GOV SYLVA HAS DESECRATED OUR VALUES, LAMENTED ARTISTS
The body of Nigerian artists and culture workers have a reason to be angry with the newly sworn in governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva. This is because in less than four weeks of the governor's tenure as political head in the state, he had declared war against the artists constituency, having ordered the closure of the Bayelsa College of Arts and Science in addition to merging the Faculty of Arts with Science and with its education counterpart at the Niger Delta University (NDU).
The cheap excuse by the goveror gave for these actions was that art courses are not relevant to the Bayelsans. He was reported to have said, “ courses being run by the Faculty (Arts) are of no relevance to the needs of a new Bayelsa”.
And as if these were not enough a crime by the governor, he equally ordered that the state college of arts be closed and its faculty handed over to the faculty of law of the same university. In the same way, Sylva-Sam alleged that a deficiency has been created in the state's manpower quota, since most Bayelsans who have university education only studied Arts and Social Sciences, hence, he wondered, “ how indigenes of a state which has only 13 percent pass rate in senior secondary school examination have almost all of them studying courses which canot fetch them jobs”.
In reaction to these however, a coalition of Nigerian artists currently spear-headed by the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA), has asked the governor to withdraw his statement/orders or face the wrath of Nigerian artistes. At a meeting held last Friday at the National Arts Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, the artsits berated the governor's closure of both the college and faculty of Arts, noting that the governor must have reacted out of ignorance or contempt against the creative people in the state.
Arguing against the background that politicians often love to descrate people's culture, values and aspirations, the artsits, led by Mr Kolade Oshinowo, president of the Society of Nigerian Artists (SNA) thus condemned the governor's act, describing it as “ a blatant display of ignorance, or a lie and at best, a broad daylight misdirection of the innocent Nigerian who voted him into office.”
Besides, the artists were angered by the fact that the sad news was broken to them when they were busy celebrating the golden jubilee-and great achievements of the country's founding art school-the Zaria Art School in Lagos. They thus described the governor's statement as a calculated attempt at spoiling their joy as well as upturning the good mood of everyone during the celebration saad the artists; “ we roundly condemn it (governor's act) and seek an apology. This development is one cancer that all Nigerian artists and all enlightened minds must uproot before it spreads and causes more harm” .
It would be recalled that like Sylva-Sam, a former governor of Osun State, Bisi Akande equally made moves to frustrate artists in the state, giving a similar reason for his actions. But being a state populated by internationally recognised artists and scholars, Akande failed and he even lost his bid for a second term in the state.
And for Sylva-Sam, the artists wondered why a governor whose tenure is less than a month, descend so heavily on the creative community in “ a state where his predecessors were known to be fully supportive of arts and culture.
The artists explained in part: “ Governor Sylva-Sam's action runs against the policy of the state. Within the past eight years, the state has done everything possible to position itself favourably in the arts and culture section. It has tried to distinguish itself as a culture-tourism destination by playing host to so many art events from the yearly African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) for film makers in Africa which the state hosted in 2005, 2006 and 2007 respectively, to the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFEST) in 2006.
It is contradicting that a state that only lasy year used the staging of Professor John Pepper Clark-Bekederemo's epic play, Oziddi, staged by the Theatre Arts Department of University of Ibadan to celebrate its 10th anniversary as well as spent heavily to build an ultra modern facility (Gloryland Cultural Centre) should suddenly turn to spurn the arts”.
Furthermore, the artists reasoned that rather than waging an unneccessary war against the creative clan in Bayelsa, the state government should now consolidate on the essence of its huge investment in the arts by sustaining the cultivation of a rich cultural and artistic heritage. Also, the state should encourage robust study and documentation of the culture and world view of the Ijaw nation and the Niger Delta since both the Ijaw and the Niger Delta have within the past eight years grown into global attention.
Said the artists, “ if you want to develop a nation's science or technology, you must first develop the arts. that is what Japan did, that's what China did… these days, we talk of training people who will come out of schools and become independent, creative as well as be intellectually and technically resourceful… the reality is that, we do get such people in the arts more than the sciences because the truth is that the world respects our arts people more than they do our scientists”.