Nigerian Celebrities Should Take A Page From Funke Akindele-Bello’s Book
Abdul Rasheed Bello popularly known as JJC Skillz went live on Instagram on the streets of Amen Estate, a gated community on what is called “the Island” in Lagos on Sunday morning after backlash from social media about a birthday party he had in his home. He spoke about the big homes in the estate, how blessed he was and how Nigerians can’t get angry over whatever they wanted to because they pay for their internet plans.
Since the coronavirus pandemic broke in Lagos, Nigerians have been asked to avoid crowded areas, schools and churches have been shut down, and a compulsory lockdown has been implemented. Lagosians have been told to sit at home, wash their hands, use hand sanitizers, wear facemasks and avoid touching their faces. Yet, with these implementations, the death toll continues to rise. In the country, a total of five people have died due to complications from the virus and it continues to spread like wildfire.
And so over the weekend, when clips from JJC Skillz’ birthday party in his home at Amen Estate flooded social media, the outrage was immediate. His wife, the actress Funke Akindele-Bello, has been very vocal on social media during this hard time, teaching Nigerians how to wash their hands, encouraging them to invest in hand sanitizers. Nigerians just could not make sense of why it was in her household that the law would be flouted.
The backlash would not end. “Funke Akindele-Bello” was trending on social media. When her husband went live on Instagram to defend his actions claiming that he had rich neighbours, Nigerians got even more enraged.
Public transport has come to a halt. Businesses have been shut down. The country has not recovered from the previous recession and another one is looming in the near future. Perhaps, he could have been more sensitive. But he could not have been. It is a long tradition of Nigerian public figures who have come to sincerely believe that any rebuke, particularly from people who are not famous, is hate and their defence is always along the lines of “you are not rich enough to tell me what to do.”
Since the Instagram celebrities came on the scene, it’s been a conversation about the handful of people who just don’t like them and they have been on the mission to purge the world of hate.
On the radio, presenters will create segments teaching Nigerians how to use social media or how to apologize. The general wisdom from celebrities and popular Nigerians is that you have to be famous to know anything or to have an opinion that matters. To many celebrities, the only major problems in Nigerian are bad roads and lack of twenty-four hours power supply. In the upper echelons of Lagos society life, the average Lagosian does not see himself or a semblance of himself.
To them, they are people who are guests at the senate president’s daughter’s wedding and so whenever they complain about bad roads or that their phone that was stolen, should be returned because they are stars and have really important documents on it, the backlash is always filled with so much vitriol for a class of people that they do believe should have their backs but do not. It doesn’t matter how many times a Nigerian star will claim to not be part of the one percent, they just will not be seen any other way. This is apparent because they know and see lawmakers be special guests at their concerts and movie premieres and they see the cosy exchange between stars and the vice president’s daughter on Instagram.
The mood in Nigeria is one that is deeply destitute of justice and Nigerians will take their justice wherever they can find it.
In all fairness, in time immemorial, Nigerian public figures have never really apologized for any wrongdoing, at least not sincerely. Even Funke Akindele-Bello has in a now-deleted tweet claim that the backlash was being propagated by “negative” people. But what she did hours later on Sunday evening on IGTV is what we should applaud and other celebrities should learn from. She sincerely apologised and it is by far the most responsible thing to do and for that, we must pay more attention to her side of the story. Nonetheless, new reports says that she has been arrested and taken to the police station while her husband has not been found (at the time of reporting.)
Many celebrities have been silent about this. Not sure what to say. Is this another hate that they go through for being rich and famous or is this someone paying for disobeying the law that has left many destitute? The dilemma is far-reaching and is one that we all must answer, famous or not. The only thing that is most certain, however, is that even the most famous people are not and should not be above the law. And so to say that this is just another hate against the rich will be to claim that the rich should be above the law.
No one expects celebrities or at least the big stars to lend their voices to this cause, it doesn’t include lack of power supply in Lekki and so it really isn’t the business of many. But for the many other Nigerians, this is a reckoning, a balancing of the scales, that the rich too can face consequences for wrongdoings.
Is this a new day? Is it too soon to dance in the halls of Twitter that we have a justice system that might work for all the peoples, the rich and the poor, the ones who as an Instagram celebrity put it during an exchange with someone who wasn’t a fan, people who don’t have homes in Europe or as a rising beauty Instagram star once said, people who are not successful? The backlash and the celebration of it thereof is the true bare face of many Nigerians. They just want a fair system.