Hate to do stuff like this at a time when it will be what everyone else is doing but hope I can bring some fresh insight into the discussion on how Efe, the Warri boy, won the just concluded Big Brother Naija reality TV show.
Let me admit: I routinely keep an eye on social trends especially those that give deep insight into human behaviour and psychology and if anything has done that these past few weeks, it’s #BBNaija. As a compromise between watching boring news stations or Africa Magic Yoruba in my home, Channel 198 became the substitute and I have managed to watch a bit of it every single day since it started and here are the seven reasons I think Efe won.
Efe Was Different – in a game of over a dozen people, you either stand out or fade in – both tactics having advantages. Anonymity helped the likes of Marvis and Bally scale through to the end but the latter tactic has its downsides: it doesn’t help you create a fanbase.
Standing out helps you to be noticed but if your attributes are negative, it only highlights them and pulls you down. So, where needing her smoke breaks and baring her boob didn’t help Cocoice, standing out helped other housemates like Bisola, TTT, Debbie, Tboss and of course Efe.
Efe stood out from the very first day he climbed onto the Big Brother stage: taking off his shirt while being welcomed by Ebuka and almost ready to strip down to his brief. His entrance as well as those of Marvis and Tboss stood out in my eye. While the others were still trying to grapple with their surroundings, Efe’s bonhomie approach to the house stood him out from Day 1 so much so that I – one who would otherwise scoff at viewers and participants of such bourgeoisie distractions – voted for Efe on February 3 when he was up for nomination with Miyonse and Soma. I felt Efe had much more to offer in the course of the show: he was Different.
Efe Wanted to Win – it is said that when a man say ‘yes’, his chi also says ‘yes’ – Achebe and the ancestors may have exaggerated but when one shows a sincere commitment to winning, people sometimes support them and this case even had two weird human psychological dimensions from the perspective of the viewers and from Efe’s actions. Not knowing how his desire to win was coming across to us, Efe couldn’t have been said to have been putting up an act and not being able to communicate directly with us (communication being a two-way street of encoding and decoding i.e. call and response), viewers felt a strong urge to communicate to Efe at all times that they were behind him.
The second dimension is that while wanting so much to win, Efe didn’t come across as desperate – and that’s where TTT lost us. He was desperate to win – desperate enough to eat anything Big Brother put in front of them, desperate enough to urge everyone else to eat theirs when one housemate not eating their own disgusting dish meant all their secrets would be spilled and desperate enough to deny his wife and kids. Efe wasn’t that desperate and I think his early nomination brought him an epiphany – he knew how close to being evicted he had come and so he started to rationalise all the time in the house: from the very first Saturday party where with a little alcohol in his system, he began to reassure all the housemates that they are all stars already, having got such a platform at all.
The incident with the crown he took from Cocoice though almost marred that reputation. She tried to claim he was desperate enough to have stolen the crown. Efe’s luck was that he had found the crown initially and returned it to her. She had then as the Head of House put Efe up for eviction and so when Efe got another chance to ‘steal’ the crown (which is allowed), he took it this time. So while he wanted to win, Efe also saw himself as a winner already and he did not come across as desperate.
Efe Was Loyal – This point flows from the one above: Efe wanted to win but not at the expense of friendship and was equally happy to see his friends win.
Efe’s first loyalty had been to TTT and I’d got quite miffed at a point watching him look up to TTT as a sort of big brother. It seemed to me at a point that Efe felt he had to have TTT’s approval. He and TTT were quite close but TTT saw him as a threat and put him up for eviction a couple of times. The moment Efe said he suspected that TTT always put him up for eviction was an ‘eureka’ moment for his fans. The moment he bluntly told TTT “I don’t think you are being real” – we knew the 24 year old had come of age.
Efe later became quite close to Bally and Bisola, as well as Marvis. He and Bally’s relationship was a short bromance – that moment where he cleaned Bally’s puke after a hard night of drinking was advance pay on his own intoxication the following week: how can you judge him for being drunk when the previous week, he had cleaned up Bally’s vomit without even saying a word? And then when he’d seen through TTT, he became Bally’s wingman for Bisola’s heart one night.
With Bisola, Efe expressed many times that he would love to see her win – their closeness over the last days became obvious and it was a delight watching them both hug was a moment to cherish for every guy-girl who have ever loved each other sincerely and without any sexual tension. Having to pick between replacing Marvis with either Bisola or Bally for eviction and putting up Bally was nerve-wracking for him. throughout that week, he kept trying to appease Bally who of course took it with equanimity (maybe as Efe had expected).
And his loyalty to Marvis – which had come after he had been close to Debbie Rise – was classic. She was just another cool kid in the bunch (the coolest bar Soma perhaps?) when Efe started to like her like his then ‘idol’ TTT liked Bisola. Efe chose Marvis over Debbie because he felt she was more suited to him – she didn’t need to cling to him, she could flow with him, she could hang with the boys. Efe it seemed was the one who liked to have ‘quiet time’ with her in fact and we loved it. Never going beyond kisses and smooches, never looking at anyone else including Debbie earned him high marks from fans.
Two moments in their flirtationship (or could it be more after #BBNaija?) stood out for me (apart from the many smooching scenes at the party) – first was their weird mockery of Debbie Rise’s storytelling in the final week and the second was when he pulled Ebuka aside to discuss man to man about his feelings for Marvis.
Efe Wasn’t What You Thought He Would Be – Admit it: we all thought Efe would be the one in the house who could barely string more than a line of speech in English or the one who would have asked Biggie for a wrap of marijuana or the chain-smoker. Ese it was who struggled through reading Biggie’s tasks when she was Head of House and Cocoice got the nickname ‘ever blazing’ but it wasn’t marijuana, just tobacco.
The rasta-hair-styled guy was also not the housemate you expected to read his Bible and pray often – but that was what he did – from the first time he faced eviction, Efe picked his Bible, read some verses and prayed. Such stuff resonate with people in a highly religious (perhaps not spiritual) nation. Walking out of the house as the final housemates left, hand in hand with Bisola, chanting “Oghene biko” over and over again – another resonance with a religious people but by then, he had already won.
The reverse of Efe not being who you expected him to be was Efe being comfortable with who he was – only snag was when he seemed to want to be TTT. During the period he was Head of House, Efe intervened in many matters and was never afraid to take sides in telling anyone that they were wrong. He could speak English fluently but chose to speak pidgin most times and was never afraid to ask for the meaning of words he didn’t understand.
Efe’s Identity – We would be forgiven for thinking Efe was the poorest in the #BBNaija house as he mentioned it more times than one. Every new dish was an excitement for him, cooking noodles with various ingredients beyond the basics quickly bored him. That his noodle dish – As E Dey Hot With Blanket – won the best tasting dish in a competition where all the others had garnished theirs with everything available was an irony in my eye.
This point will be overflogged of course but here’s what others won’t see: people relate better with people that are like them. The entire point of human communication is to find common grounds with others and in a country where poverty is the reality of the majority, the fanbase Efe identified with was easily the biggest.
Bisola could be said to have identified with hardworking, no b******t taking, talented-and-so-I-deserve it single mother everywhere but they are not a majority. Tboss identified with the misunderstood, fine af crowd but it’s not exactly a crowd compared with the ones Efe identified with.
The clincher was the final ‘campaign’ speech they all made: Tboss had gone first but rather than draw people into her story emotionally, she ticked off a majority with her Princess/Queen allusion. Efe shed tears and drew them – not only from viewers at home watching but also from the housemates watching him at that time. At that point, I told my wife that even the housemates would in that moment have voted for him to win. He asked rhetorically “Who is Efe?” – on one hand claiming that he was an undeserving person, not better than any other person but blessed with grace. On the other hand, he swung the “Who is Efe?” rhetoric the other way by saying Efe was just like us: the struggling dude, the hungry man, the poor woman with no money…it was a tactic, almost instinctive to Efe or any person who understands human relations.
You don’t show how different you are from people when trying to woo them – it’s something all of us do regularly. You ask questions and engage, looking for similar experiences in schooling, parental upbringing, job challenges, relationship issues etc. When you say you and someone connect, that’s what you mean and that’s what Efe did: his identity connected with the majority of those watching.
Warri People (As Always) and The Streets – You only need to look at the comedy sector of the entertainment industry to understand how Warri has conditioned us in the past few years. If you know the expressions “Warri no dey carry last” and “Area!”, then you’re a ‘victim’ of this too. That Pidgin English is almost mainstream in Nigeria even in the tushest of places sometimes is down to this factor – Efe played fully to this.
And then more: almost every top comedian from Warri chipped in support from Day 1 with one of them said to have given out a million naira to voters to vote for Efe. No other housemate enjoyed such ethnic solidarity as Efe did – even Karen Igho, an Urhobo lady herself tweeted her support for Efe after visiting the final five housemates in the Big Brother House.
Funnily but reinforcing this point, Warri is an area (no pun intended) of no sole ethnicity – Urhobos, Itsekiris, Ijaws and Isokos to an extent, all claim Warri as theirs and make up in different numbers the three LGAs – Warri South, Warri South West and Warri North. Looking at this in the context of Niger-Delta solidarity, it’s easy to see how a single Niger-Deltan can become a force that other Niger-Deltans rally behind.
More than four people from that area have related Efe’s win to GEJ’s loss in conversation with me – the effect cannot be ignored but remember that Efe represented the typical Warri person: humble, brash, blunt, fearless and never say die even if “na to die put or die dia”. This representation stood him out from anyone else who was from the Niger-Delta in the house and even from Jonathan whom many Niger-Deltans would not consider the ideal of a Niger-Deltan.
That Efe chose a Rivers girl as his babe in the house also helped him and Marvis.
To expand the context: Efe represented Warri and Warri – ideally – represents every ghetto in Nigeria; hence, the streets identified with him. That he is a rapper of sorts (nothing fantastic to my ears really) also helped as well as that he grew in the same Jos that gave us MI, Jesse Jags and Ice Prince Zamani saw the last mentioned rooting for him, as did King of the Streets, Olamide.
The Law of the Tipping Point a la Malcolm Gladwell – people like to do or buy what others are doing or buying. Efe or Bisola could have won #BBNaija and even Tboss at a point too I think but Efe’s trajectory conformed totally with Gladwell’s postulation on the phenomenon.
He had the (mis)fortune of being put up quite early in the game, thereby creating early enough a small fanbase. This is key to any movement that will grow: a small group of loyalists who believe in you or the product – even Jesus had his disciples. Bisola’s base did not form early enough as it was not tested. Tboss’ never really became fired up until the incident with Kemen, which was her tipping point. Efe’s tipping points were many: from the first possible eviction, to his headship of the house, to his small spat with Cocoice. It then levelled off and shot up slightly again when he stood up to TTT, avoided dating Debbie because he didn’t think she could withstand a possible heartbreak, loyalty to Bally, real fear on April Fools’ Day when it seemed Bisola was to be disqualified and his confrontation of sorts with Tboss which rallied his fanbase even closer in the face of an external threat.
It’s no coincidence that both Bisola and Efe played to their fanbase with slogans that quickly became hashtags: #NaDiWorkWeyWeDeyDo, “Love love”, #BasedOnLogistics, Kidney, I die put are some examples. These things work powerfully in creating group bond.
TTT’s eviction in fact can be connected to the combined power of Efe and Bisola’s fanbase – the first base miffed that he kept nominating Efe who was ignorant of the fact, and the latter base upset that Bisola who didn’t know that TTT was married seemed to be falling in love with him.
Would really love to see a graphic analytical chart of the trajectories of the various housemates in the house but from observation and how it all eventually played out, this is what I suspect:
At the point when it was down to the trio of Bisola, Efe and Tboss, Efe won because he shared a fanbase with Bisola. That Bisola didn’t mind Efe winning as Efe didn’t mind Bisola winning the prize made their shared fanbase somewhat accomplices, not rivals and more importantly: free of loyalty to either of them, to vote either of them. In other words: Bisola fans could vote Efe without feeling they were betraying Efe or Efe fans could vote Bisola without feeling they were betraying Efe. That Bisola was definitely a star already whether she won or not made the choice easier – she deserved to win but Efe needed to win.
And there was a threat: Tboss had been expected to go home the previous week but bally had, with Tboss putting up a strong showing. The threat of ‘this enemy’ pushed Efe ahead. So if initially the trio had a 30% chance of winning individually, Efe’s chances with the support of Bisola’s fans increased dramatically. Not everybody got the memo or towed this line of thinking however so Efe did not get this hypothetical 60% combined votes plus the tipping point where others just want to vote for the eventual winner.
Marvis got the least votes despite the support of her State Government – we all knew she couldn’t win so her fans were probably just too happy to give their votes to Efe.
The quietly charismatic and talented Debbie Rise was strong in her own rights and also got sympathy votes. Did she steal some from her partner Tboss? Nothing indicates that but she definitely hurt her chances when she innocently asked her to sing the National Anthem which Tboss couldn’t. That Tboss tried to turn it against Debbie Rise probably turned off more of her voters than not being able to sing the National Anthem which DJ Exclusive had to play at the Saturday party in what was perhaps an act of trolling.
What business has a Political Strategist writing about #BBNaija on a Monday morning?
I wonder too but you should have figured it out by now: everything human is political and #BBNaija is entirely human. Some would dismiss all these and put it down to Grace or Luck though.
Bisola would go on to a fine and outstanding career. Tboss needs a session with Lanre Olusola and then will go on to her fine career – in TV or charity work. Debbie Rise needs a boost of confidence and maybe a father figure or a strong BFF. Marvis can be forced into something but she’s more suited to being a side-kick than a frontliner.
Efe’s pathway is the most confused though – as usual. After we vote for the most popular, we then scratch heads wondering why they look so confused. He could join Chocolate City based on Jos connections and Audu Maikori or MI are good level-headed mentors. He would need to increase his vocabulary though – Choc Boys are known for cerebral but also commercial lines. Staying friends with Bally could add some refinement to his persona and his own elder brother also seems like a good head to have around.
If you feel like reading this was a waste of time, you’re not alone – I’ve been questioning myself while writing it too but I hope you at least gain a little insight into human psychology.
You could go on and read other analyses but watch out for one bias that would ignore four women in the final, a man dismissed for sexual assault (crazy that he still featured at the end) and a married man punished for philandering or denying his family.
Otherwise, have a fantastic Monday and a great rest of the week.
Demola Olarewaju is a Lagos-based political analyst, creative writer, and political strategist with PDP. He tweets from @DemolaRewaju.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.