Celebrities are working tirelessly to hold the government accountable for police brutality.
Nollywood actor, Shoneye Olamilekan, in a recent interview with Gold Nne on Lockdown Convos, gave reasons for the pervasive police brutality in Nigeria.
How have you lent your voice to the fight against police brutality and to the Black Lives Matter movement?
I feel we Nigerians would rather rant on social media than take action. Most will not even join the movement. I made some posts about black lives and police brutality. Most of my fans and followers did not contribute to the post, unlike when I post pictures of myself or giveaways. I think most people post ‘stop the killings’, which borders on Nigerian police brutality, only because it is trending.
I think most Nigerians would prefer to mind their business as long as it does not affect them or loved ones. Most celebrities post about these important conversations on social media to gain clout.
An instance is when a popular musician and hype-man posted about the death of George Floyd in the United States. When a fan inquired why he wasn’t standing in solidarity with others concerning the murder of innocent citizens by the police, the singer replied that the news should be left to Channels news.
Do likes and views show the support of your fans for this particular cause? Apart from the social media posts, what else have you done to sensitize the public about police brutality in Nigeria?
Truthfully, I have not made a video about the issue. But to have a one-on-one conversation with my fans, I did a live video on my page. The turnout was impressive. I had conversations with people from Chicago, Minneapolis, and even India and they all expressed their anger and recounted some experiences they had also had with officers of the law. I believe the live video helped alleviate the anger in the hearts of many, including me, the host.
Are celebrities making moves to hold the politicians and government accountable for police brutality? Are there committees being set up to tackle this issue?
The Nigerian entertainment industry is very wide and the truth is that different parts of the entertainment sector have a forum/committee set up. I know musician, Ruggedman, has affiliations with the inspector general of police. I remember when a colleague of mine, Lanre Adediwura, was assaulted by police officers, Ruggedman took up the case on his behalf. The movement which started on Twitter by Tiwa Savage, tagged ‘We’re Tired’, is gradually growing and soon peaceful protests will be carried out if there’s no change implemented. The truth of the matter is that, ideally no one has to wait for others to start a protest, but this is Nigeria, where we know how things happen. At the end of the day, all we want is for justice to be served.
Do you think discussing police brutality on social media can effect change on the society? Does this make any tangible changes at all?
Yes, it takes effect in the society. There are a lot of complaints that have been made on social media, which have helped effect change in society, especially the social media bill in 2019. I believe that the bulk of the people who need to speak out and be spoken for are not even on social media. I agree that social media helps influence decisions but we still need to do more. People from densely populated areas, like Mushin, Alasalatu, their stories do not even make it far talk more about getting to social media platforms.
What is the way forward? If about 80% of Nigerians do not own a smartphone to be active on social media, how can we reach out to them and hear their stories before finding solutions to them?
I believe that a hungry man is an angry man. There is no wealth distribution or structures set in place by the government. This will continue to affect the stability of things in Nigeria. The killings by police officers’ boil down to tribalism or extortion. The reason why they extort innocent civilians is that they are not being paid enough.