[Opinion] Workers Day Celebration: What Lesson For Workers And The Government?

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Raymond Nkannebe
Nkannebe Raymond is a Lawyer and an essayist with addictive interest in Nigerian and African politics. Believing in the power of the pen, he intends to contribute to governance through articles and commentaries that serve to keep government on their foot. He hopes to publish a collection of his essays soon, and possibly delve into legal fiction as God permits him.

“Work isn’t to make money; you work to justify and add more meaning to humanity”. – Marc Chagall
I still have very fond memories of those days at primary school when the ‘workers Day’ Celebration just like every other public holiday, gave us a day off from school as our teachers which we called ‘uncles’ then, would be having a day off too in commemoration of the world’s global event usually on the 1st of May every year. I will play from one angle of the street to the other with other friends until the whole holiday is spent with my uniform and homework not getting my attention until late into the night especially for my homework. Sixteen years after or thereabout, that small boy is fast growing into a man with a knack for politics and the Law.
Pardon me for haven brought that detail into this piece but I wish I had another option. As workers the world over celebrate this event, I have peered at it from a different prism and instead of celebrating our army of workers who occupy the different offices in our public institution and private ones alike, I have given this column to admonish them and where they deserve praises, I have bluntly refused to accord same for reasons best known to me.
To you all the occupants of one office or the other both in the civil service and in the organized private sector, permit me to speak to your minds this day as you rest from work in commemoration of this global event carefully marked out for you. The role of nation building is one which is shared among all of us both as workers and citizens but most especially as workers. I am yet to find an answer as to how any nation would move from the ruts of underdevelopment to the pinnacles of development when her civil service and total working population have not resolved to move. What am I trying to establish here? If Nigeria has remained where it is today in her journey to development, it is because, the total working population have not lived up to her expectations and it is not hard to seek.
The civil service of any nation is the pillar on which that nation stands as all governmental projects are propagated from there and therefore, once crevices set in or once hands who see working for the government as a means of seeking cheap popularity and putting daily food on their table, flood the composition of the civil service of any nation, then that nation has only boarded a flying coffin waiting to crash land at any moment.
Today, as you take a day off in observing the global event, it is also an opportunity to enter into an examination of conscience as to how you have given a good account of yourself at your place of work whether in the public sector or in the private sector. As a director, Is there any project or any report which you have failed to finish as a result of laziness and undue procrastination on your part? As a lecturer in the nations citadel of learning, what attitude have you given to your job? How do you see your students? Do your lectures allow an atmosphere of learning? Are your students carried along while you lecture? And to your students scripts however bulky, hope mediocrity have not overridden meritocracy while you use your red pen? As a lawyer, as a medical doctor, as a pharmacist, as an engineer, as an accountant e.t.c, what measures have you taken in seeing that your efforts however little gives the public service a reputation worth celebrating abroad?
Do you see your job as only an opportunity to feather your nest since after all, the government is not around or your boss, not always around to supervise what you do. How have you maintained the facilities in your place of work from the little you get without the management’s knowledge? These and many other details are the many ways which a resounding working population ought to serve a nation. Your salaries, however meager and late they come a times should not be the ground to treat your work with laxity. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and thus should be undertaken with painstaking excellence”. To this end, see your work and your role as a duty, not to man but rather with painstaking commitments see them as your quota towards the development of our fathers land and that way, your commitment to work would not suffer any dejection.
One man said, “Work is love made visible and if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy”. It is unthinkable how one can work without love. Every worker progresses with time just like in every other thing that demands a gradual process and in the same vein, all jobs would not always come wrapped in gold but you can always turn your sorrows into joy by loving what you do and in no time watch yourself climb through the ranks. I have learnt even as a student that securing a job opportunity is not a flight ticket to indolency ‘airline’. Rather, it calls for more work which will certainly pay off someday.
Corruption has been the hallmark of our civil service. Too bad. Hardly does any top governmental officer or a director in any influential private sector, finish their tenure without cases of fraud been preferred against them. What a shame. The Cecilia Ibru’s, the Erastus Akingbola’s, the Bode George’s, the Facrook Lawan’s, the Tafa Balogun’s, the James Ibori’s and a host of others too numerous to mention are all testimonies to this premise. As workers, living within your means will do you more harm than good. A single misappropriation of public funds, is not just a crime to that organization but also a crime to the entire citizenry as by the commission of that act, our development status suffers another setback and even when we scale through the courts of man as a result of the height of corruption in the judiciary, exoneration will not be gotten in the court of heaven. See the treasury in your place of work as a ‘no go area’ and live within your salary and allowances however meager. Nothing pays more than integrity and you don’t want to rubbish that.
Coming to office on time and being punctual at meetings and other office schedules defines your level of committtment to your work and this should be the corner stone of your work approach. Your boss may not always be around but what happens to the covenants in the appointment letter you consented to and received with two hands earlier on?
Government, both in the state and federal level must make it a point of duty to remit the salaries and allowances of workers as at when due as even natural law recognizes the fact that a laborer deserves his wages. Even in the organized private sector, the same attitude towards workers salaries should be imbibed as anything to the contrary may be tantamount to a legalization of corruption as man would not stop at anything to make ends meet.
Finally, we cannot make headway if our working populations have chosen to sleep and use their work as a means of causing unfair gain to themselves. As we celebrate this ‘Workers Day’, as you sit close to your TV set watching that live commentary or listening to that radio program, it is expected that it impacts more commitment to your attitude towards work. Our nation needs more men and women who can beat their chest and say, “yes I went through the civil service, but I never stole a kobo” you too, can say that. Happy workers day to all employees and to the 39 million estimated unemployed Nigerians, it is the writer’s prayer that the appropriate ministry tackles the socio-economic decay as soon as it can. God bless Nigeria.
The writer is a law student and tweets @yung_silky

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