Dear Mum

  • Patrick Oladimeji
Patrick Oladimeji

Time flies and I worry that you worry about things out of your control.

I think you know change is inevitable but the changes you are seeing are far flung from those you  imagined were possible. When you were young there were gramophones,  radios and black and white televisions. The TVs eventually got a bit of colour. You interacted with these technologies at will - in your own time. You tuned to a radio station to hear the news. You swapped out the discs in the gramophone player depending on your mood. You had a handful of them. You had local control over what you engaged with. You read magazines you bought monthly from the market or books from the bookstore whenever we made a trip to Ikeja.

The things you needed tomorrow you carefully planned today. Indeed a bit of uncertainty was baked into our existence - you got by fine. "Dad is running late from work? It must be the Pen Cinema traffic." You made trips to confirm regular plans. Telephones existed but you didn't have one. So, you made trips to the telephone booths to make plans with those who had telephones. You relied on the local community for information about the bigger community. Of course, these were often embellished by the information bearer. That was not a problem. The information was local enough for you to verify it with a few other people you trusted. If you were lucky, you would get close enough to the source of information to get first hand confirmation. Most importantly, you could look into the eyes of the information bearer and tell without explicitly trying, how much trust you would attribute to what you are hearing.

Then came mobile phones. Expensive gadgets that made communication a lot easier! Gone are the days of proactively planning for the next day, week or month. "Why plan now while I am with you when I can call you later to finalise the details?" "Dad is running late from work? Why don't we call him?" Sometimes, he picks up the phone. Sometimes, he doesn't. "Why does he not answer the phone? Did the phone ring three times and then cut off? Why did the phone go straight to voicemail?" Why this? Why that?

The phone is now in your pocket or your handbag for the day you are wearing Iro and buba. It's also in your hands a whole lot of times and it opens the door to a wild world where trust is earned and most people pretend to be who they are not. You receive messages from people without being in a real time conversation with them. You've lost the visual and the audio cues that come with human communication. You only have your imagination to fill in the blanks for the right emotional cues the communicator intended. The scheduled hourly news you previously tuned to are now constantly buzzing beside your bed. In a world where anybody can create and share news with almost anyone else in the world, please slow down. Please pause, please think, please ask questions - lots of questions.

Maybe you still try to tune into the daily news on the TV. I guess this is mostly pointless, there is no electricity. There is still some charge on your phone and you still have a bit of credit. You do the next best thing. You call your friend to make plans for tomorrow and while you're at it, you exchange news with minor embellishments.

The world is changing mum. It's changing faster than most of us can imagine. Technology can operate without active human interaction. You were happy to tune into TV or radio. You were happy that video or audio records could be captured on a tape and replayed later. You are realising that technology is a double-edged sword. It heals. It burns.

There are people who work very hard to understand the world. These scientists are constantly running experiments on a variety of things - the cure for various ailments, better material for building, more efficient sources of energy. Like most things however, there can be two sides to discoveries and knowledge can be used to benefit or to take advantage.

The herbs and plants you've learned to use to cure ailments were curated and researched by our scientist ancestors.

There is a lot we do not know about the world. A lot of people who realise this are humbled and excited by the opportunity to learn why things are the way they are. I am one of those people. Some people (most people) instead of admitting that they do not know,  fill in the gaps based on what they do know. This is very dangerous. Ask them questions.

I want to finish by telling you something I learned last week. I learned this listening to radiolab on an episode titled Octomom. Mother octopuses do not eat while brooding their eggs. In order to make sure as many of their babies successfully hatch, they sit on their eggs until they hatch without moving much or eating. They also die in the process. The longest known brooding period for an octopus is about 53 months. Let that sink in. That's 53 months without eating. It's not magic nor is it witchcraft. Don't try to explain how this happens because we currently don't have an explanation for how this is possible. Be prepared to admit that you don't know and be wary of those who claim to know everything or have an explanation for everything.

I’m publishing this as part of 100 Days To Offload. You can join in yourself by visiting

Special thanks to Jeremiah Iyamabo for proofreading this article.

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