With so much joy, I welcome Y’all to the month of May, another beautiful month. Since it’s a new week and month, I think it’s a great time to look into the topic: African time!
Does it ring a bell? I’m sure it does. We use it every day when we want to refer to the fact that an event or program won’t start at the said time.
Well, if sometimes you purposely leave your house at 4:15pm so that you get to the venue at 4:30pm for a 4pm event because you already know they won’t start at exactly 4 O’clock. Then like me, you are a culprit of the African time mentality.
But come to think of it, is this really a good thing to do? Is that not lateness?
You will agree with me that we segregate the events to practice African time for and those not to. For instance; if you have a job interview, an exam or a meeting with a highly placed personality, will you remember African time? No, in fact you will like to be seated before the stipulated time and wait instead. You won’t like to miss your appointment because of lateness. This is also true for meetings in corporate organizations where every second counts.
But when it comes to appointment with friends, government work, personal businesses and church programs, we put on our ‘African time garment’ again.
“We can set up a new normal; we can turn the negative perception of African time to become positive. We can prove to people that African time means to be on time, to keep to time, value time and use it wisely. That is the new face of African time!”
I must confess that sometimes previous experiences have made people resort to this bad attitude. Here is what I mean: you were invited for a program at 3pm, you get there at exactly 3pm and the program is yet to commence, in fact the place is still locked. After about 15 minutes, few people begin to trickle in and they finally begin sweeping the place at 3.30pm. Fuming with anger, you bite your tongue in regret for being the obedient crayfish and then resolve to be smart and come late next time.
Or let’s say it’s a meeting you have with a friend and you decide to come 10 minutes behind schedule so that he won’t keep you waiting because you know he too will think the same way and come late. But even after your lateness, he still isn’t there. Though both of you are late technically, you resolve to be even more late next time. Hehehehe, Naija people!
Let me also say that I understand that some events are often characterized by several circumstances that are beyond our control and we have to run behind schedule sometimes. This should be an exception, not the rule.
Your church, office or business shouldn’t be known for perpetual lateness. In my humble opinion, I think it’s best to start the program or meeting (as the case may be) at the agreed time and let those working with African time come and meet the end. This will go a long way in changing their mindset and informing them that the African time ‘clock’ has stopped working, so they need to format their preconceived notions.
Also if you have a genuine reason to be few minutes late, it’s courtesy to inform whoever you are meeting with early enough so he can make the necessary adjustments and don’t forget to tender your apology when you finally arrive. I had lecturers who would brag with coming late to class and never say sorry because they felt we are mere students. This is wrong!
I remember a wedding I attended sometime ago, everyone thought it would be business as usual, so they relaxed at home waiting till 3:30ish to storm the reception venue but luckily and unluckily, the reception ended at 3pm. and the couple zoomed off to ‘happily ever after land’ for their honey moon. When the African time fellas arrived, they were welcomed by the almost empty hall except for those clearing the dishes and decorations. I could feel the sadness on their faces and I am sure they learnt a lesson or two.
What am I saying? Let’s stop contributing to the African time syndrome by refusing to practice and propagate it. This may be hard because we are so used to it but it’s never too late to unlearn and relearn. It’s OK to be the early bird; it’s OK to keep to time. It’s African to value and respect people’s time.
Like my fellowship President in school used to say “there is no dignity in late coming.” I totally agree.
We can set up a new normal; we can turn the negative perception of African time to become positive. We can prove to people that African time means to be on time, to keep to time, value time and use it wisely. That is the new face of African time!
Happy workers day!