Big Brother, Idols, hmmmmm

Going from the title of this post; I am sure you would think it is another bashing for Big Brother and other reality TV shows. But I am about to shock you because contrary to what you might think; there is really a good lesson that Africa can learn from these shows if we are ready to look inwards.
When I was growing up in Ibadan, there were various game shows on the first Television station in Africa- NTA Ibadan. The most popular of them was anchored by Yemi Ogunyemi, a very nice show called Embalaya (Eni ba laya) which literarily means Who Has The Guts? People came from far and wide to participate in this game show and won various gifts. What made the show stand out were the ingenuity and the wit of the presenter who also sometimes acted in various plays including the masterpiece from NTA Ibadan that made network service – KOKO CLOSE.
The kiddies were not left out of game shows even back then. I have forgotten the name of one presented by Toyin Adegbola (now known as ashewo to re Mecca). It was showing on BCOS Ibadan and I remember she was still married to the late sports presenter also with BCOS – Tony Adegbola. Other shows evolved later including one for the inner-city Ibadan people (Some call them razz, I don’t) called O’n rosy ni galaxy. Gboyega Lawal still presents this show on Galaxy TV in Ibadan (Touted as the first private TV in Nigeria). Yemi Ogunyemi went on to anchor Royco Ladun many years after Embalaya was rested.

Recently, the popular game shows in Nigeria are mostly those imported from other climes but that does not take the fun away from them. Today is not a bash on the dearth of local content even though I am tempted to go that route but that will be the theme for another day. Hence we have shows like Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, Don’t forget the lyrics, etc. The success of these games shows and the rise of the telecommunication industry in Africa prompted the owners of the brands of reality TV shows and some shrewd business people to focus on Africa. And thus, the Big Brother phenomenon, Idols, Dancing with the Stars, etc were all brought to Africa thanks mostly to MNET Africa.

You still don’t know where I am headed with this, but please relax and enjoy the ride. We all know that we are not a very inspired continent with the ways our political and economic climate remains far from being perfect. Reality TV shows have helped to douse tensions. One finishes and another starts. We are even clamouring for Season 2 of West African Idols. Many of us watch American Idols, South African and all other Idols from all over the world. Now I am about to get to the point.

The organisers of the shows make money from various means including adverts, endorsements and SMS revenues. I am interested in the last part and the reason for this post. Take Big Brother as a good example. The housemates nominate their fellow mates for eviction every week. The nominees are then left in the hands of the voting public to determine if they get evicted or remain in the house. I have been in the Telecoms industry for some time and it is mind boggling the amount of votes weekly from these shows. That is in one network alone meaning that the cumulative votes cast weekly in Nigeria only is massive. We are talking about several Millions of votes. Someone in just one network in Nigeria just reported making 20 Million dollars (not naira) in just 100 days from these premium SMS.

The revenue generated is not my main reason for this post but the massive amounts of votes cast. I am wondering if no one has linked this to our election system in Nigeria and other African countries. How would you feel if I tell you that more votes are cast weekly for big brother housemates in Nigeria than for our national elections? That is the bitter truth and the reality on ground. People find it easier to pick their phones and burn between 50-75 naira several times to save their favourite housemates. In fact, MNET was so pleased with the level of participation from Nigeria that it gave 3 slots to Nigeria for the current season. And it is a fact that the three of them are still in the house while other countries with 2 housemates have lost one or both housemates. Shows we are really keen on saving our compatriots, hmmmm. And we also even save people from other countries when our people are not up for eviction.

Two questions arise here. Is it that Nigerians think it is better to save our Big Brother housemates than in saving Nigeria? Or is this an indication that our electoral system has to wake up and embrace technology in voting? I guess it is for all of us to ponder and think about it. We can no longer sit down and think a miracle can save us. It is time to think and move forward by answering those two questions. The right to vote and be voted for are a fundamental right of human beings. Many died for that right in America and today, a black man is on top of the affairs in the White House. We have that right in Nigeria already but we don’t use it citing violence during elections, rigging etc as our excuses. But we all know that even when we don’t go out to vote, the nonentities are elected, they loot our treasuries and indirectly murder us via our bad roads, health facilities etc.
Out technology elite must also collaborate with the political minded ones to bring innovation to the voting process and push for legislations backing such. But meanwhile, the voters registration would soon commence and I hope you will not be found wanting.
God bless Nigeria, God bless Africa.