The year was 2017. I was at the Teslim Balogun Stadium where I had gone to cover Olamide’s concert. That bright afternoon, while walking backstage, and taking in the scene for the story, I was accosted by one of Olamide’s crew.
“Hey you,” he said. “I like what you are doing, but when I come for you, you will see. Continue, but when I come for you… ” he trailed off threateningly. I knew why he was doing this. A few weeks prior, Olamide had performed a headline set, at the annual Hennessy Artistry concert. He gave a shoddy performance, after Tiwa Savage, Patoranking and Falz had opened for him. That performance left people hissing. On the way out, I could hear multiple curses from disappointed fans who clearly felt angered that the singer had broken the contract for the night. So bad and painful was that performance, that I wrote a story about it. That was why I was being threatened.
I have been threatened a lot in my time as a journalist amplifying truths from the Nigerian music industry. For those who can’t harm me physically, where some artists have seen a way to hurt my money, they have tried. A few have succeeded. Others continue to hatch a plan to attack me. It’s my reality; one that I fully understand is a possibility, and danger isn’t far away from me.
That’s why Pamilerin, a social media influencer was assaulted by singer Peruzzi. Pamilerin, who was in Bayelsa to honour a club opening invite from Denrele Edun, was held down by bodyguards assigned to Peruzzi. Peruzzi delivered the slap. This happened. Several eyewitnesses have given accounts, and there was a ruckus. Why? Pamilerin had tweeted reactions to Peruzzi diminishing Teni’s win over his. Teni rightly won. She was a more impactful artist in the year in review. Pamilerin’s reaction was one of the thousands expressing a similar sentiment. Peruzzi held that in his heart for 5 months. It lodged and festered until it found a way to be expressed. Bam! A slap. Violence. Gratification.
No one should be this comfortable. No one should be able to look at another guy and attack them physically because they believe they can. No one in a ‘higher’ position should unleash violence on any other human. Peruzzi did it because he can. He did it because he was comfortable in the knowledge that no real consequence will result. People will be outraged, but they will be shouted down by sympathizers of the crime, and rationalized by educated Nigerians who ought to know better but don’t because they are products of the country’s eternal campaign of auto-traumatisation. If anything, there are people celebrating Peruzzi for inflicting harm on another human being. “Why did he talk?” they ask.
He talked because he had a right to. Yes, he does. When an artist decides to make a living by catering to the public, he opens himself up for engagement. That engagement can never be controlled, and it is very reactionary to the product and shared moments from the artists. The public also is too large and too diverse for you to believe that everything you do would be a banger. You are sharing your life; commoditizing your gifts and existence for cash and status from the public. Taking that money comes with scrutiny and relinquishing a level of privacy. You are a star; people are bound to talk about stars. It’s an inevitable process that can never be refined or perfected to suit your desires. It is the truth. And you can’t fight truth away. You are not Buhari. You can’t slap it away, because how many people can you physically slap? If the public slaps you back, it upsets all the pillars of your current reality. It alters you and your career.
Peruzzi is comfortable. He is secure in the fact that Nigeria is a jungle, and strongmen are worshipped for possessing animalistic prowess in harming others. He didn’t do anything abnormal; he simply lived out everyday life. His only problem here is that a lot of eyes are on him and Pamilerin. And people talk about people with visibility. If he had slapped a less visible person, it would have been shrugged off. Waiters get slapped all the time. Security men are punched routinely when they try to stop a celebrity. Uber drivers are owed until they make their case more visible. These things make the news regularly, but we don’t pay attention to. We have accepted this low as normalcy. And the most moronic among us will say “That’s how star do.”
As usual, the expected script played out. People talked to people. Shareholders and stakeholders waded in. And this is the result; Don’t do the right thing. Don’t seek justice and find a way to protect others in vulnerable positions. Don’t hold him accountable. Make peace, because your trauma can be negotiated away. Negative energy was dissipated with two apologies. Pamilerin and Peruzzi are best friends now. They are two like two Ps in a pod. United by the trauma that Nigeria is. That’s how stars do.