Funke Akindele has an estimated 5% of our population following her across all social media handles. Using her altar ego, Jenifa, she has been able to appeal to the youths and barely literate bottom of the pyramid population in her various projects.
It is no wonder that Dettol and the NCDC reached out to her in their bid to access a doubting population at the onset of the pandemic. She graciously jumped on the train and fired out a strong message to the people on the need to obey the rules of survival as dictated by the pandemic which is still raging almost unabated.
Now, let me try and graphically state the importance of Funke to the equation. As a result of the distortion in our educational system and a rising poverty level, we are mired with over 70% population who are barely literate and cannot be reached through very simple messages. As already stated, the poverty levels also further exacerbate the situation, so reaching them has always been an herculean task.
Covid-19 came to Nigeria through an elitist and imported route. Till this day, over 80% of patients have a travel history and the other 16% are their close associates and family. This made it very difficult to sell the message of social- distancing and the lockdown to the majority of the population. Authorities continue to hold the fear that with the dense cluster of our population and the inherent majority who eke out a daily subsistence living, COVID would just mean the end of the country if it struck in the middle of one of our ghettos.
This was where Jenifa and her reach came into the play. She spoke their language and they in turn love her. She spoke and they listened. Nigerians love her as can be gleaned from the box office and the mad followership she has on social media and on the streets. This was a coup.
Read also: New Corona Hunger and Poverty in Nigeria
Suddenly she turned mad. She took her friends and another major Social Influencer into her home for a party. Naira Marley is the male equivalent of Funke. He has a huge followership in the same market segmentation. He has made a career of being contrarian and built a huge followership amongst youths who swear by him.
This was her husband running awol. Shooting the whole madness and throwing up on social media thereby destroying in one fell swoop all she and the government had worked for. So, why do we stay on lockdown if our prophets were out here parting, holding each other and generally having fun. There was nothing out there, we have even been struggling to understand what the message was in the first place and we thank God that Funke and Naira have just made us relax. They must have enthused.
Thankfully, the authorities understanding the game decided to play the same PR and marketing gambit. By arresting her and her hapless husband, taking them to court and securing judgement, they have just executed one of the biggest PR/Media marketing gambits in the history of Nigeria’s social marketing.
This action that has ben closely followed by millions of their followers shows very clearly that there is truly a problem and as they see their stars serve their punishment, visit locations to preach the word of isolation and lockdown, truly the masses will finally get the message.
But for the duo, all I can say at this point is shame.
Just as I was rounding up on this article, the news of the arrest of Naira Marley who attended the same party is making the rounds.
By Joseph Edgar…
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