Immediate Expulsion of Venita Akpofure
AkweyaTV has sighted a Change.org petition initiated by Nigerian journalist and development worker Ms Devaan Haanmation-Mom on September 16, 2023, which is gaining momentum. The petition is calling for the immediate expulsion of Big Brother Naija All Stars contestant Venita Akpofure due to offensive comments she made regarding the Tiv people of Nigeria.
In a recent incident on the Big Brother Naija series reality show, Venita Akpofure made disparaging remarks about the Tiv community, suggesting that Tiv men offered their wives as entertainment to guests. These comments have sparked outrage among the Tiv community and beyond.
On X (the social media platform formerly known as Twitter), a tweep known as @HonMichaelson wrote: “I’ve never watched even an episode of Big Brother Nigeria and this may further justify why I don’t. I’ve seen a video of a certain BBN housemate, Venita Akpofure, insinuating the ‘Tiv’ tribe offer their wives to strangers to sleep with. She’s quoted as saying: ‘In Benue, they give their wife to their guest… the Tiv tribe. They give their wife to their guest.’ Of course she also ignorantly addressed us as ‘Tivi’.”
Echoing other sentiments expressed in expletives, @HonMichaelson added some advice, “Dear Venita Akpofure @VenitaAkpofure, this is a pathological lie with no historical backing whatsoever. It’s really a shame when people like you with obviously limited knowledge on certain topics are given a public podium which you’d rather use to spread your gross ignorance and lack of self-enlightenment.”
These sentiments and those of many, including comedians and social commentators, serve as basis for Ms Haanmation-Mom’s petition, which garnered 356 signatures out of the targetted 500 within 2 hours of its creation, causing its targets to be upped to 1000, again drawing 728 signatures already as at press time.
The petition emphasises the harmful nature of Akpofure’s comments and their potential to perpetuate stereotypes and prejudice against the Tiv people. It also highlights the Tiv community’s long-standing commitment to education, achievement, and hospitality, countering the baseless accusations.
Haanmation-Mom said the Tiv community consists of around 7 million people in Nigeria, a country with well over 300 ethnic groups. “We are educated, accomplished citizens who are fervent yet compassionate,” the petition said. “It is uncommon to find a Tiv individual involved in organised crime, either locally or internationally. We are a kind, warm and hospitable people. Despite our ‘Live and Let’s Live’ philosophy, we have been made the subject of ridicule. While we might not have addressed this issue at its inception, we are definitely prepared to confront it now.”
The originator of the petition, a social and behaviour change communication expert, wondered why a people that produced prominent Tiv personalities such as the Secretary General of the Federation, Chief George Akume, and his wife, herself a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Chief Regina Akume, among others, have been unfairly associated with these stereotypes. Commentators on the controversy refer to Akpofure trying to settle scores with her estranged husband, who is Tiv, and Akpofure’s willingness to involve the ethnic group in her personal dispute has further intensified the situation.
Apologies Demanded from Multichoice and Venita
The petition also criticises Multichoice and the Big Brother Naija brand for failing to take a stand against such offensive remarks made by their contestants. It calls for the immediate expulsion of Venita Akpofure from the Big Brother Naija house and demands a public apology from her on the same platform where the comments were made. The petition also seeks apologies from MultiChoice, Big Brother Naija, and their representatives.
“Multichoice and the Big Brother Naija brand on the other hand, are fast distinguishing themselves as a pain in the neck for all right thinking Nigerians,” the petition said. “When they are not offering airtime for misogynistic comments such as those made by Seyi Awolowo, they are glad to allow their housemates spew filth against one of the biggest ethnic groups in Nigeria. For a brand that has remained controversial in the rather conservative nation called Nigeria, this strategy is at best unwise and at worst self-defeating.”
Furthermore, the petition insists that Venita Akpofure should not be eligible to win the N120 million prize money, considering her offensive statements against the Tiv community.
The initiative, signed as “Tiv Girl Magic”, concludes with a powerful statement: “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!”
Multichoice is Mum
As this petition gains traction, it remains to be seen how Multichoice and Big Brother Naija will respond to the growing demand for accountability and an end to harmful stereotypes perpetuated on their platform.
Legal Origins of Alleged Offering of Wives to Visitors
A 2013 article published in The Nation newspaper traced the origins of the bizzare misconception that Tiv people offer their wives as part of hospitality to guests.
In 1987, a legal case known as Tofi vs. Uba set the stage for a controversial interpretation of adultery laws in Nigeria. The appellant filed a criminal complaint for adultery against the 1st respondent, but the 1st respondent’s counsel argued that the charge didn’t specify a legal offense. This objection was based on the 1979 Constitution, which was in effect at the time. Additionally, a local government order from 1985 mentioned that detaining a wife against her husband’s wish was an offense.
The trial Magistrate dismissed the objection, prompting the 1st respondent to seek judicial review in the High Court, invoking the 1979 Constitution. The High Court ruled in favour of the 1st respondent and quashed the charge. The appellant’s appeal to the Court of Appeal was dismissed, with the Court of Appeal emphasising that the local order did not explicitly prohibit adultery but rather criminalised detaining a married woman against her husband’s will. This judgment was instrumental in the misconceived belief that adultery was legal in Tiv land, leading to absurd claims that Tiv men would offer their wives to visitors.