By NBF News
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Ahead of the Centenary celebration of Nigeria as a sovereign nation in 2014, and in recognition of its spiritual and fundamental role in sustaining cultural heritage, the National Theatre complex in Lagos must not be allowed to decay. The cultural edifice should therefore be rescued by both the private and public sectors, such that it continues to perform its roles as the countryís symbol of unity and centre of artistic and cultural excellence.

High Chief Edem Duke, Minister of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation made this plea recently after his first official visit to the complex mainly to inspect the state of its faciliticies as well as familiarise with other parastatals in the ministry. Duke who was conducted round the major departments of the edifice, including the Plant (Generator Room), Projector Room, Main Exhibition Hall, Minus 250, Main Bowl, Roof Garden, Cinema and Banquet Halls, among others declared his interest in the rehabilitation and revival of the ailing complex.

Although the current management of the Theatre headed by Mallam Kabir Yusuf has since commenced its  rehabilitation, the minister noted that the complex is still in a state of dilapidation. He reasoned that for it to be adopted as a national monument, it must be kept alive. According to Duke, the image of the complex and its features represent icons of Nigeria in arts and culture, hence it is a major challenge for Nigeria as the biggest Black nation that its Theatre be revived.

Said the minister  'The structure which was built some 34 years ago and which hosted FESTAC 77  should not be allowed to dilapidate and every Nigerian must raise his or her voice to support the restoration of the Nationl Theatre. In other countries, their theatres live for centuries, but in Nigeria, in less than half a decade, it has become a big challenge for us to rehabilitate our theatre.'

Also while enjoining stakeholders in private  and public lives, Duke called  on President Goodluck Jonathan to give a major support to the Theatre since it provides rallying point for leisure and entertainment in the country.

He also appealed to corporate Nigeria, particularly the big contracting firms and oil-based companies to show concern in reviving the National Theatre. In the same vein, the minister who was treated to a rich performance of Iba (cultural dance/drama reflecting Nigerisís diversity) commended artistes of the National Troupe nd others who have always done Nigeria proud as cultural ambassadors.

He also acknowledged the role of the Centre for Black and African Arts and Culture (CBAAC) in promoting Black culture and serving as custodian of relics of FESTAC. Explained the minister 'Nigerians must learn to celebrate artistes as we've always celebrated scientists and engineers. These sets of Nigerians always fly our flags high both at home and abroad, and they've served as our ambassadors and image makers whereever they go.

The minister who was received by his officers such as Mr Martin Adaji, Artistic Director of the National Troupe of Nigeria, Professor Tunde Babawale, Director General of CBAAC, Mallam Kabir Yusuf, General Manager of National Theatre also enjoined all the CEOs in the ministry to work in unity. He observed that stronger parastatals in the ministry must support and strenghten the weaker ones in order to attain the many goals of the ministry and particularly to achieve the transformational agenda of the current administration.