A lot of people who consider themselves ‘serious minded’ claim that they do not watch Big Brother Africa as it is a waste of time; promotes immorality; and does not teach anything. This is the view I gleaned from the responses to the essays I have written on Big Brother Africa over the years. Yet, I am serious minded enough to continue to watch and to an extent, be fanatical about the show. My reason is that while the show has its negatives, it continues to serve, for me, as an avenue through which I get a peep into the African soul. A ‘peep’ because while I cannot confidently claim that the representatives of the various countries that participate in the show are really symbolic of the character and culture of their people, one can at least accept that they represent certain aspects of their countries. So then, Big Brother Africa remains for me, an avenue through which I can have a glimpse of what is happening in Africa.
This year’s show specifically revealed two very important issues to me. First, is the prevailing regionalism that is completely taking over Africa. On the surface, we appear to be a continent of people who are united in almost all ramifications, but underneath this, is a deep seated distrust, hatred and almost near fatal sibling competition between the southern part of Africa and West Africa especially Nigeria. Obviously, the biggest powers in Africa are South Africa and Nigeria. These two giants have become so embroiled in a competitiveness that now borders on extreme bitterness. Big Brother Africa aside, the nature of the foreign relations between these two countries underscore this bitterness. What Big Brother Africa however reveals to us is a burgeoning gang up by the allies of South Africa against Nigeria. It is indeed a case of the rest of Africa, against Nigeria. Tayo Faniran (one of Nigeria’s representatives to this year’s Big Brother Africa) discovered this in the Big Brother house and nearly spent the entirety of his stay in the house bemoaning this.
This rest of Africa versus Nigeria phenomenon seems to have grown out of envy for the size, wealth, and indeed success of Nigeria hence the others see it as their sworn duty to disprove of Nigeria’s position as the giant of Africa and thus the continent’s natural leader. The rest of Africa, led by South Africa, sees it as their duty to ensure that in matters where they can have a say, the brash, loud and arrogant Nigerians must be put in their place and made to know that only Nigeria does not constitute Africa. Any fan of the Big Brother Africa show will tell you in honesty that the most entertaining housemate for the 2014 edition was Tayo Faniran. The question however is; why didn’t Tayo win? While some may want to accuse the Big Brother Africa organisers of rigging the votes, the truth is clearly seen in the spread of the country votes: Africa aligned to vote for the next best in order to ensure that a Nigerian did not win.
The above point highlights an issue which a perceptive observer of events in Africa will note as something that is no longer only visible in the entertainment industry, but also in all facets of African life. Nigeria for long has been the head and other African countries now see it as a hegemony that must be dethroned.
The second lesson learnt is simply seen in the fact that ‘The Rest of Africa’ votes did not come to Tayo Faniran (ROA votes are sent to a certain number provided by the organisers. Voters can vote from any part of the world). Now, Nigerians (with our immense population) could have easily controlled these votes and made sure that the votes went to Tayo. However, this was not the case. Why was it not so?
Fans of Big Brother Africa will confirm to you that Tayo owned the social media. Majority of the Big Brother Africa fans took to social media, asserting that the winner of the 2014 season will be none other than Tayo Faniran. In the end, Tayo could only get two country votes(Nigeria and Mozambique).Now, if we assume that most of the fans who were making that assertion on social media were Nigerians, then that implies too that they would be doing everything possible to make sure he won. Everything possible would have included sending multiple votes to the Rest of Africa number in order to tie down the Rest of Africa votes, while also voting normally as Nigerians. Yet this did not happen. This did not happen because majority of the fans were busy making that assertion on social media while doing nothing concrete to see that assertion come true. This is symbolic of the major problem we have in Nigeria: we preach so much change on the social media and do nothing to ensure this change happens.
So as the 2015 general elections come, plenty Nigerians are active change activists on social media and have denounced the present government. I am quite sure that majority of the people who have been leading this campaign for change on the social media are yet to get their Voter’s Card. So at the end of the 2015 general elections, there will be no change because we only talked about the change and did nothing to make it happen. When that happens, we will start accusing the Independent National Electoral Commission of having rigged the elections when in reality, it was our fault. As Tayo Faniran’s loss in the Big Brother Africa 2014 teaches us, votes are not cast through tweets, Facebook updates, broadcasts, etcetera. The change we want can only come if we campaign for it, but most importantly if we take the action that will bring the change.
While Tayo Faniran’s loss continues to hurt me, the show opened my eyes to several things two of which I have shared above. First of all, the rest of Africa need to understand that Nigeria is still part of Africa and stop with the regional delineation. Regionalism and ganging up against Nigeria can only lead to bad blood and hatred–which is exactly what we do not need in Africa right now. Nigeria will continue to play a hugely important role in African affairs. It is not an act of bullying, it is simply because of the fact that the country is well placed to always lead the continent. Secondly, the change we want cannot come solely through social media talk. Change can only come when we take the right actions that will directly lead to the change.