The highly distinguished award of the Society of Nigerian Theatre Artists (SONTA), the Life Time Achievement Award, has been conferred on the Executive Secretary of National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma.
The award, which automatically added the ES into the SONTA Hall of Fame, was presented to him by the most respected theatre arts scholar, director and critic in Nigeria, Professor Dapo Adelugba, who was his lecturer at the postgraduate level in the University of Ibadan.
SONTA, the highest professional Association for all Theatre Lecturers, Academics and Theorists in Nigeria, conferred the award on Ayakoroma at the opening ceremony of its 24th Annual Conference at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, because of the cognate contributions he had made in the Arts and Culture sector in Nigeria and to the growth of SONTA.
The award was given to him alongside others, where many reputable Nigerian and international scholars as well as filmmakers were gathered for the conference with the theme: Nollywood and Theatre for Development (TfD): Exploring the Bridges of Interaction.
The National President of SONTA, Professor Emmanuel Dandaura, described Ayakoroma as a major factor and source of inspiration in the repositioning of SONTA, saying that he has also remained steadfast in the academic qualities SONTA is known for.
His words: “I must say that Dr. Ayakoroma is an inspiration to Nigerian theatre, arts and culture. He has contributed to the growth of Theatre Arts in Nigeria and to the growth of our highly distinguished body. He is one member who will never say, No, each time we approach him in our efforts to reposition SONTA. He has always supported us financially. Despite his tight schedules as the Executive Secretary of NICO, he still finds time to be present in all the activities of SONTA. Whenever, he was not around he must endeavour to send people. In all our Conferences, he has always delivered papers. He has also motivated so many members of his staff in NICO to be involved in scholarly activities and many of them are presenting papers in our conference. This is quite commendable to the growth of theatre scholarship in Nigeria.”
The climax of the event was when Professor Dapo Adelugba was invited to present the award to Ayakoroma, as it attracted a standing ovation from members of SONTA.
Dr. Tor Iorapuu, Head of Theatre and Film Arts, University of Jos, who read the citation, said that Ayakoroma has made impact as a theatre and film scholar, theatre director, theatre and culture administrator, playwright and even as media practitioner, having held positions such as Operations Supervisor, Head of Programmes and Head of News and Current Affairs in Rivers State Television, Port Harcourt: “As a playwright, he has written: Dance on His Grave, A Matter of Honour, A Chance to Survive and other plays, Castle in the Air, Once Upon A Dream and A Scar for Life.’’
In his remarks, Dr. Ayakoroma expressed his happiness over the award, saying for him it means SONTA is making him believe that he did not make a mistake in choosing theatre as a profession: “I must say that I am happy because this award is coming from SONTA, the reputable body of theatre scholars in Nigeria. For me, this is more than a national award. It confirms to me that I did not make any mistake choosing and reading theatre in the university. I am really grateful.’’
Other awardees are Professor Onookome Okome of the University of Alberta, Canada, and Mr. Mahmood Ali-Balogun, a graduate of Dramatic Arts, University of Ife, who is one of the foremost filmmakers in Nollywood.
The personalities in the event which took place at the Assembly Hall of the Senate Building of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, include the Vice Chancellor, Professor Abdullahi Mustapha, foremost theatre teacher, Mr. Michael Etherton, Professor Dapo Adelugba, Professor Ayo Akinwale, Professor Segun Ojewuyi, Professor Sunday Enessi Ododo, Professor Sam Kafewo, Professor Jenks Okwori, Professor Steve Abah, Mr. Emeka Mba (Director-General, National Film and Video Censors Board), Dr. Tor Iorapuu, Dr. AbdulRasheed Adeoye, Dr. Alex Asigbo, Dr. Tracie Utoh-Ezeajugh, Hajia Lantana Ahmed, Greg Mbajiorgu, and Arnold Udoka, among others.