In an ideal democracy, the government is a representation of the interest of the vast majority of the people it governs, as a result, politics is a fair game to anyone daring enough to partake in it regardless of their professional experiences. Nigerian politicians with “conventional” backgrounds in activism, law and academia are accorded a certain level of respect with the preconceived notion that their backgrounds are suitable foundations for a political career.
On the contrary, this automatic respect is not extended to political aspirants who, prior to veering into the political space, had built a career in the entertainment industry. These individuals are put through more wringers to prove how a transition from their industry is beneficial to the masses and if they have the capacity to effect change in politics. Despite this initial setback, many actors have refused to be discouraged from contesting in elections at the State and National levels, thus pursuing their belief of a better Nigeria under their influence. Focusing on the 2023 general elections, here are a few Nigerian entertainers who are running for political positions, and what they have to offer.
The Jenifa’s Diary star, Funke Akindele announced her political aspiration to run for the deputy governor of Lagos state on the 12th of July 2022, alongside Governorship candidate Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran (Jandor) under the People Democratic Party (PDP) ticket. In addition to social media awareness, the Jandor team has charted a campaign trail across 162 wards, including Ikorodu, Alimosho, Kosofe and Eti-Osa Local Government Areas in an attempt to familiarise themselves with the people and show a commitment to bridging the gap between the masses and government.
According to Akindele, this pivot to politics is to “liberate and improve the well-being of our people, particularly the deprived youth, women and the girl-child.” The PDP candidates have expressed their desire to build a masses friendly government that focuses on putting children back in schools, providing health care infrastructure and much more.
There is no doubt Funke Akindele is an assiduous person, having built and sustained a successful career and production company which have not only entertained her audience but has educated and inspired socially conscious conversations through her Jenifa’s Diary Series. From this, there is evidence of her hard work, compassion and interest in the well-lived lives of people around her, however, people are not convinced these attributes overtake the lack of experience the job requires.
As a result of her many years on screen, Akindele possesses a level of accessibility or relatability to her fans that other politicians do not have. Unfortunately, this can also pose a hindrance to her aspirations, considering her career as an actor places her in a box too constricted that an ambition to be the deputy governor of Lagos state seems too unreachable.
In 2015, Desmond Elliot ran for and won the seat of Lagos State House of Assembly, Surulere Constituency 1. Prior to his election in 2015, Elliot focused his campaign on the empowerment of the youth and a proper representation of his people. However, in the 8 years representing the Surulere Constituency, he has mostly shown contempt for the same demographic of younger people he promised to empower, evidenced by his villainisation of the End SARS moment and continually failing to protect the interest of his people. Asides from this, Elliot’s tenure has not yielded significant development in his constituency as promised, but he has certainly accumulated the ill will of displeased constituents who are eager for a change of power and are anticipating voting him out.
Olumide Oworu, popularly known for his role as Tari Johnson in the Nollywood sitcom, The Johnsons declared his intention to run as the Labour Party candidate for the Lagos State House of Assembly, Surulere Constituency 1 a few days before the Presidential Election on the 25th of January 2023. He aspires to be an accessible representative who stands for his constituents and creates growth and development across multiple areas in Surulere. In the few weeks since he announced his aspiration, Oworu has garnered support on social media and fans who wish to see him instill the change he promises. His support is also a consequence of the people’s displeasure with Desmond Elliott’s tenure in the State House of Assembly. People are rallying behind Oworu because they believe he will represent the youth better than the current seat holder has done in the past 8 years. Nevertheless, situations such as this need more scrutiny than is currently being given, in order to avoid replacing a poorly performing candidate with another.
Despite his fame through his acting career, it is questionable that Oworu has succeeded in amassing popularity in his constituency against the sitting representative, but perhaps being a fresh candidate under a well-received political party (Labour Party) is enough to convince voters beyond social media of his potential. However, Oworu’s announcement mere weeks before the election robs his constituency of their right to scrutinize his plans for their development deeply. Furthermore, it does not reflect a commitment to his own aspirations.
Actress Tonto Dikeh is running as the deputy governor to African Democratic Congress River State governorship candidate Tonte Ibraye. Alongside Tonte Ibraye, Tonto Dikeh and the ADC governorship team have organized rallies to boost popularity within Rivers State and subsequently improve their chances of winning the governorship election. Although Dikeh’s reputation has been involved in multiple controversies in the entertainment industry, she assures her people that she is capable of the position of deputy governor of River State and is passionate about change and improving the lives of its citizens. Through her foundation which contributed to Covid 19 relief initiatives and also annually sponsors children to school, Dikeh has shown an interest in giving back to the community which she believes has given her experience for this new role.
Singer Olubankole Wellington recognised the importance of fixing the country from the “bottom-up”, which in turn informed his decision to run for the House of Representatives candidate to represent Eti-Osa Federal Constituency under the Modern Democratic Party in 2019. With good spirits, he accepted his loss in 2019 as an opportunity to plant the seed and develop his agenda for his constituency, which includes improving healthcare, education and gender equity within his constituency. Wellington also joined the People’s Democratic Party in 2022, with hopes that a ticket under a well-established political party would provide the visibility he requires to win the House of Representative election for Eti-Osa Federal Constituency. Wellington’s likeability and impact in the entertainment industry formed a reputation people were inclined to support and believe to be a catalyst of change in his community. Unfortunately, despite a new political party and campaign strategies, that aspiration was unfulfilled as he lost the election to the Labour Party candidate Thaddeus Attah.