Politics and creative industry in Ogun State

We all have been witnesses to the truncation of the country’s development, as successive governments disband, ignore and generally discontinue the development projects of their predecessors. Of all the sectors, the one most frequently truncated and abused is the one with the most potent and enduring effect in the lives of the people, because it is the production of visions and truth beyond the immediate legacies of hard lies and faulty infrastructural projects etc:

It is the creative sector – a soft legacy whose prime value is only understood and appreciated by elected officials who have a clear notion about where public service intersects with political or individual legacies.

Two recent and ongoing worrisome developments in the party primaries of late have now compelled this writing. And why should the party primaries be of our concern?

Legacy and continuity should not be truncated by the flood of legacy candidates, who are being fostered into office by their secretive cabals. Where there is evidence of vision and investment by a governor in the arts and cultural expressions of the people of the state, we must speak up to protect such legacies. There is not much loose money to siphon from art and culture contracts, unlike in health, transportation, printing or even catering or ‘hospitality’ as it is coded for effect. For those governors whose terms in office gave a significant attention to the resuscitation and development of the arts and culture in their states, we must advocate a lasting legacy to be protected and continued by their successors. This is important simply because the value of the arts and of culture, far outweighs and outlasts any of the other sectors, though we never hardly pay attention.

In one term, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode made a big reach into the arts, forging partnerships between the state and private professional individual artists and arts organizations. There is no gainsaying the fact that the meteoric rise of Terra Kulture into our national consciousness as an arts organisation was fostered by the impressive financial support from the Lagos State government. Jobs were created, a new self-awareness and energy was gingered and the performing arts in particular rose again. Now we are left to wonder what would have been if he had not been denied his second term by his own party – APC. We now wonder what Sanwo-Olu will do, if and when he becomes the governor. The second point of interest is Governor Ibikunle Amosun, who for eight years staunchly supported and developed the artistic currency of Ogun State. As he worked to develop the state for industry and new sources of revenue, as he built roads and facilities for the state’s infrastructural development, he also sincerely understood the immense value of cultural production. It’s all there for everyone to see. But he wasn’t finished.

He worked hard and invested in building up his state’s cultural structure, and boldly moved into partnership with individuals and organizations in the arts and culture sector. The ones that come to mind are Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka and Ijegba, and, the Teju Kareem Zmirage/Segun Ojewuyi Globa New Haven organizations – founders and co-producers of the annual WSICE festival. That initiative too has now built the Ijegba Amphitheater and Ijegba Creative Arts Resorts. It was his government that supported the birth of the Ake Book and Arts Festival, the International Drum Festival and a series of international symposia on Literature and the Arts promoting the national and global presence of Professor Wole Soyinka, as a citizen and treasure of the state. It should be of note that this is the state that gave us Fela Anikulapo, Ebenezer Obey, Olu Jacobs, Akin Euba, Fela Sowande, Tunji Oyelana, Jimi Solanke, Peter Badejo, Kwam 1 Adewale Ayuba, D’Banj, Sir Shina Peters, Ty Bello, Iya Rainbow, Tunji Sotimirin and many, many more.

In the midst of the shuffling of candidates by the political parties, particularly the APC, is there any consideration for continuity and legacy? I mean why is there so much turmoil in the primaries that Senators are disrobed even when it seems they have been effective in service and loyal to the party – the case of Senator Sanni of Kaduna? Why are governors, political heavyweights who for their years in office were the leaders of the party in their respective states, now at the primaries, are ignored with the intent to dishonor and rubbish them for handpicked legacy candidates? How can these governors who proudly flagged the banners of their party now be schemed out of office by the same party, without the people getting a chance to weigh in? Why would a party so blatantly rig and muddle up its own internal primaries, all in an effort to assert the individual interest of a cabal within the same party? For it was in Ogun that the APC NWC sent to the state was simply instructed by the National chairman of the party, Oshiomhole, to enjoy the luxuries of their hotel suites and declare a middle-of-the-night, clandestinely selected candidate without holding an election. What could be the reasoning or purpose for such irresponsible and disrespectful act upon a people?

The big question here, one insists, is about legacies. It is widely known that our politicians’ most favored time of day is the dead of night. Like bats that are neither here nor there, they shroud their shenanigans in darkness while the people sleep. In the daytime when they activate their schemes, the people are stunned into silence and made to pay the price. It is the reason most reasonable and serious minded folks treat Nigerian politics with a long pole. When the dust settles, we must ask the successor governments to preserve, protect and continue to project the legacies of their predecessors. That is good governance. That is continuity. That is development. That is legacy building. The arts and culture community must insert its voice and insist that the national chair of the APC and his night marauding cabal should step away and let the will of the people of Ogun State be given its weight. Amosun is unapologetically an established friend of the arts, his values as a human being are evident in his policies. His smarts are affirmed by his confidence and willingness in promoting the legacies of the incredible artistic and cultural gains of the State. Will these lofty projects, will he legacy be continued or are we witnessing another descent into stagnancy and waste of vision?

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