On Sunday, Africa and millions of Nigerians celebrated the victory of Mr. Hazel Oyeze Onou aka Whitemoney as the winner of Big Brother Naija Season 6 (Shine Ya Eye) reality TV show. Most newspaper companies in Nigeria had to delay production till the end of the grand finale on that day to ensure that they featured the news on their front pages the next day.

Whitemoney was very popular with viewers and even non viewers who heard of his exploits during the show. Of course, he had formidable opponents like the Edo-born Liquorose who was the second favorite of viewers. With more than 300 million votes cast by viewers within Nigeria, across the African continent and Europe, Whitemoney garnered more than 141m votes (47%) to emerge the winner while 5 other equally formidable finalists shared the rest. 

While few in the country, in truth, might not have watched the reality TV programme ostensibly because the 18 years and above rated show might have featured contents they considered “immoral”, the truth is that almost everyone watched, prayed and voted for Whitemoney. The few who didn't watch followed developments in the House in the mainstream and social media. Some followed through narratives by family members, friends, neighbours and colleagues. At the end of the day, we all seem to be Whitemoney even though there is the little chance, as it is in all human endeavours, that there are still a negligible few who didn't follow the exciting programme in any way at all. 

And unlike our national polls, our electronically transmitted votes counted with the popular choice emerging the winner. 

That a popular high profile show such as BBN produced a proudly Igbo born winner in Whitemoney should naturally give the promoters of Nigerian President of Igbo origin some good lessons on how to package their agitation and eventual candidates. 

What were the attributes that endeared Whitemoney to voters across the country and the continent?

1. According to Whitemoney, he was born in Enugu, hustles in Lagos and mixed in the north. Even with that background, he unmistakeably packaged and presented himself as a typical Igbo man and still won. 

Mr. Hazel never denied or disdained his roots to please his co-housemates and viewers instead made them love and respect his roots. 

That you are running for Nigeria’s presidency should not make you pretend to be what you are not, in order to be accepted by others. Instead, you can leverage on who you are to win others to yourself, and still win. 

Similarly, those engaged in self hate and disdain for their own people can never be taken seriously by others; only fit to be used and dumped.

Even with his heavy Igbo content, Whitemoney loved and respected the different backgrounds and cultures of his co-housemates. He didn’t call Yousef “ewu awusa” or Saga “Onye ofe nmanu”, instead he tried to learn and respect the diversity of our nation as a great asset. 

2. Whitemoney displayed exceptional level of humility in the House. As an entrepreneur who sells shoes, he is probably the richest house member in cash terms yet he elected to serve others with uncommon passion. He never showed off or made others feel less fortunate before him, instead he chose to serve others, strategy or no strategy, cleaned the house and cooked for everyone. He knew that nothing in life trumps genuine humility and service to others. 

3. Throughout his stay in the House, he never thought himself the likely winner but continued to be himself without changing to meet the expectations of others. Indeed, there were housemates that deliberately annoyed and tried to ridicule him, yet, he kept his eyes on the ball and chose to “kill them with kindness”. 

4. Vanguard newspaper described Whitemoney as “a sincere young man, and a very down-to-earth and strategic” person whose strategy was simply to have fun, get exposed and possibly win the ultimate prize. Therein lies the key to Aso Rock for the Igbo man aspiring to be President; approach the contest with sincerity, honesty and avoid being desperate even while focused on winning.

5. Aside the fact that Whitemoney was so obviously an Igbo brand, his handlers and most supporters worked hard to present him as the people’s brand thereby accommodating other ethnic groups to own bits and pieces of the Whitemoney. Contrary to what most people know, his biggest fan base was in the south west where the voters never felt offended by his typical Igbo man behavior. Many of my friends in the north also bought into the Whitemoney frenzy with one calling me on Sunday to reassure him that “Mazi” would win. After enabling more than 20,000 votes for his favorite Whitemoney, he was still worried that it might not be enough and needed reassurances that even me didn’t have because I was also worried about the social media strength of Liquorose who ended up a distant first runner-up.

6. Until Ndigbo are able to make their quest for the number one office in the land have the buy-in of other ethnic groups, it will be tough to win the prize. Rather than release caustic press statements from time to time, handlers of the 2023 project must learn quiet diplomacy and engagement to get others to buy into their agenda. To that extent, I share in the views of Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El Rufai, that you cannot use “must” to negotiate for office with other ethnic groups, and that everyone is important in politics.

7. Finally, while it is pleasing to some pro-Igbo analysts and commentators to read strong language and grandstanding by our leaders in the quest for the Nigerian President of Igbo origin, such shenanigans do not deliver on objectives. We must learn to humbly go to others and negotiate with them on the the kind of candidate from among us that will be generally acceptable to Nigerians across region and religion. The simple truth remains that Ndigbo cannot on their own crown a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction even if they all vote for one political parity or individual. Moreover, we are not looking for a President that will govern Ndigbo, rather who we are looking for is a president that will work for all Nigerians and develop all parts of the country.

8. Similarly, we must learn from Whitemoney that others don’t necessary like those who deny their Igboness or work against their people to achieve political objectives. Indeed, love for your own people can be a strong signpost to how you will treat others. Those who sell out our people to please others will never be trusted. 

If we allow the rest of Nigeria fall in love with our “Whitemoney” and unconditionally back him, winning the Presidency in 2023 will be a walk in the park. But if we choose to stick to our old script of “imakwa onye mbu” we will surely miss the coveted crown, once again!

Ndigbo, learn from Whitemoney and let's be wise.

Igbiji Aku Mba

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