Article by Nira Adedokun is a writer, public relations practitioner, lawyer and journalist. – Twitter: @niranadedokun
When you hear Nigerians, who tend towards pietism speak about the ongoing Big Brother Naija reality show, you would imagine that the casual debauchery engaged in by the youngsters on the show was the most depravity that could be told about Nigeria.
But that is far from the truth. Here is a country with loads of stories about baby-making centres where teenage girls are conscripted into random copulation with men and delivered of babies, who are mostly sold to ritualists or sometimes handed over to childless couples for a fee.
It is a country where the recurrence of bloodletting literarily bears the seal of the state, where agents of the state turn equipment of war on harmless citizens for exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right to associate, where citizens lord it over other citizens, rampaging and ravaging without repercussion. A country raped into submission to hunger, disease and despair by successive leadership which, ironically, sometimes joins the self-righteous denunciation of indulgences that television programming like the BBN offers.
The argument is usually about the hedonistic nature of the show. People complain that nudity and free for all sexual tendencies of the youths are alien to our culture. And each time I hear that I wonder which of the hundreds of cultural inclinations of our country we mean in particular.
Just a few years back, Christian missionaries discovered a tribe of Nigerians who lived their lives oblivious of the need to clothe. And talking about sexual proclivity, the level of promiscuity even amongst married people of both sexes in Nigeria is left to the imagination. Didn’t a recent survey conducted by condom manufacturer, Durex, rank Nigerian women among the most unfaithful in the world? That is not to talk about men who when they do not keep loads of girlfriends are married to a battalion of women! So, how is what we find on the BBN different from the way we are?
But let us even pretend for a moment that this was a valid argument? That the BBN and the frivolous opportunities it offers its housemates are strange to us. Can it not also be argued that television, the medium through which this show is aired, is also an invention alien to Nigeria? If we did not create the television, how do we then expect the device to conform to our own culture?
In its essential functions of educating, informing and entertaining, the broadcast industry has also acquired its own ethos which governs its operations. This is why it is really difficult for you to accept the device and hope to deplore the attendant responsibilities that follow.
It is true that some of these governing principles are reviewed time and time again. But even if these reviews always take the commercial essence of operators into cognisance, they also respect the reality that society comprises of people with different demographics and persuasions, and as such, make room to respect the sensibilities of people.
This is why programmes are censored and classified into different categories. This classification is done in such a way that it leaves no one in doubt as to the suitability of the content of a programme ahead of any in-depth contact with it.
In the case of the programme under discussion, you have a restricted categorisation indicating that viewing is meant for adults-people who are above 18 years of age! This eliminates the viewership of children, the same way in which a lot of movies shown on a lot of other DSTv channels exclude children. And here, we should note that programmes like this reality show have the same categorisation even in societies that we self-righteously regard as depraved. This explains the universality of the principles that guide the television industry and the fact that every society respects the right of children to innocence.
In the case of the BBN, the content providers also availed subscribers of a parental control option, which allows parents to block the access of adventurous children who may want to explore the channel in the absence of their parents.
Not just that, I also read on the DSTv website that subscribers are offered the opportunity to opt out of having that channel on their decoders at all! Watching Big Brother Naija was therefore rendered a personal choice, which a lot of Nigerians have chosen, given reports about the phenomenal rating the programme is receiving.
You then wonder why the BBN has become so much a subject of interest that Nigerians do not only condemn but have even gone ahead to initiate petitions for its termination. Are those angry with the show worried about themselves, their children or people who choose to watch it? Is there a way in which the programme affects our collective fortune as nationals of the same country or are we just worried about the eternal fortune of the folks, who participate or patronise the programme, what exactly do people who live in a nation where religion is so often substituted for righteousness aim to achieve with shooting down an independent television programme that offers some youths the opportunity to actualise themselves even if falls short of our own moral gauge?
If the worry is only about moral purity, then why doesn’t every one of us take care of ourselves? First of all, ensure that you do not watch the programme to avoid the moral pollution attending it. In addition, restrict the chances that your children, wards and family members will ever get to watch the programme. You should also go a step further to ensure that you bring up your children to not place values the gains associated with such programmes. Having done all that, you can rest assured that the immorality of programmes like the BBN will never affect you and your immediate family.
If your concern is founded on bringing people closer to God however, you should do more about convincing people about seeing the value that God brings into their lives. With where our country is today actually, we could use a lot more of God and the holiness that he teaches through all the major religions that we practise in Nigeria.
At the centre of the faiths that are rooted in our country is the requirement for unconditional love for God and other human beings. If we all take that serious and don’t get spent on fighting unnecessary wars, none of the atrocities that were highlighted at the start of this piece and threatening to tear us apart as a people would have the hold that they have on us.
Making Nigeria a country of pride is a far more serious task than the corruption that the BBN brings or the spectacle that we make of it. Let every man and woman who preaches morality be found doing what they preach before we preach it to others. Then we will find that with our conduct; will win more people to us than our sanctimonious clatter would ever achieve.