A few weeks ago, I got a call from Multichoice, the cable TV provider. My subscription had expired several weeks earlier and I had not renewed.
The agent who called was eager to know when I would likely renew. In a bid to persuade me to promptly reactivate my account, he started mentioning some programmes I was ‘missing out’ on. And the first one he mentioned was Big Brother Naija.
And it was logical to mention this programme. After all, it is a widely popular show, especially among Nigerian youth. Big Brother is a global reality game franchise which originated in the Netherlands. As at September 2019, there have been 448 seasons across 54 countries. Thus this is a global phenomenon.
The Nigerian version also has a huge following. It has 532,000 followers on Twitter and about 148,000 subscribers on its YouTube channel.
However, the wide appeal of this reality show is troubling. And that is because, like every other cultural product, it reveals the state of a society’s mind.
My concerns are threefold.
It exposes our obsession with material wealth
A major fascination about the programme is the huge amount to be won by the winner. For the current season, this is a cash prize of N30 million along with other prizes. According to the website, “many of the housemates go on to pursue careers in entertainment”. When the primary motivation for what we do, the activity we engage in, or the career we pursue is money and/or fame, it signals the moral problem which 1 Timothy 6:9,10 address.
It displays an endemic sexual permissiveness in our culture
Many will recall the interview of a lady which went viral in February 2019. When quizzed about her view on concerns by many about the show’s immoral content, she simply remarked:
I don’t care… What matters is my spiritual life…if I’m serving God you won’t know…After all, I’m not a virgin…I don’t mind. Any nasty thing I will do. All I know is I need that 25 million naira.
From previous editions, there have been cases of housemates (as the contestants are called) engaging in intercourse. Footage of a party held also revealed sexual acts.
It uncovers the mindlessness in our society
It is mind-numbing to derive pleasure from a group of people merely living together, ‘gisting’, engaging in tasks together, partying, and of course, engaging in a number of romantic scandals. It reveals the mind of a people that thrives on the trivial. There is no art, no real story, nothing which truly enriches the soul. And this in a country with an unemployment rate expected to reach 33.5% by 2020.
Some have called for a ban on the show. While that might be necessary, I doubt the effectiveness of that step. Cultural products are accepted because people love them. People enjoy the show, despite what many will admit in public. Thus we have a deeper problem that a ban will not resolve.
How can we present to our youth (which includes me) a bigger vision of life? Who will paint a picture of reality that is more compelling than one drenched in sloth, sex, and pleasure? Who will capture the mind of the Nigerian and direct it to true accomplishment? BBNaija fits into the narrative which the wider Nigerian culture has woven over the past five decades: “Life is about pleasure. You are nothing without money. Youth is for maximizing sexual delight. Marital commitment is a lie”. And the poor leadership and godless preaching all around us further worsen the moral decay.
What can we do?
How can we get back on track? I believe we need a number of things.
First, we need to recover a vision of life that is rooted in the truth about God, about humans, and about our world. We need the truth about how God has made every single human valuable and dignified, despite sex, money, or power. We need the truth on how God saves us from our sins and guilt through self-giving love, and makes us his own children through grace. And we have to recapture that ideal of loving God and loving our neighbour as ourselves.
We need parents who genuinely believe this truth and will model it in their homes before their children.
We need employers who will cherish this vision of life and will create workplaces that throb with love, respect, and excellence.
We need public office holders who understand true leadership, after the example of God himself, and will bury the idols of power and prestige, demonstrating faithful service out of reverence for God.
And we do need young men and women who will learn from a divine 33-year old exactly what the purpose of life is. And I pray they will not only follow his model for life, but would have first cast themselves upon this Saviour for the grace of mercy and the gift of righteousness.
I believe there is much more we can do, but we must begin here.