Nigeria’s fast-rising music acts, Tems and Omah Lay, are back home. The duo, who were arrested and detained in Uganda until the case against them was withdrawn, are settling back into their normal lives. Tempers are down, eyes are clear, and both Tems and Omah Lay have released statements recounting what really happened.
Now that the full picture is out, thanks to their detailed account, we can revisit the saga for lessons learnt – or lack thereof.
Tems, in her released statement – a fully typed out affair she shared as an image on her Twitter page, revealed how she trusted that “necessary approvals had been fully met by the organisers to ensure a safe and compliant event in Kampala.”
She arrived at that conclusion, her statement said, because when they arrived they were, “met with such a warm reception, including press events promoting the event.” The authorities, she added, were at the event.
What could go wrong?
In his own statement – published as a now-viral Twitter thread, Omah Lay said he never intended putting his fans in harm’s way.
“Before we came out to Uganda, the show promoters confirmed and proved to us they’d secured all the clearances which of course included Covid-19 compliance,” he said and went on to thank fans, family and friends for their prayers and support.
Both statements have one thing in common, an utter absence of taking responsibility.
One of the things cited by many commentators regarding the Uganda fracas was the live images shared by Omah Lay. The pictures showed him maskless on stage, with a room filled to an overflowing level with euphoric maskless fans.
A video of Tems’ performance, which is still on her Twitter page, also features a similar thing.
It can be argued that neither artist has a responsibility to grown-up fans who ought to know better for themselves. It can also be argued, and it has been, that by virtue of their platforms Tems and Omah Lay could have influenced a lot.
When MeganTheeStallion performed on SNL in October, she showed up on stage fully kitted with a matching mask. At least for her entrance, she reminded viewers at home and studio audiences of the need to mask up and stay safe.
It is a minor gesture like that that leaves a lasting legacy – no need for deflection and shifting responsibility to show organisers.
For Tems and Omah Lay, all this can only be considered in retrospect and used to prevent future occurrences. Other Nigerian artists on the other hand can thank their lucky stars for a chance to learn as they watched this unfold in real-time.
The festive seasons are here, and soon concerts and shows will light up the country. Health experts have warned of a second wave of COVID-19 infections in Nigeria – a country that has recorded over 1200 deaths so far from the novel virus.
It would have been helpful had either artist taken responsibly and nudged their colleagues in the industry to do better. But neither did.
Hopefully, their colleagues make better inferences and do better even without the nudge. We all need to do our bit for the collective good of all.
To quote the wise words of Nigerian activist, Ayodeji Osowobi, “COVID did not give us an expiry date, take precautionary measures, practice social distancing, wear [your] masks, stay at home if you don’t have to be outside.”