Tosin Ajirire; Funsho Arogundade; Oke Oshevire
The crisis rocking the nation’s sole collective management organisation, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), is festering by the day. Even with the interventions of major stakeholders in the entertainment industry, it seems peace is still elusive.
Only recently, the regulatory agency, Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) through a letter mandated Tony Okoroji to step down as the chairman of COSON. However, Okoroji stuck to his gun, declaring and insisting that NCC has no power to control or meddle in COSON’s internal affairs.
Taking a step further, NCC suspended the license it granted COSON. And now the fear is that if the crisis remains unresolved, the license may be revoked entirely in the next couple of months. Here, septuagenarian showbiz impresario and Guv’nor of celebrity hangout, Niteshift Coliseum, Ken Calebs-Olumese, expresses his fears for COSON if the big hammer of NCC is allowed to fall on it.
COSON has been enmeshed in crisis in the recent times, as an elder and major stakeholder in the entertainment industry, what is the way forward in resolving the issues?
Let me start by telling you that I’m not a member of COSON but I know people who belong to COSON. I have an idea of what is happening in COSON, and as an elder, I have to speak the truth. When a crisis arises in a public organisation and it is not nipped in the bud, it could become a big issue that may not be resolved. As an elder in the industry, I know a lot of people, so I called Efe (Omorogbe) and spoke to him. He told me what was happening but I refused to give him my opinion. Rather, I said I would like to see Tony (Okoroji) first. I called Tony and he came to me twice to discuss the issue. I tried to find a middle ground that will bring the two of them together to resolve the issue without seeking external help. But all efforts I made failed, so I decided to withdraw not forgetting about the reconciliation efforts. Eventually, I was told that Efe was arrested and locked up, so I had to intervene again.
Efe was eventually charged to court. I called Tony and told him we should withdraw the case from the police. The COSON lawyers were at the police station, saying the instruction they had was not to make peace but to follow the case to a logical conclusion. That was where my intervention ended. In fairness to Tony (Okoroji), we all know he worked very hard; he built COSON with his dedication and attitude to work. At the end of the day, his argument was that the crisis in COSON couldn’t be resolved except through the court. But if the two parties go before the judge and say they want to make peace, they are given an opportunity to withdraw the case and make peace. I have not read the constitution of COSON thoroughly, so I cannot say who is right and wrong. From what I know and what I’ve heard from other people in COSON, I believe it was a crisis that could’ve been managed properly if the people involved wanted to resolve it. Another take on this is if the two parties, Efe and Tony, are interested in the upliftment and development of COSON then they should be able to reconcile; because if they do, it is in the interest of COSON; and if they don’t, the entertainment industry as a whole will lose.
When there are crises like this especially when it concerns collection of public money (royalty), the government would have to intervene. Recently, the NCC suspended COSON’s license and I said the way to go about it is to ensure that they lift the suspension by trying to resolve what the NCC says is the cause of the conflict… All efforts failed because Tony, as far as I’m concerned, said he wants a pronouncement by the court. I told him that since we’re all fighting for the same interest, we could resolve it without going to court. I got a call from some of my friends, they created a Whatsapp group but I cannot disclose the names of these people. They called me and I agreed to be added to the group chat; we discussed the issue there. Some people were mandated to talk to Efe while others were mandated to talk to Okoroji. We made efforts to contact them and they said they contacted Okoroji and he insisted there could be no reconciliation except through the court. So, all our efforts failed. I know respectable people in that group who had nothing at stake in COSON other than looking for a way to prevent the death of COSON. That is the background of the issue and my involvement with it. I still relate with both parties because I know them very well but my take is that it’s always good in an organisation to carry everyone along.
Considering all your efforts to ensure this matter is resolved amicably and also the interventions of other stakeholders are you not afraid that COSON might go the way of PMAN, which for many years now, is enmeshed in crisis?
Of course, that is the fear of every stakeholder. That is why efforts were being made by a group of non-COSON members who were interested. I’ve attended COSON events and I get a little bit scared when I go to such events because the type of faces you would like to see are not there. If COSON, a collective society for all the big artistes in this country is doing something, we should expect to see a big family of musicians who collect their livelihood from the organization, but when that is not happening, there is something wrong. It is a cause for concern. If I wasn’t concerned, I wouldn’t have intervened and others wouldn’t have intervened also. In my understanding, the chairman of COSON is first of all a member of the board. Just like the Senate, you cannot become president of the Senate without being a senator. If the Senators don’t like what the president is doing they can decide to impeach him, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Under the NCC rule, if the license of an organisation like COSON is suspended and the issue that led to the suspension is not resolved after three months, the license could be revoked. What do you think could be the quick fix for COSON so they don’t have to start from the scratch?
Nothing can be done quickly or shortly because it takes two people to make peace or reconcile. The issue here is that Nigerian courts are not meant for a particular set of people, they are meant for everybody. As Tony has gone to court for interpretation, the court in a democratic setting like ours ought to protect both parties until the issue is resolved. But we are saying that they shouldn’t have gone to this length to resolve this issue because there are so many elders in this business like Sunny Ade and even myself who want to intervene, and if there is a problem in the entertainment industry, it affects me personally. I believe COSON will be destroyed if this issue boils into a bigger crisis.