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Christy Essien Igbokwe’s best kept secret

Posted by TONY OGAGA ERHARIEFE on 2007/06/25 | Views: 3841 |

Christy Essien Igbokwe’s best kept secret

Lady of songs, Christy Essien Igbokwe, has revealed how the wives of IBB and Abacha saved her from Charly Boy during her tenure as president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN).

Lady of songs, Christy Essien Igbokwe, has revealed how the wives of IBB and Abacha saved her from Charly Boy during her tenure as president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN).

According to Christy, after Charly Boy accused her of embezzling PMAN funds, her world almost fell apart. But for Mrs. Useni of blessed memory, Mariam Abacha and Mariam Babangida, who stood by her in her darkest hour, she could have had no where to run to.

“Charly Boy went to town calling me a thief that I had stolen their funds. He said that I did not want to pay for the show that they did in Abuja. Sadly, I had not been paid a dime. Mariam Abacha knew that no money had been given to PMAN. Jerry Useni was complaining that I was asking for too much and my children (PMAN), were calling me a thief. I was stuck in the centre.

“Mariam Abacha played a good woman. She was like my mother. You have to relate one on one with people to have an impression of them. Mrs. Babangida is like an aunty to me also. She did a lot of good things for people because of me and I won’t forget that.

“They sympathised with my state. One day she (Mariam Abacha) almost broke down in tears and she said ‘why did you accept this job? Why are they putting you through all this? Raymond Dokpesi is still alive, he was a witness! At a point, he thought that I had taken the money but knowing me as a principled person, he called me to confirm. All the money that came to PMAN went to PMAN account and not mine. Infact, I did not collect their money. I told the treasurer to do his job. So Dokpesi called Charly Boy to order. Mariam assisted me in facilitating the payments. The ‘Judas’ in my office continued to betray me. They are already confessing and would all confess one day. People are now saying that my administration was the best and most caring.”

According to her, she was blackmailed into the top job of the musicians body in 1994 by elders of the association. She said that she had been billed for a world tour that would take her to Europe and America when old men in the association blackmailed her!
They told her that PMAN had problems which she could solve because of her central role in the formation of the musicians’ body 12 years earlier.
Her protest, that she was booked for a world tour and that her band had secured visas, fell on deaf ears! They threatened that if she turned them down, they would tell the world that she did not wish the association well.

“I was working on my 11th album when some old men from PMAN came and forced me to become PMAN president. I was forced because it was not my choice. That was 1994. I did not campaign because it was not my desire. I had already secured a contract for a world tour. We had gone to the American embassy and secured visas for all my musicians. Suddenly, old men from PMAN asked me to be PMAN president. They said that since I founded PMAN, I was their mother. I must come and stop the problems in the association. If I did not, they would tell the world that I did not mean well for musicians. It was a kind of blackmail! They took my husband and came to me but I insisted on my world tour. ‘Look at my visa,’ I said, ‘we are leaving.’ But they said ‘okay, so you don’t mean well for the union.’”

Torn between her world tour, which would fetch her millions of naira and the love she had for her baby, PMAN, Christy was at cross-roads. Her dad, who was still alive then, finally sealed her faith when he admonished her to hearken to the cries of the old men.
“I remembered my late dad’s advice that if old men ask me for a favour, I should listen to them if I want to live to see my grand children. ‘What kind of nonsense was all this?’ I said to myself. I was booked to tour the world and here where these old men asking me to be PMAN president.”

However, driven by passion for the association she helped found in 1982, she abandoned her tour and took up the top job!
According to Christy, it was a miracle that the organisation behind the tour did not sue her in view of the money they had invested. “There are pressmen who could testify to this. I was even accused of fraud in the papers because I breached the contract for the sake of PMAN. But I thank God that I had not collected money though they had sent money for us to go to the embassy and secure our visas.”
However, nothing prepared her for the betrayal and abuse that followed shortly after she assumed office.

Selfless service
“They knew I was a mother. That was why they came to me in the first place. Otherwise I wouldn’t have founded it and sacrificed my money from inception. Go through the records, I spent so much. At a point people began to say ‘ah! we should start taking note of what this woman is spending here-o.’ I never asked for anything in return. Even the 10 per cent commission I was entitled to as president; I gave it all to the association because I wanted to make life better for musicians. I believed in the sacrifice that I was making.

“I ran the association not just like a president but like a mother. I tried so many things that I knew if they had been followed up, PMAN would not have all the problem it has today. But I believe in my child, PMAN. One day, PMAN’s problem would be solved. I initiated a lot of projects. The records are there. The debt relief project, which could have generated so much money for the association went down because of intrigues and dirty games they were playing.

How about the France ‘98 project? You don’t condemn someone who means well. But I don’t care what people say. God knows, I still have all the documents in my file. I am the only PMAN president that did not use PMAN money to go and source for jobs for the association. I am the only one that did not use their money to campaign. I realised a long time ago that they would tell lies against me, so I decided to discipline myself.

For the four years that I was there, I did not spend their money. I am entitled to 10 per cent commission for any job I brought but I never collected. I am the only PMAN president that gave the body a loan and never collected interest. Ask them. I am the only PMAN president that gave account of my stewardship in writing. Ask them, the records are still there.

“The union was not paying for my trips and accommodation as PMAN president. People were shocked. At a point, it was Mariam Abacha, Mariam Babangida and Mrs. Useni of blessed memory that were taking care of my hotel bills while I was on assignment.
“The reason was that I knew they would accuse me of embezzlement. They were already saying ‘don’t mind her. She say’s she is going for PMAN but she is going for her own pocket.’”

Igbokwe said she got the inspiration for the association in 1981 when she traveled to America to record “Omo Mi Seun Rere,” her hit classic.
The first thing she did when she got to America was to ask if there was a union. To her delight there was. Straight, she and her producer marched to the union and registered.
Describing herself as a very organized person that does not want ‘headache,’ Christy said her decision paid off immensely because of the professional advice she got from the union.

“I am an organised person. I insisted that if there was a union, I wanted to work with it. I ended up spending less than one month in the USA for a project that could have taken longer. From producers to arrangers, they gave me a list to choose from. It made my job convenient financially and otherwise. When they were to master my tape, Diana Ross was number one because she had already paid for the session and had been scheduled to work but because of the fact that I went through the union, they called her and said that she should step down for me and she accepted!”

On her return to Nigeria, Christy initiated the first meeting that brought about the formation of PMAN in 1981. Present at that historic meeting were King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Onyeka Onwenu, Emma Ogosi, Dele Abiodun and Ayinde Barrister among others.
“At that first meeting, I made a statement about the reason why we should have a union to monitor us, to stabililise and prosper us. I saw how everything was done from Los Angeles to Hollywood, the industry was organised and I wanted to replicate that in Nigeria. That was in 1981.
“The objective was for us was to have an umbrella association that would protect us and take care of us and our works. The vision was that we would be able to make meaningful impact in society.”

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