Nigerian youth have been obsessed with the peripherals – social media, fashion, embracing the West while other key sectors of the country have been suffering.
Auditions may soon begin for the next season of BBNaija, that brilliant shindig of unhinged fandom. But for a name that connotes mentorship, BBNaija fails the office: big brothers do not reward play while serious work awaits.
Entertainment is best as celebration of grit and achievement, which is why, in timing and ethic, pleasure businesses contemplate relaxation after work. And why Western societies can overhype show-business: their ancestors have fixed their poo. A poor child idling around with playmates who inherited enormous wealth is clearly not getting it. Nigeria is doing thatâ€Š—â€Šrunning entertainment as its most viable youth enterpriseâ€Š—â€Šemulating those who can afford to play, even as we use phone torchlight to find our feet at the dance floor.
Three months after we rested BBNaija 2018, Ghana had its own moment in a nationally televised science and maths quiz where secondary schools competed for glory. Marked by nationwide euphoria, it was captured even by the BBC, which documented the journey of Kissi Kweku, the lad that led his school to this year’s trophy. The show has been on air for 25 years, proving a sense of priority that steers youth energy in the right direction. The gains will come.
“Nigerian youth have been obsessed with the peripheralsâ€Š—â€Šsocial media, fashion, embracing the West. No one is asking the right questions: what will it take to have light for a full day? How can we, together, solve the power problem in our area?” said CNN’s Richard Quest. To question our technological slumber is to invite a punditry that, besides making a roll call of black innovators, blames Western conspiracy. Ironically, listing African technological inventors is proving the point of their minority: no one does same for the Chinese, the Europeans, or recently, the Indians. For decades, we have been “writing back to the West to correct false narratives about Africa”, rather than doing the work, which is more eloquent. Rejoinder literature cannot defeat the fact that we don’t have a bicycle brand wholly produced by ourselves.
The alternative to rejoinder nationalism is for rich black people to flaunt their wealth, showing the white man they too can afford the good life. Ironically also, the jets and Lamborghinis are produced by the people you want to spite, who look at you the same way educated Nigerians look at the money-miss-road that thinks money can compensate for illiteracy.
Often rightly blamed is the government, but little is said of other agencies of cultural development, like corporate Nigeria. Glo Naija Sings, Maltina Dance All, Gulder Ultimate Search, MTN Project Fame, Next Movie Start, etc.â€Š—â€Šcan corporate Nigeria ever engage the young mind in relevant productivity, like incentivizing technological and scientific thought? Is there an imperial conspiracy in foreign multinationals promoting leisure, as opposed to what they did decades ago to help their nations to rise?
At the bottom of global racism is the black man. Asians have since risen in world reckoning by technological exuberance. Arabs have gone far, with Iran unveiling its first indigenous turbo jet engine this August. Anti-racism laws and debates may protect the black man but never elevate him; only indigenous technology and problem-solving can. A risen Black Africa will fulfill the Wakanda longings of the African-American whose racial pride, like ours, is daily wounded in Africans living in televised agony and drowning en mass at the Mediterranean, pleading western succour.
Our obsession with entertainment is consolation as celebration, in a sense understandable. The point is not that we should quit playing, but that we should refocus on things that really matter, on failings that have stripped us of dignity among decent humanity. Without electricity, we snuck to the Chinese for generators and, as we struggled to fuel them from high fuel prices, we ran back to them for power banks. Our major bold footprints are in movies and music, where heavy makeup, Ankara, and colour now perform exotic breeding in British accent.
We must quit fisting bitter truths away in fruitless rationalizations. The world is witnessing a rise in antiglobalization and we are being chased back from all over the world, as statistics of downcast humanity in Libyan slavery and Western asylum. Yet in Big Brother, we are cultivating a lucrative idolatry of leisure. Nothing is physiologically wrong with the black man, only a complex crisis of civilization solvable through a radical shift in education and culture.
And Big Brother Naija, for corporate Nigeria and in spite of government, can truly be a big brother and mentor our youth by creatively leveraging true enterprise and leisure. It can, in a fun way, incorporate technological innovative ethic into the system of auditions, giving back to a society that made its sponsors rich, instead of perennially mindsturbating the youth for big money. For a true big brother is actually a family statesman, one that, over subsidizing their vanities, guides the youth to find the actualization they need.
Written by Immanuel James Ibe-Anyanwu