Us Against Them : Funke Akindele Bello and the Birthday Party

Actress Funke Akindele Bello image source: Google

We know Funke Akindele Bello AKA Jennifer is a Nigerian star…scratch that, superstar, an icon.

Many of us started watching her popular TV show, ‘I Need to Know’ as toddlers. Today she has risen to legendry by sheer grit and hard work,and awards and brand endorsements to show for it.

Those who know her insist that she is unspoiled by fame, a humble woman, a sweetheart. Her life is an open book. From the wild romance with Femi Adebayo to the ill-fated marriage to the Lagos politician, she never fell apart, not for our entertainment anyway. She has never pretended to be perfect, and I don’t think it’s something she aspires to.

Then she found love in the arms of Abdulrasheed Bello AKA JJC Skillz, her now-husband. A man whose work ethic and commitment to their family she would constantly gush about.

She is the eternal optimist, not afraid to love, and she reflected this even in her popular show ‘Jennifer’s diary’ we watch as she always rose above poverty, illiteracy, adversity, conflict, debt. Never one to wallow in self-pity. Her character is an authentic woman.

This year at the AMVCA awards, she won the Best Actress in a Comedy for the 100th time… The crowd cheered, but not with the same earnestness of the previous years; they’d gotten used to her winning. Ms Akindele thanked her Jennifans’ for all the love and support. And she doesn’t apologise for all her achievement instead she reminds us that this is 4th or 5th year of winning the much-coveted award.

In this part of the world, people don’t remember the exact moment they start to despise you for succeeding, until you miss a step.

Last week, she fell from grace, made an error in judgement, a careless mistake, an error most of her critics swear they would not make. But she is not everyone, she is a successful woman who thought she had Nigerians wrapped around her nice little finger.

The Party that Started it All

In March, the government ordered a lockdown and notified us all to stay home and to avoid social gatherings of over 20 people. But like the hopeless romantic she is, her love for her man eroded reasoning and she paid the announcement no heed.

She wanted to show him, and us how much he meant to her but true to type, Ms Akindele forgot not to invite us when she threw her man a party at their house on April 4th 2020 and a celebrity guest list that included the complicated Naira Marley, a governorship candidate of the Action Democratic Party in the state in the 2019 gubernatorial election, Babatunde Gbadamosi, and his wife amongst others.

If you watched her YouTube vlog last year you ll have seen she arms-twisted her husband into agreeing to a birthday party. She mentioned their crew, how she wanted an opportunity to unwind, how she wanted to appreciate him for his love. But that was last year, before covid19. This year the best way to show love is to stay at home

The videos of them having fun angered ‘us’, wearied by the stay at home, wondering if we will still have jobs when all this over, bills and other normal people problem and Madam Jennifer is partying; this person that was elevated to a role model without checking with her in these fragile times. The vitriol, the chastisement, the the show of dislike, the loyalty; it was a cacophony of opinions.

Her celebrity friends did their best, risking public recriminations to stand by a woman they know and love. Her Jennifans in their numbers came out. but the aggrieved masses voices was loudest;

On Sunday, April 5th, a day after, she did a video. It wasn’t an explanation, neither was it an apology by the Nigerian accepted standard.

She explained because wanted us to see her, the good behind her intentions, her strength, her love. But the world doesn’t have time to love a woman in love.

I watched the video at least ten times; Not knowing what I was looking for. She was remorseful but not communicating remorse, she wanted clarify things. A strong woman who doesn’t run, she sits and deal and it was like adding fuel to fire.

The angry crowd wanted her to grovel, to cry, to beg. But she was brave, and wise for realising that there was no easy way out of the mess. You sink or you sink so why not hold your head up?

And even though I was among the first voices to scream NO! on it soon turned to grudging admiration. That she didn’t apologize Naija style; cap in hand, humbled, perhaps called her self stupid, bared her soul, put on a show.

By Monday 6th April, the duo of her and Abdul Bello her husband was charged to court and arraigned in the blink of an eye. Sentenced to 14 days of community service and to pay a fine of N200,000.

As they say, social media is leveller, bringing the mighty to their knees in an instant. This whole incident has highlighted the divide between the rich and the cheated and they are in their numbers.

There is us, and there is them.

Despite her brashness on her show, people can see through her act. You know she will take off her costume and walks into her tastefully furnished and cosy home, into the arms of the man who openly adores her and to her government and corporate sector friends and partnership.

To Nigerians, she has options, works hard and makes money in a country where the ability to secure rewards for your effort depends on forces outside your control.

It took guts to do what she did, the guts of the adored.

Covid19 is teaching us new ways to live, it is showing many that playing nice will probably cost you your life, robbing many of their compassion, hardening the rest. It is exposing loopholes in our infrastructure. Nobody wants to risk a disease that started from killing 0.2 of infected people to moving up to 5.7% and anyone that is found to be contributing to this reality is escorted off to the guillotine.

The people calling for her head are not doing so from a place of intense personal dislike as her friends would have us believe, they are after the class she represents, the lucky few, the ones who have the comfort of money and connections. And when the opportunity to blame someone came calling, it was seized.

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