By Akin Olaniyan
The appearance of Habeeb Okikiola, otherwise known as Portable, at a campaign rally as guests of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Davido for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Osogbo, Osun State, has elicited comments from many Nigerians.
While most of the comments I have read question the morality of popular musicians throwing their star power behind political campaigns, the real issue of their electoral value is left largely unaddressed.
In their aggressive self-branding, celebrities and micro-celebrities live in a world that’s often far from reality; the sole purpose of which is to build social capital. If you only look at micro-celebrities like Tacha and Jane Mena, you easily see that (1) social media appears to promise fame and wealth and (2) there is a cheap formula for replicating success. In their world, there is a ‘reel’ life, the one they invest heavily to show their followers and the ‘real life,’ which should be a far more accurate measure of their street credibility. Understanding and measuring their street credibility is confusing and naturally so; because the celebrification of ordinary people most times allocates far more credibility than is earned.
This is why the organizers of the Osogbo rallies appeared to miss the point. Unless they were brought in for their pure entertainment value, there was nothing to support any argument that they could affect the votes.
The 2015 election and the events of OccupyNigeria already show that winning elections go beyond an active online presence. Street credibility in Nigeria goes beyond the big numbers on social media.
I can imagine organizers of the Osogbo rallies defining those appearances as influencer marketing but they either don’t understand the concept or misread the ability of the two musicians to deliver votes.
An influencer can convince his followers to take any action and I guess the organizers intend to leverage the musician’s star power to increase their candidate’s chances of winning at the polls tomorrow. But can they? There is a thin line between an online micro-celebrity or influencer who achieves some level of influence and credibility by intentionally creating content on social media and celebrities who become famous for their skill or notoriety in some other venue.
With large followership, both can command online influence that can be used for marketing purposes but there must be a perfect fit between the organization or brand seeking to partner with a celebrity or micro-celebrity; and the measurement of marketing results. Sentiment for or against those who use influencer marketing is directly aligned to the public perception of the celebrity or micro-celebrity selected for partnership
Given the reaction so far, the APC appears to have messed up the selection of ‘influencer’ to partner with and that’s because the artiste they went with is notorious for attracting negative sentiments. To attend a public rally in boxers while appearing to desecrate a monument honouring one of Yoruba’s best is bound to attract criticism. That fellow’s action illustrates the dangers and limitations of influencer marketing.
The young man’s appearance in Osogbo is the political equivalent of his own goal
*Akin Olaniyan is a public affairs analyst