How Political Campaigns Split Nollywood
The 2015 Presidential election may have been won and lost, but the outcome of the election has pitched practitioners, especially those who actively participated in the process, along two camps: those who campaigned for the failed re-election bid of President Goodluck Jonathan and those who stood behind the All Progressive Congress (APC) winner, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
Practitioners in both camps have engaged in needless name-calling ever since.
Those who didn’t take a stand have also accused their colleagues of ‘selling out cheaply to politicians’ and for taking their partisanship to the extreme.
No doubt, the 2015 election could be regarded as a most electrifying and most competitive political campaign in the country.
If the last three presidential elections the country has had since the return of democracy in 1999 were considered dull, the 2015 election was not, no thanks to the fact that entertainers who were hitherto apolitical or who were merely used as celebrity endorsers, became politically active.
Many of them became active not just in terms of vying for political office but also in terms of taking public stands on candidates. They trooped out not minding the implication to show support for their preferred candidates. Nollywood literarily came to a halt as they joined in the frenzy and lent support to candidates across party lines.
However, while some artistes aggregated themselves into groups such as Nollywood Stakeholders Forum, Nollywood Support Group, Nigerian Entertainment Forum, Celebrities For Buhari, League of Entertainment Celebrities and Entertainers for Continuity to launch support others joined the groove in their individual capacities.
There were those who took their support for their candidates to the social media. Top entertainers like Charles Novia, Fidelis Duker, and Emeka Ossai campaigned vigorously on social media. They spent valuable time engaging opponents of their preferred candidates on debates about the achievements of their ‘principals’.
While that was going on, opinion was divided on the role of artistes during electioneering campaigns. While some didn’t see anything wrong with artistes getting involved, others quarreled with the manner the artistes threw themselves into the campaign.
“Some of them crossed the lines. They went beyond the call of duty,” said a veteran musician. “Nothing wrong with supporting a candidate or party, but some of them campaigned even more than the party members themselves.
There was a case of an actress who boasted that she could die for a particular candidate. That is not how entertainers should support candidates. They can express their interest but not go about campaigning with them and even joining them on the rostrum to speak”.
If the veteran artiste is concerned about the extreme nature of the involvement of entertainers, another, an elder artiste, queried the motive of their participation.
“I know a few people who joined the campaign because they really believed in the candidates but a lot of them went into it because of what they would grab from the politicians and the parties. I hear they were paid handsomely to campaign.
Why should they be paid if they believe in the candidates? They would have participated for free and even contribute to the campaign funds. That is how it is done in America.
The Oprah’s of this world who stood behind Obama were not paid to do so. But most of our people scrambled for monies sometimes as low as N50,000 to endorse a candidate. It is shameful”.
The issue of receiving money for participation aside, popular rapper M.I, Abaga, does not see anything wrong with entertainers endorsing or lending support to a political party or candidate.
“There’s nothing wrong with entertainers who promote politicians of their choice,” he said. “I think it is good. I think entertainers should get involved. I’m a musician and I would tell you guys the truth. Musicians turn down a lot of money from people they don’t believe in.
And that is the truth. Most times, entertainers will support people without getting paid if they believe in their vision. It is easier to criticise and say what you want to say but the truth is, our entertainers are doing a good job of holding true to their consciences”.
Casmir Onyebuike, a media consultant, shares MI’s sentiments. He supports the use of celebrities in electioneering campaigns, noting that politicians used entertainers to grab attention.
“When people see their favourite actors endorsing a candidate, they will likely want to listen to that candidate that their star actor has decided to associate with.
So they help to grab attention and any politician who wants to grab real time attention should use them. What cannot be proven though is if their association with a candidate can make him or her win election”.
Now that the 2015 Presidential election has been lost and won, what next for players of the entertainment industry? According to Duker, “We will return to the field and work. We are entertainers and not politicians. We only supported the candidates we believed in.
Some of us returned to location as soon as our hero President Goodluck Jonathan accepted defeat. Nigerians have spoken. They want General Mohammed Buhari. We are Nigerians and so we must accept the verdict and support the new leadership.
So we shall queue behind the people’s choice and at the appropriate time we shall present a proposal to him on how to consolidate and further the achievements of the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. But one thing I must stress is that we have no regret taking part in the process”.