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Re-inventing arts, culture administration in post COVID-19 lockdown era

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Artistes performing

Beyond the health and human tragedy of the coronavirus, it is now widely recognised that the pandemic has triggered one of the most serious economic crises in the century: Disrupted global supply chains, weaker demand for goods and services, drop in international tourism and decline in travel business.

To survive the Post COVID-19 lockdown era is what should attract the attention of government and culture workers, as the culture, creative industries (CCIs) have been hit hard by measures to contain the virus’ spread.

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Last week Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the appointment of chief executive officers for nine of the agencies under the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture.

According to the approval letter, which was conveyed to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, by Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Chief of Staff to the President, on Tuesday, and Mr. Buki Ponle was appointed Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria while Mr. Nura Sani Kangiwa was named the Director General, National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism (NIHOTOUR).

Mr. Francis Ndubuisi Nwosu was appointed the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Press Council; Mr. Ebeten William Ivara, Director General, National Gallery of Arts; Mr. Olalekan Fadolapo, Registrar/CEO of Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria and Prof. Sunday Enessi Ododo, General Manager/CEO, National Theatre.

Others are Mr. Ado Mohammed Yahuza, Executive Secretary/CEO, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO); Prof. Aba Isa Tijjani, Director General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments and Mrs. Oluwabunmi Ayobami Amao, Director General, Centre For Black And African Arts And Civilisation.

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The appointments take effort from September 1, 2020.

It was cheery news in the sector, as the culture arm of the ministry had suffered serious setback in recent years over because of chief executives remaining on acting capacity. In the National Commission for Museums and Monuments, for instance, about four persons acted and retired without confirmation.

The immediate chief executive of NICO, Luis Eriomala, also served for about four years in acting capacity. Consequently, the last week’s substantive appointment was received with commendation.

But how much of sector interest was taken into consideration?

On March 21, 2011 over 450 members of the creative community gathered at the banquet hall of the Eko Hotel & Suites in Lagos. It was an event, which many, who attended, would not forget in a hurry. It was a meeting initiated by the former President Goodluck Jonathan with the objective of lifting the Culture, Creative Industry (CCIs).

At the Presidential parley, virtually all the disciplines in the art, through their professional bodies, spoke on the challenges militating against their professional and career fulfillment.

In a summation of the various presentations, culture communicator and advocate, Ben Tomoloju, speaking on the platform of the Coalition of Nigerian artists (CONA), which coordinated invitation of majority of the participants, urged the presidency to beat the records of past administrations and leaders by “giving artists deserved visibility in matters concerning their trades in government appointments.”

The minister who spoke briefly on the appointment said efforts were made to ensure that every geo-political zone was represented in the appointment. Nothing that he may not know the newly appointed chief executives personally, the selection was thorough to ensure that activities pick up fully in the sector.

An inside source in NICO regretted the removal of Mrs. Bridgette Yerima on account that since she came on board, there were remarkable changes in the Institute. They felt that she would have been allowed to run the affairs of the institute rather than bringing an outsider.

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They also pointed to NGA, where an outsider was also brought. For many, in the last one year, Dr. Simon Ikpakroyin has done well enough to be confirmed as the substantive chief executive

Sources who spoke to The Guardian said government’s continuous search for chief executive forgetting career civil servants would affect their loyalty, especially, those who were neglected.

They, however, said government also made the right choice in the appointment. Pointing to the new chief executive of NICO, Mr. Ado Mohammed Yahuza, they said he is a good choice, having been the director of Human Resources at the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC).

For NIHOTOUR, Nura has been described variously as an experienced hand, who is capable of turning the fortune of the institute around within a short time.

“We have worked together in many editions of Abuja Carnival and he never failed. He is humble and is ready to learn. As soon as he settles down, he will turn the place around. Beyond that, he is a detribalized Nigerian,” said a source.

Professor Sunny Ododo, who is saddled with the administration of the National Theatre, is a seasoned theatre arts practitioner and scholar. It is hoped that he will bring his many years of experience to bear on his new position.

But Dr. Sola Adeyemi of the Goldsmith College, London, is not comfortable with some of the appointments. He asked, “what has the incumbent ever does? At least, in recent times. They “manage” truly, but this is not with any incentive to innovate.”

Adeyemi asked, “with the new deal concerning the National Theatre premises, Ododo will only be expected to liaise with the project managers and manage the normal theatre workforce. Do you think this can be different?”

He added, “being candid about Ododo and National Theatre, if anybody can achieve anything, its Ododo. He is a Theatre technician/scenographer. He has the experience of working in the university and outside. He has vast network connections in Nigeria and outside. The main issue is the inherent corruption in the culture industry and the lack of government patronage and sponsorship. The place is always starved of money. That’s my reason for saying it’s a ‘ceremonial post’, because the government that appointed him may also be the one that undermines his efforts.”

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The new helmsman in NCMM, Dr. Abba Isa Tijani is currently an Associate Professor of Museology and Anthropology at the University of Maiduguri and the Acting Director, Centre for the Study and Promotion of Cultural Sustainability.

He was the Head of Department of Fine and Creative Arts as well as the Deputy Director, Archive and Records Unit of the University of Maiduguri.

In an effort to open a new vista for art and culture administration Post COVID-19 lockdown, a virtual conference, themed, ‘Arts & Culture Administration In Pandemic Era’, with consolidating unity and cooperation in the culture community as a sub-theme, held on August 2, 2020.

At the event, Mahmood Ali-Balogun, chairman of the Audio Visual Rights Society (AVRS) of Nigeria, said, “government itself causes one of the challenges we have in the area of collaboration. Appointments made by government to superintend government agencies are seen as thank you for political patronage. Until there is a reorientation as regards leadership of the organization, government there will continue to be a disconnect.”

The event was part of activities to celebrate Dr. Kole Ade-Odutola, poet, photographer, literary critic and lecturer at the University of Florida, Gainsville, who clocked 60. Ade-Odutola was instrumental to the formation of CONA.

While commending the creative sector’s contribution to the economy, which is one of the highest, Otunba Segun Runsewe, Director General of NCAC, who was the keynoter, raised the need for artists and government to work together.

Israel Eboh, president of National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP), believes that “no sector in any country can grow or develop without collaborating with those operating in the sector.”

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For him, the road to a developed sector is still far in Nigeria, “because culture practitioners and workers see themselves from the point of rivalry. Worse still, there has not been that proper funding needed to grow the sector.”

Eboh reasoned that here is need to recognise and support the arts in the development of culture. In the process, an attempt should be made to examine significant developments and trends in public and private support for the arts in relation to privately owned cultural institutions in Nigeria.

Eboh urged associations to begin engaging competent administrators. “People with comfort of mind to implement policies and not just a document. We don’t need to ask government for anything, unfortunately, there is no cultural policy. Government sets agenda and we begin to implement it. No endowment for the arts, but building infrastructure is the responsibility of government. We may have a law but policy is needed.”

An opinion also raised by Dapo Olorunyomi, publisher of Premium Times. He said, perhaps, its time “we considered the primacy of developing a culture charter around which the industry can collaborate, organise and seek engagement.”

He added, culture policy, often the design of governments, assume “they will be the agency to drive cultural development is probably in need of reformulation. A Culture Charter designed by all major stakeholders and used as a lodestar around driving the culture ecosystem is how all countries that have made significant progress in this realm have proceeded and it may be helpful to see what works in other realms.”

Bimbo Manuel, an actor, said artists should know how to speak the language of the corporate sector, as that is the only way they get funds.

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