Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde: Actress, Activist
There was outrage on social media, particularly, Twitter, minutes after the screen diva, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, complained of the continued assault on citizens by men in uniform as well as the general insecurity everywhere. The post, which she tagged both President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, went viral immediately it was released.
Omo T, as the award-winning actress, singer, philanthropist and recipient of the national honour, Member of the Federal Republic (MFR), is called, spoke “truth to power”.
She had tweeted: “The country under your watch is Hellish! The lack of money in circulation, coupled with continuous assault and killings by uniformed men, will make this country implode! It is unbearable. Do something. Insecurity. Fear and desperation everywhere.”
In this interview with Guardian Life, she said her tweet was as a result of her love for Nigeria.
Not about ruffling the feather
I’m not overwhelmed by the reactions, especially the negative ones. I expected them. These ones were just talk. I faced bullets before. I faced military men pointing guns at me, and so, the negative reactions were nothing to me. And why would I want to ruffle any nest? Who doesn’t want to hide his or her head? Do you know that when I had cause to speak up against previous governments, I was attacked? Not by words alone. But my business, my personal life, my finances were attacked. It is not something I enjoy doing, but sometimes, I worry too like every other normal human being. I worry for my safety. I worry for the safety of people around me.
People think this is a joke. They think it is funny. They think it is something somebody just wakes up to do. I don’t have a choice than to speak the truth. I live here and I’m a born activist. I’m not just an activist, because I want to talk or I want people to notice me, this is who I’m. I have been like this since I was a child. Everybody who knew me as a child would tell you that Omotola wouldn’t stand injustice. I’m that person who will speak out. Sometimes, I fight against myself too. I am like shut up, shut up; you don’t have to say everything. Keep quiet. I guess you can’t fight whom God has made you.
It is not just about this administration
I had a good laugh when I saw them circulating the picture I took with the former President when the country’s national honour was conferred on me. But I also spoke truth to him during his second term bid. I have been consistent. It is just that people forget easily. I think it is very bad for people to always want to compare negatives of different administrations, times and people, I don’t blame them. A lot of people follow the bandwagon. People don’t think for themselves. A lot of people have been programmed to only engage in comparison. They feel that it can never get better, because it has been like this for long, not knowing that every administration has enough power, network and resources to turn things around. They don’t even need four years to do that. We have been programmed into thinking that it takes forever.
I feel that it is nauseating for anyone to think that because your roof leaked last year when it starts this year, you will just go and sit down and wait for the water to pour on you. Why should I just sit down and say because the last administration was bad and the one before it, I will now conclude they all are bad, so, let me just tag along with the government in power? You see, I’m not doing anything new. I have spoken up at different times. Unfortunately, a lot of people do not research. They don’t keep records. But the records are there. In fact, someone shared a link where I spoke truth to the former President. I have spoken out at different times. This is not my first.
My suggestion for a better Nigeria
I’m not an economist; so, I’m not going to pretend that I know exactly what to do to make sure there is money in circulation. But if there is no money in circulation in an economy, people are afraid to spend. They start holding back to their monies. They are afraid to spend because there is insecurity. You don’t know what is going to happen next. Then there is the issue of tax deductions. Why are our taxes so high, when we provide nearly all the basic amenities ourselves? I’m my own government. I generate my own light, water and pay for security every month. All the basic amenities that I should enjoy as a citizen, I provide myself. It is even so bad that people donate to fix roads in their domain. We even pay taxes for the roads they construct for us. For every item I buy in this country, you remove VAT from it. We are all burdened by heavy taxation that are not properly accounted for, so, how do you feel encouraged to do more? My advice is, for the economy to have some kind of relief, these two men — President Muhammed Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osibanjo — that we believe are men of integrity, at a time like this, should not allow history to pass judgment on them as not making attempts to save this country. My suggestion is that, they should both come out and talk to the nation. Talk to people heart to heart. Let people see their vision. A responsible government should be a father.
The government should have empathy and should be able to constantly feel the pulse of its people. You should know when your citizens are not happy, rightfully or wrongfully. It doesn’t matter. You may be working hard and they are not feeling it. Your job is to make them understand. If you don’t explain yourself, and all you do is to look at them in a condescending manner as if they do not deserve any kind of explanation, it is counter productive. It is not all about sending your aides to issue statements. When you were campaigning, you went round to solicit votes, how come you are not talking to the same people or making yourself accountable to the people? There is need for the leadership to talk to people and that way they give them some degree of assurances. That way, people will be able to plan.
Role of the media
I also want to appeal to the media and people who are influential, especially on social media. Sometimes also, we are the vanguard of the discussion. When you highlight negative posts and all of that, you defeat the purpose. Though some people have reacted negatively to my post, I’m actually surprised at the amount of support the post has elicited. I have been told that I was going to be alone, but I am shocked that some people have actually come to my defence and it shows that people are actually tired and are ready to face the consequences. That is one reason I believe government needs to listen now and do something before the country implodes. My appeal again is to journalists, especially bloggers; your headlines matter. We are all in the fight for our lives. I’m not just fighting for myself. I’m fighting for my children and for my grand children. If I say today that I have money and I shield myself from what is going on, can I shield myself from my driver or maid or even the streets that I’m going to be driving on?
If the country suffers, we all suffer, whether we like it or not. It will touch all of us one way or the other. The solution is that there should be a conducive and empowering environment for people to do legitimate business. Nigerians will love to do legitimate business. I come in contact with lots of Nigerians. We are the most productive and innovative people on earth. We are unstoppable. So, we need an empowering environment. We need security. We need a friendly environment. The police need to be retrained. I’m not for ending SARS. I know they are set up for a good cause but it should be reformed. They should protect the people and not the other way round.
Human right is key
I think we need to come back to human rights. I mean the bottom of the fabric of human rights. We need to ask ourselves the simple question of the value of a Nigerian life. We need to start to ask ourselves that question, which will now take us to our Constitution. Is our Constitution even right for Nigeria? We need to revisit these things. If we are truly honest about saving this country and prospering it, we need to go down to the bottom, to the foundation of this nation and say, when this Constitution was handed to us, was it written by us or for us? Does it serve us? Has time changed and is it serving today’s time? How do we make it better and most especially, how do we respect the life of every Nigerian? America is regarded today because the life of every American is really valuable.
Grab a copy of Guardian Life to read the full discussion with Omo T.
Tip: It is an inset in the Guardian Newspaper