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By Toyin Akinosho

The first question on a few lips as the story broke about President Tinubu’s appointment of new heads of parastatals in the Ministry of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy was: Who Cares?

Nigerian Culture parastatals have, after all, not always been blessed with the highest quality stewardship.

The fog, however, lifts a little when you begin to see some of the names of the appointees.

In the choice of Tola Akerele as Director General Manager of the National Arts Theatre, the government has appointed someone who owned a thriving Culture Space, to run the Nationally owned Culture Space.

Tola Akerele , left, at the site of the ongoing renovation of the National Arts Theatre

Mrs. Akerele is a Co-Founder of the Bogobiri House, a hub of contemporary arts and artists. She is also the founder of Soto Gallery and +234 Art. A culinary activist of sorts, she gushes in the social media about being the author of the Orishirishi Cookbook. What she is most credited for, however, is being an interior designer. She is the creative director of iDESIGN.

Olaiya Subomi, an Abuja based consultant on the experience of culture, says that the appointment of a DG  for the National Arts Theatre is problematic. “The unclear bit is what the new status of the National Theatre will look like after the massive work going on there and how she would interface with the Bankers’ Committee’s intervention”. It is clearly an evolving story.

Obi Asika, we hope he is able to develop robust appetite for policy chewing the way he chews figures about the creative economy

The Kannywood actor, Ali Nuhu Mohammed, is appointed to pilot the affairs of the Nigerian Film Corporation. Nuhu has been in films all his life, in a manner of speaking. His acting debut was in the 1999 film Abin sirri ne. However he is better acknowledged for his role in Sangaya, now regarded as a Kannywood classic. Ali Nuhu has starred in several sequel films, including Azal, Jarumin Maza, and Stinda for which he was awarded Best Actor in a supporting role during the Africa Movie Academy Awards in (2007). The Kano born actor, who has reportedly appeared in about five hundred movies, did his National Service in Ibadan, Oyo State. He later did courses on Filmmaking from [Asian Academy of Film and Television Noida, Delhi], Transmedia Story Telling in the University of Southern California Department of Cinematic Arts and Acting for the Camera in the Los Angeles Center Studios, Relativity Education.

THE FILM SCHOLAR SHAIBU HUSSEINI, Ph.D,  appointed as  Director-General, National Films and Censors Board, understands films as a reporter, jury, and evolving scholar, who has perhaps interviewed anybody and everybody that matters in the industry. Shaibu is an alumnus of the United States International Visitors Leadership Programme and the AIG-Public Leaders Programme of the Blavtanik School of Governance of the University of Oxford. Until his appointment Director of Dance and Music and Head of the Strategic Communication Unit of the National Troupe of Nigeria, Husseini is reputed as one of the most consistent documentarists of Nigeria’s vibrant film and movie industry Nollywood. He has been the Chair, for 16 years running, of the Selection Committee of Africa’s premier film award—-the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) and a member of the prestigious AMAA jury. He has attended several conferences, workshops and festivals and has sat and currently sits on a number of local and international Committee on film, theatre and allied matters including serving on the Board and on the jury of a number of Festivals,

Ali Nuhu, left, the new CEO of the Nigerian Film Corporation, has starred in over 500 movies

“The pedigree is right”, says Jahman Anikulapo, former Arts Editor of The Guardian and former editor of The Guardian on Sunday, “and he is a civil servant for nearly three decades, so he knows the system very well”.

Given the rapid growth of the Nigerian film industry in the last thirty years, with minimal government support, it is legitimate to ask how relevant the National Film Corporation and the National Film Censors Board, still are, to the continued development of the sector.

“Both institutions are important and play different roles”, contends Femi Odugbemi, a motion picture mogul and critic. “The Censors board is a film classification entity – it is a gatekeeper for culture, ethics, humanism and the subterranean influences of a mass market platform like cinema. It focuses on managing the internal control mechanisms of the industry working with Guilds within extant laws. Now with Streamer content and international online broadcast platforms like YouTube, the work of the Censors board has expanded in the layers”.

Odugbemi shares the same perspective with Anikulapo on the specific responsibilities of the NFC.  “The film corporation ideally is to map out a structure and administer to fostering an enabling environment for filmmaking to thrive”, the filmmaker explains. “The film policy is clear about their role in also supervising the practice of filmmaking, issuing licences for same where needed, working with government to create favorable policies to invite international investment in the industry, fostering co-production treaties with other countries and overseeing film education and curriculum in Nigeria.

“So the Film Corporation deals with the practice of filmmaking and the censors board deals with the products”.

Anikulapo also weighs in on Obi Asika, who gets the job of Director-General, National Council for Arts and Culture, in effect, the coordinating agency for all the agencies.

 “With his well-honed skills and resources in the creative sector straddling music, media, and allied disciplines, Asika will bring panache and savvy entrepreneurship to that wasting, underdeveloped NCAC, which, as you know, is like mother for the rest of the parastatals”.

He hopes, however that Asika, “is able to wean the civil servants off their laid-back nature and push them to see the need for enterprise”. Anikulapo also wishes that Asika “is able to develop robust appetite for *policy chewing the way he chews figures about the creative economy”

Apart from those four appointments, widely seen as “the most prominent of the 11”, there is Aisha Adamu Augie, the notable photographer and filmmaker who came to national consciousness with her winning of the British Council’s Through-My-Eyes Competition in 2014. She was appointed Director-General, Centre for Black and African Arts and Culture.

There is also Khaltume Bulama Gana, who gets the position of Artistic Director, National Troupe of Nigeria. Hajiya Gana is the founder of the Herwa Heart of Art Initiative, which teaches children and young women affected by the Boko Haram.

SEVERAL MEDIA PLATFORMS, HAVE RATED the list as star studded. But some of the 11 appointees are rank unknowns to the arthouse crowd.

Aisha Adamu Augie, new CEO, Centre for Black and African Civilisation

Chaliya Shagaya, who was handed the position of Director-General, National Institute of Archeology and Museums Studies, actually has a masters’ degree in entertainment business from Full Sail University in   Winter Park, Florida, but her most recent job was as the Government Relations Head at the Nigerian Exchange Group (NGX Group), and she is better known as a “corporate”.  A daughter of a former commander of the ECOMOG Peacekeeping force in Liberia who later became a senator, Ms. Shagaya’s Linkedin profile identifies her as an “experienced professional with a demonstrated history of working in Oil and Gas, the Maritime Industry, Government and Public Relations. Skilled in Negotiation, Business Planning and Development, Operations Management, Brand Strategy, Culinary Management, and Team Building”. She once held the position of Advisory and Editor at Large at The Will Newspaper, “a role that involved providing strategic advice and contributing to the editorial direction of the publication”, she says online. You can argue that that is a vocation that is related to the arts and archive matters that her new job will involve.  But what’s the point of this? Here’s a 50-year-old who if she deploys a  truly honed visioning process, should make a contribution where professors of humanities have failed.

Ahmed Sodangi is also among the non-art and culture cohorts. He, who got the job of Director-General, National Gallery of Art, was a project officer at the Bank of Industry Limited and by his own posting on LikedIn, he doesn’t claim to be involved in the Bank’s activity in the Creative Economy, such as loan or grant facility for Nollywood, etc. Instead, as he explains, he is an “experienced Charter Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the import and export industry. Skilled in Negotiation, Management, Strategic Planning, Business Strategy, and Leadership.

He claims to be a “strong operations professional with a Master of Science (MSc) focused in Management and International Business from Birmingham City University”.

Ekpolador-Ebi Koinyan is not involved in the ways and means of the culture circuit. He is the founder of  SmartAlliance Consulting Services Limited,  a consulting firm engaged in providing support for business success and educational services. But President Tinubu appointed him as Chief Conservator, National War Museum.

Yet in the view of Yinka Oyegbile, former Deputy editor of The Nation newspapers, the key issue is not about the profile of the new leaders of the War Museum and the Institute for Archaeology. “The two of them   were units of the larger National Commission for Museum and Monuments (NCMM), why carve them out now? The Institute is part of National Museum Jos and used(?) to have a principal who is at the director’s level under the DG of NCMM, same for War Muesum built by the Army but handed over to NCMM to manage. So you now make them full-fledged parastatals now? Haba. Is there something I’m missing?”

THE LAST TWO APPOINTEES ARE PARTY FAITHFULS: members  of the country’s ruling political party, even if they may have distinguished themselves in other areas of the economy.

Biodun Ajiboye is described by the influential Vanguard newspaper “as a fellow of the advertising profession who was recently inducted by the Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON)”. He was named Director-General, National Institute for Cultural Orientation. Vanguard explains that in the 2023 Nigerian election campaign, Ajiboye “played a pivotal role as the Assistant Director of the Media & Publicity Directorate, contributing significantly to the victory of Nigerian President Bola Tinubu”. In his Linkedin page, his emphasis is on his organization of the Nigeria Telecom Awards.

Ramatu Abonbo Mohammed  has a seemingly weightier job than that of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation. A former Niger State Commissioner for Investment and Transport during the immediate past administration of Senator Abubakar Sani Bello, she gets to be Director General of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments.

Ramatu Abonbo Mohammed, Director-General, National Commission for Museums and Monuments

Anikulapo has the last word on the story, which is still breaking, for now… “I hope they give them the right boards to work with”, he explains. “A badly composed Board can cripple or kill the mission of head of the agency and his/her team with their politickings”.

He is a little worried about the delivery of Hannatu Musawa, the Minister of Culture and Creative Economy, who is the superintendent of the 11 parastatals. “Her earliest moves as sector head were shaky, even faulty, but the whole process is still evolving”.

 

 

 

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