His adventure into politics and as an elected member of the Lagos State House of Assembly initially elicited positive and negative responses from the people.
However, Nollywood star and entertainer-turned politician, Desmond Elliot says his being a lawmaker cannot kill his passion for entertainment, and that he would use his office to make the Nigerian movie industry, popularly called Nollywood better.
Speaking in an interview, Elliot made it clear that the Nigerian movie industry has much potentials.
You have been an actor, you are now a politician, what are the differences between the two?
There are similarities, but they are very wide apart. The first difference is that in the entertainment industry, you seek privacy, but in politics and as an elected official, you are a public figure. You are now into public service, you cannot be private about so many things. For instance, you cannot give your phones to your Personal Assistant, you have to pick your calls personally, so there is a huge difference between the two. It is not a place, where you do big man. Unlike in the entertainment industry, you have to be with the people, identify what the people want, you have to see them as part of you.
On the similarities, we play different roles in different professions, we can easily feel the pulse of the people, they can reach us easily either by social network or other means. So, there are similarities and differences between the two, but they are very wide apart.
Will your first love as an actor suffer now that you are here?
It is not suffering because I am also here to make my industry better. I am not going to be a lawmaker that would turn a blind eye or my back to the situation of the movie industry. I am still a part and parcel of the Nigerian film industry, I am still an entertainer even as a lawmaker. The reason I would not be so much into acting or movie directing is because this is a new field for me. I am learning, I need to learn better, I need to be a very good lawmaker, I need to concentrate on the yearning and aspirations of our people. But I am not shying away from issues that have to do with entertainment because they are my people. People need to understand again that I am an entertainer, and I see myself as a bridge between the entertainment industry and the government on entertainment by making them know the challenges we face as entertainers.
Did you decide to come here because of the lull in the movie industry or what actually attracted you into politics?
It is not about the lull movie industry, what attracted me into politics is my passion for service. You get to a point that it is no longer about yourself, but about what you can offer, what you can give and do for the people and for humanity. I am so glad to have come from the entertainment industry. So, there are so many challenges in the entertainment industry that the government is ignorant of, or which they don’t consider to be important or the ones they don’t think they can play a major role in. It is my job as an entertainer and that of others to make sure that we educate, and inform the government about what they need to do.
For instance, Nollywood is an industry that has grown by a singular, and individualistic efforts, I mean efforts by the practitioners themselves. Look at Hollywood in the United States of America and Bollywood in India, you can never go beyond certain limits without governmental influence, without grants, or loans that are meant to structure the system. The government does not particularly need to play an active role in the industry, but they play a role in terms of creating a conducive environment, and help us to fight piracy, which is one of the things I am working on. I am sure you know before we went on recess, I have been having meetings with the stakeholders in the industry on how to fight piracy, it is still continuing, it is not something you can do haphazardly. It is something you need to do thoroughly, why are there more piracy now than before, why is it that you produce a film and it gets pirated; film, music and comedy suffer the same fate on this. How does it affect the output of productions. The economy of scale of the country is important. We need to understand that the government suffer more, when the movie industry is deprived of what it deserves. Nollywood and the music industry have taken Nigeria to a height that people see the country as the most developed in Africa. The government should realise this and say okay ‘how do we sustain this, how can we make it real and become the envy of other nations.’ Nigeria has great potentials, we are now looking at diversifying our economy from oil, we can look into entertainment and unless you are in that system, you cannot sell it.
What can you say have been the achievements of both the Federal and state governments in the last three months or so that they took over?
On the federal level, I will say you can never have development if there is no confidence, you can never have investors if they don’t see confidence in the system. We need confidence in leadership, confidence in the country, we need to be confident that we can become prosperous again. Also, some people are saying that what we are experiencing now were not achieved by President Muhammadu Buhari. Electricity has improved now, you say it is not this administration and all that. I believe that the improvement in the power sector happened within the 100 days of this government and this is just a tip of the iceberg. We have not even started, the only thing I want the people to know is that we must understand where the person is starting from; the point of decay that he is starting from. If a wound has eaten deeply into the body, you cannot just cover it, you have to treat it. You cannot just put a bandage on the wound, you have to treat it. What we are doing now is to uproot the decay, where I feel the people should complain is when you don’t see that the government is removing the decay. This administration is being thorough, it is going to be slow, but it is going to be steady. I will prefer we take time and do it well than to rush it and collapsed in two years. I think the government is effective, even the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osibajo has been working, he has been encouraging private investors initiative, encouraging small scale people. We are also trying to control the issue of spending. The government is saying we should spend less and use the money we have acquired for development. It is a shame that we are still talking about building roads in Nigeria in 2015. This is not supposed to be a political campaign promise, they ought to have been part of our system. It is like saying you want to eat. It is not something you make noise about, you know that naturally, when you wake up in the morning, you would eat. These are the things the government has been doing.
How are you connecting with the grassroots as a lawmaker?
I feel very blessed, you are dealing with hundreds of thousand of people, people with different thinking and imagination, people with different challenges. You might be in a place and someone is lashing out at you because of the pain the person has experienced. So, where people are understanding that they should give us time because we just got in, and when people are willing to be patient with you is good for the system. I am appreciative of the people of Surulere Constituency 1, they have been amazing, and supportive. I travelled out of the country on a little vacation and I have been receiving encouraging messages from my people since I came back. However, my heart was here, while I was outside the country, and I have been in the office since morning today. We look at how to take care of the people as a party. We are not communists or socialists, but we have the people in mind as against, when we talk of capitalists that is just about profit making. I am very excited about the people.
What I have achieved in the last 100 days are part of the things I started during my campaign, I focus on students, I have started by giving scholarship to students of open university. We pay their schools fees, monitor them, and we have paid part of their school fees for the second semester, we hope to complete it, when we have more funds. It has not been easy, but it gives me joy.
I am raising what I call the Desmond Olusola Elliot Children. We organised summer classes for them in different places. We got GCE forms for 66 students and paid for their extra mural classes. I also plan to buy JAMB forms for about 100 students or more depending on the funds we have. I am buying forms and monitoring them and I have told them that those who have distinctions would have automatic scholarship. I would go and meet some of my big friends to assist me on this. I have started a plan of something I would do in the next two months, we are organising a football league in Surulere, we have two stadia in the area. We will see how we can help talented youths and connect them, we will do it bigger next year with sponsors, we will approach companies for sponsorship. The National Institute of Sports has written us about what we need from them. We need referees and coaches from them, we will also write coaches of other football leagues. They would come and see. I should be able to raise the Desmond Elliot Children on football, swimming, running and others between now and next year. I mean children of about 10 to 12 years of age. In four years, they would be between 14 and 16 years old. We will have under 16 children in all kinds of sports. We have been able to sponsor some physically challenged people out of the country. There is this lady called; Hannah, she has won medals. We are doing skill acquisition for the physically challenged, we are starting soon. We are still discussing with some companies that would partner with us on that, and I would get it reported by the media. We are training them in bead making, soap making, hair dressing and other. We will empower them after the training, so we will need funds. We are not going to answer everybody’s prayer, but you can say this people are doing something. I always say that it is God that put people in position, just try your best for the people. We are just beginning to start work with little funds.
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