â€œMiracle is back,â€ a female voice says excitedly at one of the tables next to the pool at Chesney Hotel, Lagos. Along with two other friends, she proceeds to the lobby of the hotel where the winner of a just concluded reality show is taking pictures with a few more admirers. Itâ€™s some minutes past midnight but they stayed back see him and take a shot, or two.
â€œItâ€™s been an exciting experience because apart from being discreet, Chesney has always been known for being a quiet and serene environment. But with celebrities around, thereâ€™s a lot of buzz now because they have fans that are crazy about them,â€ says Malvin Okoroafor, Business Service Manager at Chesney. He is referring to recent changes at the Victoria Island-based outfit after a fresh batch of guests checked in.
A week ago, reality TV show, Big Brother Naija ended after a winner emerged from the final five housemates who had endured 85 gruelling days of little contact with the outside world; no phones, no access to radio, TV and other devices to keep them abreast of events outside the house.
Concurrently, they were catapulted from relative obscurity to celebrity status, with the large crowd welcoming them on their return to Nigeria surprising them as much as many casual observers of the show who must have wondered what the fuss was about.
Unlike past editions where you needed to stay glued to your TV to stay up to date with the show, Instagram feeds ensured that those with just passing interest in this past edition – as well as those with little or no interest – got inundated with multiple one minute videos from dedicated Instagram accounts like bellanaijaonline and olorisupergal.
These accounts (and many others) have kept the housemates of the latest show in the public eye till now, days after the showâ€™s finale. They also reveal to avid followers â€“ and casual observers – that interestingly, the housemates still live together, although under less stringent conditions.
With post-event media obligations to meet, the housemates have spent the last week at Chesney, one of the more understated hotels in the heart of Nigeriaâ€™s commercial capital. And they have helped bring Chesney into renewed focus, with many of their pictures and videos revealing their location to the discerning.
â€œThere are fans that have come to stay at the hotel just because these guys are in-house. We also have people come in sometimes in the morning and wait at the reception just to take pictures with them,â€ Okoroafor reveals.
He has also received calls from people who need the now former housemates for some reason or the other; to help promote a brand or drive traffic to their clubs for example.
â€œThereâ€™s been a real increase in attention,â€ the manager admits. â€œI have people leaving their offices, coming here just to see them. Thereâ€™s a lot more people at the poolside in the evenings now to catch a glimpse and take pictures.â€
The 50-room Chesney prides itself on being a great option for business travellers and corporate guests used to global standards, with emphasis on personalised service. It also manages to maintain an air of calm despite being at the centre of diverse economic activities. In line with its discreet nature, there is no signpost outside, just a street number.
â€œMost people donâ€™t even know this location is a hotel but we have our client base and theyâ€™re premium clients,â€ explains Okoroafor.
This suits these clients which includes Multichoice. The entertainment company is responsible for the housematesâ€™ stay at Chesney. â€œThey put them here because of our ability to handle the needs of their staff or guests related to the company. Theyâ€™ve experienced Chesneyâ€™s unique personalised service before and they love it, obviously.â€
From being housemates to well, hotel mates, the relationship is somewhat different. Theyâ€™ve â€“ on the surface â€“ bonded more with the pressure to win the showâ€™s 45 million naira grand prize absent. And access to gadgets, friends, family and a lot more freedom means thereâ€™s less tension. Throw in the Chesney effect as Okoroafor insists, and you understand why its smiles all round.
With the cat out of the bag as per the newly-minted celebritiesâ€™ location, it is a wonder the hotel hasnâ€™t been besieged. There are two explanations though. Even with the snippets on social media, only a specific type of people recognise the location.
Second is security. â€œWe make sure this (security) is paramount. As much as weâ€™re basking in the euphoria of hosting the housemates, we canâ€™t just let anybody gain access to the hotel and our guests. So while we understand that fans will come, we still need to be vigilant and make sure the facility is secure.
â€œWe donâ€™t want a situation where we our regular guests will feel uncomfortable because we have these famous housemates here.â€ He continues that though thereâ€™s a slight change, itâ€™s still business as usual.
â€œAs much as theyâ€™re celebrities now, we still keep things as professional as possible. Before they came here, weâ€™ve had so many celebrities stay with us but we treat them like we treat all our other guests; like superstars.
â€œRight now, weâ€™re just focusing on delivering our premium service and truth be told, thereâ€™s no service that theyâ€™re getting that any of our other guests wonâ€™t get too. If I can go out of my way for them, Iâ€™ll also go out of my way for you.â€