Stories by Vanessa Obioha
The just concluded presidential elections did not go without a bang. Feathers were ruffled, bonds were broken and even the most devoted departed with a broken heart. Its ripples are still felt in many quarters including the entertainment industry where celebrities received praise and criticisms for their choice of candidates from fans.
Celebrities in the entertainment industry, be they movie, music, fashion, or comedy stars, are often idolised by fans. The adoration is not limited to their craft but includes their lifestyle and the values they stand for. Thus, fans see these superstars as role models, a kind of guiding light that helps them make better decisions.
The guidance often spills over to politics as fans expect some kind of goals alignment with celebrities. They demand, even though unfairly, that the celebrity’s choice should be in tandem with theirs.
This sometimes explains why some stars prefer to remain apolitical so as not to draw the ire of fans. But given the dominance of social media which has in a way churn out more celebrities, it is difficult to sit on the fence during election time. One way or the other, celebrities are expected to reveal their stance and wait for the verdict of fans.
Most Nigerian entertainers however did not have the best encounters with followers during the presidential elections. Some were abused, threatened, cursed and unfollowed simply because they chose a candidate that the majority did not find favourable.
Not a few could stand the heat, and those who did needed several layers of thick skin to withstand the insults hurled at them. Take for instance the Nollywood actress and filmmaker Toyin Abraham-Ajeyemi who was abused for supporting the president-elect Bola Tinubu.
In one of her posts on Instagram where she shared a picture of her and the winner of the 2023 presidential elections, she was pilloried for claiming in her caption that the latter shared his ideas and visions for the nation with her.
The post generated over 37,000 comments with most people threatening to unfollow her and withdraw their support for her craft. Interestingly, the same post was liked by nearly 200,000 social media users.
The attack on Abraham-Ajeyemi was extended to her husband too who had to dissociate himself from the drama and asked people to stop cursing his children.
The actor and skit maker Adebowale Adedayo, better known as Mr. Macaroni who supported the Labour Party’s presidential candidate was caught in the firestorm too. He revealed on Instagram that he has been threatened for supporting Mr. Peter Obi.
The 2023 presidential elections caused a big divide not only between celebrities and their fans but also among colleagues. This was the case with the dirty drama that ensued between actress and filmmaker Adunni Ade and her colleagues over their presidential choice. She alleged that some of her colleagues were paid a stipend (N90,000) to campaign for a particular presidential candidate. This led to some of her colleagues lambasting her, including actress Bukky Adekogbe who disclosed that Ade got pregnant for a married man and aborted it.
Being indifferent was also not a choice for these entertainment stars. Burna Boy, the self-proclaimed Africa Giant was tackled too for not lending his voice to election matters. In his defence, the Grammy winner said that he has never supported any political party and has no preferred candidate. He however advised a fan to look somewhere else if he is looking for guidance on whom to vote for.
Given the drama that unfolded, Afrobeat musician Seun Kuti advised fans not to allow actors, musicians and influencers to direct their life because according to him, they will use their resources to become American and British citizens so that their children will not exist with those of the fans.
With all this brouhaha, one wonders if celebrity fandom and politics are a toxic mix. On one side are the fans who are hellbent on getting their idols to do their bidding simply because they feel it’s the right thing to do. On the other hand are the celebrities who have to weigh their political choices for fear of losing the relevance which seemingly is gotten from fans.
Arguably, celebrities cannot please every fan, and every fan cannot subdue a celebrity to do his/her bidding. Both stand to lose something at the end of the day. One way or the other, they will have to learn to manage expectations.