Why The Noise About Noise?


When he was at Wesley College, Ibadan, Oyo State in the mid-60s, Mr. Ade Fajana told the story of a professor of Astronomy who mounted his telescope in the garden behind his house for the purpose of studying stars at a vantage point. One day as he was adjusting the tripod of his telescope here and there he suddenly stepped into a pit which swallowed him up with his telescope. This happened coincidentally as the professor friend of his who often shared the use of the telescope with him arrived at the garden. His friend helped him out.

The professor in question failed to first study to master the geography of his own garden before trying to pry for distant galaxy in the nebula  where it is impossible for him or anyone else to just zoom, fly or travel for a visit or work verification!

In Nigeria, we are born either near expansive open ground markets like fifth day central village open market for several villages or beside daily markets established near the chief’s house or we live close to public transportation points called motor parks from where all sorts of noises emanate, including hawkers’ cry-outs! As individuals we  listened to deafening church and mosque loudspeakers both in the morning and night or at their vigils or tarjudes till we grew up.

We have been buying or window-shopping around eardrum bursting musical loudspeakers for many years. We have always lived near or within different sources of loud noises in our neighbourhood yet we do not fall sick or go deaf because of that. In fact, only factory or machinery noises cause deafness.

A particularly nauseating noise common in the Nigerian society today is produced by the abiquitous generating sets in diverse places whose noises disturb us from all angles and directions for twenty-four hours daily. Everybody is generating his own electricity following the failure of public source! Undisputedly, noise has become part of us. There are ethnic groups who shout to talk. Parents daily shout on their naughty children while the children either by lone howls or in their flocks commit the nuisance of loud hue and cry. But noise does not prevent us from getting highly educated or  hamper our business venture and success in any way. We have only failed to grasp the reality of life, or maybe we are ignorant of where we are – our environment!

Now, it comes to a time when we go to spend a week holiday in England for example. Then we discover that life there is diametrically different from ours in the tropics. Their climate or weather influenced environment makes them quiet even during the day like in our dead night. Many of our ‘been-tos’ have declared with sentiment: “Nigeria is noisy and backward.”

Despite our good education and certificates, diplomas and degrees  obtained in our noisy background, we remain less informed about our own locality. We often wrongly judge our own environment because we always want to compare Europe with Africa. May be we fail to apply our type of education to our environment or that the school we attend does not equip us well to separate the grain from the chaff and how we must always be our natural selves without attempting to live incognito or like other persons.

In the first place, how could we compare Europe, a cold and at times freezing continent with a hot, heating and flaming tropical Africa. Unlike in cold countries of Europe our weather in Nigeria for example, permits us in the dry season to safely live or work outside the house (or in the open air) for many days without getting ill. Not that alone, as part of our culture we easily socialise whereas socialization itself sometimes generates noise especially, when it results in jokes and banters. In addition, our black or dark skin is as a result of our natural tropical climate. Nobody can reasonably behave outside his nature and culture without turning himself to an “odd man out”.

Let us see the other side. In England for example, excessive cold and freezing weather often make prisoners of the citizens at given times. The people are not only confined indoors or climatically placed under house arrest, they must heat their rooms if they do not want to turn themselves into “frozen fish” (oku eko!) Because of their weather they have no time or are not any mood to socialise at all. Their harsh weather forces them to live individualistic life of either being in semi or total seclusion. Their weather makes them impatient for our own kind of longish greetings and compliments. Generally, Europeans are Caucasians (white or oyinbo) in line with their climatic condition. This is nature at work! In Nigeria like in most other African countries we are by nature cheerful and gregarious in interpersonal relationship.

It is not reasonable to compare Europe with Africa or England with Nigeria. What makes the two environments different makes our cultures to be divergent. Any attempt by the African to sheepishly and unwittingly imitate the European results in apeing that turns the African to the Caucasian’s (or white man’s monkey – a clown, laughingstock, silly person!

This brings us to the issue of civilization. Because of oyinbo mentality many Nigerians have loaded too much of semantic burden on civilization. Simply put, civilization connotes neat and decent living with cordial interpersonal relationship. Any other thing is opinionated and optional – be it science, computer, etc. Civilization has nothing to do with living the Oyinbo way or the African way. Today, certain Nigerians have been swallowed by the abyss of unreasonable inferiority complex of the white man’s sentiment and mentality. That is, whatever we do in Nigeria that is not British is to them inferior and backward! This sentiment makes those Nigerians live in this beautiful God given country like oyinbo slaves domiciled in a transit territory or in a European satellite enclave. That makes them strangers in their own home! What a misguided cultural de-orientation!

They abandoned their language, dress, food and other natural ways of life. Some of them even bleach, whereas bleaching is a product of low esteem! Some of them prefer the importation of everything – even their drinking water and toothpick! If it is possible they want to import the English weather! This is a damnable and disgraceful way of life. This attitude is displayed by certain foreign minded or mentally colonized Nigerians who always complain through our radio stations against one form of noise or the other. They do not know how to face the reality of life thrust on them by nature and environment.

If any government in tropical Africa makes any law against noise at the present stage such law is anti-nature, anti-human and unholy. It is sacrilegious and ungodly. It is divinely null and void. However, prompt, emergency laws do not necessarily succeed in regulating human activities. Even in the US many laws exist in the statute books but are not enforced!

It is obvious that many Nigerians are more English than the English! Not every western ideal fits the African background. China is ahead today because she does not accept western ideals hook, line and sinker. How long shall Nigeria continue to live or sleep on the procrustean bed of mediocrity of its master’s voice and remain swept right and left by just anybody? Even in the US state laws vary from state to state.

Whatever noise we make in this part of the world has no decibel reckoning because the sources are either of human voice, commercial haggling or instructive loud speakers that are not in any way harmful outside nuisance. That means we are not yet industrialized to produce harmful noises. Damaging noises are produced mainly in industrialized countries many of which have no laws to regulate the high decibel noises they generate which are dangerous to their citizens who themselves earn their living by the sources of such noises.

We can better check or minimize our own noises through indoctrination, consultation and general appeal. Any African or Nigerian who hates noise in the present dispensation should better migrate to Iceland, the Poles or the land of the Eskimos where only chilling snow fumes blow about quietly like in the graveyard.

In the west today, Human Right is their only serious religion and “god” with domineering influence on socio-political affairs even as shield for certain immoral acts! In Nigeria morality is the common denominator of behavior across the religions and cultures. But the human right germ from the west is now gradually transferring to us certain western problems to compound the existing ones we are unable to solve yet. That is that.

The INEC has about fifty political parties in its register. What a cumbersome but ridiculous phenomenon brought about by slavish interpretation of human right principles. How many of the political parties are actually in the filed? What stops the National Assembly from limiting the number of political parties to just three or four? That will encourage registered ones to engage in real field work and not just loiter for free money from the INEC or the government at elections with spurious claims.

•Olubayo Lawore writes from Demurin Street, Ketu, Lagos. May be reached on 08057501806

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