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Why get rid of African time?

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By Iorzua Shaagba

Ask Bishop Timothy Yahaya of the Anglican Communion, Jalingo, Taraba state, and he would tell you that ‘African time’ is an abuse. Abuse of who and what?  Abuse of the African and his intellect. One novelist says the African likes symbolisms. But when it comes to keeping time he is the worst offender. No doubt, the African time mentality is not only bad but demeaning.
Two months ago, precisely in October, members of Jonathan/Sambo Campaign team led by Senator (Dr) Dalhatu Tafida, its Director-General, came calling in Jalingo to consult with stakeholders. The meeting with the leaderships of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and Muslim Council was fixed at 2pm. Before the appointed time, they all converged at the Jolly Nyame stadium waiting so as not to offend their visitors’ sensibility. They waited and waited, but the assurance kept coming that the campaign team was on its way. They got tired. But out of respect, they remained. Know when Tafida and his group turned up? It was 9pm. Bishop Yahaya who is also chairman of CAN, Taraba state was livid with anger and he burst out openly.  Of course, they were sorry for the delay and owned up. We the journalists who had been waiting from 9 am chuckled at the boldness exhibited by the bishop. But we wondered whether it drove home any message to them at all.
Then only last week, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Taraba branch with all its affiliate members called a Press briefing which if it were at Abuja, they would have added the word: World, to make it sound grand. It was planned at 9am. Being a stickler to time, I got to the venue 30minutes earlier. Then the waiting game began. The union members moved in and out of the hall with the assurances that the briefing was going to hold.  I became uncomfortable and announced to my colleagues that I was leaving. Those familiar with the system advised me against it. Then 10am and 11 am passed only for them to begin at 12:05pm. They went on with their briefing without any feeling of compunction. I was very sad. What if I had other assignments to do?
Needless to say that at the end of the day I had a story to write which slightly consoled me. But that did not mitigate my deep-seated disappointment. I kept asking myself that when shall we become serious with time to stop this wastage? If labour leaders who valued their remunerations cannot value time then they have missed the whole point. During questions and answers session, I wanted to know why they had waited for years for their demands reach five before realising that they would no longer let government bamboozle them but use the last weapon, which is a strike, to get their demands met.
Come to think of it, time is money and life. When one loses an opportunity, it takes a life time to recover it. Some do not and that ends it. Some people relive memories of lost opportunities and shed tears because there is no chance of getting it back. How often does one hear an old man lament over his opportunities lost when he was a young man?
Once upon a time in the life of Nigeria, money was said not to be the problem of getting but how to spend it. That was way back in the 70’s. The story is not the same today. Even though the leaders of the country continue to fritter away resources, we are inevitably recalling moments of lost glory when we had it all on the platter of gold.
Effective use of time requires careful planning. That is why some projects Nigeria governments would have done 20 years ago at 5o times less than the current cost lost the opportunity and with the growing global economic downturn, it is a near impossibility to achieve some of them easily now. With the fall of economies in and around the world, we in this part of the world should begin to carefully use time, planning so that we do not regret in the end.
The truth is that you can’t plan with African time because you are bound to lose.  It is a wasting phenomenon. The fact also remains that however stupendous our resources, with time, they will pale into insignificance. We must make hay while the sun shines. Ditto, we need to pay attention to family upbringing and planning to avert the looming disaster that would result from lack of proper planning.
The challenge the contemporary journalist faces is to reach his audience with the fastest and the most. The knowledge of the internet, and the computer and other gadgets are necessary. Hard work is not friendly with lateness African time symbolises. Timeliness is a virtue we need to imbibe in all human endeavours to be able to do our work well and on time because time waits for no one. When shall we rid ourselves of African time and be nationally oriented to time keeping?

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