Entertainers who delved into politics in Nigeria, by Onyinyechi Iheanacho
It is no longer a new thing for Nigerian celebrities to campaign for political positions or receive political appointments, especially from their state governments.
Gone are the days when Nigerian politics was only for full-time politicians, ex-Generals, heads of state, defence ministers and businessmen. Today, several Nigerian celebrities have been able to move into another stage, asides from entertainment.
The call for youth inclusion in governance had led to a radical change in the Nigerian political space.
Over the years, many celebrities in the country have been invited by their state governments to receive political nominations while some have knowingly delved into politics with the hope to serve the people.
Media celebrities are highly regarded in their societies; and this enables them to function as effective promoters of persons, issues, products, and causes since they are perceived as believable, trustworthy, likeable and persuasive agents (Austin et al, 2008).
This suggests that celebrities are largely emulated and their promotion of a cause would receive attention and influence opinions. Thus celebrity endorsement of politicians increases the exposure of the politicians to the public, and can also improve the involvement of voters in the election process.
Below is a list of some Nigerian celebrities who either ran for office or were appointed by their state governments:
1. Femi Adebayo
Femi Adebayo Salami (born 31 December 1978) is a Nigerian film director, film actor, lawyer, producer and Special Adviser to the Governor of Kwara State on Arts, Culture and Tourism. He is the son of the veteran actor, Adebayo Salami.
In February 2016, he was made the Special Adviser to the then Governor of Kwara State, Abdulfatah Ahmed on Arts, Culture and Tourism.
Although the actor was appointed in 2016, he is currently contesting for the post of senator in the upcoming elections. The actor who hails from Kwara made his interest known in representing Asa/Ilorin West at the Nigerian National Assembly delegation from his state.
2. Ini Edo
Iniobong Edo Ekim (born 23 April 1982) is a Nigerian actress. Ini Edo began her film career in 2000 and has featured in more than 100 movies since her debut. In 2013, Ini Edo was a judge for the Miss Black Africa UK Pageant and in 2014, she was appointed by the United Nations as a United Nations Habitat Youth Envoy.
Ini Edo was appointed as the Special Assistant to the Akwa Ibom State Governor on Culture And Tourism by Udom Gabriel Emmanuel in 2016.
Her appointment was renewed in 2020 when Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, the current governor of the state, was re-elected into office.
3. Banky W
Olubankole Wellington (born 27 March 1981), popularly known by his stage name Banky W and credited in film as Banky Wellington, is a Nigerian singer, rapper, actor, entrepreneur and politician.
On 11 November 2018, Wellington announced his intent to run for the Lagos’ Eti-Osa Federal Constituency seat in Nigeria’s House of Representatives, on the platform of the Modern Democratic Party, formed in 2017.
On 23 February 2019, Wellington lost the Eti-Osa Federal Constituency Elections to Babajide Obanikoro of the All Progressive Congress.
4. Zubby Michael
Azubuike Michael Egwu professionally known as Zubby Michael (born 1 February 1985 in Anambra State, Nigeria) is a Nigerian film actor and movie producer. He is known for his role in Three Windows, Royal Storm and Professional Lady. His first appearance was in the movie titled Missing Rib but known for The Three Widows where he played the lead role.
On 25 November 2019 he was appointed into a political position as the Special Adviser on Media to the Anambra State Governor Willie Obiano. He was awarded a certificate of recognition for his contribution to the City Radio 89.7 FM youth empowerment initiative in Anambra State.
5. Desmond Elliot
Desmond Elliot (born Desmond Oluwashola Elliot; 4 February 1974) is a Nigerian actor, director, and politician who has starred in over two hundred films and a number of television shows and soap operas. He won best supporting actor in a drama at the 2nd Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards and was nominated for the best supporting actor at the 10th Africa Movie Academy Awards. He was elected as a lawmaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Surulere Constituency, in the 11 April 2015 Nigerian General Elections.
Elliot declared his intentions in September 2014 to run for Lagos State House of Assembly under the All Progressives Congress. He contested and won the Surulere Constituency in the 11 April 2015 Nigerian General Elections. Desmond Oluwashola Elliot is a famous Nigerian movie star, who has featured in many Nollywood blockbuster movies, television shows and soap operas.
Desmond Elliot is presently seeking a third term as a state legislator representing Surulere Constituency. Although his nomination by the party (APC) during his two terms in office came unopposed, he faces strong opposition going into the 2023 general elections, as a host of aspirants (including Honourable Barakat Bakare Akande, the sitting Council leader of Surulere Local Government) have declared intention to also vie for the ticket.
6. Kate Henshaw
Kate Henshaw, also known as Kate Henshaw-Nuttall (born 19 July 1971), is a professional Nigerian actress. In 2008 she won the Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in the movie Stronger than Pain.
On 19 July 2014, Kate Henshaw officially unveiled her campaign website as she was aspiring to represent the Calabar Municipal/Odukpani Federal constituency under the platform of the People’s Democratic Party. Kate Henshaw lost the primary election to Rt. Hon Essien Ayi but was appointed as Special Adviser Liaison Lagos by the Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade in December 2015.
7. Bob Manuel
Bob-Manuel Obidimma Udokwu (born 18 April 1968) is a Nigerian actor, director, producer and politician. In 2014, he received the Lifetime Achievement award at the 10th Africa Movie Academy Awards. He was nominated for Best Actor in a supporting role at the 2013 Nollywood Movies Awards for his role in Adesuwa.
Bob-Manuel Udokwu contested for the position of the house of assembly for the Idemili North Local Government Area for Anambra state in 2015.
He was appointed into the cabinet of Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano, as the Senior Special Assistant on Movie/Entertainment.
8. Richard Mofe Damijo
Richard Eyimofe Evans Mofe-Damijo (born 6 July 1961), popularly known as RMD, is a Nigerian actor, writer, producer, lawyer, and former journalist. He was also a former Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in Delta State in 2009. In 2005, he won the Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 12th Africa Movie Academy Awards in 2016.
Mofe-Damijo was appointed as the Special Adviser of Culture and Tourism to the then Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan in 2008, and later became the commissioner for Culture and Tourism of Delta State, Nigeria in 2009. His tenure ended in 2015.
9. Hilda Dokubo
Hilda Dokubo is a Nigerian award-winning film actress, activist and youth advocate.
She once served as a Special Adviser on Youth Affairs to Peter Odili, a former governor of Rivers State in the early 2000s.
10. Mercy Johnson
Mercy Johnson Okojie (born 28 August 1984) is a Nigerian actress. She went to a Rivers State Secondary School for her secondary education in addition to the Nigerian Navy Secondary School in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Right after her secondary education, she auditioned for a role in The Maid and subsequently acted in other movies such as Hustlers, Baby Oku in America, and War in the Palace.
On March 15, 2017, she was appointed the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello on Entertainment, Arts and Culture. This post took effect on 1 April 2017.
11. Kanayo O. Kanayo
Anayo Modestus Onyekwere MFR popularly known as Kanayo O. Kanayo (born March 1, 1962) is a Nigerian actor and a lawyer. In 2006, he won the African Movie Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in the movie Family Battle.
In 2011, he joined the then ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and contested for the chair of Imo State House of Representatives but lost. In 2018, he contested for a representative of Ahiazu/Ezinihitte Mbaise in the Federal House of Representatives under the political party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) but lost.
12. Nkiru Sylvanus
Nkiru Sylvanus (born April 21, 1985) is a Nigerian actress and politician. She has featured in over two hundred movies and won the awards for Best Actress of the Year at the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards and Best Actress in a Leading Role at the Africa Movie Academy Awards.
In 2011, Sylvanus was included in the cabinet of former governor of Imo state Rochas Okorocha as his Special Assistant on Lagos State Affairs and later became his Special Adviser on Public Affairs.
13. Funke Adesiyan
Funke Adesiyan is a Nigerian actress who is very popular for her exceptional and intriguing roles in Yoruba movies.
She contested for the Ibadan South-East constituency seat in the Oyo State House of Assembly. The actress won the Oyo State House of Assembly primary election on the platform of the PDP in 2014.
At the time, she was the second entertainer to win a primary election after Desmond Elliot who set the pace by winning the APC primary election for the Lagos State House of Assembly. While Desmond won his election, Funke lost to her APC opponent by a large margin.
In 2019, Funke Adesiyan was appointed as one of the political aides to the First Lady, Aisha Buhari.
14. Kenneth Okonkwo
Kenneth Okonkwo (born November 6, 1968) is a Nigerian Veteran Actor, popularly known for his role in the movie Living in Bondage as Andy Okeke.
The actor, Kenneth Okonkwo who was interested in Nsukka/Igbo Eze South Federal Constituency backed out of the PDP primaries in December 2014. In 2019, he declared his intention to run for Governor of Enugu State in the next election.
15. Bukky Wright
Bukky Wright (born 31 March 1967) is a Nigerian actress, a businesswoman and a politician. She runs the fashion house B Collections and the beauty spa B Wright.
In 2014, through the Social Democratic Party, she ran for the position of Senator in the Ogun State House of Representatives.
Alexander Abolore Adegbola Akande popularly known as 9ice (born 17 January 1980) is a Nigerian musician, songwriter and dancer. He is known for his powerful use of the Yoruba language in his music as well as his proverbial lyrics and unique style of delivery.
9ice who is a southwesterner from Ogbomoso in Oyo State contested for the House of Representative seat in Oyo State last general elections but lost in the primaries. The musician still landed a political appointment under the Ajimobi-led administration.
17. Tony Tetuila
Anthony Olanrewaju Awotoye, better known as Tony Tetuila, is also regarded as the golden father of Afrobeat artists from Nigeria.
His name, Olanrewaju, means “My wealth is increasing”. He was a member of the now-defunct hip-hop group of The Remedies (along with Eedris Abdulkareem and Eddy Montana). Tony Tetuila split from the group and became successful as a solo artist. He is best known for his hit song My Car, as well as Nigeria’s first-ever diss track, Omode Meta.
In 2014, Tony Tetuila ran for political office in the House of Assembly of Kwara State as a candidate for the All Progressives Congress party. He later claimed that he was denied the Political position.
18. Yul Edochie
Yul Chibuike Daniel Edochie predominantly known as Yul Edochie (born 7 January 1982) is a Nigerian actor, named after Russian actor Yul Brynner. He is from Anambra State Nigeria, the son of Nigerian actor Pete Edochie. He was raised both in Lagos and Enugu. He is the last of six children. He got married at the age of 22. He attended the University of Port Harcourt, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Dramatic Arts.
On 14 July 2017, Edochie declared his intention to run for Governor of Anambra State. This declaration was made in anticipation of a not too young to run bill passed by the senate of the federal government of Nigeria. The declaration was however made official on the 22 of August 2017, when he picked up the nomination form of the Democratic People’s Congress political party and was eventually the flag bearer and gubernatorial candidate of the party to run for governor of Anambra State.
Yul Edochie declared his intention to run for the post of the President of Nigeria in the 2023 presidential elections but later changed his mind and supported the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Atiku Abubakar. He was later appointed as Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Anambra State on Arts, Culture and Tourism.
19. Onyeka Onwenu
Onyeka Onwenu (born 31 January 1952) is a Nigerian singer/songwriter, actress, human rights activist, social activist, journalist, politician, and former X Factor series judge. Dubbed the “Elegant Stallion” by the Nigerian press has always showcased the temperament to not only thrive but also make major contributions to the development of industries within which she took an interest.
Onyeka Onwenu who is a member of the People’s Democratic Party contested twice to become the Local Council Chairman of her local government, Ideato North Local Government Area of Imo State, and lost at both attempts. She was appointed Chairperson of Imo State Council for Arts and Culture by former governor Ikedi Ohakim. On 16 September 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan appointed her the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of the National Centre for Women Development.
20. Ubi Franklin
Ubi Franklin, born Ubi Ekapong Ofem, is a Nigerian music artist manager, politician, entrepreneur, TV show host and the founder of the record label Made Men Music Group (Triple MG) and Instant Apartment.
In 2020, Franklin was appointed as a Special Adviser on Tourism by Cross River State Governor Benedict Ayade.
21. Funke Akindele
Akindele-Bello Olufunke Ayotunde born (24 August 1977) popularly known, as Funke Akindele or Jenifa is a Nigerian film actress and producer. Akindele starred in the sitcom I Need to Know from 1998 to 2002, and in 2009, she won the Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. She rose to fame for her role in the movie titled Jenifa which earned her the nickname Jenifa.
In 2022, Akindele was nominated as the Lagos deputy governorship candidate under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the upcoming 2023 elections. In justifying her nomination, Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran, popularly known as Jandor, noted that the actress will add more value to his candidacy in the 2023 general elections. Confirming her deputy governorship candidacy on Tuesday, the actress stated that her acting career must be “necessarily put on hold”.
22. Tonto Dikeh
Tonto Charity Dikeh (born 9 June 1985) is a Nigerian actress, singer, songwriter and humanitarian. On 27 August 2000, Tonto Dikeh set up her foundation, the Tonto Dikeh Foundation.
In June 2022, Tonto was announced as the deputy governorship candidate of Mr Tonte Ibraye, the gubernatorial candidate under the African Democratic Congress in the 2023 Rivers State gubernatorial election.
23. Caroline Danjuma
Carolyna Hutchings, known previously as Caroline Danjuma and Caroline Ekanem, is a Nigerian actress. She made her screen debut in 2004, starring in some of Chico Ejiro’s popular films. After a hiatus from the film industry, she made a comeback in 2016, producing and starring in the romantic thriller Stalker.
She was nominated as a running mate to its governorship candidate, Mr Iboro Otu, for the 2023 election under the African Action Congress (AAC) in Akwa Ibom State.
The actress, who shared the news on her Instagram page on Monday, July 18, said her purpose is to serve and to honour in loyalty and in truth to Akwa Ibom and Nigeria.
Rebecca Nengi Thompson was one of the housemates from the fifth season of BBNaija. Nengi won the hearts of fans and even critics of the show during her time in the house. She ended up as the second runner-up of the season.
On Friday, November 6, 2020, the 22-year-old entrepreneur was appointed as a Senior Special Assistant to the Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri on Girl Child Development. She was also made an ambassador on ‘The Girl Child’ by the same administration.