I admit I used to look down — without watching it — on Big Brother Naija as being a derisive show appealing to the repressed voyeur in people. The complaint of its ‘immorality’ pushed by virtue signallers and self-appointed bastions of ‘traditional’ values never really bothered me.

However, for reasons of satisfying my curiosity and trying to understand why people get so passionate about the reality program, I decided to follow it this year — if not very closely, at least with an eye on the intrigues that take place. 

As a result, I’ve come to realize BBNaija is an important part of popular culture in contemporary Nigeria. 

Let me explain.

The main issue people seem to have against the show as my university lecturer summed up in class once is that it ‘celebrates trivialities.’ In the case of my lecturer, he looked at in light of how society rewards BBNaija housemates, catapulting them to instant celebrityhood. He used the common route critics of the show take, that the best graduating students in most universities or even academics don’t get ‘one-tenth’ the recognition.

 The thing people like him fail to recognize is how much shows like BBNaija contribute to the intangible aspects of society.

The most obvious is its entertainment value; how it can generate talking points and bring strangers together. The first time I entered my neighbour’s house was for the finale of last year’s Big Brother Miracle eventually won. 

Watching the housemates interact we learn more about ourselves and the values of society. Take the recent controversy between Seyi and Tacha that led to a furious debate online about what is a success; or the ‘ludogate’ that led to Enkay’s eviction because she didn’t let Cindy join in their game. We learnt there was a boundary between rudeness and freedom of association. Looking at the 2017 edition, what could have triggered discussion about sexual consent as when Kemen made a move on T-Boss. Even the initial grumbling among viewers about the ‘foreign Nigerians’ in the show brings to light the consequence of the burgeoning Nigerian diaspora and the increasing role they play today in our identity. 

And there’s the opportunity it gives for ordinary hardworking Nigerians to ‘blow’ (the aforementioned Cindy is a good example) and the platform it provides for Nigerian brands to promote their business. Innoson motors comes readily to mind. With the move from filming in South Africa to Nigeria, BBNaija serves as a source of employment through the assorted jobs needed to run it.

Big brother Naija holds a mirror to our society. Some might not like the image it reflects, but dismissing it or even calling for an outright ban of it is ultimately shortsighted. Perhaps its mature content won’t make it ever fully accepted by all, but BBNaija would remain an important facet of the Nigerian experience because despite its foreign roots we have made it our own.

This article was written by Isaac Adekunmi Olamiju; connect with him on IG here  

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