HOW DELTA WON NANTAP 2008 MEETING
It is no longer news, today, that Delta is to host this year’s meeting of the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP), due later in the year.
But the route to this success of the State leadership of NANTAP was all but smooth. How was this feat achieved and what are the issues in NANTAP and related matters. Our man, sought answers to these issues in this exclusive interview with Delta NANTAP leader, Patrick Uzoyi Peters. Excerpts. Sir, Can we meet you? My name is Patrick-Uzoyi Peters, the Delta State Chapter Chairman of National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP). I am your obedient servant. How would you describe NANTAP in Delta State? NANTAP in Delta State has been on for the past 15 years. NANTAP in Delta State has been functional. We have had series of productions in the past. Amongst the series of productions in the past is Live in the Neighbourhood, a T.V series that was shot in Warri here. And along the line we have had other programmes and NANTAP in the state like any other business went underground due to ethnic crises in the Warri axis. That affected the activities of NANTAP because 99% of practitioners are based in Warri. But about November last year, this current executive came on board and from that point till now we have been very active. Our plans are so numerous and highly articulated. NANTAP was a key co-ordinator in the first ever Delta State Entertainment Summit. Sir, you said NANTAP went underground at a given time, how were you able to revive the group? I said that NANTAP went underground simply because of the ethnic crisis that rocked the city of Warri. It affected entertainment life in the state because NANTAP has its base in Warri and we have key participants and practitioners in the oil-rich city of Warri. So this affected the activities of NANTAP. Again NANTAP came alive in Warri just about 10 months back, November precisely. We came back on board and since then we have been effective and active in the scheme of things. Like I said earlier, one of the immediate major entertainment programmes in the state was organised by the Office of the Special Assistant to the Delta State Governor on Entertainment and Talent Development, Barrister Richard Mofe Damijo, the immediate past National Chairman of NANTAP. Could you tell us some of the achievements you've so far recorded since you came on board in November 2007? Well, in the last nine months NANTAP has increased numerically. As I talk with you today we have over 60 registered members here in Delta State. In NANTAP we have for the very first time in the history of the Association in the state, celebrated the International Theatre Day (ITD) which is a worldwide celebration. For the first time we held it in Warri, Delta State at the Xtra Tyme Sports bar and we have been able to organise monthly productions. Okay, one major thing NANTAP did when it came on board was to stop miscreants and mediocres from parading themselves as theatre arts practitioners or movie practitioners. We collaborated with the office of the Special Assistant to the governor on entertainment and talent development, Barrister Richard Mofe Damijo to put a stop to usurpers from taking money from artistes in the name of audition. It is not a theatrical foundation and that we've been able to stop. Then again, the major feat we have achieved now is the hosting right of the 44th National Convention of NANTAP. Before now it used to be a South West thing, but to the glory of God we were able to bid for a very highly contested national convention in Abeokuta and for me it was one of the glorious moments we have in NANTAP because about four states were shortlisted. Sir, could you tell us how Delta State managed to win the hosting right of the 44th National Convention of NANTAP? Well, it was more or less like a divine thing. We left here unsung. Nobody took notice of us except for a few patrons of ours and advisers. We got to Abeokuta before the convention, my secretary did a lot of ground work, Mr. Patrick Ekpedima. He did a lot of ground work because he was already at the venue of the convention at Gate Way State, Abeokuta the capital of Ogun state to be precise, before our arrival. It was a keenly contested bid. We had about six states bidding for it. But Kaduna pulled out, later another state; Kano equally pulled out. Then we now had 4 states left. Osun state, Ogun state, Oyo state and Delta state. Lagos was standing by. So on this glorious day after each state made its presentation and because of the manner in which we packaged ourselves to the convention, we were the only state that had a T-Shirt designed for the purpose of the convention. Our package spoke for itself that when the first state that was called upon to make his biding, Osun state, the 1st Vice President of NANTAP said from what she has seen, that Osun state was stepping down for Delta state. Then, it was the turn of Ogun state to present. Ogun now said looking at the level of what we have presented as our on report in the convention that they found out that we are very strong. They equally said they are stepping down. Lagos too said they were withdrawing to support Delta State. So that was how Delta State was unanimously given the hosting right. Could you please tell us some of the things we should expect from the convention? There is one particular thing about this convention. It's not like the normal kind of theoretical or policy-making thing we used to have. This time around, we are going to have an enlarged convention that will seen as first in the history of NANTAP; one thousand artistes would be coming from all over Nigeria. We are going to have many carnivals. We are going to have command performances. For the first time in the history of NANTAP, a convention logo and mascot will be unveiled and that is coming up precisely on the 26th of August. Sir, having won the hosting right of the 44th National Convention of NANTAP, do you think Delta State has what it takes to host a convention of this magnitude considering where you are coming from? Delta State is abundantly blessed with human and capital resources. If you look at the history of Nigerian theatre and movie industry today, 99.9% of the professionals are from here. So again, you look at it as a home-coming. For me, we have more than enough capacity to do it and surpass what our ideals or visions are. But what matters most now is getting it done and doing it the way it ought to be done. We have the capacity. You pointed out that Delta State has enough talents in the entertainment industry in Nigeria. It is undisputable that this set of professionals have not fared well in the home front. What is NANTAP doing to maximise these talents? I will say very much thank you because this question made me happy. That is one of the reasons why we bided for the hosting right. NANTAP in the state is an umbrella body of all performing artistes. Be you a music person, be you a movie person, be you a comedian, you are a member of NANTAP because that is the umbrella that plays the mother and father roles. And at this point we are trying to re-engineer this industry, regavalnise it to meet its potentials. NANTAP has a programme in the pipeline. We have the training school where we can go pick them up, groom them and make them get to their level of stardom. We have several job creation opportunities. In the next one year, NANTAP will be empowering over one thousand youths and theatre practitioners. We have set in motion the secondary school competition to catch them young and develop them. It is going to go round the state. We have set in motion to have NANTAP in all the twenty-five local governments of the state and we have set in motion particularly staff training. During the convention, we pleaded that the government should give us mini civic centres in all the twenty-five local governments and we should have major ones in the three senatorial districts of the state. You will also agree with me that community theatre thrives when it is localised. When it is brought to the grassroots and theatre has the wherewithal to empower more people at the shortest time. For instance, you have a dance troupe. That troepe will conviniently empower over thirty to sixty persons. You want to run a theatre group that will equally have sixty to hundred persons in its fold. Theatre is all encompassing if we on our own do put our house in order and government provides the enabling environment, by giving the needed assistance. Before you know it, the industry will pick up. And the essence of the convention is that at the end of the day we would have galvanised the entire entertainment sector and create employment opportunities for the citizens of Delta state. How much support are you enjoying from the Delta State Government? Well, as it is today, we wouldn't say we are not. We have a good rapport with the SA to the governor on entertainment and talent development who equally made it categorically clear to us that our supervisory ministry is the ministry of culture and tourism. And he has promised to create an enabling environment between our association and ministry of culture and tourism. The biggest thing the Delta state government has done that has gladdened the hearts of Deltans is the passing into law the bill that establishes the Delta State Arts Council. I think that is one of the biggest things the state has achieved. But what we are saying now is to the House of Assembly, we have dispatched letters of commendation telling them we are ready to serve. What we are trying to do is to ensure that this board when it is constituted should have core practitioners as chairman and have the key officers as professionals so that it can create a well deserved policy that will develop the industry. Finally Sir, what is your message to Deltans? Final message to Deltans is this: I beg us all that we should live in harmony. We should desist from militancy; we should desist from youth restiveness because no meaningful development will come to the state when the state is on fire.