The voting pattern and culture seen in multichanneloice’s Big Brotheranother offers insight into the Nigerian psyche and our approach to popularity contests. It allows us to examine the prevailing features of the Nigerian political landscape and our response to them.
When people talk about elections in Nigeria, especially free and fair elections, the annulled general election of June 12, 1993 is often cited. Previous elections have been marred by violence, allegations of rigging and, more recently, the voter trading has led to mistrust of the electoral process by the voting population; with the apathy of the voters that translates into a low electoral participation in the 2019, 2015 Y 2011 elections.
This is where the Big Brother program differs from the voting experience in Nigeria. Successive seasons have seen Nigerians not only vote, but to pay to do it
While there are arguments about the potential voter fatigue During the campaign season, millions of Nigerians consistently vote for their favorite housemates. These contestants are often kicked out on a weekly basis, with fans voting to keep them in the running for a cash prize. Since seasons past, social and mainstream media have shown a constant level of commitment—such as 24-hour coverage, which many have argued would be better targeted at monitoring other aspects of society. During the three months that Big Brother is on our television screens, there aren’t many topics trending more or even gaining similar traction as the show.
What differentiates the Big Brother program from the elections? Since both are popularity contests, what do housemates do to get such visceral support and attention? What does it mean for our general political culture?
THE FAN WARS
Supporters of presidential hopefuls are known by their identifiers. ‘Obidient’ for Peter Obi, ‘Batified’ for Bola Tinubu or ‘Atikulated’ for Atiku Abubakar. This trend isn’t new, at least not to Big Brother fans. The fan base of Olamilekan ‘Laycon’ Agbeleshe, the winner of The confinement of Big Brother Naijawere ‘Icons’, and those of Hazel ‘Whitemoney’ Onou, who won Big Brother Naija Shine Ya Eye, identified as the ‘white money gang’.
Confrontations are often marked by fan base identifiers, icons, and hashtags, similar to how political campaigns are now run on social media. However, the nature of the arguments between these groups and the path to resolution is where there should be concern.
In both cases ad hominem online attacks and harassment have become the norm, instead of respectfully addressing the merits or demerits of the disputed issue. This becomes more worrying when the ethnic, religious and generational fractures that have divided the current political landscape of the country are put into play. That is why it has become commonplace for opposition supporters to paint candidates as ‘Christian’ or ‘Muslim’, or as ‘Igbo’, ‘Yoruba’ or ‘Hausa’ candidates.
Candidates play a role in amplifying these ‘labels’ because it is the easiest way to amass followers and supporters in a political space devoid of the necessary ideological dialogue. With Big Brother fanbases, this is largely irrelevant due to the nature of the show. Even then, there have been cases where housemates have been painted on the ethnoreligious lines who have been the political candidates. The difference is that our future leaders, who should do better, tend to lean on these divisive politics.
AN INCENTIVE TO VOTE
According to data recently published by the INEC, there will be 93.4 million voters qualified to determine the 1,488 elective positions in the general elections of February/March 2023. Individuals and Corporate Entities they have used their platforms to encourage people to pick up their Permanent Voter Card and head to the polls. To fuel this, many have used the tragic state of affairs as an incentive to vote for good governance and a better future for Nigeria.
If a housemate employed ‘civic-mindedness’ as a stay-at-home strategy, they might as well have packed an overnight bag. This is because entertainment value is the most important trait Big Brother housemates promise in exchange for the award. This unspoken agreement has made many fans support housemates if they are one half of a known relationship, to keep their relationship on TV screens.
To compete, the housemates employ different strategies: being the cook of the house, the source of drama and contention, or even playing sympathies and abilities – to make sure they stay around. The rewards for him include a larger social media following, influencer status, and a springboard to other careers.
Russell Crowe explains it best in a famous quote from his role as Maximus Decimus Meridius in Ridley Scott’s 2000 epic drama. Gladiator – ‘Aren’t you entertained?’
However, for elected officials, entertainment capabilities are not listed as a requirement. Citizens are expected to evaluate the parties’ political agenda, their choice of personnel, and their ability to advance society. The opportunity cost of a voting-based reality show like Big Brother could be a shift in mindset toward rewarding more entertaining candidates, which is already a staple of our politics.
The 2023 electoral cycle began with campaign spokespersons Femi Fani-Kayode (of the Congress of All Progressives) and Dino Melaye (of the Popular Democratic Party) participating in a back and forth on social media through skits designed to insult the opposition candidate. Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike is famous for his accompanying the band live , especially when he launches broadsides against his political opponents. These leaders and campaigns have remained at the forefront of the overall cycle at a time when many data sets point to a rocky term for whoever becomes president.
The situation is not unique to Nigeria, or even to third world politics. Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign was largely fueled by the unexpected antics and shocking rhetoric he employed during his rallies. Other politicians around the world, from Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro to the UK’s Boris Johnson, have been associated with Trump’s unique brand of populism. These leaders have largely taken advantage of “shock and awe” tactics to capture the political narrative and viewer attention as Big Brother Housemates. Both leaders have done it.
Societies are recognizing that ‘boring politics‘ is most useful for ensuring that competition is prioritized when looking for leaders. Joe Biden’s victory over incumbent Donald Trump in the 2020 election was blamed on his personality being ‘bored’ compared to its rival. Similarly, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been described as for the same termcompared to the more lively Boris Johnson.
THE ULTIMATE GET RICH QUICK SCHEME
The only similarity between the two popularity contests is the idea that it is an easy route to amassing wealth in the poverty capital of the world.
In Nigerian, politics is considered a career rather than public service. Many politicians hop from one office to the next, piling up retirement packages and immunity protections in tow. As such, the term ‘matter of life and death’ is said in reference to Nigerian politics, due to the number of candidates seeking election despite the financial implications. In 2022, prohibitive fees were imposed on the purchase of nomination forms to appear in the next election. For example, the APC loaded N100 million for presidential hopefuls; 30 million naira for the expression of interest form and 70 million naira for the nomination form.
While most Big Brother-related costs are altruistic, elected officials expect to recoup their expenses when in office, which is evident in corruption allegationslawsuits for money laundering and convictions. This cycle breeds entrenched politicians who turn winning elections and political relevance into real careers.
Admittedly, there are varying anecdotal reports on how Big Brother housemates are chosen. Some already exist on the fringes of celebrity, with the expectation that their celebrity friends will play a role in increasing their popularity and the show’s reach. Others then play the role of District 12 tributes in the The Hunger Games, with humorous tales that are expected to win sympathy and keep them in the contest. At the end of the show, everyone is a winner in some way.
The prizes arrive through the different contests of the house, or politicians giving away housemates For ‘representing her constituents well’, even fans appreciate their favorite contestant. We rarely see the Big Brother housemate who can’t use the program to raise the deck on him.
If the cycle is to be considered, the final season of Big Brother, with South African housemates, could see the irony of young Nigerians not voting in an election in which they were expected to be the deciding factor, paying attention to the program of TV.
South Africa has just seen its president survive an impeachment attempt and barely regain control of the ruling party, while young Nigerians are unsure if their next set of leaders will be any different from the crop that responded so cruelly and lethal to their peaceful demonstrations against the police. brutality.
The Labor Party has already raised the alarm about the ‘distraction’ the show is likely to cause. At the opening ceremony, Multichoice displayed a message from INEC urging Nigerians to get their voter cards. Perhaps this season will see politically themed competitions to mitigate any potential pushback on his participation and viewers could see more prominent commentary from the housemates.
At the end of the day, the show provides some help from the non-ideal reality of being a young African in this day and age. It is both a temporary respite and a mirror of the factors that increasingly distort our civic engagement.⎈
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