Time is what keeps everything from happening at once — Ray Cummings, Science fiction writer, 1922.
WILL the point ever be made enough that time is important? While some say with certain latitude that “time waits for nobody,” they may be unaware that in Nigeria, time and everything wait for dignitaries.
Their right to arrive late at events is well established and they enforce it fully. It is common for other guests to wait for hours for dignitaries, some of who may eventually not attend the event. Time that should have been used for other things is thus wasted.
In rating resources, some authorities rate time as irreplaceable, hence the high premium people place on it. For most Nigerians, being on time to events deducts from their importance. For them, one of the benefits of being a “big man” is to arrive at an event late, and still bank on people being grateful that he came.
More than two decades ago, a diplomat exasperated at the poor time management of Nigerian dignitaries said, “Time is the cheapest item in Nigeria”. Things have worsened since then. Lateness is becoming a virtue everyone is striving to adopt.
The Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero dan Abdullahi Bayero, would have none of that. He upbraided Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo who arrived late for a courtesy call on the palace. Sambo was three hours late.
Bayero said: “You (Sambo) alerted us of your desire to pay a courtesy call on the palace by 10.00 am, and we have been ready for you since 9.30am only for you to turn up by 1.00pm. It is highly unfair.
“I belong to the old school of late Nigerian Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, and the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, where respect for time is total.”
The Emir, Nigeria’s ambassador to Senegal, until he left his posting to ascend the throne 48 years ago, knows when not to be diplomatic about an important matter. At 71, should he have been put through the inconveniences of waiting long hours for a guest who of course expected the Emir to wait? It was important that he brought his disappointment to the attention of the Vice President who apologised.
Last year, Senate President David Bonaventure Mark raised the issue of lateness at a public function. He was applauded. Nothing changed even at the National Assembly where he presides.
Nigerians are used to lateness. Obviously, when leadership glorifies lateness, followers draw their own time margins too. The wastes from lateness as hundreds of people who attend events daily wait for dignitaries, whose presence is used in judging the success of an occasion, runs in billions of Naira annually.
Government offices have resumption time only on paper. The same attitude is affecting private businesses where timeliness is not one of the services clients should expect.
The Emir spoke for all who are concerned about lateness. His message is not for Vice President Sambo alone – those who cherish lateness should take a cue from this incident and help save humanity an irreplaceable resource.