Yesterday, September 1, was “No Music Day”. As has become traditional, I had to do a live broadcast on the state of the music industry to mark the day. I realize that many are very busy and would have missed the broadcast. Today, in Saturday Breakfast, I serve some bread & omelettes from the broadcast:

Why is September 1 called “No Music Day”?

Exactly 14 years ago, on September 1, 2009, practitioners in the entire Nigerian creative family massed in front of the National Theatre in Lagos and for days, refused to eat or drink and demanded that the over 400 licensed broadcast stations in the country, who use music as the key raw material for their operations, should not broadcast music for a significant period of that day. So began what we have celebrated every year since, as “No Music Day”.

The mass hunger strike was a result of our frustration with the devastating level of intellectual property theft, which is a malignant symptom of what has become a general national malady. Everywhere around us, people are trying to reap where they did not sow and comfortably stealing what does not belong to them, and this has manifested in endemic corruption that threatens to ruin our nation.

Every year, in marking “No Music Day”, our key objective has been to engage the Nigerian people and the various governments on the potential contributions of Nigerian creativity to the development of the Nigerian nation and the necessity to fully deploy the substantial comparative advantage which our nation possesses in this area so as to provide hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs to the teeming masses of Nigerian youth who parade the streets of our country almost hopelessly and which hopelessness invariably attracts them to become laborers in the devil’s workshop.

The truth is that nothing is wrong with our genes. While our politicians and so called leaders, with their take-everything and give-nothing-in-return mentality, have left millions of Nigerians with devastating hunger, joblessness and unknown gunmen everywhere, several young Nigerians are flexing their muscles in different parts of the world and soaring in diverse fields.

Asake, Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, Flavour and many more are taking what is today called Afro Beat to the world and filling huge venues with rapturous fans paying pounds and dollars to see them. Bukayo Saka, the Arsenal player who now wears the shirt of the English national football team, is born of Nigerian parents. Victor Osimhen who is the top scorer in the very competitive Italian Football League is a full-blooded Nigerian. Taiwo Awoniyi who amazingly just scored in 7 consecutive premiership games for Nottingham Forest is a Nigerian. Tobi Amusan who holds the World Record in 100 meters Hurdles is a Nigerian. Anthony Joshua, the famous boxer, has Nigerian genes. The internationally celebrated writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian.

The fact is that none of the Nigerians mentioned here became successful as a result of any contribution or assistance of the Nigerian government or any of our numerous government agencies continuously expending billions of naira of public funds. Every Nigerian star across the world who has made it has made it on his or her own.

The tragedy of our development or the lack of it, is that when the government or any of its agencies touches any great idea, that idea is sentenced to failure. The reason is simple: The average Nigerian public official is not programmed to work for the public good. His focus is to corrupt any good idea and look for how to deploy the idea to grab whatever he can grab for himself, his family and friends.

COSON is a shining example of how public officials behave towards good ideas in Nigeria. Through a lot of toil and hard work, we built COSON into the biggest and most successful copyright collective management organization in Nigeria’s history and one of the most respected in Africa, an organization admired across the world. COSON distributed hundreds of millions of Naira every year to musicians across Nigeria, some of them famous and a lot of them in the growth period of their careers. We built the magnificent COSON House in Ikeja without borrowing any money and without any government help whatsoever.

Lo and behold, our success became our albatross as every group you can imagine began to conspire to hijack COSON, take over the organization, and in the typical Nigerian fashion, suck it and milk it dry. We said no and the government agency we campaigned vigorously to be set up, an agency that was supposed to protect us, joined our adversaries, deployed powers they do not have under the law and took every imaginable step to annihilate us. Some officials of the government devised ‘divide and rule’ tactics to infiltrate our leadership, some planning to retire into COSON when they leave government. In all of these, they spared no thought for the enormous harm they were doing to thousands of musicians in Nigeria and the billions of naira they have cost the musicians they are supposed to be in office to lift up. Sadly, they never cared that they are choking us and would not let us breath. At the end of the day, it has become clear that the musicians would have done much better without this government agency.

What has happened to COSON has happened to several other organizations and individuals in Nigeria faced with officials of government who see their role not as agents of growth in position to lift up institutions and individuals. These officials are in every sense self-centered agents set to pull down good institutions, good ideas and good individuals and feast on their carcass.

Once again, I make this broadcast from COSON House in Ikeja which is property that belongs 100% to the creative people of Nigeria and which shows what we can do when we work together. I wish to state that I am proud of the members of COSON, everywhere in Nigeria, our Board members, and the indefatigable Management team at COSON. COSON has continued to thrive because we have not allowed anyone to tear us apart which underlines the truism in the words, “United we stand, divided we fall”.

On this “No Music Day”, I restate the determination of COSON to remain a transparent and law -abiding agent of strength, unity, progress and growth for the music industry in Nigeria with the determination to shield the Nigerian music industry from scammers and marauders who work day and night to turn collective management of copyright into their personal cash cow and naira gushing ATM.

Yes, on this “No Music Day 2023”, I wish to assure the thousands of members of COSON across the country, that the season of the locust is practically over and that every step is being taken to make sure that the music begins to pay again without delay.

On this “No Music Day”, I call on the true creatives of Nigeria to borrow a leaf from COSON, bind together and work together for the good of all and to resist those who work day and night to divide us so that they can feast on that division. Nigerian musicians must continue to conquer territories and soar in every part of the world. Nigerian movies must be dominant everywhere we go. Nigerian fashion must be the toast of people in every part of the world. Nigerian sportsmen must conquer in every field, on every track, every court and every ring. Nigerian content must be the reference point on every platform.

We very much recognize the deep despair in the land, the hunger that threatens the life of millions of Nigerians, the insecurity that has snatched the lives of so many of our countrymen and the anguish under which many Nigerians wake up in the morning and go to bed at night. Nigerian creatives cannot afford to give up. We must work hard together for the unity of our country and the progress of our nation. We must contribute to making Nigeria a nation in which people do not brazenly reap where they did not sow and comfortably steal what does not belong to them and amass wealth which they have not earned.

We cannot afford to give up as a nation despite the immense disappointments we have faced. All of Nigeria’s creative people must today fully engage in preventing Nigeria from becoming a wasted land destroyed by hatred and suspicion and the narrow tribal ambitions of a hand-full of people.

On this “No Music Day 2023”, I pray for all Nigerians who are going through trials, tribulations and hardship and beg the Almighty to please meet their needs. God bless the Nigerian Creative Industry and God bless the great people of Nigeria.


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