By Ada Siekpe
Shortly after MultiChoice Nigeria officially announced, on 15 January, that the audition for this year’s edition of Big Brother Naija, the hit television reality show, will hold on 1 and 2 February, the news went viral. In just a few minutes, I noticed that the DStv Instagram followers increased by over 2,000, as though this was a prerequisite for being selected as a housemate at the audition venue.
Indeed, for several weeks the call for BBNaija audition remained a trend on social media and online platforms, displacing politics and politicians.
Young Nigerians in the diaspora discussed how they would plan their trips back to Nigeria for the audition, while some talked about what they believe the judges will look out for at the audition venue. Still, others talked about how they prefer watching BBNaija to vote.
The organisers deserve credit for heeding the call of many Nigerians to host the show in Nigeria as well as the plan to have the show kick off after the general elections. That way, accusations of discouraging voters from participating in the elections are foreclosed
I am astounded as to what this reality show is all about. The simple response I got from my 18-year-old niece is: “Once you enter the Big Brother House as a nobody, you come out as a star.” As optimistic as her response sounded, I still believe that she is not far from the truth. The reality show has over the years helped to groom local talent into big players in the nation’s entertainment industry.
Prior to 2006, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, who has anchored the reality show twice, was not known in the entertainment industry. But after the reality show, Ebuka signed endorsement deals with a major telecommunications brand as well as a popular brewing company and as such hosted Friend or Foe on NTA, the GLO Show, also on NTA, as well as Guinness’ Greatness TV. He also maintained a weekly column called Contrast in ThisDay for four years. He has equally written for other publications, including What’s New and Ace Magazines. Ebuka was also a presenter on Ebony Life TV.
I am certain that his achievements since the first edition of Big Brother Nigeria made the organisers of reality show invite him to host the show in 2017 and 2018.
Another 2006 BBN housemate that has achieved a lot is Gideon Okeke. After appearing in the first edition of the reality show, Gideon joined the cast of M-NET daytime series, Tinsel, as Phillip Ade Williams, the arrogant son of a media mogul. He remains one of the longest-serving actors on the show. Gideon has also appeared on the South African TV series, Jacobs Cross. In 2014, he played the role of Bernard in the Iroko TV series, Poisoned Bait, directed by BAFTA LA award-winning director Leila Djansi. In addition, he hosted the DStv game show, Money Drop.
Since the first edition of the reality show in Nigeria, the list of young Nigerians who have made their mark after leaving the BBN house is a long one. In 2017, Bisola Aiyeola, first runner-up, among other things, was nominated for City People Movie Award for Revelation of the Year (English) alongside Zainab Balogun, Somkele Iyamah and Seun Ajayi. In 2018, Bisola won the Trail Blazer Award at the AMVCA. Her new single, Controller, is currently riding high on the airwaves.
Many other ex-housemates of the reality show are making their mark in the entertainment industry. The zeal and passion of these ex-housemates have been a source of inspiration to many young Nigerians, who see the reality show as a platform to launch their entertainment careers.
For those that may not be selected as housemates, my advice is that they should look at the bigger picture. They should key into other opportunities that the reality show provides. The show’s eco-system is enormous vast, providing room for caterers, stylists, fashion designers, make-up artists, and TV production crew among others. Many big and small businesses will benefit immensely just because the reality show has once again returned to Nigeria.
Considering the huge investment involved in organising the reality show, the organisers deserve credit. Millions of young Nigerians are ready to watch and vote for their favourite housemate to win the reality show. But the question is: is BBNaija all that MultiChoice has to offer us?
Out of curiosity, I visited the MultiChoice Nigeria website and I discovered that besides BBNaija, the company has made and is still making tremendous investments in Nigeria.
I discovered that in the past four years, MultiChoice has spent over N64 million in training industry stakeholders alone. Just last week, the company organised a MultiChoice Talent Factory Master Class in collaboration with Dolby Institute on Sound technology. In 2014 and 2015 alone, spending over N9.98 billion in production and content acquisition And from 2011-2015, they have invested over N29.4 billion in leading-edge broadcasting technology. This provides a strong indication that MultiChoice is determined to groom local talents through original productions that will ignite Nigeria’s creative industry.
Siekpe, a filmmaker, writes from Lagos