‘Stay home or dance with us’. You must have stumbled across that line on social media platforms or will likely do so in the coming days if you have not.
When Benjamin Aidoo, leader of Nana Otafrija Pallbearing & Waiting Services, left his job in 2003, he had two dreams — to redefine funerals in Ghana and shrink the country’s unemployment space.
“Having attended several funerals in Ghana this idea hit me. We shouldn’t feel sad for the dead but also celebrate them. I quit my job in 2003 to start this and found a few guys to do this,” he was quoted as saying while appearing on NTV’s ‘The Trend’ show.
Years after, however, his pallbearing business has exceeded expectations.
The sudden rise of the COVID-19 grim reaper
Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, not much was heard of Aidoo and his team. They have however, witnessed a sudden jump in popularity with ballooning fanbase since the dawn of the novel disease.
The raging killer virus has significantly changed the global landscape with its attendant effects on the economy of the world, lifestyles of the people among others.
The development has led to the introduction of several measures by governments across all levels including lockdown, prohibition of religious as well as social gatherings to combat spread of the virus.
But the Ghanaian pallbearers have benefited from the situation and are seen by many as the imaginary character of death.
Whether you fail to wash your hands before eating or have someone inadvertently sneeze or cough around you, these guys become the accidental faces of death.
A video clip of the team — consisting of six men — clad in black suits, sunglasses and patent leather shoes carrying a coffin while jamming to the beat of a song has become a sensation on the internet during this pandemic.
On one hand, it has become a social media meme for many people to kill boredom orchestrated by the lockdown. On the other hand, the clip has become a veritable instrument for authorities globally to drive compliance with several directives introduced to combat spread of the virus.
Their short visuals have also become the go-to-clip used to remind defaulters of measures aimed at tackling spread of the virus — overtly or covertly — of the consequence of their action: death.
From Ghana to the world
From a relatively low start in Ghana, photos of Aidoo and his team have emerged with warnings in French and Portuguese: “Stay at home or dance with us.” It has been used on billboards in Brazil. It has also featured prominently in French and Portuguese announcements aimed at encouraging social distancing.
Their video clips also made headlines in Colombia earlier this month after a group of police were seen mimicking the pallbearers while calling on people to comply with the stay-at-home order.
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Several other countries including India, Chile, Peru and Italy have also gleaned from the team’s video clips to further sensitise their citizens about the dangers of not complying with the lockdown order.
Reacting to the development on his social media page, Aidoo thanked the countries that have so far used his company’s clips to enlighten their citizens as global fight against the pandemic continues.
“Thank you latam, Chile. We love you and appreciate the support,” he wrote on his Instagram page.
In another post, he thanked the Peru police officials for also remaking the clip to drive compliance with the lockdown directive in the country.
“Thankyou #Peru Police Thanks for all the Love and Support Guys, we appreciate all the love and support,” he wrote.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the prospects ahead for Aidoo and his team on social media platforms. With 49,000 followers on the company’s Twitter page and over 30,000 followers on his personal Instagram page, the team seemed poised for greatness.
With the company’s popularity rising at the tick of every second, other establishments such as video gaming and electricity distribution firms are already leveraging on the clip to promote their companies.
The video clips have also attracted the attention of several comedy skit groups including Ikorodu Bois, a group of Nigerian kids known for remaking popular films and video projects with house objects.
Since he established the company, Aidoo has so far employed more than 100 people — men and women — in Ghana, a move he said was to aimed to give “jobs to unemployed people.”
“Not all are men, I have employed women as well and it’s good I was able to give jobs to unemployed people as well and help put food on their table,” he had said.
In a chat with BBC in 2017, the leader of the group had also explained that he decided to introduce choreography so as to meet people’s demand.
“I decided to add choreography to it so if the client comes to us, we just ask them ‘Do you want it solemn or you want a bit more of a display?’ ‘Or maybe you want some choreography on it?’ They just ask and we do it,” he had said.