Oba Akenzua II Cultural Complex
Culture Agencies Given Quite Notice
For quite a period of time, an irritating stance exhibited at both federal and state governments’ levels pertain to issues relating to the propagation and realistic promotion of Nigeria’s national creative themes that have always been treated with unseriousness and even condescension. To re-call a few issues on ground is the demolition of the Arts Village at the National Arts Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, and the other is the leasing out of Oba Akenzua II Cultural Complex, Airport Road, Benin City by Edo State Government.
Past inexplicable reasons why the Federal Government wanted to give out a National Monument like the National Arts Theatre to be run by private hands, even though it didn’t succeed, show that the Almighty didn’t support the move and in anger, the Art Village nearby, where disciples were producing items to depict the various artistic themes of the nation, was invaded and destroyed by government agents and nothing has been put back there as a replacement.
Could this be described as ‘bad belle intrigues’ by interested government officials, who couldn’t have their way to run the National Arts Theatre as a private enterprise?
This clique of cultural saboteurs has to be tutored to know the meaning of what a national movement is. On ground at the theatre are professionals trained and who can compete with their colleagues from other parts of the world, who respect their national monuments with the pride associated with them.
Apart from the periodic exhibition of other aspects of dance performance is the deliberate ignoring of ‘home-based indigenous artists,’ who are traditionally and realistically born performers, than the clique at the Iganmu-based National Troupe of Nigeria. There is a lot of difference between the artistry of the National Troupe and its indigenous counterparts based in Nigeria’s many respective villages.
The artificiality exhibited by the National Troupe members when on stage is so empty to an unbiased audience than when the village artists get on stage.
Mixing somersaulting effect with a dance outing creates an absolute and unrelated production material.
In some of the artificiality-created pieces to beautify and elevate the city performer, choreography is overdone, thereby making the city performer look like a naked masquerade that can easily be identified by a member of the audience, when in reality, a masquerade is supposed not to be known publicly, even though only members of a troupe know who is to be costumed as a masquerade for an outing. I have deliberately deviated into some specific aspects of creative themes; they all are related to the essence of allowing national monuments to be so left alone as institutions that belong to us all and not to a clique of business people.
Whatever the amount of money the unpopular deal would put into government’s pocket, it is untidy, to say the least.
Specifically, the Oba Akenzua II Cultural Complex in Benin City has, indeed, suffered what it doesn’t merit, with this new deal that is an assault on our cultural consciousness. I re-call that during late Gen. Sanni Abacha’s ruining period, I leaked the secret plan of the then state government to His Royal Majesty, late Oba Erediauwa, of plans to change the centre’s name to Abacha’s. He calmly told me then: “I thank you, Abudah. Let them please themselves.”
It later bore Abacha’s name, but years rolled by and it came back to be renamed Oba Akenzua II Cultural Complex. The edifice is in the news again for a similar mercantile reason. It has come to light again that the immediate past government of Comrade Adams Aliyu Eric Oshiomhole completed the leasing of the complex to a private concern before leaving office. This is a disservice to the people of Edo State. I am not particularly keen who got the lease, but the entire state’s Ministry of Arts and Culture, with its professionals (both creative and administrative), including another Federal Government-owned art agency, have all been served a quit notice.
The leasing of Oba Akenzua II Cultural Complex is ill-conceived and a bad market deal, and Governor Godwin Obaseki is to be pitied over this burdensome inheritance. I hope his shoulders would be strong enough to shake off this very unpopular action of his predecessor, Comrade Oshiomhole. Perhaps, he was aware of the deal; again, this is piteous. A national monument ought to be allowed to remain as a pride of the people and not pass off as a commercial concern to the highest bidder.
* Abudah, a journalist and founder of Afenmai Heritage & Cultural Studies, wrote in from Benin City, Edo State