By Timothy Murungi
Brennan Ekoyu left school an ordinary schoolboy, but he returns to school a national social media superstar. During the world’s longest school lock down, many Ugandans resorted to Tik Tok to keep them from slumping into depression. The Chinese app created unlikely stars worldwide and Uganda was no exception. And that is how teenage schoolboy Ekoyu, who goes by the nickname Brennababy, made a name for himself. He created humorous video clips that many who have passed through Uganda’s crass school system can relate to.
As the two year break came to a close this week and schools finally opened, the Tik Tok sensation has returned to school. The 18-year-old is only in S4, but took the Internet by storm during the lockdown. He made comic video clips about the lives of teenage school girls and secondary school ‘madam teachers’. Brennan Ekoyu, who has over 400,000 followers and more than 60 million views on Tik Tok alone, was deservedly voted the next big star in the teens awards last month. He also got a nomination of best Tik Toker in the same awards and boasts of more than 1,697 followers on Instagram.
“I am returning to school and we are not allowed to have mobile phones,” the anxious young man said through the phone as he drove to school with his mother.
His many thousands of followers and fans on his socials were too. It was, however, clear to both Brennan and his cult following that he had to return to St Joseph’s Naggalama SS for his education.
He has only been a content creator for a few months, but he made over 500 videos which were viewed and shared millions of times.
Brennan managed to still find humour to cut the tension of returning to school, tweeting throughout the journey – keeping his 13,000 followers on Twitter entertained.
“I have just reached the gate of the school I now have stomach ache,” he tweeted.
“Let us start a petition to let my school allow me be with a phone”.
His last tweet was a photo of him wearing a school uniform, with words “It is what it is, reality check. Bad man had to go back to school”. He then surrendered his phone, and is not expected to do any videos for 14 weeks of school term one.
Brennan had always wanted to be a priest since childhood. “Like any teenager, he has had a change of heart as regards his career many times. He has always told us that he wants to be a priest from the time he was a little boy, but of recent he said he changed his mind and now wants to be a lawyer,” sBruno Ewayu, Brennan’s eldest brother, said.
Ewayu said there’s lots of content that will continue to be churned out on Brennan’s socials to keep his followers entertained.
At school, Brennan has promised to resume his pre-school lockdown lifestyle before the fame and celebrity status; that includes diligently serving the chaplain at the school chapel.
Nurturing an Internet star
His parents, William Enyimu Denis and Anne Grace Apolot, who were apprehensive at first with the son going viral, soon came on board after many people opened their eyes to the doors the comic skits could open for Brennan. They later thanked God for the blessing of the talent that their boy had cultivated, utilising the lockdown profitably.
“I did not know what he was doing until a neighbour called me and showed me one of his video clips. His father and I wanted him to close the accounts immediately. But with time, people talked us out of it and we embraced it. We realised we might be sitting on his talent,” Apolot said.
Mum and dad thought the comedy and money out of it would distract him from his studies.
“Our worry was that if he got money, he might be diverted from pursuing his education,” Apolot said.
However, Brennan, who is a top performing student, assured them that he would not allow the new found fame to derail him.
“He told me not to get worried and promised to continue performing well. He said he was committed to scoring eight in eight so that he studies medicine,” she said.
The parents and brothers have been a bedrock of support to him, counselling and guiding him.
“I counselled him on several occasions. I told him ‘Let that fame not mislead you. You should know the family you come from. Use that talent as a side business, but concentrate on your studies too (Brennan used to do online learning at home). The good thing he is a boy who listens. He apologies when he makes a mistake,” his mother said.
Brennan asked his parents to open a bank account on which the money he gets from fans, sponsors or brands he advertises is safely deposited.
He chose to use some of the money to buy most of his school requirements.
“He told us: ‘pay school fees and I will buy all the other requirements for school’”.
“Sometimes the money he gets in a day, I can only get after one month,” said Apolot, who is a teacher.
Brennan was scared how teachers would receive him after making satirical comedy about them, so he asked the mother to take him to school instead of his brother who usually takes him. He wanted the mother to talk to the administrators and explain how he was did not mean to cause any trouble in his widely shared videos.
Brennan acted out how the scene would play out once he returned to school, and that is what nearly happened. Dressed in a red dress and a wig, he imagined how the teacher on duty would welcome him: “Eh! Brennan, you are back!? How was Tik Tok. So Tik Tok was okay… How is mummy and daddy, how were they finding you doing your Tik Toks, were you studying? I hope you were studying cause we are going to have BOT (Beginning of term) exams… some of us could enjoy your skits anyway. We used to laugh. But now you are back in school we just hope you get the grades…”
In real life on Monday, the teachers were excited to see their ‘celebrity’, but cautioned him to now get serious at his studies.