By Anote Ajeluorou
Two nights ago at MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos, All Progressives Congress’ presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, former FCT Minister, Mallam Nasir El Rufai ands Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora and other APC stalwarts stormed the premiere of Nigeria’s foremost cultural production, Saro the Musical 2.
Midway into the spectacular musical theatre performance that held the audience spellbound, the politicians breezed in and created a stir and distraction. The audience hailed the former head of state, who in turn, waved back with a toothy smile. Buhari and his entourage watched for about half an hour before they left the performance. Buhari apparently refrained from making any statements. But that in itself spoke volumes.
Producers of Saro the Musical and Terra Kulture’s Administration Manager, Mr. Joseph Omoibom, expressed excitement at Buhari and his entourage’s gesture in attending the show, saying such open support from people in high places was what the arts needed to thrive in the country.
According to Omoibom, “Buhari’s visit wasn’t planned. He heard about the show and indicated interest to attend and he came. It was great to have him. It’s good for people in high places to support the arts. We actually wish we have more people in high places supporting the arts; it encourages the artists and producers to do more”.
On whether such gesture as the one Buhari demonstrated two nights ago for Saro the Musical wasn’t a flash in the political pan that hardly transmute into serious artistic and cultural policy of government when such personages assumed office, Omoibom said that could only be seen when the time comes. He, however, stressed, “At Terra Kulture and Saro the Musical, we’re just promoting the arts; we’re not partisan at all as the entire Nigeria’s artistic and cultural landscape is our constituency. Let those in high places do it for whatever reasons – political, economic, artistic, cultural or even selfish – what is important is that all Nigerians should support the arts. That is what is important to us in our promotion of the arts through our various projects like Saro the Musical”.
For artists and culture producers across the country, however, such concerns as the intentions of those seeking political offices towards the arts become crucial given how badly the arts and culture sector of the economy is neglected. Although Gov. Amaechi could be said to have done well in supporting the arts by instituting Port Harcourt Book Festival (PHBF), the same cannot be said for El Rufai, who as former FCT Minister, didn’t see the need to build a usable, vibrant cultural space for artists to thrive.
The only such space at Garki, Area 10, Abuja, like the National Theatre in Lagos, hardly attracts real artistic patronage because of poor conception, execution and location of the cultural space.
The question that arises from Buhari’s visit to see Saro the Musical is if he would look the way of the arts as an elected president. President Goodluck Jonathan has demonstrated his open support for Nigeria’s film industry, also known as Nollywood, by his sundry financial interventions to it. In fact, Jonathan is often seen as Nollywood’s number fan, which many see as good, even if one-sided support for a vast sector in dire needs of funds. Jonathan’s support for the book, significant as it is for overall national development, comes by half at the moment, with Bring Back the Book campaign remaining an unfinished business.
What sub-sector of the arts would Buhari adopt and lend his weight in support as president? Many in the arts sector are waiting for Buhari’s campaign to kick off so they could have a fuller view of his vision for the sector. They will be curious to see what he proposes to do for a sector that absorbs a large number of youths, who would otherwise have been targets of sundry anarchic groups and interests plaguing the country with virulent ideology.