By Chioma Igbokwe
Visualize a scenario where you are fast asleep beside your partner and at 2.00am, the ring tone of your phone disturbs your sleep. With your eyes heavy with sleep after a hectic day and retiring to bed just an hour earlier you pick the call only to hear the voice of a stranger you never met.
The voice is that of the opposite sex. You try to fix a face or incident to it but cannot. While you battle with ‘I can’t remember who you are’ interjection, he/she insists loudly that you gave him/her appointment to call you because you would be sleeping alone in your room.
He/she further puts you on the spot that you had always talked at such hours in the past and you are merely pretending not to know the caller. Your spouse at last takes the caller for real and counts you a liar who deliberately put up denial to save face. Problems arise from there and at last the relationship crashes.
To you, this is just a conjecture. But to many Nigerians, it is real life drama that changed the course of their lives and happiness. Despite the gains of free midnight calls offered subscribers by GSM operators, many Nigerians have such adverse stories to tell about free midnight calls that became a monster to them. To such persons who have suffered the negative impact, the free calls are not worth the trouble and the effects they inculcate.
“It has caused more harm than good to the society, the individual and families”, said a respondent who fumes at the hazards. Before the promo started any child who is awake till 1.00am must be a student who is seriously preparing for his or her forthcoming examinations. Then with the dilapidated state of the power sector, such a person would risk the effect of candle to the eyes and burn it for hours just to ensure that he/she graduates with a good grade.
But today the reverse is the case, at 12.am on the dot, children and adults, especially the singles embark on compulsory vigil just to tap into the gains of free calls that enable them talk sense and nonsense endlessly. A phone user who cannot spend three hours in a church or mosque for vigil will have his eyes wide open because of midnight call till morning. Some use the opportunity to engage on conference calls where families would seize the opportunity to chat.
Others use it as an avenue to engage in fraudulent act while most use the period to woo and toast ladies or men, even the married. Saturday Sun found that such clandestine raunchy calls are laden with romance and deep frolic that go beyond the ordinary level. And there is no need to emphasise that these midnight call have shattered and destroyed marriages and other relationships.
One of such victims of free romantic midnight calls is Jide Adesanya who lamented that it was midnight call that crashed his marriage, which he had been managing to stabilise. “I am a divorcee today because of midnight call. I was battling to save my marriage, which was on the brink of collapse because of a mistake I made in the past.
I had promised my wife that it would not repeat itself, till one night that I had convinced my wife to spend the night in my room. The grave mistake I made was not to switch off my phone. At 1.00am, with my wife in my arms my phone rang. Blood of Jesus, I pleaded hoping that my wife did not hear. I was about to switch off the phone when she asked me to answer the call, as it could be an emergency.
Could you believe that it was a voice of a woman who claimed to know me? I tried my best to pretend it was a mistake. Only for the idiot to call back insisting that I used to be her lover.
Even when I told her that I am a married man she insisted that we could always handle the affair the way we had always done. My wife got mad and that was it. Till date, I have not seen this woman who I have been begging to come help me clear the crisis that broke my marriage. Today, my marriage is over but what I do is to arrest anyone that dares call my number at night.”
Mr. Paully Onyeka blamed midnight free calls for his children’s poor attitude to reading at night and thereby performing poorly in school. “The advent of GSM has caused more harm than good especially among our children. The problem is not the midnight call but the fact that these phones are accessible. If you decide not to buy a phone for your child, one way or another, they will raise money and buy one.
I am not saying that it is not good that these products are cheap and affordable all I am hammering on is that it they have caused more bad than good to Nigerians. I was shocked one day when I woke up at 3.00am and heard voices. I quickly grabbed my cutlass and moved towards the direction of the noise only to discover that it was from my 13-year-old son. He was making a call at that unholy hour. This is a boy that has been performing badly in school, instead of reading he spends his time making irrelevant calls. How can this boy stay awake in class when lectures are on? No wonder the, performance of our children is dwindling by the day. I suggest that free midnight call should be abolished. If they want to subsidise, let them reflect it on our tariff.”
Nnenna, a journalist decided to find out who and how on earth a crippled man was able to get her number and wake her up at 2.00am. “At 2.00am, my phone rang, my husband who was by my side woke me up to pick the call. Scared that there might be an emergency, I picked the call.”
She was disappointed and relieved when he discovered that it was an unknown person.
How did you get my number? she queried and the caller, a man confessed that he asked God to ensure that whoever owns this number would turn out to be a friend. Nnenna explained that she is married and lying beside her husband. The caller who identified himself as Steve encouraged her that their relationship would be the perfect one since he was also married. He told her that the only way to control it was for her to learn to sleep in her own room.
With the consent of her husband, Nnenna decided to follow up the matter by conceding to the man’s request. They agreed that Steve should call her every Friday at 4.30am to help her wake up and receive the call. In the course of their discussion Nnenna sought to know why he chose to call an individual who he had not met. Steve’s excuse was that he has never been lucky with women. Ladies always abandon him because of his looks and the fact that he has no money. His wife, Steve lamented left him and followed another man. He decided to embark on such calls to try his luck if he would be able to get one who will agree to befriend him.’’
According to Chika Agina, a banker, midnight call is meant for irresponsible men and women who have no value for their health, thereby use the opportunity to shop for trouble. “I do not make midnight calls and would not take it lightly with anyone who calls me at such an ungodly hour. Irresponsible men or women use it as an avenue to toast the opposite sex. Any man who toasts a woman through free call is a beggar. Initially, when the promo started, I was one of those who stayed awake till 5am, just to chat with friends who wanted to. But gradually it started telling on my health.
As a banker, I had terrible errors in my job, I slept while counting money and I paid dearly for over paying people. It has no gain and I wish that it would be abolished so that people will value every call they make since they are paying for it.” Taiwo Oluwadare, student makes free night calls strictly to save cost and the night is a very peaceful time to discuss at length without fear of anyone eavesdropping.
I make night calls to save cost and also to be in relaxed mood to talk as tortuous moment in the day may not let me attend to some people especially my friends and relatives. No unknown person has called me in the night but it has cost me a dearest girlfriend. That night, I received the call and the person said I should guess who was calling, but unfortunately I mistook the person for an old girlfriend. That made my girl part ways with me bluffing my apology.
Although Chigoziem Ehirim, businessman, admits that the promo saves costs, he however warned that Nigeria is not strong enough to cope with the after effect on their health. “I make midnight calls because, its saves money. The disadvantage is that it takes your sleep away and the next day you become stressed up. Because of the effect on my health, I stopped the habit. Despite the economic benefit, I would want it to be banned. You receive all kinds of useless calls from people who are out to ruin your life. People abuse free things and this free midnight call is one of them. The habitual callers have ruined homes, the children no longer read their books or study because they spend their leisure time on phones.”
Tayo 14, is rather happy with free night calls. To people of his age bracket, it is the only source of communication since their parents would not afford to buy credit for them. “It is very good, since my parents will never buy credit for me, I wake up at night and call my friends. MTN is doing that promo for the sake of children who do not have the money to buy credit. We can talk for hours and when it is about 4.00am, you go to sleep so that you can function the next day.” A nurse, Chikezie Okezie, could not hide his face in shame as he voiced out that he makes midnight call frequently although it is not healthy.
“I make free night call but I have to sacrifice the next day with serious headache. It saves cost but has its own disadvantage. I suggest it should be banned as, it will curtail the abuse by children who will prefer to talk throughout the night and sleep during the day. I am preparing for JAMB and you can’t believe that if I decide to do midnight call I will not blink an eye, but once I pick up my book, I will doze off. It’s terrible but still saves cost.”