Bobrisky: Transgender celebrity in image crisis

By our reporter
It may not be the best of times for the transgender celebrity, Mr. Idris Okuneye Olanrewaju, a.k.a Bobrisky as his image rating in the esteem of the Nigerian public may have suffered a major set-back with his recent experience before the court of competent jurisdiction.
Specifically, the  Federal high court in Lagos has just  sentenced the  controversial crossdresser, Idris Okuneye Olanrewaju, popularly known as, Bobrisky, to a jail term of six months imprisonment in Ikoyi correctional centre with no option of fine for abusing and mutilating the Naira.
Bobrisky was arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the 24th of March and was arraigned on a six count charge of Naira abuse and money laundering of which count five and six on money laundering were later dropped.
The court found that Bobrisky violated the integrity of the Nigerian currency issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria by spraying a total of N400,000 at imax Circle Mall, Jakande, Lekki on March 24, 2024. Additionally, it ruled that between July and August 2023, Bobrisky tampered with the amount of N50,000 while dancing at a social event at Aja Junction, Ikorodu.
Similarly, in December 2023, Bobrisky tampered with the sum of N20,000 by spraying Naira notes at White Steve Event Hall, Ikeja, during a social event. Furthermore, the court determined that Bobrisky also tampered with the sum of N20,000 while dancing at a social event at Event Hall, Oniru, Victory Island, sometime in 2022.
According to the court, Bobrisky’s conduct was an offence contrary to and punishable under section 21(1) of the Central Bank Act, 2007. Bobrisky pleaded guilty to naira abuse and asked that the court show him mercy as a first time offender.
Bobrisky is a social media personality with strong followership and presence on social media apps such as Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram. He went viral on TikTok in 2021. With about N5 million followers on Instagram, various brands and businesses are in partnership with Bobrisky for brand marketing and to gain publicity. Bobrisky boasts of being a brand influencer for 15 different brands and charging each brand N50 million.
With Bobrisky’s conviction, brands and businesses who are in partnership with him either for performance marketing to translate to immediate sales or for brand marketing for long term imagery may or may not face a downturn as Bobrisky’s celebrity image may be damaged.
Leading industry experts in Branding and Marketing shared their enlightened  opinions on the implication of the jail term on the accused image rating and perception  with MARKETING EDGE
Bolaji Abimbola, the Managing Director of Integrated Indigo Limited, stated that it was more likely that Bobrisky would get a heroic welcome when he’s released as many Nigerians are already of the opinion that the court ruling was too harsh and he should have been shown mercy.
“On the surface, one is tempted to say that the brand will suffer a decline but in the society that we live in today, brands thrives in adversity. He may come out of prison and get a heroic welcome by his fans and supporters thereby shooting up his profile and brand. As it stands now, some people are already sympathetic to his plight and they condemn and criticize the ruling and this will boost his image. Some senior legal practitioners may even come to his aid to appeal the judgement and possibly upturn it in a higher court of law.”
Mr Yomi- Badejo Okunsanya, Group MD/ CEO of CMC- Connect and former President of African Public Relations Association (AFPRA) emphasized that the case of Bobrisky was different as many before him who were guilty of the crime had been given the option of fine.
In his words, “I do hope it has nothing to do with his person and what he is perceived to represent. But it is all about the law. I believe his sentencing will significantly curb further abuse and shore up respect for the Naira thus enhancing its image and respect. The EFCC needed a celebrity as a scapegoat to stop the unwholesome practice and has found one.”
In his opinion, Mr Akonte Ekine, MD/ CEO of ABSOLUTE PR hammered that “the rating is going to be a mix bag.”
“While he might get some sympathy from a segment of the public, on the side of the moral compass he will not get public acceptance against the backdrop of our religious covering. His image after serving the term will struggle amongst some publics.”
Bobrisky gained notoriety on social media for diverging from traditional Nigerian norms, sparking controversy. Despite Nigeria’s strict laws against same-sex relationships, Bobrisky attracted a large following on social media, especially on Snapchat, where she claimed to have a male partner. His legal woes began after he was arrested on the charge of naira abuse and mutilation. The charges stemmed from social media videos that appeared to show him throwing money in the air at a film premiere in March.


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