BBNaija 2019: They Came, They Stayed, They Conquered

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After an emotional and enduring 99 days in the Big Brother Naija House, a winner emerged last Sunday night, taking the coveted crown and N60 million grand prize. But it is not an ordinary win for the ‘Pepper Dem’ housemate Mercy Eke or for the finalists who stayed till the very end. Vanessa Obioha at the prize presentation and chatted with them about their stay in the house

Being locked up in a house for 99 days has its share of mental and emotional turmoil on the occupants. But somehow, the spicy housemates who came from different backgrounds to compete in the fourth season of the reality TV show, Big Brother Naija, were expectant that their sacrifices will be worth a while. Their eyes were set on the ultimate prize, N60 million worth of prize but more importantly, bragging rights to be the Big Brother Naija ‘Pepper Dem’ season winner.

However in a game where survival is not dependent on brawn alone but heavily on wits and luck, only a few came out victorious. They were the ones who competed fiercely in the task presentations, challenges and arena games to cart away exciting prizes such as all-expense paid trips, ambassador of international organizations and cash prizes. For these ones, being in the Big Brother Naija house was not a waste of time.

What started as a game for 21 contestants initially, and later included five new housemates ended in a nail-biting finale that saw one female and four males slugging it out for the grand prize. At the end of the day, it was Mercy Eke, a video vixen from Imo State who emerged the winner. She beats Seyi, Omashola, Frodd, and Mike to make history last Sunday night as the first woman to win the reality TV show, taking home N30 million cash prize, an SUV from Innoson Motors, two VIP tickets to a European Cup final courtesy of Bet9ja, an all-expense-paid trip to Dubai, an electronic home upgrade from Scanfrost, an Oppo mobile phone, a one-year supply of Pepsi drink, Indomie noodles and Munch It snack is for the winner.
But what made these finalists tick that made fans keep them in the house till the last day?

Mercy Eke (The Winner)
A Fierce Competitor: Known as the ‘Queen of Highlights’ and ‘Lamborghini’ because of her tempting backside, Mercy was very clear from the beginning that she was in the game for the money. Having auditioned four times to be part of the show, she was unrelenting in her pursuit, travelling all the way to Warri in Delta state to audition for this year. She would later purchase immunity to secure a place in the finale.
“I think God ordained me to win the show this year,” she said at her prize presentation, dangling the keys of her new SUV.

Mercy proved she was the real Habanero pepper when she entered the house. She wowed audiences at the first live show with her sheer black gown that left little to the imagination. Her open-mindedness endeared her to fans and when she finally had a relationship with Ike, another lovable male contestant, the fans’ adoration multiplied.
“Falling in love was never part of my plan. In the first place, I never wanted to be in a relationship. I wanted to play the game alone.” she said.

Like any spice, she peppered some of her housemates, most notably Tacha. Two weeks before the end of the show, Mercy and Tacha engaged in a verbal provocation that led the latter to pull Mercy’s hair. That violent action automatically earned her a disqualification while Mercy was issued two strikes.

Looking back, Mercy thinks that their inability to control their emotions earned them the punishment.
“But we are still friends. We will be working together on some projects very soon.”
Top on her to-do-list as the new winner of the game is to promote her fashion brand. For other projects, she said, “Watch out for this space.

Mike (1st runner-up)
The Perfect Gentleman: Not a few anticipated that Mike, the athlete, and businessman will break his marital code in the house. But Mike stayed faithful to his words ‘that he is a married man’ and was never caught flirting with any of the female housemates. One of his closest friends in the house was Jackye who got evicted during the show. He explained his choice of celibacy as a testament to his strength.

“I’m a strong man. I don’t like showing weakness. That was just me. I expected nothing else. It was just normal for me. To remain in the house celibate in the house was never a question of doubt. It was just normal. Before I even stepped into the house, I told myself that I will be faithful.”

He, however, admitted that he missed his wife while in the house. There were times when he wished Big Brother would surprise him with a visit from his wife but he somehow was encouraged by Biggie to be focused.

Getting into the show was more of a challenge to Mike. He puts it this way: “It was the fear of the unknown. It was more attractive to me because I knew that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to try something like this and see the result. It was a great opportunity and I don’t regret it.”

Though he missed the crown and was rewarded N2 million by the lead sponsor Bet9ja for emerging best overall timer of the Friday night arena games, he is however happy that Mercy emerged winner of the game.
“Stepping into the house for me was a win. Everything else was a bonus. So I always felt I was having the best time of life. I kept reminding myself of that, that’s why it was easy for me to have so much cruise. And I also knew that we were all winners in our own unique way.”

While in the house, he nicknamed himself the ‘King of Cruisetopia’ and was admired by fans for his maturity in handling issues and playful mien.
Based in London, Mike is already making plans to relocate to Nigeria with his wife. His major takeaway from the show is never to take things too serious. “Have an open mind and enjoy life.”

Frodd (2nd runner-up) The Slow Tiger:
If you ask Frodd if he anticipated being in the finals, he will tell you that he saw himself in the top two positions. He never imagined that he would sail this far in the competition having been up for evictions many times in the house.

“I survived the most. I saw people who were threats leave, and I stayed, which meant that there was something about me that made me stay. And then grace came, the Ultimate Veto Power Holder came. It changed the narrative for me and I knew God was on my case full-time. I was amazing. Every moment was enjoyed. We appreciate where we are.”

Despite that his expectations were not met, Frodd is basking in the spotlight. He was amazed to find that his Instagram followers which were merely over 2,000 before he entered the house are now inching closer to 400,000 followers. It was as if he gets a new follower by the second.

“I feel loved. It’s inexplicable. It’s just like I went to bed and I woke up to find myself a star,” he enthused.
Of all the things he was known for in the house, Frodd was particularly surprised to find that he was widely reported to have washed the undies of his love interest in the house Esther.

“That’s not true. I never washed any undies. It was cut-and-join. In the house we have all given towels; some have one, others two. When they bring it back from the laundry, some people take others’ own because they were too lazy to drop theirs for washing. I used my friend’s (Esther) piece and forgot to wash hers after the laundry,” he explained.
The entrepreneur was among the few housemates who were close to Tacha. Speaking on her disqualification, Frodd said he thought she didn’t deserve the punishment.

“I didn’t think she deserved it. I knew things would have been better and done differently. Everyone got punished but I’m not Big Brother. She is a great girl. Yes, we quarrelled based on team spirit but we fought battles as well and we had decent conversations. She told me how much she admired me and I also told her how great she was. It was just a fight that escalated.”

Omashola (Finalist) The King of Warri Street:
Omashola always lit up the room with his Warri lingo. Even at the press conference, he was still shouting ‘Warri/Street’, a chant that has glued to his skin since he entered the house. His diary sessions were ones that fans anticipated because he spoke in pidgin language fluently. To the part-time model, it was more comfortable to communicate that way than to speak English. The interview with him was mostly in pidgin

“I love pidgin English die. If I speak English, im likely to make a blunder and then will be embarrassed when people mock me. Moreover, it’s a show that is watched not only in Nigeria but also in the continent. The first thing I asked before entering the house was to find out if I’m allowed to speak pidgin. If I had gone ahead to speak English and then made a mistake, by the time I will be out of the house, I would have been greatly humiliated on social media. With pidgin, you can not make mistakes.”
As the oldest in the house, Omashola felt under pressure, particularly when he came last in games. He felt he was doing a great disservice to the popular slang that ‘Warri no dey carry last’.

“Someone actually made that statement the day I came last in the game and it pained me. And Warri indigenes are very proud. I felt people back home would think I was not a good representative of our tribe because of my age. It was quite shameful. That was why each time I enter the arena, I scream Warri and street to let them know I’m putting in my best and it worked for me in a way.”

Big Brother was never part of Omashola’s plan. He had watched the show once but was not too keen on it. Then one day, he made a video and posted it online. One young man called Stanley stumbled on the video and immediately sent a message to him that he should participate in the Big Brother Naija show. “I told him that I will not be selected because I felt that in a country like ours, you need to be well-connected to contest in such shows. He insisted that I come. Luckily I was in Nigeria when the audition started. He called me to tell me to still come for the audition.

He even told me that he’s on the queue waiting for me. I told him that I was not interested but he kept pushing that he would keep a space for me on the queue. I don’t know him from anywhere. Grudgingly I went, the place was so crowded. I told myself that I can’t do this audition. I just turned back but I saw he was already downcast so I decided to stay for the audition. That was how I got into the house. I believe he is a God-sent. I promised him that I would make him my manager once I leave the house. It’s the only way I could repay him.”
His new-found fame is still like a dream to him.

“Every Uber I enter now, the driver wants to take pictures with me. The security guard in the estate sees me and wants to take pictures with me. I don’t know him before…I often wonder how he got to know me. The fame alone is a billion things to me compared to where I’m coming from. Actors and celebrities whom I have never met in my life are sending private messages to me telling me to give them a call when I leave the house. When I look at it, I’m speechless.”

Regarding the win, he said he never put so much focus on it.
“There was a time when I thought I would win the game. If I had put my mind that I would win and then end up losing, I will be very disappointed. Sincerely, I was not bent on winning. But if I had won, it would be mind-blowing because the money is not small cash. I will immediately start a new life. I would have cried very much if I had lost. When we were down to the last five and we had only one female, I knew then that a female would likely win. There are some calculations you make in such games and know the likely outcome,” said the club promoter who is based in South Africa but is planning to return to Nigeria.

Seyi (Finalist)
The Talent Advocate:
When Seyi Awolowo told the continent that he was the grandson of the late first premier of the Western Region in Nigeria, Obafemi Awolowo, not a few wondered why he was in the competition having come from such a prominent background. But Seyi came to have fun and experience and that was what he did. His decision didn’t go well with some family members. They stopped communicating with him because of their different perspectives about the show but today, everyone seemed to want a piece of him. He never felt under pressure while in the house because he had other things. While his eyes were not set on the ultimate prize, Seyi, however, had mixed feelings about being in the top five.

“In a way, I anticipated I would be in the finals but I had my doubts when I saw the other housemates. I saw like-minds and very brilliant people but I have a girlfriend who has always supported me from the start. A lot of people have told me that if I ever entered the house, they envisioned that I will be in the finals. Walking through that door was a conviction that I will likely stay till the last day.”

There were moments when he was emotionally stressed and longed for the soothing voice of his girlfriend. Fans of the show anticipated that he may likely have a relationship with Tacha but he addressed the issue this way.
“For a while, I thought I was her friend until she defined it that no one is really her friends and I have to stick to that. I hold friendships dear because that’s where loyalty steps in.”

Now out of the house, his focus now is to connect with talents, to give them a platform to shine on.
“I want them to be cast online and be treated fairly, give them a piece of legal advice that will make them have a legit contract. We need to put a value on our talents and appreciate them. If we are at a point where we can say entertainment is contributing immensely to the GDP of the nation, then why can’t we pay the little talents enough?” argued the model. “That’s not fair. I’m sure international agencies will not be offering little talents less than what they pay their housemaids. It doesn’t make sense to tell a graduate that you can’t pay him up to an N100,000, that’s appalling. I have been modelling for a while and the fees have been plummeting due to greed. We have to get things in order.”