It is no longer news that since December 2017, there has been rumblings at the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON).
It came as a big shock when on Thursday, December 7, 2017, a change in COSON leadership was announced, with the appointment of Efe Omorogbe as its new Chairman.
The collective management society for musical works and sound recordings did not immediately state why Okoroji was removed and replaced by Omorogbe during that emergency meeting on December 7, at the COSON House in Ikeja, Lagos.
On December 19, 2017, at an Extra-Ordinary General Meeting of COSON, there was the sacking of Omorogbe’s board and the reinstatement of Tony Okoroji as the chairman of COSON.
Okoroji’s reinstatement also led to the reconstitution of COSON board, which saw the appointment of Azeezat Allen, John Ewelukwa Udegbunam, Ras Kimono, Richard Cole, Sir Shina Peters, Kenny Saint Best, Sharon Escco Wilson, Maureen Ejezie and Francis Ola Akinfesi as members.
Okoroji explained in an interview with The PUNCH a few weeks ago that the move to replace him with Efe Omoregbe was bizarre and a conspiracy
“I attended an Emergency board meeting that called for a specific matter. Suddenly, I was told to step down, with no prior notice, no charges, no hearing, nothing. I understood immediately that a conspiracy had been hatched. It was a coup. I saw some of the people I used to eat and drink with, with bloodshot eyes, desperately trying to find something to hang on my neck! I knew instantly that the coup was sponsored by elements outside of COSON.
“I am sensitive to anything that would destroy COSON or damage the great brand that we have painstakingly built through unbelievable toil. I don’t want any controversy around COSON. I don’t want COSON to become another PMAN. I do not have an office, cubicle or desk at COSON House which I laboured to build. I had nothing to pack. So, I picked up my laptop and left COSON House without complaining to anyone”, Okoroji told The PUNCH.
In an interview with TS weekend, Tony Okoroji revealed all the efforts he had put in to make COSON great. He explained that 2017 was a momentous year for COSON. “In the middle of a biting recession, we commissioned the magnificent COSON House, the first and only structure of its kind by any organisation in Nigeria’s creative industry. To do this, we did not get one naira from government or any other institution and we did not take any loan from any bank. In COSON House, we made an indelible statement that people in the Nigerian creative industry can do great things. We have just finished the unprecedented 2017 COSON Week. The events took place at 8 venues. The organisational demands of the COSON Week were incredibly back-breaking, but we successfully pulled it off . At the COSON Week events, we had 3 federal ministers, a representative of the governor of Lagos State and representative of the Senate President among others. I am also humbled to have driven the COSON Week working about 22 hours a day for several months with little or no income. In terms of membership, income and brand equity, COSON made momentous impact in 2017. On all indices of growth, 2017 was a great year for COSON.
“Since COSON’s approval, we have held our annual general meeting every year as required by law. We have gone further to hold an extra-ordinary general meeting every year to ensure that our members have the opportunity to be informed on every action taken in their name and that they can ask any question on any subject related to COSON. One of the most important activities of the organisation is the distribution of royalties to members and affiliates. The Board could do this on its own but at COSON, we believe that because of the culture of collective management of copyright in Nigeria, members should participate in royalty distribution decision and make sure that it is transparent.
What is the secret of his success?
“To be candid, organising the COSON Week can be scary. 8 massive events at 8 different venues over 8 days! You cannot even attempt it without enormous passion and supreme conviction. I have said elsewhere that three months before the COSON Week and during the week, I slept an average of 2 hours a day. My phone never stopped ringing! When it comes to major events organisation, there are things I must do myself. To delegate such things means I am planning to fail. I work on first principles. From my days of producing the famous Nigerian Music Award, I have done things at events that nobody has done anywhere before. When I dream up these ideas, they often sound crazy until I execute them.
“I am sensitive to anything that would destroy COSON or damage the great brand that we have painstakingly built through unbelievable toil”
Nevertheless, I work with a team that I have come to trust. I pay close attention to all the elements, checking and double checking and making sure that each is ready on time. When I do events, I am like a Commander-in-chief at War. I must be in touch with my generals all the time”.
Currently, MCSN has been approved. As the first CMO to be approved by the government, what is his take on this move and how has COSON been relating with MCSN he was asked?
“We have publicly said that the processes or lack of processes leading to the purported approval of MCSN were unlawful. How can the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Chief Law Officer of our country, direct the NCC to approve an organisation and its leaders who the same NCC has filed seven different on-going criminal cases against?
This organisation and its leaders whom the government has accused of being criminals and who are now on bail are being licensed to collect money on behalf of innocent musicians? It is a very strange development, an affront on common sense and a big insult to the entire Nigerian creative family and our nation. I refuse that anyone, no matter how highly placed, would make us slaves in our country. I have led COSON to challenge this strange development in court. I have been told repeatedly that by challenging this nonsense, I have placed my life in danger and that anything could happen to me.
That is why recently, several coalitions of evil have ganged up against me. They are doing everything to shoot me down. I have enormous respect for the Nigerian judicial system. Countless times, the courts have proved to be my shield against evil. I believe that in the fullness of time, justice will be done again”.
He has been fighting many battles in court and working round the clock to ensure that music pays. How does he relax?
“Many of those, who know me know that I am a workaholic. I practically work round the clock and I almost always work with a smile. The result of the work I do relaxes me. The work positively affects thousands of people I do not know and whom I may never know. That gives me tremendous joy because the true measure of a man is not what he takes, but what he gives.
He was also asked why he wants to leave COSON at a time, COSON is just finding its feet?
“I have written in my Saturday Breakfast column on social media that I do not need the title of COSON Chairman to defend the interest of musicians in or to promote the Nigerian creative family. This is the work of my life. It is my calling. It is a mistake to believe that by taking away a title or an office I will wither. I have faced every kind of persecution in the course of the work I have chosen to do. I have been dragged to the EFCC. They have used defamation after defamation to try to put me away. There is no rubbish tale they have not told about me in an effort to stop me. Over and again, the courts have come to my rescue. I drive on a full tank of faith. I know that my redeemer liveth. The work I do is not to serve myself. It is my way of serving the Almighty. I will make whatever sacrifice that is necessary for COSON to continue to stand. By the grace of the Almighty, COSON will continue to stand”.