Patrick-Jude Oteh builds his Jos Repertory Theatre from nothing. The theatre company is now one of the most successful and sustainable theatre companies in Northern Nigeria.
By Dr Folakemi Ogungbe
Dr. Patrick-Jude Oteh, the founder and Creative Director of Jos Repertory Theatre explains he entered the theatre profession by accident as he was planning to become a Catholic priest in his teens and had decided to go and pass time studying for a diploma in drama, while waiting for the statutory age of nineteen years to enter into the seminary. However, theatre got him hooked and there is no turning back.
Dr. Patrick-Jude Oteh, who is now married with children, found his first love in theatre and has made a successful career out of it against all odds. He bagged his PhD degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Ibadan. However, things have not always been rosy for him. Dr. Oteh came into the industry when all his colleagues were seeking greener pastures in banking, advertising and insurance.
Patrick, who was initially resident in Ibadan, left because of a disappointment with the Master’s degree curriculum at Ibadan. He forayed to Jos where he eventually set up his company. The company was not sustainable at the beginning, so he set up a food company to make ends meet while doing theatre by the side. The theatre company luckily got to be a part of the Muson Festival for the Arts in Lagos in 2001 and his company was sponsored to deliver a show about Northern Nigeria. During the course of the production, the Media Arts and Culture representative of Ford Foundation, who was in the audience, was impressed with the performance. That was the beginning of their eight-year partnership with Ford Foundation.
Unfortunately by 2009, Ford Foundation stopped the partnership as a result of the housing crises in the USA where more humanitarian interventions were needed. However, they sent him for a Arts Management training in South Africa, in order to learn how to survive as a Arts company in Africa. Patrick-Jude was however not satisfied with the training as he felt it doesn’t address the problems in his own environment.
As a result of this, Michael, the facilitator encouraged him to apply for the Arts Management seminar at the John F Kennedy Centre in the USA. Patrick-Jude embraced this opportunity and for the next three years, would be trained in the skills needed to survive as an Arts entity in Nigeria. This was a turn-around point as they were able to model the JF Kennedy Centre’s sustainable donation base and they eventually moved to their own space in 2016. Covid-19 came in 2020 and they had to downsize, but through it all, they have been able to practice sustainable arts in Nigeria, reaching out to both local and global audiences.