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Obaro: My marathon is to save creative works from piracy

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Obaro. PHOTO: Sahara Reporters

Adjarhor David Obaro, generally known as World Wrapper Man, recently completed his Lagos to Onitsha marathon to draw attention to the evils of piracy on creative and other literary works in Nigeria. In a chat with OMIKO AWA, he revealed why he embarked on the marathon.

What prompted the marathon?
I see it as my own little contribution towards purging the creative industry of piracy/pirates. Besides, I have once been a victim of someone stealing my idea, so, when the opportunity came, I keyed into it, to tell people how it hurts for one’s work to be pirated. I may not be the best around, but I can add my own little quarter to make the necessary change.

What is the benefit of the race?
They are numerous. You will be surprised to know that it is not everybody that is aware of piracy, because while I was running, I was also enlightening people on the way. People gathered to find out what I was doing and I told them all about the cause and many of them were shocked to know that piracy is a criminal act. I made them to understand that fighting piracy and pirates is a war no man can do alone and the earlier we all joined hands to rid the country of pirates, the better. There is need for a collaborative effort to effectively fight and win the war against piracy. Pirates are not many, they are very few, but organised. We can only win the war if we properly organise ourselves and everyone acts like a police to fish them out or shun buying pirated works, be it music, books or any creative work.

Did you encounter any challenge on the way?
On this trip, no one stole my things, but during the previous one, thieves attacked me and made away with some of my belongings. However, challenges will definitely come to pull one down, but the more challenges I have, the more I strive to be the best.

One of the challenges I had this time around was a policeman not allowing me to sleep at Omotosho, a community along Ore.  I got to the town at about 6.30pm and demanded to see the traditional ruler and I was told he was not around. I requested to see the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), so, that I could pass the night there. While asking to see the DPO, some youths began to harass me. One of them said I should be handed over to the police. On our way to the station, we met the DPO, who directed I board a vehicle to Ore, but I told him I was running for a cause and as a result of that, I was not supposed to board any vehicle. And he said, ‘if I didn’t leave Omotosho, I should take whatsoever came my way’. I took that for a threat and I called Lagos to explain my situation and the whole thing went viral. The good thing about it, was that help came. The Ore Police Station was contacted and the police officer that initially never wanted me to sleep in Omotsho changed his mind and I slept there; in fact, he became my host.

How did you feel then?
I am human; I felt bad. I became disorganised because the police was supposed to be my refuge when I needed help. The intervention gave me courage; in fact, you may never understand a thing until you are involved. Almost immediately after this, another policeman accosted me, saying the NCC letter I was carrying was forged and stripped me to the pants. The whole 52 items in my bag were brought out and scrutinised. The police officer said he did not believe what I told him; that how could I say I was running from Lagos to Onitsha. I was calm and asked him to call Ore Police Station, since I was still near Ore to confirm my claim. It was after this, that I began to have an easy passage. Any checkpoint I got to, the policemen welcomed me.

For over 10 years now, you have been running for different causes why is it that you still have some challenges on the road?
I think that not much publicity was given to this my last run. Besides, that is the third time that I was running through that road and some people are still shocked to see me run with a bundle of wrapper; they still do not know me. They would ask if I’m a Nigerian, Ghanaian or South African, and with this xenophobic attack in South Africa; some people interrogated me to know if truly I am a Nigerian. In fact, some said I looked like a South African, even with the Nigerian flag I was carrying and other messages across my shirt. People still do not believe I am a Nigerian and from Agbarha-Otor town in Delta State. I don’t know how much publicity one needs to make people know me. However, this will not stop me from running for any good cause in the country.

How do you get sponsors for your races?
I must point out that getting sponsorship is really tough. It has always been my close friends and I. This time around, NCC supported me with a phone and my take off fund to enable me buy water on my way, and sometimes, sleep in hotels.

I ran only from Lagos to Onitsha, which is about 650km. The whole trip took 18 days. I had no medical team, apart from my first aid kit. At Ijebu Ode, I had food poison and for two days, I was an out door patient. It was more of an adventure to me because allowing a medical team to follow me would be a luxury for an adventurer.

Were you warmly received in Onitsha?
Yes, Onitsha city marathon group received me warmly; they waited for me at the Niger Bridge. The story of my coming was on their radio stations, which made many to be ready for me. Radio Stations carried the news and the whole city was prepared for me. I was taken to two secondary schools to speak and also granted interview to a radio station. And after that, I left for Abuja, boarded a vehicle, to NCC office. I was well received at NCC office too. The Center for Research, Information Management and Media Development (CRIMMD), Lagos, also organised a welcome reception for me and I am grateful fo all of this.

What did you tell the students ?
I told them never to give up on their dreams, as long as they believed in themselves and not give up, they will surely succeed in life. I may not have the fastest speed, but I run my race. I told them not to focus on the next person, but to focus on themselves, be their own competitors and they will succeed in life. I told them I embarked on the marathon to save all forms of creative works from being pirated.

When did you start running for social causes?
I started doing this in 2009. And I got this from my parents, who are fond of giving back to the community. I remember telling my father, then, that whatever he is going to give to me as heritance, I will give it to charity. It almost caused a problem in my family, but I am seeing it today coming to pass in my life. I have come to realise that the more one gives, especially to those who cannot give back, the more he/she is fulfilled in life. I will continue to do this because the more attention I draw to any social cause, the more fulfilled I get.

From your interaction with different people during the race, do you think there will be a change of attitude to piracy?
Yes, there will be. Although the journey has not ended, as the campaign is still ongoing, especially on social media. We look forward to making everyone to be part of the campaign. Those I met one-on-one showed some remorse and exposed their ignorance. Some even went to the point to say they do not know it was a crime. I even told them that some of the materials we share on Facebook, Twitter and others without permission from the original owners constitute piracy. I also told the secondary school students that the textbooks they photocopy is a form of piracy and they were all shocked. So, the run made the right effect, it made some people, especially the youth, to know about the evils of piracy.

With advanced technology, do you think the war can be won?
As long as there is original, there must be the fake; so, it is more of a conscience thing. If we decide to stop doing things that negatively affect creativity, the war will end. What pirates do is to reproduce what someone has done, which, in a way, destroys creativity. Imagine writing a book and spending a lot of money on printing and publishing only to find out that someone has reproduced the book and is selling it cheaper than your cost of production. You will go bankrupt if you borrow to produce the book. It is a dangerous thing, but many people do not see it that way.  So, I tell people to put themselves in the position of the owners of the works pirated, until we start seeing piracy from that angle many will never see the pains the owners of the works are passing through.

Which other social course have you run for?
I have run for the environment and hunger. In 2017, I ran from Lagos to Delta State to raise awareness for the educational sector. I actually did it to draw attention to my alma mater. I have also run from Lagos to Makurdi to draw attention to the Benue flood victims. It was a 900km trip and I spent 40 days on the road. The trip was the greatest adventure I had ever done. I am looking at running for the environment again, where I will draw attention to the coastline between Lagos and Epe. I have been thinking of the trip for about three years now.

How long does it take for you to recuperate after each trip?
It takes about two to three months depending on my mind and things around me. It majorly depends on how much damage was done to my system while I was running.

Do you normally run with your wrapper?
Yes, 18-yard wrapper weighing four kilogrammes. But when I did Lagos to Delta, I created a new record of running with 23 yards weighing 5kg. Aside the run, I teach people that no matter your problem you can still run or live above it. In my last run my bag weighed six kilogrammes as against the four kilogrammes I normally carry. Add this four kilogrammes to my wrapper you will get 10kg, while I weigh 92kg and 50 years old. Although, when I got to Onitsha, I crosschecked my weight only to find out that I have lost 10kg after the run.

How do keep form?
I do a lot of exercises and train minimum of three times a week — running, doing body works and aerobics. I run a minimum of 30km a week to keep form and be ready to run at anytime. And after all of that, I relax by swimming, listening to music and meditating on God’s words.


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