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Curbing The Needless Holidays

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I had a conversation with an uncle of mine based in the United Kingdom where he reminisced on his extremely challenging days as an indigent student in the heady days of the 1970’s. He got his first menial job in a pub where he worked every Sundays.

A fellow Nigerian student skipped work on Sundays because according to him it violated the Christian rule of working on the Sabbath. It was rather hilarious at the time we had the discussion but pondering deeply about it, it is a microcosm of the farcical culture of vacations that we have unconsciously imbibed.

The world rejoiced when Sadiq Khan became the first Muslim Mayor of London. On the flipside I wondered if a Christian can ever become the Mayor of Medina. Something similar points to that direction. To my utmost surprise, Saudi Arabia, the birth place of Islam recently dumped the Islamic Lunar Calendar which is fifteen days shorter than the 365 day lunar year.

They have now shifted to the Western Gregorian Calendar on Sunday so as to bring them in line with their avalanche of energy customers. Like other oil exporting countries they are facing a severe cash crunch with salary cuts now a common trend in the hitherto oil rich country. Saudi workers now need to work more days and the emoluments of the ministers, advisers and civil servants have been drastically cut down to keep up with the times.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and it’s hilarious for the Jigawa and Oyo State government to declare Tuesday as a public holiday to observe an Islamic event. In this recession era where many state governments are seriously grappling with the challenge of paying salaries, does it make any sense to lengthen the number of days off work? Does religion directly put food on the table?

It’s sad when sentiments override our collective sense of reasoning. What is the hoopla about setting aside the whole of Tuesday when the original source of Islam has had a critical rethink about the calendar and bowed to market forces? Can we be more Catholic than the Pope? Fridays is the Islamic day for prayers but work still goes on as usual on that day without the Heavens falling. I recall another emergency holiday that was given on the orders of the Sultan in September. Of what economic benefit is a forced day of rest to an ailing economy?

Shortly after Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah came to power in Ghana, he set up the Winneba Ideological Institute to entrench a culture of hardwork in all Ghanaians. Everyone from politicians to students, academics civil servants were required to attend it on certain days of the week. The legacy of that vision is the dedication to duty of an average Ghanaian which helped them a great deal when harsh, anti-people policies forced them on economic exile to all parts of the globe.

In our culture there is a separation from work especially in the civil service where it is regarded as no man’s work. The unnecessary holidays has done nothing more than to stoke the fires of such a laid back work attitude as a silent culture of entitlement has surreptitiously crept in. We now expect to get fully paid and even get raises for mere attendance rather than performance.

China was smart to realise that communism would not take them anywhere. They had to deftly introduce some measure of capitalism to greatly stimulate the then battered economy after the fiasco of the Cultural Revolution initiated by Chairman Mao Zedong. Who could have thought that Obama would accede to the bailout of the crisis ridden auto industry in the world poster boy for capitalism? It is high time we entrenched a sturdy national work culture if we are to survive and emerge stronger from this recession. Irrelevant holidays would only breed sloth and the era of workers receiving freebies is long over. Their remuneration must be justifiably measured by a positive impact on the bottom line.

In the west there is the ritual of going on holidays abroad after hard or smart work. These holidays are borne by the tourists and don’t constitute a drain on the national purse in terms of the loss of man hours. It is sad that in a depressed economy like ours we still create room for needless waste in the name of holidays.

Was there even any need for a public holiday to be declared on Monday October 3rd? Independence Day fell on a weekend when many people aren’t at work. What was the rationale behind wasting an entire day that could have been channeled productively? When employers fail to meet their contractual obligations to their employees, the joke of a government would purport to want to stop them from downsizing. Couldn’t Independence Celebrations as meaningless as it sadly is have gone on Saturday and then workers report on Monday eager to give meaning to the next one? Our culture of waste is unprecedented.

The sloganeering ‘Change begins with me’ should have as one of its ethos building a national culture for hardwork and a disdain for time wasting in the name of holidays. We should be eager to get this great nation of immense potentials back on her feet and an aversion for all forms of breaks should be exhibited. An ideological component built on a passion for work similar to what got Japan out of the woods after the battering of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should form the crux of the ‘Change begins with me.’

Enough of this organised national wastages!
Tony Ademiluyi wrote from Lagos.

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Articles by Anthony Ademiluyi