“Politics” is a strong word. Most people tend to avoid the topic, and those who venture to discuss it, usually do so with a certain level of discretion. The truth, however, is that politics is an inescapable foundation of our reality. Almost every aspect of our lives is affected by politics. As humans, we have opinions about everything, and most of those opinions can be classified as political. For instance, our government is not just for the people but by the people. We are expected to vote for our elected officials, and our opinion of who should govern eventually reflects in the way our towns, cities, states, and country are overseen.
A percentage of these humans who have opinions that can be categorized as political are celebrities. It might be surprising but just like every other person, they hold opinions; and likewise, they feel the need to react to the world around them and tell other people their thoughts, in the hopes that they will lead to some sort of change or perhaps lead to them being seen or heard. Thanks to human rights and freedom of speech, celebrities have the right to declare their political beliefs and allegiances. But the question is: is having this right really enough for celebrities to qualify for governance or actively lend their voice in that regard?
Over the years, we have seen certain celebrities including Richard Mofe Damijo, Desmond Elliot, Onyeka Onwenu, Kate Henshaw, and more run for and gain political positions. And recently, a culture has emerged whereby the job of ‘politically influencing’ has extended beyond politicians and political commentators to the lap of celebrities who most times, have no political experience.
In the last elections, for instance, several people in Nigerian entertainment industry including Ice Prince, Jude ‘M.I’ Abaga, Olamide, Banky W., Funke Akindele, Uti Nwachukwu, Yemi Alade, Flavour and many others campaigned for the APC candidates. They lent their support to political media campaigns designed to influence voters, and this had some members of the public asking: why? Some, even sharing antagonistic messages for these celebrities, saying they should just “stick to acting” and keep the politics out of the public’s entertainment.
Their arguments were as follows: first, there is no reason to believe that actors, musicians, and other such celebrities have any more insight into public policy than the average person on the street; so, relying on them as sources of insight on political issues is more likely to delude than edify. How is a celebrity who is making affluent and lives in exclusive parts of the country going to understand anything about the culture or people? They’re pretty out of touch with the common person and with real social issues. Do they even care what the grassroots want? If anything, these celebrities lecturing the public on some political (real-life) issues comes off as condescending and insulting.
Secondly, one of the major gripes from conservatives is that celebrities getting involved in politics is a misuse of power. Celebrities acquire ‘power’ by excelling in the entertainment industry. They are in the public eye, they are present on people’s radar, so they will get the “popularity vote” for being famous, but not for the political vote and this gives an unfair advantage over other candidates. Again, most of the youths would follow them instead of using their own common sense, and this sadly furthers the assumption that young people are simply no longer interested enough in their own futures to get involved unless someone with a shiny image presents it to them. Surely young people deserve more credit than that?
Again, there is the complaint that celebrity political endorsements belittle politics. Some celebrities who are not interested in becoming politicians themselves, often make their political beliefs known. This done sometimes by actively campaigning for a particular candidate and making impassioned calls for their fans to vote for these candidates. These celebrities do not encourage fans to read-up on policy, weigh-up the arguments, or make their decision based their interpretation of what each candidate has put forth; however, they persuade fans to trust that they, the celebrity, know best – because they spend their lives pretending to be someone they’re not, can sing a nice tune, are pretty, can play football, or just because they believe they’re right. Most times, they are really just interested in the money they will be making from these politicians, rather than the impact they could make on their fans/followers.
Finally, celebrities being allowed to take on political positions or use their platform to drive political issues only serves to endorse the idea that fame is the only type of success worth having. People start to believe that being famous is the best way to make your political opinions worth hearing.
Despite these arguments and problems that come from politicians dabbling in politics, the truth remains that None of us can “stay out of politics. Sure, at the end of the day, many Nigerians insist that entertainers are there to entertain, that is their job, so they should not misuse the power to engage in partisan behavior. However, we must remember that celebrity is not a type of person, it is merely a position with different status. They have the same Constitutional protections that all people have, and they have the right to participate in politics because it profoundly affects them too. Perhaps, the best way to go if you disagree with celebrities voicing their political opinions or running for office would be to turn a deaf ear to their campaign or refuse to cast your vote for them…or what do you think?
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