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Strictly Personal

Suddenly, I felt empty without my mobile phone by Ehi Braimah

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Family, friends and associates gathered last Thursday at Hillcrest Event Centre in Okota, Lagos, for the service of songs in honour of Dr. Emmanuel Sunny Ojeagbase — popularly known as SO to his media colleagues — who passed away in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States on February 26.

Before the service began, I met top sports journalists, Larry Izamoje and Isaac Ibhafidon. There were other former colleagues who bantered with each other and we used the opportunity to play catch up. I was a former employee of Complete Communications Limited, courtesy of SO’s large heart and kindness before I moved on to other responsibilities.

The service of songs was right on schedule at 4.00pm. Later, my wife joined me from her cousin’s event which was held at Ire-Akari Estate – a shouting distance away. By the time the service ended two hours later, it was time to share more banters with familiar faces that included Segun Odegbami, Mike Awoyinfa, Dada Ajai-Ikhile, Franklin Ilaboya, and members of the Ojeagbase family.

I took one of my phones containing my MTN and 9mobile numbers with me into the hall but the last thing on my mind was that the phone would be stolen by a pickpocket. Taking the phone with me turned out to be a costly mistake. I’m usually never in the habit of taking my phones with me to such places – not even when I attend church services; I keep the phone far away from me. My attitude is that all calls and messages can wait — for a few hours. After all, we survived when we didn’t have mobile phones.

Personally, I do not believe it is a good idea to take the mobile phone or tablet into the church, a place of worship where we should reverence God in all his holiness. But again, you cannot really fault those who do so because we are in the tech age where the digital version of the bible – one of the apps downloaded from Google Play or the app store – is stored on those devices.

I have never lost a phone since 2001 when the mobile telecommunications revolution began. You can lose a phone or it can be stolen – they don’t mean the same thing. Once I have used a phone for about three to four years, I get another one and pass on the old handset to the next lucky beneficiary.

But this time, I lost my Samsung mobile phone to a thief immediately after the service of songs ended. These thieves are at every event – birthdays, weddings, services of songs, worship centres, and so on. Most of the time, they appear like “important” guests, uninvited but well dressed for the occasion; they are criminals going after the personal effects of invited guests.

Unfortunately, CCTV cameras are not installed in most of these venues by the owners. Masters of ceremony at such functions and social events should constantly remind their audiences to secure their mobile phones and other personal effects from the prying eyes of misbegotten gatecrashers and thieves at these parties.

Why did I take my mobile phone with me into the hall? Well, let us just say that I broke one of my “fundamental rules” and paid dearly for it. But you cannot blame me because I was expecting my wife to call me as soon as she arrived at the venue from her cousin’s place. And she did and joined me after I told her where I was sitting in the hall. It was the last call I received before the phone was stolen.

I was careless to have left the phone inside the left pocket of my Ankara attire, the one Yorubas call Buba and Sokoto. It was inside the left pocket of my Buba. Throughout the service, I knew the phone was with me. But when the service ended, I only took a few steps to exchange pleasantries when, instinctively, I reached out for my phone but it was gone and switched off by the thief.

“Is my phone with you,” I asked my wife, half-heartedly, to be sure even when I could recollect I never gave her the phone. At this time, Tajudeen, our driver, had the takeaway hospitality packs with him. “Please check the packs,” my wife, who was still in shock, instructed Tajudeen just to erase every doubt.

The phone was nowhere to be found. I was confused. Before we left the venue, I told Mumini Alao, Julius Ojeagbase and Thomas Ayodele, my former colleagues at Complete Communications, that my phone had been stolen. The mood changed and feelings of sympathy were expressed. Mumini, Thomas, and I still relate very well as brothers and we stay in touch regularly.

I was initially angry with myself for my carelessness and I became distraught because I knew the inconveniences that would follow retrieving the lines. Although she was feeling bad, my wife pleaded that I should not be too hard on myself. “Don’t worry, you will get another phone tomorrow,” she assured me, trying to calm my nerves. It turned out that the thieves also stole mobile phones belonging to other guests; I was not the only victim.

Throughout the journey from Okota to Ikeja, I was unhappy for being a victim. It could have been avoided. In my reckoning, the effort was like a stroll in the park for the pickpocket. My second mobile phone – containing Glo and Airtel lines – was in the car. But my MTN line that is as old as the network is my mobile office; if you get my drift. All the relevant apps are stored on the phone.

When MTN marked its 10th anniversary, I was honoured as a valued customer with gifts and a carefully worded “Thank You” letter, an exercise that I ranked as excellent public relations. MTN has continued on that path to this day.

My first mobile phone handset ever was the famous and sturdy Nokia 3310. Do you still remember the popular and iconic ring tone booming from the handset each time it rang? It was a phrase from ‘Grand Vals’ (12 – 14 secs), a Spanish classical song composed by guitarist and musician Francisco Tarrega. Well, that was back in the day –- 21 years ago.

Suddenly, I did not have access to WhatsApp which meant that I could not chat, send or receive messages. WhatsApp, as we all know, is a versatile and robust medium of communication for everyone, no matter the person’s status. WhatsApp is a fast, sure and real-time platform for engagement and conversations by individuals and groups — as long as they have access to the internet.

WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, now Meta. Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of the company in his expansionist drive, acquired WhatsApp. Computer engineers Brian Acton and Jan Koum were young college students in their 30s but cofounded messaging application, WhatsApp, in 2009. They met previously at Ernst & Young, and much later at Yahoo! where they worked together. Acton and Koum launched the app five years after Zuckerberg created Facebook on February 4, 2004.

Then on February 19, 2014, Facebook announced it was acquiring WhatsApp when it was five years old for US$22 billion in cash and stock – its largest purchase to date. Facebook is also the owner of Instagram which the company bought for US$1 billion 18 months after IG was launched.

It is not always a good experience when mobile phones are stolen because of our emotional attachment to the phones. For several reasons, your mobile phone is your companion and personal assistant because the phone is always with you wherever you go. When it is stolen or whether you declare it missing, you instantly feel that a part of you is missing – that sense of loss surrounds you and literally eats you up as if oxygen is draining out of your body.

The phone can be a major source of distraction but can we do without it? According to the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), there are over 198 million mobile (GSM) active lines in Nigeria which translate into a huge pot of gold for the telecoms operators. Internet penetration is understandably massive in Nigeria and the numbers keep growing each year. MTN, Glo, Airtel and 9mobiles are the main players in the sector and I’m a customer of the four networks.

Semiu Okanlawon, a journalist and media consultant, said we have a “spiritual connection” to our mobile phones. “It is like owning a dog which is showered with a lot of affection as if it were a human being,” Semiu told me the day after my phone was stolen.

He had a similar experience in Iwo, Osun state, at the wedding reception of his niece but the story of Michael Effiong James, editor of Ovation International magazine, was different. “Instinctively, I felt emptiness around me,” Semiu remembered after a pickpocket stole his phone. He had also placed the phone inside the left pocket of his Buba but he was lucky to have apprehended the thief who was given the beating of his life by angry bystanders.

Michael was unlucky in his encounter with men of the underworld but he is lucky to be alive. After taking him around Lagos for more than four hours in the dead of the night as if it was a James Bond movie, the Ovation editor lost his car, cash, laptop and mobile phone to the armed robbers.

The interesting thing was that he found his phone when the police stepped into the matter. His car was also recovered. Mike told me he was mightily impressed with the police for their professional and thorough investigation. With the help of technology, most of our teething problems can be solved. Mike’s phone was tracked by the police using the IMEI code and the thief or receiver of the phone was caught. It will work for you if you are able to store the code in a safe place. In my case, I did not but it is a useful lesson.

In truth, it is difficult to shake off the mobile phone and pretend as if it is not important. When you are without your mobile phone or if the battery is flat because you are unable to charge it, you actually feel like a fish out of water.

In my own case, I’m completely cut off from the rest of the world but I have had to fall back on my Glo and Airtel lines since last Thursday. When I visited the Friendship and Customer Care Centres of MTN and 9mobile the next day and Saturday, I could not retrieve my lines because the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) portal was down.

If it is a new sim card, registration can be done offline but you would have to wait for at least 72 hours for the line to be fully activated through the NIMC portal. However, if it is an old sim card like mine, the number must be re-validated on the NIMC portal before a sim swap can be enabled.

For security measures, please ensure that your mobile phone is passworded with a mix of numbers and alphabets, finger print or facial recognition. You should also password your WhatsApp and bank apps where it is applicable. Once your phone is stolen, the first thing to do is block the numbers and go through the process of restoring them, but pray that the NIMC portal does not slow you down.

Even when you lose your phone, the good thing is that you can retrieve all your data and information if you stored them digitally in the cloud. Google, for example, provides secure and durable storage for free – but only up to a threshold after which you are required to pay for the service.

I must confess that the customer relations executives were very helpful. Rosemary, Tolu and Michael at MTN and the duo of Stanley and Adebola at 9mobile displayed excellent work attitude when I visited their Friendship Centres. I salute their cooperation, commitment and sense of industry.

My two lines should have been fully restored the next day – under “normal circumstances”. That was my expectation, but I was only able to activate the lines 72 hours after my phone was stolen. Until you are able to scale the NIMC portal hurdle for revalidation of your information, telecoms operators cannot proceed to the next stage in order to retrieve your telephone numbers.

Thankfully, the NIMC portal, with its “bi-polar behaviour” like the British weather, allowed for my sim swap and successful registration after several attempts by the dutiful MTN staff on Sunday.

Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://naijatimes.ng)

Strictly Personal

This is chaos, not governance, and we must stop it, By Tee Ngugi

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The following are stories that have dominated mainstream media in recent times. Fake fertiliser and attempts by powerful politicians to kill the story. A nation of bribes, government ministries and corporations where the vice is so routine that it has the semblance of policy. Irregular spending of billions in Nairobi County.

 

Billions are spent in all countries on domestic and foreign travel. Grabbing of land belonging to state corporations, was a scam reminiscent of the Kanu era when even public toilets would be grabbed. Crisis in the health and education sectors.

 

Tribalism in hiring for state jobs. Return of construction in riparian lands and natural waterways. Relocation of major businesses because of high cost of power and heavy taxation. A tax regime that is so punitive, it squeezes life out of small businesses. Etc, ad nauseam.

 

To be fair, these stories of thievery, mismanagement, negligence, incompetence and greed have been present in all administrations since independence.

 

However, instead of the cynically-named “mama mboga” government reversing this gradual slide towards state failure, it is fuelling it.

 

Alternately, it’s campaigning for 2027 or gallivanting all over the world, evoking the legend of Emperor Nero playing the violin as Rome burned.

 

A government is run based on strict adherence to policies and laws. It appoints the most competent personnel, irrespective of tribe, to run efficient departments which have clear-cut goals.

 

It aligns education to its national vision. Its strategies to achieve food security should be driven by the best brains and guided by innovative policies. It enacts policies that attract investment and incentivize building of businesses. It treats any kind of thievery or negligence as sabotage.

 

Government is not a political party. Government officials should have nothing to do with political party matters. They should be so engaged in their government duties that they literally would not have time for party issues. Government jobs should not be used to reward girlfriends and cronies.

 

Government is exhausting work undertaken because of a passion to transform lives, not for the trappings of power. Government is not endless campaigning to win the next election. To his credit, Mwai Kibaki left party matters alone until he had to run for re-election.

 

We have corrupted the meaning of government. We have parliamentarians beholden to their tribes, not to ideas.

 

We have incompetent and corrupt judges. We have a civil service where you bribe to be served. Police take bribes to allow death traps on our roads. We have urban planners who plan nothing except how to line their pockets. We have regulatory agencies that regulate nothing, including the intake of their fat stomachs.

 

We have advisers who advise on which tenders should go to whom. There is no central organising ethos at the heart of government. There is no sense of national purpose. We have flurries of national activities, policies, legislation, appointments which don’t lead to meaningful growth. We just run on the same spot.

 

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator

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Strictly Personal

Off we go again with public shows, humbug and clowning, By Jenerali Uliwengu

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The potential contestants in the approaching elections are already sizing themselves up and assessing their chances of fooling their people enough for them to believe that they are truly going to “bring development” to them.

 

I mean, you have to be a true believer to believe that someone who says they have come to offer their services to you as your representative in the local council or in the national parliament and they tell you that they are going to build your roads to European standards, and your schools are going to be little Eatons; your hospitals are going to be better and more lavishly equipped than the Indian hospitals, where many of our high-placed people go for treatment, and your water supply will be so regular that you have to worry only about drowning!

 

I mean no exaggeration here, for the last time we had the occasion to listen to such clowns — five years ago — we heard one joker promise he would take all his voters to the United States for a visit.

 

He was actually voted to parliament, or at least the cabal acting as the electoral commission says he was. He has never revisited that promise as far as I can remember, but that must surely be because he is still negotiating with the American embassy for a few million visas for his voters!

 

Yes, really, these are always interesting times, when normally sober people turn out to be raving mad and university dons become illiterate.

 

Otherwise tell me how this can happen: Some smart young man or woman shows up in your neighbourhood and puts up posters and erects stands and platforms for the campaign and goes around the constituency declaring his or her ardent desire to “develop” your area by bringing in clean and safe water, excellent schools, competent teachers, the best agricultural experts as extension officers, etc, etc.

These goodies

At the time this clown is promising all these goodies, you realise he has been distributing money and items such as tee-shirts, kitenge prints, khangas, caps as well as organising feeding programmes, where everyone who cares can feed to satiation and drink whatever they want with practically no limitation.

Seriously, I have been asking myself this question: Would you employ a young man who shows up at your front porch and tells you he is seeking a job to develop your garden and tells you that, while you are thinking whether to employ him, “Here is money for you and your family to eat and drink for now!”

Now, if we think such a man should be reported to the police or taken to a mental institution, why are we behaving in exactly the same way?

Many a time we witness arguments among countrymen trying to solve the conundrum of our continued failure to move forward economically, despite our abundant resources, and it seems like we haven’t got a clue.

But is this not one of the cues, if not probably the most important clue, that we have not found a way to designate our leaders?

It ought to be clear to any person above childhood that this type of electoral system and practice can never deliver anything akin to development or progress.

Now, consider that we have being doing this same thing over and over — in many of our countries elections follow a certain periodicity like clockwork — but we have not discovered the truth.

Put simply, our politics is badly rigged against our people, and elections have become just devices to validate the political hooliganism of the various cabals running our countries like so many Mafia families.

Knee-jerk supporters

We have so demeaned our people, whom we have turned into knee-jerk supporters of whoever gives them food and drink around election time, that now they say that at least at election time it is their turn to eat, which means, naturally, that at all other times it is the turn of the ones who “bring development” to the people.

Clearly, this is not working, and it is no wonder that dissatisfaction and frustration are rife, as our people cannot put a finger to the thing that holds them back.

Apart from these sham elections, from time to time, the rulers organise shows designed to make the people believe that somebody is concerned about their problems.

We have one such masquerade happening in Tanzania right now, where public meetings are organised so people can vent their frustration. But these will never solve any problems; they are just shows.

If the elections we have been holding had any substance, there would not be any need for such public shows, except those organised by those people we elected.

Where are they? What is the use of spending so much money and other resources to erect and maintain a political system that has to be propped by public shows, where people come to vent their grievances over the hopelessness of the system in place?

I am just asking.

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