Feb 25, 2008

A Volatile Senate and the Rule of Law

Nigeria's number 3 position is one hot seat that no one has been able to sit on for long. Since the restoration of demacracy in 1999, the Senate has witnessed 6 presidents, all within 2 tenures. They have all been characterized with (and removed due to) one scandal or the other. Evans Enwerem had forged Certificates, Chuba Okadigbo had embezzled, and so on. Now, Senate President David Mark has been sacked by the Elections Tribunal. Reason? The elections in Benue State which put him in power has been nullified. I sincerely hope this is not the beginning of another series of Senate Presidents in this regime.

Presently, the seat of government in Abuja is anxiously awaiting the results of the Presidential Elections Petitions Tribunal tomorrow, when it shall be decided if President Yar'adua was victorious in the Elections that took place last year. I'll leave you with a Food for thought. President Yar'adua has said he'll always abide by the rule of law. What if his election is declared as false? Will he leave? And if he leaves, I very much doubt that his successor will have the same respect for the rule of law. That'll effectively send us backward several places. What then is the way forward?

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Feb 13, 2008

This day ...

The 44th day of the year in the Gregorian Calender
Exactly 5 days later, the Sahara Desert experienced snow - for the first and only recorded time - for a period of 30 minutes.
Exactly 3 years earlier, Gen. Murtala Mohammed was assassinated in a coup plot.
Exactly 99 years earlier, Thomas Edison observed the "Edison Effect"
Exactly 25 years later, the universe's largest known diamond, white dwarf star was discovered.

The day I was born, the day I came into the world, the day I started in this journey called life.
My Birthday!

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Feb 10, 2008

Naija's Journey into Talk

Children born today will never imagine a time when GSM was just another meaningless and largely unknown acronym. They won't believe in a time when Telecommunications only meant NITEL and some archaic cable satellite company. They'll never know that masts once meant TV and radio stations, and Coca-Cola was the strongest Nigerian brand without any competitor for their colorful and eye-catching billboards.

I remember the days of the 090 (naught nine naught) lines - the NITEL cellular handsets of the 90s. If you owned one, you were considered an extremely big boy. You could receive your calls in any Bank, and no security personnel dared tell you to switch it off. In fact, you wouldn't even be in the banking hall in the first place, you would be in the Branch Manager's office receiving preferential treatment. You would never complain of bad network or poor service, because as far as you were concerned, you owned the best of the best.

Those were the days when you had to depend on luck when going to see a friend, and you had to plan the next appointment before you parted ways. Woe betide you if you left your house without the proper address - short of asking from door to door, there was no other way you get directions. Then, people stuck notepads and pencils on their front doors with stylish signs which read "Drop a note", and there were charts on doors with different attributes such as IN, MARKET, BATHROOM, TRAVELED, etc. It was the time when a man who was working in Lagos and his lover who was undergoing her NYSC in Kano kept their relationship alive through 6 page letters in the post, letters, which took two to three weeks to get delivered... and their love survived! It was the time when the only way you could confirm the safe arrival of your friends was by taking down the registration number of the commercial vehicle and visiting the park 3-4 days later to see if the driver was back from the trip.

Land lines existed, but were only for the rich and influential. The owners would usually lock the phones with a small padlock so their kids would not make calls and incur phone bills in their absence. There was usually a house with a phone line in every neighborhood, and it was common to find different people waiting at houses to receive a call from a family members residing abroad at a particular time. It was also common to have a messenger running to your house informing you that you had a call and the caller was calling back in 5 minutes, and you would quickly leave all you were doing and run to wait for your call.

Evolution soon brought the use of phone cards and calling machines from NITEL. People with phone cards would stand making their calls closely monitoring their units while they quickly made their calls in as few words as possible. Opportunists soon emerged, renting out phone cards to make a quick buck, and fables spread about how an empty phone card could be refilled by freezing it for a number of days.

Alas, it's now all history, thanks to GSM. Anyone who can cough out N3000 can get a phone and a line. The average Nigerian now owns a handset he receives calls with. People have as many as two, three or four lines and are quick to display all their numbers on their personal business cards. Handsets have also evolved. At the onset, if you had a Nokia 3310 or 3330, you were a big boy. If you had a Samsung Blue-I, you were a bigger boy, and if you had a Samsung True-I or a Motorola V50, you were without equal. Commoners used the Trium Mars, Motorola Talkabout and the Sagem's first phones. GSM Lines were as costly as N20000 - N30000, calls were billed by the minute, and the cheapest air time you could buy was a N500 recharge card from Econet.

Now different versions of phones exist, with different functionalities such as FM Radio, Cameras and Video. Phones shaped like planes and those that remind you of walkie-talkies. We now do everything from running excel sheets to checking out our facebook pages on our phones. We play music and watch videos, and send pictures through MMS and bluetooth. The land line is almost forgotten, and the NITEL Phone booths are non-existent. Recharge cards are sold in every corner, and the average 7 year old kid knows how to operate his Mum's phone.

The GSM industry had indeed done a lot of positive things for Nigerians. Apart from bringing communication within the reach of the common man, it has created multiple employment opportunities, not only for those who work in the GSM organizations, but mostly on the streets for recharge card hawkers and phone call center operators. It has also created a big market for mobile phones, such that the Computer Village in Ikeja is no longer only known for computers but also largely known for mobile phones and accessories. With the advent of 3G Plus and 3.5G, we will soon be able to watch movies on our phones, make video calls and enjoy ultra high speed internet. GSM is here to stay, and will continue to change the way we talk, the way we act and the way we live.

Long live GSM!

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