In our part of the world, we have coined a traditional, standard opening address for any event. If it doesn’t precede the opening prayers, attendants get offended because no matter the circumstances everyone wants to hear those words.
This statement has its peculiar characteristics – to make it go down well with the people. The Master of Ceremony will confer with the event organiser, then he whispers something inaudible to the guest speaker; who was just ushered in, he signals the sound manager for a microphone, taps it like a drum, clears his throat and confidently spews the popular, well-rehearsed Ghanaian lines: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, before we start we want to apologise for the late start of the program due to some circumstances beyond our control’.
We are in the centre of the world, technically putting us at a starting point on the time zone. It would have looked lovelier if we had a good command over the tick of the clock. But if you have lived in this part of the world, you will realise how lackadaisical we are with the basic things of life, including merely saving the seconds of life.
Oxford Dictionary defines time as an inevitable progression into the future with the past. So when you are scanning for an explanation to underdevelopment of any African country, take a look at their reverence for this definition. We rather take the present moment doing what we could have done earlier. For us, Time is a progression into the past.
The bride cannot report on time because it’s such a memorable day and she has to spend some time dressing up. The lecturer cannot show up early because he had to attend a meeting elsewhere. The flight had to be delayed because there is a bad change in weather, we never expected – the forecasters had a wrong prediction. Your meals will be ready in a few minutes – we had a shortage. And the honourable minister also had to attend to other equally-important assignments – you know how busy they are.
Ghanaians neither respect time nor prepare for the consequences the disrespect comes with. So just like the five foolish virgins, we are never prepared enough. We are always taken aback in the course of time when the lamp oil runs out.
It is like walking slowly against the direction of an escalator. You keep walking, you keep moving, but without progress. Gradually, the development of the country and the continent at large has been in synchrony with our attitude to time. We do not realise that our lateness is playing a massive role in our regression and we are making progress at our pace. Mathematics teaches us that speed is calculated with time in indirect proportion.
A man who dares waste on hour of time has not discovered the value of life. – Author Unknown
What is more intresting is we have copied all the lifestyles of the whites, we are virtually living their lives in an adulteration. But we have not stolen their time management attitude. We have so much to pride ourselves in, but for time management, we should bow in shame and recoil into our shells. Our minds must be selectively semi-permeable! We are pathetic.
How appalling it is for us, with that flimsy shoulder-shrug-accompanied excuse of ‘This is Ghana for you’. The canker has become official such that national functions scheduled for 10am will start at 1am, because the President’s convoy pulled up at 12. The honourables and excellencies are the worst offenders. They have normalised the ‘Ghana Man Time’ sin.
This is why in African countries, nothing ever gets done. ‘Ghana Man Time’ procreates another product, ‘Last Minute’ where you see adrenaline rush only at the eleventh hour – so then again nothing gets done.
The plot twist is everyone keeps a wristwatch but nobody keeps time.
Why do we maintain employees and appointees in office when their lateness is causing us huge losses? This vicious cycle must stop. People need to rise to the occasion to wipe off this menace. People should be having regrets for showing up late. Can we deny people their benefits and privileges for causing the country a draw-back? Can someone answer questions for keeping others waiting, unpardonably? Can we return people for having no concept of time?
Just like the five foolish virgins returned late and were refused entry into the ceremony, it is about time we put offenders behind the door. Time and tide wait for no man.
The writer is a nominee for the STUDENT AUTHOR OF THE YEAR in the National Students’ Awards. Please click here to vote