Over the weekend at the 14th Headies, something interesting happened: former actor turned politician, Desmond Elliot showed up at the award show. His appearance incited conversations and expressions of disappointment from the Nigerian youth. On Nigerian Twitter, Desmond Elliot was a trending topic overnight. This was especially because of the wave of posts featuring a picture of Elliot side by side with a picture of something ridiculous, asking for retweets for him and likes for the other picture. As you can tell, he remained unpopular, losing to things like worn-out shoes, rusty kettles, and ewa agoyin.
Considering Desmond Elliot’s recent past, this is not at all surprising or unexpected. The aftermath of the End SARS protests saw him condemning Nigerian youths. After the killings in Lekki and other parts of the country, the politician had an outburst in the Lagos State House of Assembly. In his speech, it appeared that he was more affected by angry social media comments than the state-sanctioned violence. He downplayed a nationwide, predominantly youth-involved movement and condescended its participants by calling them “children”. Likewise, his opinions on social media, celebrities, and internet influencers were publicized. He said, “Social media, though good, has its negative impacts. Mr. Speaker, let me, first of all, thank you for condemning the wanton killings and carnage that happened at Lekki. When I went through the comment section, I could not believe it, the curses, the abuse from children. And I asked myself, ‘Is this Nigeria? What is going on?’ Children cursing, people having the effrontery to enter the Oba’s palace, hold his staff of office. Culture is gone! Mr. Speaker, in the next five years, there’ll be no Nigeria, if we don’t start now.” He sought to use this to justify his support of the social media regulation bill. He also claimed that celebrities and influencers used their clout to incite hatred for government and violence at large.
With that context, it’s incredibly befuddling that Desmond Elliot was at The Headies.
The Headies is a music award show with a target audience of young Nigerians. Most of the celebrities in attendance, awardees or not, are also in the youth percentile. Several, if not all, of them, spoke up during the protests, while many others attended physically. Falz, for example, was at the forefront of the movement. Besides, when Desmond Elliot said all the things he did, others like Davido, Yemi Alade, Don Jazzy, and Simi openly expressed their disapproval. So why was he invited to such a gathering?
Perhaps it was a calculated move to return him to good standing with young Nigerians but as seen on Twitter, it’s not going down well. To many, it was insensitive of Desmond Elliot to have attended the event. Although he publicly apologized for his statements, the damage he caused is irreversible. His statements were made at a time when it was important for Nigerian youths to have people with considerable power stand for them. One also wonders what the reaction of the attendees of the event was to the appearance of Elliot.
Indeed, it’s not unusual for him to have attended the event considering his past as an actor and director. He also did apologize on both social media and national television, bursting into tears even. However, he could have sat this one out in respect to the feelings of Nigerians, especially the youth. Why sit in a gathering of those you previously accused of spreading hate? Understanding his motive for attending is difficult but what’s easy to see is how much more unseriously he’ll be regarded by the Nigerian youth. If he really wanted to show his support for the youth and right his wrongs, he should probably have found some other way to do it.