Calabar - Chairman, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON); Chief Tony Okoroji has made a 0passionate plea to President Goodluck Jonathan to take urgent steps to save the Entertainment Industry Intervention Fund which the President announced last year with so much fanfare. Chief Okoroji who presented the Lead Paper at the Colloquium of the National Festival of Arts & Culture (NAFEST) on Wednesday, October 26 at the Cultural Centre Complex in Calabar held the packed audience, made up of senators, commissioners, permanent secretaries and culture administrators from all the states of the federation, spell bound for close to 45 minutes.
Leading three other discussants from different Nigerian universities to x ray the theme of the colloquium, Nigerian Traditional Music: A Vehicle for Economic Transformation and Unity, Chief Okoroji, a former President of PMAN said,“Some of us participated in the discussions that led to the institution of the intervention fund, but suddenly, the falcon can no longer hear the falconer. I have been invited to a few meetings from which I have come out with the belief that those charged with administering the fund are not quite sure what they are supposed to do.
“I have very good reason to fear that eventually those who will access the fund are not those for which the fund was established and those who truly need the fund will never smell it. In the industry, there is growing disappointment and peculating conclusion that the intervention fund which created so much initial buzz is after all an election gimmick and money for the boys. No one else has the muscle to change that growing feeling than President Jonathan himself. He needs to personally and quickly intervene in the intervention fund before it becomes an albatross. He needs to give the marching orders to his team to take charge and ensure that the solemn promise he made to the entertainment community is kept”
In his paper, Chief Tony Okoroji, author of the book, Copyright & the New Millionaires and one of the nation’s foremost experts on intellectual property dwelt extensively on issues of intellectual property rights and collective management of rights in the digital age. He praised individual Nigerian musicians and producers for their hard work and enterprise which he says has now made Nigeria a significant force in world contemporary music.
He argued however that to sustain this position and harness it to provide jobs for the teaming masses of the unemployed in Nigeria and contribute to national development, the nation needs to urgently articulate the way forward and provide the necessary institutional support that will drive private sector projects.
Chief Okoroji disagreed with those who have derisively described what is now termed Naija hip pop as a poor imitation of the American hip-pop culture.
He traced the development of the burgeoning popular music culture in Nigeria citing examples to conclude that the present day Nigerian popular music forms do not originate from America but have their roots in traditional Nigerian music. According to him, it is indeed American hip-pop culture which is traceable through Soul music, Blues and Jazz music to the Negro Spirituals taken from West Africa to America by the slaves uprooted from our shores. He declared that no one should be surprised by any similarity in the forms as they share the same ancestry and genes.
Observing that there is serious disconnect between the Federal Ministry of Culture and the private sector practitioners the ministry was set up to support, Chief Okoroji called on the Minister of Culture to reposition the ministry and make it more relevant to the needs of the nation. He decried the abject lack of resources to actualize important projects in the cultural sector saying that things may have been different if the National Endowment for the Arts was up and running.
In the words of Chief Okoroji: “I believe that everyone in the cultural sector in Nigeria ought to be thoroughly embarrassed that more than 20 years after the promulgation of the National Endowment Fund for the Arts Decree (Decree No. 52 of 1991: now the National Endowment Fund for the Arts Act) the fund remains a mirage and people in the cultural sector still grope around for funding when an important source of funds is there. The Honourable Minister of Culture needs to act now. To my mind, if his only achievement in office is to get the National Endowment Fund for the Arts up and running well, he would have left his footprints in the sands of time”
Among those present at the Colloquium were Senator Hassan Barata, Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism, Senator Ahmed Sani Stores, Deputy Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism, His Royal Highness, Etubom Bob Duke representing the Obong of Calabar and Mr. Gabe Onah, Special Adviser on Tourism to the Governor of Cross River State. The Colloquium proceedings were chaired by Chief Segun Olusola.