Social media and Twitter in particular has become one of the biggest fighting grounds for Nigerian women in the battles they face. As a people who ultimately lack social capital and are regularly relegated to the bottom of the totem pole, conquering the court of public opinion is one of the biggest victories Nigerian women can enjoy in the numerous battles they face. Over the past few weeks following the deaths of Uwaila Osazuwa and Barakat Bello, more Nigerian women have come out to tell their stories. Two of the biggest names with accusations against them have been Nigerian musicians D’Banj and Peruzzi.
In Peruzzi’s case, some of his tweets from a number of years back guaranteed he had to respond to the accusations as soon as they came. For D’Banj the accusations (read here) coming in the process of sealing a Heritage Bank endorsement deal and his 40th birthday celebrations meant that the accusations were ignored for as long as possible while his team strategized on how to roll out his next project. Earlier this week though, they decided on a course of action that will hurt them for years to come. D’Banj released a statement signed by his lawyers, denying the claims, and announcing he will be suing Seyitan Babatayo, the woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her at the Glee Hotel in late 2018, at a time that he indeed stayed at the hotel. For someone who claims to have been wrongfully accused and defamed, fair game, you’ll have your day in court. By simply being a rich man with a large public profile the case is already skewed in your favor so the chances you prevail are unfortunately largely disproportionate. There’s also the fact that while the story is very compelling and the dates check out, there’s scant evidence upon which D’ Banj could be prosecuted on. The implication of this is that the “innocence” that seems to be the object of desire could easily be portrayed. That was not the thought process of D’Banj and those that surround him though. Instead, they opted to use their wealth and access to ensure the arrest of Seyitan Babatayo and her mother. Her release was granted about 24 hours later after the accusations on Twitter had been recanted and some half-assed apology in support of D’Banj had been released. Less than a day later, the same account is promoting a new D’Banj single before any accounts available for sale to the highest bidder. We’ve always known this, but it has particularly been made galling by the fact that a washed-up popstar musician with residual social capital, but is ultimately a small pawn in the grand scheme of things has been able to use the police as his personal hit squad. It speaks to the structural deficit and the institutional failures that stare the average Nigerian.
At the moment, Nigerian women have taken to Twitter to offer their support to Seyitan. Yesterday, a donation page went live and has raised over 1 million Naira towards her defense fund and there have been efforts to reach out to organizations that support D’Banj and actively silence him. The approaches taken include drafting messaging to his corporate sponsors and blacklisting his music on streaming platforms. Without doubt, social media continues to be a sub-sector of Nigeria at large and a visit to any celebrity’s Instagram comments in situations like these is a brutal reminder but at times like this, existing on social media can be truly beautiful. Watching Nigerian women identify their common issues and come together to figure out ways to attack that are impactful will always be great to see.
For those who are quick to point Nigerian women in the direction of the authorities when they look to tell their stories, never forget that Nigeria and its institutions do not care for you if you cannot pay them to. As Odun Eweniyi eloquently put it on Twitter, we will never forget that a victim was detained for 24 hours because of an accusation. Defamation is generally a civil offence and so the Nigerian police force lacing its boots to fight for D’Banj is indicative of a crossed boundary.