WAR IN COPYRIGHT COMMUNITY: #Okoroji Did Not Found COSON And I, Efe Omorogbe, Is COSON Chairman

Efe Omorogbe, the young man who has been involved in a supremacy battle with Chief Tony Okoroji as to who the authentic chairman of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON),on Thursday,January 26, 2018, opened up on the genesis of the crisis.

According to him, the impression that Okoroji founded COSON, was wrong and untrue.

He claimed that the organization was founded by stakeholders in the music industry who were and still investing in it and were not recouping their investment then just because of the unending fight between the defunct Performing Musicians Right Society (PMRS) chaired by Okoroji and the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria with Mr. Mayo Ayilaran as the general manager then, which some unscrupulous traders at Alaba International Market, Lagos and other big markets across the country exploited to pirate the creative musical works of Nigerian musicians and smiled to the bank in the process.

“At a stage, we were sick and tired of the squabbles between the two organization, PMRS and MCSN, so we came together as stakeholders in the industry and held a meeting at Protea Hotel to form a new body and also asked PMRS and MCSN to ceasefire. While PMRS was willing and made some concessions to MCSN, the latter was not comfortable with the proposal. So it so wrong to say that MCSN instigated us to do what we did on December 17 2017 by removing Okoroji as our chairman.

Again, we went for PMRS back then because we were in a hurry to beat the four months period that the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), then under Prof. Adebambo Adewopo, gave to us to submit fresh application to be considered for licensing as a new collective management organization (CMO). We were told by lawyers then that it will take at least nine months to get registered as limited guarantee company by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). So in order to meet the four months window of opportunity, we decided to approach PMRS which was more at home with our suggestion to register a new body with NCC for a change of name and that was how COSON was born. So, it wrong to say or believe that Okoroji single handedly formed COSON and that the rest of us only came in to chop when the food has been cooked. That is not true and no one individual can claim to have founded the organization. We only voted for Chief Okoroji to chair the organization in accordance to the Copyright Act of Nigeria,” he said.

He said that Okoroji does not own COSON and that whoever was fit to be on the board is also fit to chair the organization except for three people he said have used their membership of the board to also act as consultants to the organization and so are guilty of. He reiterated the fact that no one man is indispensable as members of the public are being made to believe in some of the write-ups circulating in the cyberspace.

Omorogbe who spoke to ONNLive in his Olowara, Lagos office, said that he still maintains that Okoroji was voted out of office as a result of the petition written to the board against him (Okoroji) by some very senior members of the board and the query issued to him on the strength of the petition which the petitioners copied the NCC.

He also did not fail to remind the public that they were not prepared to make the removal of Chief Okoroji a press issue, that Okoroji pushed them into it when he began to call them names in his Saturday Breakfast column on Facebook.

“Okoroji pushed us into all of these, he forced our hands into it; we were not ready to tell the world what happened but he went to his Saturday Breakfast column to call some of us names. If you look carefully at the press releases we first issued, we only said he has been replaced and that Efe Omorogbe has taken over. That was it; but he went to his column to say that suddenly we can run COSON better than him, that we are serial petition writers and so on. If Okoroji had done the needful by throwing in the towel as advised by Obi Askia, one of the directors, there would not have been need for this exposure,” Omorogbe said in an answer as to why they are washing their dirty linen in the open. “In 2015, he wrote a masterpiece entitled ‘Take Five Efe’ in which he poured encomium on me for all I did in making COSON a reality and my numerous contributions at meetings. Now in 2018, he sees me as incapable of heading the organization. Is that not ridiculous? Has that not shown that the success of COSON is not all about him?”

He also, in attempt to justify the fact that Okoroji did not make COSON, he revealed that half of the catalogue that now belong to COSON ARE OWNED BY MEMBERS LIKE 2FACE WHO RESIGNED FROM MCSN to join COSON and wondered why Okoroji keeps giving the impression that he made COSON through his hard work and personal sacrifice. Though, he acknowledged that Okoroji has incredible work ethics and he is a brilliant writer.”

Below is the full text of the interview for your pleasurable reading.

No executive chairman for COSON

The chairmanship position is not an executive office. We do not have office for the chairman because the chairman is not expected to be there 23/7. He is a non executive chairman. The story that the chairman works 20 hours is not correct; we should have and maintain management staff that should be answerable to the general manager who in turn is responsible to the chairman and board.

COSON started with zero naira and today we are pushing to one billion naira mark and if anybody tells you that without him, the organization would not have made it, he is not telling you the truth. Anybody elected to the board can be elected chairman of COSON except the three who in my mind are not fit to chair the body. So, Okoroji has made the chairmanship position larger than life. We should have a suitably, qualified management under the supervision of a G, M., who will be answerable to the board. The G, M, should take care of the day to day running of the body, the board will only convene once or twice as the case may be to review the policy direction of the organization.

When I said that COSON is neither a trade union nor association but a company limited by guarantee, whose chairmanship is not a full time job, people do not understand me. Why are people saying but Okoroji is giving the impression that he works round the clock for COSON and that an Efe Omorogbe, does or would not have the time to devote to COSON and I laugh at their ignorance of the workings of a chairman of a body like COSON.

So, if the GM is not capable of running the place then let us replace him or her instead of giving people the impression that you are the all and all. This is my private company, I founded it, I am the chairman of its board but I cannot tell you that if I am away for six months it will collapse; if I say so you should be worried. And if your son or wife works here and I said that, you should be worried about his or job security. We set up businesses, empower its workforce by working very hard to push them so that the business can outlive us, so that we can go on holidays or retire and watch it grow. Any human being that goes around saying that without him, COSON cannot work has serious problem.

What do you think the other board members saw in you that made them vote for you as Okoroji’s successor, because some of us still see you as ‘Okoroji’s boy’. Don’t you think that they only want to use you to settle their score against him?

I have so much respect for Okoroji, no doubt about that, until I found out some of his weak points as enumerated in the petition which led to his ouster. I found out who he is. I have many people I am their boy. For instance, I call Eddie Lawani my mentor. I am happy to be called an Eddie Lawani’s boy. So, I have no issue if you call me Okoroji’s boy. I work primarily as a talent manager. By my nature and work I know how to submit myself to what I believe in. I can pick up an artiste today, pay his rent, studio fees, buy him or her car and yet refer to him as my boss.. I do not have a problem with all that. At a time, I had a whole lot of respect for Okoroji; there are a lot of nice things about him. If I told you that there is nothing I admire in him, I must be lying. Okoroji is a great guy in a lot of ways. I like his work ethos; he is a brilliant writer, a dogged fighter. If it is about war I will probably not be interested. He is a formidable opponent.

However, if we gather here for two hours, let it be for a reason. There is a time you will depend on his doggedness to push things across the line but the issue is that six out of 10 directors say he should and he must go. As to what they saw in me, I do not know because anybody on the board is capable of occupying the post of chairman. You can go and ask those who voted for me that question because I have not yet asked them what they saw in me.

Apart from Baba Dee, Obi Asika that voted for his removal, what about the others, why are they not voicing out their opinion on the matter?

Oh! They do. They do. They all signed our press statement. On the day of our press conference, they were here and signed the press statement. So, they do. In addition to six of us on the board, Mr.. Laolu Akins, represented his section of the industry. On the high table, we had the president of AMBIBROS; we addressed the press together, signed and issued the statement. It is not until everybody jump into the space to make statement that you will know that they are with us. Why did they sign the statement if they are not with us? They won’t sign the statement if they are not in agreement with the content of the statement.

Where do we go from here now that the bubble has bust?

Do your due and thorough investigation the way I have presented them. Capture Okoroji’s position well too. That is why I said ‘asked him the right questions.’ Do not hide anything. Ask him why he was impeached as the chairman of COSON. And he will likely say that you cannot make omelet without breaking eggs. That he stepped on toes. That some people are not happy with the progress he has made and so have ganged up against him. The people who wrote petition against him said that they are not satisfied with the contractors engaged in the refurbishment of the building that is now called COSON House, is true. That they are not satisfied with idea of asking for fund to offset the cost incurred during COSON week. Ask him all these and let him reply. Ask him to tell you why they are not happy at all with the good things he has done, Can anybody be angry with you if you are doing a good job? Certainly, not an Efe Omorogbe. I won’t be part of it. He knows me well and he once confessed to the kind of person I am in an article he wrote titled ‘Take Five Efe Omorogbe.” Is there on the cyberspace you can go and read it. How then do I suddenly become a bad guy in less than four year after the beautiful write up?

They are also dissatisfied with his handling of the petition some members wrote against him copies of which was sent to the NCC,our regulatory body. They also alleged that he personalized ideas, highlighted some publications he made in public space which did not go down well with them and which was neither here nor there. There are so many questions, let him answer them truthfully. That as a chairman of the board, he got a petition from senior members of the board and refused to answer it and chose to answer that of NCC.

For a year he ignored it. If people are not happy with the progress he has made, was COSON not set up to collect royalty and distribute; the money is meant to be shared and if he has done that well among other things why should serious person beef him? Why? He should stop this saying to people that he built COSON House. I have told you how the idea of the house came about. It is not one person’s idea or effort. Again, we were formerly at 25 Omodara Street Opebi until the owner gave us quit notice that he wants to use his property for something else and we had two options – to go and rent another building or buy one and stop paying rent, we opted for the second option and that was how COSON House came to the picture, I have heard people say that Okoroji built COSON House, is giving them royalty and that Efe Omorogbe will not. That I do not support the idea of general distribution. Was COSON not set up primarily to distribute the money it has collected in form of royalty? If I am against distribution, what will COSON be doing with all the money it has collected on behalf of artistes if I am against distribution? Build another COSON House in V.I. or Abuja? That is the problem in itself. If I am canvassing that COSON be paid its due royalty, the question then will be what will I do with such money? What will COSON under me do with it? When we collect, we distribute. And if you are a registered member of COSON, you get. Okoroji is not doing anybody favour by collecting and distributing loyalty, Efe Omorogbe won’t and can’t stop it, Baba Dee can’t change it either. It is the norm all over the world and that is what COSON was set up to do. So please engage this man and tell him to stop this saying this to people. He can’t build COSON House. Is it with his money?

You have not answered my question as per the crisis rocking COSON. When and how do you think this will be settled?

The best solution is for him to respond to the allegations of the petitioners and respond quickly. If you want my personal opinion, I will say that COSON account should be audited. Forensic audit that is what some of us are calling for. We are calling for a proper probe and any director found guilty should be made to face the music. This is the proper thing to do to calm all frayed nerves. It is as simple as that. That will serve as a deterrent and people will know that Nigerian organizations are not personal fiefdom where anything goes or can happen. We gave him option to resign and announce his successor while still on the board. But he spoke to many people and said that COSON will be vulnerable if he goes. Nothing makes COSON more vulnerable than what he is doing now. If the board is divided is COSON not vulnerable? After that his statement, I told people at the board meeting on December 7, 2017 that I will walk out and about six people said that I should not, that if I do they will follow suit.

It was then that we put it into vote and he lost. We then reconstituted the finance committee. Obi Asika had earlier advised him to resign to avoid the shame of impeachment, announce his successor and offer his knowledge of copyright, if needed, as a board member which he still is because we have no power to remove him as one. But as chairman, we can. We were not prepared to tell the public anything beyond the change of guard or the reason why we removed him but he forced our hands into going to the press when in his Saturday Breakfast column on Facebook, he called us serial petition writers among other things. So we had to reply.

Two days after, that same man surfaced and like a scene in the Nollywood film, they asked him if he was given fair hearing to which he said no and he was allegedly reinstated.

People are alleging that there an external influence in what you did on December 7, is that true?

We were dealing with a petition. We were not instigated by anybody, whether private or government. That said, the petition raised so many issues and we wanted him to respond to them and he was not forthcoming. The petition was addressed to the board and from its content it was clear that the alleged offences were not committed by the entire board but by a few. In that case, what should we have done? Sweep it under the carpet or call the bluff of the petitioners so that we will not be accused of working for external factor? If we get the petition and refuse to discuss it, then it means that we are not fit to be on COSON board.

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