It was in the midst of very turbulent events in 1982 that PMAN was born. It was as music cassette technology blossomed and the virus of music piracy spread across the nation that invitation letters were received by most of the substantive players in the music industry in Nigeria. The invitation was for a meeting at King Sunny Ade’s Ariya nightclub in the Jibowu area of Lagos. The meeting was called to devise comprehensive strategies to confront the piracy menace that was threatening to eclipse the industry. The letters were signed by Christy Essien Igbokwe, fondly called the Lady of Songs, whose works had been heavily pirated.
I was one of those invited to the meeting. There was indeed a large turnout of musicians and recording company executives. After a long and sometimes noisy debate, the musicians at the venue decided that rather than devise ad hoc measures to deal with the piracy problem, an association should be set up to address the many issues confronting musicians in Nigeria. That decision led to the formation of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), with Sunny Ade as protem President, Sonny Okosun as Vice President and Christy Essien Igbokwe as Treasurer. Among others, Steve Gboyega Adelaja and this author were nominated General Secretary and Assistant General Secretary respectively. Both nominees protested their nominations saying that they had heavy workloads which would make it impossible for them to devote the required time to the assignment. The meeting refused. The spirit of the gathering was that no one was going to be allowed to refuse an assignment. The nominees had no choice but to accept.
The very weak provisions of Decree No 61 of 1970, the copyright law then in force, was identified as the major obstacle to effective confrontation of the copyright problem. The civil provisions were cumbersome and had many loopholes for the very inventive pirates to escape. The criminal sanctions as provided in Section 491 of the Criminal Code were laughable. The penalty for a convicted pirate was =N=4 for every copy of pirated work dealt with, up to a maximum fine of =N= 100! There was no provision for any imprisonment. There was therefore very little legal deterrent against piracy. It became very clear that the most important and urgent task facing PMAN was to get an effective copyright law promulgated in Nigeria.
The Sunny Ade led PMAN executive set out to attack the problem. The association first paid a visit to President Shehu Shagari at Dodan Barracks in Ikoyi Lagos, then the seat of the Presidency. I recall riding in the same car with music icon, Bobby Benson as PMAN stormed the National Assembly at Racecourse Lagos. When we showed up, there was commotion. Everywhere, flash bulbs exploded as a lot of photographs were taken and promises made. Unfortunately, PMAN had to learn an important lesson: politicians make promises to everyone!
There was indeed a Private Member’s Bill introduced in the House of Representatives in 1982 by Edet Bassey Etienam and four others.to amend Sections 491and 492 of the Criminal Code so as “to impose severe penalties for any infringement of copyright”. At the end of the day, there was not much to show for the great sacrifice and expense of the likes of King Sunny Ade and Christy Essien Igbokwe. There was even talk that some of the legislators requested a large sum of money from PMAN to ‘expedite the process’ Apart from the said Private Member’s Bill that never went beyond the first reading, not much happened to deal with the copyright problem until Nigerians woke up on the very last day of 1983 to hear on radio, “Fellow Country men and women”, the voice of one Sanni Abacha, informing the world that the civilian government of Shehu Shagari and the entire National Assembly had been sacked! It was another of Nigeria’s many military coups.
The demands of running an association like PMAN were probably much more than the members ever anticipated. The association’s first secretariat was a rather expensive three storey building at No 3 Ola Ayeni Street, in the part of Ikeja now known as ‘Computer Village’. Gentleman Emma Ogosi took over as General Secretary from Steve Gboyega Adelaja, who true to his initial prediction just did not have sufficient time for the assignment. This author unfortunately also did not do enough to justify his inclusion in the Executive Council. However, a number of musicians put in a lot of time to assist Emma Ogosi. There was Emma Dorgu who performed the role of Public Relations Officer, Terry Jackson Alumona, Uche Ibeto, Maliki Showman, Temiro Babarosa, Harry Mosco, Eunice Mokus, etc. who made the PMAN office a second home.
The cost of running the association began to grow. Despite the great number of musicians that rallied round PMAN, very few made any real financial contribution to the association. Sunny Ade was left to carry much of the financial burden with some assistance from Christy Essien Igbokwe and a few others. The support of some patrons of the association like Alhaji Arisekola Alao and Prince Tunde Ponnle, founder of Miccom Cables & Wires, both of whom donated motor vehicles to PMAN helped for a while to reduce the burden. There was the expectation that when the association was officially registered, it would have the power to generate income and things would change.. Things did not change.
The eventual registration of PMAN as a trade union in 1984 did not bring the expected succor. The events organized by the association to raise funds, were rather unwieldy. All kinds of characters saw in PMAN an opportunity to make quick money. Rather than solve the financial problems, the events left PMAN with debt and debt and debt. For long periods, Emma Ogosi was left to manage a rather untidy union with no money and no trained personnel. In the circumstance, survival became more important than the copyright problem which brought the association into being and which was getting much worse. Sunny Ade could not carry the load anymore. To put it mildly, PMAN began to slide.
It was under these circumstances that a new executive council was elected at PMAN with Ozzidi King, Sonny Okosun as President and musicologist Taiwo Ogunade as Vice President. Emma Ogosi continued to act as General Secretary, a fulltime position under the PMAN Constitution. As soon as the Sonny Okosun leadership could, the PMAN Secretariat was relocated to a less opulent and less expensive premises at No 1 Oremeji Street, almost opposite the old secretariat. Unfortunately, Sonny Okosun was touring quite a bit spreading his Ozzidi gospel. Taiwo Ogunade, who most of the time acted as President in the absence of Okosun, had too many disagreements with Ogosi. Many other personality problems developed with the usual accusations and counter accusations. Sadly, with respect to the all-important copyright wahala that gave birth to PMAN in the first place, there was very little energy, articulation or co-ordinated action coming from PMAN to deal with the problem. Piracy went crazy and the once growing music industry was beaten black and blue. (To be continued)