed to be done to move the country forward.

Since its inauguration in the 1970s, the National Theatre has been the hub of theatre activities, film shows, exhibitions, symposia and had hosted various national and international theatre and musical events, including FESTAC ’77.



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