Ahmadu Bello University Stops Trace Concert

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By Nseobong Okon-Ekong

The management of Trace Television has expressed regrets to fans and its partners over the wasted “cost, time and effort” that was sunk into the aborted ‘Trace in the City Fiesta’ event scheduled to hold last weekend at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria. The show was stalled by last-minute insistence on official approval, until it became practically impossible to proceed with the event as planned.

The Zaria occasion planned in conjunction with the Theatre and Performing Arts Students Association of the university was scheduled to hold between 9am and 8pm on Friday, August 17 at the Mamman Kontagora Square. It was supposed to kick-off a seven-city tour, till September 15. Other cities on the programme include Abuja, Calabar, Port Harcourt, Benin, Lagos and Ibadan.

Featuring a fusion of music, games and movies, the tour is in partnership with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and sponsored by Indomie Nigeria, Pepsi, Infinix Mobile and Clorets. Top on the bill of entertainers are artistes like Ice Prince, Mayorkun, Reekado Banks, Harrysong, Falz, Dj Neptune, CDQ, MC Galaxy, Classiq, LAX, Teni Entertainer, Dremo, Peruzzi, Idowest, Yonda, Odunsi the Engine and Ceeza Milli, Tjan. It will also feature each university’s popular acts.

Sam Onyemelukwe, Managing Director for Trace in Anglophone Africa, was hopeful that the tours “will give opportunities to youths to have their creativity recognised.”

In a blow-by-blow account of the Zaria incident, Onyemelukwe wrote, “On the event date, all was going well apart from initial weather threat (which became better), observation of religious rights (as a result of praying at the mosque – Jumaat; the Moslem congregational prayer) which afterwards we were good to go and music started playing from our sound systems, coverage of the event was on going and we started having an influx of students. The sudden appearance of officials at the event venue was due to attention drawn by our music, which they began to raise concerns (which I would attribute to their religious beliefs) and requested for approved permits.

“These permits/letters were provided and the student union/department bodies that were duly carried along also provided the processes that were followed.

“Upon providing these documents they expressed their concerns (which again I would state at this point had a religious undertone) and chose to make us get another approval from the Dean of Students Affairs before we could continue. Please do take note that the approval we had was issued by the Registrar.

“As at this point-we had spent 2-3hrs- and it was already 4pm, to discuss and get this sudden necessary approval. Upon arrival at the Dean of students affairs office we were told he was out of campus and advised to reach him on his phone which we did with several calls and even sent an SMS with the assistance of the relevant student union/departmental bodies.

After a while he only responded with an SMS stating he had instructed the University staff officer to clear all pending grey areas and issue approval. We took back this information to the University security officer at his office who instructed us that he can only allow us continue if the Dean call him directly.

“Efforts to reach the Dean was futile with countless calls he did not pick up his phone, as at this time it was obvious we were being given the run around. Outside the venue gate students were gathered to gain entry into the venue and all celebrities were on campus in the holding area and it was 7pm. We decided to even reach out to powers and persons of influence in Kaduna so we could continue with the event, but the Dean was nowhere to be found.

“By 7:30pm we discovered where the Dean was and headed to meet him in person, which upon getting there he expressed his concerns on our music and after due explanation and plea it was beyond the time for social events and gathering on campus and as such the event could no longer hold.”

Request for the Trace in the City show at ABU was made by Mr. Zozo Faith Doose, President of the Theatre and Performing Arts Students Association on August 8. Two days later, an approval was conveyed by the Office of the Registrar through a letter signed by Rilwanu Maiwada.

It is not clear if the aborted show at ABU was a reaction to the inclusion of popular music act, Folarin Falana, better known as Falz on the bill of performers. Muslim faithful, particularly the Muslims Rights Concern, MURIC, had severely criticised Falz over the negative portrayal of the Fulani tribe and Hijab-wearing women in his trending video, ‘This is Nigeria’.