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National Theatre Demolition: Soyinka Urges FG To Compensate Artists

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Professor Wole Soyinka, on Tuesday in Lagos asked the Federal Government to pay compensation to artists who lost their works and had their creative space destroyed during last Saturday’s demolition of the Artists’ Village at the National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos.

The Nobel laureate, who was visibly furious, asked for an enquiry into the demolition and shooting of an artist by armed policemen in the presence of the director general of the National Arts Theatre, Mallam Yusuf Kabiru Yar’dua.

It was gathered that the Artists Village was demolished on the orders of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

The minister, who later visited the scene of the demolition refuted the allegation, saying his orders were for the demolition of shanties and illegal structures within the theatre.

However, Soyinka, alongside former National President of Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Odia Ofeimum, among other prominent film and creative arts stakeholders, described the demolition of some sections of the Artists’ Village as travesty of justice, adding that those who should strengthen democracy were the ones who often deployed “military mentality” in handling civil cases.

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He said: “It is fundamentally wrong to have done that without notice.

“The people involved in the act should be brought to book.

“If compensation is not going to come, the people involved should seek redress in court to claim damages.”

“It shows there is still too much of a military mentality embedded in some of our people and especially those who are supposed to help usher in or strengthen whatever we consider democratic usage.

“For me, any way, democracy means a humane approach to governance and policy making, in addition to the execution of those policies.

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“I think we should be getting rid of that mentality by emphasising and re-emphasing that there are certain ways in which you do not relate with citizenry.”

Soyinka said he was not apportioning blame, adding: “When I talk about usage or governance, I am not putting faces on it.

“I’m addressing what happened on Saturday, January 23.

“We know what the issues are.

“Evicting people without notice, we are saying this should not be happening in this time of democracy, in our society.”

This time, we don’t want to hear about the usual Oga at the top? We must get down to the nitty, gritty,” Soyinka added.