January 14, 2023

A new year resolution for Lagos State

Muyiwa Adetiba

By Muyiwa Adetiba

I am now hard of hearing. It was something I and close family members suspected over the years but the onus to confirm was up to me. It was eventually confirmed shortly before the Covid19 worldwide shutdown.

The doctor then consoled me by saying it was still socially acceptable. I don’t know what she would now sayafter three years since the causes are still very much around me and the symptoms are getting more discernible. I tell myself that this ‘socially acceptable deafness’ is caused by old age but I suspect it is caused by something deeper.

I have lived constantly with noises that seem to be growing louder by the day since I left my serene abode in Festac Town for the Lagos Island about a decade and a half ago. It takes getting used to – the noise- when you leave the serenity of a place where the crackling of crickets and the chirping of birds wake you up in the mornings for a place where a combination of different noises rules the days and the nights.

I had to get used to people hooting literally every second of the day. I am not talking about illiterate drivers. Well-dressed personalities in suits and ‘agbadas’ are as impatient as the commercial drivers.

They want the vehicles in front of them to somehow disappear so they can enjoy a flow. Some even play some imaginary music with their horns which only they seem to enjoy. I had to get used to sirens from the police, the army, hospitals and whoever considers themselves to be well-connected.

I had to get used to convoys of SUVs being heralded by loud sirens at past midnight even when the highway is already free. I had to get used to trailer drivers pressing hard on their horns as they hurtle down the highway at 2am with their loads of sand or granite. And at the weekend, I had to get used to the blaring of loudspeakers from a neighbourhood nightclub.

People calling on the phone often asked if I was on the road because of the incessant background noises. My children would joke that they forget I live on the highway. A friend who lived in the UK came visiting just after we moved to our estate on the highway of Ozumba Mbadiwe in Victoria Island.

He liked the ambience of the estate and wanted an apartment. I told him to spend a night first. He did with his wife. The following morning, his comment was emphatic. He couldn’t live with the noise. Yes, the noise does take getting used to. I tried to compensate by turning my TV and music notches higher to override the noise.

Ten years on, it didn’t seem that bad anymore except when visitors came and asked how we had been coping. It could be that my ears have ‘adjusted’ to the noise levels. It could be that I have become even more deaf. I am afraid to confirm the current state of my deafness medically much to the angst of my older daughter. I am afraid to be told I need a hearing aid like adecrepit, old man.

Havinga hearing challenge makes you more aware of the hearing challenges of others. It is amazing how many people shift positions slightly in order to hear a conversation better. Some even move the better ear near you especially at noisy functions. One highly placed personality – a Minister – of my age-group actually told me he could only hear with a particular ear.

The more populated Lagos becomes, and Lagos is getting more populated by the day, the more the increase in the noise level. This rising noise level is a medical disaster waiting to happen. It might not be as insidious or harmful as oil pollution, but it is a pollution in its own way.

It seems such a long time ago, but there was a time Lagos was more concerned about the noise levels in the State than it seems to be now. There was a time when loudspeakers were prohibited from blaring outside halls. There was a time when street or open parties were frowned at or even prohibited.

There was a time when places of worship and nightclubs were not encouraged to be in residential areas. Nobody seems to be checking these things anymore. There might not be street parties in the way we knew in the past, but one now finds canopies springing up in open spaces, sometimes by streets, for parties and vigils.

One now finds people waking one up with loud prayers in the morning after others have dared you to sleep in the night with ‘Buga music’. There are obviously louder speakers now than in the past and everybody is taking advantage of this state of lawlessness to the discomfiture of those who want some kind of peace in their homes. Some two decades ago, what is now known as Oniru Estate or Victoria Island Extension was a vast expanse of white sand.

It looked so peaceful, so alluring that I am sure many of those who bought land there might have been lured by the promised serenity. What they probably didn’t know was that the beaches would be occupied by hotels, event centers, resorts, places of worship and party beaches with each bringing its own level of noise.

There is a place called ‘The Good Beach’ or something like that. It is virtually open every night. The night looks like day because of the constant stream of cars and the powerful lights that it generates. You can see the powerful beams directed at the skies roving around like ‘Big Brother’ or ‘Monitoring Spirit’.

The frequency of its ‘fireworks’ has increased for an obvious reason. It is the festive season. And for some macabre reason, it likes to release the fireworks at past midnight. Facing the beach are well-packaged estates of about thirty semi-detached houses each. I wonder how the people living in those estates cope with this daily bombardment of noises. I wonder how long it would take before they write a petition to Oniru’s office; or to Lagos State. This could not have been what they bargained for when they invested in their houses ‘by the ocean’.

When my eyesight was failing many years ago, I told myself it was old age. But I also knew the years of abuse –reading with torch, candle and even firewood lights – had taken their toll.Living in Lagos with its undisciplined and unrestrained noise levels is now slowly taking its toll on my hearing and the hearing, I am sure, of many of its inhabitants.I believe the government of the State can make Lagos a lot less noisy. For all our sakes.In fact, reducing the noise level in the State THIS YEAR should be one of the New Year resolutions of this administration.