BBNaija: More than a Pop-Culture Sensation

Critics of Big Brother Naija have formed a habit of calling the show immoral, whether they watched it or not. Almost every season of the show is greeted with vitriols as if the mere thought of the housemates conjures images of orgies. Some of these thoughtsare often based on viral clips on social media or a post suggesting an action that is deemed improper by critics.

But far from it. Anyone who has sat down to watchBig Brother Naija will know that beyond the house parties, the jacuzzi groove and the banter, there is a lot of education passed in the show

A recent example was the housemates’ task on mental health following the exit of Kayvee. The invisible Big Brother tasked the housemates to delve into the various aspects of mental well-being – from bipolar disorderto depression. Before embarking on the tasks, they had a diary session where they shared their thoughts on the topic. Interestingly, a neighbour of mine whose child stumbled on the housemates’ presentation, openedup about her struggle with her mental health. The young lady in her twenties revealed to her parents that she often felt inferior and unwanted because of the expectations placed on her as the first child. Sometimes, she told her parents suicidal thoughts overwhelmed her. Shocked by her revelation, the parents bookeda session with a specialist to help her overcome such thoughts, as well as manage their expectations of her.

The mental health assignment is one of the few ways Big Brother Naija is impacting the lives of millions of viewers across Africa. The tasks given to them are sometimes inspired by brands advertising their productson the show.

For instance, Dano Milk whose latest advert speaks on courage and zealousness gave the housemates a task to make theatrical presentations that depict the theme ‘Go For It’. The activity required the housemates to dig deep into the penetralia of their creativity to come up with an exceptional presentation that includes a playlet and songs. At the end of the day, the winning team was rewarded N1.5 million and a one-year supply of Dano Milk. Sometimes, the housemates are tasked to showcase Nigerian culture.

Now, with the various tasks given to the housemates, one wonders why critics would label the show immoral based on the parties.

As a reality show, the housemates are expected to express themselves and even those who tried to fake a lifestyle are easily fished out by devoted fans of the show. Staying in a confined place with strangers is boundto spark tension and build relationships. After all, human beings by nature are emotional beings and as such, long for relationships and friendships.

The Friday Jacuzzi and Saturday Night Party which are often referenced by critics are the only time the housemates get to party. These are the only periods where they get to have fun and enjoy themselves even within supervision as Big Brother’s omnipresence is always felt. The house has rules which the occupants must abide by and any infringement equally fetches them a strike or two. Some of the rules include deliberate provocation, whispering, bullying and fighting. Previous editions have seen housemates disqualified for breaking these rules.

It is no news that Big Brother Naija has made stars out of housemates. The host Ebuka Obi-Uchendu is one of the testaments to that. Laycon, the winner of last year’s Lockdown edition had his dream come true as the show helped to promote his music. Not only that, he had the privilege to have his own reality show becoming the first Nigerian original series for the streaming platform Showmax. Laycon’s story resonated with many youths who often give up on their dreams because of lack of financial support and opportunities like the Big Brother Naija show. It is a show that offers a level of success to anyone smart enough to leverage the exposure received. Housemates who didn’t clinch the grand prize have been able to use the platform as a springboard for their businesses. The likes of Tobi Bakre, Anto Lecky are good examples.

Another general perception about the reality show is that it favours only entertainers but Miracle, the 2017 winner proved otherwise. The aspiring pilot used his winning prize to pursue his flying dreams and today is a certified pilot.

Beyond the housemates, the show is a contributor to the Nigerian economy. It employs a lot of people for the production of the show. From the carpenters to the vendors who cater to the housemates, the show offers employment opportunitiesfor these individuals. SMEs looking for exposure use the show to reach millions of prospective clients across Africa.

Understanding that most viewers may be too conservative to watch the show, MultiChoice Nigeria, organisers of the show, allowsviewers to block the channel through the privacy settings.

Big Brother Naija may have one or two shortcomings but it is not an immoral show. If anything, it educates, informs and celebrates the diversity of Nigeria, particularly at a time when agitations for separation are getting louder. It is one TV show that shows that Nigeria can tolerate each other and indeed, live in harmony.

Dike writes from Lagos.

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