Soyinka calls for compensation for demolished structures at National Theatre

Wole Soyinka

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, says compensation should be paid to artistes whose structures were pulled down on January 23 at the Artiste Village, National Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos.

Soyinka made the call at a news conference held at the Freedom Park in Lagos on Tuesday.

The 81-year-old said some of the artistes’ property were wantonly demolished.

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.”

The structures were demolished on the orders of Kabir Yusuf, the General Manager of the National Theatre, Lagos.

Soyinka said: “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.

“I think we should be getting rid of that mentality by emphasising and reemphasising 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.”

Soyinka said any enquiry into what happened should be done in the open and not behind closed doors.

“We must get to the bottom of what happened and who did what, not the oga at the top matter,” he said.

Mufu Onifade, an artist and former President of the Society of Nigerian Artists, said property worth N40 million were destroyed in the exercise.

Onifade said: “What Yusuf referred to as shanties were studios erected by artistes.

“There were no shanties there and there were no illegal buildings there.”

Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, visited the Theatre on Saturday and urged those affected by the demolition not to do anything that would undermine peace in the area.

“I urge you to remain calm. The last time I came here I said I do not want to see any shanties around here, because such do not add value to this place as an entertainment hub.

“The government is doing everything possible to transform this area and harness its tourism potential. For now there is nothing here.

“We are looking for N800million to achieve our goal. So, we should be thinking of how to get the money and not all these issues.

“Please, remain calm and maintain the peace and be sure the government will do everything to support you here,” the minister said.

Tope Babayemi, who spoke on behalf of the artistes in the village and other tenants during the minister’s visit , said they were surprised by the demolition as some structures removed were not illegal.

Babayemi said Kabir Yusuf, had always been harassing artistes in the village.

He described the village as the largest concentration of artistes and artists of different specialisations in Africa, and urged the Federal Government to help protect the status jealously.