You might have watched the breathtaking performances at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 8th All Africa Games and Fifa U-17 World held in Nigeria not too long ago, among other major arts and sports festivals in the country, but do you know the man at the heart of all these exciting performances was the self-effacing playwright, Yahaya Dangana? But, surely, that came with a big price.
Dangana, the former chapter chairman of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Niger State, used to publish plays and other creatives works regularly. Now, the chicks are not hatched as a domestic routine.
“I still write books, but not with the intensity I used to be before when I would publish and present them to the public every three or four years,” he told Daily Sun recently at the 2018 ANA convention in Lagos.
Sometimes, when he writes nowadays, he distributes the plays and novels to schools and organisations where he feels they would be relevant. No doubt, other aspects of creativity have taken over his time, especially, stadium performance.
He conceded, “As a playwright, sometimes, you get the opportunity to come up with a concept that government might feel would touch people’s life. I have gotten such opportunities several times.”
During his stints with the sports ministry and the Mass Literacy programme of the federal government, he was challenged by colleagues to write scripts that would be performed at big events. The biggest of them all was the 8th All African Games in Abuja in 2003, where he doubled as Secretary of Ceremonies and Concept Manager. From that that moment, his streak of good luck has begun.
Later, he was invited by the Kaduna State Government to come up with a concept for the National Sports Festival (Kada Games, 2008). “With this kind of challenge, one had to still write again,” he said.
At a point, it was from one major event to another. From Kaduna, he got another job to present a show for the Fifa U-17 World Cup in 2009 as the Artistic Consultant/Director. “What led to that was my stadium performances, which went down well with federal government officials, who were in attendance,” he said.
As his recognition spread, his state government invited him to organise performances for the National Festival of Arts (NAFEST, 2009). “You can see that most of the time I am engaged in one thing or another,” he remarked.
For Dangana, there is no dull moment in his art. “If you look at all these things, they are other forms of creativity. The difference is that, while the playwright works in privacy, for stadium performances, it is more like an administrative work requiring you to work with many people, and you are called big names: artistic consultant or artistic director.”
At the moment, Dangana has submitted a concept for the forthcoming National Sports Festival holding in Abuja in few weeks’ time. If everything goes according to plan, Dangana would, once again, mount the stage as the artistic consultant to do what he knows how best to do. “I think, after seeing all my achievements organising big national and international event, they will likely invite me to present the show.”
Writing and performing a play for a theater stage isn’t the same thing as performing at a stadium, mind you. “There is a big difference,” said Dangana. For the COJA Games, he worked behind the scene with legendary dramatists like Professor Wole Soyinka –and that was the icing on the cake. But, for others, he called the shots.
Stadium shows are no dog’s breakfast, as he explained. “The difference is that, for stadium shows, you cannot afford to make mistakes. If there is a single mistake, the whole thing is a mess, because you have to come with a concept chart, which is per minute sequencing.”
Dangana has paid his dues, however. But, if you wager for the playwright to strut in the streets, you are mistaking. “It is very rare to see playwrights in Nigeria who have been privileged to present big shows for state and federal government as I have, but I am not beating my chest.”
His published works include Corpse as a Bridegroom (novel, 1986), Breastfeeding for Lullaby (drama, 1988), Blow of Fate (novel, 1988), Many Handshakes, One Hello (travelogue, 1988) and The Royal Chamber (winner, ANA/J.P. Clark Drama Prize), among others.
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