By Kola Odepeju
The news making the rounds about the federal government’s plan to concession the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos cannot be said to be a palatable one. And if the news is true, then such a plan must be resisted by all patriotic Nigerians. To conceive the idea of concessioning a national monument of that importance is, to me, most unpatriotic and an insult to the sensibility of Nigerians.
I hold this opinion much because such a plan is nothing, but a plot to sell another valuable asset of this nation through the back door to those who brought our country to this morass by their kleptomaniac attitude.
The fundamental question to ask here is: what could be the reasons for the government to want to give up such a valuable asset to concessionaires? It could be argued though, that the National Theatre has lost its past glory, this is not peculiar to the Theatre alone. Just like most of our national institutions, it has not been living up to expectations in the recent years. But there’s an obvious reason for this and is not far-fetched. The cankerworm of corruption which has been the bane of our society is a factor responsible for the doldrums in which the Theatre has found itself. However, to conceive the idea of concessioning or selling it off is not the solution. The solution is to fight the disease that has made it near moribund. And this task is not beyond the capacity of the new leadership of the Theatre headed by that seasoned, committed cultural scholar and renowned artist, Comrade Tar Ukoh, who, since he came on Board, has demonstrated the capacity to rebuild the institution.
Those familiar with his antecedents cannot deny the fact that Comrade Ukoh – as the new Artistic Director/CEO of the National Theatre – has what it takes to lift the place out of its present parlous state and return it to its past glory. Whatever argument the government may want to advance as the reason for wanting to concession this institution cannot in any way be plausible enough to take this step, as throwing away the baby with the bath water would be grossly unwise, while cutting off the head would be suicidal in looking for solution for the headache. Thus, to conceive the idea of concessioning the Theatre, especially now that it has worn a new garment of responsible leadership, armed with the vision and competence to reposition it, doesn’t augur well in the interest of our nation.
Since coming on Board as the new Artistic Director/CEO Comrade Ukoh has shown a committed effort at fighting the monsters of corruption, mismanagement of resources and poorly motivated staff all which have brought the Theatre to its present undignifying state. At the National Theatre now, the mantra is “Corruption Must Fall”. Conspicuously hung on the wall at the entrance of the Theatre is a banner that reads “Culture Must Kill Corruption, Before Corruption Kills Culture”. This new spirit at the National Theatre is in tandem with the anti-corruption ideology of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
And it’s not just a mere sloganeering, the new leadership of the institution is visibly walking the talk, as we heard in the news sometimes in November, 2017 that some Directors of the Theatre were quizzed by the EFCC last over allegations of corruption. This shows that a man with zero tolerance for corruption, who is sincerely committed to reviving this national asset and restoring its past glory, is now at the helms of its affairs. For me this is a commendable step that deserves to be applauded by every patriotic Nigerian.
In the light of the above, the government should do away with the thought of concessioning this institution. The government needs to reflect on the admonition of that great Romanian philosopher and essayist, Emil Cioran, that; “Each concession we make is accompanied by inner diminution of which we are not immediately conscious”. Should the government refuse to heed this warning, then, patriots of our land must rise against any attempt to carry out this plot. For, with its new responsible, visionary and transparent leadership, this institution is already set on the path of revival.