I Hate MTN! No, You Don’t!

MTN

Ask anyone which mobile network brand in Ghana has the worst performance and you are most likely to hear MTN. “Most Terrible Network”, “Mobile Terrorist Network”, “Mobile Telecom Nightmare” are just a few of the many ways in which MTN’s brand name has been mutilated and raped of any dignity. From being described as “fools” to being touted as “thieves”, MTN is easily the most demonised and bastardised telco in Ghana. I am certain even the most restrained Christian in Ghana would easily swear to you that MTN will be the first to be sent to hell when God’s judgement comes.  Any brand expert, who is foreign to the facts, chancing on this mass uproar of disgust against MTN will easily conclude in the most acquiescent jargons of his trade that MTN has stinking equity, a repulsive brand personality and is inevitably set for a brand homicide on a most grandiose scale, never seen since the scandal of Macbeth.

Yet the statistics are unabashedly inconsequential. Registering over 46% of the market share, more than twice that of its closest competitor, MTN continues to register average year-on-year growth. With over 12 million subscribers, it is needless to point out that half of Ghana’s population owns an MTN SIM card.
If MTN is as terrible as consumers claim it is, why do they remain Ghana’s mobile telco market leader, a feat the brand has enjoyed from birth. In the era of Mobile Number Portability, why are consumers still locked in this bad marriage? Even more so, why do they keep increasing that share? If those who are stuck in there are reluctant to move their lazy asses, amidst all the outcry, why are people still joining the network?

My first guess is maybe MTN is not as bad as people claim it is. Anytime I hear of people outdooring their dissatisfaction with MTN, I am quickly reminded of many Ghanaian work places. Everybody think their work sucks, yet no one is too willing to quit their job. Granted, there is no perfect brand. By God, not even the legendary Apple. So maybe, deep down, consumers know that though MTN is not heaven, and sometimes it is hell, mostly it is just earthly. After all, the bigger the ship, the slower it takes to turn, but it’s still a good ship, and mostly better than a smaller one.

Which brings me to my second thought that probably the unspoken consumer belief is that all the networks are equally terrible, so they do not see the need to change. Which one would you change to, anyway? Within the mantra of the devil you know, the optimal heuristic decision will be to stay with the network. Thus, I might conclude that it is a case of making a bad choice because you have bad options.

An existing school of thought is that Ghanaians just don’t like change. This idea is underlined by the assertion that we are suspicious of change, and even when we give change a chance, we are too impatient to let that change materialise, an argument which has been paraded as one of the key reasons why Mobile Number Portability is underused. So long as MTN is what we know, we might just stay with it and have fun at telling ourselves what a disappointment it is. But we won’t change it, no, we are incapable of such betrayal.
Others who disagree with this argument suggest instead that, once upon a time when we could not port and keep our numbers, people resorted to using multiple SIMs to cope with the failures of MTN. So it is needless to dump MTN as we have found a way to change and maintain simultaneously. Relatedly, consumers using multiple SIMs are now able to take advantage of the sales promotions that the different networks offer. Even more so, consumers are able to reach contacts on different networks using the respective network SIMs. We may already have found a solution in multiplicity, and find no need for substitution.

Yet my thoughts seem imprisoned within my earlier propositions.
Is it distantly possible that maybe MTN is rather too sexy a brand to dump? Don’t lose it yet! Consider this carefully. If so many people are with MTN, it might mean that, it just might be like that hot dude who is an asshole, everybody says he is an asshole, but he is still hot, and you just overlook all his flaws just because he is hot.  You may not necessarily agree with me, but it is hard to overlook the fact that MTN has some traits that makes it just fit the bill as the hot guy. Think of anything trendy, young, fun and swag-ish and you will find MTN in the mix. From beauty pageants to reality shows to football, MTN just represents. With such “cool” brand associations, hard though it may be to admit, you cannot ignore that sometimes, it just rocks to be associated with the brand. It does let you down, it lies, it cheats, it occasionally steals but at its romantic best, it probably may be the hottest guy around. Of course, it still is an asshole, but still hot.

In her ground breaking work on brand relationships Susan Fournier proposed that consumers form relationships with brands they consume in their lived experiences like they form inter-personal relationships. But I can wager even she would fumble for words to describe this love-hate relationship MTN has with its customers.
Tigo continues to battle its own demons, Airtel continues to flirt around cheaply, Vodafone still hasn’t shed off the aristocrat image that it inherited from Onetouch, Glo is a failed messiah and Expresso is just waiting for its grave to be big enough before it drops dead. My prediction is that MTN’s dominance has no titanic future, as some seem to suggest. Time is the best prophet, but if current trends tell us anything, then we can be confident that nothing is going to rock the boat.

So go on, have a go at them. Call them whatever you feel. Makes you feel good, right? Good, it’s everywhere you go!

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When I Get You

If you see the belly of my feet,
call my ancestors from the deep.
In my hat I hold my heart.
I will swing my waist till you scream like a bat.
Why do men run
to that state where women plan?
In my hut I have many secrets.
I will sing the river frog’s song when I am on your retreat!

If I see the nakedness of your valuables,
you will shout for my descendants from the unreachable.
In your heart you have my balls
You shake your back till I stare like an owl.
Why do women unconcerned stand
when men hang on their strand?
In your hut you have many rumours.
You will moan in silence when you feel my tremors!

Far Away From Home

I am far away from home
If my father sees what I see he will scream
I have seen things
Trains that run on car roads, hmm
Boxes that carry people up tall buildings in seconds, hmm
Funny food with fancy names, hmm
Their streets are not on talking terms with litter, hmm
Their cities are as colourful as my childhood dreams, hmm
Their taxi drivers do not bargain, hmm
The light never goes off, hmm
The water does not stop flowing o, hmm
The showers even flow with hot water, hmm
My neck aches from carrying my gossip eyes
That can’t stop looking at the plenty beautiful girls, hmm.

I am far away from home
If my mother sees what I see she will scream
I have seen things
Lovers licking each other’s lips in public, hmm
Men puffing out smoke from their noses like wooden fire, hmm
Young people swallowing beer like drains, hmm
Though they have so much paper
Some use their own skin for writing and drawing things, hmm
The weather is as cold as a witch’s heart, hmm
Everybody seems to be in a hurry to I don’t know where, hmm
When you see them dance, you would think they are daring you to a fight,
To some music that is like battle cries, hmm.

Bad Old Men’s Club

Once there was a band of brothers
Public men of honour of the Grey City
Private men of hooligan humour
And so goes their legend as it was

The half man who chaired them was a half witted jerk
Lower fat red lips, Nike customised face
A Lilliputian dwarf with no goal and no vision
He was our Puss in Boots

And there was Barnes, the lady’s bunny
He was such a fan of bums he was always left on the bump
Yet he still remained our finest gentleman

You cannot miss the Don who must not be named
His stupidity knew no order
A fat lipped sport with a kind heart
Such a clever idiot, you could never hate him
He stood for the fools of “common ratio”

There was Letsa who loved to lecture
Why did they call him Juicy, anyway?
He walked like a colonial local tax collector
Like he had some invisible fat on his sides
He had big uncle words for everyone
What a boring sport he was!

Ah, not to forget the King of Pimps
He was such a self-conceited gentleman
A supposedly spiritual man
Tweaaa, we knew him better
He overthrew his boss and stole his senior’s love spot
What a sissy!

Can I forget Wulu, our city wanzam?
He always looked sad
Like the pen that supported his chaotic handwriting
He was the nerdiest of us all
Now look what Obama-town has done to him!

Of course, and there was yours truly
The ugliest of them all
I was their mockery manual for anything primitive
Yet I was hailed the king of literature
And now I get to roast them all.

We were after all naughty young adults
pretending to be irresponsible old men
We made memories that still makes Kuzinik jealous.
And we haven’t changed even a bit!

Love Addict

I drank the river last night and lost my tongue in it
Soaked in hurt, I threw my heart into a pit
There is no such thing as love when you love
There is no such thing as pain when you hurt
If it does not rain the sun will shine above
I cannot hate you or have any regret

How can I unlearn what I know?
How can I know what I unkwowingly know?
I do forget, but I remember
You stay there, the same place you were
You were gone last November
I still think of the smell of your hair

This morning, I burned my finger in the ocean
Nailed on wine, I forgot love’s treason
Vinegar in my mouth, spear in my side
I saw the Messiah walk out on me
How is it that pain rages with such lost tide?
I need love, the kind made for me!

God for Sale: The Apostles’ Greed.

preacher-566x380

Although Karl Marx wasn’t a fan of religion, he was not necessarily an enemy of it. You see, Marx saw religion as the deception point on which the poor were made to not just accept their state, but also not do much about it. Marx witnessed religion teaching the poor that they are meant to suffer here on earth, so they can enjoy in heaven. With the acceptance of this fate, they laboured in silence in anticipation of some future relief for which their only guarantee was their blind faith.

Many religious pundits have pointed to evidence of the very strong correlation between poverty and religion. The conclusion is that, the poorer people are the more religious they are. 24% of the world’s 2.2 billion Christians are in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the region accounting for one of the highest growth in the religion worldwide. It is also the poorest region in the world, with more than 48% of the population living on less than $1.25 a day, according to the World Bank.

Zero down to Ghana, and you will find a 94% religious, 71% Christian population, with about 8,000 churches on record as at 2010. Include the unregistered churches, back yard fellowships, mosques, shrines and street preachers and we might just be inundated with miraculous statistics. Why has there been so much growth of churches in Ghana, particularly in the last decade? Is it poverty?

In a recent study I did in Ghana, when I asked people what they thought was accounting for the growth of churches, I almost concluded that my interviewees were all Marxists. The unanimous theme in their responses was what Marx would think; people are turning to religion as “opium” for their hardships. But they took it all a step further, than Marx.

Imagine this. It is inherent in our culture to attribute our fortunes and misfortunes to some divine, superior being. Consequently, people who are poor and suffering are turning to religion so not to despair, something evident in Marx’s day. But what Marx didn’t see coming is that, others who are equally poor, but smarter are providing this religious outlet for those who seek it, and are enriching themselves in the process. I know this all sound a bit cynical, and too conclusive, but I am only reporting what some people believe.

You see, some people believe that starting a church today in Ghana is a lucrative business venture. When you succeed in winning membership, you are guaranteed regular income through offering, tithes and other donations. But beyond that, churches are now selling anointing oil, holy water, porridge, salt, soap and even sachet water in the name of “spiritual directions”. As it turns out, even some religious leaders believe that today, the kingdom of God is being sold as a commodity.

Today in Ghana, radio, TV, newspaper, posters, billboards and direct door to door advertising are utilised by churches to win customers for God’s business. What’s more, lorry parks, market squares, buses and streets have all become venues for preachers, and they do not end their day without directly asking apparent listeners to give them money to support God’s work, and people do. Unlike Marx’s day, these preachers actually promise to deliver relief from sickness and poverty, and guarantee prosperity, in this present world, here and now.
The business set up is clear. People are made aware of their needs, which are spiritually caused mishaps, they are offered (spiritual) products such as healing and prosperity, and there are some supposedly existing consumers (members) who guarantee and recommend the product’s efficacy (through testimonies). This is a direct replication of any traditional, marketing textbook sales process, on every level.

You may have your doubts, as I may. However, the fact that churches are creeping up on every corner in the country today must mean that there indeed is demand for them, or at least their supply is meeting some demand. With our weakness of fear not to be seen as anti-God, it may take a long time before we see some regulation for this growing market, which remains tax-exempt. As long as we remain a religion-dependent nation, this exploitation as some see it, will only continue to grow. And if Marx was not mistaken, as long as people do not feel the said economic growth “in their pockets”, this religion-dependency will deepen, and with it a cycle of demand and supply of religious services. Donkomi oo donkomi!

The Silliness of Ghana’s Medical Schools

doctor

If I am permitted to perpetrate my ignorance of economics, then I may conclude that Ghana’s university admission system is a socialist market. Let’s say the government decides it can only subsidise for 500 medical students, and there are 5000 applications, then the University have no choice than to end up with a 10% acceptance rate. They do this by accepting the top 500 based on merit, in this case using WASSCE results, hence the cut-off points in admission. So even though admission numbers is determined by the number of applicants, forming the demand, the supply of admission spots is dictated by government funding. Of course in many cases, the University may have more than 500 spots for grabs, and so may resort to admitting those who are willing and able to pay full tuition fees.

Admittedly, the process is not as clear cut as I posit here but generally this is how it works. Now supposing there were 700 applicants with a perfect score of 8As applying to a Medical School that can only take 500 regular students, what will the University do? You chew on that. But even beyond that whoever said you need an aggregate 6 to go to Medical School? You tell me!

We live in a country where if you major in Science in high school and you fail to enter Medical School, it is a career disaster. I may be exaggerating and drunk on too much self-assuredness, but I can wager that 90% of high school Science students dream of becoming medical doctors. However with the harsh realities of Medical School admissions being entirely dependent on a one-off, do or die WASSCE examination and limited government funding, many of these Medical School hopefuls end up in some “3nny3 hwee” Chemistry program or a “fa no saa” Socioso class. Don’t shoot me yet, I am not defacing any of these programs. Chemistry or Physics or Biological Science are awesome fields of study but I could swear to you that an overwhelming majority of those taking these programs are disappointed Medical students. They were forced to settle for those programs. Why should this happen? The other science programs just happen to be unattractive because there is no job market for them except in the high school science classroom as teachers.

My embittered bemusement with this dream-killing system is premised by my conclusion that anyone who steps into a high school science classroom joins a league of extra-ordinary unbeknownst masochists who need to top their league of brainiacs, just to go play in a Champions league group of death, where victory that guarantees entrance into Medical School is “twerked” by a ludicrous government education support system.

The silliness in all these is that the same government spends tons of money every year on Cuban doctors, imported to meet the deficit in medical doctors in the country. I cannot help but be shamefully impressed at how educated individuals manning state affairs could overlook the opportunity to invest in putting more Ghanaian students into Medical school, in favour of foreign doctors who are brought in as expatriates and enjoy impressive incomes and benefits. After all, if the remuneration was bad, Cuban doctors would not have traded their home country for my “dumsor” Ghana, with all due respect to them.

In the end, if you do make it to Medical School and survive the torture to graduate, there is no job where you are guaranteed to be on strike than being a medical doctor in Ghana. I am absolutely lost! Shame on us!!

Let’s Talk About Sex

Lets-Talk-About-Sex-3

Warning, do not read this if you are underage, intellectually subpar or eccentrically conservative. You are still reading. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Still? Well, your choice!

Why is sex so damn good!?! That was the question one speaker at a TED Conference asked, to which he self-replied it’s because it is the only human activity that uses all five human senses. Way to go, right!! Sex is so damn good it smacks senseless moans out of the meekest of men, it is almost the only time you would hear a grown woman weep for no sad reason, and it has the ability to momentarily paralyse men and make the world stand still for a moment. In fact, sex is so damn awesome some have suggested it was the forbidden fruit that created the Garden of Eden scandal, not a fruit, fruit, like apple, if you know what I mean. Of course, you do!

The power of sex is undeniable, the pleasure that it brings is indescribable, the leverage and wreckage it can ejaculate is unfathomable, and the subtle and pronounced regulation that surround it is impregnably dizzying. I have had the privilege of experiencing two cultures that have quite dissimilar lenses on sex; one culture, where sex is an expression of freedom and one where it is an expression of chastity. Let’s make the argument for both.

I call them the Promotionists, because their idea of sex is well, do it when, how, how many times you want. Sex is a form of human interaction, like a handshake, you decide whose hand you will shake. But more so, it is yours to give, for your own pleasure, like the time you spend at the movies. The argument then is that every adult, o yes, no kids, every adult is mature enough to decide their sexual life, as they decide what to eat. It doesn’t have to be on a married bed, why should it? Those who have tried to restrict it to marriage have failed miserably at it anyway. Point is, sex is a natural human need like food and shelter, Maslow said that, not me, and as such when the hunger for it kicks in, it makes no sense to tell someone they can’t do it, especially when nature has freely provided the resources to. So whether you do it with a partner or via self-service, you only have to do it responsibly, and be mindful not to infringe on others’ rights, just like when you eat.

Then there are the Preventionists. I choose to call them that because they advocate abstinence till marriage. In their scope of thought, controlling your sexual libido till you find that one sexual partner, who you should have already married, is the only way we distinguish ourselves from animals who lack restraint. Boy, which always reminds me of a he-goat we had which had babies with his mother, sisters, cousins, daughters and nieces. That goat had game! Anyway, point is abstinence can be key to preventing STDs and unwanted pregnancies. The social order and spiritual purity that it brings has been posited to be beneficial to those who adhere to such principles, in the long term. In this society, virginity is pride, and religiously substantial, as it signifies personal discipline and maturity. Having a sexual drive does not guarantee that you should satiate that drive at every turn, with whomever you please, just because you can. Just because you are hungry doesn’t mean eat anyhow, anywhere, anytime; obesity could kill you.

Promotionists think Preventionist societies have got it all mixed up. Telling you when, and with whom you can have sex, is an attempt by the society to ascribe power to itself by regulating your personal freedom, using an important resource due to its pleasurable essence. They point out that forcefully capping such a vital human need has rather increased the desire for it, hence though less spoken of, more and more people in Preventionists societies pursue their sexual desires outside the society’s regulatory bracket of marriage. So why bother!

Preventionists instead shake their heads at the disgust that Promotionists profess. They insist that such proposed unbridled sexual habits lead to no good, eventually. After all if sex is so damn cheaply attainable, where lies its luxury. Sex is mainly meant for procreation, and the pleasure it brings is a by-product, not meant to be exploited, but pursued in meaningful desire. There is a reason they call it making love, it must mean something, with the one you love, and have vowed before God and men to love till your last breath. What is more pleasant!

At a point, you will tire of the arguments. Pros and cons are characteristic of everything, as the two-sided coin. Here is my advice. Ummm…sorry, I ain’t got none. After all you wouldn’t listen to me, anyway. Why should you! But hey, if you happen to be caught between the two, like being brought up by Preventionists and living with Promotionsists, well, I don’t envy you. Your story will make a story. Wink!

In Memory of David Moyes, the other Scot!

David Moyes

David Moyes had it coming, didn’t he? Seriously, his tenure was painfully ridiculous, lacking in charisma, mostly betraying a lack of ideas, and sadly a quick evolution of a league winning team into a hapless ship without radar or anchor; he came, he saw, he destroyed! Now he is gone. Gone but not forgotten. His sad legacy will be told with a sigh, an epitome of a square peg in a round hole. Some are celebrating, few are sad, I am worried.

Manchester United was faced with two related, but incoherent inconsistencies; a brand that is used to success and one that boasts managerial stability. In Moyes’ case, he drowned the former and the latter was consequently deactivated. In an increasingly impatient world, where football enacts a shameless managerial merry-go-round, United was positioned to be different (along with Arsenal, which is another story for another day). Today, the club betrayed this position, for the security of another position, success. Good decision? I don’t know. Would Moyes have been successful if he had been given time? We can only imagine what could have been. Will the next manager be successful? There is no guarantee.

Let’s face it, replacing Ferguson was always going to be a gargantuan ask. But that is the illusion of stability, isn’t it? Many brands have similarly failed. After having a long-serving leader depart, the herculean task of finding a successor is almost impossible as it is hazardous. The task of unfriending the heritage of the former leader, his style, the culture he created, the charm of his personality on his peers, subordinates and rivals; Ferguson’s reputation alone was a fear factor. Sometimes you could see that the players were reluctant to play for Moyes; they only played when they wanted to play. If you watched some of the games closely, you could see the tactical ideas, but no passion in the players to see it through. Moyes was no Ferguson, and somehow it looked like the players were not accepting his leadership. Perhaps we all knew that, evidently no one was willing to sign for him in the summer, except his ex-player at Everton whose performance mirrors Moyes’ United career at best.

Honestly, Moyes should not have been given the job in the first place. No, he is not a bad manager, but he is not a great one either. The global void left behind by Ferguson was too huge for Moyes’ small town abilities to fill. His appointment was a disaster at birth, and to think that he was hand-picked by Ferguson himself is a dent to the legendary Scot’s legacy as it is to his countryman’s current managerial demise. Maybe he saw something in Moyes that we will sadly never get to see. However as it stands now, Ferguson’s deathbed choice of Moyes as his successor is no different from Zidane’s head-butt of Materazzi – a disastrous end to an illustrious career. Let it be learned that a successful leader is no kingmaker!

What next for Manchester United? The brand will suffer for sure. How bad will depend on how quick the club returns to winning ways, next season that is. I don’t see any quick return to the apex of things, but they will get there. There is a bright side to this, though. Ferguson built a lot, and finding it hard to build on that, Moyes unwittingly destroyed a lot of that. For the next manager, there will be a lot to re-build, and he will have only Moyes’ tiny shoes to fill; that will make life easier. So you see, Moyes played a symbolic role; he came to lower the bar so highly set by Ferguson so that United could find a new purpose to motivate them – rebuilding the ruins of a battered legacy!
What more is left to be said? Alas, poor David Moyes! A moyesing career that moyesed in moyesis!

Grace or Disgrace

#IronyofLife
The sudden realisation of your fortune, solely in light of others’ misfortune, is not grace, it is a disgrace. Stop telling God that you thank Him for keeping you alive whiles others have died, for keeping you healthy whiles others are sick. God does not seek to make others miserable so you can realise how fortunate you are. The only time grace invokes comparison is when you consider where you are now and remember where you have come from. Grace is when you earn something you did not deserve, not when you earn something others do not have, or have lost. Grace is not a zero sum game. The fact that I lost something doesn’t mean you have gained it. Grace is the abundance of opportunities for everyone to succeed, if not at one thing, at another. We are all made for different forms of greatness. Look for yours in you, not in others!