Karen Igho: Africa's Most Beloved

by Nnaemeka Oruh

Big Brother Africa season six has come and gone. It was the first time in the history of the show that two housemates were crowned winners – Karen and Wendall. But the fact that there were two winners was not the best part of the show. The best part of this season was the fact that in the history of Big Brother Africa, this was the first time that we had a winner who is so beloved of the continent. A winner whose personality deeply touched almost all Africans(her detractors inclusive).That winner is none other than Africa’s number one choice Karen Igho.

I must confess that when Karen first came into the Big Brother house, I did not like her. I felt like she was not a fit representative for Nigeria. Even though I never believed that a Nigerian would win the show again, my hope of the country putting up any semblance of competition for the top prize was placed on Vina. Articulate and gentle Vina to me then represented a perfect symbol of what Nigeria is. How wrong I was.

In no time, Karen got to all of us. Her pure soul; her inclination to be just herself no matter what; and her ‘crazy’ nature brought not only pure and refreshing entertainment to the house, it also showed something: the future of Africa. Sometime back, I had likened Karen to Steven Biko. Media personality Ufuoma Umusu came for my jugular for that comparison. Well, that comparison may be a bit hyperbolic, but yet, I see serious similarities. Both to me were activists. Biko was against apartheid; Karen was for Pan-Africanism. Let me explain.

Personally, I feel that the major objective of Big Brother Africa should be all about fostering African unity. The show should be able to create a forum where housemates from all parts of Africa would be able to interact, share ideas, and ultimately build friendship that will be transferred to their respective countrymen. It should not just be an entertainment show. In Big Brother Africa season six, it was Karen who best showed that all Africans are the same. She at one time stoutly refused to save herself as head of house and put up another housemate for eviction. Karen took a huge risk in doing that. Her Pan- African spirit would not let her do it. That was simply because she felt that they were all family. Not only that, she connected with almost all housemates to the extent that if she had disagreements with anyone, she was not too proud to apologise even when she has the wronged one.

I must confess that Karen fulfilled all my big Brother Africa fantasies. I used to always fantasize that if I was in the house, I would not nominate any housemate, and if I was head of house, I would rather put myself up for eviction rather than put up another member of my family (the housemates).In doing all that, Karen immediately connected to all Africans. She showed how pure her heart was, and how much she sees everybody as family.

Then there is her story. The story that got all Africa crying. I will never forget that epic chat room session (and so will most Africans).Karen’s story is the story of most Africans. A story that showed perseverance despite the buffeting winds of adversity. A story that even as I am writing makes me shed tears. The story of a disadvantaged lady who still held her head high.

Two very important things amaze me from Karen’s story. Firstly, her background naturally was supposed to make her timid and ultimately imbue her with an inferiority complex. How it did not happen is plain testimony that no matter the conditions of one’s existence, one has to keep one’s head up. Secondly, the disappointments and hardships Karen faced were supposed to make her have a vindictive and evil heart. Yet she came out of it with the purest of souls. Did anybody notice that? Does this not answer the questions about the criminal nature of many youths growing out of slums in Africa? Does this not show that they are slum-bred does not inherently make them criminals and evil minded individuals? God bless you Karen Igho, you exculpated so many slum-bred youths erroneously labelled criminals.

Big Brother Africa season six produced two winners. However, Africa’s winner is Karen Igho. No Big Brother Africa winner has touched lives the way she has. In many years to come, Karen Igho will still remain Africa’s most beloved and the ultimate symbol that a rose, can actually grow in the desert.

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