By Gbenga X-adebija
Sometime last year in an article titled, CRY, OUR BELOVED COUNTRY , I groused about the way as a nation we exhibit an unhealthy fixation for issues which offer no meaningful contributions to national edification. I despaired at the way our national focus was perennially swayed by unimportant issues to the detriment of the socio-economic development of our country.
Well, this year, it is the turn of Big Brother to drive Nigerians ballistic and ignore more pressing issues of national significance. Again, as a nation we are being distracted by the latest shiny object and have taken our eyes off the ball.
Quoting Wikkipedia, “Big Brother is a reality game show franchise created by John de Mol, originally broadcast in the Netherlands and subsequently syndicated internationally. As of 11 November 2016, there have been 387 seasons of Big Brother in over 54 franchise countries and regions. In the show, contestants called “housemates” (or “house guests”) live together in a specially-constructed house that is isolated from the outside world. Housemates are voted out (usually on a weekly basis) until only one remains and wins the cash prize. During their stay in the house, contestants are continuously monitored by live television cameras as well as personal audio microphones”.
John de Mol, or to give his full name, Johannes Hendrikus Hubert de Mol, Jr is a Dutch media entrepreneur and billionaire who founded Endemol and Talpa media. He is not, as far as his biography details, a relative (either distant or close) of Satan or other demonic powers and principalities.
To put into perspective, Big Brother has been organized in 54 countries around the world. It is therefore, not a special purpose creation designed to corrupt the morals of Nigerians.
So why all the noise about Big Brother?
It is safe to conclude that the programme is a reflection of contemporary societal values in Nigeria. As a people, we have enshrined a culture of unbridled materialism which spans every sphere of endeavor including religion, public service and civic engagement.
This “Bling-Bling” culture is the reason why careers which do not offer opportunities to become “celebrities and “e-lebrities” are no longer attractive to our youth. Make no mistake, the current Big Brother housemates were not first-time applicants to the programme or similar reality shows.
The glittering opportunities for upward socio-economic mobility offered by these platforms required that they be serial applicants to various reality shows sometimes for at least 3-5 years.
So, a lamentable fact we have to face as a nation is that a significant percentage of our youth, the future leaders, have chosen celebrity as a career. All these happening now in a country still grappling with the challenges of socio-economic development and teetering under the excruciating burden of unemployment, poverty, corruption, poor infrastructure and a debilitating recession.
That is not to say the youth are to blame for this sorry state of affairs. The key players in the blame game abound everywhere, beginning from corporate organizations which annually spend billions on sponsorships on such programmes. The take home prize for the winner of Big Brother is N25million, a “tear-rubber” posh vehicle plus other mouth-watering additions. All the participants are virtually guaranteed million –naira endorsements, appearances on the talk-show circuit, massive following on social media platforms, etc. More worthy examples of civic excellence in other spheres of national endeavor are largely ignored by corporate organizations and consigned to the dustbin of obscurity. You will have to google up the names of those students who recorded A1 in 9 subjects in WAEC, or graduated first class or achieved any trail-blazing feat.
All the housemates have parents and family who obviously endorse their participation in the programme . In the aftermath of shows like Big Brother, it is not uncommon for the media to interview the parents who always declare how “proud” they were of their son/daughter and how fervently they prayed for him/her to win. Compare this with my own parents generation for whom mere geographical proximity with a member of the opposite sex was an open invitation to mass filicide. There may even be interviews with the winner’s pastor who would declare with a straight face how he “decreed and declared” that she/he would emerge victorious on Big Brother…therefore, why blame the youth in the face of filial, spiritual, societal and economic enablers?
(There is a letter which has recently gone viral signed on behalf of a Commissioner of one of the Eastern States canvassing votes for their “daughter” and includes such prayerful invocations as ” by the special grace of God” and exhortations to ” give her all the support she needs to make Rivers State proud”)
However, I refused to sign a petition circulating on social media to join the campaign advocating a ban of the show(the same way I ignored a campaign protesting why Big Brother Nigeria was being shot in South Africa) because Reality shows have socio-economic importance no matter the thrust because jobs are created throughout the value chain.
Some readers may remember that I was one of the panel judges on The Intern a business-themed reality show sponsored by then- Bank PHB several years ago. I agreed to participate because I believed then and still maintain that for a country at our current level of socio-economic development, it was more important to invest in encouraging the next generation of Aliko Dangote/ Tony Elumelu/ Bill Gates/Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg than producing the next rapper/singer/model/celeb .
In a country struggling to fulfil its potential after 56 years and which may have possibly frittered away its golden opportunity to achieve greatness, we are unbelievably incandescent over a PG-rated programme which is not free-to-air and therefore largely restricted to only those who want to watch. Only a nation of hypocritical and sanctimonious people would hyperventilate over a group of cavorting youth but remain ambivalent over the real issues such as corruption and ethno-religious bigotry.
Nigeria, we hail thee !!!!
Gbenga X-adebija is the President & CEO of Business In Nigeria.