In recent history, no Nigerian politician has enjoyed the level of popularity Muhammadu Buhari enjoyed in the build up to the 2015 presidential election and shortly after. The slogan “Sai Buhari” or its variant, “Sai Baba” reverberated in different parts of the country in absolute frenzy.
Apparently, that popularity paid off as Buhari on the platform of the All Progressives Congress defeated the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, whose popularity had waned significantly in the eyes of many Nigerians.
Since then, no Nigerian had commanded such an amount of popularity and goodwill President Buhari pulled on his way to Aso Rock, notably on his fourth attempt; not until Efe Ejeba Michael crept into national consciousness through Big Brother Naija.
I remember that in 2015 before and after the election, people who wanted to gain popularity found ways to align with ‘Buhari the Change Agent’ or ‘Buhari the Winner’. Many opponents switch allegiance swiftly proclaiming “Sai Buhari” as their alignment code all with the hope of gleaning popularity from brand Buhari.
Roughly two years after the election of President Buhari, another election involving millions of Nigerian votes took place with Efe, who had, in my opinion, become inexplicably popular among millions of TV viewers, claiming a landslide victory in the Big Brother Naija final.
Let’s look at the numbers. In the 2015 presidential election, polling booths were deployed in all wards and local government areas in the country, making relatively more convenient for people in all nooks and crannies to vote. At the end, a total of 28,587,564 total valid votes were cast. Buhari of APC got 53.95 per cent of the valid votes cast, which amounted to 15,424,921 votes. Jonathan of Peoples Democratic Party got 12,853,162 vote (44.96 per cent).
The total votes cast in the final week of the 78-day reality show was put at over 26 million and Efe scored 57.61 per cent. If we work with the assumption that the number of votes cast was exactly 26 million, it means that Efe got at least 14, 978, 600 votes. Do the comparative analysis.
Though there was room for multiple voting, but when you consider the fact that a vote cost N30 (in this recession), and only a fraction of Nigerians could follow the show, which was aired on pay TV, you would realise that Efe’s popularity and victory are significant.
Like it was for Buhari, many people spent time and resources recruiting voters for Efe on social media and offline. As uninterested as I was in the reality show, I was inundated with requests to vote for Efe. One of my friends in Warri kept persuading me and others, passionately. “Please do it for me,” he said and posted of Facebook several times. You would think he was Efe’s campaign manager, but no really connection as far as I knew.
Though some politicians and corporate organisations have jumped on Efe’s popularity, using ‘Based on Logistics’ a phrase he made popular, one didn’t expect the Presidency to join the fray.
Therefore it was with surprised that Nigerians saw a tweet by Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari, using Efe’s signature phrase to announce the President’s commitment fulfilling his promises to tackle corruption, fix the economy and make Nigeria safe and secure.
“Based on Logistics, PMB is committed to delivering on the 3 key areas that he promised (Tackling Corruption, fixing the Economy & Security)” Shehu tweeted on Sunday after Efe had been declared winner of Big Brother Naija 2017 (#BBnaija).
As some Nigerians lambasted Shehu on Twitter, I couldn’t help but ask these questions: Is Efe now more popular that President Buhari? Why would a presidential spokesman seek to bolster the President’s image by riding on Efe’s popularity? What does this mean to Buhari’s Presidency and the country, even as the politicians have started making moves for 2019 elections?
Meanwhile, in another smart move by a politician, Gov. Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi State offered Efe, some relaxation time at the famous Yankari Game Reserve. This is in addition to the the cash prize of N25 million and a KIA Sorrento SUV, which Efe won, plus some other gifts different Nigerians had promised him.
The 24-year-old Delta State indigene won the competition out of the top five housemates including Bisola, Tboss, Debie-Rise and Marvis.
The information was shared via the governor’s official twitter handle @GovMAA read, “Congratulations @EfeMoney!“We welcome you to visit Yankari and our beautiful Bauchi State FREE! Come, rest and #ExploreBauchi #BBNaija.”
Yankari National Park is a large wildlife park located in the south-central part of Bauchi State, in northeastern Nigeria and is home to several natural warm water springs.
Yankari was originally created as a game reserve in 1956, but later designated Nigeria’s biggest national park in 1991 and is described as the most popular destination for tourists in Nigeria.