The phone is her life, like it has become all of our lives. How did we become so enslaved to a tiny gadget that fits into a pocket. My assistant losing her phone and the realisation that we’re all enslaved to our phones reminds of another encounter a few years ago, this time with an older friend, a man of the cloth.


A few weeks ago, I had an encounter that made me wonder about the fate and future of the world as we know it. I am old school, like pre-Independence old school. I eat pounded yam with my hand; I clean the plate with my tongue; I pick my tooth with a stick off the broomstick; and still trust the chewing stick over the toothpaste.

This encounter shook my native bones to the marrows. It was in the heat of an event I produce in Los Angeles. It’s a high profile, high stress and no money event that is fuelled by patriotism and a burning desire to show the better side of Nigeria to the world via Nollywood films. We were in one of the penultimate planning meetings when one of my assistants drifted in like a ghost, tears streaming down her face like a faulty tap.

“My life is over!” she bellowed.

Now, the skeptic in me was delighted about the “life over” tragedy. I thought her boyfriend had broken up with her. I never liked the fella. He is cute, has nice hair, a smile that makes the hearts of girls flip and is beautiful like a very pretty girl. He is what I wanted to be at his age, instead of the introverted, bald chap with a crooked smile and a snarly face that I was. How can you like a boy like that!

“I lost my phone,” she sobbed as she crumbled on the couch in the corner of the office.

I had no clue why the simple, every day matter of losing a phone will make her think she’s committed e-harakiri and was waiting for the online gods to shove dirt over her.

“I’ll get you another one,” I offered so we could get on with the meeting, or rather truthfully, so the partners at the meeting would think I’m a nice guy.

“It’s not the same. My life is so over,” she wailed some more, her cries now sounding like the cries of a cat with diarrhea. I can’t stand cats and diarrhea scares the heck out of me, which means this girl was getting on my nerves now.

“That phone was my life. All my passwords and transactions are on it. I don’t leave the house without it. Why, God? Why?”

God gets a bad rap, you know. He gets blamed for everything that the devil doesn’t take.

I could stop this by simply telling her to shut up. But, I couldn’t. This was an education for me and a bit of comedy too. This is life in the 21st century. My father had a diary, these kids have a phone. My mother cooked, these kids order everything online. I used to look outside to feel the weather, the kids today just need to open an app and they can find out how cold or hot it’s going to be for the next decade.

One of the unforgettable spectacles I witnessed early in life was as a teenage reporter, when my editors asked that I go report about the experience of getting an American visa. I found what could pass for a village standing and sleeping in line overnight just for a chance to get an interview. I remembered wondering aloud to the photographer what would happen if they opened the gates of heaven to Nigerians for a day.

“That line will be empty o! Nobody wants to die,” he replied.

Today, you don’t need to stand in line to get an American visa. You make an appointment online, you get your rejection letter online.

I thought about my assistant’s life, or rather her phone, and I realised how imprisoned we are by the phone. Everyone she knows is listed on the phone. She talk and texts everyone on that phone. Her pictures and videos are all on the phone. She banks on the phone. She orders everything on the phone.


I thought about my assistant’s life, or rather her phone, and I realised how imprisoned we are by the phone. Everyone she knows is listed on the phone. She talk and texts everyone on that phone. Her pictures and videos are all on the phone. She banks on the phone. She orders everything on the phone. She has a health condition but her phone has an app that helps with that. She met her boyfriend on a dating site on her phone. She was planning her mother’s birthday on her phone.

The phone is her life, like it has become all of our lives. How did we become so enslaved to a tiny gadget that fits into a pocket. My assistant losing her phone and the realisation that we’re all enslaved to our phones reminds of another encounter a few years ago, this time with an older friend, a man of the cloth.

We were taking a stroll down the long streets of old town Pasadena when he noticed my phone, and asked if it was the latest version of the iPhone. I said ‘yes’ proudly because I had gotten mine mailed over a day earlier before the following day’s official unveiling of the phone and I wanted to show off to the man of God. He looked at the Apple Store across the street where a long, snaky line had formed to get the same version of iPhone the next day, shook his head and declared that the phone is the devil’s way of conquering the universe.

I was intrigued so I asked for an explanation. He cleared his throat, adjusted his frame like he would do if he were on the pulpit preaching to his congregation in Lagos. It didn’t matter that I was an audience of one. I would do.

“What caused man’s fall in the Garden of Eden?,” he asked.

“Sex,” I replied, testing my own theory of the “forbidden fruit”.

“Haba, brother Ose,” he shot back. “Have you heard and not listened? Have you looked and not seen? It’s clear in the Bible. It was the apple that man ate that caused his fall”.

I wanted to say the apple may not have been meant literally but I was hungry. If I said that, I may get a thirty-minute lecture. I can take it. My stomach could not. So, I gave him that studied look a confused student gives his half-baked lecturer when he wants him to think he’s a genius. He bought it.

“Man was banished from the garden of Eden because he ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. That fruit was the apple. What is the sign of Apple? A bitten apple. Can’t you see?” he charged.

I wanted to tell him that that may also be a reflection of the marketing genius that was Steve Jobs. Two-thirds of the world or more belong to religions that originated in the Middle East and they all have the story of man’s creation in their holy books. What better was to connect with humanity than with a story from the books they hold dearest to their hearts?

But my stomach rumbled so I let out a dramatic “Wow!” which, from the satisfied grin on his face, meant he was proud of his education of Ose.

I thought he would tell me to smash my phone and rid myself of the devil until he asked me, “you think you can talk to someone to help me get mine without standing in this long line?”

The cell phone has become our master!

Ose is on twitter at iam_ose