#TheYNaijaInterview: Why I’m no longer running for Rivers state governor – Julius Agwu

by Wilfred Okiche

Comedian Julius Agwu surprised not a few people when he announced his intention to contest for the gubernatorial election in his home state of Rivers come 2015.

He officially announced his withdrawal from the same race last week Sunday on Rubbin’Minds and we spoke with him shortly after on his reasons for venturing into politics, what lies ahead for him and what he makes of the Goodluck Jonathan- Rotimi Amaechi power tussle currently raging for the soul of Rivers state politics.

Enjoy excerpts from the conversation.

You announced the withdrawal of your ambition to govern Rivers state this election cycle and expressed interest to contest for a seat in the legislature. Are you going to the federal or state house?

The truth is negotiations are still ongoing. I am being asked by my kinsmen to go for something lower, that is the state house of assembly but I feel that as a global brand, that move will just be me playing local politics. Or what do you think?

I think that it is really about service. But some would argue that power is power.

It is not just about power, it is about service and it is annoying that the impression people have of anyone who wants to delve into politics is to come and chop your own. But then it is also a clarion call to the youth that we shouldn’t just be sitting on social media everyday criticising or leaning on the fence. We should also be part of that change that we desire. Anybody can have that ambition and if you look closely, there are so many of us who can do better. Some of these politicians who are in power now do not know how to save numbers on their phone.

Our elections are not particularly based on the big issues as much as they are on elements like zoning, religion, ethnicity. Considering this, and the political arrangement on ground in Rivers state, do you think your gubernatorial ambition was valid?

The truth is that the issue of zoning has never been written in stone, it is just an arrangement that ensures fairness, an understanding that power should be spread round. Having said that, my mum called me and she is still begging me to withdraw from the race. This is my mother. Aside from that no man is an island and my kinsmen are of the opinion that the position should rotate to the riverine people since I am from the same place with the current governor. But then the offer they are giving me is what I am still trying to wrap my head around. I don’t think it would be greedy of me to want to represent my people in the House of Representatives or even the Senate. Arnold Schwarzeneger did not start from local government chairman before he became governor. A lot of people have been making comments about entertainers venturing into politics meanwhile we have people from other walks of life and careers in politics. Pastors, medical doctors, native doctors are all politicians. If there is any industry that has placed Nigeria on the global map in recent times, it is entertainment. Which is where the matter of antecedence comes in. Who was that person before he declared his intentions? How has he or she used their talent or brand to give back to society? Integrity and credibility matter.

Your credibility as a comedian and businessman is not debatable but what are your antecedents in terms of giving back and social commitment to your community?

It may interest you to know that I run a foundation called Julius Agwu Foundation for Youths (JAFY) and over the years I have always given back to my community and to society. I have been part of different fundraisers for a whole lot of issues that I don’t want to mention. The last Genevieve magazine Pink Ball, I was one of the models. My foundation organises this football talent competition in my local government area. I wasn’t doing this because of politics but because it is something I want to do. I know how many people I am training in school now that I don’t even know from Adam. I didn’t make this money from politics, these are not my constituency projects. They are monies I made from going on stage and speaking into a microphone. I am an entrepreneur and I have been running a successful company, Real Life limited for a while now and I own brands that different people can attest to. Over the years I have used my brands to run talent shows that discovers and showcases new talent to the world. I don’t think I have done badly.

I hear you but do you think that all of this goodwill can translate into electoral votes

That is where they should have let me go to the polls and see whether people will not vote Julius Agwu

How popular are you at home?

I am quite popular. As a matter of fact that was part of the fear that culminated in my being asked to step down. I am part of this close knit family and that is why I can even listen to the counsel of the elders and my kinsmen.

If you were to run for a seat in the House of Representatives, what platforms would you be running on?

The truth is politics especially in the Nigerian sense, is all about negotiation and you cannot come out on your own without people guiding you on the best decisions to take. So in all this, I don’t think I want to say what I want to do now until we finally decide if we will take the offer that is on the table.

But what issues affecting your people are closest to your heart?

A lot of the young ones today are being misguided. I would not have attended university if UNIPORT wasn’t located in my village. When I wanted to study Theatre Arts, my parents kicked against it. I was almost a victim of career imposition but I was determined and saw my way through school. I don’t think that many of the youths these days still have that spirit. This brings us to the issue of unemployment. Too many don’t understand that they can actually be entrepreneurs on their own without necessarily waiting for government. Past generations have dented this country but it is our duty to cleanse it. I don’t know about you but I am 41 now…

You look 30

Some would say I look 25. But that is because I watch weight. I want to look as skinny as you do. Now when I was in elementary school, the leaders back then would come and tell us that we are the leaders of tomorrow. I got to secondary school and the same people still came and promised us we are the leaders of tomorrow. In university, the same thing. I am married, they are still telling me and my children that we are the leaders of next tomorrow, no longer tomorrow. If we don’t want to be part of that change we desire, when are we going to take charge of our destinies?

Which political party do you belong to?

I don’t want to talk about it but if I decide to run, you will know. It is all about negotiations you see and I feel bad that INEC does not have provisions for independent candidacies.

So you would be more comfortable as an independent candidate

Yes. That is how we can now test our popularity and even you can decide for yourself how popular I am.

Rivers state has been in the news for its politics and tense relationship between governor Rotimi Amaechi and president Goodluck Jonathan. Which way do you foresee the Rivers state vote swinging come 2015.

Honestly speaking, I will not like to delve into that but it is going to be tough. Let us just leave it at that.

Where would you, Julius Agwu be pitching your tent?

I said let us leave it till after the polls. Don’t be smart, I am the genius, no be you. But the funny thing is that both men are graduates of unique UNIPORT

If politics takes off for you, what happens to the comedy?

My brother like I said earlier, lawyers and doctors don’t close their firms or clinics because they have been elected. I am the MD/CEO of Real Life; we have a studio, a band, audio-visual part and I have a team of people working in each department. My politics doesn’t stop anything. I would have been one of the fun governors. It wouldn’t have made me close my business because that is my profession, my first calling and I am passionate about it.

But it is hard to imagine a governor on stage doing stand up comedy.

Why? The only issue may be that people might get scared and wouldn’t know how much to offer me. Entertainment is my passion and that is the reason I feel like if it isn’t governorship, I might as well go and face my career. I have a television show coming up soon titled Jokes Apart with Julius Agwu, hosted by me and I will be a sort of voice of the voiceless.

A lot of your colleagues are running for office. Would you support any of their candidacies?

I would support any of them that I know their track record. I will vote for someone that I know has integrity, and the antecedent to deliver. You won’t find me being sentimental and voting for an entertainer just because. Anybody can be a star but not anyone can manage stardom and we know ourselves. Politics should be about service and not about chopping money. I make good money from my business and I am quite content. I am not rich, but I am wealthy and that is what matters.

What’s the difference between being rich and being wealthy?

The difference is when you are wealthy, you have the wealth of experience behind you. You have impacted on people and society. I won’t take the credit for a lot of peoples’ careers but those who know will tell you more.



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