Research In Motion, the makers of your friendly neighborhood Blackberry must be smiling to the banks. Nigerians have adopted the pocket friendly device and taken it to their hearts, to the neglect of other phone brands. And the Blackberry phone manufacturers did not have to use Megan Wood to advertise their product like Anabel did – Rita Dominic sufficed (for Glo’s BB service). Wow sometimes, less is more. Let’s use our local stars.

Bringing a BB (Blackberry to you) service to Naija was a match made in heaven, surely. Just like the smart business man who thought it would be a good business idea to sell water in a sachet, and call it pure water. He sold volume, pardon the use of irony. What about selling ogi (akamu) in a Blue Bunny type bucket? No? With Oreo cookies in it? Ok, what about Okin Square included?

The BB is so popular now, that it has inspired its own song on the Nigerian charts. A Naija hip-hop artist called Riz released a song called “Ping! Me Baby” recently.

I heard it, and I was like wow! How times and artistes have changed; Jodeci and Tha Dogg Pound had a jam in the 90s on the Murder Was The Case Movie Soundtrack called “Come Up to Room.” Are artistes now satisfied with mere pings from their love interests. So is it “ping me baby’ as opposed to saying “ring me baby?”

BBs are very, very addictive. They have been rightly labeled “Crackberries”; the battery of mine ran out one day as I was stuck in traffic, and I felt like a horse on 3 legs. A bit like the half-starved ones in Alfa Beach or the strays on Lekki Expressway.

 I have friend whose wife has burnt all the pots and pans in their apartment, using her BB and neglecting food on the fire. On days when she has cause to chat with her friends, her husband knows he is having Indomie for dinner.

 She was even using her BB when her water broke, and also in the delivery ward in the hospital after giving birth. She must really like BB’s “push” email service.

Some Naija people  use their BB anywhere!

A girl was stopped by LASTMA officials for running a red traffic light; and while they struggled with the car door handles, trying to gain access into the car, the girl typed away on her BB without a care in the world, ignoring their threats.

You send a BB message to someone like “What’s up. Where are you?”, and the person replies immediately “I am great thanx. I am actually on my way now. I am on 3rd Mainland Bridge so I will see you in a bit.”

And you are like, Oh My Days!, you are doing 100kph  and “BBing” (using your BB) at the same time on that dangerous bridge? Some multi-tasking that I can do without. I find it difficult sitting still as a passenger going on that bridge.

BBs are so popular what there are now thousands of fakes or knock-offs. I don’t know how someone could ever think that a brand new BB smart-phone would cost only N10,000.00. You struggle to see base color screen phones without cameras at that price.

Someone I know bought a BB from somewhere in Ikeja and didn’t know it was a fake. If she had only looked closely, she would have noticed that the keypad had a  BIG QUERY instead of  a QWERTY or QWERTZ board.

But she had no clue, until someone asked her for her BB pin. She checked and saw ABA419MADE. What’s next, was she planning to subscribe to MTEL’s network?

But you have got to give it to them: Research In Motion, in collaboration with the GSM companies, has done some brisk business in Naija. Nigerians subscribe to any niche services that add value to their social or business lives.

Who can forget the days of old school Thuraya handsets when GSM services just started? “The international business man’s phone”. Having that briefcase phone in your possession, drove up your social standing a notch or two in some people’s estimation. It also cost an arm and a leg. No seriously, it actually almost cost me my arm – it was that heavy to carry.

 Don’t get me started on Samsung’s “True-I” mobile phone. I know someone who used to allow the phone ring just to show off its polyphonic ring-tone to gullible women, which was new technology at the time. He once mistakenly left the unit on in a magistrate court though, and was held by the bailiff for contempt of court. It was also kept as an exhibit.

The BB has altered the way Nigerians, especially the urbanites in Lagos, PH and Abuja interact with each other, that is for sure.

The BB service can provide a forum for exchanging professional ideas, business networking, marketing goods and services and even advertising. I am presently a member of several BB groups, some professional and some social.

Over use of BBM chatting has also destroyed some people’s spelling forever. With ordinary text messages, it is justifiable for a text sender to use abbreviations to limit any text messages to one page, because every extra page costs an extra N10-N15.

But why oh why should someone send anyone a BBM like this – Hw fa? Mk wi c 4 Slvr Bd @2 (How far? Make we see for Silver Bird at 2). He might as well have spoken Mandarin to me.

Some people call this manner of short hand writing phonetics (phone-etics). Apparently, it is picking up fast and infiltrating conventional spelling.

The BB is everywhere you turn, and there is a possibility that if you do not own one, you may not receive any calls or texts from some people. Most BB owners pay weekly or monthly BIS rates, and are not likely to call or text you when BB chat, use of Facebook, Twitter and e-mail is free.

People even use the BB Messaging (BBM) service for inviting friends and contacts to weddings, parties and events.

The BBM is also used to spread information about emergencies, some false and a few true – do not use Carter Bridge, a molue collided with a tanker and there is a fire hazard.

Or armed bandits are operating on Awolowo Road. Stay in your offices and homes.

It could also be utilized for religious and faith-based services – The Almighty is great. Please forward this to all of your contacts and see if you will not be blessed within 30 days. PS. Do not break the chain, make sure you send and receive your miracles. Amen.

It could be used to alleviate stress – jokes are normally forwarded around, until everyone in Lagos gets them.

The BB is also used for paparazzi services . Remember to always watch how you act whether in private or public. Everyone has a hidden camera phone, video camera or secret agenda. Enough said. Ask Wande Coal.

Hackers and panic-merchants have even caught up on the hype. Several weeks back, BB users were sent a BBM with a list of smileys which do not  come normally with the device. 

After a few days, BB users were sent another message which asked them to immediately delete the list from the phone application and reboot their device, or else their phones will suffer a fatal virus attack. we have hackers in Naija. I understand that these are different technologies, but I wonder if they can do something about NEPA?

The BB also seems perfect for hiding a lack of social skills, or shyness or to alleviate boredom at events. A friend of mine was at a small house party, where a girl just buried her face in her BB, typing away because nobody was talking to her. It didn’t help that she was sitting in a corner and didn’t make eye contact with anyone.

My friend later saw her in the car-park after the party ended and got talking to her.  They hit it off and he wanted to exchange BB pins with her, and asked her to add his pin so he could accept right-away, but she explained that her Blackberry internet service had expired the day before! She confessed that she was shy and no-one was talking to her so she pretended that she was busy on the phone. Wow. Na so madness dey start.

Social skills are suffering because people use chat functions and social networking sites on their smart-phones instead of calling or visiting others.

I know a chap that once met a girl via  facebook; they exchanged BB pins and chatted with each other every single day for almost 2 and a half months. The day he decided to call her, a man picked up the phone. He thought he had the wrong number so he dropped and sent her a BBM. It turned out that she was the one that picked the phone – her voice was like Scary Spice’s own. He did the Eddie Murphy.

That budding relationship did not go to the next level, because expectations built up behind chat interactions were ultimately dashed when put under further scrutiny.

President Obama is reputed to be a huge fan of the BB device; it is said that he never goes anywhere without it.

Even our public office holders in Nigeria have caught the bug. Trust them to take it to another level that even Research In Motion had not even envisaged. I was watching a program on national TV some weeks back, and it was interview between a government official and a talk show host/ social critic. The host asked the government official how he keeps in touch with his local and state constituency in the South South, despite always travelling abroad on ‘official trips”, living and operating from Abuja and not going to his state due to the political upheavals and rising crime rate. He answered with a straight face ” How I keep in touch with my constituency? Very simple. Two words. Blackberry.”

I thought blackberry was one word.

 The BB is also guilty of being at the centre of a few incidents too.

About two years ago, I used to work for this company where all the senior managers were given BBs for official tasks. There was this particular manager, Mr.Babatunde, married, about 38, who was very loud. He fancied one of  our co-workers, a svelte, pretty girl called Nora whose desk was in the open plan layout just in front of his. Nora was not interested in him in the least, so Mr. B was fond of doing stuff to try to get her attention. He would come out of his office, acting like he was on a very important call to a foreign client with his voice loud saying stuff like “Yes Mr. Smithers. You can email me anytime on my Blackberry” or boasting like ” Please forward my itinerary to my Blackberry. I fly out to London, first thing next week.”

It was hopeless because Nora refused to give him the time of day or go out with him.

On one particular day, he was bragging away loudly to someone on his BB as he was coming out of his office, and looked towards Nora to see if she was listening to his conversation. He did not look at the ground in front of him, and tripped over a stack of cable wires which connected the office server to all the PCs. Some of the wires cut, and disrupted the whole company’s internet connectivity for the whole day until an engineer came over to sort it out. No real work could be done in the office for almost 24 hours. Client deadlines couldn’t be met that day and everything regarding office work ground to a halt. Not good.

One of the directors called him into the office and gave him a reprimand and an official query. By the time he came out, he looked really humiliated. I guess, for him, it was a huge learning, err, Curve.

We are all guilty of going to public or private functions – parties, weddings, get togethers, restaurant openings, barbeques, and bury their heads in their phones and so do not interact socially. Balance is crucial.

The BB has even created a special industry – the BB pouch or rubber-case making industry. Some people have 3 or 4 different BB covers or pouches to protect their dear BB, but no deodorant or anti-pespirant for protection from sweat. Charity starts at phone, sorry home.

A few people simply detest the phone’s popularity and believe that it to be a symbol of the excess, materialism and vanity that is plaguing middle Nigeria at the moment.  Dude, it is just a phone.  Blame it on the individual and not the product. Don’t shoot the err, blackberry, messenger

Whatever their gripes, the BB is user-friendly, durable and does what it says on the tin.

So what is your BB pin?


You’ve got to learn to hold your own/

They get jealous when they see you with your mobile phone/

2Pac (Changes, 1998)

3 responses

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Naija-Berry « LITERATI: SATIRES ON NIGERIAN LIFE --

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