12 hours inside Big Brother Naija house

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For 92 days, the 2019 Big Brother Naija housemates would be cocooned in the house, outside of the outside world, with each other, their wiles and their wits as they gun for the ultimate prize of N60m. Open to praise and criticisms, they are going to live their lives in front of the cameras, judged by all.
For a sample of what the housemates would go through, some select Nigerian and African journalists spent one night in the BBN house, experiencing Biggie’s house. JOE AGBRO JR, who was among them, writes of his experience.

When I got the invitation to spend a night in the 2019 Big Brother Naija house, I was happy. Having watched previous editions of the show, I looked forward to experiencing what it was like, even if it would be just for a night. So, on Saturday afternoon, it was with a high level of expectation I went to the meeting point.

Once assembled, we the Nigerian journalists met other colleagues – three east Africans (a Ugandan, a Kenyan and a Zambian) and two Ghanaians. The time was around 5:30pm and we introduced ourselves and made small chatter but all of us were eager to enter the house. The organisers seemed to have other plans as we couldn’t understand the delay. We had our mug shots taken and were briefed on how to manage the microphones so the technical folks would pick up every sound we uttered. We were also briefed on other dos and don’ts.

We then started our tour, starting from the control room which was manned 24 hours by more than a dozen staff. The room was filled with the latest gizmos, including a full digital audio and video mixers Vsm IP base and a Plus 4K camera with an optical fibre transmission that achieves high image quality. The crew also used customised Avid software for editing.

Then we had our mics clipped on. Made to abide by the rules, we submitted our phones, watches and computers. The idea was to give up any contact with the outside world. Undoubtedly some of us felt cranky with that. I had been sharing WhatsApp broadcasts every morning around 6am for nearly three years and I knew those receiving my broadcasts would worry if it delayed. I quickly notified them I wouldn’t be sending it the next day. I was ready to experience Big Brother.

Measuring about 1800sqm and designed to be bigger and better than any of the Big Brother Africa or Mzansi houses, the house was built from scratch by multiple teams day and night for five months. It is the first purpose-built facility with all the zones in one complex. Previous facilities had the house, studio for the live shows, production and post-production units all in separate buildings and sometimes in different locations. The house also has an additional 250sqm for support building services such as the sick bay, laundry and artiste lounges. And the live eviction show venue is about 300sqm, the size of the previous house. The arena for the Friday night games also received a major upgrade by up to 270sqm.

At 9pm, we were finally ushered into Biggie’s house. The first thing I noticed was the high ceilings and bright lights in the lounge. There were two main bedrooms and a Head of House room which is en suite unlike the previous HoH rooms. It was exquisite and the camera angles don’t even do enough justice to the house. It’s better seen live.

The house has 7x hand held cameras and 32 que ball cameras and some flat sennheiser mics jutted out from different parts of the wall to further reinforce Biggie’s omni-presence. The only place without a camera was the bathroom with its three individual showers. Cameras were visible in the toilet but we were assured it wasn’t recording.

The décor and colour scheme too was superb. From the artworks, kitchen chairs, dining table and chairs, lounge chairs to the kitchen tops, to the beds. It is impressive that all the furniture and appliances in use in the house were locally sourced. With ‘wows’ and ‘aahs’, we quickly took these in. It was now time to settle the belly as most of us were already hungry.

Before we entered, we had been briefed that everything we needed to live in the house was there and we just needed to find it. So, find, we started. We quickly decided on the staple, rice, and we fished out the pots, ingredients, chicken and beef. Finding pepper was a bit of challenge as scotch bonnet peppers or what Yoruba call rodo was un-findable but our designated chef improvised with green bell peppers. I found it strange as the theme for this edition was ‘Pepper Dem.’

As the cooking was going on, some had already brought out alcoholic drinks – Martell cognac, Jameson Whiskey and Absolut Vodka. One of us set about quaffing red wine (he eventually finished a whole bottle). A chap said he could he could make Hennessy from Absolut, Jameson and ice cubes. There was ample juice drinks, yoghurts, Pepsi and, of course, Aquafina water.

Without the distractions of gadgets such as phones, televisions or even watches, one is forced to interact with others. Or to shut up like two ladies attempted. The meal served, we retreated to the dining table and devoured. So far, we had been communal and washing the dishes was the same.

Not with any idea of the time, we decided to kill time. But how? People started wandering off to do their thing – bathing, sleeping or engaging in little talks. Knowing Biggie controlled everything, we requested for music and after a while, he obliged us. Dancing started. Boy, the dancing was hot and it got to a level where there was body grinding. And yours truly got a lap dance from a female journo. It was all fun. Nobody was actually complaining of missing the outside world.

Biggie had warned us not break anything in his house but he had urged us to have fun. In fact, three of us that entered the house were evicted for not having fun. I wasn’t ready for that.

It was one of us’ birthday and as usual, when it was mentioned, the ever watching and listening Biggie summoned us to the lounge. We wondered what for. And it was with  relief that we found out it was to celebrate his birthday. Biggie asked all housemates to fill their glasses and we sang the birthday boy a song and he got cheers from all present.

Not wanting the night to end, we started a game – Truth or Dare – which has become a staple of Big Brother shows. For sanction, it was a shot of whiskey or a short volume of Pepsi. But the game was revealing of things we’ll do for fun. A guy gave a lady a lap dance, a lady sucked a guys’ nipple, a lady got a two-minute body massage, a teetotaller drank alcohol, a guy rubbed a lady’s boobs and a lady mentioned who among us she’ll love to have sex with. For me, after abstaining from fizzy drinks since beginning of the year, I was ‘forced’ to drink Pepsi after losing in a game of ‘Concentration.’ And a guy was so ‘high’ that he was at the table but he was practically ‘shut down.’

If what we were doing was televised, some people would have probably called us decadent. But we were just living life.

We also discussed politics, economy and various aspects of our social lives. We regaled ourselves of travel tales. But no one was glancing at a phone or computer or thinking of watching the news.

I ruminated over how I could go on without missing the many distractions of modern life. It was with those thoughts I went to sleep.

I woke up to meet two of us already making breakfast – bread, eggs, sausages. Yummy. But toast bread and butter was enough for me. We caught up on escapades of the previous night and not long after, Biggie came over the loudspeakers and announced, ‘Housemates, you have 20 minutes to leave the house.’

I was ready to leave.

As I bounced out of the house at 9am into the real Sunday morning outside, I could relate better with the Big Brother show.


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