For the first time, Professors of Theatre Arts in Nigerian universities have gathered to deliberate on steps towards improving the quality of training in theatre and film arts in higher institutions of learning across the country.

The opening ceremony of the meeting, which was convened by the Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists (SONTA), the umbrella body of theatre arts lecturers in Nigerian tertiary institutions, held on Monday, 2nd November, 2015 at the Theatre Arts Complex, University of Abuja Main Campus, Abuja-FCT.

In his opening speech, SONTA President, Professor Sunday Enessi Ododo disclosed that the meeting was necessitated by the need for continuous human capital development with quality training, saying it is the only sure way to move the profession forward.

Noting that the theatre profession in Nigeria is currently receiving speedy growth and boom, hence the need to improve on the quality of training, Ododo said: “With the boom in our film industry, especially the Nollywood phenomenon, which was and is still being horned and nurtured in Theatre Arts departments, with the creative and entrepreneurial bravado and determination of film producers, our story has changed significantly.”

“Our ill-given appellation of Alawadas (trifle jesters) has reclined to a new identity of money spinning profession sought after by many. This is precisely why we have many gate-crashers in our profession today, especially on the screen where technology is mostly used to intervene in the end product, unlike the stage that is live and more dependent on trained talents and skills,” stated.

Describing as heart-warming, the significant improvement in enrolment of students into Theatre Arts based courses in Nigerian universities, especially with women taking the lead, Ododo said deliberate steps must be taken to improve the heritage of the theatre profession if it must remain relevant and the sure way of achieving that is through continuous human capital development.

While calling for continuous reinvention and re-energizing of theatre arts training programmes to ensure conformity with contemporary realities and world best practices, the SONTA President expressed hope that the meeting will come up with engaging templates and benchmarks for theatre, cultural and film studies in Nigeria, especially the partnership with National Universities Commission (NUC) in improving the quality of theatre and film training in the country.

At a pre-event courtesy call on the Vice-Chancellor, University of Abuja, Professor Michael Adikwu, the delegation of over thirty five (35) professors of theatre arts expressed profound appreciation for his kind approval for the Department of Theatre Arts in the university to host the maiden edition of the Meeting of All Nigerian Professors of Theatre Arts (MANTAP) in the sector.

Among those present were Professors Hyginus Ekwuazi (University of Ibadan), Duro Oni (DVC Management Services, University of Lagos), Shamshudeen O. O. Amali (former VC, Unilorin and NSUK, respectively), lrene Salami-Agunloye and Tor Iorapuu (University of Jos), Olu Obafemi (University of Ilorin), Marcel Okhakhu, Josephine Mokwunyei and Chris Ugolo (University of Benin), Henry Bell-Gam, Femi Shaka and Emma Emasealu (University of Port-Harcourt), Saint Gbilekaa, Mabel Evwierhoma and Barth Oshionebo (University of Abuja), Alex Asigbo and Tracie Utoh-Ezeajugh (Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka), Idris Amali (Federal University, Lafia), Emmanuel Dandaura (Nasarawa State University, Keffi), and Saviour Agoro (Niger Delta University, Wilberforce).

Also in attendance was the Executive Secretary, National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, who is also a Visiting Associate Professor of Theatre and Cultural Studies at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi (NSUK).

Caleb Nor

Corporate Affairs Unit