Following a lot of inquiries over Twitter, Tony Tetuila ( known to the courts as Anthony Olanrewaju Awotoye) confirmed that he and Ghanaian singer Tic-Tac were taking Wizkid to court. Tony Tetuila is veteran singer, who was the lead singer for 90’s boy-band, the Remedies and one of the few Nigerian solo acts who found success after leaving their group. But he hasn’t been relevant in the sense of the word for a nearly a decade.
However, that doesn’t mean his work doesn’t remain relevant and worthy of its royalties. In 2004, Tetuila and Tic-tac paired up to write and record FeFe NaFe, which was a modest in the year it was released and has become one of the early Naija Music hits that gets decent rotation at clubs and parties to this day. Wizkid, arguably the biggest pop star in the country (arguably only because Burna Boy exists) did a dodgy thing. He took was clearly a sample of Fefe NaFe and incorporated it into his new single without licensing it first from Tetuila or the label to which he was signed at the time.
Now, a good number of contemporary Nigerian songs rely heavily on sampling as a way to trigger nostalgia and trick audiences into recognizing something familiar in new music they encounter. This familiarity can be the difference between success and failure as Burna Boy and Lady Donli, two artists who sampled heavily on their 2019 albums, show. The difference between them and Wizkid is that they most likely got all the necessary licenses and permissions before executing.
Tony Tetuila is being modest by most standards, so it is clear he actually is planning strategically to win this suit. He has asked for 30 million Naira in damages and a portion of profits the song eventually makes. Pretty fair for a case of this magnitude.
If Tony Tetuila wins his suit, it will create a precedent that might finally narrow the scope of overt sampling that is currently dominating the music industry and by extension curb plagiarism. And even if it does, it shows creators who has been exploited in this way that litigation is a genuine option for redress.
We are here for it.
Edwin Okolo is an author and journalist who has worked with YNaija, TheNativemag and the Naked Convos.