The last time I was at the national theatre was when I attended the NANTAP investiture of its brand ambassadors. Going by the level of decay ascribed to the monument, I was amazed with sarcasm though, the supposed cultural edifice could still boast of wheezy air-conditioners, poor stage lighting, threadbare curtains and intimidating cobweb presence.
I didn’t expect a bulb to light up the dark and damp corners of any of its vast halls. Nevertheless, this is not to trivialize the current state of rot and disrepair at the national theatre, Iganmu. The abysmal handling of an architectural masterpiece the place is attests to how far we have back slidden from maintenance culture and preservation of things otherwise are of high devotion in other countries.
To stress the extent of this bad habit, practically, all the relics of the greatest festival ever held in Africa- FESTAC “77 are in parlous condition. The purpose-built estate, FESTAC Town for instance, has been in ruins and the residents crying foul over the need to restore its lost glory. The National Theatre designed after the similitude of Bulgarian architectural masterpiece suffers the same state of neglect and mismanagement.
Whereas the building boasts of the largest theatre auditorium in West Africa, theatre practitioners refrain from using the facility because of the epileptic supply of essentially complementary services as – lighting, air-conditioners, regular renovation to meet the trend, fans, etc. Quite minor you would say, but the absence of such “peripheral” facilities is what puts off patronage and this can only happen in the absence of observant and visionary leaders in the affairs of the culture totem.
Recently, in a desperate attempt to give the place a face-lift, the need to award the concession of the 20 hectares of land surrounding the building arose. In the following process, two prominent bidders emerged in contention with Top wide Apeas/Chris Michael offering the sum of N103 billion while Calzada Nigeria Limited offered the sum of N 144 billion with additional guarantee to refurbish the main theatre building. But weirdly, Mr. kabir Yusuf- the general manager for eight barren years, sanctions Top wide over Calzada, a situation the entire culture workers see as most bizarre. This belies why the building has remained in its current pathetic condition.
To restore the dwindling fortunes of this once revered cultural institution, its present managerial team must be swept away to take its rightful place in the trash of history. Elitist project as the national theatre shouldn’t be a training ground for rookies. We enjoin the present government thus, to handpick from the pool of arts and culture practitioners for the best-choice candidate to handle the place. The mantra of change we earnestly clamored for will not impact us if issues as this that affect us are not transformed by the wind of change we so much evangelized. The national theatre craves new hands!