By Michael Orodare
Since the announcement of the return of Big Brother Naija for the seventh season in June 2022, the Nigerian media space, especially social media, has been awash with diverse opinions. It was expected. In fact, what is BBNaija without ‘strong opinions’, using social media parlance, ‘hot takes’, from citizens?
One of the debates that caught this writer’s attention on social media was the call for the suspension of this year’s edition of the show “because Nigeria is preparing for an election, and we don’t want any distraction”.
Talking about BBNaija and its social, economic and political value for Nigeria and its people – is almost becoming a hobby for me.
In the last two years, I’ve argued in several articles about how the show has become one of the most promising routes for young Nigerians to escape from hustle life. The show is also contributing to Nigeria’s economy. My position over the years is a product of empirical data from research by respected scholars and personal interaction with some young Nigerians I realised are making it big off the platform that BBNaija provides.
The show is becoming increasingly more prominent in influence and assurance of wealth and fame for many young people, aside from the men and women camped in the BBNaija house for about three months.
Just a year ago, I argued that through BBNaija, Nigeria is winning back a place it lost a long time ago as the nation other 51 African countries look up to in everything. The ‘Big Brother’ of African nations.
Olusola Ogunnubi and Akinlolu Akinola, in a 2020 report, also confirmed that “The show confers respect on Nigeria. Via the subconscious association of the ‘Big Brother’ with Nigeria, there is a subtle affirmation of Nigeria’s ‘big brother’ honorific status in the hearts of viewers across the continent,” the duo argued.
BBNaija is arguably the biggest TV show in Africa today, and its place as one of the most dependable platforms for young Nigerians to realise their dream of a career in the creative industry is not in doubt.
When BBNaija season 6 ended in October 2021, Abeg Technologies, the headline sponsor of BBNaija season 6, said users of its Abeg app soared by 7000% following its sponsorship of the reality TV show.
According to Patricia Adoga, the COO of Abeg Technologies, the popularity of the BBNaija show rubbed off on its business. Users of the Abeg app rose from 20,000 before BBNaija season 6 to 1.8 million users during the show. Such is the power of the show. The Abeg app is back as a sponsor this year, albeit with a new name – Pocket by PiggyVest.
ID Africa, a Pan-African PR and communications advisory company, says the show generated over 55 billion media impressions between July 19 and September 25, 2020, with 7.7 million accounts using the word BBNaija over 20 million times on Twitter alone. Meanwhile, the 2021 edition of the biggest football tournament in Africa, the African Cup of Nations (AFCON 2021), only generated about 950 million impressions across all digital channels from January to February 2022, according to CAF.
BBNaija is a media and social phenomenon and a potent source of attraction, aspiration and admiration for Nigeria. As we prepare for the 2023 election, we should find ways to leverage BBNaija’s influence to galvanise the demography that BBNaija arrests its attention for 70 days that the show is on TV.
Who puts such a powerful platform of influence on hiatus while preparing for a crucial election where young people should be the deciding factor? That’s a risky ‘hot take’ that shouldn’t have made it to the public space.
Socio-political advocates should be harnessing and leveraging the power and influence of BBNaija to drive and mobilise young people to be part of the process that can and will produce Nigeria’s next leaders. Especially in an election where issues that directly affect young Nigerians – insecurity, rising unemployment, and police brutality will dominate conversations and campaign points.
Now that young people have recognised their power and are ready to deploy it in the next election, this is not a task for only the politically inclined. Amid the advocacy for 2023 elections, there’s still an army of young Nigerians who appear to be less concerned about who becomes the next President or local government chairman who is supposed to fix the life-threatening bad roads leading to their residence. Many of them are pop-culture enthusiasts. BBNaija is where to find many of them and properly sensitise and convince them with the right message to be part of the ongoing revolution.
In the face of a full-scale war in Ukraine, football tournaments like the English Premier League (EPL) became a platform to demand peace because of its global reach. Amid the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in the United States in 2020, the America Got Talent (AGT) show did not distract protesters. The show continued.
Because we want to get the elections right, we shouldn’t halt economic, social and other activities. If politics is indeed a game of numbers and INEC says 74.7% of newly-registered voters are youths between the ages of 18 and 34, and this same demography is the primary audience of BBNaija, what we should be doing is to take the message to them at their comfort zone.
In the past, we’ve seen how BBNaija housemates addressed social issues like rape, drug abuse and mental health issues with their daily tasks; it won’t be a surprise to see the 2023 elections dominate their daily tasks during the seventh edition.
Rather than call for a suspension, political advocates and social crusaders should look into how to tap into the power of BBNaija to reach more young people and harvest their passion and numbers to drive social change.
- Michael Orodare, a journalist and editor, is the Editorial Lead at ID Africa
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