– Pretty Okafor, President, Performing Musician Association of Nigeria, PMAN.
By Osamudiamen Ogbonmwan
PMAN has made its stand known concerning the current crisis in COSON. Why did it take you this long to make a statement?
We didnt want to get into the internal crisis of COSON because we believed that they would be able to sought things out. In December when we got the report of the problem, we made calls to both parties and fortunately I was able to speak to both parties and they told me what happened. I demanded for documentation and the only people who brought it were the Efe Omorogbe’s group. Kenneth Ehichioya and I called Chinedu, the COSON General Manager to followup with them and they said they were going to send the report. I think maybe they werent respecting PMAN, that’s why they didn’t get back to us early. However, we never took any biased decision. In February, we had a meeting with the Nigerian Copyright Commission, NCC, as they also provided their own report with evidences. I was urged to do a press statement that period by my Excos but I refused hoping COSON would get back to me. Efe then came back a second time to us in PMAN with a letter and full report of happenings; he further invited us to a press briefing. I attended with a couple of my Excos and I didnt make any statement there. Back in PMAN, we had an emagency meeting and concluded that we give Tony Okoroji more time to return to us. But we decided to reach a conclusion when we realised that everything changed and intimidation set in. I was at an event when a call came in that my attention was needed immediately because Okoroji had arrested Efe. I was surprised. The person said Okoroji wrote a pettision against Efe that he was threatening him etc. I put a call to Efe and he didn’t pick. I got Eddy Lawani who gave me his part of the story and then I called Ken Caleb Olumese, De Guv’nor of NiteShift who incidentally was at the station. He said he would call back but he didn’t. The next day, I was called and the person asked me if I can provide my Certificate of Occupancy to effect Efe’s bail. I was shocked. I felt no mater what we do in this industry, we cannot tolerate some person intimidating one of us. I wondered why Okoroji was taking such route. Efe never stole anything. He only complained about somethings he thought were wrong. We had an Exco meeting again after this and the only topic was the COSON crisis. As the PMAN president, I had to take a stand. We did our own internal investigation, reaserch and traveling- all based on the documents provided to us. We then found out who was at fault. Our decision was also based on the fact that it was this same mistake that happened in PMAN decades back that caused the crisis that we still are till now. We saw a picture of COSON drifting to that era and we thought that would be very bad for the industry. That was why we took a stand.
You said you reached out to Chinedu and there was no response. Did you try a step further on your official capacity as PMAN President or as a “friend” of Okoroji to reach him since Chinedu didn’t get back to you?
Yes. I called him as a personal friend and he didn’t pick my calls.
When was that?
In December, January and twice in February. After that, I said I wouldn’t do it again. I don’t know why he didnt pick.
Before this crisis, what was the relationship between PMAN and COSON?
It was cordial. When PMAN was starting its biometric program, it was in collaboration with COSON. Okoroji and I ran a lot of brainstorming. At a point, we wanted to marge the two servers. Okoroji said if we had told him about our intention to buy a new server, he would have asked us to use the one of COSON. So you can see that we had a good relationship.
The NCC has made its intention known to penalise COSON. We can see that PMAN and the NCC are in some sort of collaboration in this quest against COSON. When did you two decide to come together?
PMAN took its decision based on its independent investigation. We never collaborated with the NCC. Yes, our stand could be in line with the NCC but the NCC is actually the “owners”of the Cmos. They give licences to people to operate as cmos and they monitor and regulate their operations. You cant operate without them. Its like CBN and banks in Nigeria.
Dont you think that Okoroji’s refusal to pick your calls might be as a result of your running battle with the Minister of information?
I don’t have a personal problem with him. I have known with time that he is someone who likes taking advantage of situations and jumping into conclusion. He made mention of the issue in a press briefing but later he apologised at the City People’s event. He called me and apologised in the presence of Chinedu, Kofi, Patrick Doyle, Ruggedman and a few others. It wasnt on stage. I let go because i didnt thing it was worth holding on to.
So why do you think Okoroji is singling you out for litigation?
I have now discovered that he has bad advisers around him and incompetent people working with him. These people don’t tell him the truth. I signed a release, a pronouncement by PMAN in my capacity as the President. Now you are singling me out as an individual to sue. As Pretty okafor, I don’t have access to PMAN s letterhead, so I can’t sign without the national working committees approval. So how come are you ignoring that? And you claim to be one of those tho wrote the PMAN’s constitution? Knowing that a statement can never come out without the Excos being aware of it. The release was signed on behalf of PMAN and now he is ignoring that fact because he knows I am a physical and spiritual being. I always do things that are right in the sight of God and man. I will never do the wrong thing to affect humanity. He has noticed my kind of person while we attended meetings, that I stand and fight for what is right. His problem is that I have come into this issue and I am going to see it through.
Efe’s faction of COSON is demanding for a forensic audit of the account of COSON and you stated that you want electronic monitoring. What exactly do you people want?
Let me put it this way.. A Forensic probe because Efe and the removed directors said Okoroji stole money and he denied it. This is why they are calling for it. To see where and who is lying. If this is done and we discover that Efe has been wrong all along, we will ask him to apologise and resign from COSON and ask Okoroji to continue. However, if the fault falls on Okoroji, we will tell him not to even come to COSON again. Resign and return the money. There are lots of auditing firms in Nigeria. Okoroji has been dodging this since December. We are also saying there should be a standard biometric monitoring of the money as it is being collected and getting to the artistes. There is a standard percentage that is supposed to go to COSON. It is supposed to be 30 percent but from the report I have seen( from two years back), he is using up to 45 percent. It is wrong.
Okoroji only made a threat. What happens if he goes ahead to sue you?
( laughs). He should know that he is dealing with a warrior. I saw the letter he wrote and thought it is a defamation of my character. What he claimed on his letter is that I am fraudulent and impersonating the PMAN President – even claiming further that I stole the PMAN letterhead to write the release. Thats why I said he has a lot of praise singers around him. I have given the letter to my lawyers to take care of it. I know it has no base because if it did, he would have directed it to PMAN and not myself. You can’jt ignor the institution and single out the individual. This time , he got it wrong.
Do you think Efe has a chance to come out victorious in this crisis?
I told you we carried out our investigations carefully and based on that I can assure you that he has 300% chances of coming out victorious. They were smart. About four of the removed directors on Efe’s side are Lawyers. These dudes were very careful in their dealings as they worked with Okoroji as COSON Chairman in the past eight years. Okoroji got it wrong. If Efe was wrong, the NCC wouldnt have taken the stand they took in their first press release. I think okoroji believes he is the law and no one can tell him any better. There is an undertone of greed and selfishness. If he has lead an institution for eight years, it is spiritually and phisically right to train someone to take over from you when you know it is a public institution.
What was PMAN ‘s involvement in the formation of COSON?
It was during Dele Abiodun’s era as PMAN ‘s President that COSON was approved as a collecting society. It first got an approval letter from PMAN. PMAN had three slots on the board of COSON, then came the crisis and thereafter, Okoroji decided to cancel the slots with the excuse that PMAN has a lot of factions.
Some people believe PMAN is factionalise. What happens if the other Presidents decides to pitch their tents with okoroji?
Thats were we come with legality and documentation. PMAN is not factionalised. We just have people who are trying to take advantage of the unsuspecting public. They are trying to hide the crime they committed and don’t want the younger generation to discover. It is not possible because we have actually discovered them. These people are creating a smoke screen that PMAN is in crises which is a lie. I came into a joint agreement and court pronouncement. Then suddenly when I discovered that they stole money, these people who brought me in, came to the realisation that I was going to probe all of them. So they decided to fight the judgement. They were able to get the judgement which was then appealled. So the status quo remains until the appeal is heard. The only authentic PMAN regime is this one i am heading.
Some people are of the thought that Efe is too young, busy and does not have the capacity to run COSON like Okoroji. What do you think?
I dont agree with that. Okoroji was 28 when he became PMAN ‘s president. Many people said I was too young for the job of PMAN when I became president. I think our concern should be whether Efe has the the mental capability. If Efe could bring everybody together to form COSON, then I think he can move it to the best international practice. For eight years he wasn’t too busy to sit on the board as a director. He has been running his personal business alongside COSON. He doesn’t feed from COSON, no! Okoroji is a corporate manager. Efe, Baba Dee and Obi Asika are the brains behind COSON. These men are the strategists and implementators of decisions in COSON. Efe is a workaholic. I have seen these men run four to five shows simultaneously and meeting their deadlines. We want such people in the industry. I have been around and discovered that Okoroji has a personal selfishness and greed. That’s why he keeps having issues with a lot of people. I have understudy him and concluded we should check his mental capability. It is a concern now.