Showbiz and politics may seem two parallel lines, but they have a huge stake in charm, appeal and loyalty. As political consciousness increases the world over, more artistes are turning to politics to further their beliefs in service to mankind. This has given rise to names like Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and very recently Michel Martelly, who won the presidential elections in Haiti, a few weeks ago. While artistes, as role models have been using their appeal to lend support to certain political figures (like some American artistes did when Barrack Obama was campaigning for the White House job) by helping to raise campaign funds, the reverse seems to be the case in Nigeria. In the past couple of months, the showbiz scene in Nigeria has become polarised by political interests, with bulk of artistes openly campaigning for the incumbents or those who have financial muscle for their services. While many of the artistes have been denying the fact that their activities attract financial rewards, there seems to be a colossal lack of zeal to help their so-called political idols, raise funds for the campaigns, like it is done in the developed world. At the moment, several documentary or musical projects are either playing or are about being completed on the life of the President Goodluck Jonathan and many other political office holders like Raji Fashola (Lagos State governor), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta State governor) and Ikedi Ohakim (Imo State governor). Expectedly the involvement of Nigerian artistes in such ventures, (which the electorate feel are financially rewarding) have been generating a lot of reactions indeed. Are artistes supposed to be political mouthpieces of politicians? National President of the Association of Nollywood Core Producres, ANCOP, Alex Eyengho, who is also running on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria ACN, for a seat in the Delta State House of Assembly says it smacks of great disservice to the Nigerian people, considering the fact that artistes are role models in the society. “Aside being entertainers, artistes should realise the fact they are role models. The society looks up to them in times of oppression, because they are expected to speak up. I have seen what many of my colleagues in the showbiz industry are doing and I am greatly worried and blame it on the hunger in the industry. Instead of getting the government to make sure a suitable environment exists so that we can work and earn good income from our works, they are busy campaigning. It is a reflection of the state of the industry. They are doing that because they are convinced they cannot put food on their tables with their jobs”. For Segun Arinze, the National President of the Actors Guild of Nigeria, while he is not against anyone expressing his or her political opinion, actors should not lose sight of the fact that the Actors Guild of Nigeria is apolitical and therefore cannot be used to further political interests. “I have nothing against artistes campaigning for Jonathan or whoever, but they should stop using the name Nollywood or AGN. AGN is apolitical, therefore it should not be dragged into politics. Nollywood is an industry too, they should stick to using their individual names, not the industry’s name”, he says. This same view had earlier been expressed by Ifeanyi Dike, the chairman of the board of trustees of the Actors Guild of Nigeria. “I’m not saying that they should not vote for candidates of their choice, but the act of doing public campaign for some politicians is out of it. We are entertainers and role models, so we should be friends to every Nigerian, irrespective of their status and political affiliation. Since we have fans in all the political parties, we will be disappointing our fans by campaigning for a group of politicians. The so-called Nollywood actors that have been doing this are hungry people and AGN will not hesitate to wield its big stick if they refuse to change. We are currently monitoring their activities and at the appropriate time, we will take necessary action against anyone found guilty of this shameful act”. Dele Abiodun, the National President of the Performing Musicians Employers Association of Nigeria, PMAN, sees the trend as a prerogative of the individual artistes involved, so long as they are not using it as a reflection of the entire artistes’ body. According to him, “artistes are also citizens and on individual basis, they are free to determine who to campaign for. My position on this issue is that they are free to express their political wishes but not as a group. Artistes are also public commentators”. Of course, many Nigerians believe these campaigns have been financially rewarding to the hordes of artistes in the process, but Francis Duru, Onyeka Onwenu, D’Banj, Rosemary Ingbi and Dickson Iroegbu amongst others hotly deny this fact. According to Francis Duru in reaction to the allegation that he paid artistes N300,000 each to participate in a march for the People’s Democratic Party candidate, Goodluck Jonathan, he said, “Nobody is getting paid. It’s so ridiculous to say artistes of such calibre are being paid. I will like you to also think about it. They are more than such money. They are in this, because they have decided to stop sitting on the fence. They want to identify with a good cause and use their brand leverage to draw attention to the person of President Jonathan. We didn’t pay any money; if we gave anything at all it is to take care of their logistics such as accommodation, transportation and feeding. And as per collecting N35 million, I can only laugh. Where did N35 million come in? The people spreading these rumours don’t know what they are talking about. Let them come with facts, proofs and figures and we can start talking from there”. While political funds are hardly traceable, at least in this part of the world, some artistes are however standing up against having any dealings with political recordings. One of such is Banky W. “I was approached by a few politicians but I decided not to accept it because what is good for me might not necessarily be good for others. Whether my colleagues were given money to campaign or not, it’s not my business. I have not been pushed to the point where I have no option. Without this, you’ll not see me campaigning for any politician. What is important to me is somebody that will bring about change in our country, Nigeria”, he says. In the past, such political endorsements have seemed injurious to careers of hitherto flying artistes, which is the lesson, Berlin based movie producer, Isaac Izoya, wants his colleagues to learn in all these. “Let them not be blind to what happened during the Abachaera. When you throw you career on the altar of political gratification, just be ready for your fans to desert you, especially when the candidate is unpopular. I wish they could learn from the mistakes of people before them”.
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