The Caller You ‘Re Trying To Reach Has No Phone…

Posted: September 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Prince Charles Dickson

A ki gbele gba ofa lailo ogun–meaning, one does not sit at home, not go to war and yet be shot with an arrow.

As usual there’s been little to cheer within the last week. I was sure that my admonition was going to be on the groundnut and popcorn called National awards, especially with the closure of parts of Abuja on that day of the awards to very few deserving and plenty dishonorables.

Meanwhile, a friend had reminded me of the deteriorating GSM services.

So I threw it to a beloved friend “which would make a good read and was a national issue, the National awards or GSM palavar?”

She answered initially “none of the them”. Implying that really nothing is of interest in these climes. That actually was the nod I needed to go for the jugular of our ‘heartless’ network operators.

Week in and out, from just good, manageable, we have gravitated from bad, worse and titling to dangerously worse than usually worse.

Its the GSM palavar, the small magic toy that came to us in Nigeria 11years ago. Infact, it was 11years last August. With the terrible services, many would be forgiven for having forgotten.

The GSM phone, it is one gadget that has really changed our way of life both ways. Some 6years ago I was privileged to submit to the Dept. Of Psychology, University of Jos, a Thesis on the Psycho-Social Implication of GSM in Nigeria.

With data in public domain stating we have over 81 Million GSM & CDMA mobile phone subscribers. At even one kobo per minute, it is a billion naira industry and bound to affect our way of life.

Whether it is a case of controversial Nigerians, arguing whether it was Abacha who laid the groundwork or it was Obj that moved the work from the ground, GSM’s advent has also improved the quality of living of Nigerians. It has provided quality jobs and enhanced certain areas of business.

Quickly, kudos, GSM freed us from the bondage of ‘David Mark and phone is not for the poor’ cabal.

A visit to any NITEL office these days brings reality home, the once-upon-a-time powerful communication terrorist, in the yore days of your line has been tossed, now totally embarrassed, humiliated and redundant.

From little things like mobile TV, POS (electronic payment), affordable internet services, mobile tracking services, cheaper international calls, internet banking, and mobile banking.

Millions of Nigerians now access the internet via their GSM phones or a GSM enabled device. Our mails, Facebook, twitter, news and more. Its the era of Ipad, Iphones, berries, andriods, hand and hearthelds, right from the days of the almighty ‘no-dey’ break Nokia 3310.

Legitimate businesses are done online today, despite all the yahoo-yahoo boys, for these and more, we are so very much grateful to the mobile operators.

From the days of N22, 000 to N6, 000 and finally N1 per sim card or when one could not make a call for more than a minute ’cause it cost a fortune, to these days of free calls and era of maiguardi alee (night watchmen) all in the name of free night calls.

From being treated with technical terms like “over capacity”, “high operational cost”, “high demand” and it has become dangerously worse, from the number is not on the MTN network or the number does not exist from glo, and some may tell you the subscriber has no phone.

Nigeria has one of the most expensive tariffs in the world and one which services are not commensurate with cost, one wonders, the place of the Communications Commission, the Consumer Protection Council as Nigerians are milked non-stop for promises not delivered.

We are victims of jungle capitalism, added is, the win areoplane and daily millions of Naira promo, run by MTN, Glo, Etisalat, Visa and co.

We play these pool, Kaalu-Kaalu and chaacha, sending text to short codes to win aircraft, aircar, airgenerator and what not, terrible services, our small change deducted and GSM networks smile to the bank and repatriate others home, with a hypocritical social responsibility dance. No commensurate improvement of any form.

…Dropped calls, cross connections, network congestion, network timeout, disappearing call credits, nightmares with customer care people, and all round poor quality of service has become the order of the day.

One appreciates the operating environment, getting alternate power, diesel, theft and destruction, and the latest, attacks on their installations by BH in parts of the country.

But still doesn’t co-relate with all the recent thrash called GSM services, you dial a number, it rolls to another line. Subscribers to Blackberry and all berry services are treated to rotten berries.

No one offers sound consoling customer-friendly apology. Nigerians don’t deserve apologies, especially when the act is on intent, our leaders do it, from public officer holders, traditional stools to religious leaders. The public be damned ’cause no one gives a damn.

No on cares how GSM customers are faring. The only difference is that we have a choice. We can choose lesser of the criminals called operators. So, we are forced to do the dual sim phones or carry phones like a phone seller or call operator.

While I dare say it remains an allegation, the rumoured fact that our legislators have their palms greased to look the other tells you the ‘go to hell’ situation subscribers find themselves.

Let me end this way. A young girl on her way to Lagos from Abuja, every other one hour would call her numerous boyfriends to say she was on her way, to X, she was close to Benin, to Y, she was now in Lafia, to another they just passed Bauchi, to one she was lying down feeling feverish…an elderly woman unable to take it, had to ask the driver “pls my son shebi na Lagos we dey go, tell this girl to shut up before…?”

The bitter pill is the as with all things Nigeria and Nigerians, the current service we get is a metaphor for all that could be good in Nigeria and also, the very worst. To glo, mtn, etisalat, airtel, visa, multilinks, starcoms and co time will tell.

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