By Ben Atonko
The social media have been awash in sentimentalities following a denigrating stereotype to the Tiv by a BBNija “inmate” Venita Akpofure.
I chose the lexeme inmate deliberately for some reason.
First, let me state that stereotyping is our national pastime. It’s in our blood and we love to do it with scant regard for its consequences.
The food we eat can easily be a source of stereotyping here. Yet we have moved on in all our years as a country like it doesn’t matter.
And comedians are very much in it. Once they step on the stage, their jokes are laced with ethnic stereotyping and sarcasm – portraying some ethnic groups as having ungovernable enthusiasm for money and can do anything for it; some as perpetual drunks; some as dirty; and some as being foolish, etc.
Anyhow, Akpofure’s saga has now prompted the need for Nigerians to look at this pervasive and persistent tendency for social bias, prejudice, and discrimination.
Similarly, it is time for the organisers of the show to look again at the way they organise and present to the public their yearly event.
When it started, there was a call for its scrapping especially from northern Nigeria with the claim that it promotes immortal acts. That time, it was taken to be a vehemence of a religious fundamentalists group.
Now, taking the religious perspective away, we have seen over the years how the inmates have proved incapable of being urbane and sane and the role models that the society might generally want them to be.
Before the Akpofure’s gaffe, another inmate ignited fire when he said something that gender activists described as reckless and misogynistic.
A Nollywood icon, Kanayo O. Kanayo has also questioned the rationale behind the BBNija show when he lamented that many of the inmates are only good at shaking their butts and boobs. Pointing at their gaffe in one of the games in the BBNija house, Kanayo lamented that the inmates could hardly answer correctly elementary questions.
The outburst of anger Akpofure has stirred now should serve as another reminder to the organisers of the multimillion naira live television show of the need to review what they are doing.
Failure to take a look at their processes and styles will lead them to a very serious problem — in no distant time, I predict because the way they pick the kind of human beings they put in that house seems to be astonishingly awful.
BBNija owes Nigerians that social responsibility of promoting civility, decency, national cohesion, unity and social order. And it must be seen to be doing so otherwise, its business can best be described as a beautiful nonsense.
Some countries have since discarded reality show of this kind. Nigeria should not be treading a path long closed and abandoned by civilised societies.
Both the Nigeria film censoring authorities and BBNija managers should look at Akpofure as a token of flawed diamond. By this, a decision will be taken — whether BBNija should be given a new face or be proscribed.
A diverse and complex society like Nigeria cannot afford to continue to toy with stereotyping. The country has fought a civil war already. And similar incidents abound in many countries. What happened in Rwanda started with branding of ethnic groups.
Atonko is Abuja-based safety advocate