Pulse Opinion: Big Brother Naija’s strengths in the face of criticism

Despite various criticisms from different angles, Big Brother Naija - in its fourth year - has remained strong and not willing to back down.

BBNaija has always concentrated on its strength rather than flaws despite criticisms.

With the announcement by the organisers that the show would be held in Nigeria, many fans expressed the delight in the likelihood of being given proximity to both housemates and action. Others joked that potential housemates should not soil their family’s name as their parents can quickly hop on an Okada or Keke napep to retrieve them from the show. 

The new Big Brother house located in an undisclosed location in Lagos is the first purpose-built facility in Africa and accommodates both the house and the studio. While previous facilities had the house, studio for live shows, production and post-production units all in separate buildings, and some cases, separate locations, this new BBNaija house has all the zones in one complex. The studio for the live eviction shows is twice the size of what is in South Africa. 

But more importantly, the return of the Big Brother Naija house to Nigeria for this season’s show will have a significant economic impact on the country. Staging a show like BBNaija in real-time requires enormous technical firms to ensure that all things go as planned. Aside from these technical firms, there is a chain of Nigerian businesses and skills that are tied to the success of the show. These skills and businesses range from the editorial crew who are mostly remunerated on hourly rates to makeup artists, costume designers, and artisans who earn middle-class salaries but are critical to the economic growth of the country. Also, multiple teams and vendors in Nigeria are engaged in the project, working day and night to maintain the high standard of television delivery that the show has established for itself. No doubt, the return of the show to Nigeria has closed the perennial outbursts of Nigerians about a capital flight to South Africa accrued from the organisation of a show with a Nigerian label. 

Over the past three seasons, the BBNaija show has continued to attract ardent fans. The shady and false commerce between familiarity and reality that the show sells has been its underlying entertainment. Reality shows give viewers the assumption of a personal relationship with these housemates and their daily lives in the house. Viewers soon identify housemates with their personality types, struggles, and triumphs. This contributes to what makes the show interesting. Perhaps, the feeling of involvement that the show gives the audience to elect and evict housemates is the real game-changer here. Viewers trend hashtags on social media and support their favourite housemates to the end. The delicious possibility of shaping the outcome of the show, through votes, bestows each viewer with a spot in the show’s production crew. They are part of the action and take their favourite housemate’s success as theirs. They see themselves as part of the kingmakers that usher the winner onto the throne of fame. 

Likewise, the show has been a significant factory for the production of showbiz talent. The different housemates are aware of this which explains the mad rush for a slot on the show. The swift progression of former housemates such as Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, Gideon and Bisola is a testament of the instrumentality of the BBNaija platform. Ebuka is a popular figure in the fashion circuit, but he can hold his own in virtually any intellectual discourse you throw at him. A host of Rubbin Minds on Channels TV, his sterling achievements after the show is a testament of the substance of the contestants that go on the show. 

It was also on this show that Bisola staked a claim to fame. Her memorable show of awareness of fundamental social issues during a presentation task on the show was what secured her a slot at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York as an Ambassador of One Campaign Initiative, advocacy for girl-child education in Nigeria. She has also taken part in numerous roles in Nollywood and is a much sought-after face for countless TV commercials. Miracle, the winner of the last season’s grand prize, has also joined the long line of housemates who have carved a niche for themselves after the show. He just completed professional aviation training in the United States with the goodwill of the prize money. 

While the show has created overnight celebrities out of ordinary Nigerians, it has also done a remarkable show of Nigerian culture to the world. This season’s Heritage Bank Coronation Task on the show explored the rich Tiv cultural heritage. The housemates were tasked with the performance of the coronation ceremony of the Tor Tiv of Benue state. They adorned various traditional outfits like the agbada, dashiki, in a royal setting. The troupe of traditional dancers first thrilled audience with electrifying dance steps to Tiv songs before Gedoni narrated the drama that would lead to the crowning of Seyi as Tor Tiv. In 2017, housemates played the Big Brother Perfect Wedding. It was a display of the various traditional weddings in Nigeria to the global community. This part of the show projects a diverse range of human activities, creations, and ways of expression that are typical of Nigerian culture. It is geared towards the promotion and preservation of Nigerian culture and tradition and to enlighten the Nigerian youth at home and in the diaspora about the richness and diversity of Nigerian traditional culture. After the coronation task, Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike on Twitter were busy commending the housemates for a job well done.

No doubt, the show has received its fair share of criticism over the years. Some Nigerians have cited the adult content as morally reprehensible to their sensibilities. Others have made it a yearly ritual to call for the ban of the program, not minding if it will infringe on the rights of viewers who enjoy the show. While it is a free country, where everyone’s freedom of expression is important, the organisers of the show have made a gesture of good faith to announce to all that the show is for adults. It has even gone the extra mile of giving viewers the power to block the channel on the DStv decoder if they consider the show to be in bad taste. The same way one puts a PIN on the ATM card to prevent unfettered access to one’s finance is the same way one sets up parental control to prevent children’s unfettered access parental control content, or to activate full blocking of the channels with adult content.

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