In recent weeks the world has been in a state of shock and disgust as the exposure of Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS) comes to light worldwide. A Nigeria police unit designed to protect and safeguard its citizens has long been accused of extortion, rape, murder and extrajudicial killings against its own people.
Nigerian youth along with the diaspora around the world have joined forces to expose and fight against the atrocities that have been taking place in the country inflicted by SARS. Nationwide #ENDSARS protests erupted after a viral video showed a SARS officer shooting a man in Delta State. In the weeks to follow more tragedies ensued leaving cities like Lekki, Abuja and Lagos in utter turmoil, and in turn, fuelling worldwide outrage.
During times of political controversy and issues regarding current state affairs, we cannot help but look to those in the public eye to speak out and draw attention to such issues. It is a recurring theme amongst celebrity culture, as seen with the current presidential election and the pressing need to vote, all the way to the Black Lives Matter movement. Celebrities have never shied away from using their voice and the same goes for #ENDSARS.
The likes of Wizkid, Idris Elba and John Boyega are amongst those who have spoken out and condemned the police unit. However it begs the question of, do celebrities have a duty to use their platform to draw attention to world problems and issues? And if so, is it for their own personal gain and for a means of clout? I ask this objectively and simply because recently Naomi Campbell came under fire for a social media post; dazzling in glitter head-to-toe with a caption that read – ‘I pray for a silver lining. An ode to dreams and dreamers’ – with good intention one would hope, but it was not received in this way by all. Model Adesuwa Aighewi, whose father is from Nigeria, appeared on Instagram dragging the supermodel for the irrelevance of the picture, calling it a “clout game.” In a series of angry Instagram story posts, she continued to vent her frustration, “my friends are being shot at. But guess what? You’re our silver lining. Thank you. Thank you, madam. You’re doing well.”
Naomi then took to Instagram live to express her heartache as she tearfully recalled the country’s current state, calling for people to do everything they can to support and fight against the injustices. Yet social media users were quick to judge and dismiss the model, going as far as to claim the tears were fake, and she wasn’t the only one.
Beyoncé was heavily criticised for her silence with many labelling her a cultural appropriator as a means to attack. It’s no secret Beyoncé has been greatly influenced by African culture, evident in her music artistry and in particularly her latest visual album, ‘Black is King’. Therefore the latter may argue the stance of cultural appreciation, not appropriation. Not so long after, Beyoncé released a statement in an Instagram post addressing the “senseless brutality” in Nigeria whilst highlighting her own personal contributions and support.
So when is the right time to speak out and what is the right way to respond? Because apparently there is an unwritten set of rules and regulations. If those in the public eye don’t address the problems publicly, who’s to say they aren’t doing their bit behind the scenes? Perhaps that is the expectation that comes with having a massive platform – it inevitably comes with the territory right? Whether they signed up for it or not it would seem.
Regardless, the real issue here isn’t who did/who said what and how they said it, but the ways in which the world can bring an end to the illegal acts of SARS and their disregard for basic human rights. This is the fourth time, throughout the years the government has promised to disband or reform the unit that citizens say has terrorised them for decades and inevitably left them living in fear – Nigeria has had enough, the world has had enough.
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