With the 2023 Nigerian general elections barely nine months away, some Nigerian entertainers will surely smile to the bank.
Since the outset of this democratic dispensation and the advent of social media in Nigeria, politicians have relied on indigenous entertainers’ star power and influence to drum up support for themselves during elections.
While Nigerian musicians rarely are contracted to help garner votes, save for performing at political rallies, Nollywood, Yoruba and Kannywood actors have been obvious choices.
Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration was renowned for injecting funds into the industry and splashing money on its stars, especially during campaigns.
In the recent past, Kannywood and Nollywood actors have also endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime. But, most recently, Mr Ibu and Harry Anyanwu endorsed Bola Tinubu, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), for the 2023 presidency.
To this end, a famous Yoruba actor, Taiwo Ibikunle, says it is difficult for him and his colleagues to reject monetary offers from politicians to campaign for them ahead of the elections.
Mr Ibikunle made this statement in an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES at a movie premiere in Maryland, Lagos State.
The Osun State-born actor said that as elections are fast approaching, some Nollywood actors would storm the screens and streets campaigning for some candidates ahead of the general elections, despite the little support they receive from politicians.
“ If we don’t give politicians attention, who will? We need the money too. You collect what you are supposed to collect, knowing that by the time they get into power, they will not remember you anymore. Pay me now. Let me deliver whatever I can now. That’s the business we have with them.”
He also noted that their Hollywood counterparts also campaign for politicians during election periods.
Government’s contributions to Nollywood
Ibikunle also lamented how the government has abandoned the movie industry and only remembers them during elections.
The actor said the government only focused on petroleum without recognising other aspects of the economy, especially the entertainment industry.
The actor complained that despite Nollywood contributing over 2.3 per cent to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the movie industry is abandoned by the government until election periods.
“The government have their eyes on the big box, everybody wants to do Petroleum, but lo and behold we are going to that point where petroleum may not even be useful anymore because some advanced countries now use electric cars, I am sure very soon we would get to that level. They forget that the industry contributes over 2.3 per cent annually to the country’s GDP, only to remember us during elections,” he said.
According to Ibikunle, Nollywood has grown from its inception to global recognition with little or no government support.
“ We thank God that Nollywood has been moving, we are not static, things are coming out, we have not had a supportive government since its inception, and it has affected the industry so much.”
“The Government believe that they can’t make anything out of the industry, and it is only during elections that we have been remembered, and it’s quite unfortunate”, he lamented.
The growth of Yoruba movies
Speaking on the growth of Yoruba movies, the actor stated that Yoruba movies were the first to be released in the cinema and VHS.
“Yoruba movies have always been the pacesetter. Let me state clearly here that the culture of cinema started from the cinema, and even the first home video was a Yoruba movie.”
According to him, many people claim that Nollywood started with ‘Living in bondage.’
“They forget that before Living in bondage, there was the first film produced on VHS. In Nigeria, it was in the 1988s that we saw videos of movies like Soso Meji, produced by Ade Ajiboye, and Alade Aromire, produced Ekun (1989). Presently most of the movies doing well in the industry are Yoruba movies, especially at the box office,” he said.
He is known for his lead role in the successful Yoruba movie “Eji Owuru” (2003) and famous for his roles in films like Omo Ghetto (2010), Ofeefe (2019), Nkan Alejo (2020), The new Patriot (2021), and Strangers (2022).
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