Pretty Okafor is widely acknowledged as the pioneer of the Afro-hip-hop genre in the late 1980s. However, he gained even greater popularity as the President of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN). Since assuming office in October 2016, Okafor, renowned for his musical fame with ‘Junior and Pretty,’ has steered the association’s affairs and achieved significant milestones during his tenure. In this Weekend Magazine interview, Pretty shares his achievements as President of PMAN alongside his journey as an artist.
How would you describe your tenure as President of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria?
My tenure as PMAN president has been tsunami of success and progress. We have been able to change the perception of the music union and showed sustainability in achievements. Thanks to my excos.
What are some of the challenges you faced, especially during the beginning of your tenure?
One will be trying to make the so-called cabals understand that we have some bunch of stubborn but progressive young men in charge of the music union now and that we will not back down unless we get it right.
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What would you say are some of the progresses the association has made?
We built the only database management portal for the music industry that will manage the welfare of musicians both digitally and physically through a biometric card system. We built an edifice for the music union in Lekki as a permanent secretariat after 40 years of its existence. We established the first PMAN FM – a radio station for musicians, and bought all the necessary equipment. We are building affordable homes in the six geo political zones with a music school and a business of music school.
In the past, PMAN was riddled with fights and factions; accusations and counter-accusations. How did the body become united?
We relegated them because they were never going to change and we moved on with our plans of integration with the younger musicians and the smart and progressive musicians.
Some creatives still do not believe in the gospel of PMAN; are you aware?
We are aware of the past infighting and the bad image created in the minds of musicians but we have been able to change that and more of the younger generation are the members now.
What are the mechanisms you are putting in place to change the mind-set?
We have done that already. With all we have done recently, we have proven that the union can work. Any person still in doubt has a spiritual issue and we can’t solve that.
Many people argue that the new kids on the block are not part of PMAN, only older artistes. What are your thoughts?
That was the former perception but luckily, we have been able to change that and it’s only the younger musicians that have been registering since we started.
Some say that since these younger artistes are making a lot of money and global fame, they do not need an association like PMAN. Do you agree with this school of thought?
Anyone with this particular mentality doesn’t understand the music business. A first-time touring artist will need PMAN to make their international debut and get their work permits for performances, the authority of the union is deep. Secondly, they can get their royalties from around the world but they can’t have access to their performance, mechanical and needle time royalties, if it’s not authorized by PMAN.
More so, some people argue that most members of the association hardly perform nowadays despite the name of ‘PMAN’. What are your thoughts?
Like I mentioned earlier, our database contains only the recent performers. We have over a million subscribers and they are only the younger generation musicians.
Presiding over a body like PMAN takes time and energy. How do you relax?
We would not have gotten this far if we were taking a rest or a break or even going on vacation since we took over the union. It has been work all through, till we perfect the music industry structure.
How have you been able to balance your role at PMAN with family life?
I have other businesses that are doing very well before taking the responsibilities of PMAN. So, it’s just natural that it fits into my work routine and family life.
How did a student of Yaba College of Technology find himself in the music business, especially at a time when the profession was looked down upon?
I have never taken no for an answer and have never allowed any person, things or circumstance decide my faith. I wanted to go to school and be a musician at the same time and it worked for me. It was not lucrative but full of mockery and resentment but I wanted to do what makes me happy and not trying to please people. I have to only please God and myself, that is the shortest story of my life. I don’t care to impress people; I only do what I know that God will be happy with and I will be satisfied with.
What were some of the hurdles you had to cross to become the well-known Pretty Okafor today?
Courage, perseverance and focus.
Were your parents especially those in your immediate environment in support of your career path?
I disappointed everyone including my parents but I ended up making them famous and wealthy.
What were some of the things you had to do to make your dream as a musician come through?
Discipline, hard work, consistency and re-invention.
What is your thought about the Nigerian music industry and the new wave of singers?
I am overly excited that the genre of music Junior and I created has taken over the globe. This kind of thing only happens once in a while but I’m still alive and seeing it unfolding.
You were also into event planning like Benson & Hedges Golden Tones Concerts, kicking in Kano to mention a few. How did that happen?
Junior and pretty were the youngest musicians to have played on Benson & Hedges Golden tones concert. The white guys were excited and signed us on to create more experiential mechanism for the younger generations, that was how we created the first roadshow in Nigeria targeted at the youths and we grew in the organization and learnt event management, marketing, advertising and promotion. I was the Regional Director Operations Africa, before the merger that took them out of the scene.