To flee vice is the beginning of virtue, and to have got rid of folly is the beginning of wisdom ~ Horace
The other day during my LPI 509 class, the lecturer mentioned the name of famous victimologist, Andrew Karmen, and the whole lecture room went abuzz. An air of familiarity swept through. The lecturer was surprised. She thought we had grown weary of the volume of names hurled at us. But this happened not because of our dislike for names. Neither was it because many of us had come across the scholar’s work. Rather it is because we were familiar with another individual whose name is similarly pronounced – the great Kemen, BBN housemate who was reluctantly evicted for sexual harassment. We were like a people who knew Osama but not Obama, Nnamdi Kanu but not Nnamdi Azikiwe. We were a people who majored in minors and minored in majors. Sad.
Big Brother Naija easily brings to mind the unique works of Andy Warhol, a man who shot a five-hour film of a man having a five-hour sleep, and an eight-hour film entirely shot from only one angle of the Empire State Building. If these concepts sound odd, milords, then we have to agree that Big Brother Naija is the big brother of oddities. It thus baffles me to hear of a top bank official who sought leave from work after several years just so he could devote time to the programme: a sumptuous salad of boredom, indecency and mediocrity.
I know these words cannot be said without some toes recoiling in discomfort, but a doctor cannot because of the pain arising from injection refuse to administer it to an ailing patient. Big Brother Naija may seem harmless and victimless on the surface, but it promotes a vice, which is the bane of our society – laziness. MMM thrived in Nigeria because our people lazily crave a shortcut to wealth. For the same reason, BBN is now thriving. Really, who would want to give a hoot about skills and hard work when, without any real talent, you can win a whopping $100,000? All you need do is to indulge in enough obscenity to appeal to people’s carnal thirst.
And yes, the winner ultimately goes home with a huge sum of $100,000 after about two months of amusement. Mind you, this is the same amount Abubakar Adam Ibrahim got last year for winning the NLNG Prize for Literature. It is also about a third of what Professor Wole Soyinka received in 1986 when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Milords, even my fingers are numb from having to type out this irony.
Winners of essay competitions would be lucky to get up to ₦100,000. Winners of debate contests would somersault if given an average laptop. Yet in the same society, people get millions upon millions for removing their clothes, performing fellatio and committing adultery live on television. How can we think about this and not agree that it is high time we said good riddance to this menace ridden with ridiculousness?
The promoters of Big Brother Naija usually hide under the hazy umbrella of freedom. They say the participants have a right to do and undo. They say the viewers are equally entitled to watch them undo (their buttons) and “do.” Besides, isn’t the programme in fact restricted to persons above the age of 17? Yes, it is. But I ask: Do we say old people are immune to the effects of smoking since they are too old to “die young?” Oh the things we do in the name of freedom. Oh the stupidities we brazenly commit simply because we can.
Milords, Nigeria will forever remain the Big Brother of Africa only in the name of a TV programme if we do not cast our gaze away from the fake lives of others and take ours by the horn, if we do not learn to separate priorities from frivolities and if we continue to give honour to whom it is not due.
We all cannot be the same. And, truly, we all cannot think alike. But nothing except tomfoolery can stop us from agreeing that Big Brother Naija adds nothing substantial to our individual lives. It only takes away from it. And anything upon which we spend so much and which gives us nothing in return is a menace. Any activity which promotes undeserved admiration for men who are anything but aces is itself a menace. I rest.
What the mass media offers is not popular art, but entertainment which is intended to be consumed like food, forgotten, and replaced by a new dish – W.H. Auden
As a phenomenon of popular culture, the 24-hour-daily television show, Big Brother Naija has become the talk of the town. Nearly every discussion in the informal gathering of youths nowadays is related to the goings-on in that famous mansion. However, as expected, some have been eager to paint it as the root cause of the country’s problems, the reason we have no peace in the country, the reason our youths are jobless and other ludicrous insinuations which should not even be spoken about out loud.
While Big Brother Naija may not exactly be the most educative programme, it is not a destructive show either. The argument today is whether or not the show has descended so low as to be deemed a societal menace and the obvious answer is no.
Some have argued that the problem with the show is that it fills our youths with degenerative mentalities. I laugh at such notions. Big Brother Naija is not some kind of secret weapon used by some shady fellows to influence the youths’ orientation. Let us quit the conspiracy theorizing already. The only reason the show is so popular in the first place is because it is a pitch-perfect representation of the youth culture. There is nothing going on in the Big Brother House that has not been normalized in the society’s conception of accepted behaviour. Nothing becomes so celebrated without containing a factor which the general public already identifies with. So, rather than being a menace in itself, it only shows us what is the existent order of the day in our world. In other words, the society is a menace to itself and Big Brother Naija merely exposes that truth.
In actuality, one can credit the show with satirising the elements of our society which are causing the rot. It has been a mirror which made us to confront our own ills. It might not be the producers’ intent but the show has done more to make us realise the deep moral problems in our society, rather than contribute to it. When sexual assault occurred in the house, it was all everyone talked about. It became a reference point for an important conversation about the extent to which sexual consent can be said to exist. It has brought focus on matters which are usually not being discussed. It is not just a show about a handful of youths but the totality of Nigerian youths. It is a representation of their lives lived out of the reach of the camera. Now, we see the way the housemates act and we are not happy with it, not just because of the peculiarity of the acts but due to the realisation that it is a re-enactment of the truth of our actions in real life. It is a mirror, much like that in the novel, “Life of Pi”, which shows that we are the greatest dangers to ourselves.
Furthermore, the truth is that the show is the peak of entertainment as we know it. It does not get better than this. My opponent may argue that funds should be spent on more “productive” programmes which are cerebral in nature, but let us not fool ourselves. Television producers care about audience and we all know that shows which promote intellectual ruminations are often overlooked by the audience. In such capitalist societies as this, no one will expend his resources on endeavours which will not yield public interest in terms of translating into financial gain. Our youths have been so conditioned to enjoy a show like Big Brother Naija that to take it away will not in any way change the mentality. It will only make them channel it into something else. And in this depressing era of relentless recession, my Lords, I see no reason why anyone would criticise the existence of such a fun spectacle which makes us all forget the political and economic reality which we have all been faced with.
Conclusively, my Lords, I do not appear in this courtroom today to pretend that all is well, that Big Brother Naija is ideal and healthy for our youths. However, as far as menaces go, it is a long shot from becoming worthy of such a horrendous tag.