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On World Theatre Day, Lagos rallies Thespians to fulfil peace and development rites

By Akeem Lasisi

As Thespians globally marked the World Theatre Day on Wednesday, March 27, the Lagos State Government again renewed its interest in the growth of the creative sector. This it did when it powered a performance feast that featured some of the most engaging theatre troupes domiciled in the state. The event, which held at the Mike Adenuga Centre (Alliance Francaise), Ikoyi, oiled the bond between the Babajide Sanwo-Olu government and the industry that is connected to others such as film and literature. In many cases, a dramatist is also a writer and filmmaker.

Anchored by the Lagos State Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, the event attracted leading lights that included a Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Lagos, Professor Duro Oni, who is also a former Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC); veteran actress, Taiwo Ajai-Lycett; celebrated actors/filmmakers Yemi Solade and Kunle Afolayan, members of the international community as well as drama students from various institutions. Also in attendance was multi-talented artist, Dr Tunji Sotimirin, who also teaches at the Creative Arts Department, UNILAG; and co-founder of the Committee for Relevant Arts, Jahman Anikulapo, who, interestingly, was instrumental in the success of the Providus Bank World Poetry Day with Wole Soyinka, held at the Eko Hotels and Suites on March 21. But the fun-makers of the day were the performance troupes that gave exciting accounts of themselves.

The theme for this year’s commemoration of the Day is ‘Theatre and Culture of Peace’. Internationally acclaimed Crown Troupe of Africa, led by Segun Adefila, did not disappoint the audience as it staged a piece that was not just entertaining and engaging but also relevant to the socio-economic challenges the country is experiencing. Through the performance, the troupe sensitised Nigerians on the need to contribute their quotas in easing the current hardship occasioned by reformations being carried out by the Tinubu government.

Amid applauses, the Saxophone Hub, a troupe of dancers, presented instrumental performance of the late Victor Uwaifor’s ‘Joromi’, the late Victor Olaiya’s ‘Omo Pupa’ and Simi’s ‘Duduke’. Abiodun Oke, a percussionist, popularly known as, Wura Samba, displayed a high level of creativity with his traditionally built Samba drum – while another group called ‘Dance Na The Main Thing’ (DNMT) gave a beautiful dance performance.

Also, ever-resourceful Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture, where veteran comedian Abiodun Ayoyinka, aka Papa Ajasco, plays a major role, showcased a playlet titled “Oshodi”, highlighting the Lagos popular area as a place of movement, prosperity and adversity. As also reported by the News Agency of Nigeria, while the Lagos transportation system of “Danfo” was equally celebrated, Queens and Kings Theatre Academy and Sage were among other groups that performed.

In his remarks, Mr Idris Aregbe, Special Adviser to Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Tourism, Arts and Culture, expressed delight that the younger generation of artistes were carried along in the development of arts and culture. He appreciated Gov. Sanwo-Olu for always supporting the sector.

He noted: “We have to take advantage of our position and that is why we are doing this and we will continue to do our best. Today is World Theatre Day and we cannot just celebrate it in a small way. That is why we have gone all out to do this. I have a governor who believes so much in potentials of tourism and entertainment. I am happy that I’m part of his team and I have said to him that I will do everything possible to ensure Lagos continues to lead in tourism.

“We have increased the conversation, and the music and we will continue to make everyone know that Lagos has a lot to contribute when it comes to theatre and tourism. We are intensifying the scope and making sure that more people are also being involved. This is what we are doing today and that is why you see a lot of stakeholders coming together to promote theatre. This is about Nigeria and about Africa. It is about who we are and what we believe in. Lagos is a melting pot for every culture. This is a conversation that is ongoing and we will continue to impact as we continue on this journey.”

According to him, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is very passionate about the growth of the creative industry and is thus prepared to continue to invest in it by supporting practitioners achieve the best.

On his part, Mr Solomon Bonu, Chairman, Lagos State House Committee on Tourism, Arts and Culture, assured stakeholders of his commitment to developing the industry.
Aslo, Ajai-Lycett, who is also an actress, producer, broadcaster, writer and an educationist said the modern day entertainment will bring tourists.
Ajai-Lycett said politicians can do more by supporting arts and entertainment than they are doing now.
“If you think about America, you see that Hollywood industry are the people enticing people to go to America. Look at how alive this place is. When you equate liveliness and creativity, people become more interested. People want to be happy and the things that will make them happy and make the naira appreciate is tourism.
“Theatre which is in the entertainment industry is the lifeline of Nigeria. This is where the future of Nigeria is because we are incredible and creative and that creativity spills into science and all sorts of things. If you major on the creative industry, you can boost the country’s economy. When you are focusing on entertainment, you are focusing on the people,” she said.

Stakeholders would recall some of the major programmes that the Sanwo-Olu administration had initiated in the creative sector. Among such, it has completed the building of the John Randle Centre – a marvellous edifice located in Onikan, in the neighbourhood of the MUSON Centre, National Museum, City Mall, Yoruba Tennis Club and Freedom Park. Also, the government initiated a grant scheme for filmmakers, supports training organisations in capacity building while it is also helping in facilitating the building of a massive film village in Ketu-Ejinrin, Epe.

As part of his desire to help solve challenges in the creative sector, Sanwo-Olu recently called for a collaborative action between the Federal Government, states and practitioners to tackle the challenge of copyright piracy which costs Nigeria about $3 billion annually. He spoke at a forum on Art of Technology Lagos 5.0 forum with the theme: ‘The Creative Economy and a digital Lagos’.

According to him, piracy presents a significant threat to Nigeria’s growing creative market and “certainly we cannot fold our hands and watch where a significant portion of creative content falls victim of piracy which results into substantial economic losses annually.”

The governor told about 2, 500 audience of digital creative minds that Lagos wanted to collaborate with World Intellectual Property Right organisation to establish a robust framework for enforcing copy right law.

“When we work together, we will be able to implement measures that will safeguard intellectual property and cultivate an environment where creativity is not only protected but also flourished,” the governor had noted.

The fact is that Sanwo-Olu sees the creative industry as one through which many youths can be empowered and prosperously engaged. The “E” Pillar of the T.H.E.M.E.S PLUS development agenda of his government, which stands for Entertainment and Tourism, symbolises the Government’s commitment to fully harness the wealth creation and employment generation opportunities in the arts, culture, tourism and entertainment arena.

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