Metropole Magazine

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12 Jul Written by  Ladi Opaluwa

If You Want To Be Loved

I was saying that Peter Bunor Jr. was the only legitimate child-star in Nigeria, that the rest were kids of industry players who rather than talk to their co-stars, stared at the viewers and made impassive recitals of their scripts. Peter had charisma and his timing was apt, more precise than those of some of his older colleagues. Though his father was himself a popular actor, at the peak of his career the younger Bunor may have done more to promote the family name. Together they made a case for nepotism.

Considering my veneration of the kid, the listener suggested that I would be star-struck when I meet him― there is actually no meeting in view, mere hypothesis. I disagreed. I couldn’t foresee this private adulation becoming demonstrative. Whoever becomes star-struck in Nigeria anyway? Whoever gets knocked out by the appearance of their favourite actor or musician? Should any faint at a concert, it would more likely be from dance exhaustion.

Teenagers do not keep vigil at a TV station just to catch a glimpse of Wizkid going in for an interview. No celebrity fixation, no dedicated, maniac fans, no paparazzi hounding them. Who cares about the insignificant details of a celebrity’s life? Many would rather go in search of daily bread than make celebrity news staple.

This controlled admiration sometimes comes off as disdain.

One of the respected, demure elders in Nollywood, Vitalis Ndubuisi is given to wandering around Area 11 unfettered by Abuja residents. Granted, he is not A-list, not quite in the league of Enebeli Elebuwa or Justus Esiri, still an instantly recognisable face. Generally he goes unacknowledged and might wonder why he is boycotted in the expression of pleasantries that is otherwise so freely given.

On the bad press attending his court saga, Jim Iyke in a newspaper interview decried the cruelty of Nigerians towards celebrities. He may have seen the documentary, The World According to Dick Cheney, in which the eponymous character says, “if you want to be loved, go be a movie star”. A new admonition I will give to Jim: if you want to be loved, go be a politician. The politician is famous and loved not just because more drama happens on the political scene than in Nollywood but for his magnanimity. If you want crowds lining the kerbside to wave at your motorcade as they do on Hollywood award nights, become a politician or make and dole out as much money as a politician.

Some years back Professor Jerry Gana who was then nursing a presidential ambition came to Lokoja for a wedding ceremony. It is uncertain how the news got out but before the end of the three-hour service the entire town had besieged the church gate: okada riders, market women, ad hoc youth organisations, all carrying posters with flattering captions endorsing his ambition that would soon die at infancy. As often as he dug his hands into the pockets of his agbada, pieces of scented notes flew in the air and the source seemed inexhaustible―then I realised why politicians favoured that attire. Our love is for sale, and politicians are willing to pay for it.

The story is told of a former governor of Kogi State and some bank securities men in Abuja who, probably unaware of his personality, failed to fawn at his feet. To his aides the governor cursed the inaction of the men and rued their luck considering the amount of money with which he had intended to reward their praise. Another story is told of Aki of the Aki and Paw-Paw fame, who upon alighting from his car someplace in Abuja, waved at a group across the street who did not bother to return his gesture. The actor had to discreetly return the hand to his pocket. If only it would re-emerge with some money. Love is not cheap.