Tems and Omah Lay are paying the price of Nigeria’s poor standing as the world’s largest black nation

Tems and Omah Lay

As singers, Tems and Omah Lay remain in prison custody while they await trial on charges of breaking lockdown protocol and endangering others, a viral video of a popular Ugandan artist, Cindy Sunya, puts things in a clearer context.

In the two minutes + video that has attracted the ire of Nigerians on Twitter, the singer queried, lightheartedly, why ‘foreigners’ will come into Uganda to hold a show when local artists have been forced to honour the protocols regarding COVID-19, and many of them are starving because of that.

As stated in an earlier piece by this publication’s editor, the event was organised by a Ugandan show organiser who is currently also in custody along with Omah Lay.

The xenophobia aside, Cindy’s message is clear on one thing. There is an element of Nigerian anyhowness, especially remembering how the artists, particularly Omah Lay who posted repeatedly about the show and showed the world how very careless the attendees and himself were during his performance.

The Artists and organisers were brazen about not honouring COVID-19 safety protocols. The world is still going through a pandemic, even as vaccines begin rolling out. 

There is an argument that the move by Ugandan authorities could hurt the country’s upcoming hosting of MTV Africa Music Award in 2021, but perhaps that will not be the case. The award show is set to be a virtual event, recordings are ongoing, and there doesn’t appear to be instances of flouting COVID-19 safety protocols so far.

This show of ‘seriousness’ about public health might in fact bolster Uganda’s standing. Except it is unlikely to, and even Uganda knows it, because just some days ago President Yoweri Museveni was at a campaign rally – something that more than flouted safety protocols.

The world is watching closely, and hopefully, there are lessons to go home with. The embattled artists could do with learning to preempt these kinds of happenings by using their platforms to push for better. The health and wellbeing of their fans should be enough motivation.

 A simple act of performing with a mask on, and passing a message to attendees at their show to, “mask up and stay safe” might have prevented what happened. And maybe Cindy would not jump at any opportunity for content as she did. 

In the meantime, Nigeria has a lot of mending to do with regards to its relationship with neighbouring African countries.

The xenophobia in Cindy’s message is not new among Africans in Africa. A similar brand is the instance of xenophobia that has led to the death of many Nigerians in South Africa in recent years. 

We need to fix up to regain our standing as the giant of Africa. As it stands, we are only so in name and past glory.

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