FOR supposedly bringing glory to Imo State and Nigeria as a whole, Big Brother Naija (BBN) 2018 television reality show contestants, Miracle Igbokwe (winner), Nina Onyenobi (4th runner up), Oluwabamike Olawumi (Bambam) and Tope Adenibuyan (Teddy A) were honoured by the state governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha. Announcing the series of activities rolled out to honour the BBN contestants, the Special Assistant to the governor on Entertainment, Mr. Chukwunoye Irouno, noted that a motorcade would convey Igbokwe, the main target of the celebration, from the Sam Mbakwe Airport round Owerri metropolis before the commencement of the event.
He added: “The reception will witness the investiture of Igbokwe as Education Ambassador of Imo State by Governor Rochas Okorocha. The state government has set aside Thursday, May 3, to celebrate Mr. Igbokwe, who strongly believes in free education which is the most cardinal policy of the Rescue Mission government of Governor Rochas Okorocha. Igbokwe, who was credited as the best behaved contestant, was popular with his promotion of Governor Okorocha’s free education policy in Imo State and was so patriotic about it. He confessed it publicly during a debate presentation where he said ‘I believe in education just like my governor, Rochas Okorocha.’ Due to this single display of true patriotism, the state government honoured him as Imo Education Ambassador.”
A giant billboard proclaiming “Imo State Government celebrates her education Ambassador” (sic) was in fact mounted at a strategic location as the BBN winner made his ‘triumphant’ entry into the state in a convoy of vehicles, mobbed by ecstatic fans. At the elaborate ceremony held at the Imo International Conference Centre, Owerri, the governor gave Igbokwe a plot of land and the sum of N2 million while promising to sponsor his education at a foreign university. He also gave the other contestants N2 million each. To crown the events of the day, Governor Okorocha engaged the ladies, Bambam and Nina, in a shaku shaku dance contest as the popular musician, Augustine Kelechi, popularly known as Tekno, performed. Members of the state executive council later filed out for a group photograph with the BBN contestants.
Had Governor Okorocha’s hosting of the BBN stars not been reported in the media with video and other documentary evidences, it would have been hard to believe that such an absurd event was organised by a state government anywhere in Nigeria. Truth be told, the BBN winner and his colleagues who featured in the reality show hosted in South Africa have done nothing worthy of state recognition. On the contrary, the show was targeted at entertainment without any intellectual content, and promoted base values. This is why the rationale for it has been questioned by many. Among other absurdities, the contestants, including some of those honoured by Governor Okorocha, had sex on live television.
When the government recognises and honours a group of persons, what it is really saying is that they are the set of people that others should emulate. Only the Imo State government can explain why Mr. Igbokwe merits the designation of Education Ambassador. Education in what context? In what way has he contributed to the development of education in Imo State? How is the BBN series a veritable platform for showcasing educational excellence? In any case, what really is the public expected to benefit from watching the contestants making a mess of their lives on TV? How many times has Governor Okorocha honoured the student with the best West African Senior School Certificate (WASSCE) result in the state or the best graduating students in the state universities? How is it that a BBN winner, and not these hard-working youths, is the exemplar of education?
Not surprisingly, in the list of the 75 most powerful people in the world, there is no single entertainer. To be sure, entertainment has its uses. The fact is that society is often relieved by seeming trivialities. However, when entertainment reaches such a level that it calls society’s moral and intellectual fabric into question, then the state has a bounden responsibility to at least distance itself from it. If the nation’s youths, because of the breakdown of expectations among them, are shelving their books for entertainment, drug abuse and other vices, government owes them a duty to point the way forward by, among others, honouring those engaged in vocations that advance the cause of development. This, the Imo State government tragically failed to do.