‘Tony Okoroji used me and dumped me!’

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  • Until recently, I have been too naïve to understand that people want their heaven, here and now, and in cash.

Tony Okoroji

Have you heard about ‘payola’? Payola is the term used for money collected under the table by on-air personalities in broadcasting stations to ensure that certain recorded music is broadcast more times than the music would ordinarily be entitled to.

In many countries, payola is a crime. In Nigeria, it now appears to be a crime if you are a budding artiste and you do not give payola.

Just try to get into an office to see a big man in Nigeria. Stoneface at the gate will bark at you, ‘Oga is not in!’ Quietly pass a few naira notes in his direction and Stoneface will become Smilingface! Suddenly, he would remember, ‘I think I saw Oga coming back not long ago. Yes he is in!’

Do you think there is any group of people anywhere in the world who talk about God more than Nigerians? Ask any Nigerian whether he might go to work the following day and he starts his long reply with ‘by the grace of God’.

Ask him about the lunch date you scheduled for Wednesday and he would reply, ‘God willing, I will be there’ Check our names: Onyekachukwu, Chukwudi, Chukwuemeka, Oluwadare, Oluwatosin, Enobong, Imaobong, Abdullah, Wosilatu, Osaze, Idahosa, and on and on.

Have you wondered why for a group of people who talk so much about God, there is little God in how we deal with each other and how we run our country? Have you given any thought to what will happen if five million naira in cash was placed before an average Nigerian and he was asked to choose between the money and heaven?

I can bet you that despite the fact that the guy’s name may be Godwin, he would not hesitate in grabbing the money. And he would justify his choice!

Godwin will tell you that it was God that sent him the money … after all God wins in heaven and money wins on earth. At the back of his mind is the fact that he can have as much fun as he wants with five million naira and still have enough change to bribe the gateman in heaven.

I was born into the Catholic Church and I can see how people are fleeing the church. What does the average reverend father in the Catholic Church own? His white cassock, a few books and his weather beaten Peugeot 504 car… and he thinks he can inspire people to attend church?

Let the reverend father take a little time off his message of a heaven in the skies and attend a ‘real’ church on a Sunday. He will see an all marble edifice with chilled air-conditioning. He will see a pastor with swagger, crisp jerry-curled hair, gold cuff links, a Rolls Royce car parked at the entrance and a bevy of beautiful women with three quarters of their boobs in full display and constantly reminding Pastor that real heaven is in their bra.

Nigerians don’t want a heaven in the skies. We want a heaven we can see, here and now and rollick in. We want to go to church where on New Year’s Day, our pastor, in the most glittering designer suit, assures us that God has told him that this is the year that every member of the church will be handed the one key to the vault of the Central Bank and we all shout ‘Alleluia!’ and dance.

It does not matter that Pastor said something similar last New Year’s Day and the one before. Who argues with a man who owns a glittering Rolls Royce car and first class flight tickets to every enchanting city in the world?

‘Tony Okoroji used me and dumped me!’ With fire in her eyes, those words have been repeatedly said by a female professional colleague who worked closely with me at PMAN, PMRS and later at COSON.

Each of these was set up as a non-profit making organization for the advancement of the interest of the commonwealth of persons in the music industry and the next generation of artistes.

Over the years, I have directed my energy at rallying people whom I think believe in the cause and are willing to render selfless service towards the achievement of the objectives.

What my ‘sister’ said to me has been said by a few others and shows how naïve I really am. Yes, I like to use people to do good the same way I am always available to be used to do good. I believe that the worst of mankind is a useless person – that person that cannot contribute anything to making life better for the rest of God’s children.

What until recently I have been too naïve to understand is that most people who shout Alleluia are really not interested in heaven. They want their heaven, here and now and in cash.

I do not recall promising anyone any money to do that which to all intents and purposes is charity work but it is now clear to me that there are quite a number of people who have expected personal financial wind fall from our toil and who are not just disappointed but upset that I did not deliver on a promise I never made.

If I recall, I always took time to explain to anyone who joined the cause what the rules of engagement are: transparency and accountability. It is however clear to me now that there are people who believe that such words are meant just for reporters and ‘something’ must happen under the table.

That is probably why I have had to go to court many times to defend my name – because there are people who erroneously think that like them, I want my heaven here and now and transparency and accountability are just buzz words.

I was shocked by the anger in the eyes of my ‘sister’ whom I thought has the education and exposure to understand what it means to give of yourself for the good of others.

If it makes her feel any better: I have not used her to acquire any estate anywhere or any fat bank account. In fact, the first house I have ever built is called COSON House. It is not in my name and it is not located in my village. It belongs to the musicians of Nigeria.

As I wake up tomorrow, I shall not ask God for the key to the strong room of the Central Bank. My prayer will be that He keeps using me to do good.

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