In October 2010, the previous Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) inaugurated the Freedom Park on Broad Avenue, Lagos to commemorate Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary. Chief Working Officer of Freedom Park Mr. Theo Lawson mentioned 10 years on, the park is struggling to interrupt at the same time as patronage from Lagos State authorities businesses has dwindled. Assistant Editor (Arts) Ozolua Uhakheme reviews.
Lengthy earlier than Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic introduced the whole world economic system to its knees, the fortunes of Freedom Park, Lagos, a memorial and leisure centre on Lagos Island, has been a bit of above crimson 10 years after it began operation.
The Park, which was born out of the destroy of Her Majesty’s Broad Avenue prisons in 2010, was constructed to protect the historical past and cultural heritage of the Nigerian folks. Although one of the celebrated arts and tradition areas within the nation, its administration led by architect Theo Lawson, is pondering outdoors the field to redress the challenges which have impacted negatively on its solvency. Operated on a Public-Personal Partnership (PPP) association between Lagos State authorities and LORK Enterprises LLP, comprising Complete Seek the advice of Ltd- Arc. Theo Lawson, Femi Odugbemi, Sewa Kpotie (deceased) and Iyabo Aboaba, the park lately rolled out new packages to fulfill the calls for of its purchasers particularly the artwork neighborhood and company our bodies. Nevertheless, the Chief Working Officer of Freedom Park, Mr Theo Lawson who spoke as visitor at Arts and Tradition Writers Affiliation of Nigeria’s (ACWAN) Roundtable With Artiste, is nervous over the slim patronage the park will get from Lagos State authorities, its main accomplice and primary shopper.
Freedom Park as an experimental PPP venture
“As one of many first PPP tasks that had been embarked upon in Lagos particularly within the areas of arts area, was an experiment. After we had assembly with the PPP Workplace then with Ayo Gbeleyi as Chairman of the PPP Board, they got here up with a proposal that didn’t favour us. And nonetheless it doesn’t favour us until tomorrow. And since it was the primary time a venture like that was going to be finished, Freedom Park administration was requested to ship 25 % of its earnings. And there’s a construction for the primary 5 years. The primary 12 months, the park delivered 25% of gross revenue. Second and third 12 months was 45% whereas the fourth and fifth 12 months was 50% of gross revenue or 50 million naira. So, we mentioned this was not practicable. They insisted that we should always go forward and check out it first. I needed to go for a share of revenue, however they mentioned no and that they don’t need to put any employees on the park, simply go forward and ship it on gross. And a part of the contract was that after 12 months two, we’ll consider the association to see whether or not it was viable or not. Unfortunatelya, we have now had modifications in governance of the state.
Since former Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Tradition Mr. Oladisun Holloway left, we had been left on our personal. Throughout Holloway’s time, we had Black Heritage Competition and the state introduced a number of occasions to Freedom Park. Ever since, a number of authorities businesses disregarded us and all the pieces went to Eko Resort, Eko Atlantic and all the opposite locations. Nothing was taken to Freedom Park, which is a authorities partnership venture. So, we needed to wrestle and we’re nonetheless struggling. We had been by no means capable of make revenue even on the 25 % gross. In truth, we have now been paying that 25 % gross and we stored on asking for that assembly for overview. However, subsequent commissioners weren’t able to take any choice like that as a result of they weren’t a part of the preliminary negotiation and so they didn’t need to create any change of contract. Previously, some commissioners advised us we have now not fulfilled our obligation of the contract. And every time, we defined the scenario, tendered accounts and we have now all the time paid our 25%. However, as a accomplice, we don’t make any cash. I work right here as an architect. My work retains me occupied and I’m not on wage. Solely few staffers are on wage. It’s actually about labour of affection. I work in the course of the daytime and at night time I oversee the social facet of Freedom Park. However, what we have now finished over the time period is making an attempt to ascertain Freedom Park and recover from the stigma as a result of folks had been afraid of coming to Lagos Island most likely due to Space Boys and stuff like that.
‘’Through the years, we have now been capable of set up Freedom Park as an genuine and secure artwork area to go to. And I believe we’re pleased with that. However we nonetheless have points with our supervising ministry’’.
Exploring different home windows
“In the event you take a look at case research like this, there’s hardly any artwork centre or institution wherever on the planet that makes revenue. It exists on donations from authorities or from grants given by foundations. Typically, it’s tough for folks or company our bodies to purchase into it due to the situation. We had First Financial institution, which supported us for a 12 months beneath their competition of arts programme and we had been capable of construct up few artistes throughout that interval. Prior to now, we had been capable of pay artists a token every time they carried out. However now we do it 50-50. So we have now been making an attempt to steadiness all the pieces to maintain Freedom Park going as we envisaged it.
In the end, we hope that we’re going to get promoting avenues and we deliberate that if Freedom Park turns into extraordinarily well-liked, promoting businesses would convey their campaigns right here. However initially, we needed to construct Freedom Park to that degree the place it has the attraction.
Challenges of Space Boys and visitors on the island
“Effectively, at Freedom Park every day or night time, we have now a captive viewers within the sense that throughout us we have now workplaces. And due to the heavy visitors scenario on the Island, lots of people come right here to spend time earlier than permitting the visitors to die down. So, in the course of the week, we have now a number of captive viewers. And I believe we have now been capable of create a content material to make them comfy whereas they’re right here and most of our clients are white-collar employees, bankers, legal professionals, docs and many others. We even have the artwork neighborhood. Throughout the 12 months, we have now about 10 to12 festivals, so if we are able to set up that as foundation, we have now greater than met our obligation to the artwork business. In between, we have now bizarre theatre and common theatre performances, music performances, artwork exhibitions, e-book readings, spoken phrases and so forth.
‘’We’ve inspired the artwork neighborhood to undertake this place as probably the most appropriate area for his or her performances. We can’t cost 5,000 or 10,000 naira as gate payment. We won’t have an viewers except possibly somebody determined to sponsor the idea. I believe the most important downside we have now within the artwork business proper now’s the company managers who search for ambassadors in high-art with out in search of methods to construct up new skills. In the event you give N80 million as endorsement to an artist, have you learnt what number of efficiency centres you may set up across the area with that N80million? In Lagos, we have now so many unemployed youths who dangle round doing nothing. So, moderately than keep within the Island that’s congested and messing round, or being harassed by the police, they arrive to hang around right here. It’s simply extra of a retreat or escape from all of the insanity outdoors. For me, they’re secure however we regulate them. So, we need to see how we are able to have interaction them and mentor them.
As an architect, what’s your tackle the trending Brazilian design home in our cities particularly the cone-shape roof?
“Modernism appears to be the present craze however most architects are merchandise of their colleges, their lecturers or their influences throughout college. Sadly, we have now not discovered something worthy to evangelise about ourselves. What number of of our kids would you say are African at coronary heart? They’re all sagging and changing into Americanas. Now, Naira Marley is the tradition of at this time. Lawlessness and everyone is a Marlian. So who’s preaching Africanism or cultural identification? There isn’t actually something. Who’s instructing Civics in colleges? Will we educate ourselves to be proud Nigerians? So there isn’t a worth anymore. Half of Nigerians is speeding to Canada. I believe the issue may be very huge.”