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Opinion

9 Undeniable Facts About Working In A Nigerian Office

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By Nkem Ndem

If you work in a Nigerian office, there are certain things you know to be true about the way things work in the system. It is an open secret that most outsiders fail to see. So, when you come across a young person aspiring to complete tertiary education, move on to the NYSC programme and eventually gain a position in the same Nigerian office you have been coping with, you just shake your head and pray that they survive as you have. Basically, what other option is there, really? The country is hard and gaining employment in the first place is a blessing…so, half bread is better than puff-puff.

The thing, though, is that with typical Nigerian offices, it is actually a different ball game. You come in with the impression that you would be given sensible responsibilities, which you can to carry out with assistance from colleagues who have fully matured and outgrown their puerile proclivities. You also assume that there’s a monthly salary attached for maintaining a decent lifestyle and standard of living…you may be in for a huge surprise. In fact, you better change your mindset.

No doubt, some offices in the country operate differently, especially the ones with a high percentage of expats. Things are normal and even sweet over there; but, it would be of benefit to you to acquaint yourself with some of the many annoying things you will certainly face in a typical Nigerian office environment. This way you are not surprised.

Office hierarchy is reflected in everything

There is no denying it. The concept of “seniority” is a big deal in Nigeria. From as early as primary school to secondary schools and even some universities (no names shall be mentioned), seniors – either someone who is older in age or higher in rank /level of experience – are better regarded. Thus, they get away with anything, including maltreating the juniors. You basically have to do their bidding just because.

Is it any wonder this attitude is taken to Nigerian offices? Agreed, every office operates on a system of hierarchies, however, in Nigerian offices, it is taken to another level.

You must ensure you greet all your senior colleagues before you settle in, otherwise you may get a query or even suspension; if you have booked a room for a meeting and somehow your senior colleague decides to have an impromptu meeting at the time in the same room, you will have to cancel your own meeting oh, because respect if reciprocal…whatever that means.

If there has been an office party, you must make sure your senior colleagues are fed before you help yourself to the bounty; and if your direct “oga” is not in the office when the food is being shared, you must hustle for him and keep his share.

The most ridiculous is when the office cleaner expects you to great her and call her “aunty” or “Ma” and even run some errands for her, just because she is old enough to be your mother and she has been working with the company since it started. The worst is during a brainstorming session when an older colleague shares a rubbish idea and you counter it. The others look at you as though “how dare you, who do you think you are?” You find yourself wondering why you were employed in the first place.

You will never be able to eat your food in peace

One would think that in a corporate environment, every staff would plan and make a budget for their meals per day, and in the case where they are not equipped for lunch time, they are able to remain professional about their appetite… but no… not in a Nigerian office.

It is amazing how humble colleagues in a Nigerian office can become when they accost you for “just a spoon of rice” or a sip of coke. They will so praise you! “Njideka , the hottest babe. What are you eating? Share the love na.”

You literally cannot eat your food in peace, unless you leave the office for a restaurant. Even at that, you may find some of your co-workers at the restaurant who will beg you to pay for their food.

It is worse in offices with microwaves because the minute you start warming your food and the aroma fills the air, you will have people trooping in to ask you what kind of food it is and how you made it.

It could also be on the negative where you bring something with a unique or awful smell like Ofada sauce made with locust beans. The news will spread around the office and a lot of people will complain. Side comments like “Biko, who is warming dead body in that microwave?” or “Why put us through this now, must you eat this? Hep us to hep you na” may even shame you into discarding your food.

Donating money and signing cards becomes part of your job

In Nigerian offices, especially in Local government and federal offices, the welfare department (where there is one) is just for show. The staff is still expected to chip in to support colleagues who have either lost a parent or spouse, just put to bed, are getting married, recovering from an illness or leaving the company (send-forth). There is always something to donate money to and even sign a card for; so much that you find you have to make a monthly budget for it. Refusing to donate money to any of the cause will most likely have you pegged as a wicked and stingy person. Also, the gossip will be epic.

God forbid that something now happens to you, they will gang up and make a mockery of donating to your situation. It is just best to give what you can really per time.

You will “fap” and be “fapped”

Fapping is the order of the day. It is never intentional. You will fap, your colleagues fap from you…everybody is happy. You cannot make noise about it really. From as simple as losing your food or drink (carefully labeled and placed in the office refrigerator) to the “real owners”, to having personal belongings such as your pen, your stapler, your air freshener, or even loose change lying on your table nicked by ghost colleagues, fapping is basically a norm.

Occasionally, there are serious cases of theft which are investigated, but nobody complains about these little ones. You cannot possibly kick up a fuss about a missing stapler.

The sharp comments from colleagues who take offense, are enough to make you endure your loss in peace. Again, you do not want to be marked as the one who always cries wolf – so that when you actually do lose something really important, you can be taken seriously.

There are a few Nigerian offices where discipline is a strong core value and even the security cameras installed in most offices are enough to deter such irresponsible behavior. These kinds of offices, which are the exception are very few in number.

When working in a Nigerian office it is important you stay sharp, observant and cautious rather than complain. Complaining is better when you have evidence.

You work extra hours for free

It is the norm to spend extra hours working in a Nigerian office without extra/overtime pay, no matter what your contract states. Basically, having a strict 9-5 work schedule is a myth. Your line manager, most times, will assign tasks a few minutes to the end of the day with a deadline that ensures you put in extra hours after the stipulated work hours. You cannot even argue with your boss over this, otherwise, he will lecture you on the number of people who are lining up to take over your job if you keep being difficult.

Some people resort to such tactics as calling in sick or losing a family member… to skip work. In fact, even leave may not be granted as it should. But how many times do you want to call really?

In the end, you probably may just have to resign yourself to suffering and smiling, until you find another job.

Office flirtation and romance is the norm

Thanks to bureaucracy, the basic Nigerian office is a boring place… and as expected, most of the workers look for ways to entertain themselves. Since they get to spend a lot of time with each other, colleagues start to find their colleagues – even the ones they normally would not give the time of the day – attractive.

They flirt around and this flirtation sometimes develops into full blown romance and drama. Even some married workers forget their marriage vows while at the office and chase after office interns – with hope to spice up their office life despite the risk of a scandal.

The worst is when a boss starts to make life miserable for a lower staff because they would not sleep with them. Some would even go as far as stripping the staff of their job.

Some Nigerian offices actually have a functional system that allows for maltreated workers to report sexual harassment, but due to the stigma, most now take it into their own hands.

Some have given in, only to record the sexual escapade and use it against these heartless bosses. There has even been a case where the victim set up a meeting with the boss in a hotel, only to arrive with two hefty men who beat the man to a pulp.

Your co-workers are your worst enemies

Office politics is a key aspect of your relationship with your colleagues in Nigerian offices and no matter what you do, you know, without a doubt, that you cannot really trust anyone.

It appears everyone is power hungry and so there is too much ass-licking to get to the top. Due to this, your co-workers -who you probably spend more time with than your family and friends- sometimes, become your worst enemies. The worst kinds are the ones who seems nice and friendly, but secretly believe they are in competition with you and as so they start to plot your downfall without you doing anything to offend them. They closely observe you in order to gain the ammunition they can use against you should the need arise.

Fortunately, there are also a few co-workers who turn out to be god-sent; despite the general idea that they are your worst enemies, they help you grow in the system. Some even provide you with opportunities that you would not have had access to, otherwise.

Men almost always rule the day

Thanks to the feminist movement, women are more empowered now than they were in the past. There are actually female bosses, female CEOs and female managers in Nigerian offices now. There are even female ministers and senators in the government as well. Despite this improvement, women with these positions still have to grapple with the traditional idea that men are superior in Nigerian offices. There seems to be this undying notion that it is “a man’s world”, and as such, subservient roles are still to relegated to women. For instance, in a team of men and women, the women will be expected to organize refreshments, or a female will be expected to serve the tea at the board meeting. Even the lowest staff would feel such roles are beneath him and a senior colleague will have to do it, just because she is female. True, women empowerment is on the rise and things are changing. In some offices, especially female dominated offices, these changes as a result of women empowerment are noticeable; but overall, the effects of these changes are minimal.

The salary is never enough

Have you ever noticed how almost every Nigerian office worker has a side hustle? They are always on the search for a second source of income? This is because they are never paid enough to meet up with the basic lifestyle of a civil servant. Again, discriminatory pay practices are the norm, and as such people are milked to the barest minimum. They are hardly paid based on a general salary schedule.

Even more, bonuses and raises also do not come easily to everyone. The few offices that try to extend benefits to all their staff regulate it and make it a form of competition for the entire staff.

Working in a Nigerian office is something almost every Nigerian would have to experience at one point or the other and while the truths listed above leaves very little for prospective workers to look forward to, it is important to keep them at the back of the mind.

Is there something else you would like to add to this list? Let us know in the comment section!

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Opinion

Let Me Shine!

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Nigeria

By Odunayo Oluwatimilehin

I am a little creature,
created to fulfill a special purpose on earth.
I am a product of human consummation.

I developed first as a foetus, and progressed gradually,
into a living being composed of a spirit, soul, and a body.

I am the long awaited bundle of joy,
A symbol of conjugal completeness,
A magical color that beautifies Marital vows.

I brought joy, happiness, and change of status to the family I was delivered to.
I was the reason behind the bright moon smiles on faces.
I was cherished, loved, and cared for at my arrival.

Now that my parents desire to have me has been granted.
I have just “One wish”.
Just one wish and I’ll be fine.

One wish to express my inert dreams.
One wish to be ‘Me’.
One wish to leave an indelible mark on the sand of time.

One wish to dazzle like Diamond.
One wish to shine forth as Gold.

Please, strengthen me when I’m weak.
Counsel me when I’m discouraged.
Hold my hands often, and affirm your love to me.

Just like houseplants,
Nurture me to grow on the right path.
Do not spare the rod when I’m wrong.

Release me like an Eagle when the time is right.
No matter the heights I’ll reach,
I will forever remain your little child.
Let me Shine!

Dedicated to Children all over the world, in celebration of May 27th, 2020 Children’s Day

HAPPY CHILDREN’S DAY!

Odunayo Oluwatimilehin, OYEWOLE.

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Opinion

An Open Letter To Governor Ifeanyi Okowa

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Your Excellency Sir,

This open letter is a direct response to the official press statement that was made by the secretary to the state Government, Mr Chiedu Ebie on the 19th of May. In the press release, he announced that the government of Delta State is putting measures in place in other to establish a security organization which will be positioned to combat the rising insecurity in the State. I agree with your decision considering the porous security situation in the country and coupled with the covert moves of the powers that be to export hundreds of Almajiri folks to states that are unconnected to their political and economic misery.

Indeed, your decision is commendable but there is an observable error in it. This error is not telling good about us. Gains will not be made if what was mentioned in that press statement should come to be. People who are fighting for survival must apply common sense when it comes to their security. This letter is simply designed to remind you that the idea to include some Northerners into the yet to be established Office of Special Adviser on Peace Building and Conflict Resolution calls for a serious concern.

Your Excellency Sir, there won’t be any need for me to start schooling you again about insecurity in the country. You are the chief security officer of your state and moreover you duly understand the security situation in the whole of Nigeria. I still don’t understand the rationale behind the planned inclusion of some Northern extraction into the Office of Special Adviser on Peace Building and Conflict Resolution. After examining the decision, I can prognosticate dark days ahead. Things are not done that way. The decision of your government is somewhat misplaced and makes us to look like people who can’t do things on their own.

Dark days are truly ahead. We the Easterners should stop acting to love Nigeria more than others when at the end the people whom we are trying to align ourselves to doesn’t care about our ‘one Nigerianness’. Damning this mentality of ‘let’s do it this way so that nobody will see us as divisive people’ is one necessary thing that must be done. We owe no one apology or explanation on how we can go about our security in as much as it’s done according to the extant laws. Perhaps, it’s a matter of survival and not a cry for political correctness!

There is hisbah police in the North and Amotekun in the Southwest, how many Easterner can we see both in Hisbah and Amotekun security formations or any of their affiliated committees? Can they even conceive such dastardly idea? These people for a minute don’t trust us but we easily trust and unnecessarily engage them into sensitive issues about us. This is a country that thrive on suspicion. No oneness! No trust! So I wonder what your government is planning to achieve by getting these Northerners involved in the so called committee. Don’t quote me wrong. I’m not trying to say that your government shouldn’t engage the stakeholders in consultation when it comes to matters like this. But the main point is that limitations should be defined in sensitive issues like the one at hand. Some people are meant to stand outside while certain problems about us are being discussed.

We know the solution to farmers and herders clashes in the region. Open grazing should be completely banned in the state. A defined space should be made available for grazing of cows. 24 hours surveillance should be mounted in the place. Any herder caught with firearms should be arrested and prosecuted without minding who is infuriated or not. As the chief security of your state, you are constitutionally responsible for the security of your constituents. Adequate security decisions and actions should be made to work in consonance with the present security reality.

On several occasions, the marauding herders have killed and displaced hundreds of farmers in the Eastern region with little or no actions by the governors to arrest the escalating tension. Without minding the damage the activities of the herders have caused on the region, you unfortunately fell to the trick of wanting to involve a total stranger into the Office of Special Adviser on Peace Building and Conflict Resolution. It is unacceptable Sir! That decision can blatantly result to self sabotage.

However, when Hisbah was formed, no Easterner was there. And when Amotekun was constituted, they never invited an Easterner to be a member of any committee so why are we inviting strangers into important issues about us? Remember, he who sups with the devil should have a long spoon. The purported plan of involving some Northern elements into the Office of Special Adviser on Peace Building and Conflict Resolution is a slap on us. The plan should be revised. There is no benefit in it. It will only complicate matters and magnify the arrogance of these tormentors. Don’t make the mistake of buying a baby lion that will grow and turn around to devour our flesh.

In conclusion Sir, I will suggest you reassemble your security tink tanks. All of you should sit and do a deep brainstorming on your decision. Weigh the future implications and make proper amendments. Let’s avoid the issue of had I known.

Yours sincerely

Kalu Nwokoro Idika

Kalu Nwokoro Idika is a political analyst, investigative and freelance journalist. He can be reached via email: Kalunwokoroidika@yahoo.com

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Opinion

‘If You Can’t Take Blows, Don’t Throw Blows’

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femi adesina

By Femi Adesina

Let me start by giving due credit for this headline, which is not original to me. I lifted it from the 1983 song by reggae star, Peter Tosh, in the album titled Mama Africa. The song is Glass House, and it goes thus:

“If you live in a glasshouse

Don’t throw stones

And if you can’t take blows brother

Don’t throw blows.”

I’ve recently found out that it’s the opposite that some Nigerians want. They want to use foul language, harangue their President, abuse him, and then, nobody must respond to defend the President. They want to dish out blows, and they don’t want to take any.

But it doesn’t work that way. If you can’t take blows brother don’t throw blows. That’s the way life goes.

For about five years, some people have made it a pastime to talk about President Muhammadu Buhari anyhow. They attempt to lead him by the nose, order him around, and call him names. The man just ignores them, and continues to work calmly for the country. And he’s making the difference in different spheres of national life. Steadily.

Last week, I chose to give out some light blows. Very light ones. That was when I realized that those who had been dealing out the blows for years have nothing but glass jaws. They collapsed, and saw stars.

I had got a request to appear on the breakfast show of Naija Info FM. There were initial scheduling difficulties, but eventually, we found a mutually acceptable time.

It was like the station was the bastion for some angry Nigerians, the type that saw nothing good in government, and who took delight in negative criticisms. No problem. We have learnt to deal with all sorts.

I responded to questions from the show presenter, the relevant and the not so relevant ones. And then the phone lines were thrown open.

One man first charged that the interview session was a waste of time, as I had parried all the questions thrown at me. Oh ho. What did he want? Dabble into issues that do not involve a presidential spokesman, and then make a mess of eating an egg? I simply referred the interviewer to those who could answer his questions in government. As spokesman to the President, you were not Jack of all trade, otherwise you would end up being master of none. Whatever was outside your purview, just refer to the right quarters.

Another man came on the line. When would the President talk to us, he charged. At least we voted him into office, so he has a moral duty to talk to us. He said he was a school principal, and he talks to his students every morning at the assembly hall.

Wrong premise. Wrong conclusion. You can’t parallel a President leading 200 million diverse people with a principal superintending over less than 500 or 1,000 students, who were even half paying attention, or giggling, and poking fun at the shoes or shirt, or tummy of the man talking to them.

Now, this narrative of ‘he must talk to us’ is a common one in the country. I’d responded to it more times than I could remember. But what made it a bit irksome last week was the fact that the President had just made three major national broadcasts over the previous four weeks. And here was a man commanding him to ‘come and talk to us’ once again.

I threw my own jab. Why was the man sounding like a broken record, repeating itself endlessly? Before the series of national broadcasts started, you said President Buhari was not talking on the COVID-19 pandemic, when he had set up a team of experts and professionals, who were handling the emergency adequately, and briefing Nigerians daily. Then he makes three broadcasts, and you still say he’s not talking. He must do a media chat. You want a talkative President? Soon, you would say again that he talks too much.

I explained that it was not the President’s style to chirrup like a cockatoo. He is a man of few words, who preferred action to words. I even pleaded that we should understand the nature of the man we have elected to lead us, and let him do the work.

You know what? If it was former President Olusegun Obasanjo that had come under the ‘you must talk to us’ barrage like that, and on live television, he would have first cleared his throat noisily, adjusted himself in his seat, and then bellowed:

“And who are you, that I must talk to you? I say who the hell are you? Who is your father? Who is your father’s father, that you are commanding me to talk to you? Were you born when we fought a Civil War to keep this country together? Where was your father when I received the instrument of surrender from the Biafra Forces? Don’t come here and tell me nonsense. Talk to us, my foot!”

But President Buhari would not upbraid anyone like that. He rather keeps his peace. And some people have now taken liberty for license, till they begin to sound like broken records. Yes, no apologies. That’s how they sound.

The fact that you have voted a man into office is not carte blanche for you to lead the man around by the nose. A leader worth his salt would not even submit himself to such cavalier treatment. Definitely not President Buhari. I made that point clear on the program.

Another caller came. Why are you talking to us like used toilet paper? You are too arrogant.

Oh, really? Well, if you see yourself like used toilet paper, then, I can’t help you. ‘If you don’t say you are, nobody would say thou art,’ goes a popular saying. If you see yourself like grasshoppers beside the giants in Canaan, just like 10 of the 12 sons of Israel sent to spy the Promised Land, then you can’t be helped. You will end up like grasshoppers. Like used tissue paper.

Then came another angry man. Things are not going well in this country. We are even tired of this government.

We? Does a single man use that collective pronoun for himself? The man could only talk for himself, but why was he talking for other people, without a power of attorney? I calmly told him: another election is due in 2023. Who says you can’t be President? You should simply run for office.

The Good Book says by the measure with which you mete to others, so shall it be meted back to you. The callers chose to be pugnacious, unruly, and I didn’t go back home to fetch replies for them. That was what they asked for. Part of the duties of being a presidential spokesman is that you must defend your principal, particularly if you had calmly explained for years, and some people chose not to listen. If they throw blows, then they must be ready to also receive. Once in a while.

Some people revel in trying to bring down those in government. The moment you choose to serve your country, they try to position you as enemy of the public. They try to dress you in borrowed robes. Oh, he’s a liar. He is in government to feather his own nest. He has become pompous and arrogant. He talks to us anyhow. He will end badly. Didn’t the ones before him end in oblivion?

Hateful people. Envious souls. In vain do you wish some people reversals in life. And let me tell you: my destiny does not rest in the hand of any man. Yes, not you, evil wishers. You missed it this time. My case is different, because God has got my back. He brought me into government at a time I didn’t aspire for it, didn’t even want it. He is the master of my fate. The Master Mariner will land me on halcyon shores, however stormy the voyage could be. And President Buhari will succeed.

My friend, Kurtis Adigba, a dyed-in-the-wool Buharist, not like some fair weather supporters we have known, was the first person to call my attention to an attempt to demonize me on social media, arising from the interview.

“They want to bring you down, smear your reputation,” he told me on phone. He said they were already sharing video clips of where I spoke sharply to people, and saying I was rude and arrogant. I laughed, and thanked him. Adigba went ahead to mount a robust defence of me on his Facebook wall, as did many others. I thank them. There are friends that stick closer than brothers.

My family, relations, acquaintances, all got the video clips home and abroad. They called, asking if I was allowing some nasty people to get under my skin. I explained to each one. I was firmly in control of my emotions, and what I did was deliberate. The President has been insulted enough, and it was time we fought back. He that throws blows must be ready to receive. It’s only pathetic that they have glass jaws.

I remember a story I heard in the late 1970s.I actually knew the couple, and the woman was like four times the size of the man. But the husband was always rough-handling his wife, beating her up at will.

One day, the woman was said to have purchased Indian hemp worth sisi (five kobo). She smoked it. And there came the husband to beat her up again. The woman simply packed the man, spun him round and round on her head, and threw him against the wall. The man saw stars, but he thought it was a fluke. He got up, attempted to lay his hands on the wife again, and the woman gave him a bear hug. After almost choking him to death, she threw the man against the wall again. When the man managed to get up, he took to his heels.

That was the last day he ever raised his hands against the woman.

You Tarka me, I Dabo you, God no go vex (the younger generation may not understand this. A story for another day). What am I saying in summary? Those who run down our President on every platform for inexplicable reasons should not think they will always get away with it. If you live in a glasshouse, don’t throw stones. And if you can’t take blows brother don’t throw stones.

United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, recently warned against what he called the “virus of hate.” His words: “We must act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate.”

Yes, that virus is well and alive in Nigeria. It is even deadlier than Coronavirus. But those who harbor it will not always get away with it. There will always be a fight back.

~ Adesina is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Buhari

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