I once asked myself, ‘Does hard work really pay? This was so when I read a headline like ‘Ondo pardons 2,200 workers with falsified records (Vanguard, Monday, December 23, 2013). This is in an era Nigeria’s democracy is being faulted by too many laughable issues.
Why the pardon, you may ask? In order to be accepted as a leader that listens, Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State pardoned the 2,200 workers indicted for forgery in order for them to have advantage over the qualified for their positions.
Without any form of sanction, these criminals (according to the law of Nigeria, forgery is a crime) were pardoned, showing there is no longer reward for hard work, bringing the saying “not how far but how well” to be true; get it any how one or two governors will pardon you later.
However, this kind of our democracy, pardoning criminals and sentencing qualified people to perpetual unemployment has made Nigeria to become a laughing stock; not even a soft sanction, maybe demotion. This is a wrong signal to the youth who already do not believe in hard work.
I discuss this because of a WhatsApp message copied and forwarded to me by a friend – Adekunle Adedoyin, a staff of Lagos State University, Ojo (The message read thus).
What is work?
It was actually in 2007, as a manager of a hotel in Owerri, Imo State that I was taught the meaning of work by the hotel’s car wash staff!
This particular staff, Nnamdi, was the only applicant that applied with a First School Leaving Certificate as his highest qualification, and specifically for the job of a car washer!
It was a 65-room hotel including single and double suits. On average, 40 cars park at the car park daily on weekdays and about 60 on weekends.
We weren’t charging fees for car washing. It was purely complimentary.
In about a month of his resumption, I was getting excellent reports from guests and supervisors on the good conduct, attitude and professionalism being displayed by the car washer in his work.
Within that period, there was an opening for a supervisor in the cleaning department. The number one candidate for the position that came to my mind was the car washer. I called him into my office and informed him that he would be resuming as a supervisor in the cleaning department with effect from next Monday, and that a new car washer would be resuming with him the next day for him to train in our ways of washing cars.
To my surprise and shock he declined the offer, begging me to allow him remain as the car washer, citing his deficiency in education and good communication skills as inhibitions.
I allowed him to remain as the car washer, but it raised my curiosity. I started to study his work as a car washer. What I discovered shocked me to the marrow and changed my orientation and definition of what work is, and who actually is working.
On average, he washed 60 cars a day including those of suppliers, contractors and customers that came to the hotel in the daytime. Since the hotel complimentary only covers washing the exteriors of cars, he collects a personal special fee of not less than N1,000 to wash the interiors of cars for customers that requested for it. He got an average of N500 per car as tips from appreciative customers and guests.
All these translated to the car washer making on average N35,000 per day. If he shares N15,000 to his two assistants, he still made N20,000 per day, which translated to N600,000 per month, whereas my own salary as manager then was a little above N100,000.
Another shocker I discovered was that this young man was actually a graduate but decided to apply with FSLC and specifically for the position of a car washer. What this meant was that he knew exactly what he was doing, what he wanted and what he was going to get from the beginning.
Why this story?
Because we have a wrong idea of what work is in this country and that is why so many graduates and young men are roaming the streets jobless with earphones in their ears, rucksacks on their backs and sagged trousers, blaming the government for unemployment when millions of high paying jobs are staring them in the face at every turn.
I know of roadside tailors that charge N20, 000 to make a ‘senator’ caftan and could make five of them a day. I know of roadside seamstresses that charge N100,000 to make a simple wedding gown and could collect up to N300,000 if they are baking the wedding cake as well. Jobs everywhere but we give excuses with lack of power, government grants and loans as if those who are making millions everyday from these skills and trades got preferential treatment from government.
We don’t believe we are working unless we wear tie and suit or customs, immigration, etc, uniforms, and go to offices every morning and swell the ranks of those agitating for N30,000 a month minimum wage, even when the opportunities to do legitimate jobs that will pay us that in a day is staring us in the face at every corner.
These jobs and enterprises produce goods and services that grow the GDP, the economy generally and provide employment.
We need a change in orientation!
We need a new progressive way of thinking!
We need #RENAISSANCENIGERIA!!
OSA VICTOR OBAYAGBONA