Tobi Bakre was second runner up at the 2018 Big Brother Nigeria reality show. In this exclusive interview with Martins Ifijeh, Bakre shares his thoughts on why fans of ex-housemates should preach love rather than try to pit former contestants against each other. He also talks about his brand, relationships, role models, and plan to go into politics. Excerpts:
How are you coping with your many social media followers?
Before I went into the Big Brother House, I already had over 25,000 followers on social media. In the university then, I was one of those popular guys that used to do rave parties for commercial purpose. I organise parties where people pay gate fees. Then, I was this kind of guy that had hundreds of followers on blackberry messenger. Even in NYSC then, I was made leader of my CD. So, I am very used to large followership.
Where did you serve?
I served in Benue State, and then redeployed to Abuja after three weeks in camp.
Now you have over 800,000 followers on Instagram. How are you coping with this change?
Personally it is challenging because I am no more able to read direct messages and reply every follower. If I had to be doing all that, it means it will be a full time job. If I live full time on social media to interact with people, it would mean I will be neglecting my actual life. But then again, to continuously get more followers I need to be active. I am still finding a way to balance it because I love my followers.
How do you cope with bashings from some followers who may be angry with your actions at the Big Brother House?
Personally, I do not like confrontations, and that is why I do not see the bashings. Most times, it is my friends that tell me what people are saying on social media. Most of the times, I just go on twitter and tweet, then sometimes I see responses. Often times I do not see people’s opinions, not that they don’t matter because it is good to get feedbacks, but I hardly see the negative ones.
A lot of my fans do not have the real picture of me and why I do what I do, so I only try to listen to the people in my inner space that knows my reality. I like my fans, but then I have another group that have gone beyond being fans, they are my friends. Some of them were fans, who found their way into my life, they see all about me, and then I listen to their perspective. So I think maybe they bash me less now because I don’t respond, and a lot of them may not mean it, all they want may just be a reply from me. But I don’t reply such because once I do that, they end up getting what they want.
I preach love and peace, so if anyone is bringing anything contrary to that, he or she won’t get my response. For instance, how will someone say on twitter that Tobi’s visit to DBanj’s house caused the death of his son? How will someone say something that ridiculous. Even if you conceive it in your mind, how would you say that kind of thing? So I just looked at it and said that this person is definitely looking for a reaction but he won’t get it.
Are you now more under pressure to succeed?
In my whole life I have always been under pressure to succeed. Sometimes I feel that extra weight, but I try to shake it off because I personally chase myself to success. Anytime I succeed at something, I easily get bored and want new challenges. So in my own small life, I’m constantly under pressure to succeed. When I was a banker I was under pressure, I wanted that promotion, I wanted that recognition. I wanted that award so it has always been like that. When I was in school I wanted to be that smart guy and that same social guy, I wanted to be club chief and at the same time I wanted to be one of those guys that graduated with one of the best result.
For me it has always been more of my personal goal. I just want to be a very happy person, I want to be very wealthy and I want to be able to impact lives. So to make the impact I want for the society, I need to be wealthy and I am working towards it.
How are you working towards it?
I am working towards it, but how exactly I’m going to achieve it, I’m not quite sure yet, for now I’m just trying to grow the principles that would propel me for when the opportunity comes to be wealthy. I have remained prayerful, focused, hardworking, and I try to do different things. That is why a lot of people believe I am jack of all trade; from photography to acting, to other things.
For me, I find it very interesting that I can juggle one or two things. They say such people are masters of none, but not in my case, I try to be a perfectionist in every trade I do. One stream will expose you or give you big bulk, but to make a lot more of impact, you have to diversify into other areas.
What are you presently working on?
I am working on a number of things right now. I’m acting, hosting, doing stuff for fitness and then I’m still doing my social responsibility. Since I left the house I have been focused on five major streams at least for now till probably the end of the year. Very soon I will be doing photo exhibitions. I have been working on the pictures, trying to get venue, bring sponsors on board; it’s a big project so am taking my time, because this will be the first time I will be doing something this huge.
I am also doing ‘Tobi Live, which is like a Youtube platform where I educate the society on different intellectual, funny and entertaining topics. I am also doing a programme where we go to public schools to teach them handiwork like painting, photography, among others. I am also an investment banker.
I am doing CFA, which will make me a chartered financial analyst. That is one of the toughest finance courses I have attempted. It is in three stages, but I have passed the first level. When I clear my head a little around this whole media life, I will go back to finish level two and three.
What do you intend to achieve in the next five years?
I am taking one step at a time but in the next five years, I think I should have made my mark in the Nigerian entertainment industry; acting and hosting. So right now, I am learning from great guys in the industry like Ik, Ebuka, Ramsey Noauh and the likes, but then, I think we all have different backgrounds so I’m taking notes from them and I want to be as great as they are or even greater. I don’t just want to be a host, I want to be that guy you bring on board to do everything, such that once you get Tobi, he will take care of every other thing. I want to be a one stop shop for everything. So that way I can attract reputable and bigger brands.
I learnt you are into biking as well. What is the idea behind that?
This is one thing my parents definitely don’t approve of, but the society needs to be educated on safe ways to drive bikes on our roads. I used to have a bike before I went into the Big Brother House. I am a biker, but my parents must not see me do it.
What challenges are you facing as an ex housemate?
Before now, the major challenge was that I wasn’t doing enough for myself. When I was with the bank, I had the typical 9am to 5pm job but it became exhausting and uninteresting. So the challenge then was how to break out and start to do all the things in my head. That was why in the first case I had to resign and went for the Big Brother House. I knew when I come out of the house; I will have the needed platform to do what I really wanted. And getting to the finals was just a big win for me.
Right now the challenge I’m facing is the thought of what I should do and shouldn’t do. But every time I keep reminding myself that I am human. I tell myself it is okay to fail and try harder to succeed. So I try not to put much pressure on myself even if I know the society is on my neck. My parents have been encouraging me as well. Sometimes they just ask, what are you doing now. Everybody wants to see me succeed. The fans are all hungry for the success, but for me it goes beyond success. It is more of achieving my goal.
It seems there’s a competition among the housemates to out-succeed each other. Do you feel that pressure?
That competition is been created by the society, and they shouldn’t do that. The society should realise that we are young and the unfair pressure fuels unhealthy competition. On my part, I am handling my own very well because I don’t even see anybody, I’m just running my own course, and at my own pace. So I am not looking at other people but I can’t say the same for every other housemate. We are all running different races, so if the society pitches us together, they then tend to measure who is doing better than the other. This may make some people try to run faster than their guardian Angel, which on the long run may be counterproductive.
I know this year’s big brother was probably a lot different. Society should learn to love us and not compare us. Fans should love who they love, and basically support every one because we all went into the house to entertain. That you have your favourite housemate doesn’t mean the other person is a devil. We didn’t kill anybody. When another big brother housemates come what then happens? Outside the house, we are still trying our best to continue to entertain. I tell people on my platform not to tackle other housemates on my behalf or bring anyone down. Anyone who does that on my behalf is not my friend. Let’s all spread love.
Does it get to you when people try to pit you against your fellow housemates?
I do not allow people do that to me. I control my space. The friends around me know I won’t allow anyone bring up such topics around me. Even while with the housemates that I am close to, we only talk about the things we are all doing, and everyone is okay with that. By next year even after the next big brother, I still want to be heard, that is what I am working on.
Which housemates are you still close to?
I am close to Alex, Rico, and Miracle. I still see them often. Once in a while I see Ifuenada and Leo.
What has the Big Brother platform done for you since you left the house?
Aside the large social media platform, it has taught me a lot. I have learnt how to work with people from different backgrounds. This is something difficult for many Nigerians. That is why when you go to offices you can see they are having favourites base on tribe, gender, etc. You see then in the house big brother can pair you with who you like or who you don’t like. So I have learnt to shut what I don’t like out, and focus on the goal. I have also learnt about my weaknesses and strength. So right now I’m building a lot more on my strength.
Were there things in your lifestyle before the house that you have corrected now?
Before I went into the house I was into drinking and smoking shisha, even in the house. But right now I am cutting down on those things. You know I am promoting fitness, so I can’t be talking about healthy living and still taking in unhealthy substances. I want to be a perfect example for anybody, so that any parent can say Tobi please come and be the mentor of my children. Already, people tell me to be the mentor of their children, and it is quite fascinating.
Do you have more money in your account courtesy of your participation in the big brother game?
I didn’t win the money, though I won a few challenges like the Nokia’s one million naira game. But what I know is that the platform gave us quite a lot we can do for money even if we sit in our homes and do social media influencing. For me, it goes way beyond that. I can’t sit down and just be posting, I want a situation where I am the one paying people to post for me. I want to be an ambassador for brands where I can add value, and they will not hesitate to renew my contract.
How many endorsements have you had since leaving the house?
I have had a number of partnerships, but I am presently an ambassador to Play Apparel; a premium clothing line, and a network of professionals in photography, acting, banking, and politics, among others. I just got out of big brother house so we have to start from somewhere so that is where we are starting from so gradually we can work our way to the bigger things.
Would you like to test your new fame in politics at some point?
With how well I was received in my hometown, I am beginning to think towards how better way to add value to the society. With my knowledge and the kind of ideas I have, if I happen to be in the position of power I know l will be able to make good impact. Half the time, youths sit back and complain about our politicians. Youths with good ideas can bring it on board as well.
Who are your mentors?
My dad is my number one mentor. He is a yuppie banker. Another mentor is Adora; a talented business woman. She is a role model. On the kind of life I want to live, she has gone way ahead in it, so I am following her path. Then in the media space I have AY and Dbanj.
Dbanj is one guy I respect so much. I have only met him once, but the kind of knowledge he shared with me was so critical. I wish he was always around. AY has also given me some important advices I cherish. These guys have a whole wealth of knowledge and have been there over time.
Are you in a relationship?
Everybody is curious about that. For now, I am busy working because there is a whole lot of work to do. This is not even the time to be in any relationship. I need to be settled with this life first, so when I have all my onions together, I will start looking around for a relationship.
Do you have any plans of settling down soon?
One of my childhood dreams was to get married at the age of 24. But now I am 24, and there is still a lot to be achieved before I settle down. For now I just keep working so that I can get to my destination faster. Once I reach a certain level, I can then make a decision on a life partner.
How do you cope with female fans and admirers?
I stay in my space a lot. Half the time, if I’m not working I’m in my house. I get a lot of texts, inbox messages, and sometimes I get notes on paper. Once I see all these I just smile. Let me not form, I love the gestures; they make me feel like a fine boy.