Tuesday, November 9, 2010

CORA holds Publishers’ Forum as part of 12th Lagos Book & Art Festival.

The Committee For Relevant Art (CORA) is hosting decision-making executives of publishing houses to register for the Publishers Forum at the 12th edition of the annual Lagos Book & Art Festival.

The Festival runs from the 11th till the 14th of November 2010. The Publishers Forum is the very first programme and the only event for November 11, 2010.

The Lagos Book and Art Festival is unique for being an event where the emphasis is as much on insights into the content of books as it is in their promotion and sales. Therefore, for this year’s festival, we have designed what we call the
Publishers’ Forum to provide a concentrated space for key publishers in Nigeria to collectively appraise their current operations within the context of the challenges facing their industry, brainstorm on their findings and identify key steps that can be taken as individual businesses or as a collective to improve their bottom line. At CORA, we picture ourselves as midwives to the different facets of the creative industries in Nigeria, therefore what we hope to achieve through the publisher’s forum is to provide a platform for Nigerian publishers to collectively brainstorm on how to improve their business.

Within the four hours marked up for the business forum, we intend the participants to add value to their businesses through critical feedback on their processes, input on the most challenging areas they have to deal with and useful

The Publishers forum will be followed from 4pm to 6pm by a conversation (open to the public) tagged: “Wooing the mass market” where two publishers representing old business and new business will share from their current work and their
future plans, by discussing a selection from their publishing list. The discussions will be brought to a close with a cocktail.

A most apt way to describe the Publishers' Forum is to call it a 'focus group' or a strategy session where the facilitator(s) serve as umpires in a series of brainstorming sessions. The forum is targeted at principals of publishing houses who seek to grow their market and are willing to engage in creative thinking towards identifying strategies that can make this possible for them whether within a collective or through their individual operations. Our expectation is that cogent strategies would emerge from the session which are immediately implementable or could be built upon in future.

The Lagos Book & Art Festival is a comprehensive, four day programme of events; readings, conversations around books, art and craft displays, kiddies’ art workshops and reading sessions, book exhibitions, live music and dance. It will run from November 11 to 14 at the large exhibition hall of the National Theatre, Lagos. (The Publishers’ Forum will hold from 10am – 2pm on the 11th of November at the Eko Hotel and Suites in Victoria Island, Lagos.)

Please contact the undersigned to register for the Publishers’ Forum or for more information on the 12th Lagos Book & Art Festival.

Toyin Akinosho
Secretary General

* The CORA Publishers’ Forum is made possible by kind support from Evans
Publishers and Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG).

Monday, November 8, 2010

12th Lagos Book and Art Festival; Nov 11-14; Eko Hotel and National Theatre, Lagos; 9am-6pm daily

12th LABAF: Full Programmes

Scene from 2009 festival

The Lagos Book & Art Festival is a comprehensive, four day programme of events; readings, conversations around books, art and craft displays, kiddies’ art workshops and reading sessions, book exhibitions, live music and dance. It will run from November 11th to 14th November 2010 at the large exhibition hall of the National Theatre, Lagos. (The Publishers’ Forum will hold on the 11th of November at the Eko Hotel and Suites in Victoria Island, Lagos.) The programme for the event is as follows:

Theme: Literacy and the Notion of Freedom.

Dates: November 11-14, 2010
Venue: Exhibition Hall, National Theatre, Iganmu

Discourse panel at the 2009 editionScheduled Programme of KEY Events

Thursday (November 11) 10am-2pm
1. Publishers Forum: A business forum for publishers designed to add value to their business through critical feedback on processes, input on the most challenging areas they have to deal with and useful networking.

Thursday (November 11) 4pm-6pm
2. Conversation: Wooing the mass market: Two publishers representing old business and new business will share from their current work and their future plans, by discussing a selection from their publishing list.

Scene from the past: the Poet Odia Ofeimun with Curator of the CCA, Lagos, Bisi Silva in a conversation on Lagos at the 2008 edition

Friday (November 12), 10am-1pm
3. The Festival Colloquium(I): Theme: Literacy and Independence
Readings, Reviews, and discussions around 1.Then Spoke the Thunder- Tony Enahoro

2. You Must Set Forth At Dawn-Wole Soyinka; Nigeria: Africa’s failed asset?- Sir Olaniwun Ajayi, In-Dependence- Sarah Ladipo Manyika, To Saint Patrick- Eghosa Imasuen, When Citizen's Revolt- Ike Okonta

Friday, (November 12), 3pm-5pm
4. The Festival Colloquium (II): Theme: A nation of stories
Readings, Reviews, and discussions around
1. Tenants Of The House-Wale Okediran
2. Just Before Dawn- Kole Omotosho
3. Half Of A Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Adichie
4. In My Father’s Country-Adewale Maja Pearce

Scene from the past: Muyiwa Awodiya, [publisher of safer Books hares ideas with with the public at the LABAF 2009

Saturday, (November 13), 11am-1pm

5 Town Talk: Can a book make you rich?
A top notch panel of discussants review the role of books in economic empowerment and the financial dynamics of book publishing from the author’s perspective. Books: The Outlier, by Malcolm Gladwell, Minding Your Business By Leke Alder, 17 Secrets Of High Flying Students, by Fela Durotoye

Musical Interlude/Live Performance
Saturday, (November 13), 2pm-3pm

6. Writers AngstFour young authors discuss the pains and joys of writing.

Saturday, (November 13), 3pm-4pm

7- Lagos: 2060
What will be the fate of Lagos 100 years after independence? A panel of discussants will be set up to discuss the future of the mega-city and its continued role in inspiring, infuriating and enchanting writers across generations, taking a cue from the Lagos: 2060 project by DADA books.

Saturday, (November 13), 4pm-7pm

7. Festival Birthday Party
Odia Ofeimun at 60,
Patrick Doyle at 50,
Dele Momodu at 50,
Eddie Aderinokun at 70,
Ambassador Olusola at 75,
Fred Agbeyegbe at75,
Maxim Uzoatu at 50

Sunday, November 14, 2pm
8- Stampede- Theme: Folklore in Literature, Drama and film
A panel discussion on the presence or absence of folklore influences in the literature and film of our time. Books to discuss include The Adventures of a Sugarcane Man: Femi Osofisan’s adaptation of Fagunwa’s Ireke Onibudo, Praying Mantis By Andre Brink The Hiden Star, by Kabelo Sello Duiker, Allah Must Be Obliged by Ahmadou Koroumah

Sunday, November 15, 6pm
Festival Play: The Killing Swamp by Onukaba Adinoyi Ojo: To Commemorate 15 Years Of The Death of Ken Saro- Wiwa

Art exhibition is a strong feature of the festival.
Jahman Anikulapo
For Sponsorship please contact:
LABAF Secretariat
95, Bode Thomas Street, Surulere, Lagos

Jahman Anikulapo,
Programme Chair

Toiyin Akinosho,
Secretary General CORA

Ayo Arigbabu
Project Manager, CORA

LABAF 2010 – The Green Festival 5
Concept: 'Better Tomorrow Project'

THEME: Greening Our Creativity @ 50 -

THEME: Greening Our Creativity @ 50 - On 23 January, 1995, the Federal Government declared that 14 September of every year should be observed as a National Day of Creativity. The declaration was in line with the signing of the Bern Convention for Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and was intended as a day "to further draw attention to the contribution of creativity to our national development effort". The observance of the day, therefore, was intended as an occasion for the nation to showcase its immense talents in the arts, sciences and technology.


My Encounter with the Book -
Olaboludele Simoyan [author of “The 8th Wonder of The World - Made In Nigeria”]
9 am – 10.30am Green Creativity Workshops 1 – Workshops follow viewing of a documentary: “Malaria-Cure or Kill?”My Malaria Story” – in Words“My Malaria Story” – in Pictures
“My Malaria Story” – in Dance
[Organised by CATE in collaboration with Science Café & AMMREN]11 am – 1pm

“Talking Books with CATE”You, Too, Can Write!A roundtable discussion on:
‘The Land of Kalamandahoo’- by Ruby Igwe [for 6-10yrs]
‘The Missing Clock’- by Adeleke Adeyemi [for 9-13yrs]
‘One Little Mosquito’ – by Ndidi Enemor [for 8-12yrs]
‘Cate Saves The Ikopi Rainforest’ – by Sola Alamutu & Peju Dawodu [for 8-14yrs]

10am – 11am
Green Creativity Workshops 2“My Nigeria Story”- Workshops follow participants discussions on the topic: “What Bothers Me Most About Nigeria” “My Nigeria Story”- in Words
“My Nigeria Story”- in Pictures
“My Nigeria Story”- in Dance
“My Nigeria Story”- in Craft

DAY 312noon – 3pm

Presentation of the works from the Children’s Creativity Workshop
The Green Party – Fun! Fun! Fun!12.30pm - 3.00pm Dress Code: SHADES OF GREEN

SOLA ALAMUTU 08023087725


LABAF 2010 Presents The Killing Swamp throughout November...
(As published in The Guardian, November 7, 2010)

THIS is the month of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the civil rights crusader, who was obscenely murdered by the rascally blood-thirsty military government of maximum dictator, General Sani Abacha on November 10,1995. As has become an annual ritual, relatives, friends, comrades as well as foes of the late writer, environmental rightist, and former president of the Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, will remember him and perhaps stage ceremonies to recall his spirit to a life he so much enjoyed, cherished and struggled to make right and judicious.
However, one of the admirers of the spirit of struggle which Ken represents, Dr Onukaba Adinoyi, who confessed recently at a Book Party that he never really had much interraction with the man, has set in motion a grander celebration of the businessman, who, however, made even greater fame as a playwright, poet and novelist.
Dr Adinoyi’s play, The Killing Swamp, which he wrote to honour the injudicious State murder of the activist, will be staged throughout this month at the two major centres of political and cultural discourses of Nigeria.
Today, the Theatre @ Terra, the weekly thatre project, featuring the Renegade Theatre and Laspapi Production, will open the staging of the play at its repertory base at Terra Kulture on Tiamiyu Savage Street, Victoria Island, Lagos. The presentation will thereafter run every Sunday through the month of November.
The production is at the instance and facilitation of the Committee for Relevant Art, CORA, which had chosen the play as its thematic theatrical presentation to mark the 12th edition of its Lagos Book and Art Festival, LABAF, holding November 12- 14 at the National Theatre in Lagos.
Operatives of the CORA hinted that the Sunday, November 14 staging of the play has been dedicated as the Command Performance to mark the 15th anniverssary of the barbaric execution of the late Saro-Wiwa, “who was a great supporter of the mission of CORA to grow the human capital of Nigeria, and the LABAF dream to push the frontiers of literacy”. The staging is also to round up the three-day festival.
The organisers of LABAF said they chose the Renegade?Theatre to produce the play because of the company’s consistent push at “ensuring that live theatre becomes part of our cultural staple in Lagos. We admire the courage and tenacity of the cast and crew of Renegade Theatre and the managers of Laspapi Production at keeping on stage a theatre performance every Sunday for about five years now”, stated CORA. They also praised the initiative of Dr Onukaba Adinoyi, a University of Ibadan-trained Theatre Artiste, and former Managing Director of the defunct Daily Times Of Nigeria, and ex-Presidential aide, in scripting the play, saying, “it shows a sensivity to contemporary issue in our national and political life. Ken Saro-Wiwa is symbolic of the struggles for emancipation of all the peoples of Nigeria and Africa”.
The Killing Swamp was in the last three finalists of the yearly Nigeria Literature prize, which this year focussed on Drama.
The staging holds at 2 and 6pm daily at the Terra Kulture under the direction of Wole Oguntokun, the house head at the Theatre @ Terra.

Why We Are Honouring Ken Saro-Wiwa with The Killing Swamp

WOLE OGUNTOKUN director of The Killing Swamp and producer of Theatre @Terra spoke to The Guardian's ARMSFREE AJANAKU on the choice of the play for this month.

ON a day in this month 15 years ago, one of the most gruesome and cold-blooded extra judicial killings by the Nigerian State took place. The victim was none other than writer, and environmentalist, Ken Saro Wiwa, who alongside others now known as Ogoni 9 had life snuffed out of them by the hangman’s noose. That tragic event has inspired a play by Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, The Killing Swamp, which would run as the play of the month at Terra Culture this November. So at 3 and 6pm every Sunday, beginning from today, theatre goers would have the chance to see a fictitious rendition of those harrowing moments, just before the hangman’s noose eclipsed Saro Wiwa’s life.
Coming at a time when the Post-Amnesty programme of the government is giving the peace process in the Niger-Delta a new lease of life, the play seeks to place that tragic event of 1995 in the proper historical perspective. Director of the play, Wole Oguntokun revealed this much when he harped on the need to ensure that the moment was not forgotten.
In an interview with The Guardian, he said: “Even if they are resolving the matter, and that is debatable, we shouldn’t forget the lives that they took, and the crimes that were committed in the process of glossing over the matter at one time. There was an attempt to gloss over, and paper over the cracks in the wall, and Ken Saro Wiwa and other Ogoni people had to pay with their lives.
“So this is a reminder of a great man, a great writer who died in pursuit of a cause he believed, and in defence of his people and their rights. We shouldn’t forget; it doesn’t matter that efforts are being made to resolve the crisis there now. I wrote Who is afraid of Wole Soyinka, a play that chronicled the (Sani) Abacha days it doesn’t matter that the civilian army is here now. There was a time that happened, and we should never forget.” Oguntokun in assessing the script and what it could translate to in a production said it had a great potential.
“I think it is a good script, and as all directors do, you would touch it here and there, and sometimes, you add your own perspective to it. It is a good script, and it is my intention, to as much as possible, remain true to what was written, and to the story the writer told. You know, a lot of us say it in passing and in the comfort of our homes that Ken Saro Wiwa was killed by Abacha in collaboration with some giant oil companies, but the details are always overlooked.
This play doesn’t do that; it is a fictitious rendition of the end of his life, and it is striking that someone thought it to write something, whether fiction or anything else, about how Saro Wiwa’s life ended, the manner in which his life was taken away from him.” Particularly, Oguntokun praised the play for balancing all sides of the Saro Wiwa story. “There are sides that say Saro Wiwa himself was culpable in the death of the four Ogoni chiefs.
This script states all sides. We must remember that these things happen and we should look at why they happened and should also see if the things that caused these problems have been rectified. We should see whether in the light of the damage that has been done, there has been compensation.” Oguntokun said the cast being deployed for the production reflected the need to do a professional interpretation of the script. “We are using Kenneth Uphopho, as Saro Wiwa; there is Shola Roberts Iwaotan, Precious Anyanwu, and Jennifer Osamon. All these people are veteran stage actors; there have all being in the Monologues before, and they are people who can tell the story as well, through good acting. We are not going to put anything shoddy there; it is going to be great.
The Director said a massive turn out is being expected for the production because as he puts it, “the issue of Ken Saro Wiwa remains a salient one, and the Niger-Delta issue remains salient. We hope word will get round, and the play would bring people, people who are concerned and savvy about issues like that. The Killing Swamp is about his life, his style, his death and the circumstances surrounding it. It is an attractive play and an attractive title, and we expect people to turn out.” On the portrayal of the Nigerian State in the play, he said the production would not tone down anything unflattering, insisting that things would be said as they are.
“I was watching Al Jazeera, which I consider objective, the other day and there was this documentary about how we kill cows, and get meat in and it was unflattering, and someone who sat next to me told me not to be upset, and he said: ‘that’s your country.’ There they were slamming cows to the ground and taking the meat through muddy and dirty paths; that is the country. Let’s show it, the truth doesn’t need any protection. Let’s say it like it is, maybe we would be ashamed enough to correct ourselves. If CNN or the BBC comes here and points a camera in front of area boys, you can’t hide them, they are there.”
Unlike some critics who are worried that mainly intellectuals and literary enthusiasts are constituting theatre audiences, Oguntokun is unfazed, insisting that everyone has his own niche. “If you do TV soaps, there are people that love Papa Ajasco, there are people that watch Tinsel, and in films, there is Yoruba home videos, English films and Hausa movies.
And there are the guys doing The Figurines now for a different kind of audience, so you must look for your own people. I am not going to pander to the masses; of course I hope that everybody is going to see my play, but I am not going to lessen the value of my work so that it can be like pure water. There should be some kind of intellectual satisfaction in what you do,” he said.
The Killing Swamp’s presentation for this month is at the initiative of the 12th Lagos Books and Art Festival, LABAF, organised by the Committee for Relevant Art, CORA, to which Oguntokun is a member.


The Resurrection of Ken Saro-Wiwa.
A review of Adinoyi Ojo Onukaba’s The Killing Swamp
By Denja AbdullahiThe Ken Saro Wiwa saga is an archetypal story that has been re-enacted in various forms ever since it ended. Poets have written volumes about it, including my very self in a poem I titled Africa Kills Her Son ,after a prophetic short story of the same title by Ken Saro Wiwa himself. A young friend of mine, Ford Manuel, also did a very lengthy poetic piece, long enough to make a poetic volume, which he titled Songs of Saro Wiwa.
Playwrights have equally done their bits on it. Helon Habila has a short dramatic piece published in Camouflage: The Best of Contemporary Nigerian Writings edited by Nduka Otiono and Diego Okenyodo. Dr Uwemedimo Atakpo of the University of Uyo also has a play called The Trials of Ken Saro Wiwa and there may be many more by other writers which we may not be aware of presently.
The story of Ken Saro Wiwa and his environmental rights activism has encouraged a lot of writings about the Niger Delta in prose, poetry and drama. We can even conclude that the NLNG literature Prize for the year 2010 for which the play we are reviewing, The Killing Swamp, was shortlisted came by default as one of the legacies of the Ken Saro Wiwa saga.
Sadly, the Saro Wiwa’s struggle which was intellectual in orientation was brutally suppressed by the Nigerian State and the consequence was the militarization of the struggle and the enthronement of miscreants at the forefront of it. The Nigerian nation, which refused to dialogue with Saro Wiwa, was later to treat these band of ill-educated militants like royalty, granting them amnesty and other perks. That reminds us all of the famous quote that those who make peace change impossible make violent change inevitable.
Another lesson from the Ken Saro Wiwa story is the ethnicisation of popular heroism. After Isaac Adaka Boro,Ken Saro Wiwa should by now have taken his rightful place in the pantheon of the heroes of the Niger Delta but I suspect this is not the case. I wonder is it because Ken was not an Ijaw when even his struggle leading towards the declaration of Ogoni Bill of Rights may have inspired the famous Ijaws’ Kiama Declaration. We should remember that Ken started his struggle as an ethnic minority rights activists before veering into environmental rights activism.
Now to the play.
The Killing Swamp fulfills all the requirements of a classical tragic play as it has the unity of time, space and action. It is simply a re-enactment of the exchange between Ken Saro Wiwa and his executioners just as he is about to be hanged. The unilineal trajectory of the play’s action does not detract in any way from its artistic profundity. The play is another creative attempt at unraveling the motive behind Ken’s struggle and what may be playing out in his mind as he pays the ultimate price.
Expectedly, the reader is not disappointed at the playwright’s portrayal of the final moments of Kenule as some facts that were salvaged from that gory and unfortunate end pointed out that he paid the price with uncommon dignity.
Notwithstanding the play’s fidelity to the dignified stance of Saro Wiwa before his persecutors, captors and eventual murderers, the playwright injected some humour and clearly fictive enactments to show the bohemian humanity of Saro Wiwa even in the face of death (the encounter with Asabe, a female friend and their feigning lovemaking in the shadow of the gallows and other such actions in the play espouse this).
In the final analysis, the play leaves us with all what we had long suspected on the realistic plane, that the Federal government of Nigeria did not kill the Ogoni 9 because they love the Ogoni 4, they only used the internal dissension within the Ogoni to murder their arrowhead in the struggle whose influence has to be curtailed in order to guarantee the continue plunder of their environment in the guise of oil exploration.
The play with its minimal character of four has the right suspense and conflict introduced at the very beginning which sustained the actions till the very end. The dialogue is witty, assured and shorn of the clutter that may slow down the pace of such a play tackling verifiable history. The play is a director’s delight and the near absurdist style used with some few ‘plays’ within the play will be very malleable in the hands of a good director.
The Killing Swamp is highly entertaining piece with plenty of gallows humour which in reality we may not put beyond the real Ken saro Wiwa going by his writings and personality. The man wrote somewhere in one of his books that the tiger said “to cry is to show my teeth and to laugh too is to show my teeth so I prefer to laugh rather than cry”. The strength of The Killing Swamp , a finalist in the 2010 NLNG Nigeria Literature Prize, is its contemporary subject, highly dramatic language and a very humanizing story.
How ironic that those who spearheaded the official judicial murder of Ken Saro Wiwa are themselves today nowhere to be found.Their own stories will never be dignified with any kind of telling like that of Saro Wiwa. If at all it is told it will be in the form of a satirical lampooning of their buffoonery in the tradition of Wole Soyinka’s Play of Giants and King Baabu or in a worst form as that of the Nigerian Nollywood home video movie The Stubborn Grasshopper. All hangmen indeed will die one day!

• Abdullahi, former ANA National General Secretary is Deputy Director, Performing ArtsNational Council for Arts and Culture, Abuja.


‘For CORA, it’s been a cycle of boom and bust’
By Anote Ajeluorou
(Culled from The Guardian, Nov 8, 2010)

The Committee for Relevant Arts (CORA)'s yearly Lagos Book and Art Festival is 12 this year, and has since become a defining part of the art and cultural life of the city of Lagos. The 12th edition opens this Friday at the National Theatre, Lagos. In this interview, CORA General Secretary, journalist and culture landscapist Mr. Toyin Akinosho takes the reader on a historical excursion into the heart of the book matter the way CORA has tried to remake it work these 12 years and why anyone who loves books should be at the 3-day Lagos Book and Arts Festival (LABAF 2010).

Akinosho addressing a session at LABAF 2009

How far has the journey been with the Lagos Book and Art Festival?

We are still learning a lot of things. You must understand what we are trying to
do: We are not a book fair; we are a festival of the arts with a primary focus on books. The festival idea is introduced to make books cool. We bring in drama, music, performance…and have a large children segment.
But to answer your question specifically, we have been through cycles of boom and bust in these 12 years. The idea of one benevolent sponsor that solves accommodation problems and enables us pay proper honoraria for participants is still far. The National Theatre is our major sponsor this year; the venue they are providing, which is the Exhibition Hall of the edifice, would ordinarily cost N2 million for three days.

Have books started to get the attention of people the way you want it?
You remember the famous quote by Cyprian Ekwensi: “Why are you not selling my books in The Go Slow”. The story, according to James Currey, is that one morning in 1981, Ekwensi entered Aig Higo’s office in Heinemann Educational Books in Ibadan booming in a great voice: “Why are you not selling my books in The Go Slow”? He then reported how the Lagos newspaper vendors had found a ready market for the Obasanjo hardback, My Command, as the Nigerian elite were at a standstill in their cars in the Lagos traffic jam.
This is straight from James Currey’s book: Africa Writes Back. Currey says that Heinemann ordered, in the first instance, 10,000 copies of the hardback edition of My Command. Now, My Command is not a soft novel; neither a romance, nor a thriller. It’s a hard, non-fiction work and it’s not a rollicking read. But there was a book economy, in 1981, to support its production.
Just five years after that, Babangida devalued the naira and later introduced the structural adjustment, but his team was too incompetent and in many ways it was too corrupt to handle the other issues that the adjustment demanded. So in the end, he just smashed the economy to bits.
The book industry hasn’t recovered the way other sectors of the economy have since the Structural Adjustment. Let’s for a moment forget about libraries. We know that quite a number of libraries that many of us took for granted when we went to school are no longer there, but libraries aren’t necessarily the best way to look at the economics of book publishing as they are, for the large part, set up by government and their decline can easily be traced to sheer neglect by government.
Bookshops, however, provide you good data. If you find that some of the bookshops that you grew up knowing have gone to seed and others are not replacing them, then you know there’s a large crater where there should be a smooth pavement. The bookshop economy is still not thriving. So, to answer the question: Books haven’t started to get the attention of people the way we want it.

What’s the status of ‘The Book Reading Campaign’?
The good thing is that there are quite a number of organizations that are dedicated to the reading awareness, literacy, writing; the whole book chain campaign. What I think we should do, going forward, is for all of us to be interested in what the others are doing and tap into them and create synergies.
When CORA showed up on the scene in 1991, it was a lull period, the very pit of
depression. So, our quarterly conversations on cultural issues loomed large in the vicinity. Today, we are a part of a whole and we want to insist on bringing quality. The way we can make the most of what we are doing as cultural landscapists is work with others. If you are running an art competition for secondary schools, how do we help you extend the outcome of what you are doing?
If you are interested in a new template for delivering Nollywood, how do we ensure that you get the required help to do it properly? What’s the current status of the research into book reading? Who is doing it? How are cultural journalists using the new media; how are we all improving the business landscape for the arts?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Preemptive: The Quest For Peace And Civilised Humanity

Preemptive Essay Writing Competition:
Another Dimension to Reality Show

By Natasha Bassey

Wednesday June 16 started out on a mild note. Not sunny and with a hint of slight showers that was to come. The rain, however, allowed for the arrival of the five finalists and the crew to The Place Hotels, Ajao Estate, Lagos, where the final of the essay competition was held. The event was set up in the context of a pseudo-reality television show. The technical crew from Zmirage Multimedia Limited arrived to set up lights, sound and the stage set; they got to work around 8am, creating the ambience for the show.
The producer, Lillian Amah Aluko was on hand at that time as well to ensure that preparations were made adequately to ensure a smooth running of the show. The narrator, Tina Mba, who would act as the voice of the competition was also ready. The five finalists — Mr. Lawrence Wakdet, who had come in the previous night all the way from Jos, Plateau State; Mr. Emmanuel Ugokwe traveled all night from Port Harcourt; Mr. John Okunola came from Ibadan and Miss Natasha Bassey and Mr. Gbenga Adeniji, both from Lagos — all converged at the venue before 11am while two of the judges, Mr. Ropo Ewenla, Miss Pamela Braide had been in the venue, awaiting Mr. Sylvester Odion Okhaine, who – had earlier asked for permission to come in a bit late - arrived a few minutes after 12 noon.
However, though the hotel itself was easily accessible by okada (commercial motorcycle), it was a bit difficult to reach by persons coming in private cars, with the roads in bad conditions and the route to the hotel a bit winding.
The cost of transportation for some persons was high. One of the contestants claimed to have spent N3000 to get to the venue.
By about 1pm, with lights up and running, the set in place and the sound set up, the cameras were ready to roll as the pseudo-reality show commenced. It started out with the narrator introducing the judges as well as the contestants. The time had finally arrived as the contestants were ready for the writing proper.
The judges asked the contestants if they had any questions, and instructed that the contestants had an hour to write the 1000-word essay, with a fringe time of 15 minutes.
With hearts beating and brains working feverishly, pens and laptops ready to go, the competition commenced with a synchronization of time for the contestants so that everyone started at 1.06pm.
The narrator was a constant presence - the way invigilators usually do in examination hall - as she strolled among the contestants, checking to see what they were writing and commenting, probing their ideals and looking to see who was doing what?
Halfway through the essay writing, the contestants were asked if they wanted a short break, and when all declined the writing proceeded. The sounds in the room were that of frantic tapping of keyboards and the scribbling on papers without minding the sweat dripping from the brows as a result of the heat generated by the Television lights mounted at corners of the room. Also, the three cameras mounted in the room were at work taking in all the expressions from the furrowed eyebrows and the adjustment of sitting positions.
At 2.06pm, the competition was called to a close. The fringe time of 15 minutes was given so the camera angles and group shots could be adjusted and taken.
A break was taken from recording at this point as the judges collected on jump disc (computer flash) essays written on laptops and the hard copies of handwritten pieces from contestants who wrote in long hand.
The first session was over and what was remaining was for the contestants to await with apprehension the results of the competition.

THE second half of the pseudo-reality television show started about 4pm. The contestants were seated and awaiting the results. But before it arrived, the narrator came on and had interviews with the contestants, trying to ease their apprehension and make them feel comfortable as the atmosphere was charged.
With the interviews over and the judges back on set, the hearts of the contestants were beating palpably, their faces set to frowns as some of them held their breath. The contestants were moved from the table where they sat to write the essays to a couch, just beside where the judges were stationed; the narrator sandwiched between both set, and acting as a middleman. One by one, the contestants were called to stand up and each judge gave their opinion on the three categories of the essay, the structure, style and content, stating the weak points in each essay and the strong points, if any. This gave the contestants an idea of what the judges thought of each essay.
Finally, the moment of truth arrived, the time for the judges to give the scores in each category. The tension heightened as the judges gave each contestant a breakdown of the scores based on style of writing; content and effectiveness of language deployed.
With the contestants holding their breaths the final scores were given;
Natasha Bassey — 5th
John Okunola — 4th
Emmanuel Ugokwe — 3rd
With just Lawrence Wakdet and Gbenga Adeniji remaining, the question was who would win and who would be the runner up. Amid applause and celebration; Lawrence Wakdet was announced as the 1st runner up; while Gbenga Adeniji was announced the winner of the Project Preemptive Essay Writing Competition.
Prizes were announced for the five finalists: the fourth and fifth got consolation prizes of N25, 000 each; the third got N50,000 and the second N75, 000. The overall winner got N100,000 and a chance (if he has a visa) to see the play Preemptive on July 2 at the Shaw Theatre in London. All the five contestants will, however, see the play at venues in Nigeria.
The show was wrapped up at about 8pm amidst celebration for the winner and handshakes all round. The judges congratulated all the contestants and urged all of them to keep up the writing culture as it is a slowly dying art.

Why We Took Part In The Essay Competition, By Finalists
Actress and TV presenter, Tina Mba spoke to the five finalists at the ‘Sit-In Reality Show’.

Tina: Tell us about your educational background

I am JOHN OKUNLOLA. I attended Obadeyemi High School for my secondary education. Thereafter, I proceeded to Osun State College of Technology to study Accountancy. Later on, I went to Olabisi Onabanjo University to study Mass Communications; currently I’m a Master’s degree student at the University of Ibadan studying Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Tina: Yes, very apt. Ugokwe tell us, about yourself.

I am EMMANUEL UGOKWE; I was born in Imo State. My father was a trader. I’m based in Port-Harcourt and I’m the nineth in my family. I attended Kenneth College of Technology. In 2005, I attended the University of Nigeria.

Tina: Mr Adeniji, tell us where you’re from, and what are your interests.
My name is GBENGA ADENIJI; I’m from Ogun State, but I was born and bread in Lagos state. My interests are reading, critiquing and travelling.

Alright, did you think you would get to this point?

Gbenga: Well, I must confess to everyone that in a competition like this, there are two sides to a coin; the losing side and the winning side. So, I just have the feeling that I should do my best, and if my best is good enough then…

Tina: So, your best paid-off; you are one of the five. Mr. Wakdet, give me your favourite quotation in the World.

Wakdet: I like the saying by Edmond Pike, the British statesman, who said “All that evil needs to succeed is that we men do nothing”. That’s my favourite quotation.

Tina: And in relation to the essay writing competition, did the quotation inspire your thought in the process of writing this essay?

Wakdet: Yeah, definitely. I mean we are talking about the use of Arts and Culture, globally. Some of the issues of terrorism that we have all over the world... Where I come from, Jos; there is recurring crisis, lots of killing; there was genocide recently; a whole village was virtually wiped out. I feel that I really need to do something as my own contribution in a little way. So, participating in this essay has made me like i have contributed.
Tina: Natasha, You are the only Juliet in the midst of four Romeos.

Natasha: Yes, the only woman...

Tina: As the only female here; how do you feel?

Natasha: emm…As I sit here and realise that I’m the only female here, well, I feel that more women should write more. This sincerely means that women are not writing enough. I think more women will have to work hard to be in the midst of things like this...

Tina: I also learnt that you are a would-be corper. You’re looking forward to service and you’re hoping to serve where...
Ok, Mr. Okunlola, If you win the price for this competition, what will you do with the money?

John: I told you earlier on that I am doing my Master’s at the University of Ibadan; a large chunk of the money will go on books and probably my project, because I’m through with my first semester; I only have three courses in my second semester, so I will be starting my project. So, I wish that I emerged the winner.

Tina: I hope so too. I wish all the best.

How We Ran The Preemptive Contest, By Coordinator

Actress, TV personality, Lillian Amah-Aluko, who produced the Sit-in Writing Reality Show’ engaged the Coordinator of the Project Preemptive Essay competition, Jahman Anikulapo on the set of the show. Excerpts

As coordinator of the jury on this show, how did you select the judges?

Well, when Project Preemptive came, I had to go back to the the executive producer Alhaji Teju Kareem, that I really want to get to the depth of the idea itself; what exactly are we trying to achieve? Because we could have selected anybody to be the jury; we could have gone to schools to pick lecturers or teachers and …, but the dimension of the theme, which has to do with preemptive strike. It means you do not need people who are just academics in literary studies, but you need people who actually work on the fields. I consulted with him over a whole weekend; we had a lot of argument about the people I mentioned and he asked me to defend them. I had to decide that … I think somebody who is vast in theatre and who actually understands the field of theatre and popular culture, and that was how we came about the person of Mr. Ropo Ewenla; because popular culture is not an area where we’ve really been investing a lot of academic studies, and I know this is what he has been doing, at least I know he earned his Master’s on that and that he’s working on his Ph.D in the same field. And I know he’s been concerned about how culture intervenes in the affairs of the society; so that was how we picked him.

Very apt!

Now we talked about how conflicts relate to women and children, for instance; and I’ve always known even before I met her that Pamela Braides, who is somebody I really respect, in the sense of the kind of things she has done; she has written articles, she has performed it on stage, she sings, she’s an actress, she’s an essayist. I know she works particularly in that field; she’s particularly concerned about issues about women and children; and when it comes to conflict as it saffects women and children; there is someone for that also; and how we can properly situate women in the society and children;so we say let’s picked a social worker, who is vastly experienced in that field.
Then, we talked about Dr. Sylvester Odion Akhaine, and we are talking about Peace/conlict resolution and the rest of them, and I know he earned his Ph.D on demilitarization. Of course, when we talk of conflict in Africa it is always tied to the idea of military intervention. Not just about our contemporary politics. Let’s get back to our history; most of the towns and communities were founded by warriors. You talk of places like Ibadan, Abeokuta… The people always moved from one place to another to form their own communities…
So, we thought of someone who understands the mores of our national etiquette, social etiquette and somebody who has written about it, someone who has worked in that area; and we thought of Dr. Sylvester Odion Akhaine, who even runs a centre called CENCOD (Centre for Conflict Resolution and Demilitarization).
That was how we came about the three people such that if the contestant is writing from the perspective of a theatre artiste or literary study, there is someone for that; if he is writing from the perspective of women and children, there is somebody for that; there is somebody on popular culture -- how popular culture can midwife conflict resolution…

Now, back to Project Preemptive, tell me a little bit about it...

Project Preemptive, you know it looks like a very abstract field, but when you get into it, you discover it is something that touches the core of our society and social relationships. Why do we talk about conflict all the time? I work with a newspaper company and I edit a title and I’m always like: ‘why do our newspapers scream? We don’t even speak about life anymore; everything is about conflict – militancy and insurrection in the Niger Delta; about the conflict in Jos, in Ogun state etc. Conflict has become a staple; it is part of our national life. I want to imagine that in most of the families, father and children are always at conflict all of the time… I mean, it’s war all the time.
All of us have been brought up in that orientation. So, preemptive strike should be something that concerns all of us. That is the way I interpreted Project Preemptive, that, it is something that should come as an intervention in our lives, so that we begin to re-examine our social relationships.
Why should conflict be the only thing we ever get to discuss? Why is it that we don’t celebrate life anymore? If you check our literature, our drama, our plays... they are all about conflict. People no longer write love poems, and we were told that our fathers used poems to win our mothers. Project Preemptive is an intervention; a refinement of our contemporary psychic make-up. You know when you detune something…

In other words, Project Preemptive is not the end of the journey…

Yes, Project Preemptive is just the beginning. In fact, it is just the first step; it ought to stimulate further debate, an action… and our leaders, followers and people are being drawn to follow. They have to redefine their psychological make-up. Why do you read the Bible and the Quran, when you know you will still go out and kill somebody? Why do you bother to wake-up in the morning and say “good morning” when you know you will still kill your neighbor? Why do you smile to someone you will kill tomorrow? That is the kind of question Preemptive is asking us.

Briefly, on the journey to the last five, how was it? I learnt you had over 25 entries; but you came to the last five, so how was it?

When the idea was first brought to me, I asked the executive producer: ‘why are you thinking about me?’ Because I will like to work in another form, but he said he knew this is the kind of thing you like to do. I like to bring groups together, bring people together. I mean, that’s the way I’ve worked in an organization called CORA. People say we are just talking, we do not do anything and we replied that “we just want to talk”; it is because we are not talking, that is what leads to conflict. I’ve been in Sierra Leone at a point and had the opportunity to ask a fellow that: ‘why are they so aggressive?’ Anytime someone says something they just want to hit or slap the person; he said “I use my fist because I cannot communicate with that person”. I think that is instructive.
So, when I was called on this project, I concluded, we want to see how we can use dialogue to encourage a more peaceful co-existence. We could start from a very little thing like an essay competition, like the executive producer had projected. We took the idea of Preemptive and spread it to different fields. If there will be performance, there should be the discussion because it is possible that people will just come into the theatre, watch the play and go. But there ought to be a process of thinking, something that stimulates the attention of the youths to this idea of dialogue. Since the contestants are the people who are going to carry some kind of banner, flag of conflict prevention and dialogue later in the future.
We made the call. First of all we placed adverts in newspaper and we asked for people to participate, convinced that there will be so many people that will turn up; so we started by putting adverts in the newspapers. We chose four newspapers — one that has to do with the North; one that can appeal to South-East; one that can appeal to people in the South-South; one that can appeal to people in the South-West.
The idea was to spread it in the papers, so at least if you do not see it in one of the papers you will see it in the other and I was very happy during the interaction with the contestants, one said he saw it in The Sun, one saw it in The Guardian, one in The Nation and then we got some journalists.
We brought the media in right from the beginning, we took them into confidence, ‘this is what we intend to do’. They saw reason without asking for any form of compensation or so... the whole process started in the heat of the Jos crisis; they (the mediamen)all saw it and they started writing about it and people read about it.
In the end we got over 20 scripts because the closing date was short and we started reading through them and we cut them down to 13 entries that we thought were up to standard. The 13 were very compelling in terms of the idea. We may fault them in terms of language or structure but they were very strong in content — addressing the theme.
Then we sent 11 to the judges because we had to eliminate two.
The judges worked independently for about a week and half and gave us these final five.
Remarkably, out of the five -- just as I saw out of the 25 that came in-- they came from all over the country. These five finalists; we didn’t know where anybody was coming from. Somebody came in from Port-Harcourt, which is South-South, we have someone from Ibadan and two people from Lagos.

I was really impressed with the spread, but what didn’t impress me is the fact that there was just one girl.

Oh, that was not deliberate. We indeed had about seven women in the 25 entries. When we pruned down to the best 13, we had at least three women; but by the time we went to 11, there were two women; but in the final five there was only one woman. So, there wasn’t any deliberate attempt to shut the woman out; that was just the way it came out in the finals.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

They gathered in honour of my Uncle... Pa Ru

Rufus Abiodun Orishayomi (1947-2010)
London Artistes Send A Good Man, Quintessential Artman Home
(As published in The Guardian of June 6, 2010)
By Lookman Sanusi
Arcola Theatre in Dalston area of London on May 23 witnessed a marathon session of rehearsals and production in honour of the departed African Theatre pioneer in the UK, Rufus Orisayomi — ‘Papi Ru’ as he was fondly called by his friends and protégés.
Old and young artistes, who had had dealings with Papi Ru one way or the other, honoured an invitation from Femi Elufowoju Jr. They went through the session of rehearsals and performance tributes that lasted from 10 am through 7pm, when the curtain opened; leaving well past 10pm, when the show ended.
At the demise of Orisayomi, Femi Elufowoju jr. the outgoing Artistic Director of Tiata Fahodzi and Associate Artist, Almeida Theatre, London, who has carved a niche for himself in Black British theatre in the UK, promised to put a show together in the manner of the famous ‘We are the World’ to celebrate and raise funds for the immediate family of the departed.
It was such a good promise fulfilled as the almost full-to-the-capacity audience was entertained with a potpourri of remarkable theatre skits.

Peter Badejo (OBE), the dance impresario and close friend of Papi Ru, performed the opening glee with a dance piece titled ‘Ijo Agba’ accompanied by a talking drummer, Ayanlere.
From Femi Ogunjobi, who was not part of the performers to Funmi Adewole Kruczkowska, Bisi Adigun and Alex Oma-Pius, Artistic Director of Iroko Theatre — all confessed that Papi Ru’s Ritual Theatre Art Company provided them their first professional job as they were involved in his Akogun, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Alex Oma-Pius’ monologue rendition from Akogun met with a resounding applause from the audience.
There were group performances – ‘Lizombe Dance’ act comprising of H. Pattern, Judith Palmer, Charles Jaja, Charles James, Ras Hoppa and Bolaji Badejo — wife of Peter Badejo — thrilled the audience to no end.
Tunde Fagbenle, the newspaper columnist and publisher, a close family friend of Rufus was represented by his wife, Buki and children, OT, Tife, Tito, Torera Fagbenle — as they also took to the stage to depict Rufus’ deft skill in visual art in a mini musical pantomime supported by Adeola Badejo, on the jembe drum.
Before the end of the first half, Golda John enchanted the audience with her solo act ‘Mother’s Cry’, which illustrated the pain mothers of Abiku (child born to die and only to come back to the same mother) go through. At over 55 years, the texture of her acting continues to impress.
Of all the performances of the evening, Ben Onwukwe’s ‘Telephone Conversation 1978’ and Bisi Adigun’s ‘Uncle Rufus My Uncle Rufus’ actually captured in a jocular manner the essence of the man, Rufus Orisayomi.
Ben Onwukwe, a half-cast of Nigerian parentage had earlier confessed in a gathering in honour of the late artiaste that Rufus had helped him to reconnect with his father back in the 80s when he went in search of him.

Ben’s ‘Telephone Conversation 1978’ portrayed Rufus in his natural element and his usual ‘lackadaisical’ way as all the “grammas” this half cast had to say to Rufus on the phone in response to the advert calling for artistes to take part in an African film project on the soil of the whiteman did not matter to Rufus other than “can you act and dance, I need six people; bring your friends along with you.”
Bisi Adigun, Artistic Director, Arambe Productions, who flew in from Dublin to be part of the show, said “In 1993, Papi Ru gave me my first break on the British soil. I was involved in the theatre production of Akogun, I later learnt that was the premier of the show in UK.
“Before the production I had told uncle Rufus that I was a professional actor and must be paid for my role in the show and he agreed with me, so at the end of the show, he gave me a cheque of £75! I was thrilled; the value of the money in this present time could be equivalent to £750. Off to the bank I went with the cheque only for the cheque to bounce; I was livid with anger, I went to Uncle Rufus and told him what had happened, he chuckled and said in his usual self, ‘you did not tell me you were going to present the cheque, I thought being your first professional cheque, you were going to frame it and hang it on your wall”.
Bisi continued, “That actually disarmed me for you cannot bear a grudge with the man after that. He collected the cheque and gave me £75 cash. Bisi Adigun’s role in Akogun was as a drummer, after his tribute, he played the jembe drum and sang an elegy in praise of the dead.

The second half of the performances went quickly. Ayan de 1st , formally know as Ayan Dosu, treated the audience to quality drumming and got them involved in a call-and-response with his act gaining the support of his co-artistes on stage. Interestingly the stage was set in the theatre-in-a-circle formation with the performers completing the other half of the circle.
Other acts of notes were: Funmi Adewole Kruczkowska’s ‘Why Sun & Moon live in the sky’, Wale Ojo’s ‘Orisakorede’, Angie Amra Anderson’s ‘Call and Response’. There were excerpts from Ola Rotimi’s The Gods Are Not To Blame performed by Cyril Nri and Ellen Thomas and Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and The Jewel performed by Joy Elias Rilwan and Ben Onwukwe.
Every act was given a maximum of five minutes with a sound cue to indicate the end and beginning of another act. Usifu Jalloh’s ‘Cow Foot’ exceeded the time limit, which the producer/director over looked when he saw the audience roaring with laughter from this single act.
In a story telling style, ‘Cow Foot’ emphasised the importance of collaboration. There were intermittent
interjection from the audience at his prompt. The skit foretold the exploit of a mouse that lived in the garden of a woman; she was disturbed by the presence of this mouse and decided to set up a trap. On sensing this, the mouse went to the cow; owned by the woman to help foil this trap, the cow could care less; same attitude from goat and chicken when the little mouse approached them.
Unknown to the woman, a poisonous snake also lived in the garden. The snake was ensnared by the trap and laid half dead writhing in pain.
Unfortunately for the woman, she stepped on the snake that bit her and she died instantly, this woman had many children and extended family.
Sympathisers came calling and as is the tradition, sympathisers must be fed, and then someone remembered the deceased had a cow. Immediately the cow was brought in and at the point of slaughter, the mouse came in and said to the cow, “See, the trap got the snake that bit the woman, she is dead and now you will die”.
After the 8th day, sympathisers came around again and they have to be fed, the goat was slaughtered. Towards the end of the day, one important relative of the dead who had just heard of the sad news came in and had to be entertained and fed; someone again remembered that the woman had a chicken, it was brought in and the mouse said, “See, the trap got the snake that bit the woman, she is dead, the cow is dead, the goat is dead and now you will die”. At this point the audience got the gist and finished the last line with him.
The event could not come to an end without a show of appreciation from the immediate family present, Warila Etamaraye, Rufus Orisayomi’s estrange wife and Kayode Orisayomi spoke first and also one of Rufus’ twins, Kehinde and her mum, who claimed “Rufus abandoned us” for the arts, took to the stage and thanked the artistes and the audience tremendously.
Rufus’ other children who could not make it to the event include, Kofo, who is studying in Dubai, Hendrix Emanuel and Taiwo, a publisher in New York and London.
Before the family response, though, was a short tribute from Prof. Wole Soyinka read by Femi Elufowoju, jr. describing Rufus as a colossal loss to the Arts. Ayo-dele Edwards’ sonorous voice accompanied on guitar by Ife Awonubi sang ‘Titilayo’ to close the curtain on the show.

Rufus Sunday Abiodun Awe Orisayomi was born in 1947. He was a Dramatist, Teacher, Publisher, and Photographer, Film Producer and Founder, Ritual Theatre Art. Rufus died of stroke last February 18; he is survived by his children, protégés and an aged mother.

Sanusi, founder of Bubbles Theatre, writes from London

Monday, June 7, 2010

12th Lagos Book & Art Festival Beckons



(Being a paper presented by Jahman Anikulapo at a Workshop on Review of Parastatals under Ministry of Culture and Tourism)

I should like to open with two preambles: both of which will suggest where my conclusion is headed.

I would be a fraud to pretend that anything I say here before the gathering is NEW. In fact I should be sanctioned if I or any other person make such a claim. There is nothing I am going to say today that had not been said in the past about how best to engage the media as an instrument of articulating the cultural and tourism potentialities of, as well as agenda for the nation. Tons of presentations have been made in the past. The latest being as recent as about two weeks ago at the UWTO conference here in Abuja. I think what has been wrong all along is that we – governmental agencies responsible for managing our cultural and tourism sectors as well as the majority of stakeholders, have been both inept and as well unambitious. We have abandoned ourselves in the pit of indifference and disinterestedness.
So for those who have heard me speak on same or similar topic in the past, you will pardon me if I sounded like a broken record. And for those who have attended endless seminars in the past on this same topic, pardon me if I sounded like a copycat.

My second preamble, which however will race me ahead to part of my conclusion, is a little story that I wish to share with us. Two days ago (May 27), Nigeria — as they say in the cliché — joined other countries of the world to mark the International Children’s Day. I must commend the Culture Ministry through some of its agencies for staging grand events to commemorate the day. There were over 3000 children in the expansive yard of the National Museum in Lagos. I, for one, in my 22 years of reporting the Culture Sector – have never seen that huge gathering of children at one event -- organized by a parastatal of the Culture Ministry. I think the managers of the Lagos Museum deserve all the accolades that the Ministry of Culture can spare.
The Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation, CBAAC also staged its yearly Children programme: another grand event with Cultural education and parade at the center of the ceremony. But this is where the ‘tory get k-leg’ – as we say in popular lingo.
As a Child-friendly media organization The Guardian had sent a minimum of two reporters to each of all the events staged around Lagos to mark the Day of our Tomorrow – our Children. In the course of the event -- as is traditional with my operation as an editor– I had pulled a call through to my Reporter to find out how he was faring, and more so to give him further instruction on how to maximize his coverage of the event.
And here was the shock: the reporter said he had been told by the Information managers of the CBAAC that he was not INVITED. This was infuriating enough. I directed him to hold on to the call and take his phone to the head of the Information section of the Centre. And she, a woman that one had had one-one-one official interaction with in the past, actually affirmed that she had told the reporter that he was not invited!
I fired torrents of angry queries;
‘Did he not show you his ID Card?’
‘Yes he did but he has no IV’.
‘Did he not tell you he was from The Guardian?’
‘Yes he did; but he has no IV card’.
‘Did he ask you for money?’
‘ No he did not, but he was not invited. We have too many of these people here who are claiming to be Journalists; and later they will want to be ‘settled’…’.
The ping-pong went on endlessly between us; of course, on my phone account.
‘Okay”, I sighed, “I wish to withdraw him from the assignment since you are adamant that he has to be invited to cover a public event by a public agency such as the CBAAC….’
It was when I requested her to pass the phone back to my reporter that I guess it probably dawned on Madam PRO that I was setting a trap. She finally graciously agreed that the Reporter could actually join the party.

I promised that this little drama would race me to aspects of my conclusion: and here I submit:

1. May we resolve here and now that henceforth, the crucial job of information management of our various cultural and tourism agencies will no longer be left in the hands of non-professional, untrained, over red-taped or overcooked civil servants who have no clue what the role of the media is in the promotion, packaging, and presentation of aspects of our cultural and tourism products and ideas to the larger public -- local and international.

2. May we resolve that if ever we were going to allow these untrained civil servants handle such a crucial department, we shall insist on their being properly trained, grilled, and given good dose of etiquette in public relations such as required for any progressive modern organisation or commune of humans.

3. May we here resolve that media relations is a thorough professional job that has -- in tandem with contemporary experience and the practice in civilised and progressive economies around the world -- gone beyond mere peddling of press releases and sharing of brown envelopes to hungry (de)pressed reporters to include such highly technical and specialised areas as marketing, branding, public relations and integrated communication, which to work effectively and achieve maximum results, require strategic thinking and planning, appropriate skill and knowledge and behavioural refurbishment – to the extent that they are better OUTSOURCED as do happen in nearly all ambitious corporate organisations.

Importantly, it is inconceivable that while we have committed massive resources to reconstructing our operational modules for delivery in cultural and tourism products and programmes, we have never as much as lifted a finger in the direction of setting up appropriate machinery towards packaging, promotion and public presentation of those products and programmes.
Also, it is nothing but an irony of fate, maybe a grand exercise in illogicality, that a country that reputedly has one of the most vibrant media industry – and a swelling class of vastly experienced professionals in the divergent disciplines of the Media – Public Relations, Advertising, Journalism, Branding, Integrated Communication with a high predilection for the ICT – is the least ready or PREPARED to engage the easily available and most times cheap tools of the media to market its cultural and tourism riches.

Now let me work from the Conclusion to the very beginning.
I crave your indulgence to do a bit of mental games here. I shall raise some questions to which I hope you would be able to provide appropriate answers.

1. Why did the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s appearance on the CNN draw so much flak from a cross section of the society that it had to be withdrawn by the Ministry of Information that had initiated it as part of the image re-branding scheme for the country -- almost with shame?
2. Why has Nigeria not have a successful campaign on international media like even smaller countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia and even Ghana?
3. Why in spite of all the grumbling and agitation about the misrepresentation of Africa and especially Nigeria’s image in the international media, we have not, as a country, been able to effectively challenge the misrepresentation?
4. Why haven’t the billions of Naira sunk into image laundering overseas, helped to rescue the country from its struggle to shrug off the image of a pariah nation?

If you were -- as some of us are -- hooked on CNN and BBC, you would probably have seen the documentary on a girl that was taken abroad by her sister, who attempted to turn her to a prostitute, until she was rescued by a ‘good Samaritan’ white lady; who then proceeded to make a documentary out of her story – a documentary that was full of lies and annoyingly unintelligent and illogical claims; such as that every five minutes on the streets of Lagos, a person is robbed. That clip is the most repeated item on CNN, which means millions of people at home and abroad must have been watching it.
Now, imagine that the Information managers in the government have not thought it fit to call up CNN and express our national disgust with the blatant lies that the girl tells in the clip – that every minute a person is robbed or mugged on the streets of Lagos? Why hasn’t our Minister of Information or any of his directors speak up the way the former minister Frank Nweke challenged CNN on the 'arrangee' reporting that the CNN correspondent, Jeff Koinage did on the Niger Delta. Even that, as clever as it was, was a one-off anyway; it wasn’t sustained.
And to rub pepper (salt) on injury, the clip is appearing on the programme INSIDE AFRICA, which is currently sponsored by one of our big banks, ZENITH.

All these questions lead to one mighty question:
Why has the ‘Heart Africa’ project been crawling rather than flying – as it was conceived to be?

Our conclusions here are that;
We have been bad users of the huge volumes of invaluable resources that the Media offer us to promote, project and market our Country; particularly in pushing our CULTURAL and TOURISTIC POTENTIALITIES to the agenda of the Global Community.
Our NTA claims to be the largest network in Africa, but is that the truth? Well maybe in terms of number of stations (of course this is a nation over 120 million people with over 240 tongues, right?). Don’t many of us – especially the leaders in political, economic and social spheres and the international community get to see more of SOUTH AFRICA through its SABC, and even its scheming of aspects of its touristic wealth frequently on CNN, BBC, TV CHANEL etc?


A few months ago a huge congregation of artists, culture and tourism producers and workers were gathered in the hall of the International Conference Centre here in Abuja. This was precisely in November during the Conference on UNTAPPED RESOURCES as conceptualized and delivered by the Ford Foundation through the efforts of the Programme Officer, Margie Reese.
I had been asked to speak on the Role of Artists and Media in Culture Advocacy. It was a pity that logistics reasons prevented one from speaking to a larger audience. Though the presentation was done before a sub-group, I am glad that it was still well received by the few people that were in the hall that day.
What I have brought here is a chunk of what one had left unsaid in November due to the mentioned logistical and other technical reasons.
I had spoken on Culture Advocacy in the Media and Advocacy for culture in the media. Here is a bit of that:
I need to stress that the same way we (government and the few operational private sectors) have always neglected to effectively mobilized the large – tens of thousands -- of our artists and culture and tourism workers community in our strategic planning and actions towards advancement of the Culture sector of the economy, we have always done to the institution of the MEDIA. We have always neglected the MEDIA as a vital component of our cultural advocacy strategy towards the agenda for growth of the sector and ostensibly the diversification of the national economy from its oily mono-character.
The origin of this bad attitude is not unknown to many of us, but we are all guilty in this regard. Unfortunately, even our development partners and supporters too seem to have quickly learnt to walk our self-constructed uneven path. Please ask yourself, in our individual and corporate programmes, projects and dreams for the sector, where do we also place the MEDIA organizations? Do we take them to be mere APPENDAGES – a managed instrument (perhaps necessary irritant) to be engaged as we deem fit; or a parasite at enlightened gatherings such as this? What do we think was at the back of the mind of those who proclaim the media the FOURTH ESTATE OF THE REALM?
The media cannot and should not be an appendage in contemplation of development of any nation. That is why it is the Fourth in the ranking of institutions set up to advance the cause of every nation.
4. May we resolve also here that the media will never again be treated as an appendage of cultural and tourism management and administration in this country. And that henceforth the media – in all its ramifications and dimensions -- will always be effectively and aggressively mobilised in the strategy to grow the culture and toursim sectors of the national economy.

It is imperative to examine why advocacy for culture through the media is necessary. What are the specific and measurable agenda for such an endeavour? To whom do the media workers take the case of cultural advocacy? In fact, what case is there to make for our own peculiar culture, which barely exists in a gradually homogenized world -- a world in which one section dominates the rest technologically and culturally?
Media intervention in the Affairs of Culture and Tourism is rooted in a patriotic agenda to protect that, which is our own cultural patrimony against the aggressive incursion of foreign cultures and ideas.
In effect, we advance from the perspective that journalists as part of the intellectual class in any society have a role to play in advocating for policies and legislations that promote and preserve our cultural patrimony with its eye on ensuring that strange, sometimes destructive cultural products are not allowed to overthrow our own cultural ideas. We see media workers as part of a team working in tandem with other activists within the larger society to ensure that the delicate and sometimes tricky effects of the so-called Globalisation and 'Villagelisation' are not administered on our nation in a lopsided manner i.e. against our will and interest. For that is exactly what other nations, especially so-called advanced economies have mastered: making the less strong accept policies and principles detrimental to the interests of their people; more so when leaders of such weaker nations are often driven by personal greed, clueless-ness and an instinctual hatred for progress of their own people.



Specifically for the Arts, the media has been a very faithful spouse, but the Culture and Tourism managers have been behaving like a husband who marries a very devoted wife, but prefers to neglect her while squandering his energies in nocturnal ventures. The varied media resources have always offered themselves as willing tools to be exploited by the Arts and its managers in realization of their own agenda, but the operators of art or the culture producers have either being blinded to the instrumentality of the Media or are too engrossed in their own survival battles to notice this available instrument.
It bears re-stating that the Arts has not fully cultivated the Media to effectively put itself in the heart of the national agenda. Interestingly, the little mileage that the Arts has recorded would not have been possible without the creative imput of some Media workers who insist on being apostles of cultural advocacy.
The Artist produces (and will continue to produce) quite all right, but it is the Media that helps to disseminate the products to the attention of the consuming public or the patrons. One could stress that the reason artistic Products have not commanded enough attention in the public is because the producers have been lukewarm in their engagement of the media.
It should be noted that reference to the media here, goes beyond its traditional models -- press and electronic broadcasting – to include its other varying dimensions — public relations, advertising, branding, marketing inclusive. And there is the new media with its vast, ever-expanding fingers in the form of the cyber networking.
This is why just as Media is an important tool for Culture and Tourism sectors to engage for greater fulfillment of their potentials, Culture is also a vehicle that is readily available for the Media to ride on for a distinctive character in the vast world of communication. The symbiosis must be nursed.
The luck we have had for the seeming (but deceptively so) cordial relationship between culture producers and the media is the fact that indeed many of the Journalists on the arts beat are themselves producers of culture as well as activists within the Culture sub-sector itself. That is what has sustained the presence of the Arts in the media. Thus it could be said that the present representation of the arts is traceable to the passion and commitment of individual journalists, and that is why it may NOT be a reliable strategic tool. A worst case scenario best illustrates the danger of relying on this ad-hoc relationship to build a promotional platform for culture an tourism in the media: the moment a particular journalist steps out of the beat or the profession, the page ultimately keeps an appointment with death; the commitment of the particular medium peters out; the visibility of the arts in that particular media house suffers grave consequences, most often total eclipse.
Thus there is the urgent need to schematically link the Culture and Tourism sector and the Media as functional partnership.

Aside the traditional media – print and broadcasting – there are the other Media Resources that we have not even begun to engage.


Nigeria is renowned for its highly professionalised and competent Advertising and Public Relations sub-industry. There are tens of small and medium scales agencies operating already, and we could see their impact in the lives of many of our corporate organizations and private institutions. Fortunately, these sub-industries unlike many aspects of our national life, have collective fronts that regulate their activities, thus the job of sieving the chaff from the grains has been half-done.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism and its agencies should be resourceful enough to fraternize with, for instance the Association of Advertising Practitioners of Nigeria (AAPN), which is the collective for the advertising professionals as well as the other fingers of the industry such as the Organisation of Outdoor Adverstisers of Nigeria, oOAN, VAN (Voice Artistes of Nigeria); Radio and Television in Advertising Association etc.
For maximum advantage, the agencies should not lose sight of the oversight function of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON, which regulates activities of the various bodies of practitioners.
Also very important, many of these advertising companies have viable affiliation with internationally reputable Advertising companies. Thus they have advantages of helping to push agenda of their clients internationally.
An effective engagement of these professionals would have prevented the shameful campaign that featured the ex-President dancing like a robot in a TV copy at about same time when Thabo Mbeki of South Africa was on the international screen reciting the great inspiring poem: ‘I am an African’, and grabbing the attention of the world through a well=conceived and executed image laundering campaign.

No doubt, the most effective tool for marketing, promoting and presenting the products of our cultural and tourism sector -- or that of any other country -- is Public Relations. That is why purpose-driven economies spend huge resources to create good images for their country with the ultimate aim of selling same as destination that is worth attention of the people from other climes, who love to move around and explore new possibilities for their personal lives and businesses. The various advertisement copies that we see on international media such as the CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, Sky etc are all products of deeply-thought-out PR strategies with the final aim being to ensure that others see the country as a tourist-friendly and consequently, investment-deserving economies.
Incidentally, past efforts by consecutive governments in Nigeria to engage the resources of PR to serve the interest of building a good image of the country has never been well schemed to achieve the set objectives. Some of those initiatives had been reactionary rather than being deliberately authored actions to help boost the image of the country. It is to popular knowledge that billions of dollars were sunk into international image laundering projects for Nigeria, especially since the country slipped into pariah-ness following the imbroglio that trailed the annulment of the June 12, 1993 elections. We could say that the only period that we seemed to have managed to reap some benefits from such huge investment was between 1999 and 2007 when president Obasanjo re-launched the international campaign to pull Nigeria out of the woods. But we also know that aside engaging international image launderers, the President against the popular support of the people had to embark on innumerable trips to all parts of the world to assure the global community that Nigeria was reinventing itself, politically, economically and culturally.
But in critical thinking, it has been observed that, even much more would have been achieved if local PR practitioners – who are driven more by patriotic passion, nationalistic commitment and understanding that even their own businesses would not grow of they do not help to clean up the image of the country – had been engaged rather than international consultants whose only prime motive for taking up the assignment is profit.
Yet Nigeria is not lacking in a pool of eminently qualified and tested professionals in the field who have distinguished themselves in global comity of PR practitioners.
In preparing this paper, I had consulted a young practitioner – Ayo Moses Ogedengbe --to articulate the advantages derivable from PR intervention in Culture and Tourism promotion. Below is what he offered;

“Public relations is the art and science of planning actionable programmes for the purpose of establishing a mutually beneficial understanding between an organisation and her publics whilst studying trends, analyzing same, predicting their consequences and counseling organisation leaders. Where strategies are properly executed, issues bothering on hostility, apathy, prejudice and ignorance would have been motivated to attract the sympathy, interest, acceptance and knowledge needed to help the industry thrive.
The tourism industry is in a position to benefit from a clearly outlined public relations strategy and amongst such possible benefits are:

• Increased awareness for the tourism industry in Nigeria
• Educate Nigerians about attractive tourism destinations of the country
• Publicize industry to the International community
• Create awareness for business potentials of the industry
• Awareness on employment benefits
• Revenue generation for national income
• Foreign Direct Investment earning potential
• Enhance the image and reputation of the country locally and internationally
• Social economic development
• Educational benefits to the citizenry
• Encourage return of Nigerian Professionals abroad back home
• Ensure that hard earned income being taken abroad by Nigerians for tourism purpose are spent here at home
* Relieve Nigerians of stress induced culture of work and no rest which is destroying lives

Just like the advertisers, the Public Relations professionals have collective fronts in NIPR that could be effectively engaged for maximum performance. Aside the NIPR is also the FAPRA, which gives international oversights to operation of the industry.


1. Use of cyberspace –
Internet, Facebook, My Space; You tube

Human communication and interaction have gone beyond the traditional face-to-face meeting often facilitated by physical migrations. Now, millions of people criss-cross boundaries and destinations just by banging or picking on keyboards located in one little corners of their room – even in the rural areas. The cyberspace has further enhanced the ‘villagelisation’ of the world; and for anyone desirous of reaching out to the world, the cyberspace is the easiest, cheapest and instantly delivering platform.
Thousands of Nigerian youths and potential consumers of cultural and tourism products are hooked to the cyberspace every minute of the day – that explains the immense almost phenomenal instant stardom that a lot of our young artists, especially musicians and Nollywood actors, have attained – just as they have barely stepped out to the public attention. If you were to type the name TUFACE or ASA in the google search machine, you will be amazed at the volume of fans they have amassed from all over the world even from places they have never been to.
The Cyberspace is a great promotional and marketing platform that is just there to be engaged almost FOC – FREE OF CHARGE. And if private individuals, especially the youths who have no funding source than probably their pocket money, can use it effectively in spite of our national challenges with power and technology, imagine what each of the culture and tourism parastatals can do with just having a Computer and internet facilities – of course manned by a trained and focused personnel, and not just an over red taped, grumbling civil servant – with such an easy-to-use, cheap-to-use and sometime fun-to-use platform

5. Marketing

All these lead to the 5th item I have put here, which is actually the END RESULT of all the other four items: MARKETING.
Let me say in advance here that the thought I am going to share here on this has been taken from a brilliant PowerPoint presentation titled “HOW MARKETING TECHNIQUES CONTRIBUTE TO ENHANCE AFRICAN DESTINATIONS” delivered at the 47th meeting of the UNWTO CAF, by a resource persons in this same Abuja:
I have taken it as a credo particularly as it gives a practical guide to how one could for instance effectively market NIGERIA as a DESTINATION:

The paper contends that Media has become the most pervasive, permanent aspects of our lives: we expect it, we need it, we demand it, and we are lost without it. She added that the media plays a critical role in how we make a sense of our world politically, socially, geographically, economically, spiritually and environmentally. Media has become a tool for education, liberation, inspiration and unification across geographies, ages, cultures, religions, parties and generations.
It also extrapolated on how Media could be engaged to specifically MARKET tourism, particularly: DESTINATION MARKETING – which is germane to cultural tourism. “Marketing plays a critical role in expressing a nation’s: Focus on the future; Aspirations for growth and development; Capabilities at social, technological, industrial and economic levels; Spirit of its People; Values as a Culture; Energy as a reflection of its Personality; Stability as a society, as a holiday location, as a centre for investment.
And to make marketing function optimally in the interest of Destination Marketing, the paper said it could be strategically designed to Provoke curiosity; Create interest; Shift perceptions; Build national image and appeal; Inspire visitors and investors to show greater interest and respect in cultural and tourism products of Nigeria.

The paper then proposed an acronym: P-R-I-D-E:

P: PATNERSHIPS: Establish high-profile, high-credibility PARTNERSHIPS with highly-respected Media, leveraging their Brand equity and reach as a way of magnifying the destination’s Brand equity and maximizing media ROI.

R: REACH: Understand whom you need to REACH with your marketing:
Identifying your target market(s); Understanding their interests and motivators; establishing when and how best to communicate with them; Understanding your competitor set

I: INVEST in Brand-building, committing time and funds to the development of:
(a) Advertising: compelling messaging which creatively connects with audiences in words, images, music, moments
(b) Media: carefully thought out campaign plan, which reaches the right people in the right places at the right time.

D: DIFFERENTIATED. Ensure your destination is clearly, confidently and compellingly DIFFERENTIATED as a Brand offering. Define your core messages - a set of few, focused, unique statements which capture the essence of the destination’s offering and set you apart from others, expressing a promise which you absolutely can deliver on.

E: EXPERENTIAL. Showcase the EXPERIENTIAL aspects of the destination -- demonstrate how the destination allows visitors to touch it, and be touched by it, using the assets, icons and attractions of the destination to connect with visitors at an emotional level… sending them home with stories and souvenirs.


•Effectively engaging and cultivating the various platforms existing
in the Cultural Journalism, including Tourism journalism bodies
AWON; EWAN; Book Reviewers’ Society; Movie Reporters Association; FIPRESCI; AICA; ANJET… we should also not leave out the various professional bodies representing the arts – that for writers, theatre artists, visual artists, filmmakers, fashion etc
There is not even an inventory on what these organizations are; where they are; how they operate; what their needs are.
Cultivation of the organizations should go beyond the humdrum of Press Release-Brown Envelope-come-and-report-us relationship that currently exists. Imagine if at the very onset of planning a programme for culture and tourism, the Media was already involved. This encourages them to start their reporting from the process and on to the final results of the project. A lot of private programme producers are doing this already; but I am afraid not so for governmental agencies. This is why we could end up with the sort of attitude displayed by the information managers at the CBAAC.

•Encouraging Art schools to design programmers for reporting in the various disciplines

Cultivating the media resources available should place emphasize on helping to organize training and advancement of careers of the personnel in Cultural and tourism reporting. It is of course known that Nigeria with such a vast media resources has few almost negligible educational programmes for Cultural reporting and tourism – as we speak there is not (not to my knowledge) any tertiary institutions offering training to journalists interested in reporting Tourism or Culture affairs.
However, institutions within the ministry such as NICO, Department of Culture, NICHOTOURS, NOA should be effectively mobilized to develop training modules that could help the media deliver qualitative intervention in Culture and Tourism management.

•Professionalising the Media units of the various agencies under the Ministry of culture and Tourism
It is clear that those manning the media departments (Media Relations) in the various parastatals in the ministry are not well equipped or not equipped enough to effectively perform their roles. I am aware that some of these information officers were deployed from Information ministry – just because they work in that ministry. The Culture and Tourism parastatals should develop a module that enable them recruit real, tested and well equipped (intellectually and technically) personnel to man that units.
The ultimate is to OUTSOURCE the unit, which means engaging the services of professional Media managers.

Day the gods filled the bowel of British Museum

The 'god's filled the bowels of the Museum in their voluminous robes that spread endlessly at the helm. Their hosts dressed smartly in suits of varying colours looked understated beside the huge, fat attires of the 'gods' of Yorubaland represented by their scions -- the Kings and chiefs drawn mostly from the cradle, where the collections of sculptures and busts dating back to an ancient civilisation had been sourced. The 'gods' did not travel light, they were hemmed at the sides by their dazzling Queens, who even appeared more resplendent. In those gynomous robes, the Kings and Chiefs and Queens and their acolytes made light the heavy pang of cold that had descended on chilly London. Were they to be equipped to speak the god-souls in the beautiful cases upstairs in the gallery space would have screamed ' we love this lavish honour' bestowed on us. But would those encased pieces of civilisations have wished to return home to be eternally (?) dumped in dusty, dingy bowls and shelves? That is hard to tell... but in those expensive, well decorated and lit cases, they looked really regal --- they had rooms to smile generously; quite unlike those smelly shelves at Onikan. Yet, home is the best rest-place for the souls of the ancestors entrapped in each of those pieces of civilisation.

•Ooni of Ife, Sijuwade Olubushe; Chief Emeka Anyaoku and Olori Sijuwade (left of Ooni)

•Cross section of Chiefs

• A Panoramic view of the reception hall

• Yemisi Shyllon (OYASAF), Victoria Agili (NCMM), Tunde Oyedoyin (The Guardian London); Jahman

•Odiaga Adhiambo 9Ford Foundation); Shyllon (OYASAF); and Bolanle Fajemirokun (DARC)