The idea for this article first popped in my head, as events unfolded in preparation for the 2015 general elections, with a large number of entertainers putting their hats in the ring contesting for one position or another whilst a yet larger list queued behind a preferred candidate and gave open endorsement through campaign ads, jingles, eulogies at rallies.
Back in 2012, Jayz and Bruce Springsteen during a concert with “99 problems” bumping in the background openly endorsed the reelection of Barrack Obama. Back home, we’ve had many celebrity doing same for candidates in our major political parties and in our growing democracy where general acceptance across board is being sought, it has forced a new understanding in which political and musical personalities now overlap to a greater extent as they seek to win the hearts of a target audience, majorly the youths who form a robust percentage of the electorate.
What role should an Entertainer really play?
I grew up listening to Fela’s music, no thanks to my big brother who always bought his tapes and even when on many occasions, the extended instrumental lost me, topics like I.T.T, Zombie, Authority stealing stuck with me till date, with the aid of his music, Mr. Kuti built a political consciousness in our minds.
Your music/art should be used to reflect the state of a larger society.
Entertainers have a major role in generating awareness and create momentum for a higher voters participation, like prior to the 2011 elections, a group of top celebrities organized a show where the entry fee was your voter’s card. I am not of the opinion that an Entertainer cannot have his own affection for a particular candidate but he/she must weigh how far influence thrown can go.
What is the true worth of an entertainer’s endorsement?
Remember back in 1998 when under the ‘Youth earnestly ask for Abacha’ campaign, the likes of Sir Shina Peters openly endorsed the then Head of State to continue in office, years after the dictator’s demise, stories of how he went from campuses and events begging for forgiveness and even pictures of him in prostration are well documented today, also in 2011 when Dbanj interviewed the then President in the race to the elections, that singular act has gone unforgiven in some quarters. In the run up to the last elections, the likes of Kwam1, Sammie Okposo, M.I led a new generation who at one point or the other showed affection for a candidate, maybe genuinely or a monetary influenced one.
Patrick Warfield, a specialist in American Musical culture after a study on Public Voting behaviour said ‘A musician backing a candidate has virtually no impact on the way people vote’, I would be surprised if a particular artists endorsement swayed someone to vote for a contestant that he wasn’t inclined to vote for already. In most cases, the candidates manifesto, poor performance by the incumbent or other factors play more roles in people queing under the sun to effect their rights at the poll.
I am of the opinion that unlike a musician backing or insulting individual candidates which potentially leads to a divide in fan base and favours if the candidate emerges, getting involved through the process of making politically conscious songs which are non partisan, creating awareness, encouraging participation and voicing out evils will provide tangible and long lasting outcomes.
Entertainers should remain as Entertainers.
Ehis Combs Ohunyon is a music lover and writer, follow on twitter @ehiscombs