After the news of the arrest of Tems and Omah Lay for having an unauthorised concert in Uganda broke on Sunday evening, Nigerian fans and celebrities on social media have been agitating for the immediate release of the singers.
Tems and Omah Lay were invited by Ugandan show organisers for a concert that held on Sunday, December 13, 2020, and saw a crowd of about 1,000 people.
With pre-existing COVID-19 safety regulations enforced in Uganda, and new fears about a second wave of the pandemic that has seen huge spikes in number of cases reported around the world, the timing couldn’t be worse for Tems and Omah Lay.
According to the Public Relations Officer of the Kampala Metropolitan Police; Superintendent of Police, Patrick Onyango, the singers were arrested for flouting COVID-19 guidelines and endangering the safety of others. Their managers were arrested too, including the show organisers.
But the demands of Nigerians are simple: they want Tems and Omah Lay freed.
It’s perfectly natural to feel this way, freedom of fellow countrymen detained in foreign lands as a matter of diplomatic policy, and also the fact the Tems and Omah Lay are both fast-rising artistes who have found immense love and good will from Nigerians since the beginning of their careers.
But things are not that simple. Poke a little and you will find that the online campaign to free them doesn’t acknowledge the wrongdoing of these artistes, who flew to Uganda to headline a concert during a pandemic. Poke further and hypocrisy stares back at you because Nigerians have flouted – and are still flouting – COVID-19 safety rules.
Instagram is awash with gaudy videos of weddings and casual events, nightclubs are open and never looked more sinful, and people move about without wearing face masks or observe social distance.
Each country, Nigerian included, exercises some level of autonomy to define laws for its citizens and enforce them. Omah Lay and Tems are reckoning with Ugandan laws and while this could a teachable moment for them regardless of the outcome, Nigerians still deserve the right to be treated with dignity and respect wherever they are in the world, and retain the right to a fair hearing.
Importantly, Tems and Omah Lay need to take personal accountability for their actions because they travelled to Uganda on their own free will and not under duress. Concerts are money-making endeavours so both artistes were also driven by personal interests. There’s a collective responsibility that comes with combatting coronavirus because while one can strictly adhere to frequent hand washing and wearing face masks, their health can still be jeopardised when someone disregards safety guidelines and comes in contact with them
Tems and Omah Lay are responsible for their Ugandan fans who attended their concert at the risk of contracting coronavirus. They owe it to them to be accountable.