By Isaac Olamikan, Senior Correspondent, Benin
The ongoing National Festival of Arts and Culture(NAFEST 2019) taking place in Benin has received knocks from some arts, culture and tourism enthusiasts and stakeholders for poor organisation, use of substandard materials and late preparation among others.
In a chat with media men some of the respondents questioned why despite the long notice given to Edo State government that they would be hosting the event the renovation work on the main venue, Oba Akenzua Cultural Centre, did not start until less than two weeks to the commencement of the fiesta.
“It’s pathetic that the Edo State government did not commence renovation work on the Oba Akenzua Cultural Center, which they know would be the main venue of the event until a few days before it started.
“There is absolutely no genuine reason for the delay considering that the state government was notified that the state would be the next host of the fiesta at the Closing Ceremony of the last fiesta hosted by Rivers State a year ago,” a participant at the last fiesta, who preferred to speak anonymously, stated.
Another area that some stakeholders complained on is in the organisation of the fiesta which they said lacks ingredient of team work.
“The assumption that we, members of the Edo Artistes Association of Nigeria, EAAN, are not recognised in the NAFEST 2019, might not be totally correct. As we speak if you check the billboards erected all over the state announcing the fiesta you will see the pictures of some of our members.
“It is a national event. The fact that as the president of an association I am not participating does not mean I should start castigating the fiesta or the organisers. It is a thing of joy having NAFEST being hosted by Edo State.
“My non-participation is due to the fact that I just assumed office barely two months ago when the planning of the fiesta had gone far coupled with the fact that my predecessor in office was not part of the planning from the onset.
“However, certain issues have to be put straight. We were given opportunity as actors to perform and the job of handling the audition was given to someone to handle but the person ended up personalising the assignment by not reaching out to the leaders of the different associations that are stakeholders in the entertainment and arts sector in the state to add their input.
“I can say that about 90 percent of certified Edo State actors are not represented in that production,” Sylvester Uwadiae, President of the Edo Artistes Association of Nigeria(EAAN) disclosed.
In his own observation, an environmentalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “The design concept of the Oba Akenzua Cultural Centre is to have an eco-system kind of feel. That is why the earth is more prominent in the design concept.
“When you come to wrap a whole building with plastic(vinyl) of a volume that cannot even be quantified it is pathetic.
“The amount of vinyl we are seeing on these buildings is in tonnes. After a week when this event is finished how do we dispose these? I would quickly add that disposing these materials would be an issue.
“When the world is running away from plastic we are utilising it. All around this place is plastic. The tonnes of the plastic that has been used here is enormous.
“Other countries are banning this material so that it would not spoil their soil. Meanwhile, in Nigeria Edo State government is bringing this huge volume. It is a terrible thing. When you come to the centre this first thing that puts you off is the plastic feel.
“I know that the Edo State government’s intention is to hide the true rehabilitation of the centre so that they would not spend much money. That’s why they use plastic to cover all the loopholes.
“It is an environmental hazard at the end of the day. Two huge electronic screens would do this. That’s the way the world is doing it now – one giant screen in front and one at the side. It would be playing and telling you what is going on in the centre. But to wrap the place with all these cheap plastic is crazy!”