West African airlines have been challenged to offer “concrete proposals” for holistically addressing challenges confronting the sector to make them more effective partners in promoting the regional integration agenda.

“Air transport is one of the vital sectors of the regional economy whose contribution to the development of infrastructure will help facilitate the region’s integration and competitiveness,” the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador Kadre Desire Ouedraogo told a delegation of the Steering Committee of chief executives of airlines in the region on Monday, July 30.

The delegation was at the Commission to solicit support for initiatives by the airlines to cooperate in interline agreements, harmonisation of flights schedules and airport slots, pooling of resources and code sharing in line with the directive of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government at their 22nd June 2009 summit in Abuja. The initiatives are in response to the challenges of huge tax burdens applicable in Member States, stifling regulatory environment and restrictions on landing rights confronting the airlines.

The president assured the airlines of the Commission’s willingness to work with them in addressing the specific challenges confronting the sector, which has a huge potential in facilitating the realisation of the regional Protocol on free movement of community citizens in the spirit of the ECOWAS vision 2020. He urged the airlines to work with the relevant structures in the Commission to ensure the attainment of the objectives of the community for the benefit of the citizens.

Earlier, Mr Abderahmane Berthe, chair of the Steering Committee highlighted the important role of air transport to regional integration in facilitating the movement of community citizens through the reduction of fares and ensuring the efficiency of the sector. Mr. Berthe, who is the Director-General of Air Mali, said the identified problems have allowed foreign airlines to dominate the sector and reduced the capacity of regional airlines to compete not only within the region but globally.

He briefed the president on the role of the Steering Committee as a mechanism for articulating the interests and challenges of the sector with a view to leveraging the strengths of its members to improve the efficiency of the sector and resources in the region for the benefit of community citizens. The chairman was accompanied by the Director-General of Asky, Mr. Burera Awel, the Deputy Director-General of Aero contractors, Mr. Rogers Cookey, and Mr. Kwaku Apeadu of FLY540.

Newly- renovated Ikeja Central Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos, has commenced its entertainment package of night clubbing, outdoor dining and wining, and Bar-b-Que grills on Fridays as it celebrates with in-house guests the end of the working week with its specially packaged Thank God Its Friday (TGIF) showcase.

The Thank God it’s Friday (TGIF) is an early evening gig put together for the enjoyment of the in-house guests and anyone who wants to unwind, according to management of the high-profile hotel.

“Inside the bar and lounge a Dee jay is spinning the wheels of steel churning out the latest vibes to a cultured and upwardly mobile crowd in the ambiance of the hotels twenty first century bar and lounge. At the bar there are choice wines, spirits, beer and cocktails,” said Mr. Emanuel Onafowokan, Managing Director of the hotel.

Continuing, Onafowokan urged patrons to take advantage of the 50 per cent discount on room rates which is also on offer every Friday specifically, adding that the hotel is redirecting its vision to using entertainment to soothe the nerves of guests and tourists alike.

The 36-room luxury hotel in Ikeja is owned and managed as a member of the Yodesons Group founded by business mogul Chief SK Onafowokan, The Asiwaju of Remo, Ogun State.

Two years after it took over an existing network, Airtel Nigeria has grown its subscriber base by 31 per cent representing an additional five and half million subscribers to hit 20 million subscribers.

Airtel Nigeria Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Mr. Rajan Swaroop disclosed the growth in the company’s numbers and improvement in other indices at a Media Roundtable held Wednesday at the Lagos Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja,

According to Swaroop, the growth in subscriber numbers at Airtel was one of several indicators of growing customer acceptance and love of the brand that seeks as its vision to be the most loved brand in all its markets., just as he revealed that traffic on the Airtel network grew by 124 per cent since the 2010 acquisition by the Bharti Airtel Group.

Airtel Nigeria is the lodestar in the 16-country African operations of Bharti Airtel with head office in Nairobi, Kenya. The growth has also come on the back of an investment of $1.2billion (approximately N192billion) within the period, innovations in marketing as well as in the network that have positively influenced the Nigerian telecommunications landscape.

The Airtel Nigeria chief further disclosed that his company has launched nearly 3, 000 3.75G sites with presence in 150 towns and cities across Nigeria, adding that the Airtel 3G network is now the largest such network in all of Africa.

“The company connects rural communities with broadband services.  Airtel also offers the best Internet experience in Nigeria,” the CEO stressed.

Airtel is investing in building additional 2000 kilometres to its existing 5000 kilometre fibre transmission network to ensure even deeper market penetration and capacity to handle its rapid subscriber growth. The Airtel Nigeria Chief Executive asserted that the existing network has capacity to take additional 10 million subscribers even as the company increases its capacity rapidly.

“We can double our existing customer base without congestion on the network,” Swaroop added.

He said this was possible because of investments on the network including a network data centre launched in Lagos in April as well as further investments to ensure additional capacity at base stations.

Diamond Bank has formally redeemed its pledge of special certificates and cash awards to winners of the children’s Special Art Exhibition which it sponsored as part of programmes highlighting the recently concluded 2012 edition of the Lagos Black Heritage Festival (LBHF).

The competition which was organised with the support of Lagos State Government had in the past featured adult art competitions, however, for this year, opted to focus on young creativity through the bank’s sponsorship with a sub theme, The Vision of the Child.

The presentation of awards to the best six students at the Diamond Bank’s Lekki, Lagos premises, penultimate Wednesday, had in attendance executives of the bank including Managing Director, Mr. Alex Otti, Executive Director, Corporate Banking and Regional Businesses (Lagos/West), Mr. Uzoma Dozie, Mr. Victor Ezenwoko, Executive Director, Regional Businesses (South), the Festival Consultant and Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, as well as other school children who participated in the art competition.

Presenting the cash prizes to the tune of N450, 000 to the six winners, Otti said the bank continuously aligns itself with the future, hence its support for the children’s art competition: “For us at Diamond Bank, we have no choice but to support the future and the children out here today represent that future which is why we are supporting the project. The future is bright and will continue to support the future. This is our belief,” said Otti.

Responding, Prof. Soyinka used the occasion of the presentation, to hand over theme of next year’s competition contained in sealed envelope to the Diamond Bank MD for, as he put it, ‘safe keeping.’

It would be recalled that both the art competition and the festival proper were declared open by state governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who had thanked the bank for its noble gesture in sponsoring the creative genius of children in particular.

The 5th edition of the Lagos Black Heritage festival (LBHF) had as theme, The Black in the Mediterranean Blue, focusing on the linkages and historical contributions of Blacks to the Mediterranean region as reflected in the dance, plays, street theatre, music and other cultural aspects.

Against a background of an exhibition by Italian, Nigerian and Afro-Italian painters, the visual art programme took the form of children from age ranging from nine to twelve telling through paintings all done in Freedom Park, their grasp of the culture they live in, their observations of developments in their immediate environment and their dreams and fantasies about Lagos.

A selective process had begun weeks before the festival by Art Scouts who visited more than 70 public and private Primary and Secondary Schools in the 57 Local Councils and Development Areas in the state and examined the children’s works. 42 public and private schools across the state qualified for the final competition.

The selection panel comprising Chief (Mrs) Nike Okundaye, Hon Tola Wewe and Mrs. Peju Ogunmola with the active support of the art teachers narrowed down the selection to 30 children from 18 different schools through two screenings.

The finalists were invited to Freedom Park, Lagos, March 17, provided with canvasses, brushes, easels and paints then set to work. The results were framed and mounted and put on exhibition April 2, on the Final day of the Festival colloquium. All the children received Award Certificates and LBHF Customised Laptops.

During the penultimate Wednesday visit to the bank’s offices in Lekki, Lagos, the best six formally received their additional cash awards as announced by the Panel of Selectors and Judges during the award dinner sponsored by Diamond Bank on April 8.

They include: Akinola Ibukunoluwa of the Methodist Girls, Yaba, Lagos, 1st– N120,000; Doyinsola Akinwande of the Apostolic Faith, Anthony, Lagos, 2nd-N100,000; Lotanna Nnoli of the Chrisland Schools, Victoria Garden City, Lagos 3rd-N80,000; Babatunde Balogun of the Greenfield School, Lekki 4th-N50,000; Sulaiman Sheriff of the Unjeland School, Ikotun 5th-N50,000;  and finally Sokoya Kayinsola of the Apostolic Faith, Anthony 6-N50,000.

Of special notice was young Divine Grace, a five-year-old girl who insisted on taking part in the competition and was honoured by the sponsors, Diamond Bank. She was also given an honorary certificate for her tenacity and her, “can do” spirit.

The success of the event was summed up by the Festival Secretary, Foluke Michael, who declared that the precociousness of the children who interpreted the art competition’s theme in very mature adult depictions must not be taken for granted.

“We must also encourage them, provide the right environment for them to grow, so that, we can get the best from them… Parents should encourage their children to go beyond studying mathematics and physics, but develop interest in other subjects and courses and should not ignore any talent discovered in their children.”

This statement in effect, sums up the commendable results of the spirit and support of the Diamond Bank Corporate Sonically Responsibility in its sponsorship of the Vision of the Child.

Some of the world’s most celebrated jazz musicians, including Grammy Award winning performers Clarence Carter and Eddie Palmieri; Jamaican legend Monty Alexander and France’s celebrated Manu Katche, have joined the line-up of artists already announced for this year’s Standard Bank Joy of Jazz.

Also coming to the jazztravaganza, which takes place in Newtown, Johannesburg, from August 23 to 25, are the United States’ Lizz Wright; Ken Philmore from Trinidad and Tobago who is one of the top steel-drum soloists in the world and France’s innovative Orchestre National de Jazz (ONJ).

Both Palmieri and Katche join an already impressive opening night line-up which includes Sax Summit and the unforgettable Tribute to Miles Davis.

Sax Summit has five of the world’s top female saxophonists playing the music of Kippie Moeketsi. They are American rising star Grace Kelly, Holland’s acclaimed Tineke Postma, British tenor Rosemary Quaye as well as Shannon Mowday and Nthabiseng Mokoena.

Eddie Palmieri is one of the foremost Latin jazz pianists of the 21st century, blessed with a technique that fuses jazz influences from the styles of Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk and McCoy Tyner into a Latin context. He is the recipient of nine Grammy Awards.

In a career that spans more than four decades, Jamaican piano legend Monty Alexander has performed and recorded with artists from every corner of the musical universe: Frank Sinatra, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Quincy Jones, Ernest Ranglin, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare to name just a few. Alexander was awarded the title of Commander in the Order of Distinction by the Jamaican Government for outstanding services to Jamaica in his capacity as worldwide music ambassador.

Clarence Carter won legends of fans around the world with songs such as Patches, Slip Away and Too Weak to Fight. He found a new audience with songs such as Strokin’ and Dr CC in the 1990s. Strokin’ was also used in the Eddie Murphy film The Nutty Professor. Carter’s strong soul sound also found an audience within the hip-hop community where he is known as Dr CC for his soulful guitar work intertwined with his sexy lyrics.

Lizz Wright’s music is a mixture of jazz, folk, gospel, and R&B. The Georgia-based singer-songwriter is already a celebrated contributor to the jazz world, having recorded four albums.

Ken “Professor” Philmore has performed and recorded with a number of international artists such as Tito Puente, Ella Fitzgerald, Phyllis Hyman, Nancy Wilson, Tina Turner, Andy Narrell, Ralph Mc Donald, George Howard, Lionel Hampton and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Apart from his work in Trinidad, he currently arranges music for steel bands both in US and the UK and lectures at universities worldwide.

Orchestre National de Jazz (under the current leadership of artistic director Daniel Yvinec) has charted a unique musical path over the last quarter of a century, with projects tributes to Billie Holiday and art rock pioneer Robert Wyatt. Their latest offering is the acclaimed Shut Up and Dance.

The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz will take place on eight stages in Newtown including the Dinaledi Stage, the Conga, Mbira, Bassline and The Market Theatre. Other venues include free concerts at Sophiatown, Shikisha and Nikki’s Oasis.

Artists already announced for the festival include Grammy-Award winner Kurt Elling who has been hailed as the jazz male vocalist of his generation; trombone master Wycliffe Gordon; Grammy-winning guitarist Earl Klugh as well as an appearance by the world famous Duke Ellington Orchestra. Luminaries from the African continent include Caiphus Semenya, Bakithi Kumalo, Manu Dibango from Cameroon and Mory Kante from Guinea.

The 2012 Standard Bank Joy of Jazz is produced by T-Musicman and brought to you by Standard Bank in association with the Department of Arts & Culture with co-sponsors The Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture & Recreation; South African Tourism; Gauteng Tourism; the National Arts Council and the City of Jo’burg

The recently held Mandela day celebration in Lagos was a well attended event to honour the living legend Nelson Mandela fondly called Madiba.

The event organized by the South African High Commission in Lagos, in partnership with Silverbird was held at the Galleria in Victoria Island, Lagos.

Amongst the dignitaries present at the event were Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka, Consul General South Africa High Commission Ambassador Monaisa, Seasoned broadcaster Soni Irabor and Chairman, Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), Mr. Foluso Philips, to mention a few.

Part of the activities of the day was the revelation of German-based Nigerian pianist Dapo Dina, who left attendees spellbound as he and his band which included ace Saxophonist Segun Atoyebi and Bassist Joshua Fashina performed to the delight of the crowd.

Dina showed dexterity on his Clarinova piano which he specially brought to the event because of what he called its ‘weighted’ keys and in between the various activities on the programme of events for the day he was on hand to deliver both traditional South African tunes from Miriam Makeba, Abdullahi Ibrahim and also several Nigerian traditional standards.

His mastery on the piano left Professor Wole Soyinka thrilled as other notable guests also commended on his artistry as a musician.

Dina has over the last 5 years featured in many festivals abroad with his favourite performing spots being the European and South African music scene. Here in Nigeria, he is expected to feature prominently in the forthcoming ‘The Tale Of Two African Cities’ Fusion showcase between Nigeria and South Africa and The MUSON Jazz festival 2012 amongst other events.

The musician who draws his musical influences from musicians like Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Gonzalo Rubalcalba is a set to release his latest work ‘wealth of Knowledge’ into the African Market under the auspices of Inspiro productions.

Africa Travel Association (ATA) Monday announced Cameroon as the next host of its 38th Annual ATA World Congress, the association’s largest international tourism industry meeting, scheduled for 2013.

The congress expects to bring together hundreds of tourism leaders and professionals from government, business and non-profit sectors to promote tourism development to and across Africa from around the world.

ATA is a global trade association promoting travel and tourism to Africa and strengthening intra-Africa partnerships established in 1975, to serve both the public and private sectors of the international travel and tourism industry

“At our 37th Congress in Zimbabwe in May 2012, we brought together more than 500 industry professionals to explore how tourism, with growth rates in emerging markets outperforming more established destinations, is one of the most promising industries on the African continent for development,” said ATA Executive Director Edward Bergman.

Continuing, Bergman said: “Building on this incredible momentum, we are excited to partner with our longtime member Cameroon to bring tourism professionals looking to do business in Africa to the country, where delegates will have the opportunity to build new connections, learn about the latest industry trends, and explore the country’s newest products.”

ATA and Cameroon trace their roots back to 2004 and 1987, when Cameroon hosted ATA’s hallmark event in the country’s largest city Douala. In 2001, ATA held its Eco-Tourism Symposium in the capital Yaounde.

The 2013 event will be hosted by the Ministry of Tourism and Leisure under the auspices of Honourable Minister Bello Bouba Maigari, who expressed his vision to bring ATA back to Cameroon at ATA’s last U.S.-Africa Tourism Seminar in March in Washington DC. The Minister recently remarked, “You want to visit Africa and experience its vast diversity and legendary hospitality in one stop? Come to Cameroon: Africa in Miniature.”

ATA’s annual event in Africa offers a unique networking, learning and agenda-shaping platform for the most diverse group of buyers and sellers of Destination Africa of any travel industry event on the continent.

Participants include African tourism ministers, industry professionals representing tourism boards, travel agencies and tour operators, conference and incentive operators, ground operators, airlines, and hotels, as well as the travel trade media.

Participation from the corporate, non profit and academic sectors are also expected to attend along with leaders of the African Diaspora.

The ATA congress offers a line-up of educational and professional development seminars for travel professionals. Topics include social media, branding and marketing, attracting media coverage, product development, growth markets, cultural tourism, culinary tourism, airline access, and the latest travel trends in Africa. A wide range of networking events, including receptions and gala dinners will also be held.

Delegates will have the opportunity to explore Destination Cameroon’s products, including an abundance of natural and cultural resources with strong cultural heritage and eco-tourism products ripe for growth, during Host Country tours and learn about the newest hotels, offerings and incentives. Pre and post congress trips are also available.

ATA membership comprises African governments, their tourism ministers, tourism bureaus and boards, airlines, cruise lines, hotels, resorts, front-line travel sellers and providers, tour operators and travel agents, and affiliate industries. ATA partners with the African Union Commission (AU) to promote the sustainable development of tourism to and across Africa. ATA’s annual events bring together industry leaders to shape Africa’s tourism agenda.

Police and Air Canada are again investigating after a passenger on a domestic flight found a needle in a catered sandwich, the airline said Wednesday.

“A passenger indicated that he found what appeared to be a sewing needle in a sandwich prepared in advance for the flight,” airline spokesman John Reber said.

The July 30 flight from Victoria, British Columbia was headed to Toronto.

Recall that this latest incident follows a similar incident a few weeks ago when half a dozen needles ended up in turkey sandwiches on four Delta Air Lines flights from Amsterdam to the United States.

Both Dutch police and the American FBI launched probes after six needles were discovered in six different sandwiches on four separate US-bound flights departing from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

Delta Air Lines and the sandwich maker at Schiphol airport, Gate Gourmet, said they were working with the authorities to probe the scandal, which caused no serious injuries but sparked alarm amongst airline travellers.

Reber said Air Canada was treating the latest incident “very seriously” and was cooperating with a police investigation.

“As soon as we were informed, we immediately contacted the caterers that supply our flights and a full investigation is under way. We’re also working closely with our caterers to ensure that heightened security has been put in place,” he said.

 

Courtesy: AFP

The Saturday, July 28 visit by the minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, Chief Edem Duke, has again resurrected the once-heated controversy over the status of the iconic edifice, which sits in Iganmu area of Lagos; Nigeria’s National Theatre Complex.

Commissioned in 1977 by then military government of  General Olusegun Obasanjo having being started by his predecessor late General Murtala Mohammed, the structure was conceived as tribute of sorts to the first-ever Festival of Black and African Arts and Culture (FESTAC) hosted in the country that same year.

35 years into its existence, the National Theatre has remained a hot point in major arts and culture discourse revolving around its maintenance, ownership and commercial or artistic value, issues which came to verbval and physical exchanges when stakeholders clashed as the civilian administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had in 2007 handed over the edifice to the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) for onward transfer to private ownership by way of concession or even outright sale.

The move was based on recommendations by the National Council on Privatization (NCP) that the complex be privatized to save government from the huge costs annually incurred on maintenance on the complex.

The decision to privatize the National Theatre in 2007 under the tenure of Dr Ahmed Yerima as director general of the then combined National Theatre and National Troupe of Nigeria did not sink in well with the arts and culture practitioners whose violent agitations as some point appeared to have calmed down only with the Obasanjo administration seeming having settled for what appeared to be a partial commercialization of the complex.

The resolution tended to have appeased the artists community who still enjoyed accessibility to the facilities at the complex while allowing the management to commercialize some other facilities by partnering with the private sector by way of leasing, build, operate and transfer arrangements.

That arrangement seemingly restored normalcy up until the late Musa Yar’Adua administration which decided on the splitting of the National Theatre and National Troupe of Nigeria following the retirement of Yerima and assumption of office of Mr Kabir Yusuf under the new designation of General Manager.

Many observed in the sector believed this move by government was preparatory to the eventual privatization of the complex since the National troupe was no longer a drawback on that action plan, thus expressing the suspicion that it would only be a matter of time for the inevitable to take effect.

By subsequently appointing a general manager for the National Theatre, with a mandate to achieve an appreciable level of self-sustainability for the complex, Yusuf went about his business to the letter; hiking fees for some of services and facilities hitherto enjoyed for next to nothing by the artists’ community. In the thinking of Yusuf and his employers, the National Theatre was back in business.

The mandate to run the complex as a purely business entity may not have gone down well with the arts and culture sub sector private practitioners, who had ostracized Yusuf from the artists groups, as it may well have been forced down the throats of the artists who represent till date the complex’s biggest patrons, however, the thought of having the edifice entirely in private hands could also have calmed their frayed nerves after all.

Nonetheless,, the facility tour by Duke to the complex and the negatives unearthed by the visit have served to either indict government’s role in handling and subsequently adopting the partial privatization policy on one hand just as it even validates government’s claim that the facility is best run by a private investor, on the other.

While it could be rightly argued that the protests that greeted the 2007 move to concession or privatize the complex was based mostly on sentiments by those who felt aggrieved that government to a large extent has not even fulfilled its obligations to cater for the creative needs of the people, the sense in those protests was mostly informed by fears that the complex might end up in the wrong hands.

However, government’s position that it can no longer fund the maintenance of the edifice which budget was mounting and competing with lean resources to some extent held strong among objective views.

To describe the National Theatre complex as iconic would be stating the rather obvious. It is the face of Nigeria tourism and the last building standing, of sorts. With a Mainbowl that can sit an audience in excess of 5, 000 in addition to three cinema halls and a conference/banquet hall, there is no other facility in the country that ordinarily can match the National Theatre.

With half a decade gone so far since the commercialization process began and with billions of naira expended or rather sunk in on repairs and maintenance, and with no apparent or clear returns on investment, the federal government may have realised that the many years of policy summersaults by succeeding presidents and their serving ministers over the correct of action to pursue on the National Theatre is about to come back full circle and hit it in the face.

As much as the billions of naira channelled into the complex first in full scale under the Yerima tenure and then partially under the Yusuf tenure, in addition to the change of nomenclature, the visit by Duke revealed that all was not well still for the pride of Nigeria tourism.

Yusuf, to his credit may have returned the complex to 60 or even 70 per cent self sustainability, as well as recovery of the main complex itself, Duke’s visit still exposed the intolerable extent of decay and neglect at the facility, which again raised the controversial question of privatization.

The tour by Duke had officials of the Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC), Ministry of Works, Lagos, National Theatre as well as Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, and members of the media.

With dilapidated structures still dotting most corners of the National Theatre, hoodlums and miscreants vandalizing installations, acquiring and subsequently annexing properties of the national Theatre in full glare of the Yusuf and his management and inflicting regular damages the perimeter fencing, invasion of the complex’s land, it was no surprise that many in the entourage had expressed concern in wondering if the theatre’s management have too much on their hands for anyone to even demand from them the extra job of policing the complex.

“The environment of the National Theatre has been compromised. It has become a habitat for hoodlums and other social miscreants,” Duke said.

Indeed, the National Theatre is not just home to artistes housing the famous artistes village, the edifice has also become to a sizeable population of domestic pigs who roam the premises with reckless abandon being farmed by an illegal occupant and who in turn has converted portions of the complex into a pigsty.

The complex is also a refuge to hoodlums who constantly break down the perimeter fencing erected by the theatre management to hide from the law after their nefarious activities in the area and who, according to Yusuf, are responsible for much of the criminal activities in the theatre and its suburbs.

“The situation is even better now. Before now when you come here, you’ll see dead bodies everyday of the week. Died somewhere else and dumped here. We’ve tried to erect a barricade along with the perimeter fence but each time we do that they break it open to sneak in and hide after they have committed their crimes,” Yusuf lamented.

Added to that is the dilapidated state of the structures housed within the theatre complex itself which drew condemnations from the Ministry of Works officials on the tour. Some of these include the national gallery of Art archives, the artistes village, library, theatre and many others.

In the view of many, the theatre should not remain in the state it is in already considering also that the Lagos State government’s soon to be commissioned Blue Line project which when completed as part of the light rail projects by the CCECC that terminates at Okokomaiko, would position the National Theatre as a drop/pick station for the rail services using its second gate at Ijora end of the complex.

Secondly, according to Duke, with 24 months ahead of Nigeria’s centenary celebrations, the edifice which represents much more to the country than just a structure has to be in shape for that milestone event, and also against the backdrop of the government’s recent directive to its various agencies and parastatals to address the decay and dilapidation of public structures.

“Government is not happy that most of its public buildings are in a state of decay and dilapidation and as such has directed all the agencies and parastatals in all ministries to forthwith embark on measures geared towards rescuing these structures and restoring the pride of the nation which these structures represent. The state of the national theatre is not acceptable to it. I doubt if any sound mind would even accept it. We have to explore ways of funding and returning its seemingly lost glory.

“The government is not happy and it would do no one any good if this structure collapses. The management of the National Theatre has done its best and it is still doing it best, but when you consider the budget the management is only enough to buy stationery or is even the budget for stationery in some other agencies and parastatals, you’ll appreciate the efforts they’ve put in so far,” Duke said.

Thereafter, inputs were canvassed by Duke on the way forward during which suggestions like revisiting the moribund cultural policy document with a view to implementing it as it caters for the adequate funding of the National Theatre.

Others also advised the management of the theatre to fully partner with the private sector by ways of leasing out lands on the premises to private investors, and returning to the masterplan of the complex, just as some were of the opinion that it has become imperative for government to separate the National Theatre from the National Theatre complex itself.

“This would be an option that should go down well with every stakeholder and which when implemented allows the theatre to be funded by interest groups in the arts sector in such a way as to keep the edifice as an art and cultural centre as well as a tourist’s attraction. Also, the National Theatre as a complex would see the engagement of private sector participation with a view to developing sections of the property and in turn generate revenue for government and remain self sustaining,” opined Mr. Tope Ogbeni-Awe, a travel and media consultant.

It should be noted that this is not the first time since the National Theatre status controversy began that government representatives had gathered interest groups to seek input from them on an acceptable and viable option for the edifice, hence, the apathy with which many took the session.

Nonetheless, government’s admission that it may not have taken the right decision is worthy of note going by the hordes of interesting suggestions put up during previous parleys with interest groups on an acceptable policy to engage in running the National Theatre but which regrettably were not adopted.

It would also be recalled that last July, last year, Duke on assumption of office and during a facility tour to the premises of the national Theatre, had described as ‘deplorable’ the state and condition of the National Theatre Complex, Iganmu, Lagos, just as he also reaffirmed the belief that the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan will begin with the culture sector.

Duke on the event of his maiden official facility tour of Lagos-based culture parastatals in his ministry, noted that the state of the National Theatre was unacceptable and did not represent a true image of a national icon on the country’s landscape which it should be.

That July, 2011 tour took the minister to the offices of the National Theatre (NT) management and the National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN), all located at the theatre complex, as well as to the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC) in Broad Street, Lagos Island.

However, many are of the opinion that government’s move to reopen the old wounds inflicted by many months of battle for the soul of the National Theatre with a view to charting a viable and generally acceptable option for maintaining the iconic structure this time around comes with a well intentioned tag having perhaps realised the shortcomings of previous policies.

While some swear the craze started when a physically-challenged political party supporter danced at a welcome rally for President Goodluck Jonathan on a working visit to Akwa Ibom State, others argue that it is just a derived form of street dance expression from the Efik traditional dance.

However, whichever school of opinion holds sway, the fact remains that the etighi as a contemporary street dance style is not necessarily the easiest of dances to learn let alone perfect. Some even think you must be born an Efik to know how to do the etighi.

Complete with its own website http://etighi.com/e/, the popular street dance is fast gaining popularity among other dance style contemporaries. This dance style is quite unique because of the coordination that happens between the hands, the body and hips of a dancer.

From the galala, suo, yahoozee, alanta, azonto street dance raves, the etighi is the most traditional dance-compliant and certainly the most dynamic of its predecessors.

Literally translated to mean ‘the okro’ dance, the etighi first hit the limelight at the 2010 Calabar Carnival, blazed through the Abuja Carnival of November  2011 and by the 2011 edition of the Calabar Carnival in Cross River State had become the in-thing, the all-important repertoire in the presentations by the competing carnival bands.

Such is the zeal, humour and energy combined in executing the etighi dance that presently every youth in the country is on to it with children even inventing numerous routines and interpretations in the dance like the generator, cripple, okada, keke, shooting, makeup, slicing vegetable, the okro, mortar, and many others. It is a dance open to many interpretations and imaginations.

However, the biggest endorsement for the etighi dance may well have come from the Arsenal Football Club of London, whose first team members  were in the country last weekend courtesy of Guinness Nigeria  to promote its recently launched Malta Guinness Low Sugar product.

When news leaked that the popular club’s members were about to hit the stage for a dance session, anticipation mounted among the select audience members comprising the club faithful, media and some of the company’s staff to see what could be described as Che 8th Wonder.

Lukas Podolski, Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna, all three hit the ground running as they had only been in the country a few hours earlier, and to be in shape for the workout which best defined and informed their choice for the product’s endorsement.

The Grand ballroom of the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, therefore provided the platform for what was to be the launch and live recording/filming of the first-ever Malta Guinness Low Sugar Workout session with Arsenal Football Club, last Sunday.

Part of the dance routine choreographed by Kafayat Shafau (also known as Kaffy) included dance steps like the etighi, as the audience roared in positive appreciation of the efforts by the trio at perfecting an ordinarily difficult move.

The Malta Guinness Low Sugar Workout did succeed in doing the near impossible; getting some Germans to do a tough dance routine, and the Nigerians who would in a few days time see the edited commercial on television would only have the beverage maker to thank for making it possible to see one of the most exciting actions in recent times.

According to Guinness, the Malta Guinness Low Sugar Workout will also be part of an online advertisement for the soft drink of that name.

After hours sweating it out with the dance company under the guidance of Kaffy, the choreographer, one player in  particular Mertesacker picked out the etighi routine as the most difficult, saying: “Yea, I quite enjoyed it. It was fun to do, but I found that dance (etighi) was very difficult. I struggled to get used to it. But aside that the workout was fun,” Mertesacker confessed.

For defender and Senegalese-born Frenchman Sagna, it was piece of cake, as according to him, the dance is inborn being an African by birth: “It was fun too. That dance was not difficult for me. It’s in the blood. I’m an African and so everything from there I naturally am used to.’

For Mertesacker and Podolski, therefore, it could well be the European etighi style, courtesy of Malta Guinness Low Sugar.