Festival of Unity

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has commended the General Manager, National Theatre, Lagos, Prof. Sunday Ododo, for organising the first-ever Festival of Unity, with the theme ‘Healing Nigeria’.

The minister, represented by Dr Olalekan Fadolapo, the Register/Chief Executive of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), described the initiative as “great’’, coming up barely a few months after Ododo’s appointment.

Mohammed said that the event, holding from Dec. 18 to Dec. 20, was organised at an auspicious time when Nigeria was coming out of devastation, downturn and psychological damages caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the EndSARS protests.

“It is fitting that the National Theatre, in its wisdom, is hosting this event at this time of the year and I, therefore, commend the management staff under the leadership of Prof. Sunday Ododo.

“This programme will indeed promote peace, unity and harmony, as well as celebrate life.

“We are a unique nation, blessed with vibrant and highly creative nature, and it is for this reason that Mr President is not leaving any stone unturned in creating jobs for the youths,” he said.

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According to the minister, no government in the history of Nigeria has been more committed as the present administration towards ensuring that the youth are protected from mindless exhibitions.

Mohammed described the National Theatre-organised event as another avenue for the youth, particularly those residents in Lagos, to showcase their creative abilities.

“Our unity as a nation is non-negotiable, we must be united in purpose, resolution in action and be determined in our will,” he added.

In his speech, Ododo said that National Theatre had the capability to correct societal ills and offer therapy for health and rehabilitation.

He said that the initiative gave birth to the ongoing Festival of Unity, an extravaganza organised to remind Nigerians of the popular mantra “our strength as a nation lies in our diversities”.

“The year 2020 came with a lot of challenges, the major one being the COVID-19 pandemic which ravaged the entire world and still wreaking havoc in some parts.

“Unfortunately, when our dear country was heaving a sigh of relief, having been able to slow down the spread of the disease, we were hit by yet another social upheaval, EndSARS protests, which spread a whirlwind.

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Ododo said that Lagos, the nation’s Centre of Excellence and economic capital, was traumatized by the effects of COVID-19 and the #EndSARS protests.

“As expected, when a nation is ill and it needs healing, art and culture are usually called to the rescue and to this end the National Theatre felt the urgent need to apply a soothing balm.

According to him, it is expedient to also calm the nerves of some clusters of ethnic bigots beating the drums of war and needless acrimony in Nigeria.

“By our mandate, we recognise the use of theatre band drama as a potential tool for social change and nation-building, being a popular medium as it is direct, immediate, affordable and combines instruction with entertainment.

“We came up with this idea of collaborating with principal stakeholders, professional association, guilds in the industry, Nollywood, filmmakers, dance groups and theatre troupes in this mini-theatre festival extravaganza.

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“It’s aimed to remind us that our strength as a nation lies in our diversity, and a united Nigeria focuses with a common goal of building a new Nigeria with no oppression,” he said.

The event had the presence of dignitaries in the likes of Adedayo Thomas, Executive Director of National Film and Video Censor Board (NFVCB), Isreal Eboh, President of National Association of Nigeria Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP), Olubunmi Amao, Director General of CBAAC and Ebeten Ivara, Director-General of the National Gallery of Arts.

The event is featuring live theatre performances, music, comedy, dance, film show, street carnival and awards given to an array of upcoming creative youths.