By Morenike Taire
ONE of the most inspirational stories Hollywood has ever told is RAY, the biographical work telling of the life of legendary blind African American musician Ray Charles. It focuses on his rise from deep South racial dirt poverty as well as monumental personal and emotional loss to becoming the genius pacesetter we knew.

As in every good story, there were many obstacles in the path of his ambitions, not least of all his heroin addiction and tragic levels of indiscipline with the fairer sex.

Charles, played in the award winning movie by singer/comedian Jamie Foxx, had been put in detention by racist law enforcement agents for heroin possession. A case was pending and there was nothing to say he wouldn’t end up in jail doing real time.

Charles, the account went, blamed everyone and everything (God, his blindness, racism, mean spiritedness of people, his wife’s lack of understanding, his sad past, etcetera) for his blindness. Everyone, except for himself. Thus, “stop lying to yourself” was a frequent refrain by his wife Della Bea (played by Kerry Washington).

Curiously, the recent dramatics played out by consumer electronics and entertainment international company Sony and the Nigerian government (ably represented by Communication   Minister Dora Akunyili) reminds one of this.

Sony’s continental representative, a very senior official indeed, came out to take responsibility for the offensive on behalf of his company (by passing the buck, how else?) and apologising profusely. The offending video ad played on facebook and youtube had the model comparing someone who believes everything they hear on the net to the victim of a Nigerian (yahoo, yahoo!) millionaire. Ironically, the ad was on the internet, which cancels out the insult in a way.

The point, anyway, is there was indeed the overt suggestion that every Nigerian millionaire made their millions in whatever denomination by foul means.

Good that the apology was done and necessary adjustments made, considering PlayStation has become a staple in middle to high income homes in Nigeria, and who is to tell if some yahoo yahoo money has gone into some of the purchases?

In fact, PS has become something of a status symbol with kids playing, apart from the array of very expensive PS games, my-playstation-is-newer/slimmer/smarter/blacker- than yours. What to do in a situation where the extended family system is all but completely broken down and men and women alike have become economic refugees in their own country.

In other words, it takes a lot more of things material to satisfy a Nigerian these days than it has been in decades. In the pursuit of these things, Nigerian children are better entertained and blackmailed by technology and if that technology is imported, expensive and thus socially acceptable, the better.

The Communications Minister did well to make the point about the age of Sony’s operations in Nigeria, for the simple reason that the point has to be made that companies operating in Nigeria ought to have some respect for the people that pay their bills.

But beyond business, what are the implications of an apology? Did it butter up Nigeria’s image or did it draw more attention than necessary to the fact that we seem to have become a metaphor for internet fraud as Columbia has become that for drug runs and Venezuela for beauty queens? For crying out loud, all those PS games are being played by generators.

Our image is totally messed up, and we are going around blaming everyone but ourselves for it. In fact, the whole episode is a lesson in self-deception. We will gain far more respect from everyone both home and abroad if, for instance, the Federal Government should apologise to both the privileged and underprivileged children of Nigeria that they have to play their electronic games by generators.

Just go do it, CBN!

THE campaign for the introduction of more of the naira’s denominations in polymer has been on for some time now. One wonders, really, what all the campaigning is about. Clearly, the CBN is not trying to seek our permission, and if Nigerians woke up one morning and found polymer or silver money coming out of their banks and ATM machines, all they could do about it is sniffle.

And if the Central Bank and other  Federal Government agencies give a hoot about what we think about their policies, they would campaign about issues of far more importance and significance to our lives than what material our (low value) money is printed with.

We are being told of how fantastic these polymer notes are and how they last up to four times as long as the old paper notes, yet no one is telling us of the vast amounts that have and will go into technological changes changing to polymers; nor of funds that will go into training. Like the paper notes, the polymer varieties are not a Nigerian technology.

It is not made in Nigeria and we will still be importing. What we need to preoccupy ourselves with is how Nigeria can be a producing company. So much campaign about polymer notes (which already exist) is a waste of our time and money.


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