A man who has no office to go to — I don’t care who he is — is a trial of which you can have no conception.
~George Bernard Shaw
Yesterday evening, I was honoured with a visit by the enigmatic Chika Omeje. That was our first physical meeting, but because we were connected by so many strands from that unseen but strong UNN bond every Great Lion has for another to love for culture and tradition, history, unbridled curiosity among other things. It was a short but memorable meeting of which I am most grateful for.
In the course of our discussion, we talked about some of the things we did as ‘work’ after graduation to survive. From washing cars to construction site hands to office messengers etc etc. In my interaction with many of Generation X, this seem to be the popular pathway for most of us post graduation.
I think the uproar over the N50,000 salary offer for graduates to work as Bus Conductors is uncalled for. Are people angry at the amount (50,000) or that LASG want to ‘demean’ graduates by making them Bus Conductors? If you know how many Nigerians who do not see N5000 from the beginning of a month till the end then you will appreciate this gesture.
2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.”
As I wrote weeks ago, Lagos State Govt. seem to understand how best to tackle this recession that the Federal Govt. The best antidote for a recession is to increase the volume and spread of economic activities, to ensure that more hands find something to do. It is not necessarily in the ‘worthiness’ of the work, as people classify worth. But to ensure that every hand that despise idleness, and want to be productive, finds something productive to do.
As the Bible aptly captures in the Book of Proverbs 14:23, “In all labor there is profit, But mere talk leads only to poverty.”
Also in Ecclesiastes 9:10, same Bible admonished that “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest”.
Some of those who have been very critical of this gesture started life at a much lower level that being a Bus Conductor. Some sold cold ice water on the streets of Lagos among other things.I think many in my generation should also be honest with the younger ones, to let them know that not everybody jumped from convocation ground to Shell and Chevron. Many did all sorts of menial stuff before favour shone on them.
I started on a salary of N4,500 in 1996 as Reporter/Researcher at a time when what people considered “worthy salary” for a graduate was from N15,000 upwards. Some friends had pity on me. But I never had pity on myself. I knew what I wanted. Moreso, I promised my father on the day I left home for youth service that I will never take a dime from him or anybody again in my life.
In 1996, some of my friends in the banking and the booming finance houses then were earning over N25,000 monthly with clean Daewoo Racer car. The best thing that N4,500 did for me was giving me unimpeded access to the Pan African News Agency (PANA) at Iganmu. Watching the newsreel deliver breaking news from around the world for three years made me who I am.
I was equally inspired by the words of Charles Kingsley what said “Thank God every morning when you get up, that you have something to do that day which must be done, whether you like it or not.Being forced to work and forced to do your best will breed in you temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content, and a hundred virtues which the idle never know.”
If you are unemployed, and you qualified for this programme, grab it with two hands. It will do a lot for you. Look beyond the N50,000 monthly salary. See it as a finishing school, let it help build your character. Let it give you opportunity to understand how to relate with strangers, difficult customers, and help build humility in you.It will not demean your humanity. Being a call girl, a pimp, a pick pocket, or a Yahoo Yahoo boy will definitely demean you.
N50k a month is far better than begging for recharge card money everyday and being a parasitic dependent.
I want you to be encouraged by the words of Rev. Martin Luther Jnr. that; “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
In the evergreen words of Marc Chagall, “Work isn’t to make money; you work to justify life”.
God give me work, till my life shall end, and life, till my work is done.
~Epitaph of Winifred Holtby