Big Brother Naija, By Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim
This week, I am indulging myself and venturing into the strange world of REALITY TV. As we all know, once again, Big Brother Naija is the most exciting happening thing for the Nigerian youth today. I first got curious about it when in February, I saw a video that had gone viral about a “normal”, (of course I have no idea what normal means), respectable church going lady declaring her love to be on Big Brother – she did not fit the profile in my head. The profile in my head is that everybody I hear speaking about it says it is an evil and immoral show that no God-fearing Nigerian should watch not to talk of participating in. I almost thought there is a consensus that it should be banned. This should not be difficult because I do know that most Nigerians are God fearing human beings so logically there should be virtually no audience for such a show. Fat chance.
The God-fearing girl I was referring to was interviewed on Legit Tv during the Big Brother Naija audition in February this year and the video went viral. She describes herself as a female worker with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, (RCCG) and she expressed her hope to be a contestant in the show. She said she was ready to do anything nasty just to win the star prize of the show and declared her readiness to take time off from her church activities to do the show, adding laconically that “after all I am not a virgin”.
The issue of sex is of course the key objection to the whole show as everyone knows that they have sex on Big Brother Naija, on television in front of the whole country, SCANDAL. Precisely because of this, there are loud demands to ban the show in Nigeria. Can it be banned, of course yes? What impact will the ban have – none at all because anticipating the ban, the show is streamed live on the internet and millions of Nigerian youth follow it directly from the internet. The show has broken a Showmax live-streaming record and become the most-watched live entertainment content ever on the streaming service in Nigeria. It is worth noting that a significant portion of the viewing is happening outside of Nigeria. According to Showmax, Nigeria accounts for only 50% of the viewing hours, South Africans are big fans, with 30% of the viewing happening there, and another 15% happening in Kenya. Ghana, Botswana, Namibia and Uganda also see notable viewing traffic for BBNaija, the Nigerian brand is the best. The African youth are tuned in to what is happening in this house and there is very little Minister Lai Mohammed can to stop it. The worst he can do is ban it on television but the youth have already moved on from that platform. I saw a post on the social media about what interests Nigerians on a particular day and the comparison was BBNaija versus electricity supply:
Big Brother Naija: Tasha was caught on camera having sex with Ebuka.
Comments — 60,700
Likes — 103,000
Shares — 70,800
Nigerian Govt signs power generation contract with Siemens to boost electricity.
Comments — 4
Likes — 2
Shares — 6
— Total number of votes cast in Big Brother Nigeria 2018 = 170 million.
— Total number of votes cast in General Election 2019 = 27 million.
If hundreds of millions of young Nigerians are tuned in to the programme and all we can think of is how to ban it, then we need to examine our heads. Just for research purposes, I looked at the famous Tasha-Ebuka sex scene on the social media and there was no sex to see. Two people were completely covered under a blanket and you can see a bit of movement and only their faces – after a few seconds, their eyes glazed, and that is the end of the story. My conclusion – great acting, but what do I know about these things.
I then decided to watch the show myself – three people were chatting about nothing interesting, after a few minutes, I was bored to death and changed to CNN to watch the gory stories of death, diplomacy and Covid19 affecting the world. I then asked my adult children why people watch such a boring show? They asked me what time I watched and I said afternoon. Wrong time, they said, as it is a 24-hour show, the exciting things are scheduled for when the oldies have gone to bed, but I should not worry because as young professionals, they are too busy to watch themselves. I believe them.
Big Brother Naija is actually a complex show that allows the young generation to dream. To dream about winning the 85 million naira offered to the winner. It is also about the search for fame, about significant promotional opportunities open to those who have performed well in the show. For the young generation, there is also the fact that the whole show is woven around romance, falling in love, and why not, finding a life partner as the whole continent watches, so it’s exciting stuff. This year, 30,000 participants entered the final bid of the competition to be among the 20 selected. Were it an open house bid, I suspect one hundred million would have entered the contest. For many young Nigerians, the show provides an opportunity to showcase their talents. Previous participants have used the show to create opportunities for successful development of careers in music, show business and even in the more formal business world.
Big Brother Naija is a huge economic boost for Nigeria. The demography it appeals to is young upwardly mobile Nigerians who are also consumers. It is a huge opportunity to sell phones and electronic products, promote the best spots for vacation. The cars and the fashion items that the happening people must have are all showcased on BBNaija.
It is the place where “being cool and classy” is defined. A lot of Nigerian companies use the show to get known, promote their brands and boost sales. Of course, for the phone companies who carry the SMS messages, the real money spinner for Multichoice Africa, BBNaija is their annual father Christmas. The Big Brother reality show format has a money-making formula that works. It has the capacity to suck in the youth and generates significant economic activities. Rather than invest our energies on how to ban it, should we not develop our own home-grown reality show where most of the money gained would remain in Nigeria. The youth are looking at the 85 million the winner gets. The real money is however the tens of billions generated by the main companies that sponsor and advertise in the show. Did I say develop our own show, of course I am beginning to dream and almost forget that clear thinking is an insult in hypocritical societies.