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Kwame Dadzie writes: One region, one theatre promise – government lied

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I regret going hard at the Deputy Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr. Ziblim Iddi a few days ago over his interview with Ghanaian journalists at the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards in Nigeria.

In fact, initially, I was mad at how he interpreted a promise that was expressly captured in the 2016 manifesto of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

In the manifesto, it was promised that when voted into power the government would build a large seating theatre in each region, except the Greater Accra Region. As of now, no work has started for the construction of any theatre – and Dr. Iddi claims they did not mean they were going to build theatres but to revamp the existing cultural centres in the regions.

Dr. Ziblim’s revelation of the true ‘lie’

According to the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dr. Ziblim Iddi, what the government intends to do is to renovate Centres for National Culture (also known as Cultural Centres) in the regions.

“When we said regional theatres we were not alluding to the fact that we were going to start from scratch. All across the country, we have the Arts Centre projects coming up so regional arts centers some of them have reached stages 70%-80%, so we just have to complete them. There are some regions [that we] have to pull the old structures down,” he said.

He also added it was not possible government would complete work on all the ten cultural centers across the regions before the end of its tenure.

“By 2020 we will not have ten regional theatres complete but we at least we will have close to 5 or 6 done. Koforidua, Tamale is coming up, I think Western Region, Cape Coast and I think we will do some works in Kumasi,” he explained.

He added that construction work was ongoing on the Cultural Centre in Kofordua ahead the National Festival of Arts and Culture (NAFAC) which will be in Koforidua in November 2018.

Dr. Ziblim Iddi – Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture

Analysing the Manifesto Promise

The 2016 NPP Manifesto among other things made this promise for the art and tourism sector:

“We will pursue the construction of modern large seating theatres in every regional capital except Accra, beginning with Takoradi, Tamale, and Kumasi, as well as setting up an additional Copyright Office in Tamale to cater for the northern sector in addition to the existing ones in Accra and Kumasi.”

My argument hinges on two essential items in the text above. One, large seating and two, theatre.

Anyone who has seen any of the Centres for National Culture in the regions would attest to the fact that most of them are not large-seating. Therefore, to make them ‘real’ large seating theatres would require an expansion – not just repainting.

The National Theatre in Accra has a seating capacity of about 1, 500. The Accra International Conference Centre can take about 2, 500 people.

The Fantasy Dome at the Trade Fair Centre in Accra can also contain about 15, 000 people. How many of the auditoriums at the regional cultural centres can take more than 2, 000 people? Large seating indeed!

If the framers of the manifesto intended to renovate ‘Cultural Centre’ instead of constructing large seating ‘theatres’ why did they not just write what they intended to do? Why did they write ‘theatres’ instead of ‘Cultural Centres’?

Politics!

Maybe we should have been smarter from the outset

The previous government had for several times captured in its manifesto that it was going to revamp the regional cultural centers.

They kept repeating the same promise as long as the work remained undone.

Then in 2012, the NPP decided to be more creative with an ‘innovative lie’ – to build a theatre in Kumasi. So even before 2016, the NPP had attempted building a theatre [mind you, they did not say Cultural Centre].

They wrote that they would “build a multi-purpose theatre in Kumasi for the northern sector.”

I am sure they also meant they were going to rehabilitate the cultural centers and not build a multi-purpose theatre as stated in their 2012 manifesto. Maybe!

I remember in an article I wrote before the 2016 elections, I dissected both the NPP and NDC manifestoes on the arts, and I wondered what would become of the cultural centers if the NPP decided to build new theatres in the regions.

Maybe, we were intoxicated by the political talks that we refused to ask the relevant questions and seek the right answers.

Catherine Afeku drops the ‘no-theatre’ hint at Meet the Press

On 29th January 2018 the Ministry of Information in one of its Meet the Press series gave arts and tourism writers the platform to ask the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture questions about their work.

I, particularly asked how far work had gone with the construction of the nine (9) theatres.

The minister, Catherine Afeku said they were in talks with private partners to start the construction from Kumasi.

But there was one thing most of us lost sight of. At least she gave us a hint that they were not going to build a theatre after all. She said plans had been made to work on the cultural center in Kumasi.

“The management team has agreed that one of the first things to do is to rehabilitate the three regional theatres [cultural centers] because that will give a space for arts and culture to be displayed and also to generate revenue,” the ministry noted.

“The one in the Ashanti Region – Ghana Tourism Authority has already been there a couple of times, and there was a construction during the Jubilee Year 2007 and we think the drawings and paintings do not befit the Ashanti Region so we are seriously in touch with the original architects to see how we can redo and build a proper befitting theatre for the Ashanti Region,” she added.

Catherine Afeku – Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture

A question of semantics?

I am sure the government and the ministers for that matter consider Cultural Centres as theatres. I am convinced they conceive of an auditorium that can provide a platform for performances as a theatre – a large seating theatre, of course.

Because the National Democratic Congress had already been talking about renovating the regional cultural centres, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) decided to make the same promise with different English – theatre.

A lot of people in the arts and entertainment sector were awed by the ‘one region, one theatre’ promise because there were complains about the difficulty in getting auditoriums for shows across the country.

Most people had said it was a big problem that Ghana had only one theatre.

So at the mention of ‘a theatre,’ every arts person bowed.

Two years later, we are told what the theatre means. We’ve been given the real definition of a large-seating theatre.

Now that we know the real lie, what shall we do?

By: Kwame Dadzie – The writer is a journalist with Citi 97.3FM

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