Nollywood: Leaving the Movie Set for Politics, In whose Interest?

Historically, the Nigerian Political Scene was usually exclusive to full-time politicians, ex-military officers or business mogul with divergent of ‘interest’.

However, things seem to be changing as celebrities mainly from Nollywood are now showing interest and vying for various political positions nationwide.

A number of them are gradually leaving the movie set considering the anomaly in governing the people and some to boost their wealth and fame.

Political roles are not new to Nollywood celebrities, although they have been previously limited to political appointments from governors, ministers or even the president.

Nollywood veteran actor, Richard
Mofe-Damijo popularly known as ‘RMD’ was appointed as the Special Adviser of Culture and Tourism to the then Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan in 2008, later on, he became the commissioner for Culture and Tourism of Delta State, Nigeria in 2009. His tenure ended in 2015.

Beautiful and versatile actress
Mercy Johnson Okoije was on March 15th 2017 appointed a Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello on Entertainment, Arts and Culture.
Ini Edo a professional actress and movie producer was in 2016, appointed as the Special Assistant to the Awka Ibom State Governor on Culture and tourism.

This appointment was renewed in 2020 when governor Udom Emmanuel was re-elected into office.

Kate Henshaw the beautiful Nollywood veteran was appointed as special Adviser liaison, Lagos by the Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade in December 2015

Zubby Michael the Nollywood bad boy was in 2019 appointed by the former governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano to be the special Adviser on Media to the Governor.

However, as we approach the 2023 general election, the scenario seems to be changing from mere political appointments to active political participation and contesting for elections.

Here are some Nigerian celebrities who will be contesting for various electives positions.

Funke Akindele

Funke Akindele popularly known as ‘Jenifa’ is a popular Nollywood actress and producer with over 25 years industry experience.

News has come out that she has emerged the running mate for the governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party in Lagos Dr. Abdul Azeez Olajide Adediran popularly known as ‘Jandor’ for the 2023 Lagos governorship election.

Nigerians received the news with mixed reactions. Some faulted the selection of the actress as ‘silly’ due to her political inexperience and recent drama with her ex-husband, while others think she has a good track record that will help in making Lagos a better place for Lagosians.

Desmond Elliot

Desmond Elliot, 48, is an award-winning Nigerian actor and Director. He made history by becoming the first Nollywood actor to win an elective position when in 2015, he won the Surulere constituency 1 house of representative seat in Lagos, under the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC).

After four years in office, he won his re-election bid for the second term as a lawmaker in 2019.

During the End-Sars protests of 2020, the former actor and Lagos lawmaker came under fierce criticism after he was actively pushing for social media to be banned saying, ‘if Nigeria does not ban social media, social media will be the end of Nigeria’.

He has however apologized for such comments and will once again be contesting to retain his seat for the third term as a member representing the Surulere 1 Constituency in the up-coming 2023 general election.

Olubankole Wellington

The popular rapper and Wedding Party actor popularly known as ‘Banky W’ is also trying his hands for an elective position as a member of the Federal house of assembly.

Banky W first dived into Nigerian politics in 2019 when he contested to represent the people of Eti-Osa in Lagos in the lower chamber of the national assembly under the platform of the Modern Democratic Party (MDP).

Banky W lost the election to the candidate of the All Progressives Congress Mr Babjide Obanikoro. Not relenting however, he dumped the MDP for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) where he contested and won the primary ticket of the party ahead of the 2023 general election.

The singer will once again battle the incumbent APC lawmaker, Babajide Obanikoro and others in the forthcoming election.

Tonto Dikeh
Tonto Charity Dikeh, 37, is a popular Nigerian actress and humanitarian.

She is an indigene of Obio-Akpor local government in Rivers State.
Mr Tonte Ibraye the gubernatorial candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) in the forth coming 2023 election selected Tonto Dikeh to be his running mate.

Many individuals have kicked against her selection, saying that the actress is too controversial to lead the people of rivers state. Others however believe she will use her popularity to garner votes for her party in elections.

She and her principal, Tonte Ibraye will battle the top Rivers State seat with Siminialayi Fubara and Tonye Cole, who are aspirants of the PDP and APC respectively.

Reasons

The reason for these active interest in politics by celebrities cannot be firmly ascertained, but different reasons seem to come up. Some have attributed the interest as celebrities seeking to leverage their popularity in seeking political positions. They believe that their wide following could translate to votes at the polling units, thereby giving them the juicier political positions which they contested for.

The reason for others might be to expand their portfolio’s and better their lives financially. It is not a new occurrence where actors or actresses who leave Nollywood become financially challenged after some time.

We see videos of them appealing to Nigerians for help in footing their medical bills or for feeding or housing. It is no surprise then why some Nollywood celebrities might want to use politics as a hedge to secure themselves financially.

Finally, it might be for the genuine reason of effecting a change for the people who they wish to represent. Actors like Yul Edochie have always stressed the need for youth participation in politics, stating it as his reason for wanting to run for President.

Since celebrities are close to their fans, they would be able to know their various pain points and how to help them when or if they get elected.

Reception for pollical interest by celebrities has been mixed. Many criticize them for being too controversial to hold a political position. The life of a celebrity is always on the spotlight. All their dirty fights and secrets are always known by members of the populace. Many feel this will inhibit them from actively performing when they hold elective positions.

Praises and Criticism

Also, some have described the celebrity political interest as a fool’s errand. Many feel they are inexperienced politically and only depend on their fans for votes. They would always been beaten by the more experienced though less popular candidates.

Still others have applauded the courage exhibited by celebrities in vying for elective positions. They say it is because the celebrities care enough to want to effect change in our society, that is why they are stepping outside of their comfort zones to seek elective posts.

Whichever reason though, I believe it is a welcome idea for celebrities to try their hands in politics. If they win, they would bring fresh ideas and perspectives into the game which would go a long way in transforming the Nigerian society.

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