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Contributor: Victor Amokeodo

On the streets of inner city London, it is commonplace to see Black men flaunting what is seen by many of them as the ultimate status symbols: the mobile phone and the BMW. This is funny, considering the way Black people complain about being stereotyped, but walk on any inner city high street in London and you would soon come across a Black man brandishing his cellular phone handset aggressively. A few yards away, he probably has a BMW parked in such a way as to attract maximum attention (ie in the middle of a busy road) and of course there is usually the posse of fawning sisters that this "icon of style" invariably attracts.

Until recently, this embarrassing (that is to the more aware black people) state of affairs was a characteristic prevalent mainly among African-Caribbeans but this is gradually being hijacked by Nigerians. And, of course, trust Nigerians to introduce to this folly their peculiar arrogant element. Take for instance the scene that greeted the Editor, Black Perspective on a trip to the Taste of Africa Restaurant, Brixton, a few months ago. On first walking into the restaurant, we were immediately struck by the fact that virtually every occupied table had one or two mobile phones carefully placed at optimal vantage points on the tables. Initially, we were unsure as to whether we had come into the right place or a mercury one-2-one auction. Our fears were soon allayed as we saw the welcoming sight of steaming plates of amala being served.

The restaurant was half empty when we walked in, so things did not look too bad then. Worse was to follow. Within minutes of our entrance, a posse of hardened spare-parts-dealer-types barged into the restaurant in a flourish, their hands thrust forward before them, triumphantly brandishing their mobiles. The posse then settled themselves down (with a maximum of fuss) and then, for good measure - just in case we had not noticed their prized possessions - began to make a spectacle of themselves with their mobile phones. The phones were waved dangerously about and at one stage the posse began to make phone calls to each other across the table and to their friends just a few meters across the room!

Things came to head when two more groups of customers came in - all with their mobile phones. The phones took pride of place on the tables, vying for space with the mounds of eba, amala et al. At this stage, it struck me that the attitudes of these Nigerians smacked of that which made pre-colonial Africa sell her children to invading white men. In the era of slavery, Africans were so much fascinated by the magic of the mirrors and beads brought over by the white man that they went to extremes to get their hand on these "magical items". They sold their own people for trinkets. Centuries on, we remain so fascinated by these very basic gadgets that we make fools of ourselves by the way we worship these things.

It is sad that we - Black people - remain mere consumers of these objects. Decades after the logic behind mobile phones was simply explained, we remain so fascinated that it appears to us as "white man's magic". To those who create and manufacture the mobile phone it is simply a tool. Simply a convenience. It is a means of communication to be brought out and used when it is needed and kept in one's hand bag, pocket (or wherever) when not in use. IT IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE A FASHION ACCESSORY OR A STATUS SYMBOL.

Without doubt, those who flash about such objects as mobile phones and BMWs are, paradoxically, men and women who lack confidence. They need some external object to help shore up that low level of confidence. Just consider that if a gold tooth, a mobile phone and a `BM' chiefly constitute what makes a man "cool" and "Sophisticated", just what would this man be when divested of these toys? A sad man, that's what.
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