On September 19, 2003, Nigerians had a one-day protest by switching off their mobile phones (GSM) over a number of failed services delivered by the operators and service providers. Apart from having to pay the highest tariff in the world, the failed services included tolerating numerous network deficiencies and poor connectivity. Nigerian GSM-users complained aloud that “enough is enough of second-class services in Nigeria”.
Like the gift of mineral oil, the GSM network in Nigeria has become a liability rather than an asset, described in some quarters as “a replica of our national malaise – failure and fraud incorporated”. From road accidents, to domestic instability, GSM has contributed much in the prevalence of much havoc in Nigeria. Not long ago, a couple was given a quit notice by an angry landlord because of a housewife who caused a fire outbreak (which was put off before it could spread). The woman, “engrossed in browsing and talking on the phone, forgot that she was cooking in the kitchen”.
Indeed, browsing and talking have not only led to “forgetting what’s cooking in the kitchen,” but also children straying away from home while mothers are chatting. Not only mothers are involved in these lapses, but even domestic servants and men holding responsible and critical positions in various establishments. Among students in tertiary institutions, the use of GSM for “prattles and lewd talks” is quite disturbing, to the extent that academic work gets affected adversely.
If anyone demands to know how jobless and idle youths buy credit cards to recharge their phones, they would probably say that they have uncles and friends who can help them. But if you can eaves-drop and examine what they talk about most of the times, surely one would be full of sadness. Maybe such “uncles and friends” have so much money and love their wards, so much that they can afford to spend such money in the promotion of a prattling habit or idle talks. What a way to show concern or give help to jobless youths!
The talking plague is a national malaise which demands to be checked, because, it depicts a culture of frivolity and immaturity. People who are mature inwardly, rarely spend their time and resources to promote prattling and idle talks. Nigerians should learn to embrace a culture of dignified silence and deeper reflections. Service providers that pander to the talking plague must be smiling to their banks daily. What a great opportunistic investment!
Among other hazards connected with much talking, GSM-related talkativeness exposes individuals and a nation to several security risks. With the military out to deal with individuals who engage in “hate-speech”, it is possible that “phone tapping” and monitoring cannot be ruled out in Nigeria. A number of unsuspecting persons may talk themselves into serious problems with security agencies. Test messages and browsing should also be included in the hazards which can arise from GSM-related talkativeness. You cannot tell who is monitoring or collecting your dozzier.
GSM addicts can become so engrossed in their browsing and chatting that they forget “What is cooking on fire” or their environment and personal responsibility. Youths have been seen walking on busy roads with ear-phones on both ears and attention divided. When attention gets divided, it is easy to predict what may happen consequently. We also see talkative drivers and other road users get into dangers as a result of divided attention.
Those who talk much usually miss the opportunity of communion with the whisperings of rarefied radiations which can make contact only with minds that are not distracted by idle prattles. Let GSM talkatives remember that they talk away not only “credit” but also time and vital energy thus rendering themselves obtuse. Any nation whose citizens are given to careless and frivolous talks, can hardly develop on a positive line, but would remain a nation of prattlers whose resources, earnings and energy could flow to enrich others who spend their time thinking rather than talking.
A nation plagued with the prattling culture would always have prattlers handling its affairs while articulate, silent operators watch out for vulnerable points to prey upon. Much talking has never done any people or any nation any good. Nigerians should learn to bridle their tongues but use their brains to survey and evaluate issues.
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from Rivers State University.e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org