Democracy and death in the air
This time, almost two weeks ago, what I was most concerned with was the Democracy Day and the celebrations which had or not happened. And the title for the column which I ended up not writing was ‘Democracy in the air’. Democracy could be said to be in the air as everyone was talking about it especially on the airwaves. But then again, some would say our democracy is really in the air, as in blowing in the wind; considering the brand of democracy we have.
I managed to miss all the important talking points. Whether it was the ‘thief in the night’ reference or the president’s Democracy Day speech, PHCN (which some now call Pay-Higher-and-Collect-Nothing) ensured I didn’t have electricity to keep up. The only thing of note was watching a bit of the Channels’ programme which featured ex-presidential spokesman Doyin Okupe and Junaid Mohammed. These men straddle two extremes and I ordinarily wouldn’t rush to listen to either. But I was more peeved that the Channels presenters: Suleiman, Maupe et al didn’t act as good devil’s advocates. In fact, they appeared as if they were either not conversant with recent Nigerian history or on the same side with Junaid who appears to have just come out of a 15-year hibernation.
I wasn’t that concerned with the other fallout from Democracy Day: The president’s renaming of University of Lagos to Moshood Abiola University. Before those shouting: ‘On Unilag we stand’ or ‘Unilag 4 Live’ descend on me (wonder where those who shouted ‘On June 12 we stand’ are?), I’m only reacting from personal experience. I’ve changed names twice. I also attended Bendel State University, Ekpoma whose name has been changed twice-Edo State University to Ambrose Alli University. I’ll like to think none of that has reduced my worth. In any case, I remain a proud Bensuite (I did attend Bendel State University, after all).
MAU, Mabulites, Mosh Uni, Moshabites or being addressed as Abiola Babes may not sound so good. Someone asked if something sexier like Brad Pitt University would’ve sufficed? However, last Sunday’s Dana Air crash makes all pale into insignificance right now. You think the victims would’ve chosen death instead of being called MAUlites or even MALUlites?
And as far as the coverage of the crash was concerned, a lot was made of the lack of early coverage by TV and Radio stations. Now we must balance that with the insensitive release of photographs and names of presumed passengers without bothering whether families had been informed. There’s a middle ground but I must confess I don’t have clear thoughts yet.
· Violence in the House
Living in a house full of people from different African countries and cultures cannot be a walk in the park. And there’s the fact that Big Brother Africa housemates are under some pressure to impress viewers. Then there’s the challenge of living a sedentary life for weeks/months on end. Add the relatively easy access to alcohol and the potential for violence cannot be overestimated.
The ongoing BBA Star Game has had its fair share of violence. Things however took a turn for the worse on Monday June 4 when DKB (comedian VIP Upville housemate, Ghana) slapped Zainab, the 26 year old model from Sierra Leone who got upgraded from Downville to Upville about two weeks ago. DKB was angry that Zainab had taken a peek at him while he was in the bathroom. Zainab claimed his privacy had not been compromised because he had been tying a towel. Barbz (South Africa) and most of the other Upville residents didn’t see anything wrong with Zainab’s peek-a-boo anyhow. As far as they were concerned, DKB was always talking about how well-endowed he was, so it was only natural for Zainab to satisfy her curiosity.
Unlike past incidents (one of the South African housemates in Downville had slapped Zainab) Big Brother was forced to take action this time. The result was the disqualification of DKB and Zainab. But it isn’t the first disqualification for violence in BBA. Ugandan housemate Hannington Kuteesa was disqualified for slapping Lerato (South Africa) in the Big Brother All Star although Lerato didn’t get disqualified for provoking him.
Zainab seems to have got the short end of the stick. In spite of not letting anyone forget the trauma she suffered during the war in her country which involved violence and rape, she got knocked out due to violence in the end. And not even the three ‘hot’ slaps Dkb gave her could save her from losing out. Zainab’s disqualification is even more significant because she was one of the more interesting housemates.
· The camera as obstacle
In the past, viewers depended on the camera as extra eyes to bring everything that was important which they wouldn’t otherwise see. However in what someone has described as a deliberate ‘dumbing down’ of Big Brother, the camera work in the Big Brother Star Game has been suspect. Viewers are switched from Upville to Downville and the other way round for no clear reason. Someone could be in the middle of a sentence and boom, you’re taken to another activity or shot.
And the camera work for the Saturday party is even worse. In a way that reminds me only of the defunct Sunday Rendezvous on NTA, the camera chases after everything, important and not so relevant. Almost every few seconds, you’ll see close up shots of the Channel O logo, the DJ, his console or laptop on occasion; then there’s some kind of fixation with the flashing coloured lights. Why do we need to see these shots every few seconds when more news worthy things are happening on the dance floor?
· Goldie’s game plan?
Does Goldie, Nigeria’s sole housemate (VIP) in the BBA Star Game have a game plan? Or better still, is falling in love with Kenyan rapper Prezzo part of a game plan? Does that also include becoming a multi-purpose door mat and letting Prezzo walk all over her? Surely, there has to be a better way to win over viewers? No one can say how it’ll pan out but there’s a life after BBA house. And for the established star, the challenge is not to self-debrand before the show is over. It’s one thing for a star/brand to want to exhibit different sides; to showcase diversity/versatility. It’s another thing to do a complete 360 degrees turn. In any case, Goldie is in BBA as Goldie the edgy musician not as Susan Oluwabimpe Harvey, her regular version.
For those who don’t follow BBA, Goldie and Prezzo had become a couple dubbed Goldrezzo. Enter Zainab. Prezzo made a play for the Sierra Leonean. Goldie cried, went hungry and pulled different kinds of stunts especially because Prezzo said the two of them were just ‘good friends’ to her utter shock.
Goodnight to ‘the king of talk’
I became friendly several years ago with Dr Levi Ajuonuma after I wrote in this column ‘Who will tame the king of talk?’ (The Punch). It was about his (mis)handling of the involvement of the security operatives of Kofo Bucknor-Akerele, then Lagos deputy governor; in the death of a youth corper. Levi had held up a picture of Senator Bucknor-Akerele on his Sunday show (NTA), brandishing it and saying: Look at the ‘face of a liar’. Á la former House of Reps speaker Buhari/Toronto scandal in which The News magazine had produced a cover with the same title. I was very angry at what I saw as very unprofessional conduct. I’d expected a swift rain of abuse and may have prepared for an ensuing war from the man who used to call himself ‘the king of talk’. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time broadcasters would shower me with choice words.
Nonetheless from Levi, all I got was silence. And a few weeks or months later, I got a handwritten invitation to the tenth anniversary celebration of his show. I didn’t attend as I received that invitation late but I was extremely humbled by Levi’s reaction. I went on to appear on his TV show at least twice.
Over the years Levi Ajuonuma became the NNPC public affairs big shot. I haven’t been in regular contact with him. You could say his utterances were no longer under the purview of this column. But nothing could’ve prepared me for the shock of his death in the Dana crash. May his soul rest in peace.