BY ISRAEL USULOR

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A few days ago, Nigerian filmmaker and actress, Funke Akindele-Bello, was forced to respond to a Twitter follower who called her “stingy Jenifa” after another follower asked the actress to “do giveaway”. In her reply to the troll, the actress explained that the reason she has not done giveaway recently was because “tins just get as e be this days” to put it in her words. Following the explanation, the follower, named @ZinoLavish, promptly issued an apology. Another follower, @Olufemi67733607 intervened by praying for the actress popularly known as Jenifa, saying “don’t worry, God will surely supply all your needs sis Funke. Then enough give away will come up”.

Akindele is not the first Nigerian entertainer who has come under attack on social media for “not doing giveaway”. Last year, for instance, a Twitter follower identified as @cythianthebread told Davido point-blank to “do give away” during the crushing effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Many fans who obviously expect more from celebrities these days other than just entertainment had also expected some form of handout from top stars to cushion the effect of the dreaded virus which grounded global economic activities. Entertainment was among the worst hit and Davido reflected this in his reply to the fellow who asked for a giveaway.

In his reply, Davido, who currently has 9 million followers on Twitter and 19.3 million followers on Instagram, said he was also affected by the pandemic. According to the singer: “No money for now, no show insight abeg. We all dey here together!,”  he said.

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Another celebrity who was apparently under pressure to “do giveaway” was Idris Okuneye, a crossdresser better known as Bobrisky. Apparently, in a reaction to a follower who had asked for a handout, Bobrisky posted a rebuke on Instagram questioning the rationale behind begging during COVID-19 since it was not a Christmas period. In his post, he simply asked: “Wait, is COVID-19 a Christmas period or public holiday? Why are you asking for money? I weak”

During the dark days of COVID-19 lockdown and the biting empty pockets that ensued, many Nigerian celebrities launched online giveaways to help fans cope with the challenge.

In March 2020, during the heat of the lockdown, popular R&B singer, Runtown, was probably the first to kick-start the series of giveaway sprees that would later follow. He announced on his Twitter handle his intention to gift a total of N10 million to his follows to help them stock up food.

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In an apparent show of empathy, the ‘Mad Over You’ crooner tweeted: “hope everyone is staying safe. Times are extremely tough and I am certain there are people with no money to stock up on survival essentials. Will be giving out 10 million naira to this cause. Kindly drop your account details”.

During that same period, popular Disck Jokey, DJ Kaywise, launched his own giveaway but a few minutes into the show, he tweeted a screenshot of payment advice indicating a transfer of N350,000 to a fan instead of the N35,000 he originally intended to send. In the said tweet, he lamented the loss saying “Ha na 35k I wan send Jesus !!! Jesus !!! Give away ha mogbe”. While many asked the receiver to refund the balance, others questioned the truth behind his claim and even accused him of chasing clout.

On March 30, 2020, the publisher of Ovation Magazine, Bashorun Dele Momodu joined the fray.

He stated on his Twitter handle: “Today, by the grace of almighty God, I will be donating part of my salary to 20 students, 10 male, 10 female, regardless of place of birth or religion, who can send me evidence of their students ID by DM on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram… Recipients will be chosen at random.”

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About a year later on March 21, 2021, he started another round of giveaway, announcing that Accountant Awa Ibrahim has given him 1 Miillion Naira to share to 200 Nigerians.

He tweeted: “Fantastic news again. The iconic Accountant Dr Awa Ibraheem sends N1m and has requested us to give N5k to 200 Nigerians nationwide. Please pray for him and his family… Thank you Sir.”

But the question on the lips of many people is whether online giveaways are proof that a celebrity is generous or if there are hidden intentions behind such. Many people contend that online giveaways are a way of driving traffic or chasing clout. For sure, only a few online giveaways will not ask you to “like this tweet” “retweet this tweet” or to “follow this person” as a condition to qualify for a giveaway. So, some say it is a hidden way of driving followership online.

Many people see giveaways as a kind of show-off. They think those who wish to help others should quietly do so and not come online and broadcast it. One of those who think along this line is popular R&B singer, Patoranking, who argues that giveaways or donations should be done offline.

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In April 2020, amid series of giveaway splashed online by celebrities, Patoranking tweeted: “Instead Make we artist come together and contribute money to support people, Those once wey no dey online oo, wey understand wetin giveaway mean (people for slums and ghetto) wey dey disadvantaged due to this COVID-19 lockdown, una dey here dey talk about this vs this, wise up.”

Also, at about the same time some celebs were doing giveaway to cushion the effects of COVID-19 on fans, Rudeboy of the defunct P-Square group, called the attention of his colleagues to the fact that those who need real help are not online.

He had posted: “Attention. The people who seriously need help now during this pandemic period are not on social media. They dot know what data is.”

Yet, it seems social media giveaways have come to stay as many celebrities one way or the other jostle to get the attention of the online community. Giveaway is sure a way to quickly get people reacting to posts and tweets within seconds. For this reason, many celebs embark on a daily giveaway.

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One of the most popular giveaway drivers in Nigeria is the Twitter account with the name Chidimma Ekilie, an apparent false reference to Nigerian singer, Chidimma Ekile. That fake account dishes out giveaways almost on a daily basis prompting many cynics to ask whether the real Chidimma has abandoned music.

For instance, on June 28, 2020, a Twitter influencer, @drpenking tweeted about the fake account: “Seems like Chidinma is only on Twitter for promotions. Everytime: if 50k is not too small for you, reply with… Kilode???”

Replying to the tweet above, another Twitter user @olusoyeayinde1 was also baffled by the number of giveaways that the “singer” does in quick secessions. In his reply, @olusoyeayind1 said: “I think say na only me dey reason this mater nii ooo, at a time I thought it’s not her, may be na all this influenza…. music we no see, na to dey do hashtag promo…. Well, all na hustle.”

They are probably not aware that the real Chidimma Ekile no longer uses that account. On April 27, 2015, the singer had announced that her Twitter account was hacked. She had said: “Hey guys, my Twitter account @Chidinmaekile was compromised, please follow the new account @officialMsKeDiK…..ese gan!!!!” Both accounts are verified.

The last giveaway done by the hacked @chidimmaekile was on March 9 when she shared screenshots of two payments, indicating that she has credited two followers with N50,000 each. Followers are probably not aware that the account was hacked.

But it seems giveaways have come to stay in the Nigerian social media space as celebrities and other online influencers use it either with good or pecuniary intentions. Those who don’t do it are seen as stingy or even treated with scorn and some form of rejection. Followers do this by refusing to react to social media posts made by those they term “stingy” and who don’t do giveaways. Nollywood actress, Uche Ogbodo, had a cause to lament this recently. According to her, if you don’t do giveaways in Nigeria, you are on your own.

In June 2020, she posted in her Instagram story: “In fact, I wish I’m a star in America, not Nigeria. Fans! If you don’t go giveaway, nobody likes your pictures. You are posting for yourself. I just hate it.”

Uche’s lamentation implies that giveaway doers use it to get more reactions to their social media posts and also to increase followers and that those who don’t do giveaways get little or no reactions on their posts. This remains contestable though.

The bottom-line, therefore, is that online giveaways are not completely as free as they look. One way or the other, it is like an investment that must benefit the sponsors. Many of them may therefore not qualify as proof of generosity.

Israel Usulor is a journalist and short story writer. You can reach him via @JonalistIsrael and [email protected]



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