Entertainers’ Misadventures In Politics
A number of entertainers have suddenly discovered their love for politics as against their earlier love in entertainment. In this report SAMUEL ABULUDE and PATIENCE IVIE IHEJIRIKA look at the political adventures of entertainers. who in recent times tried their luck in the political terrian particularly the recent ambitions of Nigerian entertainers.
Politics is a game, a saying widely accepted but who masters the game? Entertainers, a good number of them, declared intention to vie for elective positions in 2014 and after the elections concluded about a week ago, only one of them won. This seemed like a misadventure going by the popularity of our entertainers who shone on the screens and were applauded for their ingenuity.
The 2015 elections witnessed massive turnout of entertainers who dared to tread the path of politics.
Among these celebs turned politicians are Kate Henshaw, Kenneth Okonkwo, Julius Agwu, 9ice, Tony Tetuila and Bob Manuel.
Others include Desmond Elliot, Kenny Saint Brown, Jibola Dapo, Funke Adesiyan, Yemi Solade and Dan D'Humorous.
Unfortunately, after the primaries conducted by the various political parties, only Desmond Eliot was able to emerge winner under the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
The issue has raised concern especially among entertainment fans. The question is 'why are entertainers not doing well in politics'
Many would have thought that a good number of these actors, actresses, musicians and comedians will emerge given their popularity but the reverse was the case.
Music star, Tony Tetuila, whose real name is Anthony Olanrewaju Awotoye came short of running for a seat in the Kwara State House of Assembly under the APC. He was turned down and could not even run for the primaries. Kate Henshaw, an award-winning actress, failed to win the primaries after contesting for the House of Representatives for Calabar Municipal/Odukpani federal constituency on the platform of the PDP. The vivacious actress could not even win her primaries as her popularity and politicking could not do the magic for her. The Gongo Aso crooner, Abolore Akande, known as 9Ice lost out in the primary election into the House of Representatives seat for Ogbomosho North/South/Orire federal constituency of Oyo State under the APC All Progressives Congress. He campaigned in his hometown, Ogbomoso and posted pictures from his campaign trips online but still lost out. Top comedian, Julius Agwu failed short of vying for the post of Rivers State governor. He withdrew after much 'consultation'. Yemi Solade, popular Yoruba actor, contested for a seat in the Senate on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Nothing much was heard about his ambition as it fizzled out. KSB, who is the vice president of Kennis Music, under the APC declared her intention to contest the Lagos State House of Assembly elections and went ahead to unveil her transformation plan for the people of Ikeja Constituency 1, harping on giving the youth a voice. But she lost out at primaries.
Nollywood hunk, Bob Manuel-Udokwu from Anambra State declared his intention to run for a seat in the Anambra State Houseof Assembly in 2015 under the platform of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). The actor is currently the senior special adviser on Nollywood and gntertainment to Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, perhaps that put paid to his ambition as the governor had offered him a position in his government. Popular Yoruba actress, Funke Adesiyan, is another entertainer who vied for political office, running for the Ibadan South-East constituency slot in the Oyo State House of Assembly under the PDP platform. She was the only female entertainer that got beyond the primaries but lost out in the April 11 election. 'Living in Bondage' star, Kenneth Okonkwo, is not left out of the race for elective office in 2015. The veteran actor declared his interest to represent Nsukka/Igboeze South federal constituency at the National Assembly on the platform of the People's Democratic Party (PDP).The lawyer turned-actor and movie producer made moves but much wasn't heard about his ambition as it frizzled out. White bearded veteran, Jibola Dabo failed to go past the primaries when he contested for the House of Representatives under the umbrella of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) to represent Owo/Ose federal constituency in Ondo State. Desmond Elliot, an award-winning actor and movie producer came, saw and conquered. He contested for a seat in the Lagos State House of Assembly in the 2015 elections under the umbrella of the All Progressive Congress, APC. He got the maximum votes and won as the only representative in the entertainment.
Was it really a misadventure?
Fidelis Duker, a reputable moviemaker said that people should even commend movie makers and not vilify them for venturing into politics. He said categorically that the individual entertainers that vied for elective positions should not be condemned but lauded and encouraged to try again.
He said, “our entertainers have not failed. That they failed is not because they are failures. This was the first time we had so many entertainers vying elective position. Now we have Desmond Elliot getting the slot in the Lagos State House of Assembly for Surulere constituency. He was the only one that got the slot among entertainers. Funke Adesiyan also lost out. I think we should commend the likes of Kate Henshaw who for the first time contested for House of Representative in her state, Cross River State. Other reputable actors who have made their mark like Kanayo O Kanayo, Bob Manuel, Jibola Dabo also contested but lost out in the primaries or were turned down”.
Another stakeholder in the movie industry, Mike Nliam also agreed with Fidelis Duker, saying that entertainers coming out to contest for an election and losing out is not a failure. The secretary to the Association of Movie Producers (AMP) stated that it is indeed a success.
“Well I do not think that taking into politics by entertainment personalities and been defeated is a failure, rather it is a success because prior to now, we were either sitting on the fence or being armchair critics. We were not actively involved in politics. Now that for the first time a greater number of people from the entertainment industry have braved the odds to contest and sadly only one out of a record nine won the election, it is a success. We now have a representative in the industry though in the Lagos State House of Assembly which is a good starting point because Lagos State is a small component of the makeup of the big country called Nigeria”.
Reasons why they lost: A disconnect with party structure
However, Entertainment Analyst, Ugezu Ugezu, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that Nigeria politics is not by fame. According to him, it is a clique thing.
Explaining further, Ugezu noted that in this part of the world, voters hardly decide who wins elections. He therefore advised that celebrities should do things right by joining the right clique and thereafter pray for goodluck.
“You don't just dabble into politics because you think you are popular, that is the same mistake they keep making. you have to do the right thing, when you join the right clique, you will pray for goodluck. I tell you, Nigeria politics is a clique thing.” he said.
Speaking on Desmond Elliot's victory, he said, “he won because he joined the party that is on ground in his area and he is close to the governor who happens to appreciate entertainment. That was what helped him, not his popularity.”
One of the reasons why our entertainers lost, according to Fidelis Duker, was because they did not engage with the leaders in the party structure. Our entertainers may have underestimated the need to work within the party structure, says Mr Duker. He spoke further, “It is not about a misadventure in politics for our entertainers but a lot of things played out and you know Nigeria for you, money and who you know among other factors play a lot on who wins an election. or who gets elected. It is never about popularity as you mooted. No one in the world wins an election on popularity contest. Only Desmond Elliot won, Funke Adesiyan from the Ibadan North constituency in Oyo State House of Assemby did not even win. Our entertainers are popular, yes but winning an election is a different ball game. I feel that playing the politics by being involved in the party structure helped Desmond Elliot. You need to play the politics in your own ward and constituency.
That said, another thing that worked for Desmond is 'Who brings you into politics?' In Nigeria politics, this is very important. One has to put that into consideration. Our entertainer-contestants from different parties gave their bit and may have relied on one power bloc or another to realise their ambitions but at the end of the day, you are justified a win after winning the maximum votes and your popularity is not as good as who is bringing you into politics and you, getting the approval of the party leadership”.
Entertainers in politics from other climes
In 2014, George Opong Weah got into the senate in Liberia, The former football star George Weah has won a landslide victory in Liberia's senate elections, in polls disrupted by the Ebola outbreak. Mr Weah got 78% of the vote for the Montserrado county seat, which includes the capital Monrovia. He beat Robert Sirleaf, the son of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who took nearly 11%.
He first received fame as a member of the acclaimed New Jersey hip hop group the Fugees. Jean won three Grammy Awards for his musical work. On August 5, 2010, Jean filed for candidacy in the 2010 Haitian presidential election, and although the electoral commission subsequently ruled him ineligible to stand as he had not met the requirement to have been resident in Haiti for five years, Jean's efforts at earthquake relief, highly publicized in 2010 throughout Haiti and the United States, were channeled through his charitable organisation, Yéle Haiti.
The Ronald Reagan example
Just like the situation in Nigeria, Ronald Reagan, an actor came at a period that America needed a new leadership, a new direction after Jimmy Carter had disenchanted the people. The timing was right. Reagan announced on Nov. 13, 1979- November of the year before the election. That would be as if potential 2016 candidates waited eight more months to declare. By the way, the first presidential nominating contest took place just two months later in Iowa. Second, notice the optics. Reagan's team capitalized on his acting training, showing Reagan in a presidential-looking room (though it had 1970s-era wood paneling) complete with an American flag, big desk and leather chair. During the 24-minute presentation, he stood up from the chair, leaned on the desk and sat back down — all while never breaking delivery. Today's video announcements are far shorter. This demonstrated how to position yourself for elective positions.
What Buhari should do in the post Jonathan era.
“The new government should deepen the lofty works of the pat presidency. It behoves of the president-elect to listen to the stakeholders in the entertainment industry. No one can push the entertainment sector around aside because even before President Goodluck Jonathan, Nollywood has made its name. The outgoing president only recognised Nollywood and supported it, this we really thank the outgoing president. Now President-elect Muhammadu Buhari should go a step further and concretise the lofty works of the presidency before him. Lagos State has been supporting Nollywood, Governor Fashola supported us in the movie industry and in the music industry at large. Now Ambode, the new face of Lagos government will support us as we have been getting this from the Lagos state government. Providing an enabling environment for us to work and reap the reward of our labour is a task the government should pursue vigorously. Piracy should be nipped in the bud, a situation where a movie, October 1st is now pirated even after the company involved had been warned ought to be dealt with and the perpetrators arrested,” Duker added.