I try as much as I can to avoid using this page to promote personal agenda. Like most subscribers to cable, especially Multichoice Nigeria’s Direct Satellite Television (DSTV), I’ve had my share of frustrations with the special shoddy treatment reserved for Nigerians. Every month, most subscribers are not only cut off before payment due dates but they are made to shell out more payments by way of expensive phone calls to get reconnected. Each month, I go through a feeling of wanting to lash out in this column but since I do not know what others go through, I lick my wounds, call the Lagos office that is responsible for Ibadan subscribers and patiently wait, burning my own money in an attempt to get service already paid for. Each time, I get the same barely-there it’s-the-computers,-Madam non-apology. What can I do? Where is government? Where is its legislative arm that should protect citizens’ rights and money by ensuring that they get values once they pay for services?
Citizens have no rights or, if they do, those have been flushed down the drain through the greed of those they elected and those imposed on them. Was it not the rejection of free phone cards (recharge cards) that got Alhaji Yerima suspended from the House of Reps? MTN, one of our new “crown agents”, so to say although this time from our continent, knows how to play the game and does it well. Monthly, they hand out seventy-five hundred naira worth of free phone cards to legislators – better to squeeze Nigerian consumers more, my dear, as the big bad wolf that ate Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother would have put it. And MTN, MultiChoice, et al., are big bad wolves as far as Nigerian consumers are concerned.
How could “legislators” enact laws that would check gouging and outright cheating when they get bribes – that’s what those free phone cards represent – to the tune of ninety thousand naira annually? As the Americans would say, there is no free lunch anywhere.
The following article from City People for the week of March 30 this year, was the final impetus I need to write on what is as much private angst as public anger; what more could be meat for a column supposedly devoted to social issues? The story, titled “Multichoice Abuja Blues” was carried by a weekly tabloid and is reproduced below:
“It has never been so bad. The past few weeks have been really harrowing for Multichoice subscribers in the Capital City as they have had to wait endlessly for the Abuja office to rectify their computer problems and credit their accounts. What made the case more worrisome was that Multichoice did not even deem it right to inform its subscribers that there was indeed a problem as customers were made to go through the harrowing experience of going to the bank to pay subscription fee only to come back and be told that since the system in Abuja is down, they either wait till goddot comes before they can watch their favourite channels, or try to call other Multichoice offices outside Abuja so that their account could be credited.
The only snag to the calls was that the numbers would ring for hours on end and no one would pick them. Or, as in the case of the Lagos office, an answering machine would tell you to hold on for the next available official, only for you to wait endlessly. “The fact that the problem has been on for weeks now and there is no end in sight simply means that subscribers may just forfeit all they have paid for one month without watching the programmes they paid for while Multichoice will be smiling to the banks(sic).
“Meanwhile, not a single word of remorse have (sic) come from them to appease their disenchanted customers.”
Nigerians are a long-suffering people and that is not meant in any positive way. A man who cannot afford to finish a house in ten years gets appointed a minister, a head of a government agency (usually, federal) has not a concrete block to his/her name but before you can say ‘unfinished house’, each of them is master of several lavishly-appointed homes, courtesy our common wealth. What do we do in response to such overnight success? Merely hope ours will come.
About a year or so ago, I read of how FSTV was being frustrated every way it turned in the owner’s attempt to bring cheaper cable service to Nigeria. Even I called their office but once I found that I would not be able to watch all the sports programs that I love, I could not take Chief Famuyibo’s offer of cheaper cable service. Our service provider who has Nigeria sewn and wrapped up bragged, according to a newspaper report, that they (South Africans) know how to deal with Nigerians, meaning our government, I guess. The South African company has a deal with the English Premier League that would not allow it (the league) to deal with any other provider to Nigeria.
What is the legislative arm doing? Or do they have free cable which they can more than afford without hamstringing poorer citizens? Like the so-called deregulation of the petroleum sector, why, President Obasanjo, can we not have a deregulated cable sector and let each provider go out and attract customers the best way each can? See what GLO did for Nigerians and to recalcitrant MTN that claimed all sorts of services were impossible until Nigerian-owned GLO came along?
China’s new Cultural Imperialism thru Textile Dumping
First, it was the general textile mills that first felt the mighty, ugly hands of Chinese imports. Now, the Chinese are not just coming, they are here and the face we see is ugly.
When I saw what I thought was a strange-looking olowu dudu (the Yoruba indigo-color aso oke), I was baffled at the lightness and the color until I moved a little closer and discovered it was a Made in China inferior import. In the last couple of months, however, various patterns of these fake traditional fabrics have filled our markets and people are buying them because they are cheap. There are also fake adire (tie and dye) just as there are fake aso oke.
I believe there is supposed to be a ban on textiles but the markets do not reflect this and textile factories are dying out. If our textile factories die, industrialists who invested tons of money would have lost their investment but if our traditional fabrics die out, we would lose a vital tie to our past and a people that lose their culture are destined for the bottom rung of the ladder among the human race. A Czarina a la NAFDAC may be what the government needs to clamp down on textile dumping and the time to act is now.
The Nation on Sunday April 2005.