By Bamidele Johnson
There is a big chance that I do not know what I am talking about here and it happens fairly often. I am not ashamed to say I talk a lot of BS. But I think that even when plied with a potent liquor cocktail, there is no chance of me saying that Funke Akindele has anything resembling political capital. As yet, at least.
My assessment of the actress, celebrity and serial brand ambassador rests on my view of her as having not had any sort of presence on the political circuit before now, let alone some virile structure behind her. She might have had some involvement here and there prior to now, but such is not known to me and, I presume, many others. As such, when the streets started tipping her as running mate to the Lagos State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, I put the rumour in the same category as football transfer tittle-tattle.
Well, it was not. She was, a few days ago, announced as running mate to the candidate and, in addition, to instant and vicious derision. A few weeks before she appeared in the gunsights of critics, her professional colleague, Tonto Dikeh, had been the sitting duck. Like Akindele, Dikeh’s political footprints were, if they existed, not prominent, at least not as much as the X-Rated details of her romantic liaisons, which supplied critics a cache of ammo to fire at her.
What Dikeh got was not on the same scale with what is currently going Akindele’s way, without any hint of a let-up. This, I think, is because she is a point or two behind Akindele on the celebrity chart and that she is on a platform which, at best, is no higher than a footstool. Akindele is on the ticket of the main opposition party and victory for the ticket will put her a heartbeat away from the governorship of a state that is, economically, one of the jewels in the country’s crown.
It is a safe bet that Dikeh is relieved that Akindele has deflected bullets from her and that both women would have compared notes. Akindele’s almost oven-fresh marital collapse, complete with tit-for-tat allegations of sexual infidelity by both parties in the marriage, is sending furnace-level heat in her direction. Funke, at this time, is not feeling funky and, most probably, in a funk.
Both women provide vivid hints of how the public perceives entertainment (and sports) celebrities, who stray into politics. Musicians and actors, despite being more likeable-on the surface-than traditional politicians, have a hard time persuading the public they qualify to be in politics. Women find it much harder and I think it is not difficult to know why. Entertainers have been and are still in politics, with some of them recording successes as legislators. The public, however, is unconvinced that they qualify to be anywhere near executive positions for reasons that are logically obscure, I have to say.
Many entertainers in politics and outside of it have the same or higher level of education than their mockers, who seem to think that full-time and freelance chancers with money and minimum educational qualifications are more qualified. Many entertainers have also seen more of the world than, say, successful plank sellers with the crudest of minds. In addition, they have skills required in their fields and outside of such (including building/managing successful business enterprise) as well as grit.
There is a general belief that something as serious as politics is beyond the ken of entertainers, who are misguidedly advised to stick to what they know best. I would think that success in any field, be it law, medicine, engineering, literary/visual arts, administration et al, should recommend anyone for political office-if they have got the stomach for it.
But that does not seem enough for those in entertainment. Women in entertainment, as stated earlier, are bigger victims by a country mile. They are, almost by default, perceived as lacking in moral worth, cultural capital and viewed as excessively corporeal. Their celebrity status tends to be seen as a product of luck or sexually transmitted rather than through know-how and hard graft. I suspect that even with her doctorate degree, Helen Paul, the popular comedienne, will get a generous dose of snideness if she wanders into the political arena. Ali Baba and Gbenga Adeyinka the 1st will be dismissed as cartoon characters despite their educational qualifications and success as professionals. But the dismissal will be on a considerably lower scale because of their gender. The dim view of entertainment celebrity involvement in politics, I think, is the product of the ways values are assigned from field to field. If entertainment was dispensable, I do not think those in the field would have people paying to watch them perform, while oohing and aahing.
I will not dismiss the possibility of entertainment and sports celebrities being unaware that celebrity capital is not easily exchangeable for political capital, a state of affairs that provokes derision when they declare political bids. But that is not exclusive to people in their trade and makes the prevalent assumption that entertainment celebrities are uneducated about politics and society unfair, as many are passionate about the subject and want to see the right changes made.
We sure need to be cured of this ailment. Urgently.