The Big Brother Naija reality show is condemned to a life of controversy. Such controversy is good for the show and it makes the organisers to watch their money grow by leaps and bounds. For me, the most potent criticism was that a Nigerian show was being produced in and transmitted from South Africa. Now, that is settled. The show has a fantastic place of abode in Ilupeju in Mainland Lagos and most of the backroom boys and girls are Nigerians. However, the standing criticism of the show being an exhibition of voyeurism remains. We shall deal with this later.
The winner of the show this season is a study in tenacity and dedication to her goal. Mercy Chinenye Eke, the 26-year-old graduate of Imo State University who took N60 million worth of prizes home, says this last audition was her fifth attempt at being a housemate. She even had to leave her residence in Lagos to attend the audition in Warri, the headquarters of pidgin, a place she had never been to before. It paid off. Now she has left poverty behind. Apart from the prize money of N30 million and a car, she is likely to get multiple endorsements and invitations to be the face of some brands. The world is her oyster now.
Many people will be dying to eat out of her hand. Those are the roses. There are thorns attached to the roses too. One of the thorns of her celebrity status is a newspaper report that she spent N5 million to pump her bum to the sumptuous size she carries around. She says it is not true, that her stuff is not a product of technology but a gift from God. That is her first baptism of fire, her induction course into celebrity-dom. Mercy, whose other aliases are Sugar and Lamborghini, is as sexy and seductive as a Lamborghini. She is well-spoken, an erotic dancer and a natty dresser who loves bespoke attires. It is no surprise that she says her focus will be on developing her clothing line M & M to a world class standard.
The Big Brother Naija show has a groundswell of followers. In all, the show recorded 240 million votes this season. That is huge and the educated guess is that most of the voters were young people. I did not watch much of it but I was impressed with much of what I saw: a discussion of health issues and an exhibition of many cultural artefacts. There was a show of skills in painting, singing, calligraphy, drawing and drama. For me, the take-aways for the housemates and the viewing public in all of these were the spirit of creativity, tolerance, accommodation, friendliness, dispute resolution, precision, time management and the exposure to the wonderful world of modern technology.
In these respects, the Big Brother show is unequalled. It is a surprise that the Federal Government of Nigeria has not chosen to take advantage of the show’s huge viewership by keying into it. Such problems as drug addiction, cultism, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, child labour and girl-child abuse are serious problem areas where the viewers can profit from. Instead, according to the director-general of the National Council of Arts and Culture, Mr. Olusegun Runsewe, the Federal Government is planning its own version of the show, which would promote Nigerian culture and ideals. The story is that the government is talking to StarTimes, a cable network provider in Nigeria, as a possible collaborator in a state-owned Big Brother show. It is doubtful if there can be a duplicate Big Brother show in Nigeria but the government is free to start a show of its choosing to propagate what it feels like propagating. It is the viewers who will decide what they want to watch. Media content pluralism is good for our country and our democracy. That enhances our freedom of choice.
However, a mere replication of what is already available will be a waste of resources except it is able to rise in content, tone and delivery to an excellent level of management. Any show that is stiff and short of glamour, glitz and razzmatazz will fail abysmally.
Some religious leaders, parents and other preachers of moral purity have weighed in with the view that the Big Brother Naija show has a huge sex and immoral content, which is capable of influencing our children negatively. They mention the skimpy dresses of some of the girl contestants, the erotic dancing, hugging, kissing and lapping and they suggest that these are capable of leading the young ones away from the path of purity. My view is that this show is rated 18, so it is an adult show. Parents of young people should restrain them from watching shows, not just this one, but all shows that are inappropriate for their age.
However, some of the critics have complained that two of the housemates had sex repeatedly in the house. If that is true, then I think the organisers should consider putting that as one of the forbidden fruits in the rule book. Anyone who cannot stay for three months without sex does not have to be part of the show. Sex avoidance in the house should be the opportunity cost of attending the show. A group known as Muslim Rights Concern has called on the Federal Government to ban the show on the allegation that it promotes moral debauchery. They have not proved how it promotes moral debauchery. In any case, there are various reasons why the country is on a downward slide, not only morally but also politically and economically.
The blame for these should be put at the doorsteps of the religious, political, bureaucratic and business elite. These are some of their sins. Some religious leaders rape minors in their churches; some politicians steal our money; some parliamentarians inflate their allowances; some civil and public servants put ghosts on the payroll; some lecturers rape their students; some bankers inflate the charges on their customers; some politicians steal ballot boxes; some election managers rig elections for a fee.
The sins that the Nigerian elite commit against the country are a basket-full; when these multiple sins are compared to whatever immorality is said to occur in the Big Brother House the show is evidently saintly. And talking about youths and their likely exposure to immorality, what do the parents think about their children surfing the Internet where there are hundreds of sex sites? In the technology world of today, trying to curb immorality among young people is like trying to cover the sun with your palm. If parents are not able to bring up their children properly, they should not hold Big Brother responsible.
The organisers of Big Brother Naija have been choosing provocative themes for each season. Last year, the slogan was “Double Wahala”. This year it was “Pepper Dem”. Apparently, these themes are deliberately chosen to cause some excitement in the house and increase the show’s intensity and drawing power. The second runner-up in last year’s show was Cynthia Nwadiora, aka CeeC. This tempestuous lady got into a scuffle with Alex Asogwu and Tobi Bakare whom she called “stupid boy.” She showed that she was capable of generating “double wahala.”
The voters rewarded her wahala-ic behaviour with a third position placing. Now she is making money, evidence that wahala pays. Now don’t you think that this may have pushed the self-acclaimed Port Harcourt First Daughter Natasha Akide, aka Tacha, to try to pepper Mercy in the hope that it will earn her some plaudits and a place in the last five? This time it backfired because, apparently, she did a bit of over-peppering. And got a sack from the show.
This show, we are told, is about entertainment. That is why visitors to the House are musicians, actors, comedians, sports personalities and the like. I suggest that the visitors in season five should include people who offer education, information as well as those who engage in activities or have made achievements that are worth emulating by the youths. You can bring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to come and talk about her books and her feminist ideology. What of such young and brilliant writers as Reuben Abati, Segun Adeniyi, Simon Kolawole, Lekan Sote etc?
They can talk about what pumps their adrenalin and whether they ever suffer from a writer’s block. A number of young women have earned first class degrees in various universities in the last three years. Wouldn’t it be a nice idea to probe their fertile minds to see how they got to that pinnacle and how they were able to escape the scourge of sexual harassment? I believe that matters of the mind, the love of books, reading and fruitful conversation are ennobling forms of entertainment. If you are looking for one double-barrelled word that can accommodate what I am referring to call it info-tainment, that is information and entertainment.