ho really has intellectual rights to the acclaimed stage production, ‘Moremi the Musical’? Is it the House of Oduduwa owned by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi or Bolanle Austen-Peters Productions (BAP) ? This is the question, curious as it may seem, that has spawned diverse reactions among stakeholders in the arts and culture sector.
‘Moremi the Musical’, a collaboration between BAP and the House of Oduduwa owned by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi was first staged at TerraKulture Arena in December 2018, and it was directed by Mrs Bolanle Austen Peters, is a gripping theatrical presentation on the story of Queen Moremi Ajasoro, who was a courageous, selfless beautiful woman from Ile-Ife. Following incessant raids by a neighboring tribe and with Ife under siege, she took the heroic step of offering herself to be captured by the raiders. The goal was to be taken prisoner and be taken to the land of the marauders for intelligence gathering. The attempt worked as her beauty and intellect enchanted the King of the Ugbo tribe who married her and she became Queen. She learned the secrets of the raiders which the Ife subsequently exploited to achieve victory.
It is a story of love, faith, honour and the ultimate sacrifice.
The play returned on stage from April 18 to May 5, 2019, for Easter Season, also at Terra Kulture Arena, Victoria Island, Lagos, and at Intercontinental Hotel, Lagos, which was, this time, directed by Joshua Alabi.
However, following advertisement by BAP to stream the 2018 performance of the Musical online at 7pm last Sunday on its YouTube channel, ‘things fell apart’. The House of Oduduwa, through the Queen Moremi Ajasoro in an Instagram post, objected to the streaming, claiming that it owned the rights to the production and that showing it online is a breach of the agreement signed by both parties. It added that streaming it online with lack of permission and rights to IP content is a breach of the agreement.
The post reads: “The stage play of the Queen Moremi was created and produced to support all QMA initiatives. We are grateful to have been able to engage with talented individuals to make the second stage performance possible with BAP’s who was commissioned and paid to Produce Moremi The Musical in Dec 2018.
“Moremi is owned by The House of Oduduwa which is the Ooni of Ife. Streaming the 2018 show online is in breach of the agreement. It could kill all the aspirations as proceeds from Moremi The Musical are used to campaign against Modern-day slavery and trafficking of young women.
“Moremi The Musical was produced to go on tour in Nigeria, UK and USA and not streamed online until all parties involved in the production agrees.
“Streaming it online with lack of permission and rights to IP content is a breach of the agreement, and we hope the clauses will settle the matter legally. Also, theatres only stream online projects they believe has rounded up its original tour for at least two to three seasons and we still have a few more seasons left. To totally stream the show is a discredit to all efforts. We hope something positive comes out of these issues and pray for the best for all parties.”
Mrs. Austen-Peters, however, in a statement signed by Joseph Umoibom, who was the producer of 2018 performance of the Musical at Terra Kulture Arena, affirmed that she owns the production from script to actualisation. Umoibom accused the House of Oduduwa of duplicity, and reiterated that the streaming would go ahead as scheduled.
“From script to actualisation, Bolanle Austen-Peters was the driving force behind the acclaimed Moremi the Musical, which made its debut at Terrakulture Arena in December 2018.
“The House of Oduduwa, having tried several times to make a success of the historical figure into a stage play, approached the famous stage director to assist them.
“Mrs Austen-Peters agreed to their request, part-funded and directed the play twice after an MOU was signed. However, she subsequently found out that the House of Oduduwa had plans, despite signed agreements, to replace her and take full ownership of her intellectual property.
“In December 2019, the House of Oduduwa, using BAP’s exact script and direction, staged their version of the play without recourse to BAP.
“BAP is streaming her version of the play today on YouTube because it’s her intellectual property.
“Plays run concurrently on stage and in movies, and as a matter of fact, they feed off each other. Stage experience can never be compared to online experience if the product is good.
“House of Oduduwa should celebrate this development and are at liberty to continue with their version of the play.”
Also, in a chat with New Telegraph, Umoibom insisted that BAP has the right to the production. “We put in more money in the production. We developed everything from scratch. We also allowed them create their own version with our ideas and intellects and they are now saying we cant show a recording of our play.
“They said that they will take it to court, so we are waiting for them.”
He confirmed that the recorded version of the 2018 presentation of the play, as directed by Mrs. Austen-Peters, was streamed on Sunday at 7pm on the YouTube channel as scheduled, adding that as at about 3.30pm on Monday the streaming had received over 37,000 views.
Attempts to get further reactions from Princess Ronke Ademiluyi, who is the Vice Chairman, House of Oduduwa, did not yield any results as calls made as well as text messages sent to her were not responded to as the time of writing this report.