In continuation of what has been termed a “wide, deep and critical” sensitisation of stakeholders with interest in music copyright in Nigeria, a delegation of the Board of Copyright Society of Nigeria, COSON, last week, stormed Ibadan, the Oyo State capital where it met with the leadership and representatives of PMAN; members of the Association of Juju Musicians of Nigeria, AJUM, Fuji Musicians Association of Nigeria, FUMAN, Gospel Musicians’ Association of Nigeria, GOMAN, Christian Musicians Association of Nigeria, CMAN, Islamic Musicians’ Association of Nigeria, ISMAN, and other stakeholders in the music industry in Oyo State.
The delegation which left Lagos with a “solidarity message” from Chief Tony Okoroji, the COSON Chairman and eminent former President of PMAN, was made up of two senior members of the COSON Board: the great producer and celebrated drummer, Mr. Richard Ayodele Cole and the respected gospel minister, Evangelist Olusegun Omoyayi.
The COSON delegation which was enthusiastically received by the PMAN Governor, Comrade Taiwo Omotunde with leaders of the various music industry associations, read the solidarity message of Chief Okoroji and answered several questions raised by the huge number of stakeholders present to interact with the delegation.
In his message, Chief Okoroji apologised for his inability to be personally present due to circumstances beyond his control. He traced the warm relationship that has existed between him and music industry stakeholders in Oyo State.
Said Chief Okoroji, “During the period that I have served our industry, I have always stood for the unity of musicians across Nigeria without any discrimination whatsoever. I am a great believer in the saying, “United we stand, Divided we fall”. I therefore believe that all of us, whether we play juju music, fuji music, gospel music, Islamic music, afro beat and every other expression of music, are members of one family. As National President of PMAN, every arm of our industry was represented in the PMAN leadership during my tenure.
‘To underline the respect I have for the musicians of Oyo State, you will recall that in September, 2016, I led the entire leadership of COSON to an almost one week of engagement with the music industry stakeholders in Oyo State.
“During our visit, the late Olubadan of Ibadan, His Royal Majesty, Oba Saliu Akanmu Adetunji accorded the COSON team a great reception in his palace. You will also recall that we held a historic COSON Stakeholder’s forum which took place at the Kakanfo Conference Centre, in Ibadan. Present at the Forum were the representatives of then Governor Abiola Ajimobi, in the persons of the Oyo State Commissioner for Information, Tourism and Culture, Mr. Toye Arulogun and Alhaji Rasheed Ayinde, Special Adviser to the Oyo State Governor on Entertainment.
“Among the top music industry figures present at the forum were the likes of GOMAN President, Dr. Funmi Aragbaye; Afro Juju Pioneer, Sir Shina Peters and Ace Gospel Music Artiste, Lady Evangelist Bola Are.
“We were also at the University of Ibadan where we interacted with the lecturers and students in the creative arts departments and those engaged in the teaching and learning of intellectual property law”.
Chief Okoroji observed that in Oyo State, there are hundreds of staunch COSON members who have enjoyed the rights and benefits of COSON membership.
In his message, Chief Okoroji pointed out the significant challenges and obstacles recently faced in the collective management of music copyright in Nigeria which obstacles, according to him, were created by some officials of the outgoing Federal Government and their cronies and which obstacles have in recent times affected the distribution of music copyright royalties which COSON had done successfully for several years.
In his words, “It is common knowledge that following the establishment of COSON, the jinx that made it impossible to collect and distribute music copyright royalties transparently in Nigeria was broken. It is on record that COSON distributed royalties totaling hundreds of millions of Naira to thousands of right owners in Nigeria in years 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
“It is also on record that in the heat of the Coronavirus lockdown in 2020, when there was practically no income for musicians in Nigeria, COSON became the first organisation in Nigeria to offer any form of COVID-19 palliative to thousands of its members across Nigeria. Oyo State was not left out of this distribution which was done with utmost transparency and without any quarrel or rancour. In the action, COSON proved itself to be a caring, very responsible and responsive organisation.
“You all know that in 2017, COSON commissioned the magnificent COSON House in Ikeja, the only edifice of its type owned by any organisation in the Nigerian creative industry, a source of pride to musicians in Nigeria.
“Unfortunately, because of the vicious nature of the Nigerian political environment, our success began to attract envy and the usual Nigerian bad belle. Some top officers of the Nigerian government were told that COSON is a gold mine. So, they began to work assiduously, in collusion with some people in our industry, to take over COSON for themselves and their friends at the expense of the musicians of Nigeria.
“Determined to make COSON their private ATM, they told many lies against us as they tried to destroy the image of COSON and its leadership. They have twisted and mutilated the law and turned it upside down and tried every trick and maneuver, including the heavy deployment of government security agents to turn COSON, an independent private sector organisation into their private cash cow. We have stood firm and said “No!”.
“It is on record that every single year since the incorporation of COSON, we have had our accounts professionally audited and certified by the members. Recently, COSON invited one of the most respected accounting firms in the world and for seven months subjected itself to a complete forensic audit, something no other organisation in the history of the Nigerian creative industry has ever done.
“We have had to deploy the law, maybe like no other organisation in the history of Nigeria, to form a barricade against the attackers of COSON and save the organisation for our members and the coming generation.
“Without question, COSON remains Nigeria’s biggest copyright collective management organisation with several thousands of members across Nigeria and millions of musical works and sound recordings, both domestic and international, which works are legally assigned to or placed in the repertoire of COSON.
“For the avoidance of doubt, COSON continues to operate lawfully and at no time has COSON ceded the rights to license any of the millions of musical works and sound recordings lawfully assigned to it, to anyone else and no one including the Nigeria Copyright Commission is empowered by law to authorise anyone else to license works in the COSON repertoire which are property belonging to innocent citizens recognised as such by the Nigerian constitution.
“I am proud of the members of COSON, everywhere in Nigeria, our Board members, and the indefatigable Management team at COSON.
“I want to assure you all that as the present government is set to go away, the period of the locust is almost at an end. COSON will soon fully resume the distribution of royalties and benefits to our members, and music industry stakeholder in Oyo State will be key beneficiaries of the victory of COSON.
“Every member of COSON including members of COSON in Oyo State should walk tall and be proud that the musicians of Nigeria have refused to be cowards and slaves in our country and that we have proved that the rampaging economic and political bandits in Nigeria will not be allowed to overrun the music industry.
“I assure you that at the end of the day, we will have the last laugh as we create new sweet music, dance and sing to the glory of the Almighty and in solidarity and pride, ensure that everybody hears those iconic words for which COSON is very well known, “Let the music pay!”
Confirming the elements of the message of Chief Okoroji, PMAN Governor, Comrade Taiwo Omotunde, said that he is aware that over 90% of the musicians in Oyo State are members of COSON and that he is a recipient of the COVID-19 palliative distributed by COSON. The COSON delegation was assured that musicians in Oyo State continue to respect COSON and will continue to give COSON their full support.