I once wrote in Saturday Breakfast that on one occasion, I received a very warm welcome in Benin City from his Royal Majesty, the Oba of Benin. Three years ago, the Olubadan of Ibadan practically rolled out the red carpet for the COSON delegation which I led to his palace.
Just last year, I was in the palace of the revered Emir of Kano, the very brilliant Mohammed Sanusi II, with my friend and colleague, the unforgettable Ras Kimono. My delegation and I were warmly received by the Emir. His Highness, a former Governor of Nigeria’s Central Bank, clearly understands economics and the way the wealth of a nation is built. He said very kind words to us and had effusive praise for the work we are doing to reposition our country in the new knowledge and creative economy.
Visiting an Oba, an Emir, a Minister or a Governor in our continuous outreach to expand the frontiers of the understanding of intellectual property in our country, is probably one percent of the work we do. That is however the part of the work that most times attracts envy.
Anyone who has managed a band of a few musicians, will understand that bringing together thousands of creative people, managing their effervescent temperaments and molding them into a force for progress is not ‘beans’. My phone rings practically off the hook. Any problem of each of the thousands of members of COSON is my problem.
In the building of the copyright system in Nigeria, I have carried placards many times and led very risky demonstrations many-many times. I have been to court and witnessed against top corporations, governments and individuals time and time again, across the country. I have gone many-many days without sleep, travelled lonely roads at dangerous hours, written opinion articles, delivered lectures, organized myriad conferences, seminars and workshops.
In the process, I have superintended over the building of an outstanding Nigerian institution called COSON which many said could never see the light of day. When the COSON House was commissioned 27 months ago, a lot of people were surprised that there was not one Naira of government money in the edifice, no donor dollar from anywhere, no bank loan and no debt of any type. Go to COSON House today and you will find that it remains majestically clean and well kept.
For nine years, not one of the highly trained staff of COSON has received his or her salary one day late. Except for last December, when some people went to court behind our backs with false affidavits to suddenly shut down the accounts of COSON in three different banks. No COSON member entitled to royalties has ever been denied money due to him. It might surprise many to know that no COSON member pays any registration fee, monthly dues or subscription of any type. There are thousands of musicians who can bear witness to the fact that COSON never takes money from musicians. COSON gives money to musicians.
My dedication to the copyright cause has not ever been because of a title or because of personal wealth. My official car for much of 2018 was one rickety 21-year old Toyota Camry and later on, one 17-year old Honda Pilot. I do not live in a house provided by COSON. No member of my family goes to a hospital provided by COSON. I do not go on a vacation on the bill of COSON. I have written in Saturday Breakfast before that I verily believe that the true worth of a man is not in what he takes but in what he gives. Pray, how many bags of Naira will I be buried with?
Over and over again, I have been counted out by men who believe in the word, IMPOSSIBLE. I drive on a full tank of faith and as a result, the good Lord has refused to count me out. In the last 18 months, I have been dragged to the Nigeria police, the EFCC and visited by SARS. Not long ago, it was all over the media that the leadership of the Copyright Commission has filed criminal charges against me and some of my colleagues at COSON. What did we do? We worked for the good of our country! At COSON, we have followed the law and every rule scrupulously and made that which was thought IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLE. The result is that so many suddenly covet COSON.
You must have heard the loud propaganda for the ‘independent’ and ‘forensic’ audit of the COSON accounts. The intent is to create the impression that Okoroji’s hands are not clean. “He is hiding something somewhere”. The persons who started this propaganda know the truth. The truth is that no organization in the history of the Nigerian creative industry has, year after year, been meticulously audited like COSON. Not the NCC. Not PMAN. Not NARI. Not REPRONIG. Not AVRS. Not AMB – PRO. Not AGN! I challenge anyone with alternative facts to please make them public.
Each of the thousands of COSON members, including those orchestrating the propaganda, has copies of 9 years of COSON audited accounts which have been ratified by COSON members every single year, as required by law. I have never intervened in the COSON audit process and no COSON audit has ever been done one day late. Each of the audited accounts is in the custody of the Nigerian Copyright Commission, the Corporate Affairs Commission and the COSON international partners. Copies of the audited accounts are available at COSON House for anyone to inspect.
I do not worship men. I only worship God. I was elected by the members of COSON and not appointed by anyone. I have sworn to defend the interest of the members of COSON as long as they want me to. I will continue to drive on a full tank of faith with my tires pumped with love. Please do not listen to anyone who tells you that your dreams are impossible. That word, impossible, belongs to the devil.
I guarantee you that we will continue to shame the devil and make the IMPOSSIBLE POSSIBLE.
See you next week.
– Okoroji is the chairman of COSON