Nigerian Celebrities Who Hogged Headlines in 2020

Wizkid releases a new album, Made in Lagos.
13 December 2020

In a year that recorded the good, bad and ugly, these celebrities made it almost unforgettable, writes Vanessa Obioha

Funke Akindele-Bello

The actress and producer made the headlines in April when she violated the Lagos State government's COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and marked her husband's 43rd birthday. Her husband, Abdulrasheed Bello aka JJC Skillz, made the unfortunate decision to capture the mood of the party on social media, thereby fetching vitriols from the public.

The couple were accused of being insensitive to the challenging times and were later charged to court for their misdemeanours and convicted. Due to that singular act, Akindele-Bello lost both her ambassadorial deals with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and Dettol.

D'banj

Arguably, this year was a challenging year for the artiste and entrepreneur. What started as a simple Instagram post to support the fight against rape snowballed into a rape accusation that questioned the integrity of the Koko master. Nigerian model scout, Benjamin Ese, in June accused the singer of raping his friend, Seyitan Babatayo, in 2018.

Ese claimed that the sexual assault took place in Glee Hotel in Victoria Island, Lagos after the Koko master used a spare key to gain entry into Babatayo's room. It was alleged that the accused offered money to Babatayo to sleep with him but she declined. Babatayo corroborated the story in a series of tweets that were later deleted.

The rape accusation grabbed headlines for weeks, with many social media users calling out the artiste.

Other entertainers joined in the fray. While some openly condemned the artiste, others stood by him like a solid wall. Others preferred to sit on the fence and watch events.

Babatayo was allegedly arrested and asked to delete her tweets after D'banj slammed a N100m lawsuit on her. However, on July 17, Babatayo withdrew the rape petition against the artiste. The Deputy Commissioner of Police (Admin), Umar Sanda, also discontinued the investigation after finding no substantial evidence to support her claims.

Stephanie Linus Okereke

If there was one thing the coronavirus pandemic taught Nigerians, it was the impact of hygiene on overall health. Actress, filmmaker, and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) regional ambassador, Stephanie Linus Okereke, underscored this importance with the launch of 'Hygiene First: My New Habit' campaign in May.

The campaign helped to awaken consciousness about personal and community hygiene in the country. She was later rewarded for her mission in September when the Minister of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, appointed her as the National OPS-WASH (Organized Private Sector in Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) ambassador.

Majek Fashek

The skies certainly looked misty and cloudy on June 1 when Nigeria's reggae legend, Majek Fashek, died. His death triggered an outpouring of emotions and encomiums by lovers of his music. Before his death, there were rumours about his demise due to his deteriorating health. Fashek's music career went downhill after his addiction to drugs. There were efforts to revive his fame by well-meaning Nigerians, notably billionaire oil mogul, Femi Otedola. Unfortunately, the artiste whose songs, 'Send Down the Rain' and 'So Long Too Long,' are all-time favourites gave up the ghost in a hospital in New York aged 57.

Tony Allen

On April 30, Nigerians lost another musical giant, Tony Allen, the exceptional drummer whose works spanned several decades died of a heart attack in Paris, France. Allen was famous for his time in Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's Africa 70 band. He was said to have been instrumental in the creation of the Afrobeat genre. Allen's last gig in Nigeria was at a Naijazz concert, organised by jazz promoter Ayoola Sadare.

Allen played 10 sets at the event and was seen mostly in the company of Collins Akpakpunam, a veteran DJ and music promoter. He was aged 79.

Davido

It's been a roller coaster year for Davido. From the cancellation of his Good Time tour, his fiancée's coronavirus infection, his acquisition of a new home on Banana Island, Ikoyi, his break from social media, and his alleged ego tussle with Burna Boy. Perhaps, the highlight of this year for the Afro-pop singer was his involvement in the widespread protests, #EndSARS, against police brutality. It was the artiste who travelled to Abuja to meet government officials on the urgency of the five-point agenda raised by the protesters. Davido's single 'FEM' was one of the protest anthems as well. 'FEM' is one of the singles in his newly released third studio album, 'A Better Time.' The artiste clinched MTV Africa Music Awards nomination in the 'Artist of the Year' category. The award is scheduled to hold next year.

Wizkid

Known for his occasional posts on social media, the star boy surprised quite a few when he went for the jugular of President Muhammadu Buhari in a tweet. Wizkid had on October 4 called out Buhari to address the unjust killing of Nigerian youths by the now-disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) after the latter extended a 'get well' wish to US President, Donald Trump, who at the time had coronavirus alongside his wife. He called the president an old man and told him pointedly that Trump wasn't his business. Wizkid's tweet was deemed inappropriate and disrespectful and led to an exchange of verbal punches between him and the Special Assistant to the President on Social Media, Lauretta Onochie. Wizkid was among the musicians who led the #EndSARS protests in London. The year also saw him release his long-awaited 'Made in Lagos' album and earned nominations in the 2021 MTV Africa Music Awards.

Burna Boy

If last year announced Burna Boy's musical dominance to Nigerians, this year showed his musical prowess to the world. He released his fifth studio album, 'Twice As Tall' to high acclaim, garnering a total of over 175 million streams within one month of release. The album fetched him a second consecutive Grammy nomination. Again, he took home the BET Best International Act for the second time this year.

A notable side of Burna Boy that was glimpsed this year was his activism. It was glaring at his BET Award acceptance speech when he told the audience that for "black lives to matter, Africa must matter."

During the #EndSARS protests, the Afro-fusion artiste was supportive. He was among those who reached out to the United Nations to intervene after the shooting of protesters at Lekki tollgate.

Falz

No other artiste was passionate about the #EndSARS protests as the Nigerian rapper, Falz. It was Falz who initiated the protest online, calling on Nigerians to speak against the growing intimidation and brutality of SARS operatives. Falz also educated the protesters on the legal system and their fundamental rights.

Darey

After a five-year hiatus, afro- soul and RnB musician, Darey, returned to music. He teased his fans with the single, 'Jah Guide Me,' in August and followed it up with the release of his seven-track EP, 'Way Home.' He later performed alongside American greats, Stevie Wonder, and India Arie at Harlem Week 2020. His return to the art that brought him fame showed that the artiste never left the music scene.

Kunle Afolayan

Twenty-twenty was the year filmmaker and director Kunle Afolayan showcased his uncanny gift to cast big personalities whose acting skills are questionable in his film. First, he made Temi Otedola, daughter of the billionaire oil magnate, Femi Otedola, the lead character in his movie, Citation, about sexual harassment on campus. Then came the surprise element. Chairman Of First Bank of Nigeria, Ibukun Awosika, played the role of the head of the judging panel in the film. It was the first time the businesswoman would be seen in that light. While the film which premiered on Netflix received mixed reviews, it, however, fetched Afolayan accolades for doing the undoable and unthinkable with his choice of the cast as well as telling a story that is prevalent in society.

Mo Abudu

The media mogul ended last year with the launch of her EbonyLife Place, a luxury lifestyle and entertainment resort. This year, however, saw her reaching far beyond the zenith. In June, she announced that she landed multiple deals with American streamer, Netflix. Under the new deal, Mo Abudu's production company will make a film adaptation of Wole Soyinka's 'Death and the King's Horseman,' and a series based on Lola Shoneyin's best-selling debut novel, 'The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives.'

Her film, 'Òlòtré,' about sex trafficking received rave reviews when it premiered on Netflix. But lately, the film has been the topic of a legal battle between her and investigative journalist, Tobore Ovuorie. The latter is accusing Abudu of plagiarising her work and passing it off as original.

Tiwa Savage

In a New York Times interview following the release of her 'Celia' album, afro-pop singer, Tiwa Savage, gave the impression that her sexiness was too hot for the morality of most Nigerians. Yet, she is determined to use that to encourage young girls to embrace their femininity. Thus, it wasn't surprising when the artiste to the chagrin of most Nigerians released her semi-nude photos on Instagram. The post had over 19,000 comments and 300,000 likes at the time of filing this report.

The singer also faced a backlash from Beyoncé's mother and publicist after she called out the American singer to lend a voice to the #EndSARS protests. But 2020 brought good tidings for Savage and her son, Jamil. They were both made ambassadors of Twisco, a chocolate drink powder.

Yemi Alade

Shortly after releasing her 'Empress' album which featured British singer, Estelle, the 'Johnny' crooner was one of the talents that announced the 63rd Grammy nominations. Alade unveiled the nominees in the rock and alternative music categories.

Toke Makinwa

The media personality was among those who hugged headlines this year. The highest blow this year was when she lost the defamation suit against her ex-husband, Maje Ayida. A Lagos State High Court had ruled in favour of the fitness entrepreneur who demanded the stop of sale of her memoir 'Becoming' which he said defamed his character. Makinwa was given 30 days to remove the defamatory words from unsold copies of the book.

Seun Kuti

In the aftermath of the violence that took place shortly after the #EndSARS protests, Seun Kuti, youngest son of Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, decided to revive his father's political movement, the Movement of the People. Seun, who has been speaking against police brutality deemed it necessary to use the movement to call for better governance and an end to police brutality.

The Lagos State government, bent on preventing any form of protest in the state kicked against a planned protest by the musician at the New Afrika Shrine and laid siege at the venue before Seun announced the revived political movement. The musician revealed that the police called his sister and threatened to shut down the shrine if he moved on with the planned protest.

Idris Olorunnimbe

A media-shy guy, Idris Olorunnimbe is silently investing in the infrastructural development of the entertainment industry. His latest project is Ogidi Studios, a multipurpose facility that houses recording studios, film sets, hospitality, animation studio, dance studios, and hubs for video editing. This year also saw his film production company TMPL Motion Pictures releasing its debut film 'Introducing the Kujus'.

DJ Switch

The female disc jockey garnered fame after she streamed live the #EndSARS protest at the Lekki tollgate. DJ Switch claimed that the protesters were shot at and killed by Nigerian soldiers who had come to quell the protest. According to her, she counted seven bodies before her phone battery went off. But there are no images to corroborate her story yet. She is currently living outside the country for fear of her life.

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