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It's wrong for students to dress provocatively and claim they are harassed sexually... they are the ones who initiate the harassment ––Sola Fosudo
Sola Fosudo is an actor and a lecturer. He is the Head Of Department, Theatre Arts and Music at the Lagos State University. In this interview with ADAEZE AMOS, Fosudo highlights the problems of theatre arts, his challenges as the HOD, and the wrong assumption of people that lec- turers are the ones harassing students sexually. Excerpts:

YOU founded the department of theatre arts and music in LASU. How has it been since then?
There has been a lot of growth and development since the establishment of the department. Some of our students and ex-students are part of the play you are seeing, though it is a private production. In terms of academic content and the professional skills of our people, LASU's theatre arts is one of the best in Nigeria now. So we thank God for his mercies, for what we have been able to impart on our students. We have a crop of dedicated, committed and experienced lecturers here. And that accounts for why the department are doing very well.

What challenges are you facing in the department?

One of the challenges is lack of equipment. The current Vice Chancellor has been good to us in the department.

He actually gave us funds to put this office together when I became the Head Of Department. When we were first establishing it, we didn't have a departmental office like this. We now have some lighting equipment, and some media equipment, some music equipment. You know our department has two units. And we are running two separate curricula and that is B.A. Theatre Arts and B.A. Music. Though we are in the same department, we are two units. So the challenges have been that of facilities generally. For instance, we don't have a departmental library to encourage researchers. We don't even have a faculty library. But I know that the university is making efforts to put such things in place.

Are you enjoying your job as a lecturer?

Oh yes, certainly I am. When I came into LASU in1994, I was already doing well outside as an actor, a director/ producer and I saw an advert, although it was in English department. They advertised for the lecturer two position.

So, I applied, and eventually, I was appointed and my salary at that time was just N5,000 in 1994 as a lecturer two. And I took the job you know, which meant I accepted the job because I loved it. But here I am earning about N150,000-N200,000. I also produce films of my own where I make nothing less than half a million. So to come to university and be earning N5,000 then, showed that it was something which I actually had interest in doing. And things had since changed. Salaries are now better; I have also grown in terms of position. I have held administrative positions since I joined the university. I have been programme officer, I have been assistant director academic, I was in charge of the Lekki campus for two years, and I'm now Head of Department, Music and Theatre Arts. So, I'm just okay with the job.

And this means that if you will have to re-live your life, you won't mind doing what you are doing now?

Well, I wouldn't know about that.
Everything is about opportunities. But for now, this is where I am and I'm enjoying what I'm doing. Tomorrow, things can change for me. Why not?

If you will have to change theatre arts in Nigerian universities, what will it be?

The problem of theatre arts is not in the university. The problem is within the society, within the government, and the amount of interest the government has.

The level of interest is very low. So, if the country will have to change something about theatre, then the first thing to do is to create performing theatres, to have structures, to find a way to encourage the establishment of theatres where artists can be performing at least in every local government.

Can this be possible?

That is what is being done in England, so, how do they do it? What are the local governments doing with the funds that they have? The model in America, where theatre is basically regionalized, in Nigeria, our theatre is over centralized. That is, you have just onbe National Theatre in Iganmu and if I have a group and maybe my group is in Okokomaiko, I want to do a play, I go to National Theatre Iganmu, I advertise and make posters, I want people from Agege, from Ipaja, to come to National Theatre to come and watch a play; how is that going to promote theatre? How is that going to promote arts and culture generally? So, the government is not serious. Apart from the government, I know there is also need for private sector involvement and contribution. But the government must take a role that is important because culture and arts are a business and also a social service to the people.

Maybe to make it better?

Better? Okay, why can't they also privatize National Stadium? It serves as a social service to the people and we need to promote it for us to get that service because we are not getting it and that is why we are not a cultured people.

That's why we are not a civilized people.

I'm telling you, if any society does not promote culture in such way that people can record themselves, and see themselves, criticise themselves, refine them selves through arts and culture, they can never be civilised. Go and write it down.

All those societies that you are seeing that are civilised, their arts and culture played a major role at the time that those societies were growing and developing. It may look a bit abstract but it is so and these societies knew that is why they promoted their arts and culture and gave it prominence in the scheme of things in their national development. But we just abandoned our own arts and culture, our literature, our history; all these things are related. And then we are just behaving like people who have fallen down from the moon.

How do feel seeing some of your students half nude in lecture rooms?

There is no other way to describe it except to say it is indecent, and in bad taste.

It's a function of bad training from home and the religious background of such people is zero. It is not the university that makes them to be dressing like that. I mean, charity, they say begins at home. Most of those young girls you see, it's not all of them that dress badly. So, those who are dressing badly, check their background, their parents and then their social environment. Who are their friends beyond the school? Who are their neighbours and so on? If you see any girl who is decently dressed, you should also go and find out about the background. And the universities are making efforts these days to control that.

Are you in support of such efforts?

I'm highly in support of the efforts. It is not accepted for students to dress indecently and provocatively and then to be claiming afterwards that they are being harassed sexually. They are the people actually harassing the people harassing them. They initiate the harassment. They initiate it by the way they dress. This university has launched a war against it; students are being sent out of classrooms in LASU if they are indecently dressed. And this is helping matters. It's a general knowledge now in LASU because it came out in a newsletter and they gave it to the deans of department and the students are changing gradually.

How do you feel seeing that movie industry is filled with mediocrities?

That is very unfortunate. We have been talking about it but what can we do? People believe that they don't have to be schooled before they begin to practice as actors or as directors. That is why you see novices there.

You see, we have a lot of potential in our entertainment industry, but they are not being harnessed because the government is not showing enough interest. So we are just at the same level and we think we are making money whereas we are not. If the industry is being handled by real professionals, we will be making a lot of waves more than what we are making now. But the people who are in there now are just there for merchandising and that is too bad.