On May 20, 2011, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), the nation’s sole government approved collective management organisation for musical works and sound recordings will be celebrating the first anniversary of its historical approval as a CMO. Chief Tony Okoroji, the COSON chairman, has assessed the rapid growth of COSON in the last one year and says that COSON is determined to change the perception that every organisation in the entertainment industry must be unstable. According to Okoroji, changing that stereotype is critical to securing the future for the many very talented people in the Nigerian entertainment community and ensuring that there is a true industry that people are confident to work with and invest in.
In the words of Okoroji, “People come to COSON and they are surprised at the level of professionalism they experience. From the environment, the personnel and our communication, we spare nothing to be at the cutting edge of management in a new age. I make bold to say that COSON is one of Nigeria’s best run organisations today… fleet footed, quick thinking and deploying brain power to deal with all kinds of challenges. It is important that when people think about the infighting and instability within the various organisations in the entertainment industry, they remember that there is one significant exception – COSON.”
Chief Okoroji, who was speaking to senior executives of a popular broadcast station who were at COSON to negotiate their music copyright licence, said that the objective of COSON is not to harm the relationship between the music industry and the users of music but to advance such relationships. According to him, such objective cannot be achieved if users of music such as broadcasting stations continue the lawless abuse of the rights of creative people. He asked for the mutual respect of the interest and rights of all the parties insisting that COSON will continue to be firm in its demand that every commercial or public user of music pays for such use in keeping with the law. In his words, “Anyone who chooses to ignore our demand will pay a significant price.”
Asked about the philosophy that has spurred the intense energy behind COSON, Chief Okoroji said, “As we make preparations to celebrate the first anniversary of the historic approval of COSON, we ought not to be tired of reconditioning the psyche of those associated with our operations that COSON has been set up to make the impossible possible and nothing should be allowed to stand between us and the revolution we seek, to uplift the circumstances of our stakeholders and make their efforts yield genuine dividend. Indeed, at COSON, the word, ‘impossible’ ought not to exist.
“There are those who were sure that that it was impossible to effectively bring together the many different groups across the nation with multifarious interests which today are all stakeholders in the COSON enterprise. We have done it. People looked at me in the face and said that COSON would never be approved by the Federal Government. Of course, COSON has been approved. I was told emphatically that users of music, especially government-owned broadcast stations, would never pay royalties to musicians in Nigeria. On January 19, when I signed the royalty agreement on behalf of COSON with the Malam Nuhu Yusuf, director general of FRCN, the nation’s biggest broadcast network, I nearly wept. It had taken close to 35 years of struggle between the musicians and the broadcast industry. Today, COSON is receiving music royalty cheques from FRCN and other stations and in keeping with our pledge, before the year is over, COSON would have been distributing music copyright royalty across Nigeria using the first-class technology, which we have already installed. What was considered impossible is once again happening before us. When it comes to the defence of the interest of those we represent, we go the whole hog. There is nothing like ‘impossible.’”
Chief Okoroji says that he is tickled when people show surprise at what COSON is doing. According to him, COSON has tremendous brain power available to it. Joking with the broadcast executives, the former PMAN President said, “Anyone who can run PMAN successfully for six years can run any institution. I don’t know whether it is because we are seen as ‘musicians,’ but people seem to be shocked when they find out how articulate and organised we are. I know that I am a singer of which I am very proud but I also hold an honours degree in business administration and have received significant training in commercial law. In the special area of intellectual property, there are few in the continent who would not listen when I speak on the subject on which I have written extensively. I head a 15-member board made up of some very tried and tested persons with various degrees in different fields. Onyeka Onwenu is a singer and actress but she is also one of the best-educated Nigerian women. Obi Asika runs Storm 360 but he is also a first class lawyer. Toju Ejueyitchie is a respected chartered accountant. Sir Victor Uwaifo is a professor and one of the few Nigerians inducted into the Nigerian Academy of Letters. Efe Omorogbe is an unequalled talent manager with a degree in English. Everyone on the COSON board has some skill that makes him outstanding in his own field. For instance, as a producer, Laolu Akins, has written his name in the sands of time. John Udegbunam is a musicologist and music teacher of no mean calibre. Our young Acting General Manager, Chinedu Chukwuji, has an MBA and continues to receive very valuable copyright training from the best institutions around the world. Same is applicable to our other operators. When you think of it, COSON has no reason not be an outstanding organisation where nothing is impossible.”