By Theophilus Ilevbare
Just when we were coming to terms with the precipitous foray to the political scene of some entertainers like Gongo Aso crooner, Abolore Akande, popularly known as 9ice, gospel singer, Kenny Saint Best and actor, Desmond Elliot, all of whom have in recent time declared their political ambition and aligned themselves with political parties, Tony Tetuila (reals names, Anthony Olarenwaju) has quickly joined the burgeoning list of Nigerian artistes vying for elective positions in next year’s general election.
Even if the joke sounds too expensive and only himself believes it, popular stand-up comedian, Julius Agwu, thinks he can become the next governor of Rivers State. The list of intending artiste-politicians keeps growing as the bandwagon syndrome catches up with more of them. Before the end of the year, more artistes will throw their hat in the ring.
Before now, some entertainers had already delved into the murky waters of Nigeria’s politics. Tony Muonagor (aka Tony One Week), in 2011, rode on the back of his popularity to win a seat at Anambra State House of Assembly, making history as the first Nigerian entertainer to win an elective position.
Should 9ice fulfill his claim, he will follow in the footsteps of Rotimi Makinde, who was elected into the House of Representatives in 2011 to represent Ife Federal Constituency. And like every other Nigerian politician, Makinde is interested in seeking re-election.
Bob-Manuel Udokwu, Senior Special Adviser on movies/entertainment industry to former governor of Anambra, Peter Obi, retained the post after Governor Willie Obiano came into office. Udokwu seem not to be content with a political appointment; he is now gunning for the Anambra State House of Assembly to represent Idemili north constituency.
Sir Victor Uwaifo, famed highlife musician, was Commissioner of Tourism and Culture twice in Edo state. Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, appointed Nkiru Sylvanus as Special Assistant on Lagos Affairs. Kanayo O. Kanayo was recently announced as the Chairman of the National Institute for Hospitality and Tourism Studies, a new body that oversees the Nigerian tourism industry.
Several Nollywood actresses like Onyeka Onwenu, Hilda Dokubo; actors like Dickson Iroegbu, Sam Dede and Richard Mofe Damijo, have all bagged various political appointments between 2011 and now.
This latest fad among entertainers has sharply divided Nigerians especially on social media with many claiming they have joined politics for pecuniary reasons.
These artistes have argued that elsewhere entertainers have made a success of their political foray, citing notable instances like Arnold Schwarzenegger, two term Governor of California and Ronald Reagan, former President of the United States, as examples of actors who ventured into politics.
However, they failed to add that both men joined politics at the peak of their careers in a democracy where the President of the world’s most powerful country earns less than a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
The debate for a drastic reduction in salaries and allowances of Nigerian politicians to serve as a disincentive to pretenders masquerading as aspiring political leaders, has once again, gained traction.
Unlike the American actors highlighted above, most Nigerians think these entertainers could be drifting to politics in a bid to arrest their nose-diving careers, a last ditch attempt to bounce back to relevance. Or could it be that the wealth acquired from the entertainment industry is less fulfilling than what political offices have to offer?
Is their ambition borne out of a genuine intention to serve the people or an attraction to the stupendous wealth and power political office holders wield? Unlike the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti whose songs and lifestyle resonated the streets, this new crop of entertainers seldom compose music with such lyrical content or act movies that speaks truth to power and trumpet the change they seek to effect through the ballot.
How many of them have been arrested for demanding accountability and transparency from the present government through their roles in the entertainment industry? What gives them the impression that they can effect change in ways ‘regular’ politicians can’t? In what way have they given back to the society that made them stars? What makes us think they will act differently as politicians?
How have they demonstrated that they can bring the much needed chang by redefining leadership when a good number of them have not previously garnered or exhibited any sterling leadership qualities at any level, not even from the entertainment industry they’re hibernating from.
These are people whose businesses and daily lives are even managed by managers! A few could not even manage their marital lives; they’re still single after going through divorce(s). How can the welfare and lives of millions of Nigerians be entrusted to persons with credibility issues of scandals ranging from relationship to behavioural?
Nigeria is in dire straits and in need of astute, shrewd and intellectual leadership. Technocrats, not entertainers thought of by many, as people not to be taken seriously, especially in matters political. Moreover, what is their political ideology?
Can it move the country forward? I doubt if their ‘brand of politics’ is sellable because there are a lot of question marks over their competence. Without necessarily venturing into politics, they can make more impact and inspire change from within the entertainment industry they already find themselves, with the their music, like late Fela, and right from the movie scripts to the roles they act.
Political fans and entertainment fans are different. Their popularity in music arena should not be misinterpreted as acceptance by the general public. Showbiz and politics are two worlds apart. The hope of riding on the crest of that popularity to occupy elective political office might be fantasy, after all. They should not attempt to exaggerate their fame.
The present crop of politicians have failed us but entertainers, without a clear ideology of what political leadership entails, moving in droves in their direction is the last thing we want. Their political participation is not about themselves but about the rest of us because it determines the welfare of many Nigerians.
At a time we’re trying to arrest the tragedy of leadership failure and breaking the vicious circle of leadership bankruptcy, we cannot allow the system to throw up more of such ‘leaders’ who obviously lack a clear vision of what political leadership is all about.
We’ve had enough drama in the political scene already; the least we want is for Nollywood to add to it. The country needs true leaders who have prepared themselves adequately to take up leadership positions.
Cynics doubt if these artistes can clinch their party’s ticket. Can they survive the intrigues and stormy internal politics of power and raw cash? Will these political parties shove aside loyal party members and chieftains for ebbing celebrities? Are they seemingly hoping to be game changers by ‘settlement’ with political appointments?
It is too early to say categorically, how far they can go, as it remains to be seen if they will get their party’s nod considering the ever-slippery and tricky game of Nigerian politics where political juggernauts and gladiators are sometimes beaten to their game.
You can follow the writer on twitter, @tilevbare, for more direct engagement.