You are currently viewing Desmond Elliot: I am a victim of misconceptions in politics
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Desmond Elliot is a Nigerian actor, filmmaker, and politician who gained prominence in Nollywood with his captivating performances in numerous movies. He has starred in a wide range of movies, showcasing his versatility and talent as an actor. Beyond his contributions to the entertainment industry, Desmond Elliot has also made strides in Nigerian politics. In 2015, he was elected as a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, representing the Surulere constituency. As a politician, Elliot has been involved in various initiatives aimed at improving the welfare of his constituents and advocating for positive change in governance. He has demonstrated a commitment to public service and community development throughout his political career. In this interview with Tosin Clegg, he talks about his transition to politics, his commitment to his constituents, his plans for empowerment and growth among other things. Excerpts:

You transitioned from a successful acting career to politics. What inspired this shift and how has your experience in Nollywood influenced your approach to politics?

Well, this happened way before I became an actor. I have always said this in several interviews that when MKO Abiola was trying to run for office was when my desire to be in politics came about. It was like a birth for me and this was in 1993/1994. It never died and anybody who knew me from school days did know that I had a desire to be in politics. Being in the State Assembly happened in 2004, and this was when I had started gaining limelight which gave me the opportunity to talk to a lot of Governors that I knew back then about my ambitions so it was easier for me. But I have always known that I wanted to be in politics as it was something strong in me. 

How have you been able to deal with bad press as a person in line with your political career as well?

I wouldn’t say it’s been an easy ride but what has made me confident is that I know it is not true. And this has given me confidence that the people that benefit from the impact which I give to my community are okay as there was a reason I wanted to go into service. It gives me so much joy to do something and know that as a result of my intervention someone’s life got better. In terms of how to deal with it (negative press), I always ensure my family is okay in terms of being sane and they understand what’s going on. These times give me the opportunity to explain to my kids and tell them my own side of the story whenever situations come up. Incidentally it’s become part of the world we live in today and since I can’t change it, I leave it the way it is and hope as well as pray that posterity will speak in my favour and vindicate me in whatever accusations or allegations that have been made. That is on one part and the other is that no one has a perfect solution to anything and in my mind I give my best. I feel for public servants in situations that decisions are been made and the decisions affect a lot of people. But I feel there are constructive ways people can convey such. But like I said it is the situation we are in today. 

How do you engage your community and what strategies do you deploy to attend to their needs?


One of the greatest things I have enjoyed in public service is the grassroots and the very divergent mindsets. You meeting extremely loving people, overly loving people, less loving people, extreme haters and just different set of people. For me it’s just a learning process and I always find myself speaking to myself to be calm. The truth is sometimes some try to push you to the wall and you are like I can’t take this but because you know it’s service you are offering, you stay calm. In my first term it was really difficult in dealing with some people whenever it came across as insulting to me. But today it is way different as I try my best to remain calm, explain to the person and another thing I have learnt with those at the grassroots is that once you are able to solve any issue you earn their respect and loyalty. Most times I have discovered that it’s not about money as they just want someone who serves in government that can give them a ray of hope that tomorrow is going to be better. We kicked off some initiatives towards the end of last year with our medical program at Masha Roundabout and a lot of people came and it was in partnership with some people from the United States. This year we did a widows’ program and as we reckon that January is always tough for a lot of people we decided to reach out to about 700 of them. Although it’s little compared to the number of widows in Surulere, but as it is we were able to touch lives. We gave about seven Lagride cars to about seven people to start a taxi business and we gave out HMOs to about 700 elderly constituents. As chairman house committee on works and infrastructure we have been able to add a little bit to fixing some of the roads in my constituency. In addition, I’m currently facilitating five roads in Surulere which are under construction now to commence two more soon. 

What are your priorities for your constituency and what initiatives are your deploying to bring positive change?


We are looking at the signs of times as this period, things are really difficult for people. So, basically we are looking at how we can reach out to the people letting them know things would get better, but before then let your representatives be with you. We try also to be among them to feel their impact and the youths are really not finding it easy in the area of jobs. So, we also use our links to see how we can get some of our youths jobs. I also want to continue my entrepreneurial sojourn were we take youths who wants to learn different type of skills and put them in organisations that we pay as well as give the youths stipends for like six months. For the kids we are starting a football competition but it’s not just limited to football only as we plan to go to each school in Surulere to talk to them about drug abuse, cultism, rape and sexual harassment. So these are things we would be talking about while the competition is going on so we can begin to sensitise these young stars about the society we live in and how to take good care of themselves. 

Considering a good number of influential individuals who emerged from Surulere, do you have plans on ways to impact your constituents through these persons?


The football competition I talked about earlier would have some celebrities on board as I have started reaching out to some especially those from Surulere so they can come and talk to the kids. It would be more on capacity building, a dancing competition as well and we plan to have musicians come also so that people would know there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel. I’m also partnering with GogeAfrica as they plan on doing a carnival around August or September this year. Surulere should be seen as the entertainment hub for Nigeria seeing that a lot of entertainers settled at the beginning of their career or came out of Surulere. I’m also particular about what we do as a state which is where I’m believing we would do more programs that would be youth oriented. We are doing a few but I want us to do more so as to make it more impactful through trainings and grants for entrepreneurs so it can boost businesses. I’m hoping that our housing schemes would accommodate a lot of young stars who can get jobs from or through Lagos State to pay for those house schemes but at the moment we are doing a lot in terms of housing. Another thing I’m looking at is the Lagos State Orientation Agency where we can speak to the times as they occur and don’t forget it isn’t the constitution or an Executive Order, but based on morals that’s why it’s called orientation. Making people understand that in today’s world you can make money through the internet or being online. This is also to sensitise the people on actives of the government not reported in any form of media.

What are some of the challenges you have faced in politics and how did you navigate them?

Firstly, as legislators we represent our people and sometimes it’s very hard for corporations to understand as you try to achieve things for your people. From the corporations’ end it is seen as this Honourable is too stressful or overbearing, but that is what you are saddled with which is represent your people and I do that a lot. But it is me trying to achieve so much in so short time but it is to ensure people enjoy from the dividends of democracy. Another one is the water corporation and making sure there is adequate water flowing in Surulere. Lagos State is about opening water lines, but I’m trying to make sure Surulere benefits first. Finance and resources is also another challenge when you try to promote developmental programs in your constituency. 

How do you ensure transparency and accountability as a public servant and also keep your constituents informed about activities?


Misconceptions in politics have been there for long and I am still a major victim of major misconceptions but I take it one day at a time. What is gratifying to my heart is every time these misconceptions in the wider world come to bare, God has always allowed me to get re-elected. Getting re-elected means to some extent people see what I am doing and they know that I want to address a situation. That is why today, every program I do you see on the streets I am putting up banners to let people know. I also plan to start newsletters and it would be coming out monthly for now on our activities and what we are doing in the House of Assembly and our neighborhood. That is basically to sensitise people about the things we do which is very vital. But I have discovered something: When you are doing something very well it never sells. Let me give you an example: A little while ago I had just given two cars, 25kg of rice to 700 plus people, provisions and other stuffs but nobody talked about it. The misconception would always happen as you can’t change sensational stories, but rather better to speak to your constituents on the things that matter hoping the narrative changes. So, we just let it slide and stay okay but at the end of the day what is important is the welfare of Nigerians in general. And I know by the grace of God things would be okay.

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