By Efe Omorogbe
Contrary to the fraudulent narrative being sold to the public since the purported reinstatement of Tony Okoroji, the former chairman of COSON board was voted out at the December 7, 2017 board meeting after more than 4 hours of deliberations on issues surrounding the illegal dissolution of standing committees and the board’s position in reaction to a petition addressed to it by concerned stakeholders.
Written by respected stakeholders and COSON founding fathers (Evangelist Ebenezer Obey – Fabiyi (MFR) – : Himself, Obey Music & Pioneer Music/Afrodisia; Mr. Bode Akinyemi – : Ivory Music; Chief OsitaOkeke – : OssyAffason Ltd; Chief Rogers Okonkwo – : Rogers All Star Records; Mr. Laolu Akins – : Artist, Composer & Publisher and Mr. Toju Ejueyitchie – : Premier Music Publishing Ltd), the petition raised pertinent questions about the running of the society by the board under Tony Okoroji.
Okoroji’s lengthy responses to the issues offered neither reasonable defense nor admittance of wrongdoing. The need to save the society from the highhandedness and gross abuse of office by the then chairman of the board became apparent. Consequently, 6 out of 10 board members present at the emergency board meeting of December 7, 2017 voted for Okoroji’s removal as chairman for the following reasons among others :
- Dissatisfaction with the clear conflict between him acting as Executive Chairman of COSON, and him acting as a contractor and consultant to COSON through his company TOPS and other vehicles.
- Dissatisfaction with the continued engagement of companies owned by fellow directors, Azeezat Allen and John Uduegbunam as consultants to COSON.
- Disapproval of the manner of handling of an earlier petition by Premier Music Publishing Company Ltd (the owner of over 1,000 musical works and sound recordings), personalization of the issues and misrepresentation of the directors’ true sentiments in his response to the NCC query on the same petition.
- Disapproval of the conduct of the chairman on the issue of negotiation and payment of the contractor who handled the renovation work at The COSON House.
- Disapproval of the chairman’s claim of 10% commission on licensing income deemed to have been “brought in” by him.
- Disapproval of the 15% commission claimed by TOPS/Creative Legal from MTN’s settlement payment and the fact that the sum of N22,500,000.00 was paid out without the knowledge, approval and signature of the finance committee chairman, Joel Ajayi and other members. As a rule, signatories do not sign cheques to themselves as beneficiaries and payments above N2,000,000,00 require board approval.
- Disagreement with the hurried and illegal dissolution of all standing committees in the absence of key members.
- Total lack of confidence in the credibility and ability of the chairman to superintend any proposed restructuring process that will enthrone world class corporate governance to protect the society from unethical business practices and abuse of office.
- Disapproval of Okoroji’s request for the board’s approval for COSON to underwrite a quoted sum of N26, 200,000.00 as cost incurred by his company, TOPS in the execution of The COSON Week – a series of events which contractually, are allowed to hold on the condition that the production company can independently generate the funding. For three editions in a row the board has had to approve the bill, with no oversight, no insight, no tenders, the board was no longer prepared to allow the Chairman to consume COSON.
The NCC was represented at this December 7, 2017 Emergency Board Meeting by Mr. Obi Ezeilo who conducted and recorded the board votes when Okoroji was removed.
The board voted yours truly as chairman with immediate effect and banned directors and their companies from operating as vendors or consultants to COSON under any guise. The board also reconstituted its finance committee to deal with the request by Okoroji for the society to pay N26.2m to TOPS to defray the quoted cost for COSON Week and commences engagement with PWC and KPMG for auditing and strategic growth support.
Fearing for his personal livelihood and the possibility of probe, Okoroji swung into action.
The Tony Okoroji Show, AKA COSON EGM of December 19, 2017 that purportedly reinstated him as chairman and sacked the elected board is an illegality and only succeeded in showcasing Okoroji’s desperation to remain board chairman at all cost.
Let me state it unequivocally that we did not commit invaluable time, energy and resources over the last 10 years to build a functional CMO for Nigeria and her creative community for Okoroji to run it aground.
I got actively involved in the process that birthed COSON in 2006. Quite like a lot of players in the industry from my generation, I felt a sense of frustration and anger with the reality of creating, packaging, promoting, and monetizing music in the 1995 – 2007 era. Too much of what was due to us was lost to piracy, and the absence of a working collective management system.
As founder/CEO at Now Muzik, a leading talent management, record label and entertainment consultancy firm, I and others have previously and currently been actively involved with or entirely responsible for looking after stars like Daniel Wilson, Tunde & Wunmi Obe, Funke, Felix Duke, 2Face Idibia, Ruggedman, Raw, Obiwon, Freestyle, 2 Shots, African China and Sunny Neji among many others.
In my opinion, anyone who invested the same measure of time, talent and resources in the music business at that level and didn’t lose sleep over the debilitating problems of piracy and collective management was either a joker or a fraud. It made absolutely no sense to see the potential in the business and be contented with a big name, recognizable face, paltry income and no pension.
There was a group of entertainment practitioners who believed that the fame was as good as money but I defered. I wasn’t big on fame or recognition and had little need for titles and “privileged access”. I love and enjoy what I do and my overriding desire is to be effective at what I do and earn my due – in monetary terms.
Not one to knock anyone’s hustle but I’ve never had the patience to grovel at some big shot who likes entertainment people and “blesses” them with access and gifts when he or she is in a jolly mood. I respect my time. I want to pop in, offer my professional service, get paid, shake hands and bounce.
By 2006 I reckoned it was time. I reckoned that I had too much at stake and was a bit too influential to play the victim. I had no moral right to expect anyone else to take up the responsibility. My work in media (Hip-hop World Magazine, Hearts, Global Sounds etc), song writing and production, talent management, consultancy and event production had helped me build important relationships with a large number of the leading figures in the game – artistes, producers, engineers, marketers, media platform owners and personalities, promoters, printers, graphic artistes, video directors, label execs, A&R, the whole nine. These relationships were built mainly on trust and mutual respect and these two elements were vital in initiating and sustaining the conversation that birthed the Association of Music Business Professionals (AM.B-Pro), the Nigerian Music Industry Coalition and then Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON).
We started out with a series of meetings in 2006 under the tag, Music Business Forum. With the support of key figures like Edi Lawani, Joey Ukpong, Audu Maikori, Obi Asika, Paul Dairo, Sunny Nneji, Keke Ogungbe, Edem Essang, Femi “Kwame” Aderibigbe, Carl Raccah, Wunmi Tunde-Obe, Tony Anifite, Bayo Omisore, Solomon Arueya, Ayo Rotimi, Alec Godwin, Tunde Laoye, Felix Duke, Solomon Shonaiya, Tochukwu Joe, and Gift “Muma Gee” Uwame to mention a few, we grew Music Business Forum (MBF) into Association of Music Business Professionals (AM.B – Pro) by early 2007 and intensified engagement with the Nigerian Copyright Commission, the office of the AGF and organisations like NARI, MCSN, PMRS, PMAN and others.
Under the guidance of my mentor and President, Edi Lawani, I directly engaged senior industry colleagues and leaders like ace producer and composer, Laolu Akins, Ben Ofoeze, Joel Ajayi and Tony Ejueyitchie via NARI from whom I got invaluable insight into the history of the issues that have arrested the development of the industry. I was also brought up to speed on what is being done to resolve the challenges with piracy and collective management with a view to unlocking the revenue generation potential of the music industry and reported back to the AM. B- Pro team.
In reference to his statement in the published article “Take 5 EfeOmorogbe” about the state of our relationship prior to the AM.B – Pro/PMRS/MCSN conversations; it is true I didn’t care much about Tony Okoroji. From the outside looking in, the impression was that he was a big part of the problem bedeviling collective management in Nigeria and PMAN. Not too many people I had interactions with had good things to say about him (and the other party for that matter) but our focus was firmly on forcing a resolution. Of course, building bridges and creating alliances with as many relevant stakeholders as possible was a vital starting point.
On a personal level, I prefer giving everyone the benefit of a doubt, dealing with them one-on-one and forming my own opinion. After a decade of dealing with Okoroji one-on-one, my opinion of him is crystal clear – he has become the biggest threat to the process of growing COSON into a world class organization.
Indeed, Okoroji has done some measure of commendable work in the growth of COSON and for this he has been robustly praised. But none of the positives could have been achieved without the invaluable and largely uncelebrated contribution of key members, elders and directors – past and present.
Essentially, the AM.B-Pro team and key stakeholders have provided the credibility, access, steel, relationships and goodwill that have enabled the board, management and legal teams to achieve the glowing results that Okoroji has wholly ascribed to himself in his fatal descent into megalomania with the attendant delusions of grandeur.
Okoroji’s cult of personality antics have completely impaired his vision of reality.
The public comments of the man’s key acolytes belie the tragedy of Tony Okoroji -:
“Okoroji is COSON and COSON is Okoroji. It is therefore inconceivable that anyone’s actions can be pro-COSON unless it is pro- Okoroji”. Sad!
Okoroji set off the annihilation of his carefully contrived legacy the minute he started believing the myth he has continually sold his acolytes and the mob. Okoroji was voted out as chairman by the board for clear infractions he was unable to defend, but his ego, inordinate ambition and fear of probe would not allow him accept the option to leave quietly. So he has chosen to self destruct.
When the mob gets weary, the drunk becomes sober, the noise dies down and the dust of desperate distractions setlles, the questions will be revisited, infractions probed and the TRUTH will kill the litany of lies. Okoroji will wallow in his shame and COSON will grow from strength to strength as a world class CMO and not one man’s personal hustle.
We are resolute in our commitment to that. We, as a team, have overcome countless hurdles in the journey thus far. Okoroji’s last minute “gragra” is just the next hurdle to scale. COSON is here to stay!
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