Muhammadu Buhari has the last laugh – Tony Okoroji

Posted on November 14 2015 , at 02:08 pm
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(COSON chairman, Tony Okoroji writes on Buhari ad the newly appointed ministers)
(COSON chairman, Tony Okoroji writes on Buhari ad the newly appointed ministers)

The ministers have been sworn in and once again, Muhammadu Buhari has the last laugh. All the people who have been praying for his failure so they can say ‘I told you so’ are licking their wounds. There were many who saw Buhari simply as a strict disciplinarian with a strong force of will. They did not think he had it in him to do the willing and dealing that partisan politics thrives on. Surprise… surprise! The old man is also street smart. The way he handled the ministerial appointments and dealt with the permanent secretaries while giving the Senate President a reason to want to please is smooth political theatre.

Before Muhammadu Buhari was nominated by the APC, my candidate for the presidency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was none other than Babatunde Raji Fashola. I prayed and prayed for a President Fashola. There are so many reasons why I wanted Babatunde Fashola and I can write a book on them. Two however stand out. The first is spelt O S H O D I. The second is that he can identify talent. When Fashola made Ade Ipaye his Attorney-General, I doffed my heart for him.

I met Ade Ipaye at the University of Lagos. He was my teacher. If Ipaye taught you the Law of Contract and you could not grasp it, you have no business near a university. An incredibly brilliant and effective person with a very simple demeanor, Ipaye is not a politician. I was on top of the world when I heard that President Buhari has retained the services of this man. On top of my voice, I sang “Nigeria go Survive”, Veno Marioghae’s timeless song recently covered by my friend, Azeezat. If what I hear is correct, Ipaye is Deputy Chief of Staff in the Presidency. With a guy like that in a position like that, Buhari can sleep well. Those waiting for him to fail may have a long time to wait.

Fashola did not contest the presidency but what we may have been looking for in Sokoto, we may have found in our shokoto (trousers). This week, President Buhari gave an unprecedented marching order to Fashola to prove to Nigerians that what he did in Lagos was not a fluke. To ask one man to deal with works, power and housing in Nigeria is a challenge like no other. Simply put, if Fashola succeeds, Buhari succeeds and if Fashola fails, Buhari fails. For those of us who are ‘Fasholanatics’, these will be interesting times.

While I had no doubt that once Buhari was sworn in as President, Fashola, Amaechi, Fayemi, Lai Mohammed and their likes will become ministers of the Federal Republic, I never thought that in that mix would be found a name like Geoffrey Onyeama. This week as I was relishing the amazing success of the COSON Week, ‘one’ Geofrey Onyeama was sworn in as Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Those who do not know him and I reckon there are many in Nigeria not familiar with the name, may be asking ‘who is this guy?’

Just like Ade Ipaye, Geoffrey Onyeama is not a politician but a thoroughbred and well-polished technocrat. A lot of the success we credit to COSON and this writer today should go to Geoffrey Onyeama. Trained in the exciting world of Intellectual Property, Geoffrey Onyeama was Deputy Director at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Geneva based specialized agency of the United Nations where he gained tremendous respect for his leadership skills.

When COSON was formed five and half years ago and I was elected chairman, Onyeama sent me a mail pledging his support and that of WIPO. This was at a time when there was so much confusion as to whether Nigeria should have one CMO for music or multiple CMOs. The early support that COSON received from WIPO was as a result of Geoffrey Onyeama’s intervention and his desire that things work in his fatherland. Very quickly, COSON received database support from WIPO which stabilized our operations. Today, COSON has reciprocal representation agreements with over 130 collective management organizations in every region of the world.

On a low level visit I made to Geneva a few years ago, who came knocking on the door of my hotel room? It was Geoffrey Onyeama, the Deputy Director at WIPO. For an entire Saturday, Jeff as he is called by his friends in Geneva, and his beautiful wife Sulola, did nothing else but drive me around the beautiful city and show me the colours of Geneva. The couple treated me like royalty. They had no reason to. I was not in Geneva as a big politician, an important government official or a big businessman. It did not matter to this incredible couple who have no airs around them. During the sweet ride, we talked a lot about Nigeria and the possibilities that exist if we would just have good leadership. Jeff and Sulola took me to their home and made me feel at home.

As the digital age evolves with Nigeria needing to recalibrate on many fronts, President Buhari could not have chosen a better person as Minister of Foreign Affairs than Geoffrey Onyeama, schooled in Intellectual Property. He has the world view, he has the training and he has the discipline. Above all, he loves his fatherland.

The last two weeks have been very exciting weeks. Despite incredible challenges, the COSON Week went extremely well. Many thanks to all of you who made it happen. President Buhari also made me happy. As I examine the Buhari team, I have hope. Welcome Jeff!

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