Olumide Oworu is running for the position of House of Assembly member, representing Surulere 1 constituency in Lagos state under the Labour Party. Many Nigerians know him either as Tari Johnson, a character from the long-running television series “The Johnsons” or as Atlas from the popular Netflix series “Far from Home”.
But what some people may not know is that the actor and model turned politician sees himself as an extension of young Nigerians who still believe they can rebuild Nigeria as a country that works for all.
His background: Oworu was born on December 11, 1994, and is an alumnus of the prestigious Kings College, Lagos. He graduated from Babcock University where he studied Mass Communication in 2017. Alongside his acting career, Oworu has worked as a model, gradually building a life for himself outside of politics. However, as he begins his political journey, he says his mentor is Nelson Mandela because of his selfless attitude to politics.
Beyond the actor: Oworu has made it clear that he is passionate about youth-led leadership. While running for office, Oworu who hails from Ogun state is advocating for transparency in governance, which can be championed by the emergence of a new crop of politicians in Lagos state. Service delivery and inclusive governance are some of the core values Oworu hopes to use in his position as a House of Assembly member.
He grew up in Surulere and he believes that challenges faced by Surulere 1 constituency can be resolved when there is transparent and credible leadership – factors that are currently lacking in the constituency. While addressing challenges in Nigeria via Sulcata TV, he said:
- “I think the Nigerian government process needs a change of mentality in the sense that if you are in public office, you are there as a servant, you are there to serve. You are a representative of the people. You are just a microphone to get the ideas of the people into a space that can be used to help these people.”
Some of the pledges he has made to resolve in his constituency are environmental issues like flooding, microfinance access to loans and incentives, human capital development of young Nigerians as well as healthcare funding mechanisms and community development through feedback mechanisms, etc.
Speaking about his agenda for Surulere, Oworu told Sulcata TV that his agenda is very simple. He said:
- “The agenda revolves around community building, building human capital and just trying to bring impact to Surulere. For example, the education sector in Surulere, not building more schools but taking a look at the schools in Surulere. What is the standard of education that the students are exposed to?”
Oworu may be a trained actor but during this phase of his life as a public service worker or politician, he promises to give Surulere 1 constituents the three pillars of good governance – transparency, access and a listening ear.
But will he be able to truly deliver on these pledges? Two factors may hinder him from delivering on those pledges; his lack of political experience as well as his reliance on the Peter Obi factor.
Oworu’s lack of political experience: When compared to his rival, Desmond Elliot who has represented Surulere 1 in the state house of assembly in the last eight years, Oworu has no political experience.
This is a fact he has admitted to. Unlike Oworu, Elliot has been in the office and has the experience to lead his constituents. Elliot holds the ace when it comes to understanding the challenges facing Surulere because he has been facing those challenges for 8 years.
On the other hand, Oworu believes that with the right team members around him, he will be able to deliver good governance to his constituents.
When Elliot was running to represent Surulere 1 in the state house of assembly in 2014, he was also relatively young and inexperienced. Yet, he was given a chance by his constituents. 28-year-old Oworu may just find some luck with his constituents as well. As history has shown in Surulere and several parts of the country, age is not all that matters when picking leaders.
Oworu’s reliance on the Peter Obi factor: Will his constituents be able to hold him accountable for the decisions he takes while in office, knowing that he rode to office on Obi’s popularity? As observed during the National Assembly elections, many of the Nigerians who ran for Senate and House of Representatives under the Labour Party, won their seats because Nigerians voted for Labour Party because of Obi’s general acceptance by the electorate. Before the elections, some of the candidates were not even known by those who voted for them.
If Oworu wins the position he is vying for, what is the assurance that he will allow himself to be held accountable by people who are not Peter Obi?
One could argue that Oworu is relying on Obi’s influence in the Labour Party, which is similar to Elliot’s political career being influenced by the ruling party – the All-Progressives Congress (APC), where he has pledged his loyalty in the last 8 years.
However, the stark difference is to whom Oworu is accountable.
As much as he relies on the Obi movement, he is ultimately a product of the masses to whom Obi owes draws his popularity.
Regardless of these downsides, it is obvious that Nigeria is currently experiencing a new wave of politics.
Power is back in the hands of the people: This has contributed immensely to Oworu’s candidacy. Nigerian politics has always been reserved for the older generation or those loyal to them. This has encouraged the rise of the old order – where young Nigerians are only seen as being good for political thuggery.
All that is changing as a result of the emergence of a people-led movement caused by years of neglect, and needless suffering. Now, the people are pushing back, going to many lengths to campaign for those they want to lead them.
Before he emerged as the Labour Party candidate for Surulere 1 constituency, many did not see him as a politician. However, current trends show that many Nigerians are beginning to see beyond the actor and into the personality who may be capable of bringing good governance to the people of Surulere 1 constituency.
Peter Obi’s fans, popularly known as Obidients will play a role in the March 18 elections. They have come a long way from being called a strictly social media movement to being the leading political fanbase in Nigeria’s current political dispensation.
The Obidient movement context: The Labour Party has in the past been accused of running social media campaigns. However, this mindset changed following the indelible mark the political party made during the February 25 presidential and national assembly elections.
There is no doubt that the Obidient movement which has become widely accepted, has contributed to Oworu’s acceptance.
The word on the street is that the Labour Party encourages people to run for office based on competence, capacity and integrity. It is no wonder Nigerians are gearing up to vote Labour Party across states. However, candidates like Oworu who have never been in power, have a lot to prove to Nigerians, especially the youths, when they eventually ascend the offices, they are vying for.
Suleiman Adu, a Surulere 1 constituent told Nairametrics that some people are looking forward to voting for the Labour Party, mostly because the people want a change across the board. This yearning could play a huge role in Oworu’s bid for a position in the state house of assembly. He said:
- “A certain group of people have been in power since 1999 in Lagos state. Look at Lagos today, the number of thugs on the street, the number of out-of-school children, and the non-transparency in governance, as well as environmental issues, point to the fact that the state is in need of a new set of leaders.”
This guys have suddenly seen politics as a profession and a means of livelihood. What has he done exceptionally if life that should guarantee him a leadership office? I just de wonder sha…