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Date Published: 07/14/10

See who our heroes are By Idang Alibi


A few months ago when Mr. Kevin Pam returned from his “exploits’ at the reality show called Big Brother Africa, he was received as an honoured guest of the President’s in the Aso Rock Presidential Villa. Pam has since become a Nigerian pop idol. A few years back when another young Nigerian Bayo Okoh won in the same competition, he visited President Obasanjo who promptly declared him a Nigerian hero. I do not know what feat a competitor achieves in Big Brother Africa to be declared winner and for him to then be hailed as a national hero.

I am not at all ashamed to declare that I am a man of the Old School. When something new comes on the scene, I am always wary of embracing it and when I warm up to it, I will do so with the tentativeness with which a young woman responds to the entreaties of a persistent new suitor. In fact I embrace new things without any much gusto until I am convinced beyond doubt that it is very good for me. And so when Big Brother Africa reality show intruded on our national consciousness and there was the huge craze in town over it, I had to rely on TV addicts to tell me what it was all about.

When I was told all about what the “housemates” do, how there is a “shower hour” in which the housemates bathe in their birthday suits for the watching, lustful admiration of millions of viewers, the moral side of me convinced me that that was not the kind of show that me a child of the Living God should waste my time to watch. How can I, the Right Honourable Mr. Idang Alibi, God’s own child, watch a programme that is likely to corrupt my morals and take away my valuable sleeping hours? God forbid.

Imagine my surprise then when a Nigerian who is declared winner in such a competition is received in audience by the President of my country and declared a national hero. I also heard that a young man from Botswana who won last year’s game, perhaps, as part of the game, fingered, or to put it more euphemistically, touched a young Nigerian girl in a part of the body considered in all civilised cultures as sacred and sensitive. And this was done in full view of the whole world! So this is the stuff of which winners of Big Brother Africa are supposed to be made? To be audacious, unAfrican and adopt the devil- may- care attitude? And then at the end of it all, they are hailed as heroes? What hero?

Big Brother has been on for some years now and to date, no one has succeeded in telling some of us what really is done in that ‘House’. The housemates are never required to do anything imaginative, creative, innovative or soul-lifting; nothing that will add significant value to their nation of origin or to the African continent or to humanity as a whole. They just sit there in that house and speak and act like poor caricatures of White children. The kind of music they sing is unAfrica. The values they promote in that ‘House’ is unAfrican. And then they become heroes. Just like that. Is that the kind of activity that produces heroes? Are they heroes because they promote Western, American values?

By honouring the likes of Bayo and Kevin as heroes what are our Presidents telling other Nigerian youth? That the way to glory is through pop culture? That you do not need to do anything positive or productive to become a hero? That all what you need to do is to just get into the public eye through all devices and you become a hero?

 What attributes of heroism does the Big Brother Africa competition seek to bring out of those who take part in it? Is it extreme courage, selflessness, perseverance, resourcefulness, ingenuity or nobility? If you win Big Brother Africa competition is that a scholastic or vocational achievement? Do you offer any scientific or technological breakthrough that will bring better life to the people of say Nigeria and Africa?

Every society reserves the right to define who should be its heroes. In the Western world, they have conquered many diseases which still kill hundreds of thousands in Africa. They have overcome development challenges which we here are still grappling with. Food is no longer a challenge to them as it is to us in most of Africa. They take for granted some socio-economic amenities which are a luxury to us here. For them they want things that can help give them diversion from the tedium of over enjoyment. In such societies any meaningless idea such as assembling young men and women to stay in sexually charged atmosphere to view them like animals in a zoo such as the Big Brother Africa competition does give them the much needed diversion they crave.

But our society in Africa is much different. We face grim challenges here bordering on sheer survival. We need a solution to the Malaria pandemic that kills millions of Africans. For me any man or woman that brings forth an idea that can combat this number one killer of Africans will be a true hero indeed.

We must try to be careful about the things we copy from oyiboland. The reality show idea we have copied and embraced with so much enthusiasm is one of the things we must jettison. It is clearly not good for us

The gist of what we are saying is that it is wrong for our Presidents to receive in audience in Aso Rock or anywhere else and hail as national heroes the likes of Bayo Okoh and Kevin Pam because they won in a meaningless competition called Big Brother Africa which adds no real value to our society. In case our Presidents do not know it, the Aso Rock Presidential Villa is more hallowed than the two chambers of the National Assembly combined. If this nation were a temple, the presidential villa is supposed to be the “holy of holies”. If the country were a congregation, he is its chief priest, the Cohen Gadol. The chief priest can never be seen blessing the unholy because he is expected to be holy because he represents a holy God.

The occupant of the Villa is supposed to be the highest symbol of our nobility. He is the custodian of our cherished values. He, it is, who is supposed to define what we consider as an achievement and validates those who are seen as having achieved what we consider worthwhile. Any one the President is seen publicly with in the Villa be he a businessman, a singer, a farmer, a footballer or any other citizen or foreigner, must be an exceptional man or woman who has contributed, or is likely, to contribute to the greatness of the fatherland. Declares the Bible: “Seeth thou a man diligent in his work? He shall not stand before mere men. He shall stand before kings and princes “. The President is not a mere man. He should therefore not allow himself to mingle with mere men.

As I see it, the Aso Rock is our own White House. In fact, I advocate that we should rename our presidential residence the Black House and promote it to signify that it is the powerhouse of the Black race. We should seek to remove the negative connotation attached to black. See how Ghana has projected blackness with pride and see how their senior national team soared higher than any other black team in the on-going FIFA World Cup! 

A visit to the White House has inspired many young Americans to work hard and become president. Some time during the presidency of late JF Kennedy, Bill Clinton visited Kennedy as a Rhode’s Scholar, shook hands and took pictures with Kennedy. He was so taken in by the grandeur of the White House and the charisma of the president that he resolved to become president one day. That inspiration fired his life and one day he became not just the president of the USA but one of the four most successful presidents of that country.

Our own Aso Rock, sorry Black House, should be to Nigerians and the Black race what the White House is to the Americans and the Western world. Our Black House should receive and validate only those who have something worthwhile to contribute to the greatness of Nigeria and the Black world. If it must receive icons of popular culture, it must be only those who have projected our Black culture and not the likes of Bayo and Kevin who are caricatures of Western culture.

 I have often wondered why if we like the  reality show idea so much why has no one thought of doing the ones that are relevant to our situation and which will produce authentic Nigerian heroes? Why, for instance, do we not have National Geographical quiz competition in which young Nigerians are encouraged to know the geography of their country?  Why do we not have a literature quiz competition in which our children are encouraged to read the books written by authors from Nigeria and Africa? With this we will wean our children away from harmful television programmes which give little but corrupt so much. Why do we not have a competition for young inventors and designers who Nigeria will rely upon for our technological breakthrough? Winners in such competitions should be promoted as genuine national heroes. There should be celebrated as budding intellectual prodigies.

 A young northern Nigerian Jelani Aliyu is making waves in the car-making world and is being celebrated as one of the best car designers in the world. When will a Nigerian president receive him and shake hands with him in the Villa and project him as an inspiration to young Nigerians? Why is his name not among those who were selected for conferment of the National Honours Awards for bringing honour to his fatherland by his exploits abroad?

 Does President Goodluck Jonathan know the Nigerian child who had the best result in the recent NECO Examinations? Why are young Nigerians who make first class degrees in our extremely difficult circumstances not invited to dine and wine with our presidents? Why should it be champions of permissive Western pop culture the ones that get star treatment from our presidents?

Mr. Alibi is an Abuja based journalist and member of the Daily Trust Editorial Board


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