WITH UCHE NNADOZIE
I recall when Africa Magic, the entertainment bulwark and channel on DSTV birthed Big Brother Africa in the early 2000s. To be honest while one was a lot younger and could easily have been one of the housemates, it wasn’t anything we quite understood. To put it mildly it was strange by all ramifications. The verdict among a lot of Nigerians at the time was something of a horror. Seeing young people lazy about in a “house” purporting to wait out a timeline which will come with a prize looked farfetched. The prize normally went to the housemate with the greatest numbers. The question was: is this a talent show, answer was no! Then what is it? It is what it is, housemates live together for a given time, and whoever managed to survive evictions over the several weeks and gets the highest votes from viewers, ended up with the prize.
Then the oddities in the show began to manifest. Young people in a confined space for days, weeks and months will try out new things. Sex is one of them. Romance, friendship, relationship or situationship as adherents of the show later coined. Then there were bathing periods which exposed nudities. Of course, the moralists took over. They condemned the show and tagged it a venture to corrode our people highly sought after moral code. Wow! But it didn’t stop here. Another version of the show was created. The Nigerian version called Big Brother Naija! It’s wholly Nigerian in content and strategy. But there was a comma. Personally I campaigned against the fact that the show was hosted in South Africa. I wondered how a Nigerian content will be hosted in South Africa. I bothered about the extended ripple effects of such a huge business opportunity taken to South Africa but funded with Nigerian money. Well this year the promoters of the show listened. And invested real money to build a new Big Brother House somewhere in Lagos.
The Pepper Dem Gang edition is perhaps the biggest show the producers have handled. We will see the numbers later but with the way the programme captured the hearts and minds of many Nigerians, this must have been the greatest show ever hosted on Nigerian television. No doubt of course, it is the greatest television programme ever hosted in Africa. This is where I need people to pay close attention. Forget your criticisms of Big Brother Naija and pay heed to what the numbers will say from next week. If you are in content development, media consultancy, advertisement, media buying, cultural aficionado, politician, social entrepreneur or you just want to understand how to deliver important message to Nigerians, please pay attention to BBN not the money.
To begin with, BBN is hugely popular among young Nigerians who obviously retain the largest demography by far of other demographics in the country. It has also managed to pull in several older Nigerians. BBN has several brands wishing to identify with it and pay good money. The programme which hitherto was seen as a no show because it didn’t have creative content has been domesticated enough to nurture housemates to became many things but above all become confident about themselves. Housemates can now speak to large audiences and are comfortable about it. Beyond that several talents have been horned. You can see those who will become actors, fashion label owners, business owners, comedians, musicians, etcetera.
What is more, BBN which ended in the week of our country’s independence has brought Nigerians together more than any other phenomenon. Not even football has achieved the unity and potential that this programme has helped us to showcase. I was awed to see the theme for our independence and how housemates and ex-housemates rallied round the country- all over television and social media to project our nation. Also, the deliberate infusion of cultural themes clearly helped to highlight some of the things younger people do not know or understand about us. So when moralists complain about nudity, remind them about the 1001 other good gestures of the programme which has done well to our psyches as a people. There is nothing created by humans that is perfect, therefore the earlier we pay attention to the positives the better for us.
Although Big Brother is a franchise, we have nonetheless domesticated it in such a way that Nigerians have embraced it. The media is truly a powerful force in every society. The combination of talent honing, music, dance, acting, comedy, business tools and all which the show exposed not just the housemates but even their fans and viewers will indeed birth new entrepreneurs going forward. In the next few months, new companies will be registered, new hands will be hired, and new businesses opened which will add value to our communities. This is the essence of a programme that was once loathed and in fact almost banned in the country by broadcast authorities.
Home grown content creators, producers and directors should get ready. The Nigerian media space is yet to be tapped. It is still raw. There are many things waiting to be created or recreated. There are many stars to be made in the media environment. It is important we begin to incubate these ideas and wait for our turn. As for politicians, it is not late to find the right minds to create themes that can unite our country, energize her people to work honestly and earn honestly. It is not late to create messages that can push a candidate to the finish line. Start now. 2023 is an opportunity. BBN recreated its theme and it has become such a huge cultural influencer through the media. Again check the frenzy by teams to get Nigerians to vote their preferred housemates, a political candidate can learn one or two things. Change your team, why not?