Celebrities around the world have been vocal alongside health authorities as humanity pushes to conquer coronavirus. Many have done more than talking, donating large sums to provide medical necessities and relief materials to those who need it.
In Nigeria, the case has been the same. Some of the celebrities have gone on social media to share money in a bid to help people stay at home as the government’s lockdown order came into effect. Others have been consistently sounding the warning of social distancing. But then, there have been exceptions.
On Saturday, a popular celebrity couple, Funke Akindele aKa Jenifer, and her husband, Abdulrasheed Bello aka JJC SkillZ threw a birthday party at their residence in Amen Estate Lagos. From the video shared online by the celebrant JJC SkillZ, there were over 20 people in the party, including popular singer, Naira Marley.
If the date was January 4, a lot of birthday wishes would have followed the video, but it was a heavy backlash instead for obvious reasons.
Not long ago, the Nigerian Center for Disease Control (NCDC) has used Funke Akindele to advocate measures needed to curb the spread of coronavirus, which includes social distancing, limiting the number of people who come together at a time. And there she was – a role model, telling thousands of people who look up to her to respect governments’ restrictions on socializing for the greater good, that it is still ok to hold a large gathering when it’s your spouse’s birthday.
So when Nigerians started calling for her arrest, it’s not only because she and her husband broke the rules of social distancing, it also that she has set a bad example that may result in the spread of coronavirus that everyone is making sacrifices to quell.
The Lagos State Government had restricted the number of people allowed for social and religious gathering to 25, as the World Health Organization keeps emphasizing on the need to limit social gathering to the barest minimum. But then the number of cases keeps increasing in Lagos and Abuja, forcing the federal government to impose two weeks lockdown on the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun States.
Only a few people who offer services categorized as essentials were allowed to function, and Funke (an actress) and her husband (a singer) don’t fall into that category.
On Sunday, when the Lagos State police command announced that Funke Akindele Bello has been arrested and manhunt is on for JJC SkillZ and Naira Marley, there was more applause than sympathy.
Though Funke tried to explain what happened. In a video she shared on social media, she said the party attendees have all been in her home before the lockdown took effect and had no choice than stay back since they are working on a movie that Naira Marley is billed to star in.
“Before the outbreak of coronavirus, we all worked together here. We had the strength of 100 workers, but not all hundred are here now. So this is where everybody works and we shoot a lot of contents. So when the pandemic started we had to stop our production…
“But before the lockdown was announced by the president, some youths have been in the bootcamp here in Amen Estate, were hosting, singing, dancing. The majority of the youth are those you saw in the video,” She explained.
Going by her explanation, majority of those who were in the birthday party have been in the Estate before the lockdown took effect, including Naira Marley who is to feature in her new movie, Omo Ghetto the Saga.
But the video shared by the celebrant, JJC SkillZ refuted whatever excuse Funke has presented for what happened. They were excitedly saying in the video: “We no dey hear word, we no dey hear word, we get coconut head, we get big ear but we no dey hear word.”
That’s the defiance that got people pissed. It’s more like daring the government to do its worst.
For three people of their caliber, who have a country of people idolizing them, it is a very negative precedent.
Nigeria is known as a country where money and social status help people get away from obvious wrongs, thereby enabling impunity and total disregard for rule of law. But it is even more worrisome when the situation has to do with a global pandemic that doesn’t care about one’s money and social status.
The NCDC and Dettol that were using the actress as ambassador has dissociated themselves from her. NCDC has pulled down the coronavirus sensitization video where she featured in from its website.
The Lagos State government has charged the actress to Magistrate Court Ogba, and the court has sentenced the couple to community service with a fine of N100,000. The court’s ruling has been applauded by many who believe it will serve as a deterrent to others who feel they’re immune to the law.