ARt & OUTrage

Niteshift Coliseum As A Song For Leadership

(written 2003)
THE day the prime entertainment centre, Niteshift Coliseum marked its 15th year of operations, the politicians invaded its shimmering bosom and turned it into a mini-political summit hall.
Three state governors — Bola Tinubu, Lagos; Segun Osoba, Ogun; Orji Kalu, Abia — were physically present. There was the Lagos deputy governor, Femi Pedro and, a representative of Kogi State governor. Chief Press Secretary to the Vice President Chris Mammah brought goodwill from his boss, Atiku Abubakar.
There was Bode Olajumoke, the PDP chieftain; Adeniji Adele, an ANPP stalwart; Olorunnimbe Mamora, Speaker of Lagos House of Assembly; Tokunbo Afikuyomi, an Alliance for Democracy senator and a whole clan of other no less notable politicians and aspirants. They all came in their individual affluence and influence. They carried their aspirations in their massive robes and subtly impressed it in the audience that 'we sef deh here o'.
They came to ‘shine their eyes’. Well, The Coliseum was a ground for them to register their presence on the political turf with the Nigerian public. They knew that and they bore the burden of their ambition in their individual carriage and body language.
The seriousness of the occasion is perhaps borne in the submission of Governor Kalu who reportedly declared that he recognised the importance of being present at the event that he had to charter a flight just to ensure that he was at the occasion. Evidence of the pressure he left behind at home probably made him to leave the event before the proceedings peaked.
The Vice President, according to organisers of the event, regretted that he had another function that prevented him from attending the all-important event. He was away in Port Harcourt where the PDP was flagging off its the South South Zone's Presidential campaigns for the 2003 elections.
All the same, his heart was at the event even as he sweated it out in the sun of Garden City to convince the people why they have to keep faith with the Obasanjo-Atiku ticket.
Nevertheless, the vice president had such a formidable delegation to stand in for him.
Governor Tinubu was afraid of missing the juicy parts of the event that he sent his deputy and almost a third of his cabinet as an advance team. It was rumoured and in fact, reported in a daily that the governor (and his (eventual) fellow Coliseum-pilgrims), had to rush old man Abraham Adesanya to truncate a meeting of key Lagos politicians at the Yoruba leader's home, just so they could attend the party at the Coliseum. Quite generous of Tinubu, after all, he was the hosting governor.
These politicians, they all came to share of the success of a dream of just one Nigerian —Ken Calebs Olumese, Guv'nor of the Niteshift Coliseum. They validated the institution which the man through dint of envisioning, hardwork, perseverance and commitment had dreamt from his teen years and accomplished almost five decades after.
These incredible politicians, they gave credence to the fact that dreams can be dreamt and lived in this environment in spite of the stifling air around progressive ideation. And yet they have almost through their words and actions, branded dream and progressive visioning impossibilities
These impermeable politicians who have been ceaselessly blame-washed for their inability to dream for their people, and yet have manifested, by their policies and mindset, as incapable of responding to the yearns of their people they profess to serve.
These politicians, leaders who have been slab for failing continuously to inspire their followers.
These curious politicians who have been perceived as philistine in their consciousness that they are afraid of things of the intellect; scared to embrace beauty; too self-indulgent in vague conception of progress, that they cannot see the import of cultural development in the quest for social and economic growth.
These perfunctory leaders who are too pre-occupied with counting as, their achievement, the obvious tangible needs — how many roads, how many electricity poles, how many loaf of bread, how many this, how many that — that they cannot think of the intangibles.
Simplistic leaders who cannot perspectivise purposeful governance from the angle of catering for the spiritual and intellectual needs of their people by investing in projects that would help them to imbibe self-esteem, self-belief, self-confidence in their own history as a people and the greatness of their heritage as participants in the global cultural discourse and polity.
Overtly materialistic leaders who cannot see that cultural self-esteem is the foundation of any people's effective participation in the scary West-invented project called Globalisation.
These politicians, these leaders, they came to swim in the glorious dawning of a harvest which Calebs-Olumese envisioned, dreamed, tilled and now is reaping.
When the politicians had the chance to speak on the occasion, each of them rained praises on Calebs-Olumese's deeds. They loved his gut, his spirit of daring; his adventurist sensibility. His feat marveled them and they could not hide their admiration.
One of the politicians said of Ken Calebs-Olumese: here is one man who rose above all the odds to get his vision and the bountiful reap imprinted on the fabric of history.
Another politician in the house said: here is a man who knows how to use the arts in the ultimate goal of cultivating certain untapped energies and resources in the youths and growing such virtues for the benefit of creating an enlightened tomorrow generation.
The Governors rained poetry on the Guv'nor's deed. They let the prose of admiration flow unhindered from their soul. They sounded genuine. Never mind that cynics would always subject a politician's word to very finicky scrutiny.
The peak of the moment was when the politicians jostled for space on the stage to be part of the cake cutting ceremony. It was a race of their lives. The shorter fellows almost mounted stools just to have a shot at the knife. They wore this ocean-size smiles and ensured that the motley cameras recorded them for whatever effect that would generate.
They cut the cake baked by one man with ingredients he mustered by his own personal will and wit and resources he sourced by his own business acumen and self-mortification.
The politicians danced and wined and dined to the rhythms waxed by a private entrepreneur who has no access whatsoever to state resources officially allocated or officially looted. As the lord of public-servantship merry with Calebs-Olumese, they never seemed to have had a jolt of self-pity or self-questioning or self-blame. They spoke as if they had no inkling of their own antecedents of failings in mining the artistic and cultural wealth of the country.
None of them engaged in self-dialogue: 'how many of this kind of Calebs-Olumese's enterprise have I at any time in my privileged tenure as a leader of my people, or an aspirant leader, conceived or built for the purpose of growing the youths in my homestead?'
None of them in that momentary flash of reflection before they dug the knife into the heart of The Coliseum's statemental cake, self-critiqued the cultural policy of his administration (that is if the government has a policy in the first place), to see how much provision there is for the kind of Calebs-Olumese's enterprise to flourish.
The three states whose governors mounted spectacle of the Ivoirien Magic System's lepa gaou dance steps on The Coliseum's stage that night, have no identifiable policy on culture and the arts.
And they have remained impervious to even freely given counsels on how to positively distract the youths from anti-social behaviours through the various disciplines in the arts.
At the 17th National Festival of Arts and Culture last November, these were the states whose youthful artists slept in the open air of the Integrated Cultural Centre in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, begged for survival stipends and, generally had very poor outings in the various programmes of the event… for the simple reasons that their governors had outrightly refused to finance their participation or short-changed them in terms of providing adequate fund for the venture.
The office of the Vice President, richly represented at The Coliseum's anniversary, supervises the federal government's privatisation drive through the National Privatisation Council headed by Abubakar Atiku.
And it is this same office that came to savour the harvest of Calebs-Olumese that superintended the smuggling (a corruptive act) of the National Theatre into the list of government properties to be sold to the highest bidder.
It is the office that has been reported as been most arrogant and impervious to reasons and cries of the public that it is an error of judgement for any country to sell off its primal symbol of cultural unity.
It is the office that has been publicly rumoured to have a clandestine agenda in the selling of the Theatre edifice because someone high up there is interested in building casino and such other profane facilities on the landmass around the theatre edifice.
It is strange that these political elements with the worst record of service to the arts and culture as well as the collective of the creative workers, seized the feast of The Coliseum's 15th anniversary.
Strange indeed!
But for the Guv'nor of Niteshift Coliseum, Ken Calebs-Olumese, it is a bouquet of deserved appreciation for at least dragging the politicians from the drudgery of their offices and excesses, and make them see that there is another life more deserving than the self-importance air of political offices. This the Guv'nor had set in motion through his periodic Grand House Reception for mostly political leaders in the recent past.


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