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‘Japa’ or get on BBNaija: Reality TV is transforming the fortune of ordinary Nigerians

BY Guest Writer

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BY MICHAEL ORODARE

Nigeria’s unemployment rate is scary. The last data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in March 2021 revealed that out of a total active labour force of over 122 million people, at least 23 million are either unemployed or underemployed.

It is scarier when you imagine that there’s no end in sight to the crisis. To say we are sitting on a keg of gunpowder may sound like a cliche, but it is what it is. Just a trigger, and we are all doomed. God forbid!

We had a glimpse of what the result of such a trigger would look like in October 2020 when thousands of angry young Nigerians, who were fed up with the oppression, harassment, and extortion by a notorious unit in the Police Force, took to the streets to demand an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

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Not just that, they also called for reforms that they hoped would usher in good times for the young population. However, nothing changed. As I said, that was just a glimpse, a sort of trailer of a feature-length film that many [including the authorities] hope and pray never premieres. Well, wishful thinking is not enough. It takes the implementation of life-enriching policies to prevent the looming danger.

Young Nigerians are innovative, extraordinarily talented, and hardworking. A 2020 report by the University of Kansas, US, confirmed this. What they lack, mostly, is the opportunity to transform their skills and work ethics into economic gains.

And daily, they are hustling and exploring means to break out of the impasse, but to an average young Nigerian, it appears everything in the country is configured to frustrate them and set them up for failure. When they start small businesses, there’s either a government policy or inflation and high operating costs waiting to kill the business.

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Their hope? An escape from the hustle life. This is why many now favour migration, using the social media parlance, ‘japa’, to Europe and America. While for others, reality shows that promise fame and reward for their talents have become their last resort.

For young Nigerians, it is no longer ‘get rich or die trying’. Before them are two other options: ‘japa or get on a reality show like Big Brother Naija (BBNaija)’.

The BBNaija’s promise of a combination of fame, money, and guaranteed escape from the hustle market has made it the beautiful bride for many young people.
How did I know this?

In my series of research and interaction with some young Nigerians who I realised are making it big off the back of the BBNaija platform, I came to have a broader understanding of how the show is transforming the lives of random people who never auditioned for the show. I realised the show is becoming increasingly bigger in influence and promise of wealth for many people aside from the men and women camped in the BBNaija house for about three months.

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Aside from providing new opportunities for housemates to gain continental prominence and bring them financial rewards, there are thousands of random people out there, many of whom are struggling with their ‘9 – 5 jobs’, while some are hustling with their skills to earn a living, but their attachment to BBNaija has changed the course of their career.

Adebisi Davies of SBA Studios, the official photographer of BBNaija season 5 winner Lekan’ Laycon’ Agbelesebioba has been my friend for more than five years. I know his story before he became Laycon’s official photographer, and he told me that since he joined Laycon’s team less than a year ago, there’s been a lot of transformation for his brand and personality.

“Since my watermark started appearing on Laycon’s photos, it has given my work a lot of exposure; other celebrities now call me to work for them. I’ve worked with more celebrities, and it has taken me to places,” Adebisi confirmed to me.

“Working with the former BBNaija winner has been rewarding and has taken my brand – SBA Studios to another level.”

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Motunrayo Balogun and her friend Blessing Obehi managed the social media handles of BBNaija season 6 winner, Hazel ‘Whitemoney’ Onou while he was in the house.

In my interaction with the two ladies over the weekend, I realised how big in impact and influence the BBNaija show has become. It was their first time handling a social media project. Since the show ended, the ladies told me they’ve been getting offers to manage social media campaigns for brands. One of them is also considering quitting her accounting job for a career as a social media influencer because it is more rewarding and flexible, she told me.

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“Aside from being very rewarding to housemates, BBNaija opened my eyes to see that there are a lot of other opportunities for young people who don’t even have an intention of being housemates,” she told me.

“The photographers, videographers and stylists, and social media handlers are also benefiting greatly from the show. Because the winner and other former housemates need them for their daily activities.”

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It also became clearer that winners or former housemates have up to five people directly working with them – a manager, official photographer/videographer, stylist, makeup artists and a social media handler. That is one of the ways the show keeps empowering random people and taking them off the statistics of jobless Nigerians.

In a 2020 piece published on ID Africa blog and Nairametrics, I confidently said then, and I will also say now: organisers of the show, MultiChoice Nigeria are getting the economy working with BBNaija. The story of Adebisi, Motunrayo, Blessing, and many others has confirmed that BBNaija has become a goldmine for young Nigerians.

This means we should expect a surge in the audition for the show next season. When the show returned in 2017, 16 million Nigerians were unemployed in the third quarter of 2017. More than 23 million people are now unemployed or underemployed as of the fourth quarter of 2020. The figure will rise when the 2021 report is released.

MultiChoice Nigeria said more than 50,000 people auditioned for BBNaija in 2021; we should be expecting about 100,000 in 2022 from Nigerians at home and those who have ‘japa’ because the show remains today the more assuring platform changing the story of ordinary people from grass to grace.



Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.

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