The President, Society of Nigeria Theatre Artists (SONTA), Prof. Gowon Ama Doki, FSONTA, on Thursday, February 1, 2024, led a delegation on a courtesy visit to the Hon. Minister of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy, Barr. Mrs. Hannatu Musa Musawa in her office in Abuja.
The working visit, according to the President, is part of the build-up of activities towards the 2024 SONTA International Conference and AGM slated to hold at the Federal University, Lokoja, in September of this year.
The high-powered delegation includes the Chairman, Board of Trustees, Prof. Shamsudeen O. O. Amali, OFR (The Amir Musulmi of Idoma land). His Excellency, Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher (former Senator, Minister and Envoy) Prof(s) Saint Gbilekaa, Mabel I. E. Evwierhoma, Alex Asigbo (IPP) Ameh D. Akoh, (Ex-Officio) and Prof. Adediran K. Ademiju-Bepo, Vice President (Projects and Programmes).
The President who explained that the purpose of the visit was to congratulate the Honourable Minister on her well-deserved appointment, with a promise to key into her 8-point agenda for the industry, noted that if the Minister’s “creativity is the new oil” slogan is followed diligently, then SONTA will definitely be one of the oil wells. He further stressed that as an intellectual Society, SONTA was ready to partner the Ministry on the implementation of the Agenda, especially on Skills Development.
On SONTA’s Mandate, the President explained that as an umbrella body for lecturers in Theatre, Film and Cultural Studies in Nigeria, SONTA has for the past 40 years, championed quality curricula, research and the promotion of academic discourse on theatre, film and culture as tools for sustainable democracy, peace building, moral and technological development. He thereafte conveyed the decision of EXCO to nominate the Honourable Minister for one of the highest Awards of SONTA during the Lokoja conference.
While congratulating the newly appointed General Manager/CEO of the National Theatre, Mrs Tola Akerele, who was present during the visit, Prof. Doki lobbied the Minister to consider SONTA members when constituting Management Boards of parastatals under her ministry. The President presented some publications to the Honourable Minister and prayed the good Lord to continue to bless, guide and protect the Hon. Minister in her quest to reposition the Creative Economy in Nigeria.
The BoT Chairman, Prof S O.O Amali, also used the moment to congratulate the Minister on her appointment, commending her on her vision for the culture industry, which he noted aligned with his own academic pursuit, adding that Africa and Nigeria are known for culture. He recalled his time in China with two other Nigerians during the time of Chairman Mao Tse Tung, whose wife was a dancer and how it was emphasized to them that culture was a goldmine. This, he observed, showed that the Minister was on the right track. Prof. Amali, in the full complement of his regalia as the Amir Musulmi (spiritual leader of Idoma land) thereafter offered a short Islamic prayer for the Minister’s success.
In her response, the honourable Minister of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy said Theatre Arts is the purest form of arts and she appreciated it more recently when she was invited by veteran actress, Joke Silva to Lagos to watch a stage performance. She observed that there was need to re-awaken the Theatre and promised to work with the new GM/CEO of the National Theatre of Nigeria, Mrs. Tola Akerele. She pledged her willingness to partner and work with SONTA in order for her to bequeath a strong and viable creative industry through the new Ministry she is heading now.
Barr. Mrs. Musawa lauded SONTA for the Award and expressed her acceptance, saying she looks forward to attending the Conference in person to receive the honour. She revealed that her Ministry is committed to incorporating Culture into the curriculum, noting that Theatre Arts can help drive the initiative. She remarked that she considers the delegation as a kaleidoscope of what Nigeria is, “This is Nigeria!”
Amb. Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher, in his vote of thanks, while appreciating the Minister, also noted that culture is everything. He said Nigeria has not realized that she has a soft power more lethal than military prowess, to become the focus of our foreign policy, and that is culture. He recalled how Nollywood, our movie industry, and our music have dominated the world; “We have costumed Africa and the world”, he said.
He said the vote of thanks should, in the first instance, go to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who made her the Honourable Minister of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy, then to her for being present, next to her vision and lastly, to her Directors and other staff. He closed by adding that “Our women scholars have brought the consciousness about gender to the country, with people like Prof. Mabel Evwierhoma, among others.
In his words “Culture is the soul of a nation; All over the world, the arts determine the trajectory of development. We are willing to help rid the country of banditry, terrorism and the like, as we did with the HIV/AIDS scourge through Theatre for Development concept and its variants, and developed massive Programmes of Development Communication”. Professor Hagher noted that members of the Society will not lobby but if the Minister and the Ministry need our services, the SONTA President is the appropriate contact person.
A session of group photographs with the Honourable Minister signalled the end of the visit.