I don’t know how the organisers of Big Brother Africa (BBA) have to redeem their image, but a greater number of their audience who are mostly West Africans believe the show has been tainted with bias and prejudice, to the detriment of West Africa.
And their submissions are not far-fetched.
First, we are in Africa, a continent of diversity where there are as many tribes as there are different people. Everything in Africa is tainted and painted in the shade of tribalism, ethnicity, nationalism or regionalism. For this reason, a contest like Big Brother Africa which brings out nationals of various countries to compete ought to create a balance in representation because there are deep-seated regional ties which ultimately influence voting patterns and determine who wins the contest.
East Africans traditionally see themselves as one unit. They all belong to the East African Community (EAC), which comprises Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. The motto of the EAC is “One People One Destiny”. In this year’s BBA, East Africa has four representatives: Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.
Southern Africa has never been hegemonic of sort. It’s basically acepalous in form and shape. That is why even though there is the Southern Africa Development Commission, (SADC) which has 14 member-states including South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania, the people here cannot be termed as a unit, unlike the East Africans. By the way, Tanzania from East Africa is also a member of the SADC. That is how fragmented, diluted and watered down the SADC is! In this year’s BBA, SADC produced seven representatives: Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa.
West Africa has ECOWAS, and they are a very strong and compact unit like the EAC. Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Gambia are the Anglophone arm of ECOWAS. ”. In this year’s BBA, West Africa has only two representatives: Nigeria and Ghana.
The other member-states of ECOWAS are French and Portuguese-speaking. Save for the Anglophone parts, the other ECOWAS states have never been involved in BBA.
May be due to the language barrier. But Angola and Mozambique, two Portuguese speaking nations in the SADC often make it to BBA. Why can’t Portuguese Guinea Bissau situated in West Africa come to the BBA party too or even Anglophone Gambia, after all Multi-Choice also operates in these countries?
Or why can’t we get the French-speaking West African nations of Benin, Togo, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, or even Cameroun, - where Multi-Choice also operates - to participate in the BBA party, after all more than 60% of the educated young population in these countries write and speak English language?
This year’s BBA did not give a fair representation to West Africa even though Multi-Choice has more customers in West Africa than any other region in Africa. With only two slots (Nigeria and Ghana) allocated to it, the odds were stacked against it as it slugged it out with East Africa, four slots, and SADC - a whopping seven slots!
Since voting was now tended towards regional blocks, it was almost always going to be seemingly impossible nay very difficult for a country like Ghana or Nigeria to win the BBA contest. And it showed clearly in this year’s contest because West Africa was seriously under-represented. And it will continue to be so: no West African nation can win BBA contest again!
Geographical, the SADC states are contiguous to the East African states, and are often blended as one. For instance, a Zambian or Botswanese has closer ties to Kenya and Tanzania than to Nigeria or Ghana. To these SADC and EAC folks, West Africans are like aliens! This is not surprising because West Africa is thousands of miles away and separated from SADC and East Africa.
And given the regional divide and awareness the BBA programme created this year, where citizens of particular regions gravitate towards each other, it was no surprise that the whole of East Africa voted for the East African candidate left in the fray, Idris. The youngster was lucky that Ugandan beauty, Ella was sent home before the finals, paving way for him as the sole East African candidate.
West Africa had two slots – and unfortunately two contestants in the finals, Tayo and Mam’bea. Therefore, the vote was split. If West Africa has had four slots, like East Africa, Tayo or Mam’bea would have easily won over Sierra Leone and Liberia. And if BBA has included neutrals like Ethiopia in this year’s game, may be Tayo may have won there. That would have given him 5 country votes as well. Or may be less. But it would have been a keenly and closely contested race, rather than this lopsided race that favoured East Africa and SADC right from Day 1, to the detriment of West Africa.
SADC did not utilise or enjoy their numerical strength, as they did last year when Namibian beauty, Dillish won. This year they have 5 contestants in the finals – Sipe (Malawi), Macky 2 (Zambia), JJ and Butterfly (Zimbabwe) and Nkhlakhla (South Africa). The stage for self-destruct was therefore set. And at the end, the 5 contestants battled for the 7 country votes of the SADC. Macky 2 got the rest of Africa plus Zambia, Nklakhla got SA and Botswana, JJ piped Butterfly to clinch the Zimbabwe slot and Sipe won her Malawi slot. Namibia opted out of the SADC, and voted East Africa’s Idris.
In all of these, it is clear BBA needs to be retooled and reshaped to make it look like a fair, balanced and equitable contest. Truly, if the programme wants to enjoy credibility and good rating in West Africa, it must tread the path of inclusiveness and give more slots to West Africa. We want to see more participants from this region. My suggestion is, rather than two per country, let each country produce only one candidate. For West Africa, let’s give representation to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Cameroun. The French countries here are all bilingual now.
This way, Multi-Choice will be freeing itself from the pangs of bias and favouritism currently chocking its neck in West Arica. It will also be saving its business interests too because most of the advertisers and sponsors of BBA are from West Africa.
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