by Wilfred Okiche
Nollywood actors and actresses have joined millions of Nigerians in protesting the decision of the federal government to remove the subsidy on fuel.
The musicians wasted no time and took the side of the people. Chocolate City rapper/producer, Jesse Jagz rallied his colleagues on the morning of the first day of protests. He tweeted, ‘’Where are my fellow artiste friends today? This is the ONLY important thing now. No more songs or videos, let’s fight for Nigeria.’’
And with that clarion call, they came out in their numbers. Banky W and eLDee were among the early respondents who went beyond talking the talk and joined the people’s protests on the streets to walk the walk. Soon afterwards, the celebrity names started rolling in; Sasha P, Femi Kuti, Seun Kuti, Sound Sultan and Pasuma have all learnt their voices, goodwill and talent to the cause. Producer, Don Jazzy who campaigned for President Jonathan during the presidential elections came out openly and admitted he was deceived into supporting Mr President.
But in all this, Nollywood was notably absent. One of the earliest voices to be heard was that of movie diva, Genevieve Nnaji who fresh from a vacation in the Opobo islands, launched into the fray on Twitter. She took the diplomatic route, insisting that the removal was a good thing but decried the manner it was done, suggesting that more information could have been given to the public. This stance was not surprising though, Ms Nnaji was one of several A-list acts who supported the president towards the last days of his campaign.
While Ms Nnaji was straddling the fence, another A-lister and alumni of the support Jonathan campaign video, Desmond Elliot took a definitive stand. The actor/director was spotted among the crowds that thronged the Gani Fawehinmi Park at Ojota, venue of the Lagos Occupy Nigeria rallies. He spoke to the cheering crowd and would later take to his Twitter handle to express himself: ‘’Why does our president need 6 private jets? Why should our public officials keep their salaries when Obama slashed his? Why should we believe the government when it says the subsidy gain will be properly invested? Bad leadership and corruption must stop.’’
Other Nollywood heavyweights like Kate Henshaw, Omoni Oboli, Bimbo Akintola, Ufoma Ejenobor and Ronke Oshodi-Oke were spotted at the rallies and lent some stardust to the Occupy Nigeria protests.
As the Occupy Nigeria movement showed no signs of letting up, even as trigger-happy policemen where let loose on the protesters in some places, ‘’identifying with the people’’ seemed the cool thing to do and every actor worth their talent was endorsing the protests.
Rita Dominic found herself doing some damage control when she tweeted a picture of herself at the 2010 Enough is enough rallies along with the words, ‘’we chanted Enough is Enough long before it became fashionable! Can we make it about Nigeria not about artistes.’’ She was responding to reports of selling out because of her continued silence on the fuel subsidy removal. She also urged her followers not to make decisions based on the celebrities involved as some of them might actually be ignorant.
Nollywood held a ‘’town hall meeting of stakeholders’’ at the National Theatre where veterans like Zack Orji and Zeb Ejiro urged organised labour not to embark on the current strike action and embrace dialogue. Segun Arinze went on to say that the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) had nothing against the policy but demanded that government should put in place, palliative measures to cushion the effect.
Even as most actors fall over themselves to be on ‘’the side of the people’’, there are still those who have their reservations. A popular young actress who pleaded anonymity had this to say, ‘’some of us are against the fuel subsidy removal but like with any normal democracy, some support it- and that is the way life is.’’ She went on, ‘’I will not be joining the protests because I do not think it is safe.’’
What do you think? Has Nollywood done enough or do we expect too much from them? Should every celebrity join the protests? Sound off here: