It’s 7pm, Friday, July 18, 2020. The sleepy town of Awka is about winding down. But it’s noisy at the Ndukwe’s. Something fantastic has been cooking. Outside, not many of the drinking dens and Nkwobi joints are opened for business.
Despite being the capital of Anambra state, Awka is not your regular bustling city. It goes to bed quite early, on a good day. And with the reality of Covid-19 pandemic catching up on everyone, most inhabitants are home by this time…and even retire much earlier.
At Mama Ndukwe’s home, there is a bit of life. The clanging sounds from plates and cutlery are competing with the sounds of music videos blaring from their TV set.
But amidst the laughter and chatter, someone is in a pensive mood…praying albeit silently. That’s mama for you. She manages a smile all the same. “Mama Daalu” greeted each child as they made for the kitchen with their used dishes and cutlery.
“Daalu nwa m,” she responds, rubbing each persons head as she acknowledges their greetings-that usual appreciation that comes after devouring a plate of nicely meal prepared by your mom.
“Chai…mma, nri a di uto…maka chukwu, otuka!” exclaimed Tobechukwu, the second child and first son of the family.
Mama has just finished having dinner with her boys. It was time to say their evening prayers, kiss each other goodnight – like they usually do…and retire to bed.
“Enyi m, afo ojú kwara gi?” she asked Kelechi, pulling him close, and then, turning his head toward her to give him that look in a gesture of motherly love.
The baby of the house is fond of asking for extra portion of food whenever they are having his favourite meal. But he seemed not to be in a mood for any extra food this time. He could sense and even touch the worry mama was trying to mask that night.
Since losing her husband four years ago, she’s found solace in her children and the “COVID-19 lockdown” has been one huge opportunity for them to bond and share profound memories. It hasn’t been easy pulling through with her meagre salary. And this tends give her cause for concern, once in a while.
The phone rings…
It was mama’s ring tone.
Their late dad had taught them that “prayer is man having a conversation with God” and such solemn moments should be characterised by sobering reverence.
The phone is ignored…
“Na aha nke Jesus.”
The prayer continued. And the phone rings endlessly and eventually stops.
“Chukwu nna anyi nke di na eluigwe, anyi na ekelegi,” Tobe went on with the prayers.
Nicknamed: “Ozi Chucks,” which is a short form of “Onye ozi Chukwu (Minister or Messenger of God),” Tobe loves to pray in Igbo language, which speaks to his role as one of the interpreters in their local assembly.
The phone rings again…
The ringtone was Tobe’s. He knows what not to do when his phone rings during such solemn moments. So, he continued with the prayers.
His phone stops ringing after a minute or two and immediately, mama’s own started to ring again.
This person surely wants to speak with someone, it seems.
Lagos, 8.45pm… Chinwe Ndukwe is sobbing, laughing and dancing – all at the same time. She’s yelling and jumping all over her small apartment. She needs to drop this news that has worked her into this uncontrollable excitement.
Her hard work, it appears, is beginning to be recognised. A testament to years consistent creative output. Of course, not leaving out months of endless fasting and prayers by her mom. They have been waiting for this news that could potentially shape her career path and redefine her love for the camera. It is also a windfall with potentials for becoming a life line for her family.
Chinwe is in a frenzy for two reasons. Quitting law in pursuit of acting and cinematography had always looked like suicide to her mother. She felt they needed the “security” that a legal practice would offer.
Aside proving a point that the pursuit of happiness is always better than the pursuit of success, Chinwe also wanted to help her family’s economy. Her dreams are fast becoming real right before her eyes.
She would explode this night if she doesn’t break this news. She dials her mom again. And just one ring…mama takes the call.
“Hello Chinwe, kedu, Odikwa nma?”
The response was characteristic of Chinwe. Creatively yet unpredictably dramatic.
“Chineke Nna emegokwa nwa ogbenye Ezege
Everyday by day I just dey celebrate oh (eh)
Everything I do e just dey penetrate oh
I just want to say o thank you Jehovah oh.”
Mama had to wait it out…placing the phone on speaker for her sons to listen and join their elder sister in the singing. The entire atmosphere was looking like the final encore after a powerful musical concert.
“Buru ekene riwo otuto Fada Fada eeeh (Fada Fada eeeh)
A di kwam Loyal o Fada Fada eeeh (Fada Fada eeeh).”
The jubilation assumed a different dimension the moment they knew the reason she was singing.
“Moooooommmmiiiii I was selected to cover the show!”
She’s been waiting for this news. And here it is at last.
“Chineke ń eme mmà, Imela, ekene diri gi, Imela!,” Mama led the singing and dancing this time. She reminded the boys what an Igbo woman looks like on the dance floor with or without her white handkerchief.
Chinwe is part of a large crowd of vendors and professionals engaged by MultiChoice for this year’s Big Brother Naija Show. These “lucky” fellas have become part of what I call “the Burgeoning Big Brother Naija Economy” – a flourishing albeit coveted multi-billion naira supply chain sustained and engaged to provide various services – including supply of toiletries, security and catering services for one of Africa’s biggest TV Shows.
From make-up artists to host and compere, fashion designers, camera men, editors, directors, script writers, caterers, cleaners and house keeping staff, selection panel that reviewed over 30,000 video entries, drivers, photographers, set designers and managers, interior and exterior designers, the guys who produced and branded the T-shirts the house mates are wearing, the grocery store where their food stuff come from.
Even suppliers of the diesel used to power the generator supplying power to the house since PHCN can’t be relied upon for such a mega show. Then not to talk of the thousands of installers, shop outlets helping subscribers to renew their subscription and the thousands of staff still receiving salaries in spite of the COVID-19 partial lock down. If any of these guys are your siblings or even spouse, I bet you would be part of the BBN economy and probably hiss when you hear anyone complaining.
The impact of the multi-billion naira Big Big Brother Naija economy and the supply chain it has created and sustained can better be contextualised when juxtaposed with the monthly federal allocation to states like Ekiti, Ebonyi, Kwara, Osun and Nasarawa which was about N17 billion in the month of February 2020. Not even the abysmally run Kogi and Bayelsa states could muster the kind of economic impact of just this show.
If these states understand how just one idea(a TV show) could put food on people’s table, they probably won’t be crestfallen and staring at bruised and battered civil servants and legion of unemployed but inflammable youths. Sadly, these men are bereft of ideas and lack capacity to think and see governance as an opportunity to get people out of poverty.
Indeed, Big Brother puts food on so many tables – and resolves issues that has to do with “stomach infrastructure” in several homes.
It is the turn of the Ndukwe’s this year to partake at the table…as Chinwe joins the team of young daring cinematographers behind the show this season, for ninety days.
She will definitely smile to the bank by the time the show is done and dusted.
Mama Ndukwe is perhaps fortunate! Anambra is not one of the states owning her civil servants backlog of salaries. She would have become destitute by now just like her counterparts in Bayelsa and Kogi States.
Even with 10 per cent of Chinwe’s billings-part of funds, made during these 90 days, she could smile again, sleep soundly and take a break from her usual routine of fasting and prayer. I just wish you could put her blood drugs aside too.
But Mama need not put her bible aside yet. She needs to keep praying for Chinwe to deliver even far beyond expectations. That’s the only way she’s guaranteed her contract won’t be terminated, her full payment made and possibly secure a space for next season of the show.
“Mummy keep praying for me o” she says,” many people were eyeing this job o but God really helped me” she disclosed as the rejoicing waned with Mama and her sons drained from the prolonged dancing, singing…and ready to go to bed.
No doubt, they are going to have a sound sleep.
Creators of big brother – like every other content creator – are addressing a need which Mama is not even aware of. Ironically, she hasn’t even seen a clip of this show that would be feeding her daughter and footing part of the family’s bills this period.
What would mama be praying about these 90 days? Your guess is as good as mine. And what would mama say to anyone who feels BBN has no value? Again, your guess is as good as mine.
To you, BBN is about 20 young adults, locked in a house for 90 days, messing around and being watched by the entire continent especially by idle people.
But to mama, BBNaija is an economy! Period!
The disdain for the show is a waste of creative energy. BBNaija is a challenge and opportunity as it attests to the existence of other needs that critics could explore and fill.
But they are not filling it.
Rather, they have remained yearly wailers and cantankerous losers whose inability to stop the so-called “values corruption and moral decadence” that BBN is promotion only comes to the fore whenever the season for the show approaches. Somehow, the build up to the show constantly reminds them of their lack of ingenuity and willingness to put their money where their mouth is.
They have refused to come to terms with the fact that they are dealing with one of the largest, most energetic and highly creative youth population in the world. Unfortunately, these talents and human capital are the most despised, castigated, unemployed and uninspired in the world.
While we see, a challenge, Big Brother sees immense opportunities for business. Period! But more than that, an usual opportunity to create and unleash a pool of talents and human capital. And they have been doing this for five years and having a blast.
The best and possibly most serious response to Big Brother Naija could come by way of a #counter programme or offer an alternative. As in, create something anything descent, edifying, engaging yet entertaining!
But who wants to fund it?
So, let’s shut up!
There are more “Christians” or kids born and raised in church, involved in BBN than any other religion. And that includes the housemates. Even the hosts of the eviction show also hosted an annual gospel music event – arguably one of the biggest in Africa.
So, what are we talking about? I think someone is fast loosing out with the rise and rise of BBN.
But beyond the supply chain that this show has created, what are the opportunities it has opened for members of the annual congregation of BBN critics?
Huge, if you ask me!
Last year, I was speaking at a church youth convention and asked the General Overseer about his impression of #WarRoom, a popular movie I’m sure most Nigerians are aware about. Incidentally, everyone in that congregation said they have seen the movie. I said “pastor, if someone in your church’s drama department had brought a movie script for you to fund a production like War Room, would you fund it?” The laugher in the auditorium was loud enough for the man to realise that he would be risking a lot if he lied. The man simply said: “No, I won’t fund it.” And with that, they all got my message. Until we are ready to fund a compelling counter idea or even ALTERNATIVE CONTENT, discussing BBN in my estimation would be just be a waste of productive time.
That show isn’t going anywhere. A lot of people are praying against it…despite controlling over a N1 trillion in tithe and offering. And those feeding from Big Brother’s table today(and paying their tithe too and offering) would keep “praying” for the feast to continue.
Let the prayers continue!
Somehow, from what is happening at the Ndukwe’s, coupled with lessons from Bro Noah and the Ark he built, we can tell which of the band of prayer warriors need to wake up and smell the coffee.
. Obom-Egbulem writes from Lagos.