Tuesday, 9 September 2014

COPY COPY

Okay.....Nigerians are, technically, the most effective in 'copiers' in the world. The Chinese used to be the ones adept at replicating what they saw, but Nigerians have really taken over from them. 

Now, this needs to be clarified. This copy-cat ability is not replicating advancing technology, nor improving in the field of medicine or stuff like that. Nah! It definitely isn't that. 


What this type of imitation does is copy the things that are unimportant and in some cases, just plain wrong and stupid! 



One cannot really say when exactly it started, but it seems like the mainstream act of copying was clearly defined when the Blackberry phones came into Nigeria. People were buying the phones like their lives depended on them...though in some cases, some actually believed their lives did! Women were busy selling their bodies to older men, younger men, and in fact, all types of men, in other to raise money for a Blackberry. The movie 'Blackberry Babes' seemed to show a clear picture of just how far women went in order to own the latest Blackberries. While women were sleeping around to get them, men were doing all manner of criminal deeds to earn money for them. Many men attacked others just to own a Blackberry. As the phone gained more acceptance, the Blackberry Internet Services (BIS) subscription also followed suit......after all, what was a Blackberry without subscription? Telecommunication companies made it easier and easier by reducing the subscription fee until it became very affordable. Even at that, many people had to starve themselves to subscribe. Women prostituted themselves for the phones and did same for the subscription.Many women who were serious snobs all month, would suddenly become cute and cuddly when they run out of subscription or were about to run out of it. I remember in school when male friends used to lie to their parents to get money for handouts and upkeep, only to subscribe for BIS as soon as the money came in. Let us also not forget the parties that were done with certain Blackberries as the pass or ticket; today a Bold 2, tomorrow a Bold 4. It got to an all time high when, on meeting someone, one of the first questions asked was, 'What is your pin?' Oh! Woe betide you that you say you didn't have one; the look you got would melt a lesser man. Where did the craze come from? And why did we feel the need to copy? 



The first time I heard about the Blackberry phones was in a fiction novel, though I can't remember the name now. In that book, the dude had an everyday phone for personal contacts and a Blackberry for his business deals. My first view of the phone was a device that could help business people connect and transact business. When Nigerians copied the United States and some of Europe, it wasn't to foster business deals but to oppress one another. This oppression was so much that Blackberry officially announced its Nigerian market as one of the most thriving markets in Africa. It must have enacted a lot of laughs among the top brass of the company when their Nigerian users were notably unhappy about the sale of the BBM app to android phones. In spite of all the online petition by Nigerians to maintain the exclusivity, BBM was still introduced to android phones. This should have been a clear warning to us that copying doesn't help us in anyway and it sure doesn't give us the right to change corporate decisions.

When the Apple products came into the country, the same frenzy was seen; only much worse. People could do all types of crazy stuff to own an iPhone, iPad or a MacBook. The craze is still on! Reflect back to when the iPhone 6 came out? Ha! Crazy stuff!

Another glaring way our people copy things is shown in our art; from music videos to movies to our fashion and more. We have seen cases where music artists have copied already existing videos when making theirs. This is a case clearly shown in the 'Skelewu' video of music artist, Davido. The one particularly by director Moe Musa is the one I'm talking about. It was an obvious rip-off of the 'Party Rock' video by LMFAO and the movie '28 Days Later'. 
The question that comes to mind is, 'Do foreign music artists copy stuff?' The answer is yes! But do they do this as blatantly as Nigerian artists do? I wouldn't be so sure. The same trend is seen with Nigerian movies that are just poor replicas of Hollywood and Bollywood movies. We have so copied so much that you can be watching a movie or music video and just know the foreign movie it was copied from. This is especially sad because our talents are now being exported to the world. How are we going to be perceived when we show them what we have copied from them, with the only difference being our own faces?

Other ways where copying stuff has been glaring are with social media, and most predominantly, Twitter. A while ago, #FollowFridays were the rave. Timelines would be flooded with people who would jump on the follow wagon. Then came the #FollowBack wagon and then #TwitFights. Like candy given to children, the twit fights became so popular that many people looked forward to a fight whenever they came online. The fights ranged from amateur to downright mean and dirty and it even had some people permanently deleting their twitter accounts. As usual, we copied something from others and made it less than the originator planned. 



All of this was good and dandy until the abduction of the girls from Chibok took place and became an international issue. Many Nigerians were as unconcerned about those girls, as the President was. When human rights agencies brought it up and began talking about it, social media imploded. That was when Nigerians showed an iota of care. As soon as people saw American people, Asian people, European people and even Arabian people holding up placards with the the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, Nigerians started showing care or better put, Nigerians just needed to get on the trend.....after all, it was a trend about our very own nation. It wasn't long before trendsetters (or more appropriately, trend followers) put up pictures of themselves wearing somber expressions while carrying placards with #BringBackOurGirls boldly written on it. It also was no surprise that as soon as the international media got bored with 240 missing African (and worse, Nigerian) girls, we also copied their apathy. We followed through by forgetting the girls because it just wasn't trending anymore. This attitude told other countries two things: we, as a nation, were not bothered with what happened to us and secondly, want to get Nigerians to do something? Make it a trending topic on social media!

All of this was okay until we were made to look like fools when awareness increased for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It is a disease that affects nerves in a degenerative process until the sufferer is progressively unable to feel sensations in their muscle, resulting in weakness of the muscle, impediments in breathing, atrophy, paralysis and eventually, death. At this point, I am 100% sure many Nigerians do no even know what I'm talking about. So, I will say the same thing again, but, in another way. 


This theory was put to the test when awareness increased for the #IceBucketChallenge for ALS. Ah! I see the comprehension finally dawning on many. 

The ice bucket challenge went viral between July and August, 2014 and this was to bring awareness to the ALS disease and raise funds for research because so far, the cause and possible cure for the disease still remains elusive to the probing eyes of scientists and researchers. A person suffering from ALS progressively is unable to feel sensations, such as hot substances or the corresponding cold substance. On the other hand, a healthy person would feel pain and prickling sensations when in contact with heat or ice. When the ice bucket challenge was started, it was done to ensure that as long as one could feel the pricks from cold water, they would have a desire to contribute to ensuring that they didn't get the disease. 

As usual, our Nigerian celebrities were one of the first to jump on this wagon, filming themselves accepting a bucket of ice cold water dumped on their heads. What was shocking was that, when they copied, most of them didn't even know what it was about. It was just another trending thing that made them look cool. When the E!News crew accepted the challenge, they took the challenge outside their studios because they respected how much things cost in their workplace. Fast forward to when Ehiz of MTV Base did his own challenge and you see that he did his IN the studio. Himself and his crew were too eager to jump on the new cool trend that they didn't care what the effects to their studio equipment would be. Even if they had a huge tub to dump the water in, Ehiz still had to contend with the microphone coming in contact with water. But the loss of an equipment was nothing as long as one looked trendy and cool.


This is the same mentality many Nigerians have. They want to be cool by all means and be accepted by many other countries. We do have our own problems that should be addressed by our celebrities but they do not because they haven't copied it from somewhere. When someone like Yvonne Nelson refused to partake in the ice bucket challenge, she came under serious backlash but many people refused to see that she showed herself strong and unwilling to be foolish just to be cool. She listed points on why the ice bucket challenge was wrong on all grounds for Africans and that showed that she had done her research!


Like she postulated, the ice bucket challenge was not something that we should have copied because, many african countries are without water or access to water. Some cities in Nigeria are also without water or access to it. That one bucket that was wasted in the quest to be cool could have been a water-haven for someone without water. It will be far-fetched to say Africans do no have ALS but then, the cases are more predominant in other countries. What this translates to is that ALS is NOT our problem! But Malaria is, so is Maternal Mortality, Cholera, Typhoid, Cancer and now, Ebola. Poverty is also our problem, poor education and health facilities too. We cannot even stop there: poor social amenities, bad leadership and governance, human trafficking, increased drug abuse and misuse, increased crime rate and an all time high corruption. THESE are our problems, not ALS or any other white man's disease. 


So rather than dance like monkeys longing for a banana, why can't our trend followers become trend setters by bringing awareness to our own problems? While people who have running water were pouring ice cold water on themselves, we could have been creating the #OneBucketChallenge, ensuring that each African donated one bucket of safe drinking water to countries and regions without it. Our celebrities have massive followers on social media and even if they had told their followers to donate one hundred naira to ensure these regions got safe water, they would have raised millions (or even billions) that could have made them legends in Africa. THAT would have made others copy them instead of them copying others.   


There are somethings we cannot help but copy but we shouldn't have to always copy stuff, especially stuff that doesn't concern us, just because we want to be socially accepted. As a nation, we cannot thrive on copying and imitating other countries. The simple fact is that most nations are great because of their innovation and not how well they copy others!


As cliched as this might sound, I end this piece with the famous words of Herman Melville. 


'It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation'


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