PMAN… Music house in search of lasting peace
• Ngige Urges Members To Bury Differences
• We Will Cooperate To Restore Peace, Says Luciano
Over the years, Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), the umbrella body of all Nigerian musicians, has known no peace, as a result of unending leadership tussle that has factionalised the association. But with the recent intervention by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, who has inaugurated 35-man committee, with a mandate to conduct a new election for PMAN, it seems the end is near in the crisis that has crippled the once active union.
Meanwhile, a faction of PMAN led by Pretty Okafor, which had earlier scheduled an election for October to usher in a new executive following the expiration of the tenure of the current Interim National Executive Caretaker Committee, had faulted the proposed inauguration of a caretaker committee to oversee the affairs of PMAN by Ngige.
In a statement issued on July 13, by its General Secretary, Kenny Ama George, the faction said, “It has come to our notice that some people in their bid to evade justice in the fraudulent acquisition and sale of PMAN land in Abuja, which is still under investigation by the Police Headquarters, appear to have found succour in the office of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.”
Describing the proposed inauguration as ‘abnormal and spurious’, the group added, “we still have pending law suits in different competent courts of jurisdiction, including those in the National Industrial Court, Federal High Court and the Federal Court of Appeal.”
Quoting from an order of National Industrial Court dated June 15 in Suit No NCIN/272/2015, PMAN vs Registrar Of Trade Unions and 19 others, George said, “the order has restrained the Registrar of Trade Unions, the Director of Industrial Relations and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Productivity. Therefore, it’s shocking that the minister to whom all documents in respect of the matter have been forwarded and appeal made for him to distance himself, has decided to join forces with the defiant”.
The statement further noted that the faction “knew about the clandestine plans long before now, and had to forward the appropriate documents to the minister and pleaded with him to distance himself from the charade being orchestrated by the aforementioned people who have always been the bane of PMAN.
“If it is true that the minister has gone ahead to inaugurate the so-called committee, we shall not fail to invoke the appropriate sanctions against whoever is involved under the Nigerian laws except there is no law any longer in Nigeria. It is a question of time. We are happy that we currently have a president in Nigeria, who abhors fraud and corruption in all its ramification and he is aware of this matter and we believe that no minister under him is permitted to embrace corruption”.
But while inaugurating the committee in his Abuja office, Ngige frowned at the continued factionalisation of the union, urging all factions to come together to work for a common purpose to improve the fortunes of the industry.
“I have observed the factionalisation going on in PMAN for over 12 years, but I want that to stop,” he said. “I have read your reports; it is this ministry that has the mandate to recognise trade unions. Any crisis that has an element of factionalism, it’s about give and take; you have to be democratic in whatever you are doing. The caretaker committee we are setting up must come from both sides; you must work as one.”
While identifying the entertainment industry as a major job creation portal for the army of unemployed youths, Ngige described PMAN as the oil in the wheel of progress for the country’s tourism industry.
“If your union is strong it would be better organised to attract local and foreign investments and unleash its great potentials in job creation for our youths. Government is therefore very much interested in what is happening in PMAN and is eager to see this twelve years old crisis behind us.”
In what appeared as a direct response to allegation in some quarters that the minister was plotting to install a parallel leadership for the musicians’ body, Ngige explained, “PMAN deserves a government popularly elected and acceptable to all. The principle of social dialogue should be embraced by all as an important tool for the resolution of conflicts so as to avoid unnecessary litigations and the attendant cost involved. And that is why this caretaker committee is broadened to accommodate all factions, who will steer the activities of the union to a credible election.”
While reminding the union that the country is under the change era, the minister said, “We must change with the time. We run a popular democracy and are determined to give the union of musicians a government of musicians, by musicians and for musicians.”
He, however, commended many members of the group for their eminent contributions in developing the industry over the years, but urged them not to allow their preeminence to be a reverse tool in stifling other up-coming artistes, noting, “This caretaker must, therefore, work for peace and should avoid high-handedness in running the affairs of the body. The Federal Government is committed to giving every Nigerian or group opportunity to develop his or her potentials.”
In his response, Chairman of the newly inaugurated Interim Caretaker Committee, Mr. Kevin Gabriel Luciano, who once led PMAN Peace Committee, commended Ngige for his intervention and pledged the cooperation of all members to the restoration of peace to the organisation.
However, The Guardian gathered that the Pretty Okafor-led PMAN faction was not invited to the Abuja accord and was not part of the agreement to set up the 35-man committee. Also, no member of the faction is listed in the committee saddled with the responsibility of unifying the musicians’ family.
When contacted on telephone, Okafor said, “We heard about the meeting and the outcome like every other Nigerian. But I must tell you I was never invited; nobody from my team got an invitation for the meeting with the minister. But I’m aware that they sent text messages to themselves ahead of the meeting, while we were left out. And I must make it clear that there’s no faction in PMAN. We are the authentic PMAN”.
Okafor, who expressed disappointment with the decision of the ministry to organise such an all-important meeting without reaching out to all stakeholder, noted, “I’m sure the minister was ill-informed about the issues in PMAN. If not, he would have reached out to all parties involved. The truth is that there are court injunctions and ruling that must be respected. I don’t think the minister is a lawless man. I’m convinced he was not told the whole truth about PMAN.”
Asked if he’s ready to join hands with the committee to rebuild PMAN, Okafor explained, “After my reaction to that meeting, the minister actually called me personally on this matter. Like I said earlier, he was not well briefed and his calling me explains that. Left for our members, we would have taken some actions against that move, but the fact that the minister has personally reached out to us I’m ready to meet with him. It’s not in my character to be disrespectful to elders; we will follow due process. There are some documents he needs to see and we will ensure he understands the issues involved.”
Though not totally against peace in PMAN, Okafor expressed the view that due process must be followed, adding, “The fact that we were not carried along in that meeting is already a dent on the whole process. We need to get things straight. Since we took over the running of PMAN, we have made tremendous efforts to restructure the body. If you go on our website, the information you need is there. We have been working to end this crisis, including fixing an election in October this year. I want to plead with our members to stay calm while we resolve this matter. I don’t want to say more about this issue until we meet with the minister.”
ALTHOUGH leadership tussle has been the bane of the musicians’ union, the current situation could be traced to 2013, after Luciano was nominated as PMAN’s interim leader on Saturday, April 27, 2013, following the decision of his opponent, gospel artiste and showbiz promoter, Skid Ikemefuna, to step down for him to pave way for a new era in the music union.
Held at the Mega Plaza, Victoria Island, Lagos, the Luciano Peace Committee was saddled with the responsibility of leading the union for 18 months, with the likes of Mike Okri elected Vice President and Maureen Ejezie a.k.a Mama Entertainment (2nd Vice President) and Azeezat Allen, who emerged Treasurer.
While addressing the gathering, Luciano pledged to restore the dignity, glory and credibility of the union, adding that time had come for musicians to benefit from the union that had not lived up to expectations for years.
Present at the ceremony were artistes, stakeholders, entertainment media and independent observers, including two former PMAN presidents, Tee Mac and Bolaji Rosiji. Chris Mba, Ochonma, Brown Bread, Queen of Samba, Stella Monye, Harrysong and other artistes also witnessed the historic event that was hailed by stakeholders as a positive development.
Meanwhile, the inability of the Luciano-led PMAN to organise a national election, for whatever reason, paved way for yet another round of crisis in the association. Following the expiration of its 18-month mandate, a 45-man committee was instituted by the trade union to save the body from further factional groups.
On Monday, April 6, 2015, the committee, which represented members from the different fractional groups of PMAN met at Planet One, Ikeja, Lagos, to forge a way forward and bring back the lost glory of the union. In attendance were the likes of Charly Boy Oputa, Felix Duke, Alex O, Jazman Olofin, Coupa Victory, Ochonma, Brown Bread, and others.
Members of the 45-man committee had battled hard to save PMAN from factional groups without much luck.
At the end of the meeting, the stakeholders expressed dissatisfaction with the leadership of Kelvin Luciano and cast a vote of no-confidence on it for not achieving its mandate after two years.
The communiqué issued after the unanimous decision of members of the caretaker committee stated, “The mandate of the committee was to reconcile the warring factions and organise a credible election, which did not happen in two years. There were a series of financial improprieties, as expenses were never receipted for. Apart from his (Kelvin Luciano’s) personal expenditure, he never accounted for all monies collected in the name of PMAN. Committee members were never carried along, as there was no reference to committee members for approvals. By this vote of no confidence, Luciano ceases to function as chairman of PMAN Caretaker Committee with effect from today April 6, 2015. In his place, Mr. Innocent Ochonma has been appointed as the chairman of the committee.”
Interestingly, the newly inaugurated caretaker committee had unanimously proposed Charly Boy, ex- PMAN president as chairman, but the showbiz maverick rejected the offer hence the adoption of Mr. Innocent Ochonma, as the new chairman of PMAN caretaker committee.
On the other hand, the litigations that followed the expiration of Dele Abiodun’s PMAN presidency paved way for the emergence of Pretty Okafor as the interim leader of PMAN in 2014, after an agreement was reached. In fact, a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos once issued contempt charges against members for disobeying an earlier ruling, declaring Pretty Okafor the Interim President.
“When Dele Abiodun left office, there were issues in PMAN, which ended in court. Along the line, the parties involved agreed for out-of-court settlement, which the judge granted and advised that they look for younger musicians to lead the organisation; that was how they reached out to me to help rebuild PMAN,” Okafor hinted.
Record has it that Okafor, after his installation, brought in the likes of Mr. Hariz H. Okeilo, Mr. Sunny Neji, Mr. Tuface Idibia, Baba Dee, Mr. Tolu Obey, Mr. Dennis Baker and Kenny Ama George, as members of his team, with the hope of injecting fresh blood into the body.
“I called all the older members of PMAN and asked them to play advisory role, which they agreed. But when I discovered that there were some fraudulent activities in PMAN and began to investigate them, these same people started making trouble.”
In its judgment, the Ikeja court had ruled that only the Interim Government headed by Pretty Okafor had the mandate to run PMAN’s affairs for the next 18 months after which a Delegates’ Conference would be convened for fresh elections. But the caretaker committee of PMAN led by Luciano issued a statement and called on musicians across the country to ignore recent statements that declared Pretty Okafor as PMAN president.
In a statement signed by its chairman, Luciano, the association argued that the appointment of Pretty Okafor did not follow due process and so should be ignored by all well meaning Nigerians, and urged Okafor and his team to stop parading themselves as PMAN’s representatives.
The statement said, “It is not business as usual any more. Pretty and his cohorts are hereby advised to stop parading themselves as PMAN officials, or else the law will take its course. Nigerian musicians are fed up with these musicians.
“Let me state that the recent court judgment Pretty secured did not follow due process and as I speak to you, we are already addressing that issue. I want to use this opportunity to remind Nigerians and all PMAN stakeholders of the fact that it is only the Caretaker Committee that has been empowered by the Ministry of Labour and Productivity to conduct elections and run the affairs of PMAN and that contrary to earlier reports, no state PMAN executive has been dissolved. I am calling on all PMAN state executives to ignore the call.
“Besides, this matter is not within the jurisdiction of the court as it is a trade union issue and only the National Industrial Court has jurisdiction at this stage. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, through the Registrar of Trade Unions, endorsed the Caretaker Committee in a letter dated July 7, 2014.”
Meanwhile, there was another faction of PMAN led by Hajia Amina Dangaji Oluremi, who promised to reposition the body in order to make sure that performing artistes are carried along. Oluremi once paid a courtesy visit to former PMAN president, Charly Boy in Abuja, and assured that her tenure would reposition PMAN.
“We are planning on moving the PMAN office to Abuja,” she had declared during the visit. “I want Abuja to become our head office. Lagos should be our liaison office”.
On the crisis of leadership rocking the body, she said, “As far as I am concerned, there is no crisis in PMAN. Because somebody cannot just come through the back door and say ‘I am the PMAN president.’ You have to follow the constitution and due process that will qualify you to be PMAN president”.
As it appears, it seems the Minister of Labour and Employment has his job cut out for him. Indeed, there’s work to be done if the dream of ending PMAN crisis is to ever materialise. However, if the court were capable of bringing solution to PMAN’s problems, there would have been peace by now going by the numbers of court cases. Somehow, compromise seems to be the only option left. And the ball is in the court of members.
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