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By Damilola Fatunmise
After a couple of years of steering the COSON boat successfully, it was indeed with shock that the industry received news last week that COSON Chairman and copyrights expert, Tony Okoroji, had stepped down in favour of artiste and events manager, Efe Omorgbe. In this chat with TSWeekend, Okoroji opens up on his stewardship among other issues.
When you look back, how would you describe 2017 regarding COSON?
2017 has been a momentous year. In the middle of a biting recession, we commissioned the magnificent COSON House, the first and only structure of its kind by any organization 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 eight venues. The organisational demands of the COSON Week are incredibly back-breaking but we pulled it off successfully. At the COSON Week events, we had three federal ministers, representatives 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.
We understand that you are wrapping up plans for you EGM which holds on December 19. What are the highlights of this event?
Since the COSON 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 organization is the distribution of royalties to members and affiliates. While the Board can do this on its own, at COSON, we believe that because of the young nature of collective management of copyright in Nigeria, members should participate in deciding the scheme for royalty distribution and to make sure that it is transparent. That important process will be dealt with on December 19 at our EGM.
What is the secret to your success?
To be candid, organizing the COSON Week can be scary. Eight massive events at eight different venues over eight 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 two hours a day. My phone never stopped ringing! When it comes to major events organization, 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 Awards 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. 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 at war. I must be in touch with my generals all the time.
Currently MCSN was been approved. As the first CMO to be approved by government, what is your take on this move and how has COSON been relating with MCSN?
We have publicly said that the processes or lack of processes leading to the purported approval of MCSN are unlawful. How can the Attorney-General of the Federation, the chief law officer of our country, direct the NCC to approve an organization and its leaders that the same NCC has filed seven different on-going criminal cases against? This organization and its leaders that the government has accused of being criminals and who are presently 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, will 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 can 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 proven to be my shield against evil. I believe that in the fullness of time, justice will be done again.
You have been fighting many battles in court forever and working round the clock to ensure that music pays. How do you 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.
Sir, COSON is just finding its feet and you are handing over. No one expected you to leave at this time. What exactly is going on?
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 Nigeria 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 over 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.