While looking forward to another 90 days of what has become the most riveting content on DSTV, fans of the reality TV show are curious to know who will make it into the house after the audition process, and how housemates will try out different antics from the ever-buzzing Big Brother cameras.
Interestingly, the reality show is returning to Nigeria after the first edition held and was filmed in Lagos, Nigeria 13 years ago.
And already fans and viewers are desperate to know what the house will look like, how the filming will go – considering the unending power supply issues – and of course what the host, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu will be wearing this season as he returns as the show host for the third time in a row.
So how does a typical Big Brother Naija audition goes?
Early in the morning on Friday, February 1, 2019, I arrived at the Edmark D’Podium events center situated in a corner piece between Aromire street and Adeniyi Jones street in Ikeja, Lagos for the audition.
It is worthy to note that the auditioning process was what I’d only imagined and going through it was no doubt an experience.
I got in through the Adeniyi Jones entrance of the venue at about 8:15am after arriving the venue at 5:15am with over a 1000 Nigerian youths already converged at the venue.
It took me a total of 1 hour and 25 mins to get into the venue.
Getting into the venue was more than hell with over 1000 young Nigerians – and some not-so-old-to-audition – scrambling to get a chance to be auditioned for Big Brother Naija season 4.
The queue was expectedly long with several faces, heights, clothing materials, sneakers, shoes, bags, jewelry, hair styles all queuing to get auditioned.
The beautiful ladies, the not so beautiful ladies, the curvy ones, the dancers, the actors, the singers were all represented on the long queue that didn’t end till Saturday night, February 2, 2019.
I doubt if I have ever seen a gathering of Nigerians – aside at political rallies – struggling to get a chance at fame and fortune.
From the rich to the not so rich, from the comfortable ones to the uncomfortable ones, the timid ones, the confident ones, the talkative, the rude contestants and the pleasant contestants, the queue was a potpourri of people that can be imagined. It was, indeed, a sight to behold.
A couple of smart business-minded individuals, used the opportunity of the queues to make brisk sales selling a bottles of water, sodas and biscuits.
As at 09:00 AM, there was no announcement, no address made to the crowd which increased as the clock ticked.
The number of individuals to be allowed in was unknown but it was certain the intention was to get the car park of D Podium event center fully occupied before entry process was halted.
As this went on, some of the restless people were playing music from wireless speakers while others chatted away about their ideas, talents, possible obstacles during audition and some were even discussing how they would spend the prize money if they come out tops.
At 9:05 AM, a set of rows of over a 100 people were allowed entry into the first holding area.
Also spotted on the queues were lovers showing PDA
At 9:47 AM, the queue was disrupted and the gates were shut.
The Aromire street entry point had become a mess with several reports of injury, unruly contestants and overwhelmed organisers.
Easing tension while gate remained shut
To ease tension, a male contestant jumped on a stationary bus to display his dancing abilities. Other contestants looked on while some praised his abilities.
And from this, discussions began while we awaited a new queue to be formed.
Discussions varied from past contestants, to people with homophobic issues, and the public commentators. The heat became so much that some contestants even used their international passports to fan themselves.
By 10:05 AM, a huge crowd was still outside and people were still allowed into the venue for a chance to be auditioned.
By 10: 40 AM some contestants had become dejected and started leaving as the gates remained shut and the whole scene remained rowdy.
The crew insisted that there would be no entry if the disrupted lines were not formed again.
When approached on reasons the gate was closed, some officials and securities said it was a ploy to avoid a recurrence of the stampede that had occurred at the Aromire entry.
At 11:30 AM, hope seemed lost as the gates remained locked yet the young Nigerians remained hopeful and unrelenting in their bid to make fame and fortune if they make it past the audition.
While some of the female hopeful housemates had their makeup running off, others found a way to touch up and look good while some group of guys were enjoying the wait.
More dejected and disappointed, contestants left in droves, but some remained optimistic, while many others kept trooping in as at 11:48 AM.
At 11:50 AM, a contestant tried organising new lines – 50 persons per line – with hope of getting the gates opened.
By 12:35, the gate remained shut and the 50-50 per line failed to pan out. Several people sat on the floor, many hung around cars while others try to find support or something to rest on.
The news of people fainting and others getting injured during the stampede at the Aromire entry point was being discussed by contestants. The reports on social media and blogs came in handy.
At 12:40, there was news that the gate which had been closed will be permanently shut for the day at exactly 2:00 PM if no queue was formed.
The battle to get auditioned continued with over 600 people trying to force their way into the first holding room.
Two contestants got injured while trying to get into the first holding room.
By 1:10 PM, the gate remained unopened as the contestants were disorganised and unwilling to create new queues. The crew also remained unwilling and seemed undisturbed despite cries and appeal to open the gate.
At about 1:15 PM, two ladies fainted and they were rushed to an airy area to be revived. The emergency unit and ambulance had left the Adeniyi Jones area of the venue to concentrate on emergency cases at the Aromire entry point.
The two ladies were revived and they had misplaced their phones and few other things.
Unconfirmed gist kept flying about with many contestants believing that some contestants got preferential slots into the holding areas.
It was past 3:00 PM and contestants were telling stories on how they got to the audition venue and how they felt the process was a sham.
And by 4: 00 PM, the gate was permanently shut for the day as crew members announced the end of the audition for the first day.
In all, a total of 80 contestants amongst over 1000 contestants present at the venue were granted access on Friday, February 1, 2019.
Audition day 2
As early as 6:10 AM, I arrived at the venue of the Big Brother Naija 4 audition in Ikeja after a 45 minutes drive from my house.
It was Saturday, February 2, 2019 and the Lagos Marathon was holding. This, however, didn’t deter contestants, who still trooped to the audition venue.
The Adeniyi Jones entry was made the main entry point for the second day and the queue was, as expected, long.
The security put in place for the second day was much better and organised compared to what was observed on the first day, Friday, February 1.
As it occurred on the first day of audition, several contestants made attempts to jump the queue by lobbying for space. A total of 12 stern looking and hefty bouncers manned entry points to avoid issues.
We filed in – 10 each – into the expanse parking lot of the Edmark DPodium centre until it was filled with Big Brother Naija hopefuls.
As at 6:45 AM, I was granted admittance into the compound and the venue had over 350 housemate hopefuls – some of whom had left the venue dejectedly on Friday.
Spotted inside the compound were 11 stern looking and hefty bouncer and two female bouncers. It was an improvement over the first day.
The contestants were more orderly and the queue moved in stages – the gate entry, compound queue, first holding area and into the second holding area.
An official came around 7:00 AM and gave stern instructions to the security men on the process before addressing the people on the queue.
Contestants under the age of 21 years-old were turned back while those with no passports were walked out of the arena.
First holding area
At 7:12 AM, I was ushered into the first holding area outside which was demarcated from the long queue.
In first holding area, there where seats prepared for 300 people while contestants, who got tagged on Friday were ushered in from a separate queue.
It was at the first holding area that the international passports and age were first verified before passing on to the second holding area. At this point, the clouds were gathering and it looked as though, it was going to be a rainy day.
Five more officials joined the crew to give instructions and monitor the process.
Despite the instructions and more, I sat close to a teenager who owned up to not being up to 21 years-old and had neither an international passport nor means of identification. According to her, she escorted her friend to the audition ground and just wanted to have the feel of the queue.
Second holding area
At exactly 7:30AM, we were ushered into the second holding room which is the main hall of the Edmark DPodium event centre. Here, we were asked to write down our names, it was more coordinated with working officials.
I marveled at how some contestants found it difficult filling out a form that requests for name, email, location, nickname and phone number. I later found out that the first form was to gather data and content for Bet9ja- the headline sponsor of the reality TV show for 2019.
Few minutes after, some ladies brought a white sheet of paper and asked that each row (made up of 12 people) to fill the sheet.
The second waiting room had a total of 1536 people (12 on each rows of 16 lines in 8 different places) every 3 hours.
By 8:45 AM, the waiting continued as I waited to be tagged. The lady, who brought the sheet of paper to fill cross checked every single international passports or any means of identification before tagging each contestant.
The tagging by the officials really took a while and by 9:48 AM, my row was tagged and I got 2764.
One hour after I was tagged, the tags had been exhausted and contestants were tagged with a paper tape which had numbers on them.
While the tagging process continued, more underaged contesstants were sniffed out by the officials. A lady, who would be 21 in May 2019 was walked out of the second holding area when officials found out after thorough inspection.
At about 11:30 AM, the second holding room came alive when a guy proposed to a lady.
There had been public display of affection by lovers while in the first holding area but no one expected to see a proposal.
On further inquiry, the proposal was found out to be a sham and it kicked off three different rounds of proposals in the hall.
The proposals elicited more discourse from contestants waiting to be tagged and those already tagged.
There were light refreshments while some salespeople made brisk sales with food sold at N1200 per plate, meat pie at N300 per one and water/malt drink at N200 per one.
The crew continued moving contestants from Friday audition, who had been tagged to the third holding area which was somewhere outside the venue.
At 1:35 PM, the crew started moving the newly auditioned contestants to the third holding area.
Few minutes later, I was ushered out of the second holding area to the third holding area.
The third holding area
The third holding area was a short distance from Edmark DPodium event center and we were moved to a hotel in a long coaster bus that had 24 contestants in it.
In the bus, the chaperon asked all contestants to take off wristwatches, and switch off phones.
I arrived the third holding area at 1:45 PM and was ushered in.
The third holding area had 72 chairs lined in 12 per row and had 6 rows.
At this stage all contestants were again asked to take off wristwatches, and switch off phones.
Contestants at the third holding area moved from row to row and at about 2:15 PM, contestants were moved to the the last waiting area before the audition.
Meeting Big Brother rep
The next waiting area was a long lobby with six different rooms where contestants – in 12 per group – were being auditioned.
My group was asked to wait for about 10 mins before being ushered into the auditioning room.
Inside each room was a representative of Big Brother who auditioned the group.
My group went in and we met the BB rep, who looked young but could have passed for a 38-year-old. He looked casual, unassuming but geeky. He had the aura of a psychologist.
He welcomed the 12 of us, kept staring at us before asking anyone with a recording device to take it off as they don’t want the audition process leaked.
That done, the BB rep looked at us as instructed us to split into two groups. He requested for two group heads and two individuals stepped forward.
He teased contestants psyche, asked why each contestant was auditioning for the BBN House. He went further to ask each contestant to tell him one thing about themselves and after about 10 mins, he was done messing with our brains and he picked one of the contestants. Before picking the BB rep noted that first impression counts, though the tasks given to us and questions asked doesn’t guarantee who he picks because he has the option of picking one person from the group or no one at all.
The chosen contestant was asked to stay back before she was moved to another holding room.
11 other contestants were asked to go home and try their luck next time as they still stand the chances of getting into the Big Brother Naija house.