He needs no introduction when it comes to music in Nigeria. No doubt, Sammie Okposo remains a strong voice. Over the years, he has been consistent as a gospel artiste and continues to be on top of his game. Earlier on in the year, The Wellu Wellu master released his latest album, The Statement. In this interview with BUKOLA BAKARE, he sheds light on his album, among other issues.
Your latest album’s titled The Statement…
(Cuts in) Yes, it is. The Statement is a 22-track album with three bonus tracks, that’s a total of 25 tracks in one album. It was released on the third of August at the Shell Hall, MUSON Centre, and distributed internationally by a label based in Oklahoma called TMG Records.
But it was unveiled at a concert
It was an album unveiling concert where people came in to listen to almost all the tracks on the album. People also had the opportunity to go home with the CD that day.
You mentioned proper distribution. Are you saying that your albums were not properly distributed in the past?
Do we have a distribution framework in Nigeria? That’s the question. We don’t have the structure for distribution that is accountable. It’s not like albums are not being distributed. We are doing it in the way we know how to do it. Sadly, artistes are not being properly remunerated for their works in Nigeria because the distribution structure is terrible.
That’s why artistes are always releasing album after album because they want to remain relevant. But in the Western world, an artiste releases one song and he just keeps getting his royalties from Billboard charts, radio airplay because there’s a system that works. The artiste does not need to struggle to be releasing albums every six months. That is what I mean by proper distribution. So for this distribution deal that TMG did for me, my fans in America and the Caribbeans are going to be able to pick up a Sammie Okposo CD from anywhere.
Since TMG took care of the international release, what are you doing to ensure proper distribution locally?
We are still releasing it the way we have been doing here before because Nigeria is my home regardless of what we are going through or whether there’s structure or not, I still love Nigeria and this is where my music career started from. I will never release an album and forsake my people because it was because my people in Nigeria who patronised me and made the whole world hear about me.
From my first album, they took to Wellu Wellu, in fact some people call me Wellu Wellu, they don’t call me my name so charity starts from here. And now that we have an international release, we are still going to take care of the home front, and trust me, the content’s not going change. We won’t release some songs abroad and not release them here, no way. It is just going to be packaged differently, that’s all.
Talking about royalties, which collecting society do you support, COSON or MCSN?
Well, in terms of using the word support, I am a member of COSON. And I think so far, I have been getting what we call royalties for my work as a COSON member. From time to time, I get cheques when my songs are being used for reality shows, I get paid, oh yeah. I’m not saying that because I’m trying to promote COSON or trying to downplay MCSN. I don’t have any problem with MCSN. I do not think that there is a law, I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, is there a law that says there can only be one collecting society, I do not know. But as long as whatever collecting society that is out there is doing what it’s supposed to do for the people who are their members, I have no problem.
When will there be an end to the distribution and piracy problems?
When the government decides to come in, because you cannot combat piracy as an artiste or an entertainer; you will never be successful. When you look at America and countries in Europe who have a proper distribution structure in place, you will see that the governments of those countries are very very involved, because there’s also the issue of taxes. The practitioners in their entertainment industry pay their taxes, so the government makes money from that industry and has a duty to protect that industry.
But in Nigeria, government looks at the entertainment industry, they like it and they know it’s an industry that is doing something good but they have not taken out the time to do a proper feasibility study of the finance of the industry. If they do that, they will make money that oil and gas cannot give to them.
It is very possible because the amount of wealth that is in the industry in Nigeria has not been tapped yet, and it is not something that the entertainers themselves can do. The government needs to come in. By so doing, I as Sammie Okposo will be paying my personal tax. Any movie I’m on, they will get their tax. Do you know what’s going to happen if every entertainer starts to pay tax to the government? Sadly, they are not looking at it.
The saying is some quarters is that the industry is for riff-raffs. Do you subscribe to this?
No, not really, they know that it’s not for riff-raffs. If not, they wouldn’t be getting us involved in what they are doing. I mean, they invite us to come and do stuffs with them, to come and be part of what they are doing in government, so they know that the entertainment industry in Nigeria is a vibrant one.
Are you doing anything in particular to make the government more involved?
We have different bodies and different presidents that should be in the forefront of this crusade. COSON is doing what it’s doing, because of Chief Okoroji’s involvement. But if the PMANS, the MCSNs, the COSONs come together, then the different guilds in the movie industry put one voice, because it is only unity that can solve this problem.
They all have to be united and present a common front, then the government will begin to look at us because I think that one of the reasons why they are not looking at us is because of the division, too many factions, so they don’t know who they really have to deal with regarding sorting out the issues in the entertainment industry. I’m not saying there will not be different organisations but they should all have one voice.
What would you say has been your most substantial contribution to the music industry?
Right now, I run my own company called Zamar Entertainment, and we look at upcoming acts because it was quite a difficult road for us to rise in our days and it was just because of the mentors who took it upon themselves without wanting any financial gains to identify a talent and see how they can help to train such a person. So at Zamar, we have been able to do that.
We were part of the whole promotion and packaging of the artiste known as Jodie. It was not that she was signed on to our label, but I saw Jodie as someone different and I said to myself that any way we can assist as Zamar Entertainment and as Sammie Okposo, I would do that just to find a way to push these artistes forward and help them find their feet so that is one of the things we do and I think it is a huge contribution to the entertainment industry because we don’t have too many people who just want to do that without expecting financial gains.