Will ‘BBNaija’ end the age-long beef between Nigeria and South Africa?

Ganiu Oloruntade
Nigeria and South Africa have a complicated history. What started as a brotherhood between the two countries has deteriorated over the years…
Will 'Big Brother Naija + South Africa' finally end an age-long beef?
Will ‘Big Brother Naija + South Africa’ finally end an age-long beef?

Just when we thought we already had a bellyful of the drama from the seventh season of Africa’s biggest reality TV show, Big Brother Naija, the organisers, Multichoice Nigeria have decided to fill our plates again.

Speaking at an event in Lagos on Thursday, the company’s CEO, John Ugbe disclosed that the next season of the most-watched show will be a special edition tagged ‘Big Brother Naija + SA’. Billed to debut sometime next year, the show will feature housemates from both Nigeria and South Africa.

Multichoice Nigeria CEO, John Ugbe making the announcement. Image Source: Twitter.
Multichoice Nigeria CEO, John Ugbe making the announcement. Image Source: Twitter.

Similar read: #BBNaija: The Big Winners, the Winners, the Losers and the Rest of us

Unifying cultures

The announcement, as expected, sparked a flurry of reactions from fans, including many Twitter jokes, some of them about the expected fresh battle for supremacy between Nigerians and South Africans, especially in the wake of the ongoing debate on social media about Amapiano, the much-embraced South African dance sound that has influenced Nigerian music scene in recent times.

Grammy-winning singer, Wizkid’s new single, “Bad To Me”, which jumps on the sound, caused some commotion around Amapiano’s influence over Nigeria’s Afrobeats, arguably the biggest thing to come out of the country.

“This special Big Brother edition would have Nigerians and South Africans in one house, so just imagine Afrobeats and Amapiano in one house.”

– John Ugbe.

Ugbe added that the now-anticipated show “is designed to be a unifying experience of culture, personalities and entertainment, highlighting what we both have in common”.

This means that the Multichoice-backed Big Brother Naija will be merging with South Africa’s version of the Big Brother franchise known as Big Brother Mzansi. Its third season, which ended in April this year, was won by 27-year-old Michelle Mavundla better known as Mphowabadimo, the first-ever female winner of the show.

Read also: Did society give BBNaija’s Beauty her toxic role only to later spit her out?

A complicated history

Nigeria and South Africa have a complicated history. What started as a brotherhood between the two countries has deteriorated over the years, resulting in a love-hate relationship.

Nigeria, knowns for its ‘Big Brother’ status on the continent, played its part in the emancipation of South Africa from the grip of apartheid in 1994. Worthy of note is the special tax imposed on Nigeria’s civil servants to fund the anti-apartheid liberation movement.

South Africa returned the favour by championing the fight against the dreadful regime of late Nigerian military dictator, Sani Abacha.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa. Image Source: Getty Images.

But after decades, the relationship has been strained for different reasons.

In 2012, the South African government denied 125 Nigerians entry into the country on the ground that they had invalid yellow fever vaccination cards. In an apparent retaliatory move, Nigeria deported 56 South African businessmen from Lagos.

The existing rift between the two countries reached its crescendo in 2019 when xenophobic attacks were launched against immigrants — including Nigerians — in South Africa. The development, which dates back to 2008 and 2015, was met with a strong push-back by the Nigerian government, forcing the then-South African president to apologise.

But in 2022, the attacks returned, thrashing hopes that Nigeria and South Africa might become “brothers” again.

Entertainment to the rescue

While it seems that towing diplomatic path has failed to mend fences between the two countries, entertainment is rising up to the occasion.

In recent years, Nigerian musicians haven’t only headlined shows in South Africa but also featured their South African counterparts in several chart-topping tracks, igniting a new wave of unity backed by the dominance of Amapiano-inspired songs on the Nigerian airwaves. There are also talks of collaborations between Nollywood and the South African movie industry.

And now with a reality show “designed to unify” both countries. this new-found relationship will presumably last long, albeit with some drama like the one we saw play out on social media earlier in the week.

Brotherhood at last?

Multichoice Nigeria’s decision to leverage the increasing success of its Big Brother Naija to create a special show featuring South African housemates, away from the business angle, might just be a step in the direction of rejigging the turbulent relationship between Nigeria and South Africa.

One thing is sure: as the show is expected to garner increased viewership and greater acceptance from both countries, there would be more interactions between fans — Nigerians and South Africans — on social media.

And according to experts, social media is a tool for unity, if properly harnessed. Memes and banters might just be a starting point for the eventual erasure of the two countries’ age-long rift, who knows?


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