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Big tree, small axe by titi omo-ettu

January 17, 2006

With the warped entertainment content of the CBN’s act of last week, there is an overwhelming temptation to get carried away such that we forget to import whatever lessons it offers our industry.

The week’s sacking of five CEOs for ‘winning’ banks produced a drought of news in the telecommunications sector. It suggested that ceteris paribus, events in our industry pale into insignificance due to the axe falling on the supremo’s of our banking industry. The guys who produce CyberschuulNews told us that unless we wrote an opinion column this week, there was no news for them to report or to analyse. Very true as I found out when week drew to an end.

Nothing inspires newshounds more than ‘How hath the mighty fallen’ especially when the ‘mighty’ in question belong to the class that readers love to hate. If as they say ‘a week is a long time in politics’, two months must therefore be eternity. Given that not quite two months ago the ‘mighty’ were collecting awards, buying jets for pastors and distributing religious tracts as part of bank product leaflets (talk about a conflict of interest), is it not a tad strange how jubilant we are about their fall from grace? Yet we all pretended to be ignorant of the fact the front (and middle) pages of our newspapers have been taken over by bank adverts while we were treated as if we actually pay to buy adverts rather than content in our newspapers.

If we must profit from all this, then we must quickly identify two lessons which the telecom industry can learn from the finance industry’s recent experience.

We should remind ourselves that if and when services providers merit sanction, they should be dealt with. Our laws must provide for those who evoke such sanctions to think of how the decision will affect the common consumers and to take action to mitigate their losses. Of course our experience is that many service providers had, on their own, folded up and closed shop. Many of them in recent memory – MTS of old, EMIS, Mobitel of old, to name but a few. In the ensuing wreckage, no one cared about what happened to the real stakeholders – the subscribers who had made investment in such networks. It is time our law thought in this direction. There is something for our legislature to keep in mind as they attempt to edit the existing Act.

The other is the treating awards and laurels like confetti at a wedding – conferred on everyone and anyone which, to be brutally frank, is somewhat suffocating. It is not as if we believe these awards or that they mean little more than businesses and organisations disingenuously ingratiating themselves with their sponsors. In this era of reciprocal back scratching among the undeserving, a modicum of modesty and a reality check is both required and necessary.

It is time we demanded an arrest of this culture of roguery, hate and moral indecency that is like a parasite feasting on the soul of our society.

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