Sunday, 06 October 2019 16:31

[OPINION] Festival of the beasts - Sonnie Ekwowusi


The on-going Big Brother Nigeria TV reality Show is a festival of the beasts. It is a celebration of the nudity and rotten eroticism of poor little animals. In their forsaken state, the gods have entrapped the house mates in the House of Sodom of Gomorrah and drowned them with such shamelessness that they indulge in open carousing, open kissing, open dancing of naked and open sucking of breasts before the astonished gaze of onlookers. Festival of the beasts. Appearing like stars which reflect light, yet they are waterless clouds carried away by winds of eroticism, uprooted and twice dead; fruitless trees in late autumn; wild waves of the sea casting off the foams of their vomit in public. Shame to the housemates. Shame to those who glue their eyes to the TV or smart phone watching Big Brother Nigeria ! Where has the sense of public shame gone? To imagine that some of the housemates posing naked in the Festival are people’s parents is even more scandalous. And to imagine that at the end of the Festival some of the housemates will be going home with HIV and venereal diseases is even more scarring.

I still don’t know what is wrong us in Nigeria. To begin with, Big Brother Naija is a corrupted Big Brother TV Reality Show. The idea of Big Brother TV Reality was conceived on Thursday, 4 September 1997 at the production house of John de mol produkties by Endernol, a Dutch, after contemplating the 1991 Biosphere 11 experiment in Arizona in which 8 men and 8 women had tried to live together inside an airtight glass. In fact, Endernol’s refusal to acknowledge that he copied his idea from George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four, has resulted in several law suits. At the start of the original Big Brother Reality show, debate arose about its ethical acceptability. Certainly public display of nakedness, eroticism, obscenity and raw sex were not part of the original Big Brother created by George Orwell and copied by Endernol. But in the Big Brother Naija, the housemates there are like bunch of baboons in a zoo celebrating nudity and pornography.

Happily, the scandalized public has condemned the latest show of shame on TV called Big Brother Naija. For example, CitizenGo, an international Protest Organization has collected and collated thousands upon thousands of signatures of Nigerians opposed to the airing of Big Brother Nigeria. As at the time of writing, about 17,000 Nigerians had appended their signatures demanding that a stop should be put to the airing of Big Brother Naija. The Federal government has lodged a complaint with the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC). A group of concerned Lagos parents are threatening serious actions. A lot of people are equally protesting against the airing of the TV Reality Show on Face-Book, Twitter, WhatsApp and so forth. The Lagos State House of Assembly member Hon. Segun Olulade is now campaigning for the ban on Big Brother Naija. It is sad that we are losing all that we hold dear in Nigeria. We are losing our electricity supply. We are losing our jobs. We are losing our governance. We are losing Nigeria’s vital institutions to corruption. We are losing our secondary schools and Universities. We are losing Nigeria’s oil wealth. We are losing our spirituality. We are losing our moral integrity. We are losing human lives to sponsored ethno-religious violent killings. We are losing our health too (WHO says Nigeria occupies the 187 position out of 190 countries in the World Health Ranking Systems).

And now, we are losing what remains of our character to Big Brother Naija. For weeks many young Nigerians have been sending snapshots of some the scandalous sexy episodes of Big Brother Nigeria to my e-mail box with the specific request that I should get the authorities to ban the airing of the show of shame. It will be recalled that when Big Brother Africa (BBA) first hit our screens in 2003, it was met with stiff opposition especially by Nigerian parents. Multi-choice was dragged before the House of Representatives’ Committee on Information and National Orientation headed by Hon. David Melaye for airing BBA and after much deliberation members of the Committee unanimously agreed to punish Multi-choice for violating the NBC laws. Subsequently the NBC imposed a N10 million fine on Multi-choice Nigeria for airing phonographic images of BBA. The executives of Multi-choice dramatically went down in ashes in repentance and proceeded to pay the fine. I still remember that one of BBA housemates Ofunneka Molokwu openly regretted disgracing her family on TV screen with her nudity. I still remember that some staffers of MNET were fired for airing BBA. In fact, one Mr. Joseph Hunda, MNET operations director, was quoted as saying that he regretted the pornography called BBA because MNET was supposed to be protecting the cultural heritage of Nigeria.

So, the NBC must live up to its bidding as a body charged with controlling, monitoring, regulating the electronic media and monitoring of satellite transmission in Nigeria. Some argue that because Big Brother Nigeria Reality TV Show is privately subscribed through DsTV it is outside the control of NBC. This argument, with the greatest respect, is fundamentally flawed. One cannot privately subscribe to commit a crime. The State can stop private conducts that are harmful to public interest. A person being prosecuted for smoking Indian hemp cannot argue that he privately subscribed to be smoking Indian hemp in private and therefore he cannot be prosecuted by the State. Multi-Choice is not above the law. In any case, Multi-Choice was fined N10 Million in 2007 or so by the NBC for showing pornographic images to Nigerian viewers in BBA. So, the NBC cannot be seen to shirk its regulatory function now. Multi-Choice deserves another punishment from the NBC for airing pornography Big Brother Naija.

Conscious of the serious damage which the airing of pornography can cause in their territories, many countries are now controlling TV, Internet, Cable and all satellite transmissions in their respective territories and air spaces. For example, in the United States, the Parents Television Council (PTC) prevails on the American government to set up the Decency Police for the tracking down the indecencies shown on TV. Under the cover: Has TV gone too far? TIME Magazine (March 28, 2005), went to town with that story. In that story the magazine revealed that the PTC and Decency Police have devised ways of tracking down the TV stations showing nudity, violence, profanity, disrespect for authorities in America. For example, in response to viewers’ complaint, Fox TV was fined $1.2 million in 2004 for airing the Reality show called: Married by America, which featured strippers covered in whipped cream; the CBS was fined $550,000 for airing Nipple gate. Spielberg’s WW 11 epic which had previously appeared on American TV was stopped in 2004 because it contained obscene language.

You may be well aware that the former Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain had marked out concrete ways to block access to online pornography in the United Kingdom. Cameron even repeatedly warned the British public that internet pornography was capable of “corroding childhood”. According to Cameron, “watching porn itself puts the country’s security in danger, encourages violent acts, unacceptable behaviour in society, exploitation of children and lowers the dignity of women. China’s internet filtering methods are very wide and more extensive than in other countries. In Russia, an internet user cannot browse pornography. Why? Because Russia has blacklisted certain character-damaging internet sites that are considered dangerous in Russia. For example, in July 2012 the State of Duma enacted a law that called for blacklisting of certain internet sites especially sites that promoted drug usage, advocate suicide or contain child pornography as a means of protecting children from their harmful contents.

If other countries have devised various measures to rid their countries of online and TV pornography capable of destroying the character of their people especially their young ones, what similar measures are being put in place in Nigeria? Nothing. Of course, there are copious laws in Nigeria that prohibits all sorts of things. But the tragedy is that these laws are hardly enforced by the law enforcement agents. The Police, LASMA, street urchins, task force touts and other funny-looking human beings in funny-looking uniforms are more interested in laying siege to the country’s expressways and extorting money from innocent motorists than enforcing the laws of the land lying idle in our law books. Last year or so I ran into a Chief Magistrate who presided over a Family Court in Lagos. She confirmed to me that many of the rape cases pending in Lagos Magistrate Courts were rape cases involving young persons. Comparative study of rape rates in the United States of America, Scandinavia, Britain, Australia and New Zealand found a correlation between the availability of pornography and high level of rape and sexual violence. In Australia, for instance, the uniform crime data actually support the case for an increase in rape rates after the liberalization of pornography in Australia. Most perpetrators of sexual violence and girl-child rape are pornographic addicts. Besides, it has been shown that addiction to pornography destroys marriages and children proper upbringing. Therefore if Nigeria does not want to be overwhelmed by high incidence of rape and sexual violence it should tackle TV pornography such as the on-going Big Brother Nigeria TV Reality Show. Those who still maintain that the airing of Big Brother Naija nudity Show is in order because the Reality Show is privately subscribed through the DsTV are, with due respect, very wrong. One cannot privately subscribe to commit a crime in Nigeria. Obscene publications, indecent and disorderly exposure in public places, marketing and dissemination of pornography and nudity whether privately subscribed via DsTV or not, are offences under the various Nigerian laws and African Regional Instruments such as the Declaration on the Rights and Welfare of the African Child (1979); African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (1981), African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (1990) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). Therefore the airing and dissemination of Big Brother Nigeria pornography, whether through private subscription via DsTV or not is a punishable offence in Nigeria.

Consequently, the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) cannot argue that it has no control over Multi-choice and DsTV because they are under private subscription of individuals. The statutory main function of the NBC is to ensure that broadcasting positively influences societal values in Nigeria in order to improve and strengthen the social, cultural, economic, political and technological values of the nation and set agenda for public good. Therefore the NBC cannot argue that it has no control over program privately subscribed via DsTV. Article 3.7.0 of the NBC Code states that: “the sanctity of marriage and family life shall be promoted and strictly upheld” in the programs shown on TV. Articles 3.7.0 to 3.8.10 of the NBC Code prohibit any program that promotes obscenity, nudity, sexual scenes, pornography, lewd or profane expressions, prostitution, homosexuality, lesbianism from being aired on TV. Article 3.9.1 of the NBC Code stipulates that womanhood shall be presented on TV with respect and dignity. Sections 2(1) (n) and 9(3) of the NBC Decree require the NBC to apply sanctions, including revocation of licenses of defaulting stations which do not operate in accordance with the NBC broadcast Code and in the public interest. Therefore the NBC is the statutory body charged with regulating the ethical standards and technical excellence in the entire broadcast industry in Nigeria, including DsTV and other cable television services.

Consequently the Federal government should wield the big stick and immediately stop the airing of Big Brother Nigeria. We must uphold the Nigerian cultural heritage. Nudity is not our culture. Obscenity is not our heritage. On its part, the NBC should impose a punitive fine on Multi-Choice. No freedom is exercised in vacuo. The Freedom of expression including freedom to hold opinion to receive and impart ideas and information without interference which is enshrined in section 39 of our 1999 Constitution is also curtailed under section 45(1) of the same Constitution to the effect that: “Nothing in section 39 shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society: in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health”. Therefore, freedom to air Big Brother Nigeria must be balanced with the security of the State, ordered government and the need to promote public morality. No freedom is absolute. As I earlier argued, Multi-Choice is not above the law. Programs on DsTV and other cable satellites must respect the cultural and philosophical convictions of the Nigerian people. They must not violate our cultural heritage.

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