While the youths dared to stand up against oppression, our cherished celebrities, at least many of the prominent ones, have chosen a deplorable nonchalance.
●3rd March 2023
Over the last couple of weeks, there has been a palpable sense of angst that has lingered in the air; thick enough to spur schisms or rupture personal relationships. This is due to the recently concluded 2023 presidential elections which will go down in Nigerian history for a number of reasons, most notably the emergence of a third force, Labour Party, spearheaded by the charismatic 61-year-old Peter Obi.
Even though the country has endured bad governance for several years — courtesy of APC and PDP, the two most prominent political parties in Nigeria — there has been a melange of docile resistance, resignation and political apathy from most Nigerians, many of who are now seeking greener pastures elsewhere or simply ‘just have to keep it moving’. The chilling events of October 20, 2020, however, served as a jarring eye opener, most especially to the youths. After several protests across the country and even outside of it — which were effectively funded, cordinated and largely sustained via social media — in a egregious attempt to bring it all to a halt, Nigerians witnessed the nation’s military personnels indiscriminately open fire on its own unarmed citizens. Throughout the inspiring but harrowing experience — which served as a political awakening — the rage and reaction of many, celebrities alike — Wizkid tweeted the importance of the 2023 elections, the paradoxical activist Burna Boy immortalized the dead on “20.10.20”, prominent football stars raised awareness in packed football arenas with millions more watching and many others used their voices however they could — signaled a collective ‘this time we’re not keeping it moving’.
So the 2023 presidential election presented the much awaited window for change. Months before the election and even after, youths have taken to social media once again to create awareness on the importance of voting and also to throw their weight behind their preferred candidate Peter Obi of the Labour Party. A lot of celebrities, however, some of who have been vocal about the need for change, either through their social media posts or in their music, have been silent during this period. Those who have dared to call out their silence have been met with a ‘no be me kill jesus’ stance. Their responses have ranged from an insensitive promotional video tweeted by Rema, deafening silence from many others, and most notably, Burna Boy’s laughable reply.
The self-proclaimed African Giant took to Instagram to respond to criticisms regarding his silence. His excuse: “I don’t have a candidate that I believe in. I’ve never supported any political party or candidate in my life because I don’t want to make you vote and then blame me when the person fucks up, as usual.” Lack of faith in any of the candidates who just contested for the presidential seat is one thing, but Burna Boy claiming he’s never supported any candidate in his life — which strongly suggests he’s never voted — because he doesn’t want to bear any responsibility when the elected leader inevitably does bad a job is a pretty weak cop out and craven abdication of his civic duty. One would expect a singer like Burna Boy who has echoed the distress of the masses for about a decade now, who has indirectly and unfairly labeled many Nigerians as cowards, to take his own advice and not adopt a pointless and cynical stance that helps no one.
A lot of Nigerian celebrities conflate amplification and endorsement. ‘Deyemi Okanlawon, a famous Nollywood actor, shared the same sentiment as Burna Boy: he refused to speak about the elections for fear of influencing people’s decisions. While it is clear that amidst the cacophony online, these celebrities’ voices tend to stand out, their voice isn’t more important than the next person’s. An acknowledgement of the huge platform that they have, and using it to encourage other citizens just like them to exercise their right to vote is all that’s required of them.
Kept quiet long enough so no one accuses me of influencing their decision… then we allowed ppl get elected who have absolutely no record we can track cos they bought party form. I’m going to be shouting now https://t.co/9wA2SF6CuB
While the youths dared to stand up against oppression, to keep our silent promise not to just look away and ‘keep it moving’, to fight for ourselves and the lives that were unfortunately lost at the Lekki tollgate, our cherished celebrities, at least many of the prominent ones, have chosen a deplorable nonchalance. Some even closely aligned themselves with the very government that oversaw a gruesome massacre and denied any killings afterwards.
The election season is gradually winding down and while tempers are still relatively high — especially with the gubernatorial election just on the horizon — everyone is seeking to return to their normal lives soon. Most will seek to cope with the current reality however they can, and attempt to carry on with life. These celebrities will also re-emerge from their caves after the dust has settled with the promise of new music or a flashy new blockbuster movie. They’ll gloss over their silence, and many will forget about it. But I thought with great power comes great responsibility, I guess I was wrong.