The Big Brother Amplified show has come and gone, it was opened by the fall of Lotus with a thud on the opening day of 1st of May 2011 and ended with another thud of Luclay “Clayton” Misoya being evicted from the house (stage) dashing the hopes of South Africa landing the much coveted prize of US$200,000.00 up for grabs. Luclay was described as the best housemate South Africa has ever brought to the show hence the anger that followed his loss is somewhat understandable. Many esteemed entertainment writers had already concluded that Luclay and Karen won unless the scale tipped heavily in Lomwe’s favour who was seen as a potential threat to the “Otonos” as Luclay and Karen were affectionately known. Nobody saw Wendall Parson winning but he did, despite outcry of rigging, this victory was a fair one. Here is a thesis from an insider, it might not answer every question but will put some things into perspective.
Building the Brand: The Hunk
Wendall was not seen posing a threat, he was reserved and calm, “not amplified enough” in the eyes of some. But one thing that went unnoticed is the team behind him (Wendall United Fan Club) WUFC in short. The campaign was premised on peaceful campaigning, winning friends and hard work. To kick start it we had to make sure Wendall is noticed despite being quiet, the major selling point was his looks, girls were eager to see more of the hunk, in the forums it was a debate of who is hotter between him and Luclay. This debate could not carry for long, so we had to go around looking for fans that matter, with access to many of the people who were behind Munya Chidzonga’s campaign we set about early to seek their support and experience, probably half of them refused to be part of Big Brother given what transpired with the All Stars, a few did not wish to be part of WUFC choosing the more suave Vimbai Mutinhiri. With sides picked the stage was set, the real work had begun, it was to be a 91 days full of events, there was never a dull moment behind the scenes.
The Propaganda: The Crisis
With housemates separated into Heads and Tails, our hopes of avoiding a confrontation with Vimbai’s fans were dashed, often we had to mediate and resolve issues among fans, and political connotations were always a part of the proceedings. The last straw was when a national paper in Zimbabwe published an article titled Who Is Wendall. The fans were at each other’s throat, soon the furore sucked in the administrators resulting in user profiles being blocked on both pages. Zimbabweans became the laughing stock of other fan pages; we were set to destroy ourselves. A semblance of peace came after the realisation that war against each other was counter-productive; many fans with dual loyalties were caught in the melee. The cold war had not stopped as it were; it had relocated to underground and behind the scenes. While this happened Luclay had began to dent his credibility insulting Biggie but his fan base continued to soar. The worst came when he had a fight that resulted in the eviction of Lotus from Tanzania. Our strategy was to look for weak points that we can exploit, the way Wendall was portrayed by a national newspaper in Zimbabwe played into the emotions of many Zimbabwean voters, and for WUFC not responding to the article made us the bigger people. Politically aware Zimbabweans read between the lines and we were happy to collect the sympathy votes given the political leaning of many voters.
The Bilateral Relations
When we were 21 days into the game, we were conscious of how important it was to show love to other countries, that week saw two Zambians Mumba & Kim up for eviction, we made a strategic decision to vote for Mumba, and we wanted to cement ties with Zambian fans that had strong strappers in Messiman, Nsil7777 and Qrious. This gesture won us the confidence of Zambia as Zimbabwe saved Mumba. It was also our policy not to engage in verbal spat with other country fans no matter how much we were put on the ropes. We did not want to waste energy or create bad blood. When it was announced that there will be 2 winners, that is when we began to fancy our chances of making it but we still had 2 housemates in the game.
At that time it was halfway through the game, Karen and Luclay were up for eviction at the same time, and Karen had 6 country votes, Luclay had 2 country votes South Africa and Botswana. This is when we saw a gap to exploit, we had strategically voted for Kimberly. In between Luclay had continued with making much noise despite a lull when Weza went to join the tails house. In the week that followed all our behind the scenes planning against Vimbai’s team was to be tested, Vimbai and Wendall were up for eviction along with 6 other housemates. The result was a pleasing one, our alliance with Zambia had paid off and we had successfully managed to rally the Namibians to our side. That week we came near to solving the Zimbabwean riddle but Vimbai survived by a whisker as she had comparatively higher percentage votes than Millicent and Sharon O. A week earlier the email we were using for strategic discussion had been compromised, the suspects were Vimbai’s Team but this was never proven. Encryption was increased and we devised means to re-route the emails to another remote mailbox on a secure private network and leave no trace on the new email address in case there was a compromise again.
Breaking the Heads: One House
The twist came as a surprise, the houses were merged into one, hitherto we had envisaged that the 2 winners would come from Heads and Tails house. We were puzzled but we had to watch how things play out. We were somewhat lucky that our strategy was not exposed many times through voting as we had done saving Munya countless times in All Stars season, we were aware of the negative impact of burnout on our fans and how it would hit hard on their pockets through SMS voting. Though Wendall found himself on the chopping block, we were lucky that Vimbai was the head of house, saving Wendall and putting up Mumba. I remember that week Team Vimbai said they were voting for Bernadina probably against our choice Mumba. But we managed to cement our alliance as the Zimbabwean vote came under Mumba. The week that followed saw all housemates up for eviction except Vina, Karen and Sharon O not being up for eviction. By this time we were operating without sharing any strategy with Team Vimbai despite the fact that we had moles within their mailing list who would tip us on their strategy, I am sure they had the same modus operandi as us but to minimize exposing strategy we made sure the fans told us how they were voting instead of us telling them how to vote, all email addresses were put on BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) so that no one knew who we were speaking to and how many people we had on our mailing list. The resolve in WUFC was impressive, everyone was eager to settle the Zimbabwean argument once and for all. Meanwhile Team Vimbai was pulling all the stops, one member of their administrators even travelled to Zimbabwe purportedly to seek funding for Vimbai’s campaign. But we were as sure as daylight that Zimbabwean vote would always be for Wendall. When the eviction came, Wendall was safe outperforming Lomwe and true to our desires, Vimbai was sent packing, the cumulative blunders of those driving her strategy had backfired in a massive way, she could not fathom it. The tears she poured on stage even made our loving hearts sore but her game had been lost on the outside. The last Zambian standing, Kimberly also fell by the wayside leaving our alliance strategy spotless going into the finale.
The Grand Finale
With the eviction concluded, we were lucky to get a day’s reprieve as voting lines would only be opened the following day instead of immediately after eviction show. This gave us time to study “How Africa Voted”. We deduced that Luclay got 3 votes that traditionally side with Nigeria (Ghana, ROA, Angola), without those TeamLuclay would have 2 country votes while we were starting from a possible 3. In the time before the voting lines were opened Luclay’s Team fearing the worst went around fan pages canvassing for votes, in Zambia they were not given a chance, East Africa was a no go zone given Luclay’s beef with Ebhok and Lotus, Millicent’s alleged interview did not help matters either. When voting got off we had already secured the foundation. Meanwhile Team Luclay was still in discussion trying to find strategy, TeamSharonO were spewing bile, saying we will take Tanzania by force and Kenya. TeamLuclay was a hive of activity and seemed to be struggling to agree on one thing, the administrators were finding it hard to marshal the team in one direction. One thing that was popular with them was too much chatter, who does not remember the hundreds of comments per each thread and the resultant closing of the wall to fans, all designed to limit talking and increase voting. But also the posts from Administrators came too often giving the fans reason to say something; they just could not be silenced. On the Big Brother page 8 out of 10 posts were Vote Lukaren, Vote Otonos and many were from South Africans. To us this was an indication that they were not voting so much, at times we would throw a comment on their post to draw them into endless debate and this worked almost all the time.
Midweek it was evident that TeamLuclay was losing ground, looking at the strap one would sees endless messages in favour of Otono (Luclay), by then we had pulled out most of our strappers to concentrate on voting, I remember telling one TeamLuclay administrator that the fact that you don’t see strap messages from Veedrogba a.k.a WUFC President is testament of how seriously we were taking each vote. By that time an ingenious plan or so it seemed was devised that Luclay fans would target Namibia,Botswana and Angola vote, code named NAMBOTSANG, they went all out. For them they were venturing into new territory, Angola was a Nigerian stronghold while Zimbabwe had solidly established itself in Namibia. South Africans were confident they would pull through despite all our insinuation that it was a lost cause. Entertainment bloggers, journalists and former Housemates had put their money on Luclay and Karen to win; we had confident assurance that we could scuttle their imaginations. When the finale came, it seemed even IK the show host was astounded, the script seemed to fit when 3 housemates were evicted, once Lomwe went off the stage we knew our major competition had been dealt with. Soon IK took one heavy breathe and appeared to have swallowed a golf ball before then taking another 25 seconds to recover then calling out Luclay. One could hear the fans in the audience predominantly Luclay fans let out a shriek and many ahhs and uuhhs. The rest as they say is history.
Looking back we see how Wendall got to land the big prize, we were planning but only had faith to believe that other pieces of the puzzle would fit in nicely with our strategy. We thank God it did in amazing fashion, Wendall whom no one gave a chance came out tops. The advent of social networks (Facebook and Twitter) has drastically twisted how the game plays out. Its all about reaching out and celebrating African diversity, I had a chance to work for Gateway Television (GTV) and we were many Africans from Ghana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ethiopia, DRC, Kenya and going into this game with even the smallest understanding of language and culture will reward richly. Times we would write on our fan page or twitter in a bit of French or Swahili endeared us with many East African fans. The only regret I have is having no grasp of Twii, Hausa or Yoruba but with time we hope to make the most of the positives this game has to give among Africans.
We could not have done it without our fans dotted around Africa; most that come to mind is Chantal Ongaro (Kenya) and Barbara Wanjiku (Kenya) among many others who brought the element of fun in the midst of the hard work canvassing for votes. We hope South Africans heal fast and prepare for the next season, we have been in their position when Munya lost but a livewire housemate is not all there is, you need a well-oiled, fan centred strategy to complete the puzzle. Going on a tirade will not help as thousands of South Africans will line up to audition for the next series. Don’t make their participation or dreams impotent by this loss, Luclay might have been the best possibility thus far but there are many talented South Africans like Thami shown before waiting to showcase their talent.