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Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture
From every indication, the constitution of the COVID-19 Committee by the Minister of Information and Cultuture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed to cater for those in the creative sector in this period of coronavirus lockdown hardship should be a welcome development, worth commendation.
However, a cosury look at the persons in the committee, raises some questions. Are there no key characters in the Nigerian creative industry who ought to be members based on their pedigree and antecedent in the realm of providing succor and welfare for artistes? Is the inclusion of some people who have in all their career in the creative circle pursued their personal goals and comfort justiceable? What is particular about such persons who have not been known for extending any form of assistance to their fellow artistes in dire need except concentrating on their comedy or managing a single music act?
There are more questions than answers. However, it must be understood that the above posers are borne out of the fact that what is at issue is in the main, providing palliatives for the members of that critical sector that has done more than even the relevant government agencies in promoting, projecting and marketing Nigeria in the positive light.
There are certain things that happen in our clime that leads one to suspect that ours is pervaded by either mischievous amnesia or that we, as a people are condemned to suffering from short and shallow memories. If truth must be told, nobody needs to look so far to find very fine gentlemen in the creative sector who possess the sterling qualities to sit in the COVID-19 Committee, given their contributions to the welbeing of the industry players long before the advent of the ravaging and deadly coronavirus.
Back in the very late ’90’s, Obafemi Lasode, owner of Africa ‘N’ Vogue audio and video studios, opened the gates of his outfit in Victoria Island to upcoming artstes for free recording sessions, post production up to finishing their works. Such a man understands what it means to struggle in lack. Many of the big name acts in Nigeria today benefited from Lasode’s benevolence. But his name is conveniently forgotten in the list of the Committee members.
Apart from providing mini and portable music studios for artistes, Bolaji Rosiji proceeded to offer raw food stuff to old musicians while he was the president of the Performing Musicians Employers Association of Nigeria (PMAN). All these occured long before the coming of coronavirus pandemic. Nobody seems to remember such humanitarian disposition.
More recently, one patriotic Nigerian, Chief Tony Okoroji, chairman of the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) and former president of PMAN, has ceaselessly been fighting for the welfare of the Nigerian creators, especially in the music industry; protecting their rights, ensuring that they duly earn their royalties and seeing to it that they are pretty well in this era of VOVID-19 lockdown. How good and beautiful would it would have been if such men and their likes were included in this Committee. But alas! Charlatans are the best choices.
That may be the reason some major stakeholders in the Nigerian Music Industry Coalition have joined the 18 Guilds of the Nigerian Motion Picture Industry to call for the disbandment and reconstitution of the COVID 19 Committee as recently announced by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed. And in my view, they are right.
Hon John Ewelukwa Udegbunam, a foremost music industry activist and immediate past National President of Music Label Owners & Recording Industries Association of Nigeria (MORAN), Nigeria’s biggest association of owners of copyright in sound recordings and a key convener of the Nigerian Music Industry Coalition, described the announcement of the appointment of Mr. Efe Omorogbe to the committee as “an insult, an outrage and an attempt to provoke a large section of the music industry in Nigeria”.
Most importantly, to be sure, is that it must be emphasised that Nigeria should have gone beyond putting square pegs in round holes. At any stage, this country can boast of men and women eminently capable of delivering quality services in whatever area of human endeavour anywhere, any time at any level.
The COVID-19 Committee in essence, needs yet another look for it to have a well balanced membership for equitable delivery of service in the given circumstance.