Was there ever a time in Nigeria when it was the rule for people to practice a healthy social or recreational activity with honest dedication? When people couldn't wait for the long clock hand to slowly nose its way and lock on to the twelfth digit and make the short hand raise both arms in exultation at the fifth, where it had been impatiently waiting for so long? Well some of the guys at the office claim there was such a time. Mosh who was a campus brat remembers the dars when it was de rigeur for virtually everyone he knew to belong, actively to the University of Lagos Staff club. His dad lectured there. He said "everyone he knew" with such inclusive disdain that if you were not included in it then you were maybe deader than a doornail. Such snobbery!
But then some of the other guys at the office back it up with statistics that would have been very refreshing indeed if they had be a relation of current affairs. Regular parties at Ikoyi Club, swimming and squash racket competitions whose outcomes graced newspaper sport pages, affairs at the Soroptimist and Island Tennis Club, People whose parents were of the Lions Club and Rotary Clubs etc. etc. Alas they were a recounting of a golden age, an era well dead. It seemed so strangely tragic to be speaking of happiness in the past participle. Participle because he didn't really participate in it, having been too young to really remember much, other than what he had been told after the era had been declared both clinically and really dead.
I felt doubly sad for him, the first time for what we all were missing, and again for him having been there and still not having much to show for it other that a hand me down story.
So how did we get to this impasse? Everyone seemed to lay the blame at the doorsteps of the generation who in the past four or five years have been wresting the steering wheels of the national economy away from the generation who had been in the Universities during the Biafran Civil War and who are now in their fifties and somewhat well into their sixties. To focus on a clear picture imagine the banking Industry for example and then its most well-known drivers to date - the Chief Joseph Sannusis, though he is an older version of the type, then Paschal Dozie etc. And for the generation that came of age after the civil war, think of Tayo Aderinokun, Herbert Wigwe, Aig-imokhuode and also Jim Ovia.
Well not draw so much of a wide gulf between both generations, into which the argument I am presenting might fall, the second group for whatever reasons history might adduce one day, created a work ethic that was narrow, demanding and unforgiving of even the barest minute spent away from the work desk.
Assessments were drawn up to include evaluations of how long you worked and whether you left the premises while there was still light outside. To better squeeze deposits off the streets banking hours were extended from about 1.30 pm to 3, 4 and even 5 pm meaning that cashiers and the establishment didn't start closing their books until the evening hours and this would usually drag on till 8 or 9 pm, after which it might be termed an act of irresponsibility to be found heading off anywhere but home, especially with a full day of work ahead the next day. This denial of time for social or recreational activities of course was done in an attempt to mop up more profit from whatever industry the organisation found itself in, though it did appear, in my jocular view, that is, to have had one upside which is that it intensified the hunger with which friday nights were enjoyed. Meaning of course that it had given the word 'enjoyment' and 'Friday Night' a sweeping toga of banality. The admixture of both words had resulted in a product which when viewed at full speed was of the most thoughtless desperation. It measured its satisfaction in terms of quantities rather than quality and was therefore empty outside of what one stuffed the mouth and by extension the belly with, to experience, and additionally it was meaningless since the incremental accumulation of it did not actually cause a discernible increase in the awareness of state of any kind.
Back in the office, we did, all of us agree that we in Nigeria had all become mere shiftless work buttons with only the off and on modes, no in betweens. Can there be a relationship between the way we manage our out of work lives and the social aetiology of heart attacks and diseases, cancer, liver and kidney ailments and all the other so called diseases of affluence. Even though I am one of the people who refuse to believe that the trend has assumed epidemic proportions, I must really confess that I have noticed the increase in younger people, by this I mean people under forty-five who keel over and die from these ailments. I think better access to the media for people who want to publicise an obit might be an issue here(though the obverse of that argument is that if this population who are finding new access is extrapolated to our entire population of which the overweening majority are illiterate, without media access and who are subjected to the same economy as the 'obited' deceased and might not merit an autopsy upon his/her demise, it might suggest that these deaths are actually higher than imagined).
Whatever conclusions one might draw, I think the situation really does bear watching, and closely too.