The year 2001. The month September. The day 11th – 9/11/2001. Venue Ground Zero. The event – the bombing of the Twin Towers. That was “Hollywood.” Flash back to “Nollywood”. The year, 2001. The month September. The date 7th. 9/7/2001. Venue, Bauchi road, Jos, Plateau State. The event, an innocent woman passes near the Muslims praying that fateful Friday. She was attacked. That laid the foundation for the sporadic and ceaseless violence in Jos. The once serene tourist city of Jos has known no peace since then. Nothing best describes man’s inhumanity to man. Some thinker wrote “When I think of man, I love my Dog”. How true!
Since the events of 9/11, the world has not remained the same. The US Aviation laws and politics among nations have changed dramatically. The Abdul Mutallab saga has further dented Nigeria’s image and efforts at countering terrorism. Body scanners are now installed, rigorous body screening is conducted and nations are blacklisted, given a ‘bad’ name in the terror list of the world. One would not blame the US much bearing in mind the saying of our forefathers, ‘Since the hunter has learnt to shoot without missing, the bird must also learn to fly without perching’.
It is therefore no wonder that there is a big divide in international relations today. Religion bigotry has led to a world deep in hatred, suspicious and ceaseless war. It is Islam versus the Christians, westernization versus islamisation; the developed nations versus the developing. It is a struggle between the ‘illegal’ immigrants versus the natives, the racial divide of blacks versus whites. The list is endless, Neo-colonialism, as defined by Kwame Nkrumah is the granting of independence with the right hand and collecting it back with the left. Modern day slavery is what the developing world perceives as counter-productive to its survival. That is evident in the recent Boko Haram crises in recent parts of northern Nigeria totally opposed to western education.
One then wonders what can broker world peace. Why is it that world leaders have applied ‘preemptive strikes’ and failed? Can art and culture bring any succor in this light? How is the million dollar question? Does the theatre indeed serve any purpose as a tool for positive change? Culture, in the words of the erudite scholar and orator, Maitama Sule, is a people’s art and artefacts, ideas and fiction’.
To set the ball rolling, one can see how culture is playing a positive role in conflict-resolution in the crises-ridden Jos. The Actors Guild of Nigeria, led by the suave Segun Arinze, organized a peace fiesta in Jos. They spoke to the heart of the feuding group using music, movies and comedy. A large troop of enthusiasts turned up. Co-incidentally, the curfew imposed on Jos and environs was lifted a week later. President Obama, a Christian with a Muslim middle name, also won the Nobel peace prize early 2010. This is to recognize his genuine efforts at bridging the gap between the Muslim world and advanced democracies.
Closely related to that is what has become a recurring decimal, a thorn in the flesh that keeps rearing its ugly head. Illegal migrants. Their citizens and countries fear losing their identity and indeed their Jobs. They set up detention camps whose humanitarian conditions are questionable. The international organization for migration estimates that there are over 300 million migrants worldwide; more than 70 million are in Europe. These immigrants cross the dangerous seas, at the peril of their lives, in ferry boats to get to Europe which is only 8 miles away from Africa. A newspaper recently reported that a Nigerian arrived the United States DOD- Dead on Arrival. He hid in the tire component of the aircraft and arrived a mincemeat of what he was. In search of the proverbial greener pastures, they are engaged in prostitution, drug trafficking and countless other devices. No wonder they are subjects of racial abuse. The Ghanaian-born footballer, Mario Ballotelli, who plies his trade with inter Milan FC of Italy has received several monkey chants despite helping his club win laurels. This is not unconnected with his being the son of an illegal immigrant.
An event, this time to counter racism in Europe, has become an annual event in the UK. The mayor of London organizes an annual STOP RACISM Music fiesta. Artistes like our own Tu face Idibia has featured. One can imagine the camaraderie and relationship that builds up among men of different creeds, tribe and color. Different colors, one people sang the late Lucky Dube. The World cup, the Olympics are classical arts, indeed founded in Greek culture of old have always brought the world to a virtual standstill. Cultures are exchanged and the prejudicial boundaries are broken. Humanity is raised to a noble level.
Coming back home, Prof. Wole Soyinka has, from the rich repertoire of his creativity, fought military regimes, insisted on good governance and preached the welfare of the masses. Many will not recall that this dramatist initiated the formation of the Federal Road Safety commission, FRSC. Countless lives have been saved and millions of families get their daily manna from this living ‘art’ and Nobel Prize winner for literature.
In conclusion, art and culture are potent forces at everybody’s disposal for social change. If channeled appropriately, the restiveness of youths can usher in new era of mutual understanding and promote global diplomacy in our ICT driven generation. The time, our elders say, to search for a black goat, is while it is still daylight. The use of the theatre to entertain as well as educate must come to the fore and be made to serve as a catalyst for socio-economic and political emancipation from the shackles of ignorance, bigotry and hatred. Nollywood must rise to the occasion, project our image positively and engender behavior change in Nigeria