When I did a piece on “How To Be A Nigerian” here I omitted the fact that Nigerians love noise. It is almost unforgivable and I apologise for that. Our undisputable love for noise should perhaps have come first on the list of the factors to look out for in identifying a typical Nigerian. The average Nigerian thrives in a noisy environment, whether on the streets, in our homes, cars, offices, churches and mosques who perpetually hold vigils and early morning services (are arguably the worst culprits when it comes to propagating noise) or at events. It’s almost as though we are not existing when we don’t make noise.
I have a neighbour who seems to be clueless about how to speak quietly. When we first moved into the area, I could have sworn that she used to make so much noise deliberately, or had a mini microphone embedded in her vocal chords. Many years down the line I have since realised that that is actually not the case and that she is innocently oblivious of how loud she sounds. I once had another set of neighbours who were always at logger heads. Every day was a constant battle. They would wake me up with a daily dose of vituperations on one another. It was a traumatic experience.
Beyond quarreling or getting into arguments, the typical Nigerian appears to be in love with all forms of noise. Loud telephone conversations, screaming mothers, wailing children, shouting conductors, earth-thumping music from street parties and night clubs, rumbling sounds of distressed generators, blaring horns and speakers are all hallmarks of the typical Nigerian environment. One cannot help but wonder if sometime in our history, we had been threatened with a short life span if we ever dared to do things a little more quietly.
I remember running into an old teacher of mine sometime ago. We were on opposite sides of the road, and even before I made an attempt to cross to the other side in order to say a proper hello and possibly catch up a little, they had shouted a personal question from across the road! Of course I pretended as if I didn’t hear them! I couldn’t believe they expected me to spill details of my life in full public glare. But, many of us actually do that everyday! Must everyone really be forced to hear a phone conversation that is supposed to be private? Must our religious institutions really blare their speakers in the middle of the night in an area that is supposed to be residential?
A certain religious institution is just two buildings away from my residence, and every Thursday, they have a service which commences around 12 midnight and doesn’t end till 5 am. Needless to say that with their vigil goes my sleep as their public address system is usually tuned to the loudest volume possible, while any singing and dancing is accompanied by the full compliments of the drums and other musical instruments even at that time of the day! There are times when I have been forced to close my windows and endure the heat even when power is not available just in a bid to shut out the noise as much as possible. Now, I certainly won’t be praying for anyone or body who deprives me of my God-given right to sleep for the better part of five hours.
A couple of weeks ago, the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) sealed off about 30 buildings because of noise, environmental and air pollution with a view to drastically reducing the rate at which organisations constitute a nuisance to the general populace after series of complaints by residents in those areas. A step in the right direction if you asked me.
Our affinity for all things loud reflects in various aspects of our lives; in the way we get animated and gesticulate in conversations, in our penchant for big parties, in the way we unwittingly disclose intimate details of our private lives in public transportation even though we are supposed to be chatting with just one person. Even in the cacophony of sounds that we have embraced in these times under the guise of music, as opposed to good old meaningful and uplifting songs which have become a rarity nowadays.
People who have an affinity for noise more often than not reveal an innate need to make up for a sense of insecurity or inadequacy in their personality thereby using noise as a facade. In other words, a self assured person hardly needs to be loud to communicate effectively unlike an insecure one. It’s probably the reason why they say “Empty barrels makethe loudest noise.” Besides, health experts have warned that exposure to noise levels of 150 decibels and above for a duration of six hours or more can lead to deafness.
A little less noise in our environment will be instrumental in ensuring a more introspective and sane society. A less noisy Nigeria is a wish one hopes can come true sooner than later.