Professor Sunday Enessi Ododo, the General Manager/Chief Executive Officer, National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos State, in this interview with Ganiyu Obaaro, said he is on a mission to rescue the iconic edifice and make more competitive. Excerpts
We know that national theatre is an iconic establishment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Over the past one year that you have been in the saddle as the boss of the establishment, please, tell us your experience?
I came as the General Manager/CEO of this very deeply grounded, massive, richly endowed cultural heritage that is underutilised, because most of the installed facilities since1976 before it’s commissioning in1977 to FESTAC 77, have waned, dilapidated; and many have lost currency in terms of technological relevance. The world has moved beyond most of those equipment we have there currently; for these reasons, there is less patronage for the centre of culture that used to be the toast of Nigerians and other cultural enthusiasts.
I don’t want to say that it’s too early to ask you what legacy you intend to leave behind, but before you took up the appointment, you must have taken a deep and broad look at the job that after some years, what am I going to leave behind, even though this is for people to judge?
I wish I had that opportunity to think about it before taking the job, because I didn’t know the job was coming. Give that to the Minister of Information and Cultural Orientation, Alhaji Lai Muhammad. Because, if you look at the nine of us that were appointed at that point in time, we are all thorough-bred technocrat. To a very large extent, you can say that we are technological influenced and the media acknowledge that; and the appointments reflected all the geo- political zones of the country in terms of federal character. North Central was represented, North East, South west, south east, South South are all there. But when the appointment came, calls we’re coming in from the press people asking what are you coming to do?
Are there any distractions since you came on board; and how have you been coping with them?
Of course, whenever there is public appointment, they are living up to it, you see distractions are there mainly based on false hood, but we’re focused because our books are very correct; people have different agenda in work places. Extremely, few still believe that the old order should prevail but that is not new to me. In fact, as the president of Society of Nigerian Theatre Arts, SONTA, I met such. After the first two years, it became clear that I knew where I was going. You see, one thing about leadership is courage, self-conviction; so, you have to believe in yourself and convince people around you to believe in you and move on.
Most times, it is only people with vision that see clearly, but you have a task to make others, especially the followers, sit with you and once they see it and understand it, they will be the one to run with it so that even after you that vision continues. And that’s how working modern societies are built. Chief Obafemi Awolowo did not just win, but his vision caught fire in Western Region. Alhaji Lateef Jakande, former Governor of Lagos State, came and keyed into it. Former Lagos State Governor, Senator Bola Tinubu, also came and keyed into it too. So, today, you talk about development in Nigeria, the south west would be counted as one of the foremost.
Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, came with his own vision and keyed into it. Therefore, the political dexterity of the Northern people today is imbibed and learned by Sir Ahmadu Bello. These are leadership issues. Those that are in line with your visions, you take and those that you don’t believe in you leave; at the end of the day, people would still merit why you didn’t imbibe certain critical suggestion and why you went for some others that may not even be popular.
We want to showcase the National Theatre to the world many cultural beliefs, cultural heritage of our people and seen in action fused together as Nigeria cultural entity and image unifying Nigerians; seeing themselves as one Nation; seeing themselves as brothers and sisters.
I want to build a National theatre that would provide platforms for our youths to discover and grow their talents and feed one another through their creativity. I want to build a national theatre that is very active and enterprising to develop entertainment and creative industries; and to contribute immensely to the national economy.
I can see the entrepreneurial spirit you want to imbibe and see others imbibe it too, but do you have any plan for corporate social responsibility, because when you are involved in entrepreneurship, there would be demand for you to also put back something to the society?
By our Act, it’s competition. Our Act is to promote the present and preserve the Nigerian cultural heritage; that is corporate social responsibility. To do that, you need to progress and ensure that the people know most of these things.
Talking about building different platforms for youths; that is talent hunt; those who come to exhibit their talents, they are not going to pay you, rather, they are teaching them how to fish so they can become good fishermen.
This is part of social responsibility, but we need the entrepreneurship to source for the fund; so, it can also assist the processes of giving back to the society; and that is one thing that is very admirable about President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration; social inclusion and eradication of poverty. Government cannot provide what every individual needs, but there is a belief that Nigerian youths are creatively endowed, and through their own creative endeavors. Don’t forget that the edifice has been revamped; it is not the only thing that is coming. Directly opposite us there, is an entertainment city, that is going to come up where four hubs are created; hub in music, IT, fashion and others. And I tell you, these are four key areas where our youths can best express their creativity and talent; after food, what interests every Nigerian, is fashion. And Nigerians like to look good; they change dresses every day. Investment in fashion design can wrap your waist and you cannot but make profit. IT the owners, WhatsApp, Facebook are products of IT, software design. I can assure you that there are great Nigerians who can also come up with these, so that on second basis, they make money. That is the agenda; that is the focus.