By Anote Ajeluorou
Many observers have long argued that Nigeria’s perennial problems are truly self-inflicted. From whichever angle you view the problems, you would see the hand of greed, nepotism, corruption, egoistic tendencies, and the outright lust for power at all levels.
From government circles down to the corporate or individual endeavours, the tendency to always press the self-destruct buttons have become second nature in this land. Painfully, that singular piece of art – music - that brings joy to all, has fallen victim to the almost all the maladies afflicting the nation.
Indeed, valiant efforts to make Nigeria’s music house, Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN) come together and act as one in the interest of musicians have met a brickwall. Instead, many factions continue to emerge to truncate a unionised body to promote the interest of musicians. Noteworthy here are earlier efforts to bring the musicians together with the formation of Nigeria Union of Musicians (NUM) led by the likes of late Sir I.K. Dairo, Sir Victor Olaiya, Aigbe Liberty and others; it did not come with much success.
The early life of PMAN, the union enjoyed the selfless leadership of the likes of King Sunny Ade (KSA), Evang. Sonny Okosuns and Chief Tony Okoroji, who later gave the baton of leadership to Mustafa Amego before Christy Essien-Igbokwe took over. And when the punk master, Charly Boy, became president of PMAN, he somewhat opened the can of worms the past leaderships of many misdeeds, including fraud and maladministration. Like Okoroji, he also brought glamour to the affairs of PMAN even if at the came magnificent scale like Okoroji. He, of course, ran an activist union, as he went on a headlong collision with some corporate bodies over copyright issues and fair treatment for Nigerian artistes.
Absolute power and control of PMAN was a strong point in the Charly Boy era. As cries and controversies in the nnion were getting louder and bigger, Charly Boy then stepped aside for the practically unknown Bolaji Rosiji to take over power.
The exit of Charlie Boy broke the union into factions with Admiral Dele Abiodun leading one and Bolaji Rosiji another. After about eight months of intrigues and acrimonies, Rosiji resigned and thus paved the way for the famed flutist, Tee-Mac Omatsola Itseli, as new president.
For more than three years, the courts became the battleground for the quest to ascertain the authentic president of the union, with Abiodun claiming to have won the elections held in Kaduna. Backed by a court ruling, Abiodun forcefully assumed office whilst Tee-Mac returned to the courts to appeal what he described as acts of illegality and impersonation against Admiral Dele Abiodun.
Abiodun’s administration was bedeviled by many controversies, but mainly the battle to assert his authority as president. The ever-present cases of financial misdeeds reared its ugly head again. Accusation and counter-accusations of fraud rocked his faction. At a time, and in concert with his National Working Committee (NWC), Abiodun suspended his Secretary-General, Idowu Blessing, for fraudulent acts.
As his turbulent first tenure neared its end, Dele Abiodun again went for another election in Osogbo, Osun State, where his re-election bid was met by unexpected challenges from some new generation musicians like Banky W., Eldee, Sound Sultan, Baba Dee, D‘Banj and backed by the support of Chief Okoroji. The aspirations of these young Turks to take over the affairs of the union was, however, truncated by Dele Abiodun and his team, who got themselves re-elected under shady circumstances.
Dele Abiodun wasn’t to sleep easy as another election was swiftly organised in Asaba, Delta State. The election threw up musician-cum businessman, Preddy Wise Okowa, as president with gifted songstress Yinka Davies, as first vice-president. To actualise the ambition of this new faction, it went on to acquire a new administrative office to carry out its mandate.
In the midst of the new uprising against his troubled leadership, Dele Abiodun was charged to court and docked on an alleged seven-count charge of fraud worth N16 million. Barely 48 hours later, presiding judge F.O. Aigbokhaevbo of Igbosere Magistrate Court granted him bail and the case was adjourned to August 8, 2011.
The gladiators’ reacts:
Many observers argue that the never-ending problems of PMAN, amongst others things, is partly linked to its constitution that has been operated more in breach than in actuality. Others argue that power lust and maladministration are to blame for the union’s problems. First to react to the raging storm was PMAN legal adviser, Fred Agbaje.
The problems of PMAN shall soon be over – Fred Agbaje
“You could be right to say PMAN’s problems are constitutional. I’ve always ensured that things are constitutionally done and in accordance with the union’s constitution. We’re planning to set-up a committee to bring peace and unity to the union. The members of the committee are prominent founding and financial members of the union. And soon, the problems facing PMAN shall be over”.
Expectedly, he refused to be drawn into the court cases instituted by members of the union in view of the claims to the plum seat of PMAN.
Fred Agbaje is insincere – Preddy Wise
Factional president of PMAN, Preddy Wise Okowa, reacted angrily to Agbaje’s response of non-committal to the issue of PMAN presidency.
He said, “Let me tell you here and now, Barrister Fred Agbaje is one of the problems of PMAN and I wonder what he stands to gain in all these. He is telling lies if he claims not to recognise my presidency after my elections, and also having sworn me in as president”.
Seemingly unperturbed by the hues and cries in the union, Preddy Wise went ahead to state that he and members of his executive committee are currently working hard to ensure they give a most befitting burial to the late founding member of PMAN, Chief (Mrs.) Christy Essien-Igbokwe, adding, “In fact, I’ve been using my personal funds because there’s no money left in PMAN accounts”.
I’m here to help PMAN solve its problems – Emma Ogosi
Emma Ogosi is a veteran in the music industry having held several positions in PMAN in the past. Today, he is in charge of affairs at a faction of PMAN after the resignation of Dele Abiodun, as the acting president. And in view of the recent happenings in PMAN, Ogosi has been fingered as one of the leading actors in the much-advertised PMAN soap opera.
In a telephone chat, he was quick to debunk remarks that he was behind the emergence of Preddy Wise as president of PMAN.
“It’s a big insult for anyone to link me to Preddy Wise or even say I belong to his faction,” he said. “I’ve never belonged to any of these factions. I don’t belong to any faction because I’m their daddy. I’m here (PMAN) to help sort things out and move the union forward”.
Nobody is bigger than the laws of Nigeria – Tee-Mac
Flutist cum businessman, Tee-Mac, is another prominent player in the PMAN saga. After his ouster from office by Dele Abiodun through a court ruling, he went on to appeal the ruling. In his view, he remains PMAN president. Reacting to the present situation in PMAN, and the charges of fraud against Dele Abiodun, he enthused that efforts were on-going to settle the problems in PMAN.
He said, “We’re making serious efforts to resolve this PMAN crisis. We’re going to take every legal and constitutional means to settle it. We’re not out to intimidate or victimise Abiodun. Laws of the land must be respected at all times. Even politicians who stole money were prosecuted. In fact, as I’m speaking with you, I’m here with Emma Ogosi”.
Fatai Rolling Dollar
In a telephone conversation, the elderly musician said he just returned from New York, where he had gone to perform and wasn’t aware of the changes that had taken place in PMAN. He said he only learn that Abiodun had resigned from office as president of the union and that he didn’t as yet have full details of the state of affairs at PMAN and so could not make comments.
Respect for PMAN constitution is key -Chief Tony Okoroji
I believe that in the fullness of time, the issues at PMAN will be resolved. We made an attempt to resolve some of these issues in Oshogbo early this year. I keep saying to myself that if Dele Abiodun had listened to some of us, some of his recent travails would have been avoided and PMAN would have moved on.
He chose to listen to people who may have said what he wanted to hear and a coordinated media attempt was made to rubbish those of us who said to him, “There is time for everything”. You will recall that I was attacked viciously by hired PR men. Sadly, everything we said has happened. The result is the sorry story that PMAN is witnessing today.
My position is clear. I will not recognise anyone as president of PMAN, who has not gone through the processes recognised by our constitution, no matter how many press conferences the fellow addresses or how much money the person spends.
When I became president of PMAN, I did not give any one a penny. I am chairman of COSON, I did not lobby anyone. These are positions of trust and service and no one who means well needs to spend any money of his own.
I will never walk into a PMAN secretariat paid for by an individual. The day the person quarrels with the union, he will throw everyone out. A serious union must have respect for itself.
PMAN needs a strong, educated character, who can make huge sacrifices -Charly Boy
“Well, you know, I’ve moved beyond PMAN. It’s unfortunate what I see. PMAN reminds me of the Nigeria I used to know, when it was good, when we lost it, derailed and in came the gradual decay. Now, the smell is so bad, and is so obvious. And I hope people can realise and appreciate the people who had come before and did something.
“People like Tony Okoroji tried to do something. He sowed leadership and took control at the time although he didn’t do it all by himself. But that is a matter for another day. He brought glamour to PMAN. People like the late Christy Esien-Igbokwe. Christy provided a lot of jobs. Forget about whether she went for the Two-million-Man-March or not. Then she was keeping artistes busy.
“Then after Christy, everything went down, started to decline until, of course, Charly Boy came into the scene, and he was to whip everybody back into line. Then after I left, Bolaji Rosiji tried but he was overwhelmed by the riff-raffs, the nincompoops, the bad people, people who didn’t see the four walls of a classroom, who didn’t know what to do because being a musician just isn’t enough to lead a body like PMAN.
“And I remember that at one point during my tenure, I’d called a meeting of all the chapters to say, ‘What manner of president would you want when I leave?’ Of course, they thought it was the usual Charly Boy antics; ‘What was he up to?’ I said, I’d like it to be in the constitution that no president of PMAN, who had not gone to school, who has not got first degree should be president.
“There are educated artistes in the union, for crying out loud. What about the Lagbajas, the Onyeka Onwenus; and if you see the artistes that have gone to school and the ones that didn’t, you’ll see the difference. So, when you take some riff-raffs, because they can play one tone of guitar, if fact, one chord, to be PMAN president because they are good at talking, this is what you get – a disintegration of the whole place.
“Everything is possible if you have the right kind of leadership. Being with PMAN made me know everything I need to know about leading. Leadership is nothing short of sacrifice; if you’re not ready to make that sacrifice, then forget it. If it’s an appendage to your name you need, something to make you feel hip, that is not going to make things happen. There’s work that goes with it. And, if you’re not passionate about what you’ve gone there to do, you won’t make any kind of success out of it.
“That’s why the tenure of either Okoroji, Christy or Charly Boy stood out; and, you can’t compete. You can never be like that except you’re going there to sacrifice.
“The name PMAN is not worth anything now. It’s an unfortunate situation. The only way I think it can be revived is if a young, strong, person comes out. Then people like me will be ready to support that kind of person, and show him how to approach it. But it has to be somebody who is determined, who is not for taking titles but who has come to put things in order, who has come to make that kind of sacrifice.
“If you don’t have money, how can you be PMAN president? The union, PMAN, doesn’t receive any subvention from anywhere. To go there, you have to be financially secure yourself to start building some projects. First of all, you have to rebrand the union so that corporate bodies will be interested to look at the business of music. And, you have to be able to rebrand the union in a way that members will start feeling proud and stream back to the union. If you don’t have strong membership, how are you going to raise money; if you don’t put your money down first to rebrand the place, how can the corporate world take you seriously.
“So, it’s not just, ‘I want to be PMAN president!’ You get cash? Do you have the money? Can you hold your own for the next one or two years if nothing starts happening? Will you be able to run it with your own money if nothing has happened? These are the questions. And, if the answers are no, what are you doing as the PMAN president? Did you go to school? Do you know how to administer? Now, if you have never administered in your life before, the fact that you’re a little bit lettered, and you’re smart, then you can pick up something, you can go and read books.
“Look at it this way, Nigerian music has blown open in spite of the rot in PMAN house. Why? It’s because individually, Nigerians are great people; we’re talented people. Can’t you see that? I’m proud of what is happening to Nigerian music. Even people from America and Europe are all looking towards Africa for their new beat, new direction.
“So, what does that tell you? That something is happening. There should have been more than one D’Banj, more than one P-Square; there are two million D’Banjs, two million P-Squares out there. It’s just the environment; so it’s the best of the best that is going to survive. That doesn’t mean there are no people; there are even people who are better than the D’Banjs, the P-Squares, the Tuface Idibias.
“But it’s only a matter of time. In this country, either we get our own Barrack Obama of America or Jerry Rawlings, formerly of Ghana. Whichever way, I know it’s bound to happen; it’s a question of time”.
PMAN needs a professional to run its affairs -Bolaji Rosiji
“I recently received a delegation from PMAN. From what they said, it seems there is no president. In a way, I think we have let down the founding fathers of this union - the late Sonny Okosuns and the Christy Essien Igbokwes, and other fathers and mothers that put it in motion; we’ve actually let them down, and I count myself among them; I’m among. I’m equally guilty because I believe that having been there, I should have kept a closer eye and be more participatory. Maybe we could have averted this stage PMAN has descended.
“The solution for PMAN is very simple. Even if we don’t have an expert leader, and I mean, Nelson Mandela didn’t go to Harvard for an MBA, President Kenneth Kaunda or Jerry Rawlings were change managers; we’re not looking for an expert; we’re not looking for professors; we’re not looking for someone with a mountain of qualifications.
“We’re just looking for someone with a good heart and someone with a sincere heart, and that can bring in managers. We’re unpredictable people as artistes; we’re creative, and we’re full of inspiration and imagination. But we’re not managers; we’re not accountants. PMAN needs to get professionals to run its affairs while we busy ourselves being creative. That’s what I think.
“Right now, we need to wait for the judgment on the case in the courts. One needs to wait for the judgment, which will help decide on the leadership of the union, and then we go from there. But I’m not interested in taking office there again. On my own platform, that is the Gurapad Foundation platform, I see that I’m more effective. So, let them find someone who can run the affairs of the union and we’ll give him all the support.
“My being there that other time was an important journey. No, I don’t regret it. And, if I had not been there then, I would not be here now doing some of the things I’m doing now”.