Detty December in ‘Collabo’ with Flogging: The Security Status at Nigerian Concerts Last Year

I was talking to a friend recently. “I don’t enjoy writing as much as people think I do.” He looked at me in surprise. “I write because it’s what I do best.” His jaw dropped some more. Certainly, I wasn’t expecting a different reaction. The little achievement I’ve been able to muster so far is as a result of writing. Writing is one skill that has consistently proven itself to be my comrade. Together, we have successfully conquered the hearts of a select number of people, which is why I made a promise to always use writing as an instrument of change, no matter how inconsequential it might be.

These days, I don’t write editorials about music or musicians. I’ve passed that chapter of my life. Although most of what I do is still writing, it’s without the (usual) pressure. Also, as a freelancer, life has been tough but we what? We move. When I finally start making money from this (entertainment) consultancy p, appropriate adjustments shall be made to my shoulders and you would need to fill a form in order to have access to my P.A’s dog veterinarian. The plan, anyway, is to document my observations as I continue to work from behind the scenes.

How Important is Security at Concerts?

Now, I’m not proficient in this particular aspect I’m writing about: security at events. All I have is basic knowledge, an undying curiosity, and an observing eye. What led to the development of this article is the fact that my December was unsullied. Everyone wouldn’t stop flooding statuses and timelines with various updates. Thankfully, that happened to have its benefits. Through social media, Twitter especially, I was able to learn that Nativeland was experiencing troubles with security. The venue of the concert, Muri Okunola Park (VI), became overcrowded and resultantly, threatened the security force.

You and I know that the importance of security at concerts cannot be overemphasized. It goes beyond just placing personnel at the gate to screen the crowd or using the presence of armed forces to instill fear and composure into the people. I’m talking about having a (nearly) impeccable security plan that must be properly executed. It is even best to work with security experts as that happens to be their field.

To further highlight the importance of security at concerts, and how things can quickly go south, let me refresh your memory. Do you remember what happened after Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester a few years back? 58 people died and more than 250 people were injured. Shortly after that, another disastrous thing happened: more than 50 people lost their lives and 400 people sustained critical injuries at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas.

Now, these are concerts where security is usually their top priority yet unforeseen things still happened.

Detty December With a Mix of Flogging

Apparently, the Nativeland story doesn’t end there. It metamorphosed into a ruckus. The stage crashed which further incited an uproar. The crowd at the gate continued to increase rapidly so much that the security men had to deny everyone entry as well as exit. Disorderliness seized the moment and the security men began beating people in a bid to establish order.

The situation was a lot messier because the event was heavily attended by kids — who undoubtedly have a curfew — looking forward to having a good time but were instead met with a reality marked by violence and zero safety measures.

What exactly happened? Did the organizers of the concert not have a detailed security plan? Where did it all go wrong?

It was later revealed that the overcrowding was a result of last-minute ticket sales even after selling out the proposed number of tickets. It is not preposterous to say it was an avoidable mistake — one that could have been remedied should there have been a rigorous security plan.

However, it’s sad that humans, myself included, are quick to condemn things when it is more productive to be solution-oriented.

Not long after, social media brought it to our attention that the same thing happened at Wizkid’s concert. I saw several tweets of people complaining about how they were maltreated at the entrance by the security men (including the Police and Army). After the concert, the police shot a civilian. He died. Things became heated and thugs started assailing innocent citizens, snatching their property.

As an intellectual, I was forced to think and ask the apposite question: Oluwa, wetin dey transpire? This question ushered me upon a new path of curiosity as I decided to experience for myself what seemed to be a recurring problem at these events. The only event I had attended before then was The Mayor of Lagos, where I worked backstage, and everything went so smoothly.

My friend and business partner, Levi Adewunmi, is affiliated to The Plug Entertainment so when he told me he was heading to the venue for A Good Time concert, it was with excitement that I joined him.

Imagine my surprise when I got to the venue of the event and saw how expansive it was. Although the stage and every other thing was being set up, everyone fulfilling their duties to ensure that no stone was left unturned, I couldn’t help but worry about the state of security. Asa Asika (Davido’s manager), Kalu, and Tycoone (Davido’s creative director) were there too. Not a lot of people know the hard work that is being put to bring these (massive) concerts to life.

Another friend of mine, Taofeek, a popular social media influencer — who was present at the Wizkid’s concert the previous day — was also with me. We wouldn’t stop making jokes about how people were battered mercilessly all in the name of Detty December. We couldn’t stop wondering if the same thing would repeat itself at the Davido’s concert. With bated breath, we anticipated.

I’m not sure why people didn’t turn up to Davido’s concert as early as they did for Wizkid’s. I’m guessing that it stemmed from the fear of what had happened the previous day. Eventually, they did. And they did in plentiful. Within the blink of an eye, the premises was swarming with people. The security men had suddenly become more active, which translated to more cruelty. The few times I went outside the gate to give some artists the tags required for entry; I saw enough pummeling.

I wasn’t at Naira Marley’s concert but the stories were the same. Many folks already expected Marlian Fest to be rough and it did live up to that expectation.

One cannot help but ask if there is need for any violence. I’m honestly baffled at how most of the security (policemen and army) believed the best control measure to be violence. Yes, I know you’re going to say Nigerians are stubborn animals that cannot be brought to order by simple regulations. No doubt that sometimes you cannot tame Nigerians until the use of force. But when the lives of patrons are being put at risk even before they get to enjoy what they paid for; does it not make the idea of the concert pointless?

According to the Director of Field Operations at Eventbrite, Tommy Goodwin,

“Concert security might just be one of many things that the operations manager is in charge of. As a result, they may lack full understanding of or even the bandwidth for emergency preparedness.”

What if chaos broke out among the crowd during the artist’s performance? What if a shooter was positioned at a strategic place and suddenly started shooting sporadically? I strongly doubt if arrangements were made for an emergency exit, even though they may be unlikely, you cannot completely eliminate the possibility of an unanticipated attack.

Goodwin emphasizes that

“If there’s one thing you should worry about, it’s getting people out. Part of the problem in the past has been that many attendees didn’t know where they could exit.”

Closing note:

I would be lying if I said I didn’t understand why many of the concerts made use of heavy security at the gate. Nigerians are fond of breaking into concerts or trying to force their way through. At the end of the day, nobody really wants an environment that threatens the safety of their audience. And I’m not trying to condemn anyone’s approach. But, is flogging and battering (patrons and fans) the way to go about it? At the expense of the reputation of the concert organizers and the headliners?

Illustration: @don_yizzy



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