Without Work, Life loses Meaning- May Day 2020


This piece is adapted from the article I wrote on May Day in 2017. I find it still apt to the occasion. First and foremost, I can’t tell you how excited I used to be every May Day. This 2020 is different.

On this day every year, I'm usually excited writing to you. This day, I can’t really say I’m excited. The world as we used to know it has changed. After the advent of COvid-19, It is most probable that world would no longer be the same.

Yes, why am I not excited. Like HIV, COVID-19 has a greater impact on people who are already marginalized and poor. "As a changemaker dedicated to fighting the root causes of poverty and its consequences, Covid-19 has put us in a state of war.

Many companies are going bankrupt, many as downsizing and relieving people of their work. I cannot stop thinking about what this new pandemic means for the millions of people living already marginalized and living in poverty all over the world especially Nigeria that has become the poverty capital of the world.

If we’re really serious about fighting and defeating this virus, during these trying times, it's important to remember that we're a community and that the only way to get through difficult moments is together. The virus does not recognize any boundaries weather within states or international boundaries. It is a leveler.

SpringAid International Development (SAID), Nigeria aims to fight the root causes of poverty and their consequences. Creating work, that is employment is the primary vehicle to achieving this vision of a world without poverty. Therefore, we join the International community and especially Nigeria workers in celebrating this May Day.

On May Day, in many cities across the world, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators used to be on the streets participating in massive May Day events protesting the plight of workers and the unemployment pledging many people in many countries and highlighting worker’s light.

It used to be marked with marches and rallies in many countries across the globe. In many countries like Nigeria, it is a day used by labour Union leaders to ask for better conditions and salaries for workers. The leaders of labour in Nigeria as in other past years are asking for raised minimum wage for civil servants.

May Day — also known as International Worker’s Day. This day is also called Workers’ Day in many countries. While other countries name it ‘Labour Day’. It is a public holiday in Nigeria and in many other countries. Its origin dates to Europe as a spring celebration welcoming the summer season. It began in Europe as a traditional spring celebration to welcome Summer. The first Monday of every May is usually a bank holiday for labourers and workers.

Nigeria government as it has become its tradition, and top government officials and politicians issue statements applauding the sacrifices and contributions of the working class in Nigeria. Of course, we know that this is lip service and playing politics with people’s life which the government and elites of Nigeria an exceptionally good at.

This day offers us opportunity to reflect on the meaning of work and a few pertinent challenges confronting workers in Nigeria. Within the Catholic Church, 1 May is dedicated to Saint Joseph the worker. St Joseph was the foster father of Jesus, a carpenter who taught his son, Jesus carpentry.

Catholic Social Teaching holds that work is dignified and an intrinsic good, and workers must always be respected and valued. Work is essential to the dignity of the human person.

SpringAid International Development, SAID is convinced that one of the major businesses of government if not the primary duty is to create employment for its citizens.

The government has also the primary responsibility to protect the rights of individuals and groups to work. In this light, labour interests must always take precedence over those of capital. It is sad that Nigeria government and many industries and companies within the nation are putting the interests of capital over that of human dignity and human life.

This is of course the problem with the development paradigm that dominates our world this day, which places profit over human life. To genuinely appreciate the dignity of the human person, our development paradigm must be ‘people centered’.

Pope Francis has helped us articulate the dignity of work and he wrote: "We do not get dignity from power or money or culture. We get dignity from work." He noted: "Work is fundamental to the dignity of the person. Work, to use an image, 'anoints' with dignity, fills us with dignity, makes us like God who has worked and still works, who always acts."

Work confers dignity on the human person. This means that an individual that lack work, an unemployed person suffers from a lack of dignity, the individual’s self-esteem is poor, and a general lack of self-confidence pervades this individual.

SAID is aims in all its programmes, projects and activities to fight the root causes of poverty and their consequences. An unemployed person cannot escape the bark of poverty. To fight extreme poverty, an individual must have work to take care of his or her basic needs.

The Federal Government can hardly fight corruption effectively when workers go without receiving their salaries in months. Many workers are being paid unjust salaries that dehumanize.

In this regard, Pope Francis said: "We are running the risk of having a generation that does not work. From work comes a person's dignity." Francis underscores a point found in the social teaching of John Paul II that dignified work not only implies remuneration sufficient for adequate housing, food, medical help etc. but also involves a kind of justice as participation.

Nigeria has a high population growth rate of 3.5 per cent per annum. It is estimated to have a population of about 200 million people.

Sadly, there are no vibrant and innovative industries to absorb the graduates that are added yearly to the poll of unemployed youths and persons in the country. Over 60 percent of youths in the rural areas are unemployed. Unemployment of youths is one of the major challenges of Nigeria as a country.

Unfortunately, serious commitment has not been shown to the issues by successive governments except on papers.

Through work we participate in society and have an active voice. The COvid-91 has shown the scarcity of competence both at the policy level and character level of those running Nigeria.

We know see that the model of business needs to change for us to compete successfully with the rest of the world. A transition needs to be made from a traditional based economy to a digital economy that leverages the opportunities that are being presented by the digital world.

It is also important to mention that workers have a duty to deliver for what they have been paid. In Nigeria, both state and private workers tend to show a lack of commitment to their work. This is where workers in Nigeria at all levels need to develop and cultivate responsible work ethics that support solidarity and social development of all our people.

Many teachers and lecturers in our schools and institutions of higher learning show little or no commitment to ethics of work. Many simply use their work to exploit students, while some show no accountability and leave their paid work to engage in private work.

Many universities are under lock for many months and lecturers are happy doing their private work. This is also what is seen in many government hospitals, where doctors show poor commitment to their work within the government facility where the same patients are referred to their own private clinics or hospitals where they could charge them large sums of money.

Whether it is within the police forces, armed forces, public and private sectors, the story is the same. Today, there is lockdown and curfew in some states in Nigeria, meanwhile transport vehicles are still piling the roads and police and military personnel are collecting bribes and allowing them to pass. People generally do not value their own lives and that is why we tend to endanger the lives of others without any qualms to our consciences.

We are calling on all Nigerians, to show solidarity and cultivate respect for the dignity of the human person so that we can build a sustainable society where extreme poverty has no place and there is shared prosperity for all.

Instead going about looking for work, why not ask how you can create your own work and possibly employ others. There are great opportunities out there. You need to have a vision and pursue the vision with commitment, discipline, and consistency. There is enough room for everyone in the entrepreneurial room. A proven way to success is to work on things you’re passionate about.

Yep, mentors going to walk you through the steps you can take immediately to start (or scale) your business, and they can even share with you the exact path they and most successful people have taken. You do not need to reinvent the wheel. All you need is to follow the footsteps of those who have walked the road of success. It is possible to succeed in your dream.

As Joe Simpson, who famously crawled to safety after being left for dead and shattering his leg in the Peruvian Andes, immortalized in “Touching the Void” puts it: “If you succeed with one dream...it's not long before you're conjuring up another, slightly harder, a bit more ambitious, a bit more dangerous.”

We are convinced that Nigeria has more than enough resources to give work to all her citizens who are willing to work if wastage of national resources is curtailed through effective, accountable and responsible management and individuals and groups invest in financing for development at both community, state and national levels.

Teddy Ihens, CEO

SAID Nigeria