BBNaija: Proving the ‘can do’ spirit of Nigerian youths

BBNaija, formely known as Big Brother Nigeria, is a Nigerian reality competition television series, based on the Big Brother television franchise, in which, contestants live in an isolated house and compete for huge cash prize and other material prizes, at the end of the show by avoiding being evicted from the house by viewers who vote for their favourite housemates to remain in the show.

The show has just round Ed off its sixth season and it has, each successive year, given Nigerians, Africans and fans the world over premium entertainment every time the show is screened. Aside the conversations and actions from privileged housemates that become trending topics on social media worldwide, it can be said that the reality show is arguably one of the most anticipated from Nigeria since its debut.

There are various elements to the show that make it unique. Just as university graduates are drawn from all over the world and drafted to different states in Nigeria for the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), the organisers of BBNaija tediously select a mix of housemates from thousands of applications, isolate them for weeks during which they are subjected to various psychological and health evaluations, before being allowed into the house.

When they come in, most are identified to be well read in various fields of endeavour as lawyers, engineers, musicians, models, doctors, media professionals, etc. In fact, this year, we saw a polymath in medical doctor Yerins, who mesmerised housemates with his vast knowledge and dexterity. Engineers also had a representative in Saga and lawyers in JMK, among other professionals. The array of young Nigerians on the show continues to emphasise the power of the average Nigerian to succeed against all odds.

If one also ever needs proof of how the Big Brother show is changing lives, the some ex-BBNaija housemates who had the chance to create and build themselves up after the show (winners or not) are pointers.
Ebuka Obi Uchendu is a testament of the success that the Big Brother franchise offers to young and positive minded Nigerians. Despite finishing eighth during the first edition of the BBNaija series in 2006, he is unarguably one of the most successful ex-housemates till date. Aside now hosting the show, he has remained one of the most visible celebrities for brands and events.

Miracle Igbokwe, BBNaija season three ‘Double Wahala’ winner, was able to achieve his dreams by enrolling in an aviation school and graduated acertified instrument pilot. Mercy Eke, BBN season four ‘Pepper Dem’ winner, launched her real estate ‘Lambo’ homes, got her own reality show and became one of the most sought-after brand ambassadors in the country.

Olamilekan Agbelese, aka Laycon, BBNaija season five ‘Lock Down’ winner, got the chance to pursue his music career and released an album shortly after the show and rose to prominence as one of the most listened to musical artistes with an army of loyal fans referred to as icons.

Now, being on the Big Brother show makes everyone a winner, whether you walk away with the multi-million naira top prize or not.
The organisers and affiliate brands, each year, engage content curators to formulate weekly tasks during the entire duration of the show that tackle cogent societal issues that affect Nigerians. Topics range from infant and maternal mortality, drug abuse, financial intelligence, rape, girl education and very recently, a task on mental health which housemates were tasked on last week.

A very memorable task was the ‘Girls Count’ project sponsored by where the‘See Gobbe; housemates were tasked with ONE’s ‘Back to school’ campaign focusing on girls’ education which Bisola Aiyeola won. The ‘Girls Count’campaign recognises that, globally, 130 million girls are out of school and asked citizens of the world to enroll them in school, while also asking leaders to act. Housemates were asked to put together a presentation based on information and statistics about girls’ education in Nigeria from ONE’s‘Poverty is Sexist’ policy report.

Housemates highlighted the barriers to girls’ education in Nigeria and presented varied solutions to how every Nigerian girl completes education up to secondary level. Bisola, as winner, would later take the campaign to the United Nations General Assembly with remarkable success.

The various tasks by supporting brands during the show also come with various cash sums and privileges attached and many have, after the show, leveraged such opportunities to get ahead in life. Take, for example, ex-housemates Tobi Bakre, Dorathy, Mike Edwards, Seyi Awolowo, Ozor, Nengi and many others who have become some of the most sought-after brand endorsers on the African continent. BBN season 5: LockDown housemate, Luciana Edet, who had the opportunity to open up her business and bagged a deal with ‘Get Fit’ waist trainer. The kicker is she wasn’t even close to being one of the finalists.

Other contestants on the show like Lucy, some who even left in the second week, have had the opportunity to go on to successfully start their own businesses, build their own brands and bagged numerous endorsement deals. One of such is Lilo Aderogba. This was an opportunity that they never knew they could get until they stepped into the BBNaija house.

Besides changing lives and bringing people to the limelight, Big Brother Naija is a societal reflection of us as a people. The housemates are carefully selected from as many cultural groups and are made to undertake tasks that celebrate our cultural diversity and heritage in unison.

The show promotes contestants from different Nigerian ethnicities and even Nigerians who are dual citizens of other countries like BBNaija season 4 runner up, Mike Edwards, a British-Nigerian and Singh Nini of the current season six ‘Shine Ya Eye’ who is an Indian-Nigerian can compete. In summary, there is neither discrimination nor religious affiliations on the show. Everybody is welcome, as long as one has Nigerian roots. I strongly believe that the Nigerians and critics can take a page out of the show’s book on patriotism.

The show also charts a course for transparency, accountability and right standing with every series. In Big Brother’s house, you have food, shelter, opportunities to better your life, a transparent government (as demonstrated by the Head of House games and weekly tenures) and every vote(s) count. The show organisers ensure that transparency and accountability is the watch ward of every stakeholder. Housemates are given rule books to abide by and defaulters are punished. This helps them be model citizens throughout the show and later in life.

The house mates are allowed to be themselves and show their individual identities to allow fans select and vote for their favourites. No one is allowed to canvass for votes or shown any preferential treatment. This could be helpful to the nation’s political system even.
It is common knowledge that the Big Brother franchise is a huge multi-billion naira investment yearly.

The show, each year, employs over a thousand professionals in various fields; artisans, technicians, media, fashion and entertainment and so forth for a hitch free show and has proven to be immensely beneficial to economic empowerment, thereby contributing to elevation of many Nigerians who may otherwise, been unemployed, frustrated and may inadvertently opt for intellectual flight to other countries thus further contributing to the brain drain in our dear nation.

Abdulhamid Abdullahi Aliyu, Bayero University, Kano