#YNaijaEssays: The intrigue, drama and politics of #BBNaija (READ)

As we are down to the last week of Big Brother Nigeria’s third season that has been trailed with controversy and conspiracy theories, sex and outrage. Why does Big Brother (Africa and Nigeria) appeal so much to us that we form support groups, fight strangers on the internet and become obsessed with other people’s lives?

IN THE BEGINNING

In 2006, the first edition of the Big Brother Nigeria reality show was held, with $100,000 prize money to be won. Nigerians were introduced to 14 contestants battling for the prize money in an isolated house. The show ran for 91 days and featured surprises and heartbreaks for fans whose favourite housemates were evicted. One of those touted to win the show was media personality, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, however, he was the seventh housemate to be evicted.

On day 23, Big Brother introduced two more contestants to add to the fun. The first edition featured Joan, Chinedu, Yinka, Ichimeta, Maureen, Gideon, Ebuka, Helen, Joseph, Frank, Katung, Francisca, Ify and Sandy. After 92 days, 26-year-old Katung Aduwak emerged winner of the first ever Big Brother Nigeria show.

11 years after, the show returned with its season two, which was even more exciting. The second season tagged “See Gobe” is highly regarded as the most entertaining of all the shows. The show started broadcasting from South Africa on January 22, 2017, and was hosted by former housemate, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu. The reality show lasted for 78 days, within which two fake housemates, Jon Ogah and Ese Eriata were introduced.

One of the contestants with the largest fan base Is singer and actress, Bisola Aiyeola, who emerged first runner-up. The actress who was once a contestant at the MTN project fame was attracted to 36-year-old ThinTallTony who was married but lied about his status. Gym instructor, Kemen was disqualified from the show, after he groped sleeping Tboss, who was the most controversial housemate at the time. TBoss, a 33-year-old half-Nigerian and half-Romanian managed to stay in the house till the last day, despite the hatred shown towards her on social media.

Gifty Powers, who was tagged as the ‘dumbest’ among the contestants was also controversial, even though she was evicted early. Drama queen, Uriel was described as ‘Queen of the diary room’ because of her approach towards questions and how dramatic she related with Big Brother.  Bassey, Bally, Soma, Miyonse, Cocoice, Debbie Rise and Marvis were other contestants.

Michael Ejeba popularly known as Efe who garnered votes through sympathy won the show, claiming the 24 million naira prize.

While the Big Brother Naija show is one of the most popular, the franchise also has the Big Brother Mzansi also known as Big Brother South Africa. The show first aired in 2001, 2002 and then came back in 2014. The 2015 edition was the shortest, lasting only 56 days.

It is not surprising that the franchise returned to Nigeria, since Nigerians have reached the finale several times while three other countries have won the African edition.

A BUSINESS GAMBLE

Not many Nigerians may be aware that the return of Big Brother Nigeria was actually a gamble at a time where the surge of nationalism and hate towards Multichoice (the Big Brother parent company) was rife, evident in the several petitions and threats to force the government to revoke their license and kick them out of the country owing to issues of unsatisfactory content, increased subscription fees, amongst others.

Faced with a huge threat of being boycotted for other Pay Tv operators such as Startimes, Strong, etc, it only took time for it to be clear that Nigerians needed melodrama, leading to channels like Rok, Africa Magic Channels as well as the Telemundo and Zee world channels drawing unprecedented number of eyeballs.

It was therefore pertinent to go beyond the reach or perhaps perform a miracle by introducing something (at no extra cost to the viewers) that would pacify the ‘unforgiving Nigerian audience’ who are reputed to punish brands they get disenchanted with. The resultant effect was thus a reintroduction of the Big Brother Nigeria brand with minimal success (in its first year), eleven years after it was first aired. The return of the show was, therefore, an experiment in an attempt to win back the hearts of Africa’s largest concentration of television viewers.

While Big Brother Africa received an overly average viewership across Nigeria in the nine seasons it aired (a period that saw about 3 Nigerians emerge winners), the return of Big Brother Naija has turned out to be a massive success. Indeed, “If you want massive viewership in Africa, involve Nigeria”.

This is evident in the fact that not only, has it gotten a lot of Nigerians addicted to their TV sets and dominated discussions on the Social Media space, it has lived up to its expectation as a money churner for Multichoice, judging by the high levelled sponsorship deal it was able to strike with notable brands as Payporte, Heritage bank, Minimie, in addition to the millions of naira it got through votes by fans for their favourite housemates especially during evictions. Indeed, during one of the Sunday’s live eviction show in the 2017 edition, the show host- Ebuka Obi-Uchendu was quoted to have said: “The housemates got a total of 11 million votes this week alone”. A vote for a Big Brother housemate costs N30 per attempt.

Multichoice has indeed won the gamble. As they say, “If you want to conquer Africa easily, conquer Nigeria first.”

DRAMA IS ONE HELL OF A DRUG

The 2018 Big Brother Naija show has delivered such spectacular drama, it has kept the viewers locked in day in day out, engaging vigorously on social media, aligning and dividing into camps, in support of their favourite housemates.

We’ll like to credit the first big action that occurred to Big Brother, but nah, this one came out of nowhere: The MiNa Kiss. After stating plainly that she was hitched and had no interest in love relationships in the Big Brother house and would not even attempt kissing another guy except Biggie’s instructs thus, by day two, we caught Nina sharing a steamy kiss with Miracle in the shower –  and that’s how Nina lost her heart to brother Miracle for good.

Not to be outdone by MiNa, Big Brother thereafter set the stage for high drama with its brilliant, compulsory strategic partnerships. Although housemates had known each other for all of one day, the ladies had to pick someone (of the opposite sex) who’ll be their ride-or-die through the duration of the journey.

Here’s how they chose:

Tobi & Cee-C
Lolu & Anto
Angel & Ifu Ennada
Leo & Alex
Teddy A & Bambam
Dee-One & Vandora
Bitto & Princess
Miracle & Nina
K.Brule & Khloe
Rico Swavey & Ahneeka

Big Brother revealed that their choice of partner(s) will have consequences for the team. This person’s successes will determine the longevity of their stay in the house and their failure could result in being nominated, evicted or even disqualified together. At the time, they did not realise that that was Biggie’s intention. When it dawned on them, however, the murmurings and regrets rolled in. Bambam spasmed at the thought of having Teddy A by her side for the remainder of the time, it should have been Rico Swavey. Anto was dissatisfied with Lolu and Miracle wasn’t quite pleased that Nina had chosen him but apparently, couldn’t bring himself to reject her after that kiss the day before.

This was, however, the first of twists from Biggie’s bag of tricks. Two weeks after housemates had settled in, the first real nominations held, which Biggie cancelled because he reckoned they had been discussing evictions. To shake things up, he put all the housemates up for evictions. Thanks to the HOH crown which Khole held at the time, K-Squared was exempted and Khloe got to save LeoLex. Still, no one was prepared for the drama that ensued on eviction Sunday: Day 21. Three couples exited the Big Brother House including K- Square, despite having immunity.

The couples with the lowest votes were PriTo and VanDee who took their evictions with grace; Khloe and K-Brule were also sent home for disregarding the rules. For jumping from upstairs, insulting K-Brule’s mother and attempting to attack Angel, the duo earned three strikes between them and Big Brother found it fit to bring their sojourn to an end.

Then Biggie flipped the script again with a reshuffle. He instructed housemates to choose entirely new partners. Here’s how that worked out for the remaining 14 housemates:

Nina and Teddy A

Ifu Ennada and Leo

Tobi and Alex

Ahneeka and Angel

Bambam and Rico Swavey

Anto and Miracle

Cee-C and Lolu

Just like the first time, some housemates were upset about the new pairings. Cee-C couldn’t wait to have Tobi back but Tobi had already taken off like a rocket, glad to restore some sanity to his life after enduring weeks of Delilah brutality. Bambam had begun feeling Teddy A in more ways than one and couldn’t imagine being without him and Nina was quite sad to watch Miracle jump at Anto. Blossoming romance and all, Ahneeka was the only one who was thoroughly delighted with her partner – Angel, even though they (GelAh) wound up on the chopping block the following week. LIfu (Leo and Ifu Ennada) were next to be shown the door after which Big Brother dissolved all partnerships, bringing the game back to all man for himself. The casualty of that decision was Anto but as fate would have it, Anto’s place in the house was restored when Big Brother threw a spanner in the works by recalling two housemates – Anto and Khloe – back to the game on day 56, in place of eviction Sunday.

But that lasted all of a minute. The following Saturday, Big Brother, with Ebuka’s help, staged an eviction that has made its way into the BBNaija Book of Records. That night, after housemates were still in high spirits from partying, Ebuka ushered in a Deloitte staff with the week’s votes. And Ebuka announced to Bambam that her time with BBNaija had come to an end. You could hear the shock ring all over Nigeria, engulfing both participants and viewers alike. Big Brother did not even give the housemates time to recover as the next night, eviction Sunday, her boo, Teddy A, rejoined Bambam in the real world. Rico Swavey was the last person to leave the house last week, bringing the number of housemates to 8.

CONTROVERSY LIVES HERE

This edition of Big Brother Naija has seen Biggie’s hand in the soup, stirring and adding serious spice for dramatic effect and with drama comes conspiracy theories. Take that Cee-C dream about seeing two evicted housemates come back to the house the week Big Brother had plans for Anto and Khloe to return to the game. It bears a startling reminder to Ese’s dream last season, in which she saw Thin Tall Tony married with kids and just had to warn Bisola. When viewers raised an uproar on social media, condemning the move to bring back disqualified housemate Khloe and insisting that if she is brought back, then those with strikes in the house should be cleared, Big Brother did exactly that. How about the Ebuka-Cee-C speculation that ran on for quite a while until it was shut down by the BBNaija host? At first, the internet claimed Cee-C was Ebuka’s sister-in-law. Then gist came out that Ebuka had dated Cee-C for a while, that’s why she got a spot in the house and carries on like the Almighty.

Evidently, Cee-C had given rumour mongers a thread to spin a tale with because before this time she had already revealed to the housemates that she knows Ebuka. This was during Adesua’s visit to the house.

“I know myself. I’m a f**king lawyer. People have been calling me, asking what is wrong with me, saying ‘girl come on! Go do your masters and face your career. But they don’t understand why I finish law school and decided to come to Big Brother Naija house. I know people. If I tell you how I met that one that came here yesterday (Ebuka) you won’t believe it. One day I drove my car to see him to tell him I want to be part of the show. When he asked my name and I told him, he was surprised based on ‘who I be’”.

Ebuka quelled the controversy with this reply:

“Yes! Toni is my blood brother. Also, don’t forget that Cee-C is my sister inlaw too. And Leo is my father. Anything else?”

Tobi has had his fair share of conspiracy. It was said that he got into the house because of his staff status with Heritage bank, one of the sponsors of BBNaija. The bank had to put out a statement debunking that claim, saying Tobi “resigned appropriately” before the show.

The most damaging of conspiracy theories to the show’s credibility, however, have been the accusations of vote tampering and leaked results. BBNaijaLeaks, a Twitter handle ‘leaked’ the results of Anto’s eviction and thereafter Bambam’s.

https://twitter.com/BbnaijaLeaks/status/975000759682109441

But when it came time for Cee-C to be booted out following the low numbers she raked in according to the leaker, Teddy A was sent home instead.

https://twitter.com/BbnaijaLeaks/status/979808442675286018

https://twitter.com/BbnaijaLeaks/status/980459909790818305

 

In a curious turn of events, that same week, Big Brother Naija found itself scrambling to explain to Nigerians how votes did not add up to 100%. It didn’t help Big Brother’s image that Cee-C had committed a crime worthy of severe punishment, something within the realms of disqualification, yet was overlooked by the organizers.

CEE-C Vs MIRACLE

One fella who has gone through this edition pretty much unscathed is Efe. Sorry, Miracle. A pilot, a lover boy, with a body sculpted by the gods and athletic genes that have come through for him virtually every arena game, Miracle is clearly Nigeria’s favourite housemate. And just like they threw their weight and money behind Efe last season (who’s turned out to be the disappointment of the whole lot), the same thing is happening again. Ghanaian actress Juliet Ibrahim is one of the few who believes Miracle should not win.  And she has a point. Yes, Miracle showed us what a great romance should look like most of the time, but you can’t overlook the fact that he messed with Nina’s mind more than once; he’s also not that interesting.

From the beginning of the show, it has been Cee-C who’s held down the fort with her mind-bending theatrics, using Tobi as her guinea pig. The effect? Fans have waged wars over the lawyer, the feminist movement has taken simultaneous hits and praises, packing new followers on the way and BBNaija viewers have stayed hooked to the show. Consequently, BBNaija Double Wahala 2018 has easily slipped the rope of being tagged boring because of Cynthia Nwadiora’s presence. The girl is proof that drama happens organically and requires no orchestration or tending as in the last edition when we saw T-Boss with her piercings, OCDs and no-nonsense personality give as good as she got and Bisola had us collapsing on top of ourselves with her unique version of funny, when she wasn’t irking us with her unnecessary aggro. Oh, and how can we forget to mention the Kemen sexual assault episode? In the end, whether real or manufactured, BBNaija is the gift that keeps on giving.

HERE’S HOW IT ENDS

As we are now in the penultimate week to the end of the 2018 edition of Big Brother Naija, we cannot ignore the fact that some of the housemates already have a large fan base and it was due to their obvious ‘games’ in the house.

As at this time in the previous edition of the reality show, we already knew the talents the housemates had – at least most of them, and that helped their network outside the house. However, this year, we understand that the housemates might have interpreted ‘Double Wahala’ to mean: “Relate well with your house-partner – sexually”; and paid more attention to that.

That is not exactly the discussion now, especially as the show comes to an end.

Only one winner will emerge at the end and for whatever reason, just like Roma upset Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-final (sorry if you do not watch football), fans of one or two housemates will be caught unawares. The housemates too, considering they would have thought they played their game well.

Cee-C, who everyone has called names (witch, lousy and so on) has garnered more followers than one would have expected at the beginning of the show. In a turnaround, after her supposed separation from Tobi, she has been referred to as the strongest woman in the house, based on a hypothesis that she pulled through after her time with Tobi, her drama, among other things.

Lolu, the quiet ‘Yoruba Demon’, has remained in the house for one obvious reason: fans love him because of his eloquence and intelligence. And unlike, Teddy A, who was recently evicted, Lolu does not seem to take Miracle or Tobi as a competition but as fellow housemates.

Miracle, the one that trends more regularly than usual on social media seems to be the Efe of this season. How that came to be is left to his fans. However, we must admit that Miracle has played his games well and just like he handles an aeroplane, he looks like he has already arrived at his destination.

Tobi, the ‘confused’ lover boy and gossip has surprisingly not been nominated for eviction as much as Miracle. He is talented, has a rather regular fan base and from the looks can be described as an alpha male.

As mentioned earlier, only one winner will emerge. So while Miracle, Cee-C and Tobi have the fans, it seems most likely that Miracle will go home with the N45 million while Cee-C will be the biggest upset of the season; all based on votes. Cee-C has positioned herself to be a strong woman and some fans will want to see that woman come out of the house rejoicing, but the odds favour Miracle. 

Before then though, there is a likelihood that the partners who had earlier separated might attempt to repair their broken bonds – for several reasons among which is the attempt to highlight to fans/followers that the relationship(s) will go beyond the house.

Aside from that, considering Tobi’s experience before the house, he might grow away from that clique he found himself to be part of in the house and just like Bisola (runner-up for the 2017 edition), he will not stop there. He will continue to groom his talents, this time already having followership. Who says we will stop watching him?

Once again this is the third edition and it is discouraging to hear this kind of complaints: “Why is the show so porn-oriented or all about young people having partners they never get married to after the show”? “What do we learn at the end of 85 days?”, “How come most of the housemates do not have any known talents apart from having/attempting to have sex with other housemates?”, “Why are the tasks so leisurely?”

As much as we commend the idea to bring completely different individuals to stay together as housemates, it is pertinent that viewers and/or followers do not have it registered in their minds that nothing really happens in the house but sex, fights, and baseless arguments.

The organisers can take more time to screen the individuals who wish to be part of the show, unless there is more focus on getting dramatic youth who have, invariably, nothing to offer.

And… we have seen too much of sex scandals, eating and relationships in Big Brother Naija shows. It would not be a bad idea if the tasks are more ‘tasking’ and the creative sides of the housemates are tested.

They can learn from other Big Brother shows.

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