Back in the 90s, the name Veno Marioghae was on the lips of every music-loving Nigerian.
Her song, ‘Nigeria Go Survive’ was seen as a rallying call for patriotic Nigerians to rescue what was then perceived as a drowning nation.
Almost four decades later, the song lyrics are still relevant to the situation in the country.
Recently, the ‘Siobo Nome’ singer took telecom giant Airtel to court for infringing her intellectual property.
The singer, through her lawyer, demanded N50m for the unauthorised commercial and derogatory use of her work.
PREMIUM TIMES caught up with her in court, where she talked about the ongoing litigation, her new projects and hopes for a better Nigeria.
PT: You are in court for copyright infringement. How did you discover this was happening?
Veno: My husband and I were talking when a call came through on one of the phones at my house to inform us that this was what was going on.
We tried to reach out to these people to no avail. We made a press statement to say they infringed on my copyrights, and to my greatest disappointment, the litigation department just came out guns blazing, calling me names.
You know, I didn’t expect that kind of reaction because I am the daughter of a lawyer myself. I grew up with a lawyer and knew how things should be done. You know, when somebody makes an allegation like that, you should go and verify.
Instead, they were boasting about how they will file criminal charges against me, how they have all the money to do it, and they don’t care what it costs them.
PT: How did they get across to you? Did they issue a rebuttal to your statement?
Veno: That’s their idea of a rebuttal, coming out to accuse me of all kinds. That was their excuse. And then we had to go to the Nigerian Copyright Commission to report.
They just kept dancing back and forth. Then they insinuated that somehow I turned into a ninja, something like a Tom Cruise in ‘Mission Impossible, and somehow concocted the whole thing and hacked into their servers, all kinds of nonsense.
We have all the evidence. I don’t know what game they think they’re playing. I am not ready to play that game with them. So I’m doing what I should do, which is to come and file a case.
I’m even asking the EFCC, the police, and other organisations to investigate and prove any criminal activity. Let them all come in and get involved in it.
PT: The case has just been adjourned.
Veno: This is just the beginning. We artists go through this nonsense a lot, especially in Nigeria. You spend your time and your resources doing what you need to do. You create something, and somebody just comes from somewhere and decides to use it.
I cannot disrespect anybody like that. I can’t disrespect your creativity like that. It doesn’t take anything. ‘Nigeria Go Survive’ has been used by different people.
Some have done their versions of it, but you know, they came to me to ask for permission. Umaru Shinkafi, a presidential candidate at one time, used the song for his campaigns. He sent people to come and meet me, and he paid.
Others used the song for one thing or another. Like somebody wanted to use it for a radio program. I didn’t charge them anything.
Azeezat is there, go and ask her. I didn’t ask her to pay me anything.
There’s another young man, DM Squared, who also did it with Jodie. He didn’t pay me. I even appeared in the video because the song reflects my passion for this country.
You know, many people have come to me, and they’ve said, Oh, we thought you left the country? No, I never went. I’ve been here through the ups and downs and everything.
PT: Now that you mention it, the rave among Nigerians today is to leave the country. How would you say the song, ‘Nigeria Go Survive, ’ has aged?
Veno: Unfortunately, we have that downward spiral that has just continued. But sometimes, people hit rock bottom for them to be able to see. When you hit rock bottom, you say, okay, that’s it. I can go any lower. I refuse to go any lower than this. So you spring up.
I think that’s where we are now. I firmly believe that out of these ashes, we will rise and build something beautiful out of these ashes. I see it.
I’m a Christian. So there is a time to pray and ask God, how will this be? And God answers.
To be frank with you. in 2015, before the elections happened, I did go to God, I asked, what is going to happen? And every single thing that is happening now, I was shown In a dream. I’m not a prophetess.
Every single thing, I documented it. When I woke up, I told my husband that this is the way this is going to go. And there’s going to be a time that Nigeria is going to be on the verge.
We’re just going to say, Oh God, we are about go into another civil war. At the last minute, God is going to come around and just turn things around.
So there are things I’m seeing now. Everything has manifested. And that last one I saw Nigerians rejoicing, It is going to come to pass.
I’ve told people and they say, Ah, you’re such an optimist. Okay, fine. I’m an optimist and I sound stupid, but it’s okay. When it happens one day, they’re going to come and meet me and say, Oh, wow, you said it.
So that’s one reason people like me are still hanging around.
I believe in the youth of this country. They have got what it takes. Unfortunately, some of the brains that God has given us have decided to use them negatively. I’m talking about advance fee fraud and all that. But do you know that you can do so many things if you apply that knowledge positively?
I am behind the youth of this country, and I’m saying you’ve got the power. Make the change. Don’t repeat the same mistakes. I’m here, and by God’s grace, everything God has planned for this country will pass.
How did the song fare in terms of royalties?
The song was produced under Lookhere Records, owned by Jake Solo, but unfortunately, he died before it was released. Tabansi Records only stepped in purely for marketing purposes.
I didn’t make a dime from the song in terms of royalties, but I had a lot of government patronage because of the message I was preaching. The contract was for five years, so in 1990, I walked away.
PT: It’s been a while since you released new music. Why did you take that break?
Veno: I’ve been in the studio. So I’ve done a rehash of ‘Nigeria Go Survive’. I’ve done the new ‘Nigeria Go Survive’ video, and it’s going to be on the screens and the airwaves very soon.
But I did it with a new twist because for me. It is Project Nigeria. And I have focused on the youth. I’ve given up on my generation. So my focus is on the child.
So what you are going to see is not people dancing; you’re going to see a lot of youth showcased in their areas of strength, the things they are doing.
And basically, what I’m saying is that these are growing up to become icons on their own.
You know this is the new Nigeria. That’s what I showcased in that video. Of course, you will see me singing and then I put in some rap. I didn’t do the rap. I can’t rap to save my life. I got one of my son’s friends, an adorable young man, to come and do the rap so that there is a bridge between my generation and this new generation.
What I’m saying is that we’ve gone around this mountain. We’ve circled it for too long. It’s time now to walk into the promised land. So we have survived; now let us arrive. That’s the thrust of the song.
I will also be releasing some new sounds. I do more gospel now. So basically, I’m a worshiper. So I’m doing my debut gospel album.
Secondly, I am a song activist. That’s the way I see myself. I want every lyric I sing to do something in the life of somebody, either as a citizen or as a child of God.
It’s okay for one to dance, do all that. But we are in an agitated period where many people suffer from mental issues. My heart breaks when I hear of suicide. That’s another thing I want to go into. Maybe I should do a short course in psychology and counselling so that I can go into that as well, again, for young people, even for older people, because all kinds of people suffer from depression.
I can’t sit there and watch my country go down. The dancing is for another time. Let every word I sing do something positive in the lives of my people. Whether I’m singing a song in praise of God, I’m encouraging somebody with the Word of God, or I’m just encouraging people to say, look, this country is worth fighting for. Let’s all come together. That’s my goal. Yeah.
Among Nigeria’s numerous national challenges, which do you think the next president should focus on first?
— Premium Times (@PremiumTimesng) October 5, 2022
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