Should We Pressure Celebrities to Speak Up on Social Issues?

There’s an ongoing story of D’banj sexually assaulting a lady. The lady, Seyitan, narrated her ordeal with D’banj (two years ago) on Twitter some days back and since then her life has been in peril. She has been unlawfully arrested by the police and kept in custody for more than 24 hours. She has been (allegedly) kidnapped by D’Banj’s manager and although she has finally gained her freedom, the psychological trauma that will follow cannot be measured.

From when Seyitan told her story till this very moment, people have tried to invalidate her story by saying it is a false accusation. She has been ridiculed, shamed and oppressed. One would expect D’banj to do everything possible to clear his name and counter the accusations in the most non-controversial way possible. But the Afrobeats singer decided to go another route: one that will forever mar his legacy. I have to confess that I held the musician in high esteem and seeing him go about the issue this way has flushed all my respect and admiration down the drain.

As much as I’m tempted to just rant and call D’banj all sorts of unsavory names, I’m writing this to address celebrities discussing social issues and the unrealistic expectations that fans usually have of them. I don’t know where to start from because sometimes I find myself hoping that a Nigerian celebrity will weigh in on these issues and use his or her platform to fight for victims, especially in cases of blatant oppression like this one. We cannot deny that it’ll help whatever cause is being fought should a celebrity lend their voice. Not just to sing about it in songs but to also actively participate in the fight.

Celebrities all over the world have at some point had to come out of their shells to tackle social issues. We have seen the likes of J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, John Boyega, Michael B. Jordan come out to support the #BlackLivesMatter movement. It boosts the confidence of the masses when public figures show that they are also affected by the same issues despite how privileged they are. The fate of the world might not depend on it but it will make a significant difference if more celebrities made their concerns known on these issues and were more proactive.

But we need to learn to manage our expectations. We need to learn that celebrities aren’t infallible. They are as human as you and me. They are capable of saying and doing stupid things. Their music might be what is keeping you alive but idolizing them isn’t always a good idea. You are setting yourself up for massive disappointment if you expect celebrities to attack issues plaguing society. You’ll be surprised to find out that many of them have shallow perspectives and pressuring them to speak up will only reveal what should have been kept hidden.

Will every celebrity be socially conscious? Is it possible for every celebrity to be politically correct? I dare say many of us are performative on the internet and seem to neglect how reality works. At the end of the day, these celebrities do not owe it to any of us to use their platforms to fight for our rights. It’s more of a personal commitment than it is an obligation. They are not human rights activists and are definitely not the government. Maybe your expectations should be kept at a minimum. Just maybe.

One thing that is particularly annoying is when people on social media decide to call out celebrities over their silence on certain issues. It’s a different case if you express a wish for your favorite celebrity to comment on a social issue. No one will question you if you wanted Falz to give his take on an issue because you believe in his acuity. What I don’t understand is criticizing celebrities when they choose to be mute. Most times when these celebrities eventually give their opinions, they are censured and then we make fun of their intellectual judgement. So what then is the purpose of pressuring them to speak when they’ll rather not?

It is not wrong to criticize celebrities when their opinions are harmful or stupid. They can be held accountable for saying irrational things. In fact, we should all endeavor to point it out to them when there’s any error in their thinking.

May I be so bold to say I believe Tiwa Savage can do better. I mean, for someone who is so vocal about women tearing each other down in the entertainment industry, she ought to be more proactive in the fight for women against sexual harassment and misogyny. It would serve as an inspiration to other women like herself if she started a movement or started an empowerment program for women. What we should not condone is people saying derogatory things about her and her work. Because she is one of the biggest Afrobeats acts in the world doesn’t mean she’s flawless. And she should be encouraged to learn, not subjected to online vitriol.

In his neighborhood, T.I came out to the streets to console the family of Rayshard Brooks, a black man who was killed by a white police officer. The American rapper joined in the protest and even addressed the protesters. It, however, didn’t come as a shock to me when I saw tweets mocking T.I and calling him misogynistic. Yes, dismantle the patriarchy. But celebrities are held to very high standards and are not allowed to be flawed. It upsets me to mention the beef between Noname and J. Cole over claims by the female rapper that the North Carolina rapper is misogynistic and is not doing anything meaningful despite people dying. Cole joined protesters on the streets after the death of George Floyd. Cole has talked about social injustice and racism in his songs. Yet it seems like he’s not doing enough. Frankly, the standards have been set too high.

Personally, I want to see celebrities come out to condemn D’banj’s actions outright. I want to see them take action and make their stance on sexual harassment and use of oppression tactics to silence victims known. I know that is hoping for too much. Although a few of them have made their displeasure known, they didn’t have the balls to mention D’banj’s name. And I don’t blame them. Everyone is trying to play it safe for the fear that they might lose their place in the entertainment industry. Only a dishonest person will say they don’t understand.

Also let me mention that pressuring Don Jazzy to explicitly call D’banj out is unfair. No matter how you look at it, they are friends and used to be business partners. Only a bad friend will do that. It takes a lot to process when someone you are close to has been accused of rape and resorts to oppress the accuser. Of course, it’s nothing compared to what the victim is going through. I think it’s better for Don Jazzy to handle it privately instead of scurrying to the TL to join in condemning D’banj’s actions.

I look forward to a better society. I look forward to a society where victims can come out to tell their stories without being oppressed. I look forward to a society where abusers and rapists are punished severely for their actions. Yes, we need celebrities to join us in this battle we are fighting. We need them to stop being silent and use their platforms to push the movement against social injustice.

untethered. let the wings of freedom take me to an unknown destination faraway from here.