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What a relief! So, the Big Brother Naija reality television programme is finally over. It ended Sunday evening with 23-year old Efe Michael Ejemba, University of Jos graduate of Economics and singer winning the N25 million + SUV at stake, with 57.6% of the votes from over 24 million voters across Africa. Warri, where Efe’s family lives, erupted in excitement. At the Multichoice viewing centre in Ikeja, Lagos, where Katung Aduwak took charge so brilliantly, there was a similar eruption of incandescent joy. I was relieved because for about 70 days, the Big Brother Naija show was a big distraction, crass capitalism at its most cynical edge, a source of unmanageable madness in homes and on the streets. Now that it is over, it is time for some honest frank talk for the attention of all stakeholders involved.
Let me start with the lessons, on a positive note, before delivering the blows.
Lesson one: In a very instructive manner, the Big Brother Naija reality television show promoted the ideas of choice and people power at the heart of democracy. Televised across Africa, the viewers had the final say in determining who stayed in the house or left during eviction moments on Sundays. The votes were collated, audited and confirmed by Deloitte, a firm of auditors and thus, the viewer as the voter determined the outcomes. In that regard, a reality show of that sort promoted a consciousness of democracy, choice and influence and it further explained why the people from Nigeria to Cape Agulhas all the way up to the Mediterranean sea took fierce ownership of the programme. In a continent where power is the ultimate aphrodisiac and every access to power, fame and influence is seen as an opportunity to oppress and demean, whatever is done to promote a consciousness of choice and the civil society is laudable. Multichoice, thanks.
Lesson Two: in every business concept, perseverance pays. Multichoice has been running its Big Brother Naija and Big Brother Africa concepts for a number of years. Apparently, this year’s Big Brother Naija has been the most impactful, the most profitable and probably also, the most exciting. In one week, over 11 million persons voted to determine the eviction. In the final week of the programme, over 24 million persons voted – that is more than the total number of persons who voted in the Nigerian Presidential election in 2015. This year, Multichoice has made more money from the Big Brother franchise than it has ever done. The programme was sponsored by PayPorte, and with all the voting, and the money spent on recharge cards, Big Brother and Multichoice are the biggest winners. In the end, it is all about business and profit. Everybody has been used. In business, once you have a good, attractive product and you can capture the market, you can fool everybody and make profit. Multichoice, weh done – in Falz, the bad guy’s voice.
Lesson three: humility pays. At the end of the day, in the last week of the programme, the decision by the viewing public was a moral, sentimental one. The biggest star of the programme was, I don’t know what you think, TBOSS (real name: Tokunbo Idowu), half Nigerian, half-Romanian. She dominated the space with her Jezebelic antics, even got some of the male participants ousted by entrapping and outsmarting them with her sexual wiles. She projected herself as a sex object, the ultimate manipulator, the champion Delilah of the Big Brother Africa series. She even made a joke of the entire Big Brother concept by saying she didn’t need the money and if she won, she would spend it in two weeks to pay off debts, and in any case, she had men hitting on her, offering to take her on a ride in their private jets. She played the role of a female barracuda.
Given her looks and talents, she would have been a perfect winner. She would have looked good on the billboards. But she lost because of her arrogance. Attitude is everything: this is the lesson of TBOSS’s disgrace and humiliation. When she was sent out of the House as the second runner up, the viewing centre in Ikeja, Lagos, including Kemen whose nemesis she was, danced in joy. “They are taunting me?” she asked Ebuka, the anchor. No, sweetheart, they were making a far more serious statement about you. The melodramatic ending of Big Brother Naija 2017 is its only redeeming outcome. Bisola, the first runner up does not even have a degree but she showed talent and resolve, even if her whorish flirtation with Thin Tall Tony is so cheap and self-denigrating. Her One-Nigeria consolation prize is something big she should take seriously. Efe won because of his humility. He is considered the poorest and the most needy of the contestants. Patrons of the programme chose to vote for the contestant who looked and sounded like he would need the money and the opportunity. They gave him a chance in life, although the organizers must ensure that going forward, the show does not become a poverty alleviation scheme. Bisola came second because she too looked like she needed help. Debbie Rise and Marvis also made the finals, but that was meant to be a great compliment to their good conduct, but they didn’t have enough support to make it to the top. TBOSS is the main star who lost. I hope she was taken out of South Africa with a private jet or maybe a submarine! Beauty is not everything, baby.
Lesson four: Marketing helps. Branding is everything. Propaganda is profitable. Packaging is nice. Big Brother Naija is nothing but marketing, branding, propaganda, and packaging. A reality show is supposed to be nothing but reality, virtual reality as it happens, but let no one deceive you, everything that happened in the 70 days of BBNaija was packaged, marketed, carefully branded and manipulated. Ebuka, the Big Brother, thumbs up, the scenic designers, kudos, the content developers, three hearty cheers, Multichoice, you guys are the smartest capitalists around, well done! The finale was a bit overdone though, dragged out, over-delayed. Tiwa Savage (hey baby, watch that growing fat around your waist and thigh), Tuface (thanks TuBaba but next time tell Annie to twerk for us- what was that!). In all, the power of television was well advertised.