CUT Away From My Address At COSON AGM
By TONY OKOROji
COSON is a child of struggle. Nothing we have got has come easy.
Let no one forget that our struggle to be approved was herculean.
You will recall that following our approval eight years ago, we reached out to everyone so that we can work together for the benefit of everyone and for the good of our nation.
While many harkened to our call and have worked with us to create this institution for collective management of copyright in Nigeria, there are people who swore that COSON would never stand. Relentlessly, they have mounted massive campaigns against our society and fought us with unimaginable venom. No compromise has been good enough for them. What they seek is the death of COSON.
Has anyone forgotten that a few years ago, as we set out to distribute royalties to our members, some people went to court to seek an injunction to stop us from distributing the money that rightly belongs to you? What happened eventually? They failed.
In 2010, they went to court to challenge even the registration of COSON by the Corporate Affairs Commission. What was the result? They failed.
They challenged the approval of COSON. Tell you what? They failed.
They went to court and challenged the law under which COSON was approved saying that the law is unconstitutional. They failed.
Then, they tried to bamboozle the court saying that they are not a collecting society but ‘owners, assignees and exclusive licensees’. Of course, they failed.
When they were arrested and charged to court for running an illegal collecting society, they started shouting “fundamental human rights” and went to court. Once again, they failed.
Recently, they tried to drive a wedge between the COSON GM and the society. They failed.
Thereafter, they tried to drive a wedge between the Head of Finance and the GM. They failed.
They even tried to forcefully take over COSON House. They failed.
They harassed the police to stop this AGM. They failed.
They wrote to Sheraton Hotel to lock us out. They failed.
They began a campaign to stop stakeholders from attending the AGM yet Sheraton Hotel is full to the brim and over flowing. They failed.
They said that they have ‘suspended’ our operating licence yet COSON is still working.
Why do they continue to fail and COSON continues to succeed? The answer is simple. COSON is driven by love and the desire to do good for the benefit of all. They are driven by greed and selfishness.
By the grace of the Almighty, COSON has proven and continues to prove to the world that with determination and honesty of purpose, nothing is impossible. Distinguished members of COSON, please, if anyone ever says to you again that nothing works in Nigeria, look at the person in the face and say to him or her, “COSON is working”.
When on December 7, 2017, without notice, it was decided by some of my colleagues on the COSON Board that they wanted another face as Chairman of COSON, I immediately knew who was at work and who had clandestinely penetrated our board. In spite of the fact that I did not agree with the timing nor the procedure, I took my lap top and left COSON House. I did not complain to anyone. I did not quarrel with anyone. I did not insult anyone. Next day, I addressed the staff of COSON on speaker phone and asked them to go about their duties with confidence and pride and even work harder for the organization than they had done with me as Chairman.
When on December 19, 2017, after 12 days of my absence, you, the members of COSON ushered me into COSON House with that unforgettable thunderous ovation and overwhelming kindness, I cried. I cried in public because not many people live to witness such profound recognition and appreciation of their efforts.
Article 8 of the COSON Articles of Association states as follows:
“Notwithstanding any provision in these articles, the General Assembly shall be the supreme organ of the society with powers to vary, annul or otherwise modify any decision or action of the Management Board”.
When the General Assembly took the decision which you expressly have the right to take under the COSON articles, to annul the December 7 decision of the board, I believed that the handful of members of our board who organized themselves to remove me, would act like true democrats and sportsmen, appreciate that whether the members were right or wrong, you acted within your powers.
I have watched TV programs during which incredibly defamatory things have been said about me and facts twisted so badly to run me down. They even wrote a very long petition to the Copyright Commission against me and asked their friends in the NCC to jump into the arena, twist the law and the rules, make pronouncements that lack rhyme nor reason and install them in office. I am a firm believer that you may go left or right but ultimately power resides with the people and not with any government official.
I have heard it said that COSON does not want to be regulated by the NCC. That is false. I am a key founding farther of the NCC and helped to write the law establishing the agency and served twice on its board. I believe that it is important that COSON has a very mutually respectful relationship with the NCC.
No other organization has accounted to the NCC more than COSON. Every year, apart from our audited accounts, we submit a huge Activity Report made up of hundreds of pages to the NCC. We have worked closely with the NCC on many initiatives.
It is our humbly but strongly held view that COSON is an independent private sector organization and that the leadership of COSON is not determined by the NCC but by the members and owners of COSON.
It is our humbly but strongly held view that while the NCC regulates our copyright royalty collecting activities, the internal affairs of COSON are regulated by the Memorandum & Articles of Association of COSON registered under the Companies & Allied Matters Act (CAMA) administered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC)
There are those who have expressed the view that a regulator is faultless and cannot be challenged. In other words, when someone regulates you, you have become a slave. With all due respect, I disagree. The NCC is run by human beings and every human being can make mistakes. With all due respect, the attempt to foist a leadership on COSON is ultra vires the powers of the NCC under the law. It is a mistake. When we conceived the NCC, it was meant to be an organization that works for the creative industry and not one that bosses the creative industry.
The great thing about the COSON experience is that it is taking all of us in Nigeria through an important civic lesson. At the end of the day, we may all learn that nobody’s power is absolute and that free citizens must remain free to say no to those who assume power to protect the people and use it against the people.
There are those who are afraid that COSON will die as a result of the present issues. I disagree. Those who know the true story of COSON know that the organization is a product of the continuous challenge of impunity and lack of respect for the rule of law.
COSON begins to die the day it accepts that injustice is right and the rule of law is meaningless. COSON will grow stronger and stronger when everyone, in or out of government, comes to the realization that creative people in Nigeria have come of age; that we deserve respect and no one should take us for granted any more.
See you next week.