AS the story goes, Efe Michael Ejeba (Warri Boy) is now a millionaire and a proud owner of a sport utility vehicle (SUV) courtesy of Big Brother Naija reality show. The University of Jos Economics graduate won by a wide margin of over 57 percent of 25 million votes cast. The contestants, 12 of them, with a dramatic introduction of two fake housemates, were to spend a good 77 days inside the Big Brother House in South Africa. At the end, only one contestant will walk home with the big prize. Efe did against odds. While I will spare you the details of the undercurrents, intrigues and betrayals in the house and the propriety of hosting a pan-Nigeria show sponsored by Nigerian corporates in South Africa, it is apposite to examine why Efe, a clear underdog going by the profiles of the other contestants, emerged the winner and in the manner he did.
To understand Efe’s triumphal ride on the crest of glory, there is the need to examine the meaning and essence of a reality show or Realty TV as it is often called. A reality show showcases casts who are supposed to live their normal lives, be their normal selves and not be conscious of the cameras or the reality that society is watching their every action, live. To that extent, the content and form of a reality show in America, Britain or any part of the advanced and liberal West would be different from that of a reality show in Africa for an African audience, or more specifically a Nigerian community. This is largely because our values are different. What may be normal in the West may be abominable in Africa; what may not get tongues wagging and eyes popping in animated disbelief in the West may be all that is needed in Africa to tag someone despicable, disrespectful or downright wayward.
To that extent, a participant in a reality show must connect with his or her audience; speak their language, live their pain, feel their emotion and connect with them existentially. No need to live a borrowed life far disconnected from the people; no need to pretend that all your live you have lived inside the palace with all its grandeur and splendour when in reality you were translocated courtesy of the show from the slum and dirt of the ghetto to the opulence and majesty of the Big Brother House. In a reality show such as the Big Brother series, the message is simple: no pretence, be real!
This is where Efe got the other contestants queuing behind him. He was just Efe, the original Warri Boy, uncut with all the warts of street life and scars of daily hustle and grind. From the onset, he propped himself as the ultimate street hustler; a struggling Nigerian who had nothing; a victim of the roguish Nigerian leadership who in spite of his talent (Efe is a damn good rapper needing just a stroke of fortune to hit the high stakes) has remained tethered to the stump of privation. He cut the picture of your everyday Nigerian youth: raped by a rapacious army of elite leaders.
During their pitches for votes, he likened himself to Nigeria; a nation of amazing potential but without steady electricity, stable political economy, a violated populace decimated by a domineering cabal who take turns to share the spoils of office by despoiling the masses. Nigeria is a victim of an atrocious elite conspiracy, a nation whose soul has been stolen by a thieving clan of looters. The country is generously endowed by Providence: good weather without the extremes of treacherous winter, erupting volcanoes, destructive hurricane; she is barbed and innervated by ocean and rivers yet the people do not have access to potable water; blessed with rich agrarian swathes of land that can grow any and every crop yet imports grains and all manner of food items including vegetable; a globally acknowledged top producer of crude oil yet a heavy importer of refined petroleum products; here trees grow in the wild and stay green all year round without irrigation yet we import tooth picks, matches, papers including newsprints, furniture among others. Indeed, Nigeria is a nation of cruel paradoxes.
Efe says he embodies Nigeria; he is a type of Nigeria. A hugely talented university graduate but denied all opportunities by the system. In the midst of such talent, he has lived a life of hustle; out in the street broken, back to his house broke. His story resonates with many Nigerians. It is a story they can easily connect with; his life mirrors the life of the average, everyday Nigerian. He stayed humble all through and never ceased to voice his gratitude to God for even bringing him to the Big Brother House. He tagged himself the least of the housemates. He once told a female housemate that he has nothing in his house for thieves to steal.
His frequent emergence as Head of House (HoH) was proof of his commitment to all tasks. He gave his best; even when others do so as a matter of routine, Efe performed his task as a matter of duty. He showed no predilection to immorality just to ‘please’ the viewers; he had no scandal around him. Even his unfeigned devotion to Marvis was shorn of immoral pecks. Efe showed discipline. Nigerians are not a luridly lewd bunch just yet. We do not kiss openly in the streets; a majority of Nigerians still would cover what needs to be covered in their bodies rather than freely flaunt it despite the intrusion of Western cultures into our value system. Those who thought they could win by being wild and lusty got it wrong. This is Big Brother Naija, not Big Brother UK or the expanded Big Brother Africa.
Efe came into the house with a good ‘logistics’ of commonsense. He communicated in pidgin English (and he did it well with all the flourish and finesse of a Warri Boy). He didn’t talk with any Western accent to prove he is a ‘been-to’. Warri Boy living in Jos with occasional sorties to Lagos makes him the ideal Naija man. And it showed.
And for being himself and keeping it real, Efe became an instant movement; a brand too good to hold down. ‘Efenation’, ‘Team Efe’, ‘I StandWithEfe’ soon took over social media. He became the buzzword in the social media space. Ask any three persons who they thought would win, at least two will scream Efe. It is of little surprise that he scooped 57 percent of the votes. It showed that the voting pattern was respected and this cleared all doubts and fairy tales about the organisers priming a particular contestant who is not as popular as Efe to win.
But beyond the allure of crisp banknotes and the new status of an SUV owner, Efe has enriched the Nigerian pidgin English lexicon with his ‘based on logistics’, mantra. His zesty and spontaneous yell of ‘who I be!’ when he was left with Bisola as the last two standing and soon after he was announced the winner indexed his rise to stardom from a lowly estate. Efe has won the Big Brother Naija prize but he has also won many hearts. He would need to build on this momentum and work fast on his music. His encounter with the real don of beat and rhythm, Don Jazzy, might just be the fillip he needs. And who knows, ‘based on logistics’, he might win the world.
I did not vote for Efe, nor for any of the contestants. I was not sucked into the frenzy of the show but my friends, colleagues and my wife know that I rooted for the Warri Boy. I had said the prize would make sense and have more utility if Efe wins. Indeed, ‘Warri no dey carry last!’ Congrats Efe, make the most of the moment….’based on logistics’.