Whitemoney’s entry onto the Big Brother Naija stage was a celebration of his cultural heritage. Dressed in Igbo attire to promote his culture, he made it centre stage. He danced gracefully to Legendary Style’s Loose Guard catching the attention of viewers who at the time were still trying to become familiar with the 22 housemates introduced over a two day period (the number would rise to 26 with the addition of four more housemates). Whitemoney would take advantage of the opening night to make himself seen in his full Igbo regalia.
When asked by the show’s host, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, what he would be bringing to the show especially as a businessman and entrepreneur, he responded with entertainment. Asked how he would achieve it, he said he planned to put smiles on the faces of other housemates. He used an Igbo proverb to describe how he would handle tough situations saying when a cup of water is full, the rest of the water would only run to the ground.
True to his words, Whitemoney would go on to become the darling of the BBNAija Shine Ya Eyes edition bringing smiles to the faces of his fellow housemates and viewers. He would entertain them with jokes, cook and also clean. He even got into trouble with a fellow Housemates, Pere, who accused him of using his culinary duties as a strategy to win votes.
Unlike in other seasons of the show when there seemed to be stiff competition between two strong Housemates, Whitemoney was in a league of his own dominating conversation on social media and offline. His ultimate victory did not come as a surprise to many people: he made his mark from the first night and carried his personality consistently to the end of the show.
Whitemoney or Odogwu as he has come to be known used the BBNaija platform to announce himself as an Igbo ambassador. Born Hazel Oyeze Onou on July 6 1992 in Enugu, he grew up in Kaduna state before moving to Lagos for business. After secondary school, he went into several businesses trying his hands on photography, generation repair, music, barbering before sticking to shoe importation.
Whitemoney has used the huge BBnaija platform to promote the image of an Igbo man who is as much Nigerian as anyone else. His supporters inside the House and across the country cut across different ethnicities. His centre-stage Igboness was a thing of joy and it received well-deserved recognition.
At every opportunity he got, he spoke proudly about his heritage and demonstrated it in his stay in the house. For example, He told Yousef in the House that he greatly admired the Igbo tenacity to ‘hustle’ and after making money, to return back to their home to spend it. His explanation of how the practice benefits the people was a teachable moment for not only Yousef but also the viewers.
The BBNaija show was an important platform that provided a sort of necessary intervention to bring Nigerians of different ethnicities together. Interestingly, fans and alliances were built across different ethnicities with many non-Igbos expressing support for Whitemoney and respecting him for his intentional Igbo representation.
A new Igbo cultural ambassador has been born on the BBNaija show; one who has provided a much-needed point for national unity. Born in the east, grew up in the north and doing business in the south, he represents the kind of Nigerian whose image has created the sort of balance between ethnicity and nationality that many desire.
The BBNaija Shine Ya Eyes edition did not only provide the unrivalled entertainment it promised, but it also went further to provide an avenue for ethnicity to be showcased, respected and celebrated and that ethnicity and nationality can both be celebrated side by side.