Mr. Israel Eboh fta. is the National President of the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP). He was reelected at the National Delegates Convention held recently in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital. In this interview with TONY OKUYEME, he talks about the Theatre Arts Practitioners Council (TAPCON) Bill, plans to launch a Streaming Platform and other issues
Congratulations on your reelection as the National President of NANTAP.
What are your plans to strengthen the financial base of the association and its members?
That was what informed a lot of the decisions and partnerships that we entered into. We needed to open a larger base of potential economic impact for our members individually and as an association. We were very systematic with the partnerships we went into. We went into some of them because they were more strategic not because of the money that came with them.
Of course, they were institutions that played key roles in policies that would directly affect our members and our association. Such partnership afforded us the opportunities where we could further engage them, help contribute to those policies, and ensure that those policies are ones that will not be inimical to our association and members. For some we went into the partnership because of the business opportunities they provided. For example, we entered a banking partnership with a bank even when we already had a bank we were banking with, that was because after discussions the Bank offered us one key thing – the association would be the collateral for our members.
That’s because we knew that the unattainable collateral demands by the banks was a key reason why most practitioners were unable to access CIFI funding to grow their production companies. So, that was key, because that way when our members go for loans, the association can be their collateral. it was also an opportunity to strengthen the association because to enjoy such benefits one needs to identify with the association. When we decided to register the TAP Business Venture, it was also with the mind of having a structure that brought in constant funding into the coffers of the association, and strengthen the association into employing an administrative secretary which then take off the executive the day-to-day running of the association, which then frees the executive to focus on policies.
By December, the company will fully become operational. Between October and December, we intend to raise N4million from our members who will become shareholders in the company. Whatever benefit we have must rub off on our members. Even the structure of the company registered is not tied to the aprons of the executive but tied to its own management team. It has its own board, and the association as represented by the exco will have only a representative on that board. The company will be independently run.
A Streaming Platform was supposed to have been launched in October last year. What happened?
We were meant to launch it last year. If you recall, that was a partnership. Unfortunately, there was no facet of life or economy that was not impacted by the pandemic. There was also an impact on the Information Technology (IT). The project wasn’t abandoned, it is on the third phaseout of its four-phases. Streaming platforms are many but there are very few platforms where you can have multiple channels simultaneously. That’s what we are building. So, if I want to watch live shows, I can do so on the platform immediately, if I want to stream local movies we can do so. It has a lot of stages, back ends in terms of softwares and apps. But it is ongoing. We believe that by the grace of God’s it will be launched on World Theatre Day (WTD) next year.
Tell us more about running the first NANTAP electronic election. Why was it so important?
It is all part of the plan. We recognize the fact that there was the need for us to have a digital partner. I believe strongly in documentation, but documentation for the purpose of maximizing the benefits of such documentation. We had to revalidate membership when we assumed office. We have been able to build up a digital database.
I wanted a situation where anyone who asks for information will be able to access it not just from our own end but on a platform which is globally seen as transparent. That required uploading our data and everything into google cloud in such a way that it is properly managed. So, we started a discussion with Chams, which is one of the leading IT solution companies. Of course, we also recognised the challenges brought by COVID, and as an association had been growing its membership both locally and in the diaspora, we needed to ensure our members were not denied their rights to vote, so we decided to go digital with the election process and luckily, Chams had the VOTA platform to provide such services. It is always nice to be the first in your sector to do something new. We are happy that NANTAP is the first in the creative industry/sector to do so. We had a lot of members who could not come to Ekiti from Jos, owing to insecurity, and others outside of the country at the moment who were able to vote. I am glad we did it and it was successful. Association chapters seemed unable to coax new members as if they lack the knowledge as well as ability to explain the benefits of being a member of NANATAP. So, how do you intend to resolve that. In our last tenure, we constantly visited state chapters. I constantly, on a personal basis, engaged the chairmen of the state chapters. When we came in, during our first two years, I told the states we won’t ask them to pay dues because I asked myself what was comthe value added that would encourage a member to pay? I am happy that today, people are able to see the value. And that’s because we have been able to create value. The Bank arrangement is a value because today, one can access up to N50 million using the association as a collateral; and you know that if you are not in good standing with the association the association will not give you the guarantee to access that money. It has engendered more participation, a more robust association. Unfortunately, at the State level, most of them find it difficult to create such value. We are constantly encouraging them to domesticate affairs of the association to their local needs.
NANATAP in South Eastern States seem to have died and just being resuscitated. How do you plan to address that?
A lot of challenges in the South East, as well as the North. We know we cannot tackle all simultaneously, so we are working systematically. Towards the twilight of the recent executive, we focused our attention to the South East. Anambra is here, Imo came, Bayelsa came. Some of these States have not attended a convention in the past five to eight years. We have to be deliberate because when we strengthen one or two states in a region, we use them as launching pad for establishing others, and they get to these states faster than we can do from the centre.
That is what we will continue to do. We are going to do that and continue in other areas, particularly the Middle Belt. You seem to have brought some level of continuity to the Association. Are there any strategies in place after your tenure for that to happen? Whether I like it or not, I have only three more years to lead the association. So, I ask myself when these three years are done, what happens? Within the executive do we have a team with the same passion and drive to continue this and the answer then was no. I couldn’t find beyond one or two persons.
So, it was easy for me to encourage those who had shown the potentials within the same executive council to consider moving or running for certain offices that made them more involved, and because I interact with them a lot, I know those who have brought in innovative ideas; those who have used their money to do the work, that’s how you judge the level of commitment and passion, when people put in their personal funds into driving a public enterprise, without seeking their personal interests or gains. We were able to see the bigger picture which benefits everybody. I am not saying we have gotten it right but time will tell. I want to believe that out of these nine new people, even if it is only two or three we find, that will be a success as opposed to not finding any.