Monday, November 26, 2007

Cry My Beloved Country I

Gentle bobo ni mi, Emi ki se fighter, keni keni ma ti mi lo sibija (Queen Salawa Abeni).
I am a Gentle guy and not a fighter, I don't want to be pushed into a fight.

In case you didn't notice, I haven't blogged in the last 2 weeks. This has not been due to writer's block. It has also not been due to a lack of inspiration. The problem has been due to the multiplicity of ideas in my head. I've been so mad at so many things in the last 2 weeks that I've been trying to conjure up an article that could address all the issues at once. The moment I decide to write about one issue, another one comes up with a deafening sound. At first I started thinking about writing about my experiences in Lagos Large Capacity Buses (Molue). This was to serve as a parallel to my Airplane experiences. Somewhere along the way, the issue of Nigeria's failed bid to host the Commonwealth game came up. Nigeria eventually lost the hosting rights for the Commonwealth games to the city of Glasgow, Scotland. Before I could put up a post about this, another political issue caught my attention. The Sun Newspaper carried an article detailing how much Nigeria lost from import waivers granted to Obasanjo's cronies during the Obasanjo era (1999-2007). Some of those that benefitted from the Import-waiver largesse include Dangote Holdings, Cosharis e.t.c The shocking part was that a major Pentecostal church in Nigeria was included in the list. This church was said to have imported a vast amount of building materials for the purpose of building a University. The church was able to import these materials at no cost because of its close connections with the Presidency. Nigeria lost millions of Naira because a Church decided partake in this ignoble deed. I was lost for words. As usual, the mainstream media did not make a meal of this News story. It was relegated to the background. Before I could pick up my Pen (rather my keyboard), News filtered into my ears that Richard had won Big Brother Africa. Ofunneka - the Nigerian representative had come in second. Tatiana had taken third postion. Nothing baffled me much more than the fact that a rapist and an adulterer was voted for by "all of Africa". I know some would say I have no right to judge. After all, we all are thieves. Okay, I am a thief, the day you catch me I will "have no mouth to talk". But, till then, i will continue to talk. I have decided to attack all these issues one after the other. I have chosen to put them under the umbrella of "Cry, My beloved Country". This is taken from "Cry the Beloved Country" written by a South African Author named Alan Paton

Big Brother Africa is a reality TV Show that features housemates living together in a house under stringent conditions for a period of time. The theme "Big Brother" was taken from George Orwell's book - 1984. The first Big Brother show was held in Holland in September 1999 and it was produced by Endemol Productions. The Big Brother show has been exported into at least 70 countries. The success of the show has been due to the fact that it has been adapted to fit in with realities in various countries in which it is being produced. In the UK, it is known as Celebrity Big Brother. Big Brother UK features celebrities alongside with wannabe celebrities.
The first Big Brother on the continent of Africa was held in 2002 . The first Big Brother was plagued by some many problems. Some of these problems included lack of sponsorship and poor viewership. The Big Brother house even suffered a break in. Some members of the public decided to see for themselves what was going on in the Big Brother house In 2003, the first Big Brother Africa was held in the month of May. It was a bold move by Endemol South Africa and Mnet Productions. 12 housemates from different African countries were camped together in a house. Bayo Okon flew Nigeria's flag in the first edition of Big Brother Africa. He went in with a lot of hope. He came out of the house with a lot of promise. He had his 15 minutess of fame. The rest, as they say , is history. Bayo Okon is right now as popular as he was before he ventured into the Big brother house. For various reasons, Mnet decided to invest in Project Fame as its reality show in 2004. It was a programme which was supposed to launch an African music star into limelight. Dare Art Alade flew Nigeria's flag in the Project Fame show. He came out in third position. He was given a record contract as compensation. I will not even bother to name the lady who won the show because I assume if she had received what she was promised by the Organisers, she would need no introduction. Dare was promised a recording contract with Sony music. Maybe they meant, they would give him a Sony Music deck. The rest as they say is history. Dare is now a contractor in the city of Abuja.

In 2005, Mnet and Endemol in conjunction with Storm Vision produced Big Brother Nigeria. The show was hyped as being the one that would put Nigeria on the map of the world. After all, we had all sworn that such a show could not possibly be held in Nigeria due to Nigeria's lack of adequate infrastructure. Against all odds, they pulled off the show. By Nigerian standards, it was a huge success. But shortly after the show, a lot of facts began to unravel. Allegations started flying around that Endemol and Mnet had packed away all the money they made from Sponsorship and text messages to South Africa. A small pittance was given to Storm Vision as compensation. Storm Vision had a backup plan in case Endemol/ Mnet were going to pull such stunts. They brought in Katung whose father worked in the Presidency alongside the mother of the MD of Storm records. Katung also happened to be a Presenter in Cool FM Abuja. Olisa Adibua (Cool FM Lagos), stakeholder in Storm Records was a presenter on the show. The rest as they say is history. Katung, their friend took home the $100,000 in prize money. The last place Katung was seen was on a Billboard advertising Harp Lager Beer.

Endemol and Mnet Productions were not done with the Big Brother Africa phenomenon. They decided to host Big Brother Africa II in South Africa. Ofunneka was chosen as Nigeria's representative on the show. Richard was chosen as Tanzania's representative. During the course of the show, Richard was able to prove that marriage is no barrier to having fun. Tatiana and Richard kept themselves from the evil effects of loneliness. A task was given by Big Brother which involved lots of Alcohol. There was uncontrolled downing of spirits. The spirits then sprung into life. Richard jumped into action and sexually assaulted Ofunneka. I would not bore you with the details. You can find such details at these sites.

For those of you, that need me to spell it out, Richard fingered Ofunneka relentlessly. This led to a volcano of reactions all across Africa. Some viewers insisted that what Richard did constituted an act of Rape. Mnet and Endemol had to do damage control by yanking off all discussions that had to do with this on the Big Brother Africa discussion board. Text messages pertaining to the rape incident were not allowed to reach the screen. Due to the Outcry, Mnet decided to invite a couple of South African NGOs to view the footage of the show. Mnet's official line was that "whatever happened between Ofunneka and Richard was consensual". After viewing the tapes, the South African groups agreed with Mnet that Ofunneka was a willing participant in the sexual assault. The rest as they say is history. Richard won the second edition of Big Brother Africa.
I have tried to look at these incidents dispassionately but I have failed in this task. My blood boils when I think of the fact that my fellow Nigerian was raped on prime time TV and some media goons are trying to hoodwink me. Some have insinuated, "She asked for it, Why did she take so much alcohol and lose control of her senses"? My answer to that is this - Everyone has a right to do whatever (s)he wants to do with him/herself. Ofunneka's lack of sobriety was not an open invitation for a sexual predator like Richard to take advantage of. According to regular viewers of the BBA show, Ofunneka had never shown any affinity towards Richard. The question which needs an answer is - Why would she suddenly fall in love with Richard to the extent that she would allow him to touch her in the nether regions (Ó Funmi Iyanda) . Some other questions need to be asked - Who are the South African NGOs that were allowed to view the tape? What did they see? Where are the Nigerian NGOs? So many self-seeking, undercover frauds parade themselves across the Nigerian landscape as NGOs. Their favorite song line is the eradication of HIV/AIDS. Foreign Funds have been sought and received under the guise of this impossible task. The Nigerian NGOs that would show up in large proportions whenever an International conference is to be held in Nigeria are nowhere to be found. Ofunneka has no one to defend her cause.
My mind goes back to the Project fame incident of 2004. Dare was asked a question by one of the participants on the show. He was asked "What would you get my 10 year old cousin who is having her birthday soon"? Dare jokingly replied - I will get her pregnant. All hell was let loose. Sponsors threatened to pull out of the show. South African Women rights groups called for the show to be cancelled. Dare was put on eviction for the first time in the duration of the programme. He had to tender an open apology to the whole of Africa for making a statement. South Africa was very sensitive about the issue of rape , therefore they took Dare's statement seriously. So what has changed in 2007? A Nigerian made a statement in 2004 and all hell broke loose while a Nigerian was raped on TV in 2007 and it was termed 'consensual'. After the show, Richard was asked about the incident and he replied "Well,This is Africa". I want him to know that this is not the Africa that Foday Sankara, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah and Obafemi Awolowo fought for. Your Africa is not my Africa. The last straw that broke the camel's back for me was when the House of Reps Committe on Media invited the Nigerian Broadcast Commission to explain the actions they took to sanction Multichoice for violating its broadcast provisions. NBC officials told the House of reps committee that they had warned Multichoice twice during the duration of the programme, but Multichoice did not heed their warnings. You can imagine the Inspector General of Police being asked to explain the high crime rate in the country and he replies - I have warned these robbers but they have refused to listen. The House of Reps thus banned the showing of any clips of the BBA programme in Nigeria. However I tuned in to Galaxy television on Saturday and saw highlights of the show being run on air.
Meanwhile, Mnet/ Endemol have kept Ofunneka in South Africa. They are still thinking of how they'll arrange a hero's welcome for her in Nigeria. No matter how long she stays in South Africa, she cannot hide from the truth. A regular viewer of the BBA programme informed me of how she broke down in tears when she recounted the horrible experience that she had with her former boyfriend. She had moved in with him and given her all to the relationship but that was not enough to keep the guy. If she could break down in tears on Primetime TV because of this, I wonder what would happen when she comes home to confront the truth of what happened to her in South Africa.
But then, do I blame the South African companies who are only interested in making profit? Maybe if the House of Reps had not been engulfed with the Etteh scandal, they could have nipped the BBA scourge in the bud. Maybe if Nigeria had good leadership, we would be able to lay down the law with respect to foreign media. Maybe, Just maybe . I am so mad, right now, I can't type further

N.B: This article was written before Ofunneka was welcomed into the country


laspapi said...

This wide-ranging article is one of the best but most disturbing I have ever seen about our country. There are issues mentioned here I'd heard of in whispers..."a la Katung" but not blown open like this. Are we being played in Nigeria? Is everyone taking us to the cleaners? The South Africans, the Politicians? I'll link this on my blog.

For the love of me said...

wow, very insightful and good read, I personal think big brother should be scrapped, what exactly is their point? I feel sorry for Ofunneka particularly coming from a country where people hold you responsible for being raped. I hope that she will manage to put it behind her and make something great out of her life. The women group that sued MTN for the "na boy" advert, where on earth are there?

2ndCorin5:17 said...

wow babe,
please calm down... I had ABSOLUTELY no idea all the mess thats been going on. Although it seemed kinda suspect tho' with all the "Made" men in Storm Records.. the whole world is full of ish.... wow..

About Ofunneka, never watched d show, but kinda followed it on the net. Was mad when i heard she didn't win... Even more surprised now, at the high level of immorality these "grown-ups" are exhibiting. What am I, a youth, to do?
Wow... this is truly sad that theres so much B.S....

I want to say "God help us", but when will we start helping ourselves? ish!

2ndCorin5:17 said...

dis is very random.. but u know what i like about u?
U find time 2 leave comments on my blog.. thanks bud

Comrade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Isi said...

this is very disturbing i dont know what to say...

CATWALQ a.k.a LAGBA-JESS said...

I had always wondered why Dare was not the superstar that his voice indicated that he ought to be...
This continuous self sabotage that we Africans subject themselves to.
This was well written and covered alot of issues.
I would ask you like me, to hold on. Things will get better

Comrade said...

@ Laspapi,
There are many issues which I couldn't raise. The foreigners see the whole idea of Nigeria as being a big scam. They are willing to play along. Anything goes. I heard Multichoice apologised when the House of Reps banned BBA. It's all about the Benjamins. Nothing more
@ For the love of me
Thanks for stopping by. If you steal N600 million, Nigerians will forget after a few years, but if you dare have anything that is remotely related to Sex on TV, generations unborn would get to hear the tales
@ 2 Cor5:17
Hey, Comrade is a guy. All that glitters in Nigeria is not Gold. Nothing goes for nothing over here

rethots said...

Comrade, a very good job you've done in this analysis but, i always wonder, "What can we do?" And it dawns on me, It'll take a few good men (& women) not to lose hope but, continually raise their voices over such issues. Eventually, these few good men (& women) will cause a ripple effect which would turn our country (& selves) round in a short while.

Just like you, i choose to be one of the men who won't lose all hope in our nation.

...a little while.

I love your writings.

HMB said...

WRT the Ofu thingy, if it was a Nigerian that had committed such an act, all hell would have broken loose by now. Do u blame that stupid Richard guy, a married man who had sex on global TV...displaying the mentality of the average African man. MNET should have disqualified his sorry ass immediately that issue started.

Omo Alagbede said...

You didn't tell us about "Teddy Bear" Bayo - our flagflyer in BBA 1. Last thing we heard he was dreaming of a career in TV, and a fashion label, Teddy Bear Fashions... that name "Teddy Bear" might have become his undoing... it is a fact of life that Teddy Bears are meant to be outgrown. Poor Bayo. Even "fame" is tired of being stuck like a "post-it" note on every TomDickenHarry... In Ofunneka's case she might have to look to Hints and You-Tube for her own Fame... poor Girl...SHE NEEDS TO SUE RICHARD AND ENSURE HE DOESN'T ENJOY ONE CHUNK OF THAT 100 GRAND... SHE SHOULD TEAM UP WITH HIS (EX-)WIFE AND HELP HIM TO SPEND THE REST OF HIS LIFE PAYING LAWYERS' BILLS!!!

nneoma said...

whoa, i had no idea what was going on in this latest edition of BBA, for I had only been able to watch the one with Bayo since I was in Naija then. Even the slightest insinuation of rape is outrageous, and the fact that the show was allowed to persist was egregious. Is Ofunneka going to press charges?

Ms. emmotions said...

hey comrade, i must confess this is a very good in-depth analysis. its high time someone talked about this.

well done!

Gbemi's Piece said...

I'm sure by now Ofunneka must have signed waivers not to sue Mnet and co. There's no way they will let her go without a release statement saying that she perhaps consented to what was done to her. These companies, like you said, are all about the benjamins and ain't no way any Ofunneka's going to get a dime out of them.

By the way, in regards to the church enjoying some tax-free benefits, shouldn't they? As a non-profit, aren't churches exempt from paying taxes on their revenues, and shouldn't that tax-free status extend to imports? I don't know, just a thought.

lindwee said...

Thanks Comrade for the good post.
This BBA thing is really confusing.
At first i thought it was about morals but i was wrong.
We the consumers also don't know what we want. we keep on switching favorite housemates. At first Ofunneka was the viewers' sweetheart but i don't know what happened.
What Richard did was degrading us and Ofunneka in particular.
At the end of it all, the choice lies in the hands of viewers.
I think the BB thing is not meant for Africa coz almost everything in there is not African apart from What...drawings? hmm...

Anonymous said...

I wonder what big brother is all about anyway. To me, it is crap and not fit for Nigerian airwaves. It is a foreign idea and I think Nigerians should not involve themselves in it.

There are 2 types of Big brother actually in the UK. The regular one and the celebrity one. Shilpa Shetty won the last celebrity BB and Brian the regular one. One lady was 'kicked' out of BB UK for calling Charly (black chic) a Ni***r though in a joking way. If this happened in UK.....Richard will surely be dealt with.

I don't know why we take serious things lightly. I am very very upset......True talk