The Honourable Minister of Culture, Tourism and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, has said that the onus of reviving live theatre practice in Nigeria and guaranteeing the much-needed quality assurance lies with the lecturers of theatre arts in Nigerian Universities.
Stating this at the opening ceremony of the 26th Annual Conference/General Meeting of the Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists (SONTA), on Wednesday, 5th June, 2013, at the Arts Theatre of Benue State University, Makurdi, Duke noted that this was necessary because gone are the days when parents chastised their children for deciding to study Theatre Arts in the university.
he Minister, who was represented by the Executive Secretary, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, however, asserted that with the way professors were being produced in the various Departments of Theatre/Drama/Cultural/Performing Arts in Nigerian Universities, there appears to be hope for the revival of live theatre in Nigeria.
His words: “I must say that I am impressed with what I have observed in this Conference. In those days, when you mention professors, you saw elderly men with walking sticks, and there were a few of them. In this conference, most of the professors introduced, especially in Theatre Arts, are very young and strong. Fellow students, when I grow up, I want to be a professor like them. On a serious note, I can say that with this development, there is hope that Nigerian theatre can be revived, so that we overcome this fear that live theatre is dying. I am also impressed with the level of attendance of members of SONTA in conferences. This 26th Conference is really well-attended; and I must say that if members sustain this tempo of attending SONTA Conferences, there is hope for live theatre in Nigeria.”
In his Valedictory Address, the National President of SONTA, Professor Emma Dandaura, of Nasarawa State University, Keffi, posited that SONTA Conference is always a big gathering of drivers of creative and critical industries, adding that, indeed, there had been an explosion of professors of theatre arts in recent times.
“Even in the outgoing EXCO of SONTA, we have four professors; we have 35 theatre arts departments and with the Colleges of Education, it is up to 39. We have established five more journals to add to the existing SONTA Journal. This will open up more channels for publication,” Dandaura said.
Earlier, the Conference Convener, Dr. Gowon Ama Doki, who is also the Head, Department of Theatre Arts, Benue State University, Makurdi, had said that with SONTA 2013, there had been a great feeling of excitement in his department, because the same SONTA they hosted in 2005, had come back to Makurdi, adding that the quantity is good, hence the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) supported the programme.
The event, which had Professor Saint Gbilekaa, Chief of Staff to Benue State Governor, as chairman, had many personalities in attendance, including, Professor Charity Angya (VC, Benue State University), Professor Shamsudeen O.O. Amali (VC, Nasarawa State University, Keffi) and his wife, Professor (Mrs.) Ebele Amali, Professor Jonathan Haynes (Long Island University, New York), Professor Ayo Akinwale (UNILORIN), Professor Emeka Nwabueze (UNN), Professor Sunday Ododo (UNIMAID), Professor Chris Ugolo (UNIBEN), Professor Alex Asigbo (Dean, Faculty of Arts, UNIZIK), Professor Tracie Utoh-Ezeajugh (UNIZIK), Professor Bakare Ojo Rasaki, Professor Sam Kafewo (HOD, Theatre and Performing Arts, ABU, Zaria), Professor Emma Emasealu (UNIPORT), Professor Rasheed Adeoye (HOD, Performing Arts, UNILORIN), Dr. Tor Iorapuu (UNIJOS), Dr. Jonathan Mbachaga (UNICAL), Dr. Martin Ayegba (ABU), and Dr. Denis Ako, among others.
Nwagbo Pat Obi