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Why BBNaija isn’t just Television Trash

Television has become a powerful medium that can influence a person’s attitude and shape their perceptions on a wide variety of topics. Several studies have demonstrated that the information and exposure provided by television can influence a wide range of attitudes and behaviour beyond providing entertainment. Many have criticised Big Brother Naija (BBNaija) one of the most popular reality show in Africa.

What you may or may not know about BBNaija;

  1. It’s a reality game show which was originally broadcasted in Netherlands and subsequently replicated internationally. 
  1. It’s grown to become a part of the culture in Nigeria. 

Since 1999, there have been 448 seasons of Big Brother in over 54 franchise countries and regions. Another season has come for one of the most highly anticipated shows in Nigeria, BBNaija is back! The Nigerian franchise, was originally released in 2006 and has had 4 seasons so far, the show is currently running its 5th season which premiered on the 19th of July 2020. BBNaija has been fraught with controversy since it started gaining popularity in the Nigerian market. Critics of the show have called for its ban from Nigerian television stations, citing the nudity, loose morals, and other factors which they claim, can negatively influence Nigerian youths. Despite these outcries and the moral panics, the reality show has neither improved in moral tone nor viewership level reduced. Number of viewers that voted during the last week of season 4 was estimated at 50 million, most of which were youths. Last year was also ground breaking as 240 million people voted across Africa. This shows that there is a large followership amongst the Africa youths as the reality show seem to have a lasting impact them.

This season BBNaija invited 20 housemates who are confined in one house for 71 days. Activities inside the house are currently being aired live on DSTV channel 198 and GOtv channel 29. Each week a challenge is put forth by Big Brother for the housemates to stand a chance to become Head of House. Once the Head of House wins a challenge, he or she selects a deputy and they will be safe from eviction that week. The public votes for their favourite housemate to stay in the house, and the four housemates with the lowest votes will be nominated for eviction. During the live eviction shows every Sunday, the nominated housemate will be at risk of eviction and all housemates will face a Diary Eviction Session to determine who will be evicted. Each housemate will vote one or two of the bottom four housemates they wish would leave the house. The housemate who receives the most nomination votes gets put up for eviction. This article aims to highlight how BBNaija should be valued for its social psychological narrative into human behaviour and economic benefits to Nigeria.

Before I talk about psychology I must make a disclaimer. I hold a Bachelor of Art Degree in Marketing Communication and majored in media psychology, so I am not an authority but I have some knowledge about psychological effects of being on “Big Brother”. I have always been fascinated by social interactions, especially online interactions as this is a new area of research in psychology. The Big question Big Brother has tried to answer is “what makes someone liable? What makes people crack?” In some way or another you could argue these notions can be explored in depth through each BBNaija episode. While I accept the original concept has become diluted with housemates becoming increasingly fame-hungry and controversial – the fundamental basis of exploring social narratives still remains. Each year we watch individuals from different backgrounds come together in a mishmash of values, beliefs, and culture resulting in an inevitable clash of personalities and moral codes. With that being said the following highlights some of my finding about the psychological effects of being a housemate at Big Brother.

Mob Rules:

Not only is there bullying and “mobbing” inside the house, but social media tends to go wild picking apart contestants as if the contestants were not playing a role. Some contestants have gone on to further their careers but many others have faded into oblivion. Once we have garnered our entertainment fix from these young adults, we are done with them, but the ugly tweets we wrote about them lives on forever.

False Intimacy:

In normal circumstances people get to know each other before laying in bed with them and group sleeping arrangements stop being okay after boarding school unless you live a commune or something. Adults laying in bed with night vision camera’s rolling may do all sorts of things they might regret having done on camera later. The “ships” (friendships and relationships) that sail inside the house may turn out to be fake and becomes a recipe for emotional trauma and a false sense of security. 

Cognitive Dissonance:

How often do the housemates really go along to get along, even going as far as doing things that don’t agree with their core values. I mean seriously, contestants do the most absurd things ? What about the camera crew? The producers? Where were they when season 4 contestant Kemen allegedly fingered T-boss. One can argue that real life would not put them in such a situation but this is the “bystander effect” in full force. In order to keep their place in the house and not be evicted, contestants will go along with the “script” and do things they wouldn’t do in real life (maybe, maybe not).

Dissociative Personality Breaks:

Who these contestants are while vying for attention in front of the cameras can be vastly different than who they truly are at home with their real loved ones. Some critics claim that the show just “brings out” who they really are in this tight, high stakes situation, but others say it sets up a “concentration camp’ like setting to break these young people who are hungry for fame. Once they have that public persona branded from the show, how do they go back to being their authentic self?


Big Brother explores the effect paranoia, isolation and various other pressures have on social interactions, through a variety of tasks and procedures. Paranoia for example, is examined via housemates requirement to anonymously express their distaste towards other housemates, pinpointing the specific traits and actions that get under their skin. Subsequently, paranoia entails when housemates trust is diminished on learning other housemates may have nominated them, having little to no understanding who did and why. Not only do nominations provide insight into what makes people tick, but it depicts the harmful effect paranoia can have on various social interactions.

Every year housemates seem to fill a series of reoccurring roles, we gain a “fight picker’, the ‘grass to grace storyteller’, the ‘exercise enthusiastic’, the “wanna be” and various other positions often a refection of real life environments in Nigeria. Big Brother allows us to observe how and why these roles are formed and what exactly these roles require. It is important to mention some of the effects BBnaija may have on contestants, even though some come out of the show to become entertainment powerhouses and attractive brands. The show has grown to be a platform for exposure and advancement. Tasks in the house promote nationalism and patriotism. Some of the contests also highlight social issues such as rape, bullying and feminism. When they talk about malaria day, it is used as an opportunity to educate. A lot of the tasks are subtle but are meant to inspire and lead. 

Therefore, Big Brother isn’t just trash television, there is more to the show than just the contestants – the crew members, brands, small and medium-sized businesses, online vendors and entertainers who visit the house are also huge beneficiaries of the BBNaija show. Backstage there are over 100 crew members – cameramen, photographers, housekeepers and many others who get paid for making the reality show a true reality. This has a multiplying effect on the economy of the nation and cannot be underestimated or ignored.

In addition, Nigerian DStv subscribers and GOtv subscribers paying to watch BBNaija are collectively contributing more to Nigeria’s economy through their monthly subscription fees than the single limited-run production’s operating budget. Nigeria’s informal sector accounted for about 65% of Nigeria’s 2017 GDP according to the IMF which also rated Nollywood as the second-biggest employer in Nigeria, engaging over a million persons. BBNaija’s production team is made up of 90% Nigerians, and is shot in Lagos, Nigeria – so a good deal of skills transfer occurs during the shows production. In other words, the show not only creates jobs in the entertainment and the production sector, it’s also adding value to our economy because fan’s all over Africa and even the world are also highly invested in their favourite contestants. There is a deep and real emotional attachment to the show. BBNaija is an investment goldmine and MultiChoice is getting the economy working with BBNaija. Contestants are already stars by just being on the show even if they don’t win, it’s up to them to maximise their fame and turn that into profit. In October 2019, House of Lunettes, a brand that sells other international eyeglasses/sunglasses brands announced that it sold out its products a few hours after Tacha Akhide, season 4 contestant became its brand ambassador. Such is the power BBNaija wields, contestants gain media value from a youthful audience for their chosen brand affiliations and ventures after leaving the house. 

Controversy is one of the primary motors of BBnaija that’s why Biggie put 20 people in a house with differing backgrounds, experiences and political views. Although the ensuing controversies may not have occurred in the “real world” (they emerge from the highly structured environment of the show), they speak to very real world issues and debates which should matter to us all. This is particularly so when the controversies involve questions of tribe, sexuality, class or identity. The format of BBnaija undoubtedly has its flaws – and it has certainly over the years raised questions of ethics, offence and exploitation, however, this doesn’t take away its cultural value and pop-culture reference as a forum for political and social discussions about identity. BBnaija is one of a kind that ignited such discussions in such a bold and explicit way. BBnaija may come across as trashy but the reality show hold vital insight into the way we think as Africans and as Nigerians. 

BBNaija was created for the sole purpose of entertainment (and yes, to make one person rich and the show more successful and wealthier) I will not deny that it offers the perfect distraction from my personal struggles and I occasionally enjoy small doses of trash TV incremental enough to not frazzle my brain completely. However, BBNaija is not to be categorised in that genre, and instead should be valued for its social psychological narrative into human behaviour and economic benefits to Nigeria. If you still don’t believe me when I say Big Brother is more that just trash remember it’s a reality game show and entertaining the audience is a sure-shot strategy to take you far the BBNaija house and even if you don’t win BBNaija you’re already a star by just being on the show.

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3 thoughts on “Why BBNaija isn’t just Television Trash”

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