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The art of dividing a gallery

The parastatal, a hitherto peaceful and rancour-free government agency, has known no peace since Joe Musa, the erstwhile head of the organization, lost the battle…

The parastatal, a hitherto peaceful and rancour-free government agency, has known no peace since Joe Musa, the erstwhile head of the organization, lost the battle to continue as the Director-General. The former DG and 2 directors, Mr. Olusegun Ogumba (director, Finance and account), Dr.Kwaku Tando (director, Research & Education) and Mrs. Elithebeth O. Oparago, a deputy director in administration department were charged with embezzlement, corruption and misappropriation of public funds for which they are standing trial at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Lugbe.

Even though there was palpable tension in the agency caused by the apportioning of blames as to who could have been responsible for the avalanche of petitions against the ousted management, the subsequent suspension of the former DG and three other senior officers of the agency which paved the way for the appointment of Abdullahi S. Muku to assume in acting capacity of the position of DG, was the last straw that indeed broke the camel’s back.

Since the suspension of the former DG, there have been a myriad of reports and write-up on the pages of the nation’s press insinuating internal rumbles in the agency. The latest report in these series against the National Gallery of Art is the story published by the Nigerian Compass on page 33 of its  Tuesday, April 27, 2010  edition entitled ‘’just peace, experts urge new culture, tourism minister‘’.

This story was craftily written to give readers the wrong impression that the National Gallery of Art is embroiled in a power tussle between the chairman, Board of Governing Council, Barrister Peter Eze on one hand and the former DG, Joe Musa on the other. The report stated that the bone of contention between the conflicting parties that eventually led to the invitation of the EFCC was over ‘’who is an art professional or not’’. This, the report further stated, has ‘’kept the house without one voice’’.

The snag with the Nigerian Compass’s one sided report is that there never was a time when the board and former management of NGA had a strife over the widely circulated but malicious report on professional artist to lead the agency. Peter Eze, a consummate legal luminary, knows better what the Act establishing the National Gallery of Art states on the official functions of the Governing Board of the agency and the requirements, powers and duties of the DG.

Much as we appreciate the rights of journalists and commentators to report the activities of the National Gallery of Art, we do not however, lose sight of the fact that such reports should be done with utmost sense of professionalism and responsibility.

Any concerned commentator who wishes the National Gallery of Art well should focus on the record of achievement of the organization in the past nine months, not on spurious issues bordering on the so-called internal wrangling in the office. The new crop of management at the NGA has achieved a lot during its nine months sojourn. Despite the unfortunate squeeze on the finances of the agency by the federal government following charges of corruption levelled against the former management, none of the programmes of the National Gallery of Art has suffered discontinuance since the assumption of Malam Muku as the Ag. DG of the agency. For instance, the 2nd National Visual Art competition with the theme ‘’Rebranding Nigeria through Visual Art,’’ took place in October 2009 at the Shehu Musa Yar’adua centre. 2nd African Regional Summit and Exhibition on Visual Art [ARESUVA], a major Africa’s art fiesta and a cardinal programme of the National Gallery of Art which is listed in AU’s calendar of events, was also successfully executed under stringent financial circumstance in November, 2009. In addition to this feat, NGA also organized the 4th National Symposium on Art, Stakeholders Forum and exhibited creative works of six Nigerian artists at Artexpo New York as well as showed an impressive outing of Nigerian artists at the recently concluded Dak’art biennale 2010 in Dakar, Senegal.  

On the diplomatic front, the current crop of management at the NGA is doing wonderfully well in strengthening Nigeria’s mutual bilateral relations with other countries through their foreign embassies and missions in Nigeria. The fruits of this mutually beneficial cultural ties has paid its dividend when National Gallery of Art, Nigeria, in connection with the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, organized an exhibition of Nigerian works of Art to commemorate thirty years of sustained diplomatic ties with the government and people of the two countries on June 1, 2010 at Nuri Gallery, Korea Foundation Cultural Centre in Seoul.

Thus, if there is any period since the inception of the National Gallery of Art which has witnessed relative peace and success that could be described as the Gallery’s moment of glory, that period is the nine months sojourn during which Abdullahi S. Muku held sway as the Ag. DG.

  Bature, wrote from Block C, Flat 1, Ogan close, Kurudu, Abuja

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