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Thursday, 29 November 2012

Please leave my Friend Tony Okoroji alone – Patrick Doyle

On November 19, 2012, one of Nigeria's biggest daily newspapers, Vanguard, published an unreserved apology to my good friend, Chief Tony Okoroji, Chairman, Copyright Society of Nigeria(COSON). The apology is with respect to an article titled Onyeka Onwenu Explodes: Okoroji Must Account For N3m Of Essien-Igbokwe Burial Funds published in Vanguard Newspaper of October 14, 2011 and on the website of Vanguard Newspapers.

It will be recalled that the publication of Ms Onwenu's tirade against Chief Okoroji shortly after the burial of late Christy Essien-Igbokwe, caused enormous uproar across the country and beyond.

Chief Okoroji in his usual and time tested manner resorted to the courts for redress from the opprobrium the spurious allegations represented. It must be recalled that several other ill-informed individuals and even some publications have had their fingers burnt for libelling my friend in the past. Chief Okoroji in separate suits took Vanguard and Onyeka Onwenu to court for gross libel and defamation of character. Once again, Okoroji is vindicated.

I hope that the right lessons will be learned by the unequivocal and unreserved public apology to Chief Okoroji by Vanguard. When I went public to defend my friend, Chief Tony Okoroji, it was because I know the man, I know his values and I know that his integrity is unimpeachable. I know of no Nigerian who has worked as relentlessly and  given of himself so selflessly towards the progress of all creative people in our country. Even then more than a few cynics  called me out for standing by my friend.

Look at how he took a little known PMAN and in no time, turned it into one of the nation's most vibrant and richest associations. Everyone must ask: where is PMAN today? The agitators simply took over the association, fought over the money left by Okoroji, destroyed the association and turned it into a joke! Just look at what Okoroji has done with COSON in less than two and half years. It is truly nothing short of a miracle. Two years ago, no one had heard of COSON but in a few weeks COSON will be distributing one hundred million naira to musicians across the country. Last year, COSON similarly distributed several millions. Who else has done this for creative people in Nigeria? With other people, the money would have found its way into a Swiss bank account. Where are all those who swore that collective management of copyright would never work in Nigeria? Has Tony Okoroji not proved all of them wrong? Now, Okoroji is working hard towards setting up a major music foundation next year to take care of sick, old, indigent and talented young Nigerian musicians abandoned by the nation to fend for themselves. Have we read Tony Okoroji's internationally celebrated book, Copyright & the New Millionaires? The depth of the book defines the man.

The movie industry is today harnessing the talents of Chief Tony Okoroji to stop the bleeding in the industry. Tony Okoroji is Nigeria's undisputed no. 1 expert on the intricate subject of copyright, a subject which he continues to work on with so much passion. Without him, Nigeria probably would not have the copyright law we have today neither would the country have the Nigerian Copyright Commission. Please ask anyone who has worked with him in the on-going movie industry process about this man's incredible work ethic and ability to bring diverse people together for the public good. His work is very important for the future of a lot of young Nigerians and indeed the country. Please, will bad belle people find something to do and leave my friend alone?

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