When I was 16, I was opportune to meet Wole Soyinka. I met him in a very dingy room somewhere in Yaba and when he placed his hand on my shoulder, I started crying. Profusely. I felt like dying. It was at Jazzville, on Majaro Street, in Onike, Yaba. Beautiful Nubia, Edaoto, Ropo Ewenla, Asa, Akeem Lasisi, Folu Agoi, Jumoke Verissimo all performed there. These are stars! Jahman Anikulapo arranged this meeting. Once I met these people and some of them took me into their homes, gave me food and show me that they are human beings, I stopped being star-struck and I don’t cry again when I meet a famous person. At the end of the day, they are people who breathe like us and they make mistakes like us and it is allowed to hate them. But we have all mastered the Art of Hating Celebrities we have never met and when we meet them, we can’t hold ourselves from taking pictures of them.
Here are some of the celebrities we like to hate and when we meet them, we can’t stop loving them and we can’t stop showing off the pictures we took with them and this means they are extremely important.
Everyone hates Seun Kuti. Everyone. Then, everyone loves Seun Kuti. When he’s not against gay people publicly, they say he’s not upholding his father, Fela’s legacy. But, who said Fela hated gay people? When Seun is touring 30 countries with his band, playing for Kings and Queens and Presidents and Women, they say, ‘Oh, his father has made a way for him! He is not a great artiste! He is an opportunist.’ All these things are borne out of envy and self-hate. Is there any Nigerian artiste that is more hardworking than Seun or rehearses more than him? I haven’t met one yet. I have never taken any of my friends to meet Seun Kuti and they agreed to leave on time. If I am going to Seun’s place with friends, I make sure that day will be spent in his place, because they end up not wanting to go, but they can’t also leave without taking pictures with him and then when we get into the car, we hear: ‘Dude is so cool!’
The most difficult place to be rich and successful is Nigeria. Don’t try to be Linda Ikeji now or even be her sister, Laura Ikeji or the brother. You may not survive the hate from Outside. It burns. Oh, they say she sleeps around and there is a Big Man in Abuja who gives her money. Eh, no woman can afford to buy such an expensive house! They want EFCC to investigate her. They say she does that and does this. Oh what do the sisters do again? I get weak sometimes and shake my head for Nigerians. A family you don’t know? All sorts of stories, but when I hear them, I want to slap someone! But, people struggle to go to her house. They struggle to get in touch with her. They see her in public and they can’t hold themselves from asking for pictures. She doesn’t say no. Some even post the pictures and say, ‘Chilling with Linda! Amazing woman!’ Shut up, please! Linda is nowhere difficult, but everyone hates her without even coming close to her. She has not paid me to write this, but how many rich people or celebrities let strangers into her office space cum bedroom? I doubt none in Nigeria.
You can hate him and say he’s a failure even before meeting him, but we can’t do anything else once we see him in the same public space as us. Last month, I flew into Abuja for the British Council’s Creative Industry Summit and I was hoping that, with my beautiful and expensive jacket, hair, ringed fingers and sandals, I would steal the show by being asked to take pictures with everyone. No, it was D’Banj who came and knocked me off my hustle. Everyone left me and started taking pictures with Banga Lee. Everyone! I had to ask him for a picture too. It was shameful. Someone I had bashed in the past, here and there. I began to like him too much, because he was so simple that I hated myself for hating him. During lunch, D’Banj went for his food as it was a buffet and when he got to his seat, which was close to, mine, I said: ‘So, D’Banj, as fine as you are, you still eat?’ He laughed and was so shy that he stopped for a minute and said, ‘Yes o! I dey chop!’ Again, I didn’t realise how much energy I had spent, hating someone I didn’t even know. It was no mask. He was himself.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
Nigerian writers, generally, are vicious. We don’t like her at all, because she is not like the rest of us. Her life, to us, is too beautiful. She is the one Beyonce wants to have her voice on her record; she is the one speaking at every major college and university in the world and being conferred with an honorary doctorate. Why is she like this and we are like that? Why is she rolling with Will Smith and Beyonce and Spike Lee and we are thrusting our hands in the air at Freedom Park, drinking like demented kangaroos? I hated her for being better than me, but I realised that I never put in as much effort as she would have. She, too, as a writer, has a past of, at least, being rejected. I mean her writing. She never let that weigh her down. Now, even in my village, people know Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and everyone who has a picture with her can’t stop showing it off! Why are we like this?
There are other celebrities I would love to write about, but these days, everyone could be considered a celebrity, especially the ones with huge online presence, like Etcetera. Many people don’t even know Etcetera as a musician. Of course, frustrated by the system in Nigeria, Etcetera lashes out at people. So, you can be forgiven if you hate him. Sarcastic, it is still not easy to understand Etcetera. Obviously, you can’t force humour, so perhaps, when he tries to sound humorous (which I genuinely think he struggles with), he ends up blowing and burning all bridges. That’s who he is, but some of us can’t stop liking what he has to say. However, the point of the agenda is: critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how it is done, but they can’t do it! It is easier said than done. So, it is easy to also hate people. Very easy. But it saps all our energies.
I have many other celebrities that we love to hate. We will talk about them next time when we meet and we take those pictures that you will post online and say, ‘Chilling with Onyeka Nwelue. Great guy! Amazing man. Down-to-earth. Very humble! Don’t judge a man from afar and his Facebook posts