Afam Ade-Odiachi: System collapse [NEW VOICES]

by Afam Ade-Odiachi

The message came in at about 10:30, system failure, please reboot. I ignored it. Another pesky little update. The sort that you get on your phone. You never know if they help the phone or hurt it. What good is an update if after wasting the gigabytes to download it, your phone ceases to operate properly.

A different message came in 2 hours later. Grand System Failure, the gbese is monumental, system shutdown imminent. Still, I persevered. When you work in the news things are tight. A longer than 15-minute lunch and you miss a deadline. The missing of a deadline comes with an email from the oga at the top. Where’s the script? Where’s the rundown? Please send script! Please cc so and so. Why doesn’t she just forward the email to Mr So and So you’ll think, but the answer is already clear in your head. If you’d sent the script or the rundown or the Top Stories on or before the deadline, she’d have had a minute or two to send it herself. Now, you’re stealing her time. The news does not stop because the system is failing.

At 2pm there was a third message. This one came with a countdown. Chronic System Failure, Afam is closed for business. The system will be shutting down in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Emergency help required. To reboot, please call Mama Afam, or Brother Gbaddy. The problem was serious. Multiple organ failure, but all of those organs were in my head. Was it the frontal lobe, or the God valve? I didn’t know. Could it have been the depression virus, the anxiety protozoa, or the Nigeria wants to kill me today syndrome? At that point I didn’t have the processing power to compute. Of course I could rely on the age old formula used to give malfunctioning appliances a second life; a slap to the head or a very strong cup of coffee and a chain of cigarettes. The latter prevailed, slamming your head on your desk in a newsroom is almost certainly an indicator of chronic stress. Chronic stress is contagious especially when your colleagues are as emotionally cantankerous as mine.

The coffee and the cigarettes worked some. Another message: system functional, 5 per cent efficiency, engine on the verge of knocking. No energy in legs. See the mechanic for a shaft replacement. “Which one is this again?” I thought. The problem was supposed to be mental, how did it suddenly become physical? I received a notification in response, “your body is a wonderland.”

In times like these, there’s only one thing to be done: Delegate. I can’t finish this script. I can’t do this rundown. That transcription: it’s not coming from me. And that Vox Pop? We’ll defer it to next week. Then there was the quick discussion with the boss. The system known as Afam is in crisis. Will hand over diagnostics in the morning. “Ah!” the boss said, while he performed what he believed was his idea of emergency care. A few back rubs, quietly whispered words, and eyes that said I empathise.

I spent the next hour looking for quick fix solutions on the internet because this system is infinitely compatible with google and the internet of things. Ice-cream? No. Lactose intolerant. Alcohol? No. Earlier in the month, an alert warned of alcoholism and its almost unnoticeable encroachment on the psyche. Systems with the line of code that says, addictive personality, must be vigilant. How about laughter the internet asked, but I said no to that one too. Laughter and leaking from the eyes and other unmentionable machine parts are known to go hand in hand. Leaking while performing contract informed duties is a taboo that could lead to system poverty, which is much worse than system failure.

At five, the work gong went, and the system didn’t wait. A quick dash to the garage. Secured underneath duvet, a memory seeped through the fog of the system collapse. It was Lanre saying, “You must watch Westworld. It’s the best thing on television right now.” And so I did. From dusk to darkness, episodes played on. Laptop on chest, the system fell asleep.

At 10am today I received another message, “The system is at peace, but because of the chronic system failure yesterday things may be odd for a few weeks. Please prepare for an indefinite period of staying at home on weekend nights and even greater self-discipline. Most recommended modes of care are God, food, and sleep. Least recommended mode of care is Drugs. Those will probably lead to system poverty, cataclysmic system gbese and expensive system rehab which will almost definitely result in system debt, and that condition could be fatal.”

Afam Ade-Odiachi is a writer and journalist, with a passion for story telling. In addition to working as a junior reporter for CNBC Africa, he runs a little blog called He has also served as a content co-ordinator for Mnet’s Stargist.

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