Source: nigeriafilms.com
Chief Tony Okoroji
Chief Tony Okoroji
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As the Nigerian Music Awards (NMA) holds in Owerri, Imo State capital tomorrow, Chief Tony Okoroji, former PMAN president and the convener of the event, spok about the right to host the musical event and the controversy trailing it among other things

Q: How prepared are you for the Nigerian Music Awards holding tomorrow in Owerri, the Imo State Capital?

A: We are ready. As we are speaking now, all is set for the event. People are putting finishing touches to the decoration of the hall and in several parts of Owerri, musicians are rehearsing for performance at the dinner with the stars, NMA Star Parade, the road show, among other things. In Lagos, rehearsals have been going on for quite a while as well as the multimedia pre-production movie. The event starts today as the plane have been branded with a champagne party at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport.

Q: How many days will the event last?

A: It is a week-long event starting from this morning till the early hours of Monday. At the airport in Owerri, the deputy governor will welcome the entourage with a procession of cultural performance, among other things.

Q: How many artistes are performing tomorrow?

A: Lots of them. In fact, the biggest problem we have been having with 2008 NMA is in the area of performance. A lot of people want to be part of the event and, of course tonight, there will be a dinner of stars with the First Lady playing host. It will be a night of great music, fashion and musical performance.

Q: What is the level of participation by the Imo State government in the show?

A: The government is rolling out red carpet to host the NMA. The government is prepared for us. Apart from the NMA, stars and our media friends will pay courtesy visits to traditional rulers and the oil rig, among other places. I was just informed that the immediate past governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, is coming to the event with a full band.

Q: What is the cost of the NMA and who is responsible for it?

A: The cost is enormous, apart from the monetary cost, the sacrifice to put up the show is big. Nobody can pay me enough money to do this because it is out of passion and the love for the music industry. People thought I am doing it for money, let me repeat, it is not for money. Each time I stage the Nigerian Music Awards, I end up poorer than before.

Q: Why do you continue to do it?

A: Because I love my country. There is no doubt in my mind that in a few years' time, a lot of people will copy it. Where else do you have a soul flight or an array of stars like this except the Nigerian Music Awards? We are doing the NMA to unite the people. A lot of people will meet new friends, in fact, there could be exchange of marital vows after the show.

Q: Why is it that each time the award is to be held, there is always one crisis or another?

A: It is expected because it is a huge event which attracts a lot of attention, so you should expect that and it is because there is no other event in Nigeria's entertainment circle that is as big as NMA. In fact, after the awards, there will be controversy because some people will expect that they should win, but they will not.

Q: Last year in Abuja, you gave awards to those who have released albums for a decade, how will this year's look like?

A: Last year, we announced that the award was back, but this year, we are doing the real thing. Now, we are doing awards based on performances of 2007.

Q: How many categories will be awarded?

A: We are giving awards in 19 competitive categories. We are giving four special awards—life time achievement award, to Oliver de Coque, who is so excited about it. He has also promised to perform at Imo Township Stadium. Apart from Oliver, there is a post-humous award for six—Victor Warrior, the late leader of Oriental Brothers Band, Bongos Ikwe will win award for his song Still Searching. There is also an evergreen award for Fatai Rolling Dollar with the song Won kere si number wa, which is a great song and the man is also a phenomenon. We are also giving three awards to the friends of the industry namely, Ken Calebs Olumese, who will receive a medal for diligence, a medal of honour to the past governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, for what he has done in using political power to support the entertainment industry and a medal of distinction to Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, who has been one of the greatest supporters of entertainment and creativity in Nigeria. So, it will be a week of fun. I am certain that after NMA 2008, Imo State will never be the same again.

Q: Who owns the NMA right?

A: Well, I don't get involved in controversies, but mainly in doing great new things.

Q: But who owns the right to NMA?

A: The Nigerian people own the right to NMA, it is a Nigerian music award. It is for the people of Nigeria. I created NMA and it is for the people of Nigeria.

Q: How was NMA registered when you were the president of PMAN?

A: We didn't need to register it. Why do we have to register the name? Those who do so are those looking for controversy to which I am not a party. I have not seen anyone now, who has said he owns NMA apart from Tony Okoroji. People are claiming they own it and I ask them, did you pay for it?

Q: What about the NMA, UK and NMA US?

A: When I discovered that, I issued a public statement criticising it that some people are trying to bastardise the brand name. NMA is not for money making, but for the people of Nigeria. That is why we don't charge a kobo to stage it. It is an all-expenses paid trip. People are willing to pay hundreds of thousands of naira to be part of NMA, but I said no, it is for Nigerians and it must be free.

Q: Which committee would own the awards you are giving out this time around?

A: We have a media and research committee that worked on it and they did a yeoman's job.

Q: So all is now set for the NMA?

A: All is set, we are ready and there is no stopping us.