May 20, 2015

Muhammadu Buhari and the Other Jobs

Muhammadu Buhari

During his political campaign, General Mohammadu Buhari (rtd) promised Nigerians jobs, among other things. He believes the most dire of the challenges that face Nigeria can be directly, or indirectly, traced to a dearth of jobs. The General means well for Nigeria, and Nigerians believes he truly means well, judging by his idiosyncrasy. The General had cited mining and agriculture as the areas where he thinks there are lots of potential for job creation.

Besides mining and agriculture, however, there is another area with a huge prospect and in which young Nigerians have a lot of zeal. Since the general did not mention it, it leaves Nigerians in fear. The fear stems from the fact that, in the past, governments have often cared less about this sphere of professional life and, also, from knowing that if the sector is not heeded and exploited, the General (and Nigeria) may not be able to achieve the job target, satisfactorily.

 This article aims to call the attention of the new leader to this portfolio. It is a folder that has always been left in the cold by successive governments in Nigeria. It is the art portfolio and includes the movie, music, and publishing industries, just to mention the immediate units that easily come to mind when The Art is mentioned in Nigeria.

It is often boring having to cite the United States of America each time one requires a good example of a place where good things are happening. Sadly, however, the US remains the best, and one must always look towards it when in need of cases in point. The US is a country where The Arts played an astonishing role towards its prosperity. According to Statista, the American movie industry (Box Office) generated total revenue of $38 billion in 2014. The projection is that it will generate up to $ 46 billion in 2018. From the same source, Statista, the music industry generated $16.5 billion in 2011. The books and journal publishing industry generated $27.01 billion in 2013.

Despite the potential there is in The Arts in Nigeria, we are yet to make the most of it. Our inability to make the most of it comes from piracy, the racket of people reaping from the sweat of others and going Scot free.  Nigeria is a country where the law do not seem to be aware that it is its responsibility to protect the intellectual right of individuals (that is if the Nigerian law accepts there is essence in something called intellectual property). There are instances in which members of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria, PMAN, go into the markets to seize pirated copies of works of their members out of frustration that the law is not handling the issue.

Knowing the dormancy of the law with regard to The Arts, some individuals have made a profession by duplicating and selling millions of copies of books, music and video CDs other individuals have spent their intellect, time and energy to produce.

How does piracy kill the industry? If a young man or woman, with talent, knows the result of his hard work would not be protected, and others will reap from it as a result, he will not be encouraged to venture into a profession. Thus, the job he would have created for himself and others, and the revenue the state would have earned from his venture would never materialize.

In the US, recently, there was a high profile court ruling relating to violation of intellectual property right. A jury ruled that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams stole the melody of a song, Got to Give it Up, recorded by Marvin Gaye in 1977. The song by Thicke and Williams, Blurred Lines, generated up to $16.67 million in profits for the duo in 2013, when it was recorded. Of this profit, the jury ruled that Thicke and Williams must pay Marvin Gaye III, the son of the late singer, the sum of $7.6 million (45.6 %.)

In this case, Thicke and Williams did not simply duplicate a CD of Gaye’s music. Rather, they got a hint from the song, a hint that helped them to produce Blurred Lines. To Nigeria, this story is important as it underlines the inviolability of intellectual property rights.

In addition to encouraging young men and women to invest their talents to create, for themselves and others, jobs, fighting piracy would end that feeling that anything goes, and instill sanity in the industry and Nigeria, as a whole. Furthermore, it will help towards laundering the image of the country and restore confidence in foreigners who may want to put their money into the Nigerian art portfolio.

Given the scale of piracy in Nigeria, we cannot remember a single case of piracy-related conviction. This gives credence to the notion that the judiciary does not see any essence in the idea of intellectual property. Thus, fighting piracy in Nigeria would involve sensitizing the judiciary to see essence in the expression: “intellectual property” and, thus, the need for protecting such rights.

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