Much Ado About Big Brother Naija


The Big Brother Reality TV show has been a subject of debate since it began broadcasting in January. And as the days have progressed the arguments for and against its relevance have become more heated on social media. It’s not a new development. Since the first Big Brother Africa show made its debut in 2003, and the Nigerian version was first aired in 2006, it has courted controversy; plenty of controversy. Apart the “strange” idea of having a group of strangers live together in a confined space without the trappings of gadgets and activities that accompany daily life, there was always going to be concern about what the housemates who are full-fledged adults would get up to within a period of three months where they would have nothing much to occupy them save for interacting with one another.

Years down the line, the show has remained more controversial than ever. With more awareness about the Big Brother franchise has come a closer scrutiny of the activities of the housemates. The current housemates are young people from different parts of the country who have chosen to stake their claim to a N25m and brand new SUV prize. However, what has caught the attention of the viewing public is the level of mischief these contestants have gotten up to in just a month into the show.

In less than a month viewers have witnessed what many consider inappropriate behaviour by the housemates, and in typical Nigerian fashion have condemned the show as one which encourages immorality. The dalliance between ThinTallTony who is married (but has managed to keep that part of his life a secret so far) and Bisola, a single mother has made many uncomfortable. And this development has once again called to question not just the essence of the Big Brother franchise, but the reason corporate bodies are disposed to sponsoring it as opposed to educational and informative programmes.

First of all, the Big Brother series is one that has never pretended to be what it’s not. It was and still remains a social experiment aimed at studying the dynamics of the relationships between a set of strangers who are selected to live together within a period of time, and what length they would go within the limits of the rules of the game to win a certain amount of money. That’s it! It doesn’t make a show of being educative or projecting moral values. It is simply a game. Application is voluntary and the anyone who applies to take part is believed to be aware of what they are getting into. It also explains why the show never admits anyone less than 21 years old, and is rated 18 for viewers.

Critics probably know this already, but really don’t care. They are more concerned about why organisations would rather spend their money on a 24-hour entertainment reality show instead of initiatives that promote education, career development and capacity building, such as the Cowbell Mathematics Competition sponsored by Promasdor, and the now rested “The Debaters” and “Dragon’s Den” sponsored by GTBank and UBA respectively. We do not have nearly enough of these programmes which have a significant impact on the future of youths of this country, particularly at this time of economic downturn. And I agree with them. Big Brother Nigeria is a waste of valuable resources that could have been channeled into better use. I do not necessarily agree with this part.

This is a good time to remind those who have knocked the show that no one has the right to dictate what an individual spends their money on, let alone a corporate body. I am sure the headline sponsors of Big Brother Naija, PayPorte weighed the pros and cons before opting to invest in it. And for the average company, profit maximization trumps every other thing. We can criticize them all we want, but the management of PayPorte aren’t stupid. If they didn’t believe they would get adequate return on investment from sponsoring the show they would have stayed far away from it. It’s purely business. We can pontificate all we want, but in a recession where companies are winding up daily, it’s probably the best decision for them.

Isn’t it even interesting and bemusing how many are vocal in their criticism of the show, yet the ratings are going higher everyday? Did anyone listen to all the stats reeled out by Ebuka, its host about its viewership on TV and followership on social media? And if you doubt him, all you need to do is visit all the social media platforms to experience the level of engagement and talk the show is generating. Are the people who are watching and tweeting about it ghosts?

@Haroldwrites conducted a Twitter poll which asked if people would renew their DSTV/GOTV subscription solely for the purpose of watching Big Brother Naija.  59% voted yes, and 41% voted no. Confirming that people actually love the show in spite of all the criticisms. It’s one of our biggest problems. We come out to condemn many things in public, yet enjoy this same things in private. Who then is fooling who?

How many of us would actually take time out to watch this educative programmes we clamour for? How many watched the ones I mentioned above? How many watch “The Weakest Link” the long running British television game show hosted by Anne Robinson? How many tune in to Cowbellpedia anytime it airs? I’d bet my last kobo that the ratings on this shows are not up to half of what obtains for Big Brother Naija. Have we stopped to consider why “The Wedding Party” a comedy, is the highest grossing movie at the cinemas till date? And if you argue that it’s because it was well marketed, then what will you say about Ay the comedian’s “A Trip To Jamaica” which is the second highest grossing movie in the Nigerian Box Office? What does it tell you about Nigerians and the kind of stuff we like to watch?

I watch Big Brother Naija. I am a fan of the show. If I were in the position to determine the sort of programme my organisation sponsors, would I choose to sponsor Big Brother Naija ahead of something that would promote entrepreneurship for instance? No. But I will not deny that it offers the perfect distraction from my personal struggles and the ones automatically imposed on me by virtue of being a Nigerian.

Oftentimes, after a hard day’s work, I prefer to see something that isn’t so serious on TV. I read most of my news online and let’s face it, the media never has good news most of the time. Also there’s such a thing as personal preference, and I believe people should be allowed to watch what they feel like watching without being made to feel guilty for it.

Big Brother was created for the sole purpose of entertainment (and yes, to make one person rich). It should suffice as that.



14 Replies to “Much Ado About Big Brother Naija”

    1. One can only act for so long. As we have seen with previous seasons of the show, participants are bound to let down their guard at some point. Thanks for the comment.

  1. Interesting perspective. Wholesome too. You are right in many ways. My own view to it is more of a concern. The show reveals to an extent the level of our values. It is not to judge any one but the other side of it is that some of the facts revealed about these youths show they have dreams and they work hard at it. My concern from the position I stand is the values of our youths. Rather that scream at the organizers, what can we do about it?

    1. Thanks a lot. We have the power of choice as adults. Where I would have a problem is if anyone chooses to spend time watching Big Brother when they have something more important to attend to, but that too is a choice.

  2. I hate to revisit certain conversations once I’ve moved past them. This debate on the relevance or moral posture of Big Brother Naija is as old as my nephew, and I’m quite uncomfortable about its resuscitation.

    Picking it up from where I dropped it years back, I insist that man’s individual power (or right) to choose remains the most potent force to silent related debates. Each side must realize that this power of choice is what continually defines what shape our individual lives and activities take.

    The participants CHOSE to enroll. PayPorte CHOSE to finance the project. In the same way, those of us on the receiving end are compelled to choose, either to tune in or find worthy alternatives. In a society where censorship ratings are as neglected as the publication information page of a book, children deserves to be guided by the choices of their parents and teachers.

  3. Its about choice, no doubt, you are free to choose and yes the choices you make will definitely have consequences – today or tomorrow!

  4. My take on big bro naija:
    Values zero
    Morality zero
    Fame 100%
    Popularity 100%
    Extra cash 100%( if u win)

    There is basically no substance in the show. I can’t just sit down for 5mins to watch the programme. It is a no no for me.
    Anyways, I learnt sex sells. Remove the X content from BBnaija, the viewership will just decrease astronomically.

    Putting adults together in a house to live a fake life In the name of a show for 25 million, it’s not worth it.

    Kudos to the author of the article.

  5. capitalism at its best. The public criticism is actually increasing its popularity. more ads for the sponsors. more money!! The thought of looking at the show never crossed my mind until the criticism started.

    its a masked conversation. its not about immorality. some of our music channels are already good at media nudity and we are all cool with it. The conversation is about our innate value as a people. it got exposed.

    Any serious people that wants to develop always knows it always business before pleasure. want to see a dead community that will never develop?? when a small company enters and gives people job its bar joints you see everywhere. (the little money they made and how they spend it exposed why they were poor all along).

    In the midst of all the problem facing the country, we are chasing vanity at such a frequency??
    so much talk about not allowing youth to be part of decision making process in politics?? which youths??
    Every Nigerian is a born entertainer. we make national jokes about everything. we actually sell entertainment to the world. we are cultural imperialists with our music. And you think we are running low on entertainment. check some of our recent nollywood movies, they have more immorality more than BBN raised to power two.

    The immorality talk is just an excuse for the sake of political correctness in trying to say “Am so sorry for this generation. Its about priorities. (Even though your guardians might not like it, but nobody really makes so much noise about your flirtatious attitude of too much partying and playing in school as long as you always make a good grade and sensibly play your role. Its becomes a problem when you fail in fulfilling your basic duties).

    I have no problem with the show. am one of those who really don’t give a damn about it. i do watch it when am free. But defending it in court is just not worth it. But hey who cares?? its a free society.

    1. I agree that people are unwittingly making the show more popular by condemning it. The “joke” is on them however as the sponsors continue to smile to the bank. Until we start to rebel against the so-called unwholesome content by actually watching the few wholesome ones we have, the story will remain the same- All huff and puff, and no substance/action. Thanks for contributing, Tony.

Drop a comment, will you! I appreciate them.