By Owei Lakemfa
LOCKING up seven young ladies and an equal number of men in a house for three months, plying them with inexhaustible amount of food, cigarettes, beer and hot drinks is like experimenting with human beings in a zoo. It is bound to bring out the worst in them. Endless quarrels, fights, drinking binges, drunkenness and open flirtation are bound to occur. This precisely is what the Big Brother Africa programme is about.
In the fifth edition which came to an end on Sunday, a seemingly upright lady like Paloma from Kitwe, Zambia was so drunk on an occasion that she could not get out of bed to watch her father’s video message wishing her luck.
On another, this lady that prides herself as a dignified African lady (compared to many in the house, she can pass as one) got so drunk that she sexually harassed a male housemate, Mwisho with whom she clearly has nothing in common. Yet she was one of the best behaved in the house; some of the housemates like Kaone got so frequently and hopelessly drunk that they spit into other housemates food and pee around.
When the runner-up, Munya Chiozonga, a film maker and actor from Harare, Zimbabwe got drunk on an occasion, he insulted his country and Africa.
The winner of this edition who also got the prize money of $200,000 is Nigeria’s Uti Nwachukwu. He was not opportunistic, and was a plain-hearted person who had respect for the women. He displayed good self-restraint even after the beautiful and quite intelligent Kenyan participant, Sheila had confessed her love for him.
However, Uti was unnecessarily aggressive, destructive, brash, insulting, talkative and quarrelsome. That he won this edition tagged “All Stars” is partly due to the fact that there was no clear star in the house.
Despite his short comings, Uti was far better than his closest rival, Munya who was pretentious, unforgiving, over confident and played a dangerous game of always appealing to the sentiments of Southern African countries.
His calculation was that since most of the voting countries were from that part of Africa, he would win the competition if he played them against the rest of Africa. At the end, all the seven countries that voted for him, except Tanzania, were from the South African region: Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. On the other hand, Uti’s victory came through the votes of Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda and the Rest of Africa. So one primary issue raised by this edition is the need to widen the participating countries.
Code, a radio DJ from Malawi tried to be composed; but he was merely a “borite”, the tag given to housemates who were a bore. Jen, an international politics graduate from Maputo, Mozambique was an emotionally unstable person given to torrents of tears. Kaone, a radio producer from Gaborone, Botswana was uncultured and had long spells of drunkenness.
Hannington, a Businessman from Kampala, Uganda was quite flirty; kissing as many of the women as possible. He pretended to be a gentleman until an altercation between him and fellow housemate, Lerato showed his other side and was expelled. The South African Lerato, a public relations practitioner was not completely innocent in the altercation, therefore the decision to expel Hannington while she stayed in the competition remains controversial even when she received some punishment.
Meryl, an event organiser from Windhoek, Namibia was a new mother but that did not prevent her from going all the way with Mwisho, a businessman from Morogoro, Tanzania. The unpredictable Mwisho even had an engagement party with her in the House.
Paloma, a sales consultant tried to maintain her dignity, but fell on a number of occasions. Sammy, a musician from Accra, Ghana could not fit in, he tried to sing, but was so croaky that other housemates, and I guess, many viewers had a good laugh. He had health problems, but it seemed the lure of the prize money was so irresistible that at the end it was the organisers that asked him to withdraw.
There was the 25-year old Sheila, a writer, director and actress from Nairobi Kenya who like most participants was a heavy smoker and drinker. From Ethiopia came Yacob, a gentleman that found it difficult to control his temper and was engaged in endless quarrels. On one occasion, he took on at least three ladies.
The situation was so bad that when he asked to voluntarily withdraw from the competition, his mates felt a sense of relief.
Then there was Tatiana, the Seductress-in –Chief. The television presenter, actress and model from Angola thought all she needed to do was flirt with all the men and be tarty. Apparently the viewers got fed up with her and any occasion that presented itself, they voted against her. But she was intelligent enough to break the secrets of two participants while also luring the gullible Munya to reveal his secret.
The prize money of $200,000 in any part of the world for a youth is no peanut, however, you will find it is exploitative when you calculate the huge profits of the organisers after all expenses, including cost of accommodation, equipment, upkeep and staff. For instance, the cost of voting on the MTN from Nigeria is 50 cents per call.
If we take this as an average, and considering the fact that the number of votes in the final alone was one million, it means that the network made $5,000,000 from the final votes alone.
I hope steps are taken to prevent housemates spreading STDs, and some respect shown them. I do not advocate scrapping the programme as that may abridge the rights of viewers.
But I think it can be transformed from its semi-nudity and emphasis on hard drinking, smoking and encouragement of participants to be unscrupulous, mean and flirtatious, to a programme that promotes genuine competition amongst youths.
There is also the need for some African flavour rather than the programme, including invited musicians and dancers, being Eurocentric.