Nigeria’s darling reality Television show, Big Brother Naija, came to its fifth season end on Sunday. For 71 days, a sizable portion of Nigeria’s population watched, tweeted, formed camps, built alliances, voted, set up voting centers. Some of us provided Amala to canvass votes for our favorite contestants, others spent weeks knitting theories and mapping predictions, while a large number among us were well updated on the show’s progress, even without tuning into the Big Brother Naija channel.
Whatever group you fall into, you would agree that with every new season of the Big Brother Naija show, a new cultural moment begins. How this moment plays out is mostly dependent on who the season’s contestants are, but regardless of that unpredictable fact, we continue to find a common means to bond, fight, cheer and boo. Big Brother Naija unites us, sometimes blurring the line of our internet differences and opening us up to the exhilarating thrill of being part of a culturally important conversation such that we are sometimes not aware of whom we are having these conversations with.
Why is Big Brother Naija so popular though?
Why does it continue to rake in fans, year after year? Many writers and cultural analysts have often linked this phenomenon first to the accessibility of Satellite TV and streaming services provided by the showrunners MultiChoice. They have also pointed to the penetrative power of social media that enables us to have and share our opinion when there is something to talk about, cue in #BBNaija. Then there is the sustained popularity of the show from its early productions, but most importantly, there is also the low number of carefully produced reality shows like Big Brother Naija.
It makes sense for all of the nation’s attention to be directed at one show when there are no ready alternatives running at the same time, or close to the same time. With more than 11.9 million DSTV subscribers, this is a given. This is not to insinuate that Big Brother’s popularity largely functions on chance, it is by every means a good show, but it has no competition and that makes it the only one. Not necessarily the best, or even the most potentially entertaining, but simply the only available option.
Although we may never know how true this theory is in reality until the famed Reality TV show finds an immediate rival. What we would all agree on, however, is that it would be nice to have options. It would be great to test the strength of this cultural giant against other strong shows, not merely out of a capitalistic need for competition, but to see how much power it really has. Amidst the recurring argument as to why Nigerians cannot provide this much attention to national affairs, the tv show actually points at the need for easily structured processes, but seriously it is just a show, and we are allowed to escape for a few hours every day.
So as we bear witness to Nigeria’s expanding content space; The Voice, Love Island Nigeria, and Ultimate Love, (possibly?), we would be looking out for the increased entertainment they will provide and the cultural moments they will inspire.
Nelson C.J is a culture writer with works in The New York Times, Xtra Magazine, OkayAfrica, Black Youth Project, AfroPunk, and a few other spaces. You can find him saving dog pictures on Twitter.