60 YEARS OLD, STILL NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER – Tony Okoroji
To God be the Glory! I am 60 today, Friday, December 22, 2017. When I turned 55, I wrote a piece which I posted on the Net. Today, I adopt the piece with some amendment. Thank you for reading…
When I took the decision several years ago to spend my life in the promotion and defence of the rights of creative people in Nigeria, I was not blind. I knew that there would be many obstacles along the way and a huge price to pay. I have seen the desperation with which people fight against positive change, especially when they think that change would eliminate their privileges.
I have been dragged to the EFCC, the ICPC, SSS, the dreaded SARS; been in and out of court more times than I can even recollect. Intricate schemes have been set up to defame me, distract me or destroy my name. It is indeed a miracle that I am 60 this December 22 and I have never been to jail and not even behind the counter at a police station. It is indeed incredible that I am alive to see this day. Despite the relentless assault on my name, people still trust me and give me the privilege to serve them. A few days ago, the members of COSON from every nook and cranny of Nigeria showed me love They told me in clear terms that they value the work that I do and would not allow anyone to shame me. It was a birthday present like no other. Yes, I cried before them.
For decades, the Nigerian artiste has remained at the periphery of national discourse. We may have sung his songs with passion, watched his movie with glee or read his book into the middle of the night but we still did not quite have any respect for him. Fela may have been the most recognized Nigerian name in the world, but many at home simply saw him as an irritant. But please, show me one truly successful nation on earth which had not created a special place for its creative geniuses.
For many decades, Nigerian artistes have paid people at radio stations to have their music played so that the radio stations can make money. Many have entertained in hotels with rooms they could never sleep in and restaurants they could never eat in. If Wole Soyinka had not been given a big international prize by a Norwegian organization in faraway Oslo, many in our country would have brushed him aside as just an old rascal with over grown grey hair.
I realized long ago that the nation of Nigeria would never realize its immense potentials if it did not tap from the huge creative energy of its many talents. Today, our most positive worldwide identifiers are not our politicians and certainly not our 419 businessmen. They are our young musicians, actors and actresses.
As a result of my efforts and those of my colleagues who share the passion in an organization that did not even exist a few years ago, the tables are fast being turned. Contrary to repeated warning from many that we were bound for failure, radio stations in Nigerians are now paying musicians for playing their music and TV stations too! Fired up by a slogan, ‘let the music pay!’, even the hotels across the country are doing likewise. As we put value to that which we gave out for free, we will inspire many in our industry, stimulate investments in our country, create more jobs and that is very good for Nigeria.
I have seen the human face of the work that COSON is doing. This week, COSON began another round of royalty distribution. I know a certain gentleman who will be able to finally buy the drugs he so badly needs because he just got an alert from COSON. I have seen some of my people laugh, cry and dismayed! They never believed that they would see the day that the music industry in Nigeria would put over two hundred million naira on the table and share it among its people. They never thought that someday they would watch a movie or sing and dance in a structure like the COSON House, a magnificent building that belongs to them. When I tell them that billions are not far away, they look at me like I am drunk. But that too will happen. I know hundreds of Nigerian musicians who will buy some rice and eat some chicken this Christmas only because they received some money from COSON. My text message box is overflowing with prayers from many of them.
You would think that everyone would be happy with the work that we are doing. Not quite. The more we do, the more envy, greed and covetousness we generate in some people. In the last one month, there is no kind of plot that has not been hatched to hang something on my neck, harass me, intimidate me and chase me away from COSON House commissioned just a few months ago which I toiled day and night to build.
I am a great believer in the rule of law and our system of justice. I have relied on that system to clear my name several times when I have been defamed. That system has been an important platform for the incredible work that COSON is doing. I verily believe that ultimately, the system gets it right, even if it first meanders left and right.
I know that the great success of COSON, its professionalism, openness and never-say-die spirit are driving some people crazy because COSON exposes their failure so in a season in which everyone else is distributing Christmas cards and hampers, they are distributing hate.
As I turn 60, I recommit myself to the Almighty to use me as He wishes to free the creative community in Nigeria from the servitude it has long been in. I recommit myself to the COSON revolution which will gather more steam in the New Year.
I have heard it said that Tony Okoroji is cocky or arrogant. That is not true. I have said repeatedly that I drive on a full tank of faith. I know that my redeemer liveth and that he would never let me down. I know that if it was left to the wishes of some men, I would long have been dead. With the love that I received from the members of COSON this week, I know that my life is not wasted. if I have to go to jail in the defence of the rights of creative people in Nigeria, it will be the greatest honour of my life.
– CHIEF TONY OKOROJI