I have written in Saturday Breakfast about the circumstances that led to the sudden appointment of the noisy and abrasive gentleman called Okuoimose Emmanuel Okuoimose as Acting General Secretary of PMAN following the unscheduled resignation of Emma Ogosi as General Secretary.
I understand that the name Okuoimose in Edo means ‘war is not good’ but the man with the double-barreled name of Okuoimose E. Okuoimose was a warrior. Okuoimose was never afraid of a fight. There is no way the history of PMAN would be written without the continuous mention of Okuoimose Emmanuel Okuoimose, I may have provided the leadership but Okuoimose was the crankshaft that for many years turned the engine of PMAN, one of Nigeria’s most remarkable associations of the 80s and 90s.
I have written about the outstanding bond I established with Okuoimose and the great respect and support he gave me despite his being much older than me. We were a good team. But, if you read this to mean that I had no disagreement or fights with Emmanuel Okuoimose, then you are damn wrong. Okuoimose could be rebellious and I knew that if I did not have a good check on him, he could easily become uncontrollable.
Take this as an example: While Okuoimose was in Lagos as Acting General Secretary, it was clear that he wanted to maintain personal control of events in Benin City where he used to be state secretary. I had repeatedly counselled him to leave the people in Edo State to resolve their problems. On one occasion, Okuoimose was missing at the national secretariat. I learnt from some reliable source that he had summoned a meeting in Benin in what appeared to be the middle of a struggle for dominance between a group led by Actor Segun Alile and another led by Akabaman Rowland Igbenegie, two powerful music operators in Benin. The impression I was given was that the meeting was unlikely to end well as my Acting General Secretary had a personal interest in the outcome.
I usually never went anywhere without the knowledge of my General Secretary. On this occasion, I had to set out unscheduled to Benin. When I arrived the venue of the meeting in Benin, there was heavy argument going on. Okuoimose saw me and practically froze. He did not know how I got to Benin City. I took over the proceedings at the meeting and allowed the people to decide how they were to be led. Thereafter, I left for Lagos
In Lagos, I had a serious discussion with “Ekpa” as we sometimes called Okuoimose. I let him know that he would not be allowed to engage in independent frolics in the name of the association. I usually do not shout at the staff or colleagues I work with or throw tantrums. I prefer to engender a family atmosphere even though serious work is always being done. Many times, people have misunderstood this and told themselves that this guy cannot bark or bite. Okuoimose may have made the same mistake as his rebellious side became stronger and his tendency to take important decisions without the approval of the Executive Council grew.
It was as a result of such behavior that one afternoon, I quietly gave Okuoimose 30 minutes to give me his resignation letter or I would summon an emergency National Executive Council meeting to discuss his dismissal. Thirty minutes passed and I did not get the resignation letter. There was tension.
The emergency National Executive Council meeting was held. Okuoimose realized that I meant business and the ordinarily stubborn warrior realized that he had been outflanked. He apologized profusely. While he was pardoned, he was demoted and given a new position of National Organizing Secretary and directed to concentrate on the building of PMAN chapters across the country. This he did remarkably well. With my supervision, Okuoimose built the PMAN network of chapters and secretariats across the country with state secretaries that were at his beck and call.
On the recommendation of Legal Adviser, Mr. Caleb Atolagbe, a substantive General Secretary was appointed in the person of one Patrick Mejeidu. Mr. Mejeidu, a lawyer, left the service of the Lagos State Government to work for PMAN. Patrick Mejeidu was a stickler for rules. One could not help but feel that he was uncomfortable with the frequent unscheduled hours that PMAN worked. The PMAN secretariat was also like a newsroom. X rated banter was not unusual. Mr. Mejeidu, a strong born-again Christian, very carefully stayed away from the banter.
At about the time Mr. Mejeidu came to PMAN Headquarters, Mr. Aguomba, the Assistant Secretary – Public Affairs, left. Aguomba was succeeded by Emerson Gobert, another journalist. Mr. Gobert who was everyone’s friend had come to PMAN with a C.V. that appeared to me to be too busy for a gentleman his age. He may have tried to impress with the C.V. but I commented that his C.V. suggested a level of restlessness that might lead one to conclude that he would not stay long on the job. Unfortunately, this proved to be true, but for the short while Mr. Gobert was at PMAN, he was good at his job.
All this was before the coming of Edi Lawani whose tenure as Secretary Media Affairs was quite eventful. Edi who was doing a post graduate program at the University of Lagos had come to interview me as a journalist when I challenged him with the job. It is common knowledge that Edi Lawani has made a name for himself as a successful event organizer, tactician and technician, the seeds of which I believe were sown at PMAN. This was also before the employment of Iyabo Lawani (not related to Edi), who became our Welfare Secretary and one of the best-known faces at PMAN and who later became a successful actress and the TV face of Maggie Cube, the popular cooking ingredient.
Okuoimose and I practically lived off our travelling bags. Our business was to solve problems in the music industry and put out fires wherever they occurred. Barely six months after he was appointed, it became clear that Mr. Patrick Mejjeidu was not cut out for life as a music industry activist. Our pace was a little too fast for him. He resigned.
And Okuoimose Emmanuel Okuoimose bounced back! He came back not as Acting PMAN General Secretary but as substantive General Secretary or Secretary General as he called himself. There was little friction thereafter because we truly learnt to work with each other. In many ways Okuoimose E. Okuoimose stood up for me. Like me, Okuoimose had very little interest in personal wealth. Our work was our life. The progress of the musicians of Nigeria was all we cared about. Okuoimose E. Okuoimose was a rare breed, a warrior with a very kind heart who lived and loved PMAN and all its members till he died.
Scruffy? Noisy? Stubborn? I loved the guy. When Okuoimose passed on a few years ago, I went to Benin City to visit his family. I was sure that with the great impact the man made in the promotion of the music industry, he should be celebrated in death. For some reasons, the choice was made to lay him to rest quietly. I respect that choice as I know that PMAN may never be the same again without another Okuoimose E. Okuoimose, the PMAN warrior whose name means ‘war is not good’. (To be continued).
See you next week.
– Okoroji is the chairman of COSON