Tony Okoroji was the center of critique in an article by Chris Ihidero, where he described Tony Okoroji as “do these guys not know of Okoroji and his penchant for power? If you set yourself up as the new generation that is bringing change, what are you doing in bed with a controversial veteran player like Okoroji? Beyond that, do they know that at the moment, Okoroji is tackling Cool FM (yeah, easy target, foreigner, blah blah blah…) and is asking that radio stations in Lagos should pay COSON, his new baby, N15million each for their use of Nigerian music. Cool.” Dampte also wrote a critique exclusive to QMarkMag. Taking to Facebook, in a note The Former PMAN President and COSON board chairman responded to the several critiques, calling it all propaganda.
Tony Okoroji writes:
In the last two weeks, a cheap propagandist has been unleashed to work overtime to impugn my integrity in the media. He has seized upon the events of the recent PMAN Oshogbo conference to orchestrate widespread falsehood about me and to concoct much fiction which has been printed in several newspapers as fact. I have read words like “coup”, “takeover”, “harassment”, “police”, etc used to link me with what happened in Oshogbo. In one publication on the net, I was even referred to as a “trickster” by someone who has never spoken to me.
How short, memories can be. A few years ago, a propagandist was hired in a similar fashion to use the media to destroy me. He went about his task with the same zeal. The charlatan boasted to everyone that he would write me off the streets. In practically every newspaper in the land, tales were told condemning me to terrible things I knew nothing about. I was invited to the EFCC, ICPC, SSS and everywhere else. The propagandist and his sponsors were very happy. They ate, drank and celebrated. One fine day, they were invited, one after the other, to the High Court of Lagos State to establish the foundation of their tales. To the surprise of many, the propagandist and his sponsors had nothing to show. Lo and behold, judgment days came and millions of naira in historic damages were awarded to me, month after month. The once pompous propagandist and his principals began to shake and shamelessly started appealing to my “understanding” The story is very well known. I thought that I have proven that I can fully defend myself. I also thought that my experience ought to be an indelible chapter in the development of good journalism in Nigeria but it is clear that people never learn.
I am one hundred percent for freedom of expression. I fully believe in the freedom of the press. Some of my best friends of all times are to be found in the media and I believe that without full discourse of every issue, society will not make the desired progress. What I say no to is to conscript the media to spread malice against those who have a different point of view.
The tragedy is that the blood sucking mosquitoes who think that they can hide under a great profession like journalism to execute their wicked contracts against me do not write better English than I do neither do they have better media contacts than I have. What then gives them the impetus to openly boast that they can write me off the streets? I have seen them operate. Once they get their nasty briefs and a little money, they run off like little animals and immerse themselves in their shameless assignment until reality catches up with them. Then, they and their sponsors send endless emissaries and crawl before one begging for forgiveness when at every point they fully knew what they were doing. I hereby serve notice that henceforth it will not be business as usual. They will pay appropriate price for the shameless activities they engage in.
Recently, there have been stories in several newspapers that I inspired a new generation of artistes who went to Oshogbo in a move to take over the leadership of PMAN. They miss the point. I will rather say that I have been inspired by the new generation of Nigerian artistes who have sought to inject new blood into PMAN. Their intellect, vision, commitment and values give me hope that there is a future not just for the Nigerian entertainment industry but for our country. I am proud of the likes of el Dee, Banky W, Sunny Neji, MI, Mr. Kool, KSB, Sound Sultan, D’ Banj, Wande Coal, Don Jazzy, 2 Shotz, Efe Omorogbe, Ed Jatto, Baba Dee, Don T, D’Prince, Dr. Sid, K-Switch, Ice Prince, Jesse Jagz and the others who made the decision to undertake the long trek to Oshogbo at personal cost. They gave me a chance to break bread with them and share water and to speak honestly with them about the Nigerian entertainment industry and our country. I am very proud of the camaraderie we established and the opportunity it offers our industry and our nation.
The way the propagandist has orchestrated it, I am supposed to be ashamed of my link with these great Nigerian artistes and should apologize for having been found with them. I plead guilty to sharing their aspiration and values. I plead guilty to caring enough to do something when many others would rather hide their heads and shame in the sand and complain endlessly. I plead guilty to having walked out with them when they made the correct decision that they would not give one naira to anyone to be voted into any office.
I know a lot of “specialists” in Nigerian politics who believe that the end justifies the means and that the young people should have stayed behind, been part of the bazaar in Oshogbo and battled it out, naira for naira, slander for slander. I plead guilty to agreeing with my younger brethren that no one ought to sell his soul for any office, no matter how high or attractive. I plead guilty to having left Oshogbo a very happy and proud man. Indeed, I am a proud signatory to the Oshogbo Declaration.
Let me clarify that I was not a gatecrasher at the PMAN Oshogbo conference. I was invited in writing by the leadership of PMAN. My friend, Dele Abiodun, personally handed me the keys to VIP 7 at Gazal Hotel. I did not sleep there but chose to lay my head in more modest quarters elsewhere. Maybe the expectation was that I will show up in Oshogbo to lend my name and imprimatur to the infamy that was going on. Those in the PMAN leadership ought to know me enough by now to know that I do not play hanky- panky. I do not operate in the dark. I call a spade a spade.
I was at the meeting which the young artistes held with Admiral Abiodun by the swimming pool of Gazal Hotel in Osogbo. Each of the artistes showed Dele great courtesy and respect. No one used an expletive, no one raised his voice and there was no threat or even the slightest hint of violence. There was certainly no gun and no police called by anyone. The artistes simply said to Admiral Dele Abiodun that they have come of age and were ready to serve their elders and appealed to him for his support. At that point, Dele had not given any indication that he wanted to return as President of PMAN.
It is my belief that my friend, Dele Abiodun, missed a great opportunity to make history in Oshogbo. He would forever have been remembered as the one who rescued PMAN and ensured the needed generational shift. He has worsened the matter by unleashing his propagandists on the young artistes, the true face of today’s Nigerian music industry whose “sin” is that they sought to participate in determining their destiny. The people he has sought to humiliate are the most important assets that would have been deployed to turn PMAN around in weeks.
For many years I have resisted every invitation to join in forming an alternative union to represent musicians in Nigeria. I was President of PMAN at 29 years old and worked day and night with a team of very dedicated people to spread PMAN across the country. We rallied musicians, young and old, to turn PMAN into one of the most admired professional organizations in Nigeria. Our vision was clear – to create a positive direction for the music industry and generate respect for Nigerian musicians. We set targets and toiled to achieve those targets. We were so engrossed in our task that no one was concerned with privileges. These days all I hear about is endless battles over privileges. Every small disagreement or difference of opinion within the PMAN leadership in recent years has ended up at a police station and become intractable.
With all humility, no group can honestly claim to have sacrificed more than the team I led to the building of the PMAN brand and no one can desire more than me that PMAN be rescued. The brand has however become badly tarnished and there is too much disconnect between PMAN and the musicians it is set up to serve. Any attempt to clean up PMAN is fiercely resisted by persons who act as if their entire lives depend on clutching on to the tarnished brand and milking it. When you get to this point, you must ask yourself very serious questions about the true objectives of the organization. Is it a means to an end or an end in itself? I was Chairman of PMRS. When it became obvious that PMRS was not delivering the right results to the stakeholders, I supported the killing of PMRS. Today, working with others, we have set up a world class organization in COSON. It is doing things that PMRS could not do. I have promised the good Lord that as long as He gives me the opportunity, I intend to contribute towards a better Nigerian entertainment industry. I will work with any well meaning group, young or old, in or out of office, in that direction. No propagandist will scare me away and if giving everything I can to make the industry better for the good of everyone and the growth of our nation is a crime, I plead guilty!