I do not celebrate the misfortune of anyone but there is a big lesson to be learnt from the developments in the courts during the week. When you are hounded, harassed and terrorized by people who call themselves your friends, you will be super- human to continue to pray for their well-being.
On Tuesday, a Lagos High Court shut down the vigorous attempt by ‘my friends’ at the NCC to deny COSON and its members money we put in a bank. They want COSON and its members to starve to death. Just yesterday, a Federal High Court in Lagos shut down the zeal of ‘my friends’ at the same NCC to put me and my COSON colleagues in jail. What did we steal? Who did we kill? What we have done is to build COSON, the greatest organization that the Nigerian copyright system can show today. I have said elsewhere, that the scheme to jail us is not because we did anything wrong but because we did everything right. The experience is a new lesson in how human beings in Nigeria think and justify what they do.
I consider almost everyone at the Nigerian Copyright Commission as my friend and a member of my extended family. I served twice on the Board of the Commission and during my time on the Board, a great number of the people who work at the commission were recruited. I was in the team that wrote the law setting up the commission. Indeed, the memo that went to the Babangida government asking for the NCC to be set up was drafted on my table as a young President of PMAN.
I led demonstrations and carried placards to ensure that the agency was up and running. I never stopped putting pressure on two great benefactors of mine, Prince Tony Momoh who was Minister of Information & Culture and Prince Bola Ajibola, then Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice. They did not let me down.
In recent years when the agency had little money to operate, I went to the National Assembly and sought the help of my friends like the regal Princess Florence Ita Giwa and the NCC budget allocation was improved. I never asked for nor got one kobo commission from the NCC. Whenever anyone in the NCC was maltreated, I took it personal and fought against such maltreatment.
In May 2017, we did what I thought should make the NCC happy. In two days, it will be the second anniversary of the commissioning of the state of the art COSON House in Ikeja with some of the most modern facilities in Nigeria, the one symbol of the success of the Nigerian copyright system. In setting up COSON House, we did not ask for nor receive one kobo from the NCC or any other government agency whether Nigerian or foreign. We did not borrow one Naira from any bank. We did not get one dollar as loan or grant from anywhere. COSON House was set up with our sweat and the deft management of our resources.
In commissioning COSON House, it appears that we commissioned envy, jealousy, covetousness, blackmail and the grab-grab madness of some Nigerians. Some of those who were sleeping while we built COSON cannot sleep anymore. They are awake plotting how to take over the place or to destroy it and destroy us. Those who had no time for us as we labored, suddenly have so much time for COSON. Day after day, they talk about nothing but COSON. They are working every day to hijack COSON or destabilize it. They have connived with their friends at NCC to hound us and use their people in various banks to shut down our accounts. They are so determined to keep for themselves that which belongs to thousands of musicians of Nigeria. I saw this happen to PMAN. As the courts showed in two historic decisions during the week, I beat my chest and say, “it will not happen to COSON”.
Rather than chase after pirates who are killing Nigeria’s creative industries, ‘my friends’ at the NCC are busy drafting charges to jail me for keeping fate with the promise I made to the musicians of Nigeria. Rather than build new structures to celebrate Nigerian creativity, they are busy trying to destroy that which we have built.
When I ask why they are chasing after me with so much viciousness, what I hear is, “don’t forget we are your friends, we are only doing our jobs” or “we are acting on orders from above” My question is this: “If you are my friend and you are ready to obey orders to jail me when you know I am innocent, will you not obey orders to kill me also knowing that I am innocent?” After all, you will be acting on orders from above.
They know that I have committed no crime neither has any officer of COSON done anything against the law. What we have experienced is intimidation gone crazy. It is a great example of how people in Nigeria are now using power that should belong to the people to hound anyone they think is standing between them and the mad desire to inherit the earth. Sadly, very few people appear to have the liver any more to say ‘no’ to evil. Everything is rationalized by the words, “we are doing our job”
I have asked before that no one should feel sorry for me. I am a very happy and proud man. I have found out that some Nigerians still appreciate honest service. The members of COSON have stood by me. They have not let me down one inch. In their thousands, they understand what is going on. They know that some people want to turn them into their “mugu” and suck them dry. The know that my “sin” is that I have stood stoutly in defence of their rights and interest and that I have not allowed the dogs of prey to hijack what belongs to them They have stood with me and repeatedly passed votes of confidence in the work which I have done over the years with all the passion and commitment I can muster.
My friends at the NCC are simply doing their job!
See you next week.
– Okoroji is COSON chairman