One of Nigeria’s most iconic musicians of all times, Sir Victor Uwaifo, has warned the Director-General of the Nigerian Copyright Commission, Mr. Afam Ezekude to concentrate on fighting music pirates and leave Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) and its Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji, alone.
In a letter to Mr. Ezekude dated October 16, 2018 copied to President Muhammadu Buhari and several top government officials, Uwaifo who is a Professor of Fine & Applied Arts at the University of Benin, said that he was left with disbelief and absolute shock upon reading recently that Mr. Ezekude has filed criminal charges against COSON, the COSON Chairman, Chief Tony Okoroji and some staff members of COSON.
Professor Uwaifo complained that it appears that in the last one year, rather than fight the pirates killing the creative industry in Nigeria, all the NCC DG has done is wage a misguided war against COSON, Nigeria’s one success story in the copyright sector and a shining symbol of the Nigerian nation across the continent.
In the letter, the multiple award winning and celebrated king of Joromi, Akwete, Titibiti, Ekassa, Sasakosa and many-many hit tunes, who once performed at the United Nations in New York wrote, “It is shameful that the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Copyright Commission would dream of filing a charge against Chief Tony Okoroji, the man that galvanized the entire Nigerian nation with the unsurpassed advocacy that compelled the government to promulgate the Nigerian Copyright Law and set up the Nigerian Copyright Commission which today offers you employment. For several years, Chief Okoroji has been the nation’s No 1 Intellectual Property advocate at great personal cost.
“Maybe you are not aware that Chief Tony Okoroji risked his life for you to have the job you enjoy today. During his agitation for the establishment of the NCC, he could have been killed by the military government of the day. With the help of the likes of Prof. Egerton Ovieghara who became the first Chairman of the NCC, Chief Okoroji drafted the law that set up your commission. I wonder how you can even think of destroying the good name of such a man by filing criminal charges against him. What exactly did he do?”
Sir Victor Efosa Uwaifo who is the winner of Nigeria’s first gold disc album with Joromi, recalled that on February 26, 2018, he sent a letter to Mr. Ezekude in which he cautioned the DG on his continued meddling with the internal affairs of COSON, which he described as an independent private sector organization in which the government of Nigeria has not invested one kobo. He asked Ezekude to go and read the letter again.
Said Uwaifo, “Because you refused to listen to my advice not to continue your unlawful and desperate attempt to control COSON by foisting on COSON a person we believe you wish to manipulate, I led thousands of members of COSON to the Federal High Court where on July 10, 2018, we obtained an order restraining Mr. Efe Omorogbe from parading himself as Chairman of COSON. That order still subsists.
“When you went to town with utmost impunity to publish that you had suspended the operating licence of COSON while the issues were before a court of law, I, once again, led the members of COSON to the Federal High Court to obtain another court order which on September 19, 2018 suspended your purported suspension of the COSON licence. The order also subsists.
“No decent person can understand how under the prevailing circumstances, you can successfully bring any charge against COSON, Chief Tony Okoroji and other management staff of COSON for serving the musicians of Nigeria by doing the work which the law allows them to do.
An obviously angry Uwaifo warned in the letter: “Mr. Afam Ezekude, you are not above the law and somebody needs to call you to order!”
Also in the letter, Prof. Uwaifo advised Ezekude to immediately withdraw any charge he may have filed against COSON, Chief Tony Okoroji and the management staff of COSON, which he emphasized is Nigeria’s most admired organization in the creative industry ever, built with the unrivaled leadership of Chief Tony Okoroji whom he called a nationalist per excellence.
He also advised the DG to focus on fighting the biting piracy militating against the creative industry rather than spend all his time meddling with and trying to destabilize COSON which Prof Uwaifo said is being run professionally.