Since the announcement of the return of Big Brother Naija, BBNaija, for the seventh season in June 2022, the Nigerian media space, especially the social media, has been awash with diverse opinions. It is expected. 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.”
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.
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, that is The ‘Big Brother’ of African nations.
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 Chief Operating Officer of Abeg Technologies, the popularity of the BBNaija show rubbed off on its business. Users of the Abeg app increased 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. As we prepare for the 2023 elections, we should find ways to leverage BBNaija’s influence to galvanise the demography that would be stuck like glue to BBNaija for the 70 days that the show would be aired on TV.
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 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 the Independent National Electoral Commission 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, writes from Lagos