- By Onwukwe Ngozi
The clean and green city of Uyo, the capital of Akwa-Ibom State is still sparkling in yellow, as telecommunication giant, MTN lightened up the city with a play production that is second to none.
The historical play, Ibiom: When Doves Fly, was showcased at Ibom Hall, Uyo through the help of MTN Foundation in partnership with the Duke of Shomolu Productions between April 30 and May 1, 2021.
The play went deep into the histories of the Indigenous people of Akwa-Ibom: Ibibio, Anaang, Oron and Eket, their beautiful cultural heritage and their connection with love and peace.
The event brought about the training of 500 Akwa-Ibom youths, who’s raw talents we’re nurtured in theatre by one of Nigeria’s finest and a former Director-General of the National Theatre, Professor Ahmed Yerima.
As the actors thrilled the audience at Ibom Hall with the plot of Ibiom, the crème de la crème of Akwa-Ibom were all around to have feelings of the entire show.
Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo, wife of the Governor, Dr. Martha Udom Emmanuel, Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Orman Esin, renowned businessman/industrialist, Akan Udofia and many others from the State’s Executive Council were all present.
Speaking on behalf of Governor Udom Emmanuel whom he represented, the Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo said he lacked the right words to completely described the wonderful drama he saw from the Akwa-Ibom youths.
“I have been racking my brain to find an appropriate English word that’ll describe what we just saw, but English is one language I know well, but I can’t find any.
“I don’t know if the word excellent is enough to describe this flawless show? The Governor instructed me to accompany his wife and bring all members of the Executive Council to watch this command performance.
“I want to tell you that the Governor appreciate even the thought of bringing this show to Uyo which is why he commanded us all to be here.”
He thanked MTN and commended the commissioner of Tourism and Culture, the producer of the play, Joseph Edgar for bringing this show to Uyo.
“The media have been agog about this play that presents our reach cultural heritage. Akwa-Ibom is blessed with all manner of talent who are painting Nollywood red.
“I’m truly excited and pleased with the production of this play and I believe this development will usher in a new development in our lives.
“With what you’ve produced here, the spirit of relaxation and family entertainment will be enhanced. Tourism is key to our agenda in Akwa-Ibom. My Government will support this group,” he said.
Akwa-Ibom State Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Orman Esin described the play as a spectacular production and congratulated the producer, director and the entire cast for a job well done.
He congratulated Edgar for a wonderful and spectacular production the production is a masterpiece.
Esin described the production of Ibiom as a masterpiece and likened it to coming back home, as the play showcases the state’s culture and what makes her unique in all ramifications.
“The production has been able to tell our people where we’re coming from and where we’re heading to. I’m excited to be a part of this. We have a lot of talents here and this has been able to locate most of them.
“The contribution of Ibiom to our economy is like a value chain and we’re very happy about that. I’m aware that wherever the Duke of Shomolu goes, MTN goes.
“So, I’m excited they came here and for us when he came here, it didn’t take me time to know we have to be part of it. You can see that Akwa-Ibom State Government was fully involved here today.
“That shows how excited we’re. I’m happy that MTN came to sponsor this. I think this project has also done an intervention by re-energizing the sense of tourism which is a very important agenda in this state.”
Mr. Innocent Entonu, General Manager, Eastern Regional Operations MTN Nigeria explained that MTN understands the role and importance of youths in every society, which is why it has decided on continuous youth empowerment.
“You see if you look at our brand, we have a lot for the youths segments. If you’ve watched some of our key adverts in recent times we’re pushing a lot of works at targeting the Youths.
“The youths you know are the future of this country. They’re creative, innovative as they adapt to the future of their country. Clearly we have to just continue supporting the youths.”
On what next to expect from MTN going forward, Entonu said, “People come, you look at their contents, you look at their concepts, and see how it fits into our organizational culture.
“So, there’s no limitations. We’ve sponsored a whole lot of events across the length and breathe of this country. A lot of cultural festivals in the North, West and East of this country.
“Clearly there’s no boundaries. We’re going to continue to unfold and see. There are some concepts that are usually happening every Year like the cultural festivals all over the country.
“When the calendar comes, you’ll see us there. However, we’ll continue to look for new and creative ideas to support any innovation.”
The Special Guest of Honour at the event, Mr. Akan Udofia said that the attendance, especially the presence of the Governor’s wife has shown obviously serious the state government took the programme.
He explained that what MTN brought to Uyo has touched an important agenda of the Governor which is tourism.
“With the level of attendance her and the better half of the Governor here, it’s obvious that this is important.
“Tourism is passionate and very dear to the heart of our Governor. This will showcase the relentless talent we have in Akwa-Ibom. All the people we’ll watch here have done us proud.
“The talent is unbelievable. I’m very proud of what we have and I’m very passionate about our people. Theater always brings us together. I’ve taken it upon myself to support this government via tourism.”
He however, promised to fully participate in the sponsorship of the next of such event which he said will be centred on the true story of the Aba Women Riot of 1929.
Joseph Edgar, the producer of the play said he cannot thank MTN enough for the role the company played in making the play and other events surrounding it a success.
“I just want to say big thank you to MTN. It’s not really easy. Our other sponsors did not really respond for the obvious reasons, but MTN came to our support. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to do this production.
“We’ve took ourselves back to where we’re coming from. We decided to come back to Akwa-Ibom courtesy of MTN.”
On the empowerment of 500 Akwa-Ibom youths through the programme and the message the play passed across on love and unity, Edgar called on the youths to embrace the message and live with it.
“We’re sharing the right messages to the youths and everyone so that they’ll go out there and resist all the negative tendencies we’ve been able to bring out here to enable us have a peaceful and a better society.”
He said that he is happy that the production touched about 500 youths, stressing that the message sent across is sinking.
The producer said that the outcome of the play has shown that the market for entertainment and tourism is alive and vibrant in Akwa-Ibom and will continuously be a point of call henceforth.
“We’ve just tested the market, it’s obvious the market is here we’ll continue from here,” Edgar said
He thanked the Governor, prominent sons of Akwa-Ibom for their supports which made it possible for the event to hold in Uyo and be a success at the end.
Foluke Edgar, Executive Producer Ibiom could hide her joy and gratitude to MTN for making the play a reality in Uyo.
“MTN is using this kind of programme and empowerment to encourage peace, enlighten youths and everyone about the importance of peace using history to showcase our reach cultural heritage in Akwa-Ibom.
“We love to thank MTN because they’ve taken us from Lagos to Akwa-Ibom and I know they’re taking us higher.
“I enjoyed the whole show. The stage drama is real and raw. That’s why it’s different from the usual movie. The talents you just saw are raw.
“They’re students from Uyo here who have been given the opportunity to showcase their talents. I’m sure this could be their first time of getting involved I this.”
Director of the play, William Benson appreciated MTN for their support, the producer and the entire cast for their cooperation and dedication.
He said that the love and unity, which the central message of the play is something the current society is yearning for and could be replicated in reality.
“As dramatist and student of literature, we say art to the society and what we’ve seen today touched all aspects of our society.
“The more we have things like this, touring all states, people will discover the importance of working as one people, putting aside our pride and jealousy and work as one, as allies to make our society better.
“We need to keep educating the society through this. I say thank you to MTN for the support that made this a reality today.”
Some of the audience who spoke after the event said that the memory of the play and the obvious flawless arrangements put in place to make the play worth seeing will remain with them.
Godswill Paul who said the play was his first time of having such experience said he cannot wait to have similar opportunity to participate in such a remarkable event in Uyo again.
He thanked MTN on what he described as “obvious love for the youths, and urged them to always see Akwa-Ibom as a state with similar burning desire to see youths succeed.
“Everything was simply in position. I love the theme. It was built on love. The message was very clear and obvious. Gate is something we must eschew in its entirety.
“Hate destroys, but love builds. So, it’s a great message of togetherness. We have to work on ourselves to build love. I thank MTN for this opportunity.”
Aba City Blog reports that the drama showed how love brought peace between the ancient Ibibios and the ancient Arochukwu kingdom through the Princess of Ibibio who fell in love with the Crown Prince of Arochukwu.
The Princess of Ibibio out of love, rescued the captured Prince of Arochukwu whom her brother, out of jealousy for the love showered on her by her father because of her good behaviour captured by taking advantage of the hatred running between the two kingdom.
Prior to his capture, the Crown Prince of Arochukwu had left his kingdom to Ibibio land in search of peace between the two warring kingdoms and there, he found love which grew and developed into a perfect dispute settlement element.
The beautiful Ibibio Princess with her love, pure heart and kindness, brought out necessary evidences to debunk the rumours and misinformation that caused all the hatred among the Ibibio and the Arochukwu.
The play boldly showcased the consequences of rumour and unfounded information that breeds hatred.
It exposed the consequences of false statements, fallacious and unverified stories that nearly led to war between the two kingdoms until love stepped in to quench the raging anger.