In the wake of the just concluded general elections in Nigeria, film producer and director, Charles Novia speaks with PUNCH about his thoughts on what transpired in the election process. As an amebo that I am, I decided to poke my nose and bring it to you… *singing* please don’t judge me. lol.
What was your reaction when you learnt that Gen. Muhammadu Buhari had won the presidential election?
As you know, I took an open stand and I still stand by that conviction of voting President Goodluck Jonathan. I voted him from my personal belief in what he has done for my industry and for his developmental programmes for the nation. I think that, despite his loss, my vote was indicated by his very commensurate statesmanship by conceding defeat for the first time in Nigeria’s history.
I have openly on my website congratulated Gen. Buhari on his victory, but I also understand that in areas of politics where we have been able to engage one another as citizens, we are allowed the right to our ideologies. So, my stand is still my stand. President Jonathan is still my hero and it would take some time for us to watch and see the programmes that Gen. Buhari has for the country and, especially, for my constituency, the entertainment industry.
Did you realise along the line that Jonathan would lose?
There was a high level of optimism that the candidate we were voting for, on both sides, would have a close call or would win. In terms of that, I would not think, in any way, that my wavered in the very end. It was just the beauty of democracy.
You could see all the shenanigans and all the sufferings that (Prof. Attahuiru) Jega and the Independent National Electoral Commission endured until the end. The way it was destined to happen, we had expected it in good faith. That was just to show to the whole world that exemplary leadership can also be nurtured and got from the Nigerian political system.
Is it right for entertainers to get gratification for campaigning for politicians?
That question is quite amorphous and I have always laughed at that question because those questions are based on perception. In the course of the political campaigning, a lot of accusations and bric-a-brac were going on between supporters of both parties. The APC supporters said anytime they saw the Nollywood entertainers on stage with President Jonathan, they had been compromised. I think that was erroneous.
There are two ways to look at it: Entertainers are also Nigerians. They have a right to take a stand. I took that position a few months ago. I said, ‘Come out openly as an industry or as a person within the entertainment industry and take a stand. Stand by that conviction and do not be crucified for that stand. Don’t let anybody move you away from that stand so that you can say, ‘I stood by this stand when it mattered most and I voted President Jonathan or Gen. Buhari.’
The country should be ripe enough to appreciate that stand, rather than saying there were monetary gains or influences. I think it was a genuine affection and belief in President Jonathan.
The other way to look at it is that entertainers have a vocation. We saw things or two aspects of the presidential candidate. On the APC side, we saw Mavin Records artists, Olamide and others playing for the current President-elect, but I did not hear anybody say they were influenced or paid. But when they came to people playing for Jonathan, they said those ones were paid. The people must understand what it is to have a vocation and a political conviction.
Do you see a future in which an entertainer can become the president of Nigeria?
I think that what will come out of the entertainment industry’s engagement in politics in the past few years, whatever people think, is that a whole lot of actors, musicians and adequately prepared intellectual entertainers would find themselves on the other side of the political sector. What has happened to a whole lot of us (I use “us” in a generic sense to mean those of us who participated openly in the political system) is that something has sparked and there is service to be given to the people beyond standing on the stage and entertaining.
There is political service; there is powerful human service to be given-selfless service. But I am very sure that between now and the next political timetable, we will see a few of our colleagues from the entertainment industry going into politics, not because of any pecuniary personal gain, but because of convictions that have, one way or the other, activated through the system and also, more convincing, through the statesmanship of President Jonathan.
I have been having discussions with my colleagues in the past 24 hours and I can tell you that they genuinely love President Jonathan because he was like a father; he was more than a President to us. He was a very personable fellow to the entertainment industry and I am sure that, one way or the other, he has influenced people’s decisions to go into the political sphere.
So for those who think Jonathan was a replica of the devil himself, you have Charles Novia and many other entertainers to contend with. My hand no dey ooo.