Popular filmmaker and distributor, Mr. Gabriel Okoye, aka Gabosky, has blamed the piracy of films and music works largely on some Igbo traders at the Alaba International Market, Lagos.
Gabosky, on Thursday, was reacting to the molestation of his client, Kunle Afolayan, by some members of the film industry, over a Twitter comment by Afolayan, linking the piracy of his new movie, October 1, to the Igbos.
Afolayan had complained about the activities of the ‘Alaba boys’, a group of traders known for their indiscreet trampling on intellectual property rights of musicians and filmmakers. But the filmmaker’s outburst did not go to well with some of Afolayan’s fans who accused him of tribalism.
Expressing disdain at the development, Gabosky minced no words in saying that Igbos constitute 99 percent of pirates at Alaba International Market.
“When I went into Ubakason Plaza and Obosi Plaza, the den of these pirates, 99 percent of the people that are trading there are Igbos,” he said. “So I don’t know why you just want to take criminality and start joining it with politics. A criminal is a criminal and should be pronounced a criminal, whether he is a Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa,” he said.
“I am here to tell you people that piracy in Nigeria is becoming incorporated; incorporated, in the sense, that the people that are doing piracy now are the big men that you see around. Some of them are former stakeholders in the industry that have found a lucrative job in piracy. And they hide under all kind of guises to say, ‘we are stakeholders.’ Some of them used to be marketers but right now, they don’t have a single shop,” he said.
Gabosky expressed regrets that efforts to dislodge the pirates have not been fruitful as they have often resisted arrest by law enforcement officials, whom they usually engage in fierce battle, using all kinds of dangerous weapons.
Discountenancing tribalism, Gabosky, a titled Igbo man himself, urged the filmmakers to come together to confront a common enemy rather than being divided along ethnic line. He confessed that piracy is destroying his ‘means of livelihood’, adding that, “in arts business, there is no language, there is no tribe. If you want to purely operate as an artiste, you have to drop your identity. You become a Nigerian to practice art. Kunle, a Yoruba man, makes films that are moving. And I, Gab Okoye, borrowed money from the Bank of Industry in hundreds of millions to make sure that distribution drives the content.”
Absolving KunleAfolayan from tribalism flaks, Segun Arinze, former president of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), apologised on Afolayan’s behalf and described the incident as unfortunate.
“He didn’t particularly mean to hit out any tribe,” Arinze said. “I can tell you that Kunle is totally detribalised. You can see that from the movies he has done – quality actors across board.”
According to Arinze, the focus is on piracy. “That’s what everybody’s attention should be on. We should all be fighting piracy and not as movie makers, attacking ourselves, saying, ‘you’re attacking my tribe.’”
However, Gabosky, who disclosed he has lost about N450 million to the activities of pirates, said he is bitter and frustrated just like Afolayan.
“Nobody is addressing that this man (KunleAfolayan) borrowed more than N150 million to do a film and he has not gotten one naira back,” he said angrily.
“And he is showcasing his frustration, telling everybody ‘look at what I am facing.’ And nobody is addressing him and asking him, ‘what are you facing? KunleAfolayan did a movie and gave the movie to an Igbo man called Gabosky of G-Media to distribute. The man produced the film and brought into the market and came back and told him, ‘look at what I’m facing. The film is being pirated. And I went round the whole country and found out that the films are being pirated and I started compiling names. And I tell you, the names that I compiled; there is no Yoruba name on that list. They are all Igbos and I have the list.”
Gabosky urged that attention must be redirected from trading tribal banalities to focusing on piracy which he said is the bane of the entertainment industry. Afolayan’s movies – Phone Swap, Figurine, Irapada, and lately October 1 being marketed by Okoye, have been targets of these pirates. He said he had since written to the Lagos State Government and the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), but yet to get their reaction.
On how to tackle piracy, Gabosky said a group, Watchdogs Against Piracy (WAP) is compiling a list of pirates. “We will tell you who and who are behind it and even where their machines are,” he said, discrediting the activities of the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) and the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), which he said ought to be collapsed into one. “They are another branch of piracy,” he blasted.“That is the only way to move forward.”